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For Some TSTI Members, It’s All in the Family

| January 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

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South Orange Reform Synagogue Draws Multi-generational and Lifelong Members

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J., January 30, 2018 – Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI), the Reform synagogue in South Orange, has many programs that appeal to members across the generations, from preschoolers to young families to retirees. In fact, that cross-generational appeal is so strong, the synagogue is fortunate to be home to many multi-generation member families—families that have provided continuity, perspective and support for decades.

It’s not unusual to find long-time members whose children grew up at TSTI and joined as adults—and whose children are now growing up there. Some have been involved in various volunteer and lay leadership ways across the generations; among them are Barry and Ivy Hausman of West Orange, TSTI members for 37 years. All three of their children became bar and bat mitzvah at the synagogue; two, including daughter and member, Josi Cohen-Hausman, went on to Hebrew High and the youth group (STISY).

Barry plays in the TSTI Band and has volunteered at the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges, which TSTI supports. Ivy served on the youth committee for many years, chaired the Purim carnival multiple times and was active in the Women’s Connection group. She currently chairs the new We Care committee, which provides assistance to homebound and other members and sits on the TSTI board of trustees.

Of TSTI’s community spirit, she noted that, “People here have such a strong sense of their community, which I believe is a function of our rabbinic leadership. Our community is very embracing of Rabbi Cohen’s philosophy about making a place at the table for everyone.”

Her daughter agrees.

Cohen-Hausman lives in Maplewood with her wife Katie and two children, six-year-old daughter Emmi and four-year-old son Avery; both children attended TSTI’s preschool and Emmi now attends the religious school. Cohen-Hausman co-chaired the preschool committee for several years.

She credits TSTI’s clergy for the community’s warmth and inclusive nature. She was not at all surprised with how openly the TSTI community embraced her wife, who converted to Judaism last year.

“After moving back here four years ago, we joined TSTI right away and put Emmi into the preschool without a second thought,” she said. “We wouldn’t have it any other way. The clergy are accessible and down to earth, something you don’t find everywhere and which serves our community so well. Rabbi Cohen made it so much easier for me and my family; it feels like home there and it always has.”

Jeff and Doris Spector of West Orange joined TSTI about 45 years ago, when the synagogue was located in East Orange. They both taught at the Hebrew school for years and Doris served on the board of trustees and executive committee; she also chaired the Interfaith Housing Network for many years, a program to provide housing, meals and support for homeless families. She is now working with two other long-time members on Prime Connection, a new social group for older adults.

Their daughter, Breena Fishback was a toddler when the Spectors joined the community. “I grew up in TSTI and just stayed,” she said. Now a South Orange resident, she attended the religious school, became bat mitzvah and was confirmed there. Her children have also grown up at TSTI; Jillian, age 16 and Jordan, age 13 both attended the religious school and are involved in STISY.

Fishback said that when it came time for her and husband Jed to join a synagogue, her parents’ involvement and the sense of continuity were very appealing to them. After moving back to the area in 2001, they were married at TSTI and joined.

“It’s nice to have a history at TSTI. When my kids became b’nai mitzvah, I could say ‘this was the room we were in for mine; this is the bimah I stood on.’ I think it gives my kids roots and grounds them to see the multi-generational continuation here.”

Fishback has served on the TSTI board of trustees and the executive committee and chaired the preschool board for several years. She enjoys working with other TSTI members, adding that, “They are very warm and welcoming, whether you grew up there or are new to town. They’re also very active in the wider community and are an integral thread in the fabric of South Orange-Maplewood.”

Rob and Heidi Cohen of South Orange (in the photo with their family) joined TSTI as newcomers in 2007, having become familiar with the community after attending several religious ceremonies there. They found they always enjoyed it, so TSTI became a natural choice.

“We wanted a Reform synagogue and really liked what we saw at TSTI as guests. It was important to us to be where services felt familiar and the community was welcoming so that we could participate right away,” said Cohen.

Of that participation, Rob served on the finance committee and board of trustees; Heidi was active on the religious school board, chairing it for three years; she also chaired the Women’s Committee advisory council, served on the board nominating committee, and has been a welcome ambassador for new members.

Their children, daughter Shayna, age 17 and son Sam, age 15, attended the religious school and are in Hebrew High, which they never miss. Both teens also serve on the STISY board, where Cohen says they thrive on the challenges presented to them there.

This past fall, the Cohen family flipped the multi-generational script when Heidi’s parents, Stephen and Ellen Ritz of Piscataway, joined them at TSTI. They had been long-time members of a synagogue in Plainfield but after several years of attending High Holy Day services with the Cohens, which they enjoyed very much, they made the switch. “They are so happy to be here,” said Cohen.

“It’s very easy to fall in love with TSTI,” she said. “It’s the kind of place where if you love it, you really love it.”

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI), located at 432 Scotland Road in South Orange, is a vibrant, inclusive Reform congregation that welcomes Jews by birth or by choice, interfaith, traditional and non-traditional families, and children of all abilities. It offers lifelong learning and creative, enriching programs for all members, from preschoolers and teens to older adults. Its full complement of religious services, early childhood and religious school education, cultural programs and activities foster connection, engagement and community outreach. TSTI’s members live in Maplewood, South Orange, West Orange, Short Hills, Millburn, Livingston and surrounding areas. For more information, please visit www.tsti.org.

PHOTO CAPTION:
Heidi Cohen (2nd from right) and husband Rob (2nd from left) with (l. to r.) son Sam, daughter Shayna, and Heidi’s parents, Ellen and Stephen Ritz.

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About Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel
432 Scotland Road, South Orange, NJ 07079
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Media Contact:
Caryn Starr-Gates
Caryl Communications
(201) 796-7788
Email: caryn@caryl.com

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