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Small temple hosts big event
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Small temple hosts big event

TEENS from 40 congregations in New Jersey and New York poured into Elberon the weekend of March 2-4 for a “Hagigah Kallah ” at Temple Beth Miriam. The regional event of NFTY-GER — National Federation of Temple Youth-Garden Empire Region — drew 140 teens hosted by 31 congregant families.

Throughout the weekend, the teens wrote and led programs reflecting the theme “Turn up your shine,” centering on Tetzave, the weekly Torah portion. On Friday evening, members of the Beth Miriam youth group led Shabbat services.

The entire congregation pitched in; temple volunteers conducted 17 hugim, workshops on mosaics, scrapbooking, singing, krav maga (Israeli personal defense), poetry, making a tallit, and decorating a Kiddush cup, Miriam’s cup, or Elijah’s cup.

On Saturday evening, an alfresco Havdala was held on the beach in Point Pleasant, and Jenkinson’s Aquarium on the boardwalk was the site of the Hagigah dance.

The weekend was particularly special, said temple youth director Dee Kalman, because generally larger synagogues host such events. Beth Miriam, she said, “is a smaller synagogue — currently, there are 304 member families. This shows that even the little congregations can make big things happen, especially when the youth are involved.”

Indeed, she added, as the planning continued, everyone at the congregation “became more and more generous. Besides having a very involved youth committee that worked months on the logistics, we had families hosting, art teachers sharing their talent by teaching the hugim, and volunteers helping with supervision and food.”

In charge of the entire event was NFTY-GER regional adviser Pam Schuller, the Union for Reform Judaism’s youth programs manager. Beth Miriam’s Rabbi Cy Stanway also got involved; in fact, his family hosted 10 teens and he taught the poetry hug.

Many of the temple’s young NFTY members gave the event high marks. “This weekend could not have gone any better,” said Aaron Scott Gillet, 16, of Manasquan. “I would like to personally thank every congregant of Temple Beth Miriam; without their help, this event would never have happened.” The weekend, said Erika Friend, 17, of West Long Branch, “will be remembered for many years to come, and I’m so happy I was a part of such a monumental event.”

Jenna Wyatt, 16, of Monmouth Beach turned to Tetzave to describe “how people can come together to make something special. Like all the parts of Aaron’s robe come together and have a special role, this weekend everyone came together and had a special role, in order to create something beautiful.”

And Haley Peckman, 17, of Manasquan said she was “really proud of how this event brought our congregation together. Hagigah blew participants’ expectations out of the water.”

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