Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Guided by their highly compassionate and sensitive mara d’atra Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, the members of Congregation Beth Aaron were able to transition from deep sadness to enthusiastic joy in time to “Celebrate CBA” during the weekend of March 1-3. On Friday morning, a somber, standing-room-only crowd gathered in the main shul for the levaya of their beloved longtime member and friend Harold Gellis, z”l, who passed away suddenly the night before. Hours later, the congregation returned to the main shul for the initial event of their CBA celebratory Shabbat and Sunday.

The opening event was the charming presentation of an original script by Rabbi Rothwachs titled “Night at the Shul: If the Walls Could Talk.” The play opened with a conversation between the rabbi and president, Josh Klavan, in which the latter tried to convince the rabbi that it would “look good on his resume” if he served as the night watchman for the shul. Despite his doubts that this activity could truly further his career, the rabbi listened as always to the sage advice of Rebbetzin Chaviva, donned a security baseball cap, armed himself with a “non-muktzah flashlight” and proceeded to the shul. Shortly after entering, he was accosted by voices from around the sanctuary, each representing an object within the shul. These “talking” objects included the clock, the tzedakah box, the shiva chair, the thermostat and even the Purell dispenser. Each object provided a strong argument as to his/her key role in the running of the shul. As the play progressed, the rabbi was sincerely impressed by their protestations and found it hard to identify the object that would be considered the most essential. Throughout the excellent performance by all the participants, the packed audience, including youngsters, was laughing heartily, which helped greatly to introduce the ambience of celebration to the Shabbat.

The play was truly successful in engendering a sense of warmth and achdut.

On Shabbat morning, the beautiful Shacharit and Musaf davening was enhanced by the melodious Birkat HaChodesh led by Ari Mandelbaum, talented grandson of the dinner guests of honor Lorraine and Sam Vogel. The sumptuous kiddush following davening, arranged in the lobby as well as in the social hall, brought the members together in good spirits (no pun intended).

Following Maariv, a large representation of the congregation returned for a joyous Havdalah singalong led by Rabbi Roth­wachs, Mandelbaum and Yitzy Glicksman
on guitar. Reminiscent of summer-camp Havdalahs, the assembled were inspired by the meaningful melodies sung in unison. “Celebrate Beth Aaron” besamim containers were distributed prior to Havdalah, and specially marked “Celebrate Beth Aaron Weekend” chocolate bars provided a “sweet” souvenir as they were distributed to the exiting members.

Despite dire weather predictions, the members of CBA came out on Sunday evening in large numbers for the 43rd annual dinner. Held this year in a new venue, Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, the dinner setting was eye-catching and festive. Attractive origami tzedakah boxes topped with colorful origami birds, created by CBA member Yaakov Metzger, directed the participants to their assigned tables. The food offerings were lavish, varied and tasty.

After brief introductory remarks by Rabbi Rothwachs and CBA president Klavan, impressive video tributes to the three sets of honorees were presented. In each, outpourings of love and appreciation were expressed by family and friends of the special guests for their ongoing efforts on behalf of CBA and the community of Teaneck. Guests of Honor Lorraine and Rabbi Sam Vogel, Shelly Leffel Service Awardees Elissa and Joel Richter, and Eitan Shapiro Young Leadership Awardees Rachel, Aliza and Talia Sperber were touted for their exceptional service to CBA and the community, and were presented with plaques and necklaces. Heartfelt wishes for hatzlacha went out to three couples from CBA who will be making aliyah within the coming months, including Ellen and Dr. Richard Gertler, Gila Berkowitz and Arvin Levine, and Elana and Yoni Ausubel.

Kudos went to so many who had volunteered their time and talents to what turned out to be an exceptional weekend of inspiration. Special thanks go to Rachelle Mandelbaum, daughter of Guests of Honor Lorraine and Sam Vogel, and past president David Goldberg for their attention to every detail. And to dinner co-chairs Nechama Pudell and Moishe Singer, a very hearty yishar kochachem for yet another successful gala dinner. Shared memories of the entire weekend promoted a renewed feeling of achdut among CBY members and friends.

By Pearl Markovitz