FROM THE VOLUME “CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION” – A COLLECTION OF REFLECTIONS AND MEMORIES FROM THE CONGREGANTS AT BETH MIRIAM A SUMMER PLACE…
Our summer congregation began at a time of great preachers. During the early years, the Congregation welcomed some of the most distinguished Rabbis in America as pulpit guests. The list included: Kaufman Kohler, President of the Hebrew Union College; Joseph Silverman of Temple Emanuel; David Phillipson of Cincinnati; Edward Calisch of Richmond, Virginia; Leon Harrison of St. Louis; Martin Meyer of Brooklyn, and Rudolph Coffee, Aaron Eisman, Solomon Foster, Abraham S. Isaacs, G. Lipkind, Alexander Lyons and Elias Margolis. Reverend Raphael Berstein served as Cantor. Finally in 1891 Reverend Benjamin Morris was engaged as a permanent spiritual leader, serving the Congregation faithfully until his death in 1916. He was succeeded by Reverend Dr. Barnett A. Elzas, an eminent scholar and courageous liberal leader who served from 1916 until his death in 1936.
EARLY OFFICERS… The Congregation was guided during these years by deeply devoted Officers who kept alive the work of the founding fathers. George A. Cowen and Sigmund T. Hess served as Presidents. Charles Wimpfheimer acted as Treasurer with both of these gentlemen. The Women’s Auxiliary developed too, meeting weekly during the summer months at the homes of various members, and for many years at the home of Mrs. Charles Kaye. These women devoted their time and efforts not only to the welfare of the Temple, but also to the sick and needy of the community. Some of these distinguished workers included: Mrs. Rebecca Erlanger Mrs. Madeleine Lazarus Mrs. Frances Goldstein Mrs. Hattie Kottek Mrs. Augusta Kaye Mrs. Charles Wimpfeimer The work of these founders was carried on by succeeding generations of loyal workers and has now become known as the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Miriam.
GROWING NEEDS. . . About 1912 the Congregation became aware of the need for an enlarged and more adequate house of worship. The community was growing, and a place had to be made for the education of the youth of the Congregation. Architects were engaged, and plans were drawn; however, with the advent of World War I all aspirations for an expansion of the Temple were suspended. On August 12, 1931, following the death of President George Cowen, and the resignation of Sigmund T. Hess, Walter T. Kohn was elected President. With him as Vice-Presidents were Samuel M. Heimlich and Emil M. Sostman. During the decade of the 1930’s a group of intellectual and Jewishly motivated residents created a program of winter activities. Lectures and discussion groups of a sophisticated nature brought new enthusiasm to a synagogue that had historically been dormant during the winter months. Under the leadership of Abraham Bergman, Samuel Heimlich, Louis Podell, Ira Katchen and others, the so called “Winter Congregation ” was formed. Beth Miriam was to experience a dramatic transformation.
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION In 1939 the leaders of the Congregation, influenced by the growing summer and local communities, and by the large number of interested young people and their families, decided that there was need for an all year-round Liberal Congregation. There was a resurgence and interest in expansion plans for the Temple. Under the leadership of its Officers, Walter Kohn, Samuel M. Heimlich, Emil M. Sostman, and Trustees Charles and Fannie Lefkowitz Charles and Lee Rosencrans, L. Victor and Beatrice Weil, Edwin R. Berger and many other ardent supporters, plans were drawn for remodeling the building on Bath Avenue to be used for year-round Services, and for engaging a Rabbi to serve the Congregation throughout the year. Rabbi Ephraim Fischoff was engaged for the entire year in 1939. The innovation was so successful that his ministry was continued on an all-year basis until 1942. During those years the Congregation developed and expanded. The enrollment in the Sunday School included over 100 children. The Temple lights glowed on the Sabbath and many other nights during the week when discussion and work groups met.
