We Recognize and Appreciate the Dedicated Service of Our 32 Past Presidents
“Kindness and truth preserve the leader; and he supports his leadership with kindness.”
|Janice D. Paul
Past Presidents’ Recollections
(recollections from his widow Bunny Levine)
Let me begin at the beginning, our move into Wayne in February 1957. We had heard of a group of people who were trying to establish a temple in Wayne. Knowing some of the people in the group, we had enough faith to believe that would become a reality. At that point, we purchased our home. Although we were not founding members, we were charter members, when given our charter form URHC in 1958, and we became Temple Beth Tikvah, a House of Hope.
We originally held services at the Legion Hall on Rt. 23 and in an empty storefront in the Preakness Shopping Center. High Holiday services were held outdoors at Camp Veritans. Finally, the Christian Reformed Church moved into their new home, and the Temple took over their dwelling at the corner of Valley Rd. and Nellis Dr. When we moved, the building was taken over by the Wayne PAL.
Stan became president of TBT in the very early 60s. At that time, it was decided we were growing at such a pace that we were ready to build our own edifice. In 1960, a committee of congregants were appointed and given the task of looking for land on which to possibly build our building. The Preakness Avenue parcel of land was decided upon. The bank was agreeable to committing to a mortgage, and we were on our way. An architect was hired. We also hired a commercial fundraiser to insure that we had our needed funds. This person was amazed to find that we actually raised more money than we had set as our goal. After much nail-biting and a great deal of time spent at the construction site, our House of Hope became a reality. What an exciting and busy time to be the president.
On May 19, 1963, we were finally able to have the dedication of Temple Beth Tikvah on Preakness Avenue in Wayne, NJ. It was amazing to see the many residents, politicians and clergy of all faiths that attended. We were truly overwhelmed at the acceptance the Township bestowed on us.
Happily, Stan was alive to see the 25th anniversary of this Temple so near and dear to him. Unfortunately, he passed away in December of 1985 and was unable to see how far we have come.
In the beginning there was darkness, and then in March of 1956 we begot Martin Rakitt, our first President, and fifteen member families, and there was light. And then in 1957, we begot Nathans, our second President, and in November 1957, there was Torah and there was wandering from American Legion Hall on Rt 23 to the Christian Reformed Church, to a store in the Preakness Shopping Center, to Camp Veritans, to Wayne High School, and we begot a part time Rabbi, Rabbi Neil Brief. Then, in 1959, we begot Arthur Zuckerman, our third President, and there was creation, and then1961, we begot Stanley Levine, our fourth President, and there was daylight and there was growth. Then in 1963, we begot Alvin Lubin who continued the period of growth and developed a strong Social Action leading up to my Presidency. I had the pleasure of working for and with three dedicated and devoted past presidents as Vice President and executive VP. In the decade from 1960 to 1970, we formalized the name Temple Beth Tikvah, our house of hope, formed the long range planning committee, chaired the land acquisition and building committees, retained the services of Rabbi Shai Shacknai and Cantor Romalis, and furnished our house of hope. We dedicated our new home and our second Torah, and there was day, and there was night and there were holidays for rejoicing. We acquired a home for our Rabbi, implemented the Wayne UJA and Israel Bond Drives, initiated first trip to Israel, served on the development committee for the YMHA in Wayne, implemented the Past Presidents Committee, mourned loss of our beloved Rabbi Shai Shacknai, retained the services of Rabbi Israel Dresner, and we were on our way to be a congregation of 550 plus member families with a Hebrew school of 650 plus students. It was in 1967 that I turned the reigns over to Ted Eisen, and at the end of the eighth year I rested.
During my term as the 9th president of Temple Beth Tikvah, we went through one of the most traumatic and trying times of our history. Our beloved Rabbi Shai Shacknai succumbed to the cancer that had been plaguing him for several years, at the tender age of 38. He was “one of us” in the Temple’s formative years, when the average age was about the same as his, and his passing left a deep void. We were the only Jewish institution in Wayne at the time, and his death was felt in the whole community. At the same time, it was a time of great unanimity, probably unmatched since then, as the congregation really pulled together to deal with our loss. All aspects of Temple life were concentrated on keeping together what Rabbi Shacknai had created during his tenure with us. That included our Temple Board and all of the affiliate organizations, but also, most importantly, the presidents who had preceded me, who, with the Executive Committee, were actively involved, almost on a daily basis.
We immediately secured interim rabbis with the help of the CCAR. We had quite an array. We began the search for a new Rabbi, and after reviewing a long list of candidates, we recommended to the congregation that we retain Rabbi Dresner. He became our new spiritual leader, a role he would hold for the next 25 years.
Rabbi Dresner was not the same kind of quiet leader that Rabbi Shacknai had been. From the beginning, he did not hesitate to express in very strong terms what he believed, in terms of human rights, the Vietnam war, racial injustice, and a host of other issues that we were confronting as a nation. Not all of our congregation felt as strongly, or even agreed with, some of the issues he expressed from his pulpit, and this created a division in our temple, which continued to plague us through the rest of his tenure. There were always the pros and cons to the Rabbi, and hardly a gathering within our congregation did not end up in discussions as to what he had said or done.
Our leadership team understood what he was trying to say, and we felt the pulpit was his. Thus, we supported him, and as president, I have no regrets. It was a tumultuous couple of years, but years of unparalleled growth for me personally and years that were mostly fun.
My wife and I have been members of TBT for over 50 years. I even had the good fortune of working with Rabbi Shai Shacknai, who most of you never had the good fortune of knowing. I was President in 1977-79, which was 40 years ago. The congregation was growing, and members were involved in all aspects of Temple life. We had a strong Sisterhood and Brotherhood. I am still very much involved and have always considered myself, my wife, and my daughters fortunate to have been part of this great institution. It has been an important part of my life, and I hope it will be here forever.
