The Barnert “Success” Story: L’dor vador, From Generation to Generation
We of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, The Barnert Temple, are proud to be the oldest Jewish congregation in New Jersey.Since 1847, when six Jewish men gathered for the first time in a small store in Paterson, NJ, our congregation has evolved and adapted to the changing needs of its members.Although originally organized as an Orthodox synagogue, by the 1880’s the Congregation transitioned to Reform Judaism.Today, as it has been through our 170 years of history, our mission is to be a sacred community, a kehillah kedoshah, committed to offering Reform Jewish experiences that are relevant, accessible and meaningful, wherein people of all ages and backgrounds are appreciated and valued, engaged and inspired.
We are a Jewish center for approximately 450 member families from more than 36 surrounding communities.We are large enough to service the diverse needs of our congregants, but small enough to provide an inclusive, comfortable and nurturing environment.Indeed, the Barnert “success story” can be seen in virtually all aspects of Temple life.
Since relocating to Franklin Lakes, NJ in 1987, our priorities have included developing and strengthening membership through meaningful worship, social justice, lifelong learning and social connections.Worship has become highly participatory, with expectations of spiritual engagement, and intellectual challenge.Our worship experience is heightened by music.Highlights include the music created by our Junior and Senior Choirs and worship band.
We have a long, vibrant history of pursuing social justice together as a community.Guided by education, inspiration and action, we seek to raise awareness, encourage discussion and lead people to address issues affecting our neighbors, Israel, and oppressed populations throughout the world by donating time, money and items in need.Participating in Social Action opens doors and brings people together to serve others.It is something everyone can contribute to, at any level, and is deeply ingrained in our culture.Current Social Action efforts focus on Interfaith/Intercultural friendship; Food and Shelter, and supporting grassroots organizations through an annual Mitzvah Mall (raising funds) and in 2017 a Mitzvah Plex event which included hands on events.
Our strong educational program extends from Preschool through adulthood.We successfully emphasize post Bar/t Mitzvah education through 12th grade and our high school youth group has 50 members.Our educational program emphasizes leadership training for our youth to provide for the future of our congregation and the Jewish community.These young people have many opportunities to be active participants in the Temple, including work as a Madrichim, Summer Camp Counselor, and gap-year Teacher Assistant in our Preschool.
Our Jewish educational program is called Jewish Journey Project Barnert Temple (JJPBT).JJPBT provides participants with rich, engaging educational opportunities both inside and outside of Barnert’s walls, including the vast Jewish resources around the State of New Jersey and beyond.What makes JJPBT so innovative and unique is that there are multiple ways for families to create their Jewish journey.The model is based on flexibility, creativity, and experiential learning.We offer such courses from creating wood designed items found in the Torah, learning about Social Justice (and taking action), Jewish Holiday cooking to a chance to compare the story of Creation with the science of the Big Bang.
Our adult learning courses offer both entry-level learning and enrichment with a curriculum encompassing weekly Hebrew, Torah study, Talmud, monthly Rosh Chodesh for women, and spirituality, and periodic seminars and speakers.They promote many social and educational programs throughout the year, including a variety of tikkun olam projects.Our Renaissance group promotes strong social activity among seniors.
It is a sacred tradition for Jews to be laid to rest in consecrated hallowed ground. Through the ownership and operation of our own Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Totowa, NJ, we ensure this sacred trust. Mt. Nebo Cemetery is an integral part of the past, present and future of our congregation.
We strive to be a congregation whose members are concerned about Judaism as well as each other. The temple provides a warm and inviting atmosphere for worship for those who want to draw closer to God; and those committed to or interested in living Jewishly who question their belief in God or don’t believe in God. We place a higher value on behavior than belief. We also welcome congregants’ non-Jewish loved ones. Most important, we commit our voices, our collective efforts and our resources to make a positive difference in the quality of Jewish life in our community and the wider world. As we move through the 21st century, we seek to secure the future of our congregation, to serve as a leading force of Jewish discovery and growth in Northern New Jersey and beyond.