THE MIDDLE YEARS. . . The municipalities served by Temple Beth Miriam continued to grow in popularity as centers for suburban living because of their proximity to the metropolitan area. In 1944 Rabbi Aaron H. Lefkowitz came to serve this ever-growing community. An active Men’s Club was organized with Stuart Haupt as its first President. The Congregation now spoke of the need for a more adequate structure, but with the world engaged in World War II, again plans had to be postponed. The dream of a new Temple in a more central location remained foremost in the mind of the Congregation. Upon the death of Emil Sostman in 1948, his widow Clementine made a contribution to the Templefor a Rabbi’s Study for a projected new edifice. Samuel Heimlich composed a resolution and signed a substantial pledge which initiated the building fund campaign. Through the efforts of Rabbi Lefkowitz nine other men signed the resolution, thereby convincing the Board of Trustees that a new House of Worship would become a reality.
FROM NORTH BATH TO SOUTH LINCOLN. . . Mr. Leonard Block, z”l, generously offered the large tract of land on South Lincoln Avenue in Elberon, where our present temple proudly stands. Once the land had been accepted, plans for the beautiful new House of Worship of forward rapidly. Mr. Ira Haupt and Mr. Benjamin Einhorn spear-headed a campaign to raise funds for construction of the new Temple and Religious School. Mr. Haupt made his home available the first and second initial meetings both of which were greeted with warm and gent interest. These were followed by a third meeting at the Hollywood Golf Club through sponsorship and hospitality of Mr. Benjamin Einhorn. Out of these meetings emerged the Capital Fund-Raising Committee, consisting of Mr. Einhorn, Chairman; Mr. Julius E. Fl Mr. Samuel M. Heimlich, Mr. Leopold Hechter, and Mr. Robert Jacobson. The success of fund raising effort made the new building possible.
TEMPLE BETH MIRIAM: ELBERON The cornerstone-laying ceremony for the new Temple took place on Sunday, August 31, 1952. Over five hundred people attended the ceremonies. The principal speaker on this occasion was the Honorable Sidney Goldman, Justice of the Superior Court of New Jersey. His inspiring address left a deep imprint on those who had assembled for the occasion. The Building Committee, consisting of Mr. Edwin R. Berger, Chairman; Mr. William Marlin, and Mr. Solomon J. Neimark, paved the way for the construction of the new edifice. Through the extraordinary zeal and labor of Mr. Berger and Mr. Marlin, the new Temple was completed at a minimum cost with maximum facilities. Both of these gentlemen gave unstintingly of their time and skill, an effort which resulted in a new House of Worship that the Congregation could be proud of, and which was to meet their needs for many years to come.
A GROWING RELIGIOUS, EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL CENTER. . . The Temple’s financial burdens were lifted when Benjamin Einhorn assumed the Temple presidency, and through his efforts all remaining building debts were paid. Now the new House of Worship was bustling with activity. Religious School enrollment had increased to 225 students with a Confirmation Class of 19. To oversee the needs of the enlarging school, a Board of Education was established. The Temple Youth League (later known as the Youth Group) was instituted for students between the ages of 15 and 18. For youngsters in 8th and I9th grades a group was formed called the Temple Juniors, (to be renamed “Pre-JFTY’s in 1959). So successful were these organizations that a Parents Club soon became an active force supporting their activities. A highlight of the Temple’s Cultural program was the “Forum Lecture Series” sponsored by the Men’s Club. Their guest speakers were indeed noteworthy, including such celebrated names as Pearl S. Buck, Mason Gross and Louis Untermeyer. Rabbi Lefkowitz introduced Adult Education courses with his study of “Comparative Religion” – a class which immediately achieved popularity among the congregants. The Temple offered something for every member of the family. It sponsored and housed Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. An active Temple Choir and Children’s Choir contributed to both regular and Saturday morning Family Worship services. The Sisterhood continued to contribute in manifold ways to the Temple, and opened its Judaica Shop in the Lobby. The activities of Beth Miriam were recognized and respected throughout the Shore area. The synagogue had the distinction of being the only Reform congregation in Monmouth County affiliated with the Union. Under the leadership of Rabbi Lefkowitz, interfaith sedarim and services became warm and significant events. Hundreds of guests flocked to the gala bazaars, youth dances and other social happenings. The Religious School continued to expand, and Hebrew courses for children were formally begun in November, 1955. Enrollment in the first Hebrew School was 39. Subsequently, the Temple decided to engage a Cantor-educator to assume duties of Cantor as well as principal, and Cantor Joseph L. Portnoy joined the synagogue in 1956 to fill this position. He was succeeded in 1959 by Cantor Morris Chotin.
