The rabbi and officers at the Young Israel of East Brunswick agree that a fusion of unique ingredients makes the town a great place to call home for Orthodox families. Rabbi Efrayim (Effy) and Rivkie Unterman assumed the spiritual helm at YIEB last August, after longtime spiritual leader Rabbi Jay Weinstein and his family made aliyah.
Asked about his mission at YIEB, Rabbi Unterman responded by first describing the shared mission to “shape a thriving Jewish community by the values and traditions of Halacha, be open to new ideas and respect all people.” He continued, “These ideas go hand in hand with devotion to Torah, striving for a higher spirituality and social morals and cultivating our relationship with God, each other and the world around us. Life is more meaningful when lived according to the wisdom of our religion, and shared in a warm, supportive, loving community.” Unterman then added that his personal mission is to facilitate community growth and the manifestation of its ideals, while strengthening Torah observance, providing pastoral and spiritual care and enhancing the experience of a meaningful life in contemporary society.
In discussing the shul’s formula for success, Rabbi Unterman explained that the character of YIEB is shaped by the way its members appreciate and care for each other. The spectrum of backgrounds cultivates a non-judgmental environment where differences are not merely tolerated, but embraced. He stated, “We are a small enough community that most of us know each other, and friendships bloom across demographic lines. No one feels anonymous.” Rabbi Unterman proudly noted that this diversity of the membership is a hallmark of the shul.
Regarding the relationship between the shul and the local community, Rabbi Unterman shared that the shul enjoys positive relationships with the Conservative and Reform Jewish congregations in East Brunswick, and that the synagogues even march together in the Israel Day Parade. The shul also works closely with the municipal leadership on security and safety, and participates in numerous social responsibility and charitable endeavors. The membership annually prepares and delivers Thanksgiving dinner for the East Brunswick Police Department, and also extends their efforts to neighboring towns through Habitat for Humanity. YIEB recently hosted an “Inclusive Challah Bake,” co-sponsored by Yachad and the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey. Additionally, the renowned Tween/Teen Leadership program at YIEB Camp Keshet fosters leadership skills through community charity and goodwill.
For those seeking a Modern Orthodox environment where communal Jewish life follows ritual observance, YIEB offers that and more, blending these values with a supportive and accepting atmosphere. The community combines the warmth, charm and safety of a small town with proximity to NYC for those who need or want that, truly providing something for everyone.
Rabbi Unterman brings tremendous energy and a positive outlook to a shul that is keenly receptive to his spiritual approach. Together they combine spirituality with a unique brand of social influence on the community at large. Rabbi Unterman can be reached through the YIEB website at https://www.yieb.org.
By Ellie Wolf