It’s been Thirty Years!!

Editor Note:  Carol is a former president of Nutley Hebrew Congregation

Time flies when you are where you belong!

On July 1, 2024, the Nutley Hebrew Congregation will have been part of Congregation Shomrei Emunah for 30 years, a milestone worthy of a history lesson in how our merger came about. I am sure everyone knows the phrase: It is not what you know but who you know. This was very true in our case.

In the 1990s, Nutley was struggling financially, and made the emotional decision to find a partner. One of our members, Sarah Hirsch, told her boss about our ongoing situation. Her boss was a Montclair podiatrist named Dr. Neal Yudkoff, who happened to be the president of Congregation Shomrei Emunah at the time. Neal picked up the phone and called one of Nutley’s co-presidents, Herb Koshar, whom he had known for years. Neal’s parents were good friends with Herb and Frieda Koshar, and the Koshars had been guests at Neal’s and Judy’s wedding.

Nutley formed a merger committee, and Neal spoke with us about Shomrei Emunah. Of course, the Nutley merger committee had to look at other temples, but when we voted, it was Congregation Shomrei Emunah we wanted.

We said we’d be bringing with us the proceeds of the sale of the Nutley Temple building, minus the cost of paying off our bills. Neal said he didn’t want the money to go into the General Fund. He explained that Shomrei was planning a capital campaign, but up until that point, no one had stepped up to be the first to contribute. The Nutley money could be the start, he said. Thus, the first Shomrei Capital Campaign was launched in 1994.

The work of merging then commenced. It was not easy. First, we needed a lawyer, and Nutley born and raised Arthur Horn was our choice. Since Arthur was a member of Shomrei Emunah, we needed some kind of waiver, lest he be accused of showing bias to Shomrei. We got it and Arthur worked with Shomrei’s legal affairs vice president, Lanny Kurzweil. Second, we needed a real estate broker. Shomrei Emunah came through with Marcia Levy.

Then we hit our first snag. There was an oil tank in the ground under our building. No one knew if there was an oil leak or not. If we merged with a capital “M” and a leak was discovered, there would be legal ramifications. So the Nutley Hebrew Congregation officially dissolved itself as an entity with the State of New Jersey. This momentous step was followed by a series of secretarial issues that were no less important to many of our members, such as adding the name of the Nutley Hebrew Congregation onto Shomrei Emunah publications. Our past presidents are recognized in the Annual Journal and on Kol Nidre.

In June, 1994, Congregation Shomrei Emunah arranged for a welcoming Friday night Shabbat. Shomrei Emunah congregants opened their homes to Nutley congregants for Shabbat dinner and we all met at Shomrei Emunah for Friday night services. I don’t remember what happened, but something went wrong during the day and Neal kept saying, “But Nutley is coming tonight.” In any case, it all worked out.

Once things started to roll, Deanna London, Shomrei Sisterhood President, and longtime Shomrei member Sid Lichter came to the Nutley temple. Deanna looked all through our kitchen to see what we could bring to augment items in the Shomrei Emunah kitchen. Sid looked at our Memorial Boards to begin the work of incorporating the names into the data base. We had three Torahs. We gave the lightest one to our long time former rabbi, Dan Landsman, and the heaviest to a new congregation. I had the privilege of bringing the middleweight one, “The Nutley Torah,” to its new home at Shomrei. It is set to Numbers and is used frequently as the Maftir Torah.

We sold our building on a Friday morning. Signing the papers was emotional. Several of us went to Shomrei Emunah’s Havurah that evening at Bill Batkay’s home in Caldwell. We were warmly greeted. It already felt like home.

The Nutley Memorial Boards found a new home in the back of the Sanctuary. Our Ner Tamid, donated in memory of Dr. Charles Margulies, father of Jerilyn and David Margulies, was installed there. It is the Ner Tamid that is used for our High Holy Day services. Ironically, on our first Yom Kippur, the Memorial Board lights didn’t work. Something with the wiring. Oh Well. Things don’t always go according to plan.

It has been thirty years, but the Nutley Hebrew Congregation found a HOME with Congregation Shomrei Emunah. Thank you, one and all.

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One thought on “It’s been Thirty Years!!

  1. Thank you, Carol, for reminding me of the union of our communities. I did not know the details that were part and parcel of the merger; understanding it now gives me a greater appreciation of the process of our coming together.

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