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION A significant addition to Beth Miriam took place through a generous gift of a multiple acre site for a memorial park. Mr. Alfred Lippman, well known for his outstanding services to the American and Mexican governments, made the gift to the Congregation in the hope that next generations would enjoy increased comfort from the knowledge that their departed love ones would know a place of rest close to the community. Mr. Lippman’s gift to the Congregation motivated the formation of a Memorial Park Committee headed by Mr. Bernard Rodetsky. On June 26,1950, the Memorial Park was formally dedicated. In September of 1950, Rabbi Lefkowitz conducted the first of the annual memorial services at the park. Meanwhile, Rabbi Lefkowitz pursued his aim of continuing Jewish education for adult Under the auspices of the Education Committee in October, 1961, an Institute of Jewish Studies was formed, offering a variety of Jewish themes for study. Rabbi Lefkowitz also asserted the values of a Temple Museum to display Jewish artifacts. Through the contributions of the Jacobson family, the Museum became a reality in Marc 1961 when Ben Jacobson’s children established it in honor of their father’s 70th birthday. In 1959 the Youth League became affiliated with the Jersey Federation of Temple Youth. Also that year, the ritual was instituted of presenting Bar Mitzvah candidates a Kiddush cup.
DIAMOND JUBILEE. . . To celebrate its 75th Anniversary the Temple declared 1963 its Diamond Jubilee Year Festivities opened with a dinner to honor Milton S. Erlanger, Chairman of the Diamond Jubilee Expansion Committee. The event was a successful way of launching a campaign whose funds were later used to install air-conditioning, change the stage in the Social Hall, and complete several other building necessities. In June, 1965 the first three stained glass windows for the Sanctuary were formally dedicated when Rabbi Lefkowitz interpreted their symbols at three consecutive Shabbat services. The following year the Temple installed the majestic Bronze Doors to the entrance of the synagogue. A dedication ceremony took place in May, 1967. The doors were a gift from Samuel Slotkin’s family. Designed by Mr. Donald Goodman, these magnificent works of art depict the Ten Commandments and serve as a tribute to the high ideals and moral code of Judaism and Jewish life. Another gift that became an integral part of Beth Miriam was the magnificent electronic organ, constructed specifically for Beth Miriam, and donated by Mr. and Mrs. Emanuel Turner in February,1967. It was replaced by an electronic keyboard some twenty years later and then, in 2001, the Temple Sisterhood purchased a new Clavinonva which is now an integral part of the bima.
A NEW RABBI. . . In conjunction with Rabbi Lefkowitz’s retirement after 25 years of devoted service and the Temple’s 80th Anniversary, a gala dinner was held on June 21,1969. The Rabbi elected succeed Rabbi Lefkowitz was Rabbi Joseph Goldman who joined Beth Miriam, along with a new Cantor, Walter Blazer, in July, 1969. President Harry W. Berger chaired the search committee.
TEMPLE BETH MIRIAM Change was a characteristic of the ’70’s. Our Temple family experienced enormous change. More than sixty per cent of the membership had affiliated during this period. For many of the families, association with a Reform congregation was a new and challenging experience. Membership in the congregation continued to increase with an overall growth in excess of 20 per cent during the course of the decade. The Religious School classrooms crowded by the addition of many new students was forced to hold some classes on Monday evenings. After the death of Rabbi Emeritus Aaron Lefkowitz, there was a widespread desire among the congregants to memorialize him in a significant way. Concurrently, Robert Jacobson expressed the desire to make a generous contribution to the Temple in honor of his father, Benjamin and his mother, Charlotte.
Temple members had for some time been speaking of the need for a major renovation: a more spacious and modern looking Sanctuary and Social Hall, redecoration and enlarging of the Lobby, improvement of washroom facilities, safety features, and an addition of a Bride’s room to encourage wedding ceremonies as well as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs to be held at the synagogue. Sensitive to these desires for growth and renewal, Judith Berg appointed two committees which led to the drawing of a plan for renovation and to the realization of our newly expressed hopes. A fund-raising committee was headed by Robert Jacobson, Lewis Eisenberg, Harry W. Berger, and Judith Berg. Leon Marco became chairman of the Special Projects Committee, working along with the architect throughout the project. Rabbi Goldman’s guidance and assistance was of value to both Committees.
