Sunday, March 18, 2018

When does a young, dynamic family, leading a flourishing Jewish community in Central New Jersey, know that the time is “now” to make Aliyah? If you ask Rabbi Jay Weinstein, rabbi of the Young Israel of East Brunswick, he will tell you, “This is our personal decision to be ‘in the game and not on the sidelines’ to enact the values of Torah.” If you pose the same question to Rebbetzin Sharon Weinstein, she will tell you that “believing in the Zionist dream is a halachic privilege.”

With these powerful thoughts in mind, the Weinsteins, together with their four lovely children, ages 9 to 1, will be boarding a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight to Israel this coming summer. They will be headed to their new home in Maale Adumim, surrounded by many fellow American Olim, and within commuting distance from Yerushalayim. They will be joining an extensive family including parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and even a beloved grandmother, currently in her 90s, who made Aliyah in time to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary in the Holy Land.

The “road” for Rabbi Weinstein is actually a “U-turn” as he was born in Israel. He grew up in Miami Beach where he attended the Hillel School through high school. His gap year was spent at Gush after which he returned to Yeshiva University, graduating with a BA in Accounting. He earned his smicha from RIETS in three years, including one at Gruss, and returned to the US to earn a Masters from Teachers College of Columbia University in Special Education.

Weinstein’s first rabbinical position was in Dallas as the assistant to Rabbi Ari Perl for three years. Upon their return East, the Weinsteins were determined to find a small community to “set up shop.” They were enamored by the small-town flavor of East Brunswick, its suburban look and warmth. For the past six exciting years, the Weinsteins have built the Young Israel of East Brunswick into a “hidden treasure,” a 220-family friendly and fast-growing community. As a giant extended family, it offers an impressive roster of Israel programming, youth activities, chessed projects and meaningful shiurim. During the past several years the community has warmly welcomed 25 new families from New York, other parts of New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia, Israel and London. The Young Israel is truly the shul that “built a community.”

Sharon Elsant Weinstein is a native of Woodmere. She received her extensive Jewish education at HAFTR, HALB and SKA High School. Her post-high school year and a half in Israel were spent at Midreshet Lindenbaum and Michlala. She earned a BA from Stern College in Judaic Studies and Math. Her Judaic Studies continued, earning her an MA from Revel and the completion of the GPATS program at Stern. Currently she is pursuing an EdD in Education and Administration at the Azrieli Graduate School of YU.

When in Dallas, Rebbetzin Weinstein taught Judaic studies and math at the Yavneh High School. In New Jersey she teaches tanach and math at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston. Their children attend the Netivot Montessori School in East Brunswick. When asked what she would be looking to be involved in after settling her family into their new home, she expressed interest in continuing her work with teenagers. She would consider assisting American teens whose families are recent Olim from Anglo countries as they adjust to their new culture and surroundings. She is even contemplating a possible affiliation with a school or organization which furthers Israeli/Arab relationships between teens to promote understanding and tolerance. She is excited by the opportunities and even challenges ahead. Mostly she is delighted that when in Israel, her children will develop strong Jewish identities. “When they study tanach, they will have deeper connections to their Jewish roots, which will be surrounding them at all times.”

Rabbi Weinstein hopes to look into diverse opportunities when landing. They include rabbinic opportunities, joining Jewish organizations or not-for-profits, working on advocacy projects and networking, anything that will “help our people.”

The Weinsteins see their family’s aliyah as part of “the larger journey of the Jewish people and an opportunity to make a difference on this national journey.”

Alu V’hatzlichu!

By Pearl Markovitz