“Linden is reachable within 45 minutes from every major Jewish community in New Jersey. More specifically, it is three miles from Elizabeth and less than six miles from Staten Island. It has been home to a Jewish community for over 100 years, having celebrated the centennial of its landmark synagogue, Anshe Chesed, in 2014. Offering a suburban landscape with open spaces, numerous parks and manicured lawns, the affordable three- and four-bedroom homes offer a quality lifestyle to young, Orthodox couples,” offered Rabbi Joshua Hess,who has served as the rav of Anshe Chesed for close to 10 years.
“Our mission at Anshe Chesed is to provide the neshama of the community through our genuine commitment to Torah and mitzvot. To that goal we offer weekly shiurim to men and women, serious davening groups for the children and extensive programming to provide opportunities for the community to get together for activities that promote our goals.”
Originally from Los Angeles, Rabbi Hess served as a rabbi in Denver before joining Anshe Chesed. In addition to serving as rav, Rabbi Hess functions as a chaplain at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston and as the coach of the JV basketball team at JEC in Elizabeth. His four children, ranging in age from 10 to 15, all attend JEC.
Rabbi Hess will be addressing the young couples at Congregation Ahavat Shalom, housed in TABC, on Shabbat Parshat Terumah, February 8-9. Three weeks later, on Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel/Shekalim, March 1-2, the Linden community will be hosting a shabbaton for families interested in experiencing the community over Shabbat. It is anticipated that couples from the tri-state area will gather for a meaningful Shabbat experience. Janet Leibowitz, membership chairperson at Anshe Chesed, shared, “The Shabbaton will feature good food, warm hospitality and ample opportunities for the adults and children to make new friends.”
Former President David Helfgott, who currently serves as the chair of public relations, was drawn to Linden after living in Teaneck for two years. He was instrumental in bringing Rabbi Hess to the community in 2009. During his presidency, over 40 young families moved to Linden with over 100 children in tow. The median age of the families was mid-30s and their children attend Kushner, Netivot, JEC and Bais Yaakov, as well as a preschool housed in the local JCC.
Helfgott and his wife, Leah, have three children, ages 6 to 13, all attending Kushner. Leah’s commute to Bayonne where she works as a digital marketer is convenient, as is her husband’s to Brooklyn where he works as a clinical psychologist. The Helfgotts are extremely proud of the state-of-the-art mikvah that opened three years ago and attracts women from the surrounding communities.
For the Helfgotts, the move to Linden was an opportunity to “matter to the Jewish community, to make our mark as builders of a vibrant Modern Orthodox Jewish community which embraces their youth and adults and provides a nurturing environment and positive values.”
Joshua Weiss has served as the president of Anshe Chesed for the past three years. Previously, he served as the executive vice president for eight years. He moved to the community in 2006 after spending a life-changing Shabbat in Linden.
Working professionally in high tech, Weiss sees Linden as a “start-up” community with tremendous potential. His wife, Eliana, commutes to Princeton where she works as a matrimonial attorney. Her commute is under one hour and pleasant. On his occasional trips to Manhattan, Weiss finds the Blue and Red New Jersey Transit Lines very efficient. The Weisses are parents to two sons who attend Netivot in East Brunswick and a daughter who attends Bais Yaakov in Passaic.
For Weiss, the emphasis on learning for the adults as well as the children is key to their community’s attraction. The affiliation with Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, which has provided illustrious speakers from nearby communities, is seen as a great addition to the community. Weiss takes pride in the participation of the older children in the shul’s youth groups as this adds to the closeness of the community. When asked what his vision for the community in the coming years would be, he enthusiastically responded, “We want Linden to be a community to which our grown children return with their own families in reaction to the positive experiences of their own childhoods.”
By Pearl Markovitz