How do you capture the spirit of a synagogue community? How do you put into a few words what it is that makes a congregation unique?
These were the questions that I faced a number of months ago when members of our Synagogue’s building committee asked me to suggest a "theme sentence" from Jewish tradition for our new building.
I was surprised that my answer came so quickly and so automatically. I suggested that we use the following request from God contained in the High Holiday liturgy:
"And create from us one unit to perform your will with a full heart."
Perhaps the most salient feature which distinguishes Congregation Ahavath Torah from other communities is our diversity. As the largest Orthodox congregation in northern New Jersey, and one of the largest in the United States, we boast a membership that spans age, background and outlook. From newly married apartment dwellers to great-grandparents many times over; from ordained rabbis and distinguished Judaic scholars to individuals whose journey towards religious observance is just beginning; from those who lean to the political right, left and everything in between; from those who have lived in Englewood for decades to those who just moved in; we join together to create a dynamic, exciting beautiful Jewish community pulsating with energy, vigor and shared learning.
We succeed because we strike a critical balance.
On the one hand, we find common ground, uniting behind the eternal values, traditions and practices of our people. We join together as one in our love for and dedication to Torah, the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the common good of all mankind.
At the same time, we embrace and welcome the very diversity which sets us apart. We encourage the open exchange of opinions and try to learn from each others’ viewpoints. We work diligently, not only to welcome new members, but quickly make them feel valued participants in our communal journey. We believe that every congregant has something unique to offer to our shared journey and we actively strive to convey how much we cherish his/her contribution.
This embrace of diversity is concretized in the bricks and mortar of our new synagogue building, which features no less than four beautiful prayer sanctuaries, as well as numerous spaces for youth, offering a wide array of prayer options each Shabbat and Festival morning.
Building upon a proud past of over a century's service to the Englewood Jewish community, Congregation Ahavath Torah has assumed an acknowledged leadership role within world Jewry. As we move to the future, we remain committed to building upon that role with the participation of each cherished community member.