At 50 years, Emanu-El reflects on past, looks forward
As members of Temple Emanu-El in Edison capped off a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary, they posed a question to a future generation of congregants about how trends in technology would affect the role of the synagogue a quarter-century from now.
That was among the messages included in a “time capsule” — a metal box whose contents were compiled June 10 at the temple’s annual picnic. Filled with all kinds of items from the last five decades of the Reform congregation, it is scheduled to be opened 25 years from now, in 2037.
“As we look to the future, which is your present, we are curious if the brick and mortar temple is still the center of our Jewish community, or if social media and technology has changed that?” the message reads. “Regardless of the format, it is our hope that Temple Emanu-El will still be a strong community at that time and that the Jewish roots we have planted continue to thrive, L’dor vador, from one generation to the next.”
Included in the box, which will be sealed and secured in the sanctuary at the end of the month, are kipot from members’ b’nei mitzva, other ritual items, and programs from special events. The box also contains a large piece of purple construction paper with messages written in marker by students in the religious school, a T-shirt signed by members of the temple’s teen group, and a copy of New Jersey Jewish News with an article about the 50th anniversary.
Joan Ellen of Metuchen, a former president of the about 250-member congregation, said she put in a yarmulka from the bat mitzva of her daughter, who is now 28. “My daughter grew up here from the time of her baby-naming,” Ellen said. “She taught in the religious school. The temple was always an important part of all our lives and certainly of hers.”
At the picnic, temple members also recited the Sheheheyanu blessing as a large commemorative copper engraving was unveiled. Conceived of and crafted by renowned artist Avi Zukerman, it is made up of 50 squares designed by groups, families, and individuals from the synagogue surrounding the words “L’Dor Vador” both in Hebrew and transliteration.
The artwork hangs outside, above the entrance to the religious school.
“We hope as Hebrew school students enter this school for many years to come, they will see what we have created in our 50 years,” said Rabbi Deborah Bravo. “The wonderful thing about this artwork is that it was not created by any one person, but by all of us.”
Ten-year-old April Calish of Metuchen said she helped design a square because to her, “the temple feels like a second home.”
Bravo’s six-year-old daughter, Sophie, put a Torah and menora in her family’s square because, she said, “I love Hanukka.”
Rachel Suss, 14, of Metuchen said for her family’s contribution to the piece she designed a tree with the word “shalom.”
“I wanted to do something with peace and shalom, and I love the idea of the synagogue being a tree of life,” she said.
Gail Apsel of Edison, also a former congregation president and a cochair of the 50th anniversary committee, said the project to create the engraving and the many other celebratory events and services that attracted young and old throughout the year demonstrate the synagogue’s strength.
“This really shows how we have evolved as a congregation,” Apsel said as she looked through the items in the time capsule. “We now have children and grandchildren here of members who are still active.
“We now have three- and four-generation families who call the temple home.”