A visitor to Temple Beth Miriam in Elberon sees no shades of gray anywhere. For the congregation’s Rabbi Cy Stanway and his wife, school principal Stella Jeruzalmi Stanway, the color conveys a drab institutional atmosphere, devoid of brightness and creativity.
So on Sunday, Dec. 5, guests at the dedication of the Reform temple’s newly renovated educational wing will be met by a vibrant palette of colors signifying energy, enthusiasm, and inventiveness.
“In the past six years we have done more than $3 million in renovations at our temple and school. There is abundant light and color, and that’s what a yeshiva should be,” Rabbi Stanway said. “We have created a community where kids run into class as opposed to running out. When you offer an environment that’s conducive to learning, you create engaged, knowledgeable Jews. The renovation is only part of that package.”
The $600,000 renovation project of the Eisenberg-Bierman Religious School began last May after three years of planning. Seventeen classrooms were renovated, three of them converted from what were previously offices. The exterior facade was refaced, the windows were replaced, and an outdoor patio area and concrete path were built. Rooms got new carpeting, paint, lighting, bulletin boards, and desks as well as a new heating and cooling system and a communication system.
The school has grown in the past six years from 101 to 170 students, ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. Music is an integral part of the temple’s tefilla program, with music classes led by Beth Miriam’s Cantor Scott Borsky and board member Tom Gavin of Shrewsbury.
The temple prides itself on its 70 percent retention rate of post b’nei mitzva students, who participate in a Teen Academy Class and its madrichim student teacher training program. The school also offers adult education classes in Talmud and theology.
With 326 member families, Temple Beth Miriam strives to build an atmosphere where Judaism is accessible and joyous, said Stella Stanway. “It’s terrific to work in a place where the work you do is as valued as you value it,” she said. “I have 125 percent support from the staff and families. When students see the teachers and leadership are dedicated to making their studies as fun and interesting as possible, it makes it exciting and meaningful.”
For the Peckman family of Wall, Beth Miriam has been a spiritual home for 10 years. Haley, 16, and Bryce, 14, are student teachers in the madrichim (counselors) program. “They are given lots of leadership opportunities,” said the teens’ mother, Susan. “It demonstrates the philosophy of dor l’dor, generation to generation, in which they are able to give back what they learned from others. They are looked up to, which makes them feel important and useful.”
Stacy Howard of Oceanport said it was the traditions and values that drew her family to the temple, especially her children, third-grader Josie and sixth-grader Eliza. “The kids learn that it’s about the big picture of giving back to the community,” Howard said. “They teach how to be a good person. The fact that so many teenagers stay long after their bar mitzva is a testament to the engaging atmosphere the temple has created.”
The Dec. 5 event will combine the dedication of the new wing with another dedication — Hanukka — and will include entertainment and holiday activities and refreshments.
Donors who made the renovation possible will be honored with the unveiling of a recognition plaque along with those whose efforts led directly to the project’s success.