2019-01-02 / Voice at the Shore

A growing Jewish community in Galloway gets a new Torah

Voice Shore Editor

Roughly 50 people sang and danced a new Torah into the Galloway Chabad House on December 9. Mark and Carol Cohen donated the Torah to honor their parents’ memory. Roughly 50 people sang and danced a new Torah into the Galloway Chabad House on December 9. Mark and Carol Cohen donated the Torah to honor their parents’ memory. Is there a Jewish community in Galloway Township—outside of Stockton University and Seashore Gardens Living Center?

There definitely is now, said Rabbi Meir Rapoport, who runs Galloway’s Chabad House with his wife, Shaina. After their Chabad House opened as a Jewish student center in January 2017, Rapoport began getting calls from nearby residents who were Jewish.

“They said, ‘Hi, we are Jewish and live in the area. Is this Chabad House just for students?’” Rapoport recalled. He quickly adapted to community members’ needs by designing a Saturday morning program with a 10 a.m. service followed by an “engaging and fun” Torah discussion and Shabbat luncheon, all geared for adults (although students are also welcome).

“We’re finding there is a local Jewish community in Galloway,” said Rapoport, a community that was largely unnoticed before Chabad’s arrival there. Having no place to congregate and meet each other, the Jews of Galloway largely kept to themselves. “Now people are coming out of the woodwork, realizing there are other Jewish people here. The Chabad House has become the Galloway Jewish center.”

Most members of this emerging Jewish community are middle-aged and older, often living in 55+ communities. Among those are Mark and Carol Cohen, who moved from West Caldwell, NJ to The Four Seasons, a Galloway 55+ community, just over four years ago. And now, thanks to the Cohens, Galloway’s Chabad House has its own Torah, which was dedicated in a celebration attended by 50 community members on the last night of Chanukah, Sunday, December 9.

“We found out at the High Holidays that the [Chabad House] Torah was on loan,” explained Mark. By Simchat Torah, he and Carol made the decision to purchase a Torah and donate it to Chabad for Chanukah.

The Cohens had been planning on buying a new car. but decided to buy the Torah instead. “I said to Carol: ‘If we buy a Torah, we’re not getting a car. We don’t have the money for both,’” recalled Mark. But, “the only thing you take with you when you leave this world is your mitzvahs.” He and Carol also wanted to set an example of what was really important for their adult children and young grandson.

The Cohens ultimately donated “a beautiful Torah, purchased from a scribe in Brooklyn,” said Rabbi Rapoport. Although used, no records exist as to where it had been before. The Cohens dedicated the Torah in memory of their parents, Hannah Sarah and Benjamin H. Cohen, and Mildred and Martin Kader. They also donated a Torah mantel, dedicating it to their grandson, Harry Cohen, who just turned two.

The Torah was welcomed to Galloway’s Chabad House with a nearly 3000-year-old traditional celebration that goes back to the time of King David, where the Torah is carried into its new home under a chuppah with joyous singing and dancing.

“It arrived by car, about 200 feet from the Chabad House. We danced it into the Chabad House and continued dancing inside,” said Rapoport. After the rabbi and the Cohens said a few words, the Torah was placed in the ark. A festive dinner and Chanukah celebration followed.

“We chose to do this on Chanukah because the holiday is about how we were not allowed to study Torah or practice Judaism. Now, in 2018, we have a Torah being dedicated in Galloway,” said Rapoport, adding that the Torah may be the first one to make its home in Galloway Township.

The evening ended with the lighting of Chabad’s large electric menorah that stands next to Jimmie Leeds Road—a menorah that Mark and Carol Cohen donated last year in honor of their grandson.

“It was a wonderful experience,” said Mark of the dedication. “Everyone had a good time. I personally felt that my parents were looking down and were proud of Carol and myself. The Torah brings permanency to Jewish life in Galloway. We are thrilled by this.”

In addition to the Galloway Chabad’s Saturday morning Shabbat service, Torah discussion and luncheon for adults, the Chabad House hosts periodic Lox and Bagel Brunches for community members and is looking at starting a Jewish film series in January. The Galloway Chabad also holds High Holiday and other holiday services and celebrations that are open to students and community members, as well as Friday night Shabbat services and dinners exclusively for Stockton Students.

Galloway’s Chabad House is located at 118 Jimmie Leeds Road. For more information, contact Rabbi Meir Rapoport at 609-674-8733. 

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