AS RABBI DONNA Kirshbaum celebrated her fourth year with String of Pearls Congregation in Princeton, she also marked the 20th anniversary of the congregation. A gala held May 5 brought Kirshbaum, founding Rabbi Susan Schnur, and former String of Pearls religious leaders Rabbi Bob Freedman and Rabbi Daniel Brenner all together for the first time. Sporting nametags hooked onto strands of glass pearls, 75 congregants, former members, and guests celebrated at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton, where the congregation meets.
Congregation president Lorraine Fisch said she had always heard many stories of the shul’s early years. “I was thrilled to finally meet Rabbi Schnur,” she said. “Along with the original members, she created a warm and inspiring foundation that is still felt and nurtured.”
Schnur, who grew up in Trenton, is now a clinical psychologist in Boston, as well as the senior editor of Lilith Magazine, the Jewish feminist quarterly. In 2010, she coauthored the children’s book Tashlich at Turtle Rock with her daughter, Anna Schnur-Fishman.
Freedman, the congregation’s first male rabbi, recounted a comical moment during his tenure, from 1998 to 2000. During one Friday night service, the silence was broken by the voice of a young girl asking her parents, “Can a man be a rabbi?”
Freedman said, “I have always been grateful to String of Pearls for helping me answer that question in the affirmative.”
Brenner added to the humor when he chanted the history of the congregation by “reading” from a scroll, and then telling a tale from Chelm, the Jewish mythical town of fools.
“At this moment, 20 years in, many bricks have been laid by many hardworking builders,” said Brenner. “May our hearts rejoice as those needs deep within our souls are given a home.”
In her remarks, Kirshbaum said, “String of Pearls’ connections to a common Jewish heritage, to institutions in the larger Jewish world, to other local Jewish and interfaith communities, and to global issues that call out for a moral response continue to expand and deepen.”
As part of its commitment to tikun olam, String of Pearls is pursuing GreenFaith certification, a two-year process of environmental initiatives for houses of worship. Kirshbaum served as a rabbinic intern at GreenFaith, based in Highland Park, and knew that not having its own building was not a bar to participation in the interfaith organization’s program. “I look forward to studying, imagining, debating, and planning with our Green Team, with GreenFaith, and with various communities in the Princeton, Trenton, and greater Mercer bioregion.”
Congregant Kevin Hacker said he had a great time at the gala, adding, “I think we ought to have an anniversary party every year!”