Temple Beth Torah

Temple Beth Torah History

Ben Schwartz, member of Orthodox Congregation in Bradley Beach and Richard Scheur, member of Orthodox Congregation Sons of Israel in Asbury Park agreed to hold 1950 Yom Kippur services at the home of the Scheurs since walking to their respective congregations was distant from Wanamassa where they now lived.

The success of the Yom Kippur service lead the attending families to hold Friday night services. Attendance grew and 1951 Rosh Hashannah services were held at the Wanamassa Fire House. Services were conducted by lay leaders.

Two Torahs were loaned. One from Frankfurt Germany from the Scheur family and one from the Bradley Beach Synagogue. The Ark to house these Torahs was built by Ben Chrisis and Bernard Reich.

In 1952 with over 100 families attending services the group decided to form an organization to perpetuate their religious beliefs and friendships. The Jewish Center of Township of Ocean (JCTO) was formed. George M. Levinson elected first president. The first Torah was donated by the Zwishon family.

1953 Jacques Herman elected president and held the position for one month. Gertrude Schwartz took over because of McCarthy hearings. Many of the members were employed at Fort Monmouth and were considered potential targets in the McCarthy witch hunt to ferret out Communist Party members. These people dropped their membership so as not to discredit Jewish organizations.

In 1954 membership at JCTO dropped so low that a vote was taken to disband the congregation. Brothers William and Henry Epstein rallied the congregation. The vote did not pass. William Epstein became the President.

In 1955, the Hebrew School began in the home of William Epstein’s brother Sam. Sunday school followed at the home of Ed and Lillian Schwartz with Lillian as teacher. As Hebrew and Sunday School grew, classes were held in the Wanamassa Firehouse and Township Hall.

In 1955/1956, membership was comprised of Orthodox and Conservative members. Majority voted to go Conservative. The Jewish Center joined the Conservative movement. Several Orthodox members left the congregation splitting some families. Most went to Congregation Sons of Israel, Asbury Park.

In 1956, land was purchased at the corner of Roseld Avenue and Logan Road from the Township of Ocean for one dollar. Land had been originally owned by the Jewish newspaper, The Daily Forward, which gave small lots to people who took one year subscriptions. The Township foreclosed on these lots for nonpayment of taxes. This property was a landfill and had an 8 foot crater.

Dues were $3.00 per year subsequently raised to $5.00. Sol Lieberman, a Temple member was a builder and offered his services free and materials at wholesale prices. All the Temple had to do was pay employee wages. Dr. Emanuel Abraham became the building chairman. Each family pledged $500 over a five year period. Landscaping, painting and carpentry was done by various members of the temple. Cost of the building was less than $25,000.

In 1957 rabbinical student Bernard Spielman was hired as student Rabbi and Hebrew teacher. The name was changed to Temple Beth Torah. Sisterhood was established with Ruth Garfinkel as first president.

In 1958 first sanctuary became occupied with 50 families.

Membership rose to 100 families. Hebrew school rose to 170 children.

In 1962 Hebrew High School formed.

In 1964 Men’s Club organized with Dr. Stanley Ravine as first president.

In 1964 the building was expanded as membership continued to grow.

In 1965 Rabbi Jacob S. Friedman was hired as spiritual leader and remained as Rabbi until his retirement 36 years later in 2001.

From 1965 to 2001, the Temple grew to its peak of approximately 520 families. TBT became known as “The Family of Families” congregation. A young couples club was established. USY was established with Alan Kreisler as it’s first president. Five of our religious school students became rabbis: Steve Garfinkel; Dan Boyarin; William Gershon; Sidney Vineburg; Hal Luria. Cantors were: Louis Bettman; Arnold Schraeter; Jeffery Wolk; Anita Shubert, Eliezer Kornreich and Bruce Siegel. Rabbi Friedman led the religious school, Don Vineburg led the Sunday school. Rabbinical student Sam Kieffer became our religious school leader and achieved his Smicha while at TBT. He was followed by Philip Dickstein, Mira Chen, Judith Morag, and Ben Laskowitz. In 1978 after TBT membership voted not to merge with Temple Beth El, the TBT building was totally renovated and expanded. In 1982 the Senior Club was established with Fred Greenbaum as first president. Upon Rabbi Friedman’s retirement, the religious school was named in his honor, The Rabbi Jacob S. Friedman Religious School.

From 2001 to 2006 Rabbi David Booth served as spiritual leader of TBT, leaving to take a pulpit in California.

In 2006 Rabbi Robert E. Fine served as an interim Rabbi for one year.

In 2007 Rabbi Michael Goldstein became the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Torah.

In 2008 Hazak was formed with Toby Sukinik as organizer.