This is Temple Beth-El
Updated: Aug 19, 2019
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photos provided by Rabbi Yitzchok and Bina Lerman
Temple Beth-El has been part of the community for over 100 years. Rabbi Yitzchok Lerman and his wife, Bina Lerman, are integral parts of the Jewish Community and specifically, Temple Beth-El. This is Rutherford had the opportunity to speak to Rabbi Yitzchok and his wife Bina about the Temple, it’s congregants, and how they have seen their presence grow in the community.
TIR: How long have you been part of Temple Beth-El?
RL: Our family moved to Rutherford in September 2014, right before the Jewish High Holidays. This September is going to be our sixth year with the community. Bina and I are also school teachers during the week, each with over a decade of experience. I am a rabbi/professor and curriculum developer at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ, and Bina is an ELA and Science teacher in Monsey, NY.
BL: My husband, Yitzchok, grew up in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. He studied and trained in the US as well as abroad. He is recognized by the Israeli Rabbinate as a Rabbi and officiate of lifecycle events. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia where my family have been leaders in the Jewish community for four generations. We moved to Rutherford when our third child was just a few weeks old. Since moving here, we had a fourth child; she will be turning two this month. As our family grows, we are also seeing tremendous growth in our wonderful community.
TIR: How have you seen the Temple and its congregants change throughout the years?
RL: We have seen a lot of positive changes in the Temple since we arrived. A lot more families are getting involved with the community, especially young families. As the only Temple south of Hackensack, we cater to the needs of all Jewish people in the area. From Lodi to Harrison, and every town in between. We also get a lot of calls from people who are not Jewish who may need assistance, have Jewish relatives or friends, or are interested in our classes and programs.
BL; Yes, we are definitely seeing a shift of young families becoming more involved with the Temple. We are also a center for non-Jews looking for spirituality and deeper meaning.
TIR: What types of services do you offer through the Temple?
RL: We offer a wide range of services. We offer holiday programs and events, baking programs, a women’s club and a men’s club. We also officiate at life cycle events. In fact, this past March we hosted the Jewish wedding ceremony of one of our congregants. It was the first in Rutherford in over fifty years!
We offer classes for adults on a range of topics, from the biblical view on immigration to how to communicate better with your spouse/child/employee. In the Fall we are having a six-week class called, “From Worrier to Warrior”. This course will explore our negative emotions in a completely new light, offering spiritual mechanisms that allow us to remain upbeat no matter what life brings. We all yearn to feel happy, self-assured, and enthusiastic, yet we’re consumed by feelings of doubt, regret, insecurity, and suffering. Do our delicate positive emotions have a fighting chance at being in control? Our classes are open to the whole community; membership and prior knowledge is not required. We also offer counseling and pastoral care.
BL: When we first arrived in town, we were told that there were no young Jewish families with children in town. Within the first six months of us being here, we received countless calls from young Jewish families moving into town looking for a community. Right away, we saw the need to open our Shalom Hebrew Sunday School for local Jewish public school students. Our school started four years ago with one class and has grown to accommodate three classes! Our students develop a strong sense of pride in their Jewish culture while learning to read and write Hebrew.
TIR: Where do most of your congregants live?
RL: Most live in Rutherford. However, we have many who come from, Hasbrouck Heights, Wood-Ridge, East Rutherford, Lyndhurst, North Arlington, Passaic, Clifton, Secaucus, and even some from Kearny and Harrison.
TIR: In April, the Temple celebrated its 100th Anniversary. How have you celebrated?
RL: That’s right, it’s incredible! There used to be many more synagogues in the area, however, sadly, they closed. We are very excited to celebrate this milestone. It is great to be here a hundred years later and we are so grateful that we are very busy with our programs and events. We’ve recently upgraded many parts of our building and are planning for the next hundred years!
Every year we sponsor a public Chanukah Menorah lighting and we invite the entire Rutherford community to come. One year we honored all of the city officials and volunteers of Rutherford, another year we honored our veterans, a different year we honored the police department. This year we will make our hundred-year centennial celebration at the Menorah lighting and we invite the entire community to join us in December.
BL: It is a very exciting milestone! We can’t wait to celebrate with the community on Chanukah!
TIR: What do you want people to know about the Temple and its mission
RL: The Temple is a wonderful part of the Rutherford community and everyone is invited to join our classes or events. Our mission is to serve and inspire the Jewish community, and the entire community, to live fulfilled and happy lives by learning how to view the world and international events through Godly lenses.
BL: Beth El is a beautiful community where everyone is welcomed with open arms and an open heart. Our community is truly a judgment-free zone.
TIR: What else would you like us to know about the Temple and upcoming events?
RL: We would like to invite the community to join our important six-week class “From Worrier to Warrior” beginning November 13.
This past year we partnered with the Rutherford Library and created an annual evening of Holocaust education and awareness. There was a great turnout. This year, on December 12, we are hosting renowned author and WWII spy Marthe Cohn. All are welcome to join us.
BL: As we come closer to the High Holidays, we have some amazing events coming up especially for families with kids. On Sunday, September 22, we will have a special pre-Rosh Hashanah event with a visit from a local Rutherford bee-keeper. On Sunday October 20th we will host our annual Family Sukkot Party. This year it will be a “Sukkot Discovery Lab” where participants will be invited to unleash their inner “mad scientist” to make their own cloud slime, STEM Sukkah, and Simchat Torah Flag!
We also offer individual and group classes. One of my favorite things to do is make, shape, and bake challah with local friends. We will be hosting a Challah bake as we get closer to the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, as well as monthly challah baking and meditation classes throughout the year!
For more information on upcoming events and activities, please contact Rabbi@JewishRutherford.org or Bina@JewishRutherford.org. You can also follow our Facebook page - Jewish Rutherford or visit our website.