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 169 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.
Our social justice program is expansive, including all ages and groups, and emphasizing diversity and responsibility. For example, our annual Mitzvah Mall is a cornerstone social action event, which raises awareness and funds on behalf of several diverse and deserving charities. This dynamic event is held one day in the spring, with extensive research and planning occurring in the months leading up to the event.
Our strong educational program extends from pre-school 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 can serve as madrichim in our religious school. We are working to improve the effectiveness of our program through the new and innovative ‘Jewish Journey’ approach. Our adult learning programs offer both entry-level learning and enrichment with a curriculum encompassing weekly Hebrew, Torah study, Talmud 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.