Through the efforts of members of the Board of Education it was decided to improve the school wing as well, and leading that sub-committee were Helen Fried, Zelda Malachowsky, and Norman Primost. James G. Aaron was our Legal Consultant throughout the project. The new Temple president, Mr. Joseph Bergman, participated in all the planning stages of the project and remained a staunch supporter of the plan. The project was begun in April, 1982 and was completed in time for Rosh Hashanah – a New Look for the new Jewish year. As congregants gathered to worship for the High Holidays, they delighted in sharing the beauty and warmth of the new Sanctuary that they had contributed towards creating.
A Dedication Committee, chaired by Judith Berg, was formed to plan a weekend celebration to mark completion of the project. On Friday evening, October 29th, the Sanctuary was formally dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Aaron Lefkowitz. The guest speaker was Rabbi Dr. Jerome Malino, immediate past President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. On Saturday evening, October 30, a gala Dinner- Dance was held in Jacobson Hall at the Temple. On Sunday morning, October 31, a ceremony was held for the Religious School in which a Time Capsule designed by Joseph Bergman was filled with items made by the children and deposited at the entrance of the Temple. The time capsule was opened in 2006 during the reconstruction and some of its contents displayed in the new foyer.
In Rabbi Goldman, the Temple had found a worthy successor to be their spiritual leader. He held both a B.H.L. and an M.A. in Hebrew Letters and was to receive his doctorate in Pastoral Psychology with a specialty in Marriage and Family Therapy. Later, his involvement will bring the presidency of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, the Vice-Chairmanship of the Rabbinical Pension Board, and in the spring of 1988, Rabbi Goldman was elected Trustee of the UAHC. His interest in young people had already found expression when he became the Associate Director of the National Federation of Temple Youth, the Rabbinic Advisor to MOVFTY, and a member of the Planning Committee of the World Jewish Youth Conference. Chairman of the Colorado Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Rabbi Goldman had been vigorously identified with the struggles for Civil and Human Rights. In addition, he was a serious activist in support of Israel. His concern as an intellectual and educator prompted Rabbi Goldman to form a Library Committee to make the Heimlich Library more useful to the Congregation and responsive to the needs of the religious school and adult education classes. Mrs. Jack Spergel headed the committee. Executive Secretary Hannah Buckman created the slogan, “Start the New Year with a Blessing,” reminding the Congregants to contribute to the Library Fund. The success of the campaign revealed the growing awareness of the importance of the library and eventually led to the updating of its contents. Contributions from devoted members continued to enhance the synagogue during the 1970’s. In March Mr. and Mrs. Philip Rosenbloom donated 25 lithographs by Salvador Dali representing the “Aliyah” or migration to Israel. The Sisterhood contributed a beautiful permanent Succah built on the Temple grounds. In his position as Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Lefkowitz wrote a new Passover Haggadah which was thereafter used at the Temple Seder.
A truly significant addition was the New Ark, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Max Kasoff, to house the Holocaust Torah, a scroll rescued from the ruins of a European synagogue and presented to Rabbi Lefkowitz during a visit in 1948. During the first year at Beth Miriam, Rabbi Goldman redesigned the Religious School curriculum, and with a special faculty of Norman Brosniak, Milton Ziment and Harold Garten created a religious education program for junior high students which met for an entire weekend once each month. The program, known as the “Conference Plan,” gained national attention and was followed by the Beth Miriam Academy. The Academy offered classes and credits leading to the “Chai Mitzvah” award. The special feature of the program permitted students to earn credits in Jewish education from experience outside the “Temple Walls.” Determined for all members of his congregation to become involved with Temple activity, Rabbi Goldman contributed many innovations to Beth Miriam. He formed a group later to be called the Temple Seniors, with Hattie Zellner as its first president. In addition, he instituted the first Family Shabbat Dinner, enabling members to learn how a Reform Jew might celebrate the Sabbath at home. Another innovation was the ongoing Experiential Workshops where members convened periodically to share spiritual as well as social experiences. A new Prayer Book was introduced on February 20, 1976when Beth Miriam became the first Reform Temple in America to use “Gates of Prayer” at Shabbat Services. It was the first new prayer book published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis since 1894. A testimonial dinner was given in 1976 to honor Executive Secretary Hannah Buckman. During her 25 years of devoted service, Hannah’s contributions to the Temple remained innumerable and invaluable. Hannah best symbolized the unheralded labors which ena1 the Temple to transcend many painful transitions. It was with strong admiration and d affection that the congregants gathered for an evening of love and laughter, highlighting “her” two rabbis tap dancing and singing out, “If You Knew Hannah.”
