Merged shuls delighted by name
Temples Beth Torah in Ocean and Beth El in Oakhurst have selected a new name for their planned merger. The almost 700-family Conservative synagogue — which voted this summer to merge next year — will be known as Congregation Torat El (God’s Torah), with “Jersey Shore Jewish Center” as an added “tag line.”
Beth Torah president Alan Stern of West Long Branch, who is slated to serve as president of the unified synagogue, said he was delighted with the new name.
“We wanted Torat El for people who wanted to hang on to the names of their official congregations” as well as to honor members of both shuls who have “given their hearts and souls to that place,” said Stern, adding that the merger plan will combine “the best features” of both congregations.
Stern said there was no clear majority on any one of the four names included in the initial referendum over the summer. Torat El was added to the ballot at the suggestion of Rabbi Jacob Friedman, rabbi emeritus of Beth Torah.
“There was within both congregations this sentimental sense of loss,” said Beth El president Maddy Cohen of Wayside, who will become Torat El’s executive vice president. The name, she said, drew twice as many votes “as the nearest contender.”
“I am very happy with it because it does express a respect to each institution,” Cohen said. And with the new tag line, “it explains where we are and who we are at the same time.”
To smooth the transition, the synagogues have already begun planning joint events. “The more our members worship together, the more our members celebrate together, laugh, socialize, and cry together, the stronger this unification is going to be,” Stern said.
Plans call for a renovation and expansion at Beth Torah beginning next summer. While renovations take place, the Beth El site will house the merged congregation.
In September, the two religious schools merged as the Rabbi Jacob Friedman Religious School, at Beth Torah’s site. The 140 students include 25 from Beth El.
The transition has been “smoother and [more] seamless than I ever thought it would be,” said Ben Laskowitz, educational director of the merged school. “The whole thing was a win-win situation.”