Temple Beth El

Temple Beth El History

In the early 1920s various women gathered together to talk about starting a synagogue in the area. Temple Beth El was soon after organized in 1921 by the Shepard Vineburgs and the Samuel Lowensteins. The Temple’s birth was at the Vineburg home in May, 1921. Initial services were held in the fall of 1921. The women who had started the movement later became officers and members of the Sisterhood and various organizations.

First President was Shepard Vineburg, Vice Presidents Samuel Lowenstein, Isaac Berger, Treasurer, Barnett L. Cahn and Secretary Max Milch. There were 9 trustees. The Temple’s first home was in Winkler’s Hall in the YMCA in downtown Asbury Park. Shephard Vineburg acted as the first Rabbi, Mildred Vineburg and several other ladies made up the choir and Lillian Broadstein accompanied them on the organ. As the congregation increased, it was necessary to move into larger quarters so services were held in the basement of the Asbury Park Library.

In 1923 the trustees purchased the property known as Farr Villa for $25,000.00. It was located at the northwest corner of Grand and Sewell Avenues in Asbury Park. When an architect was engaged to draw plans for the building, he determined that the plot size was insufficient to satisfy the city building ordinance which specified 15 foot setback. At that time the public school building at the corner of First Avenue and Emory Street was purchased, remodeled and became the first home of Temple Beth El. The building’s exterior was finished with a Terra Cotta tapestry brick. The interior was also considerably altered. The original site on Grand Avenue was sold at a profit. The kitchen and kindergarten classroom were in the basement. The sanctuary with the organ and choir loft were on the main floor, along with the office and a coatroom. Also on the first floor was a large social hall with a full stage, a kitchen, multi-purpose room used by Sisterhood, Men’s Club, USY, Kadimah and was rented by Hadassah, Young Judea and the National Council of Jewish Women. It was the center of much of the Jewish community and was the only large hall with a kosher kitchen. The third floor contained classrooms.

Originally Temple Beth El was supposed to be a reform synagogue, however, since the younger generation of Orthodox Jews wished to join, a compromise was reached and Temple Beth El affiliated with he conservative movement, which at that time was very young.

With Shepard Vineburg as its’ first president, a beautiful full-bodied pipe organ was installed and Rabbi Max Davidson became the first rabbi. In those days services were very formal and n the High Holy Days the president and vice president wore tuxedos on the Bimah. Dedication services for the Temple were held November, 1927.

The subject of a cemetery arose for the first time in the early 1920s. The selection of a site involved the Lowenstein family, Sam Lowenstein who was a vice president of the temple, Minnie Lowenstein who was president of Sisterhood and two of their sons who were active in local real estate. Robert Lowenstein suggested a good site for the cemetery would be an area at the outskirts of town known as Hoppy’s Farm. This property was purchased for the cemetery in the late 1920s.

The temple soon outgrew its’ new home and property was purchased around the corner, on Asbury Avenue to house a 500 person capacity banquet and social hall, library-reading room, 12 classrooms for religious studies, a playroom for pre-kindergarten, gift shop and meeting rooms.

The front of the building was distinguished by a giant-sized Jewish Star in glass. The Center was dedicated on June 21 and 22, 1957.

Temple Beth El was known for its grand organ and musical services. In 1948 Charlotte Vineburg, upon her marriage into the founding family, joined the choir. She became choir director in 1956 and served as the back-up organist for Bill Crawford, who served the congregation for over 50 years. The music to many of the prayers sung at Shabbat and High Holy Day services was composed by Charlotte. Many of these renditions are sung by synagogues across the United States. Some of the music composed for the temple has won the Solomon Schecter award.

Rabbi Ralph B. Hershon succeeded Rabbi Davidson. He was then succeeded by Rabbi Ario Hyams who served until he left to become an army chaplain during World War II. To fill the gap, Rabbi Felix Aber, a refugee from Bremen, Germany took over the pulpit. Unfortunately upon the return of Rabbi Hyams, his wartime experiences had a profound effect upon him and he was unable to continue as spiritual leader. Rabbi Jacob Freedman officiated from September, 1948 to August, 1950.

For forty years, from 1945 – 1985 Sam Kreizman touched the lives of more Beth El children and their families than anyone in congregational history. Sam served as a teacher of the children, maftir on the high holy days, principal of the religious school and devoted temple member.

On May 3, 1950, Rabbi Sidney Shulman became the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El and continued to act as Rabbi/Cantor for over 25 years retiring on August 1, 1975 assuming the position of Rabbi Emeritus.

With continuous progress and growth and a membership of over 300 families, it became evident in the 1970s that the old structures were in need of repair and it was no longer economically feasible to remain in Asbury Park. Most of the members had moved out to Ocean Township and beyond. The entire Beth El Family, under the direction and sponsorship of Sisterhood, pitched in to raise funds for the new building, working all year for several years, making items to be sold at Memorial Day Bazaars held under a large circus tent over the parking lot. That project unified the congregation and rewarded them with marvelous memories.

A 17 acre tract on Monmouth Road in Oakhurst was purchased and on October 15, 1972 a groundbreaking ceremony was held. The dedication ceremony for the new temple took place on June 13, 1976 at which time the congregation was united in the new building.

In 1988 congregants Lou and Ruth Kaplan came up with an idea that became the largest fund raiser in temple history. A Siyum Torah was commemorated in honor of Leon Anschelewitz, past president and temple leader for many decades. Leon was the longest serving temple president, having served for 12 years. His sons covered the expense of writing the torah. The torah was written by scribes in Israel and dedicated at Beth El. The event raised over $200,000.00 and netted the temple $160,000.00.

Rabbi Martin Merrin joined the Temple in 1975 and resigned August, 1978. Rabbi Murray Ezring assumed the rabbinical post in 1978 and served until 1987 at which time Rabbi David Wolf Silverman, Chair of the Department of Philosophies of Judaism at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York assumed the religious leadership in 1987 and remained until 1995.

In 2002 Congregation B’nai Sholom merged with Temple Beth El.

Rabbi Gordon Yaffe assumed the rabbinical leadership in 1995 and has served until 2010 when Temple Beth El merged to become Congregation Torat El.