NINETY YEARS. . . AND STILL IMPROVING. . . In September of 1978 the Temple celebrated its 90th Anniversary with a weekend activities, culminating in a gala Dinner-Dance at which over 30 members of the Congregation presented an original musical-comedy written by Felice Kardos entitled “Shulhouse 91 which reflected the dancing and singing memories of the past 90 years. Meanwhile, a renovation project had begun on the Temple library, rendering appearance more spacious and modern. On April 30, 1978, a dedication ceremony took pI officially renaming the new room the Heimlich-Aaron Library Conference Center, in memory of Samuel Heimlich and Luba and Max Aaron by their children, the late Ernest M. Heimlich and Barbara and Leslie Aaron. Soon afterward Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Meyer, Jr. donated a beautiful handmade mural depicting the twelve tribes of Israel to the library. The mural was created by Ann Harris of South Orange, New Jersey. During this period of transition and change, Leon Marco who had chaired the commit which created the Heimlich-Aaron Library and Learning Center huddled with Rabbi Goldman and Mr. Ben Einhorn to create a new Haupt Chapel located in the front area of Temple, Now, the beautiful artwork of the late A. Raymond Katz with its array of fascinating forms could be enjoyed by all of the members and used for small weddings and baby namings. Leonwas also responsible for finding a way to provide Sisterhood with a gift shop near cloak room. Judith Berg’s presidency was distinguished by many significant innovations in Tern activities.
Among the more memorable was the creation of a permanent Fund Raising Committee. During her two year term, Judy drew on the services of Harry Berger and Rob London, each of whom chaired the highly successful Temple auctions. Several new committees were organized at this time. In 1979 a Social Action Commit chaired by Dr. Jay Kern was formed, involving itself in worthy human causes. 1 Committee’s first project was to sponsor a family of Vietnamese “Boat People.” So success was the committee in obtaining economic and social support, that a second project v launched the following year with efforts directed toward supporting a Soviet Refugee family. The Ritual Committee was enlarged; the Adult Education Committee instituted “Breakfast with the Rabbi; a series of monthly discussions on current issues of interest. Sisterhood began a weekly course given by Rabbi Goldman which included discussions about Marriage and Family Life and study of the Bible. The Mr. and Mrs. Club became reactivated as the “Couples Club” in May, 1981 under the leadership of Dr. and Mrs. Richard Zaback. Also reactivated was the Jr. Youth Group for the 7th and 8th graders with Vicki Rickabaugh as advisor.
In 1998 Rabbi Cy Stanway was formally hired as the new rabbi after Rabbi Goldman’s retirement from the temple after 28 years of faithful service. Rabbi Stanway, who also served in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Las Cruces, New Mexico has been serving the temple and the general community is a myriad of ways. In 2006-2007, Rabbi Stanway along with a remarkable committee of men and women fundraised 2.6 million dollars for much needed renovations to the temple and the establishment of an endowment fund. In 2004, Stella Jeruzalmi Stanway, a professional educator, took the helm of the Religious School and has made it a beacon of Jewish learning, creativity and enthusiasm at Beth Miriam.
In 2007, the temple underwent a 1.6 million dollar renovation which included a new kitchen, bathroom renovations, expansion of the Social Hall and Sanctuary, outdoor patio, new Sukkah, new lighting, the addition of a prefunction area and more. Beth Miriam has always been a truly beautiful temple and the renovation makes it even moreso.
In 2010, a $600,000 renovation to the Eisenberg-Beirman Religious School wing was completed.