A 105-year-old congregation that has been without a home for decades is at last putting down permanent roots in Wayside. On Nov. 27, Congregation Sons of Israel held a ground-breaking ceremony for its new synagogue.
The 15,000-square-foot building will be located next to the Hillel Yeshiva school and will house a 350-seat sanctuary, a mikva, a social hall, a chapel, classrooms, and a kosher kitchen.
“We’ve actually been working on this since Rosh Hashana,” said Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, the congregation’s religious leader, explaining that the ceremony was actually a little late. “The foundation has already been dug. They were pouring the cement for the foundation during the ground breaking.”
He said he expects the $3 million structure to be completed by next Sept. 1, which puts it on the same schedule as the $10 million expansion at Chabad House at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where Carlebach also serves as executive director.
“We’re…using a lot of the same crews and advisory committee,” he said. “We negotiated for both sites and are using the same subcontractors…. Today you need to make every penny count.”
The Orthodox synagogue was founded in 1904 in Asbury Park. In 1952 its members founded the Hillel Yeshiva and helped launch Israel Bonds and United Jewish Appeal, which later merged with other UJA campaigns to became the Jewish Federation of Greater Monmouth County.
However, it was forced to abandon its building in the late 1980s as the city’s Jewish community dwindled and the neighborhood became riddled with crime and drugs.
It has been holding services, religious school, and activities in the Hillel Yeshiva, but a search has been going on for the last 11 years to find a site where the 100-family congregation could rebuild.
After encountering zoning problems for years, Carlebach said, he enlisted the help of Ocean Township Mayor Bill Larkin in his search (Wayside is a section of the township). It was Larkin who suggested the Poplar Place site adjacent to Hillel Yeshiva. “He said to me, ‘Rabbi, the solution is right in your own backyard,’” recalled Carlebach.
During the ceremony, which drew about 150 dignitaries, congregants, and supporters, Rick and Robin Schottenfeld of Monmouth County were recognized for their support; the main sanctuary will be named in their honor.
Carlebach said he expected that with its new home, the congregation will grow. “We’ve merged Chabad spirit within a regular Orthodox synagogue so clearly anyone who walks in will feel welcome.
“This synagogue has a wonderful history with traditions that have been going on 105 years. I still believe to attract new people, especially the unaffiliated, you need to have a very wide and open door.”