2018 marks the 99th anniversary of the Teitz family rabbanut in Elizabeth. It has been a remarkable century characterized by outstanding leadership, continuous growth and evolutionary change, with the kehilla poised on the cusp of initiating a new chapter in its storied legacy.
With the influx of many young families, the rav of the Elmora Avenue Shul, Rabbi Avrohom Herman, has been fully engaged, ensuring their integration and urging their involvement at every level of the kehilla. Recent board elections demonstrated the wisdom of his efforts, adding a large contingent of young, active voices to the shul leadership.
The Elmora Avenue Shul is home to daily and Shabbat minyanim, with a vibrant Shabbat and Yom Tov hashkama minyan, main minyan and minyan Sepharad. Kiddush follows davening, which is hosted every week, at which time the entire kehilla has the opportunity to bond and schmooze prior to departing for lunch. Communal meals are held throughout the year, as well as special chagigot to share in the spirit of Chanukah and Purim. Daily shiurim are plentiful and cover a wide range of subjects, including daf hashavua, mishna yomit, parshat hashavua, Jewish history and in-depth Gemara studies—all led by wonderfully dynamic magidei shiur. For those who would like to relive their days in the Yeshiva League, there is a Tuesday night pick-up basketball game in the Shalom Goldfischer Gym every week throughout the academic year.
Led by Elie Bodner, the JEC Elmora Avenue Shul maintains an incredibly active youth department, with programming throughout the year as well as Shabbat and Yom Tov groups for all ages, youth minyanim and a children’s playroom with a wide assortment of age-appropriate toys, puzzles and books. The youth leaders also host oneg events for the older children, as well as outings to the local ice rink, bowling center and parks.
Elizabeth has been synonymous with the Jewish Educational Center since its founding by Rav Pinchas M. Teitz, zt”l, over 70 years ago, as it was the first Jewish day school in a small town outside of New York City. Coincidentally, the JEC was established at the same time that another giant of Torah education, Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l, founded the Maimonides School in Boston. Over time, the JEC expanded to include a lower school, mesivta and Bruriah, an educational system spanning nursery to high school. These two educational institutions, but particularly the JEC, which was established in a much smaller geographic area, were the precursors that led the way to the development of similar day schools throughout the United States in the coming decades.
The JEC entertains an excellent reputation within the Jewish world and beyond, with its graduates attaining prestigious Rhodes Scholarships, serving as ambassadors in the foreign service of the United States, and serving as the Secretary of Homeland Security in the Cabinet of George W. Bush. Alumni are represented in all of the professions—education, the rabbanut, medicine, dentistry, law, business and accounting, national policy formulation—and have attended and graduated from the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.
Support and advocacy for Medinat Yisrael is a central focus of the JEC, and approximately 95 percent of graduates opt to attend seminary and/or yeshiva following their graduation from high school. Many of these graduates remain in Israel, serving in the IDF and establishing themselves as contributing members to the dynamic society in our beloved homeland.
Although a small town, the Elizabeth kehilla boasts all of the trappings necessary to lead a full, traditionally observant Jewish life in the modern world. Aside from the JEC schools, there are two lovely mikvaot, an eruv, restaurants and plentiful shopping. And, for those who require proximity to New York City—Manhattan or the boroughs—Elizabeth is an ideally located suburb of the great metropolis. A 25-minute ride via NJ Transit into New York-Penn Station, or a somewhat longer trip via bus to Port Authority, the city is within easy reach for work and/or play. The Goethals Bridge to Staten Island and beyond is a 10-minute drive, and the famous New Jersey shore points are a short ride south on the Garden State Parkway.