1979-1981 were the years when we had over 500 students in the religious school, when Bar and Bat Mitzvahs were double and triple, when we had an extremely active Sisterhood that ran fantastic art shows, a Brotherhood that ran very profitable bazaars, and we had a Rabbi who was a dynamic social activist who forced us to think about what our role should be in making the world a better place. We were a very active congregation with a membership of about 500 families and were the face of Judaism for the Township of Wayne. And then the unthinkable—a terrible desecration of the temple in the midst of my administration! Swastikas on the tablets in the front of the synagogue, obscene rantings spray-painted on the outside walls and an unexploded firecracker taped to our magnificent stained glass. But from this horror came a wonderful realization: the entire community of Wayne came to our aid with offers of help to remove the offensive destruction, Sunday sermons from the pulpits of our Christian neighboring congregations condemning the desecration, and a feeling of true concern from our fellow townspeople. Under the leadership of Rabbi Dresner, our congregation had forged a relationship with the other houses of worship in our town that would not have been imagined some ten years before. It was a wonderful moment in time to be able to feel that we had become an integral part of a community that not too long before was known as a source of anti-Semitism. Hopefully, this is still the case.
My most memorable moment of my presidency was the summer after my installation. We had just had a very tough rabbinic election, and we were sued by several congregants who were displeased by the results (we won). I spent the entire summer visiting 24 congregants that had resigned, asking them not to leave. Other than that, I had two easy years.
I have often considered my Presidency a bridge between the old guard and the new.
My temple involvement began in 1981, when I was approached to chair the ad journal for The Wonder of Art, the highlight of the Sisterhood year. The leadership, friendship and enthusiasm shown to me were inspiring! It was, indeed, exciting and satisfying to work with such competent and compelling women to produce the spectacular event, which brought important funding to the temple.
As my participation increased and I climbed up the Sisterhood ladder and ascended to temple leadership, so did the relationships I made along the way. Spending countless hours working along side longtime temple members, educated me on what had been long before my time at Temple Beth Tikvah. I was deeply impressed with Rabbi Dresner’s reverence to the history of the temple and its leadership.
When I became president of the temple, in June of 1997, Rabbi Wylen was completing his second year. The temple was enjoying an influx of young families and our Rabbi had introduced new rituals to our liturgy as well as a new point of view for our temple. The board was changing as well, the old guard making way for new leadership.
Among the many events that occurred during my term, one of the most meaningful was the Dinner and Service in Honor of our Long Time Temple Members. The warmth and comradery was palpable—an authentic outgrowth of those individuals, who had shared the unique experience of building our beloved Temple Beth Tikvah.
I proudly concluded my presidency with the temple in good financial health and a new roof on the building. My deep appreciation goes to my predecessors, who paved the way by sharing their experience and knowledge with me and to the newcomers, who came forward to support the temple and take it into the future.
My connection to TBT goes back to my teens, sleeping on the floor as part of a JFTY Shul-in. Skip ahead a number of years, and my re-connection as the TYG Adviser to the newly-formed High School JFTY/NFTY group. My kids spent hours with wonderful teenagers and got to connect to their own Judaism as we attended JFTY events together. My Board nomination came after that, bringing a new connection to TBT, using what I was learning in my professional sphere at the URJ and later Congregation B’nai Jeshurun to help our beloved Temple. I was fortunate to have my presidency fall at the time of our greatest membership successes, with over 500 member families, wonderful volunteers, active committees and an incredibly supportive Board. We were able to redo the roof with funds we already had, lay the foundation to bring in a professional administrator, and mount successful fundraisers. I made wonderful friends along the way. None of this would have happened without the total support of my husband and kids, and for that I thank them profusely.
Shortly after I assumed the presidency, the tragic event of September 11, 2001 occurred. The Temple, along with many other organizations, had to make and institute measures and plans for the safety and security of our members and our building. This was a major project. Fortunately, there were no untoward or serous situations or events.
The Temple thrived. The membership was about 550 families. Fundraising reached an all-time high, and there was a full enrollment of students in the religious school. Furthermore, there were several very interesting speakers and lecturers, including family members of Holocaust survivors.
My presidency began in 2007 with a deficit that had to be controlled. With the help of a strong Board and an Executive Vice President I could rely on, we began the task immediately. It took two years, but we got it done. During the two years of my presidency, my wife had to share me with Ellen Goldin and the staff, without whom nothing would have gotten done.
Although my presidency was a tumultuous period in Temple Beth Tikvah’s history, it was a time of looking forward and working towards the change needed to move us ahead. My team of executive officers was exceptional and stayed strong during a difficult time. Looking back now, I can see the necessity of that strength in the rebirth of our spirituality and place within the Wayne Jewish community. Since those years, I have enjoyed working with Cantor Romalis in celebrating his 50th anniversary as our Cantor and now being a part of the transition team with our Rabbi Meeka.
Janice D. Paul—2014-2017
I served as Tot Shabbat and Young Family Events Chair for 14 years, as Membership Chair for 13+ years and as President for three years, three months and four days—a new record for Temple Beth Tikvah in its 60-year history. It was quite the ride! As Temple Beth Tikvah moves on to its next 60 years, my wish for all of you is that you go from strength to strength. My wish for Temple Beth Tikvah is that it moves forward in harmony and hope.
We Recognize and Appreciate the Dedication of Our Founding Families to Building Our House of Hope
“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”
Esther* and Abe* Marks
Gloria* and George* Rafes
Arlene and Martin* Rakitt
Carolyn and Melvin Schnur
Barbara and Arthur* Zuckerman
View a slideshow of the 60th Anniversary Celebration…