Temple Mixes Spirituality With Festivity On A Hot Summer Night

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Psalm 150 (Photo courtesy Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah)

CLARK—Last Friday evening as a blanket of heat and humidity enveloped New Jersey, a hundred men, women, and children gathered inside a “cool” Temple Beth O/r Beth Torah, at 111 Valley Road in Clark, as they listened to twilight, Kabbalah inspired melodies, and then at sunset joined in prayer to welcome the Jewish Sabbath.

“Music and song are important portals to the past and the future”, said Cantor Steven Stern, Spiritual Leader of Beth O’r/Beth Torah who has been with TBO/BT for over a dozen years and was recently recognized by the Central New Jersey Jewish community for his leadership and innovative programming.

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And so music and song it was on a very special evening. For the early part of the evening, “Psalm 150”, a musical group that includes guitar, violin, flute, mandolin, percussion, and accordion, mesmerized the congregation with their renditions of the Kabbalat Shabbat Psalms. As the skies darkened with the advent of the Sabbath, the musicians exited the stage, and the traditional Friday Night Shabbat prayers and songs followed, highlighted by readings by temple member Dr. Betty Needleman (from the works of the great theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel).

At one point in the service, as the stirring and enchanting melody of L’Cha Dodi was played, Cantor Stern asked the congregants to close their eyes, to imagine themselves in Safed, Israel during the 16th Century, a time of simplicity, and mysticism, when the early Kabbalists would go out to the fields to welcome the “Shabbat Bride.” For many, this was the most moving part of the service, as they were transported to a time and place where they could imagine the Sabbath as truly “a taste of the world to come.”

After immersion in music, song, and prayer, the Clark group was treated to an after service “Oneg Shabbat” array of chocolates, sweets, coffee, tea, drinks and community spirit. This is the second year of Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah’s “Chocolate Shabbat,” which has gained acclaim as an evening that is as good to the palate as it is for the soul.

Co-presidents Lillian Makow and Thelma Purdy were on hand for the service. Purdy thanked the Cantor and musical group and Makow commented, “our members and guests were transported to a serene oasis in time where our spirits could be renewed and uplifted”.

Established fifty years ago as simply Temple Beth O’r, the Clark synagogue first served mainly the local Clark community. For the past several years, it has taken its place as a different type of Shul, a dynamic egalitarian Conservative synagogue, a friendly place, that also incorporates meditation, exercise, and nutrition elements into its repertoire of programs.

Friday night services offer weekly and inspiring opportunity for interested parties to experience a flavor of the prayers and inspirational messages of the congregation.

To find out more about Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah, visit www.bethorbethtorah.org.


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