How Temple Beth-El is Coping in Our Current Environment, and Other Important Updates

Posted on April 7, 2020 by Leigh Miller

Thank you to our temple staff and leadership team for their incredible efforts to keep our community moving forward. Efforts like Helping Hands, Ladles of Love and our group of dedicated Shomrim, in combination with the deployment of technology in new ways, have enabled our community to come together for worship, education and to just “be in touch.” These are the connections that will continue to renew the strength of our bonds in our amazing TBE family.

Worship and Religious School Services

As all of you know, our temple building, and religious school have been closed since March 15th in advance of Governor Murphy’s March 21st executive order.

In the past two weeks, we have transformed ourselves into a “Zoom” congregation, gathering online for worship services, religious school classes, adult education classes and confirmation/post-confirmation academies. Our transition to distance connectivity has gone well, not perfect, but improving. And, while it is obviously not the same as being together, we are making the best of an imperfect situation. Your continued feedback on how to improve and of course, your continued participation, is always welcome!

 Our Temple Community and Staff

Although our physical temple offices are closed, our temple staff is continuing in its roles and responsibilities, working virtually. Our maintenance staff continues to be present at our building, performing maintenance activities, cleaning and monitoring our sacred spaces. Our temple is absolutely open (virtually) for business! Please see the TBE Staying Connected article for all ongoing temple activities!

All of our temple committees have moved their meetings to virtual platforms. All of our tenants/renters have ceased using the facility. The Montessori school and other religious communities that share our space have also moved online and are not occupying our space. While this means a significant disruption to our rental income sources, we are hopeful that these activities will return to normal once the governor’s executive order is lifted.

As of now, we are not aware of any member of our TBE family who has tested positive for COVID-19, though we are aware that many of us have members of our extended families and friends who have been infected. We remain committed to doing everything in our power to prevent the spread of the virus and encourage all of our members to be diligent in observing every precaution.

Upcoming Temple Events

All of our b’nei mitzvah families that were scheduled for bar/bat mitzvah celebrations through June 30 have agreed to move the b’nei mitzvahs to open dates during the fall of 2020. Of course, should circumstances change, hopefully for the better, we will re-evaluate. We know how terribly disappointing this is for our b’nei mitzvah families. We look forward to celebrating with the families once life returns to normal!

We’ve also had to postpone all other major temple activities through June 30, including fundraising activities such as our annual gala. We’ve informed our honorees and are tentatively planning to reschedule this to the fall of 2020. We hope that other fundraising activities planned for the summer will be able to continue (in particular, the 4-H Fair in August.)

Sale of our Beit Am Building

Most of you know the building just to the north of Temple Beth-El on U.S. 206, what we refer to as the Beit Am, has been for sale. For many years and until summer 2018, a tenant ran an early childhood education center in the Beit Am. In January 2019, we agreed to sell the Beit Am to a franchisee of K9 Resorts Luxury Pet Hotel. The good news is that there will be substantial improvements to the property and we are looking forward to having a new neighbor.

The not-so-good news is that the sale has not yet closed. Hillsborough Township required both the buyer and seller to prepare and submit separate applications and plans for approval by the Hillsborough Board of Adjustment to facilitate the sale. Engineering and professional planning work was required for our site plan, variance and subdivision applications, even though no physical alterations or changes to the use of the temple property are being made. The applications and plans were submitted to the township in July 2019. After months of review and requests for additional information by the township, the temple and K9 had been hoping to appear before the Board of Adjustment as early as November or December 2019. Because of further delays and last-minute changes by the township, we were then told January, then February and finally March 2020.

Temple Beth-El’s application was heard and approved by the Board of Adjustment on March 4. K9’s application was scheduled to be heard that same night but had only gotten started when the township called a close to the meeting due to the late hour. We were told that evening that K9’s application would continue at the Board meeting in early May, but after an appeal, the township agreed to have a special meeting for K9 at the end of March. Unfortunately, as a result of the coronavirus, all township board meetings have been postponed. We are still hopeful that the Board of Adjustment will find a way to meet (in person or virtually) for the May meeting, but we have not yet heard from the township.

So, despite best efforts and strong collaborative work by both parties, we find ourselves in a perfect storm of events that is beyond our control. K9 had hoped to be up and running by the year-end holidays and that is now in doubt. For us, we find ourselves without a vital stream of income (and incurring expenses for real estate tax, utilities and expense related to the sale of the building) for the nearly two years since our tenant vacated the building. We will continue to keep you apprised of developments on the sale of the Beit Am. Hopefully we’ll have good news soon.

In Summary

As you can see, we continue to move forward. We hope that this addresses some of the questions we’ve been hearing. Most importantly during these times, where we might feel more isolated from our community than ever, it is critical that we continue to communicate (using all forms of media and technology at our disposal), so please never hesitate to reach out to our TBE staff or TBE leadership with questions, concerns or issues. There should never be a doubt that our community is stronger together.

Leigh Miller

Originally published in the April 2020 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.