65 Years of Excellence

Posted on March 7, 2018 by Jay Lavroff, President, 2017-2019

The year 1953 was an interesting and historic year. In Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as president, and Earl Warren was sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Court. The Korean conflict came to an end. The first Chevrolet Corvette rolled off the assembly line and the first issue of Playboy hit the newsstands. Eugene O’Neill died and Hulk Hogan was born. And in Somerset County, New Jersey, a group of 15 young, pioneering Jewish families gathered together to establish a new synagogue, founded on the principles of our ancestors, yet progressive and modern in approach and thinking. This was no dream. It was a vision come to life. And its name is Temple Beth-El.

From our humble beginnings in Somerville, our temple community has made enormous strides over the past 65 years. (See related article on TBE’s history) Our membership has grown to more than 400 families, making us one of the largest congregations in the area. Our clergy and staff have dedicated their professional lives to the cause of promoting and perpetuating Jewish values. We can justifiably boast that our religious school has educated thousands of young Jews, some of whom have gone on to become rabbis, cantors and Jewish educators. We have consistently been at the forefront of social justice issues locally, across the country and around the world. Our adult education program is vibrant and robust. And we have become a cultural center for music and the arts. Anyone who has spent time at Temple Beth-El will tell you that it is a place alive with the spirit our founders imparted, and we continue to grow in ways that they likely could not have imagined.

A community as genuine, caring and diverse as Temple Beth-El is worthy of celebrating every day. But this year, as we approach the 65th anniversary of our founding, we can and should step back and admire our accomplishments. And so we shall! On the evening of Saturday, April 14, 2018, we will celebrate this momentous occasion with a gala dinner dance. It will be an opportunity to relax, eat, and socialize with friends, old and new, all for a wonderful reason. In addition to lauding our institutional achievements, we will pay a well-earned tribute to Arthur Roswell, Sid Horowitz, Ed Malberg, Ed Tolman and Lil Swickle, five of our outstanding temple presidents whose unflagging support and unparalleled leadership has helped us excel over the past six and one-half decades.

Too often these days, we use superlatives to describe things that do not fit the bill. Our morning coffee is “awesome.” Our daily workout was “amazing.” The hundredth meme we’ve viewed on our phone was “incredible.” Going over the top with effusive praise can actually diminish the value of the object of our acclaim. But make no mistake: there is nothing artificially inflated about speaking of Temple Beth-El in only the most laudatory fashion. While that may seem somewhat immodest, the fact is, we’ve earned it. And while 65 is an age when many are pondering retirement, our community is enthusiastically looking forward to the next 65 years of excellence, and beyond.

So, here’s to Temple Beth-El! I look forward to seeing everyone on April 14th to raise a glass in our honor and say “L’chaim!!


Jay Lavroff

Originally published in the March-April issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.