B’nai Shalom offers a continuum of enjoyable Jewish programming for young people from ages 12 through high school graduation.
B’nai Shalom celebrates Jewish life and community. We cherish the traditions that give rhythm and meaning to our lives. We encourage spiritual and intellectual growth, and treasure the warmth and kindness that make B’nai Shalom feel like home. Join us for:
Located on a beautiful campus in the heart of an area rich in Jewish resources, B’nai Shalom welcomes all who wish to join in learning, prayer, celebration and friendship.
In the 1920s, when the Pleasantdale section of West Orange was considered “the country,” Goldman’s and Green’s hotels on Pleasant Valley Way were thriving resorts catering to Jews from Brooklyn and the outer boroughs. But the local Jewish population was small.
By 1932, Jews in the area were numerous enough to form a congregation, incorporated as the Jewish Center of Pleasantdale. For nine years, they met where space could be found, until—in 1941—the 75-member congregation bought a single-family home and converted it into a house of prayer. The congregation’s first, full-time rabbi, Harold Mozeson, arrived in 1944. He served the community for 28 years.
As the West Orange Jewish population grew after World War II, the congregation acquired a large, corner plot at Pleasant Valley Way and Woodland Avenue, with assistance from Mac Goldman, son of the founders of the resort. They built a modest synagogue, set back on the property’s sweeping lawn. A hexagonal sanctuary was connected to a cinder-block gymnasium by a glass-walled hallway. The gym contained a basketball court with hoops that retracted for High Holiday services and social events. True to its name, the “Jewish Center of West Orange,” the building functioned as both synagogue and community center. There were few other Jewish organizations in the area and the synagogue was the place to go for Jewish culture and communal programs.
Two events, one terrible and one joyful, then shaped the history and spirit of the congregation, establishing a depth of connection to place and community felt to this day.
The first was the explosion of a massive bomb in the synagogue lobby, on April 18, 1971. Torah scrolls were rescued, but the damage was devastating. Despite all efforts of the police and FBI, the perpetrators were never found. The assumption that anti-Semitism would never touch West Orange was shattered along with windows and walls, and the reconstruction that followed was accomplished with a sense of keen resolve.
By that time, Rabbi Mozeson had retired, succeeded by a young rabbi, Stanley Asekoff, whose gift for pastoral care was essential for the healing of the congregation. Rabbi Asekoff’s tenure lasted 39 years, and, as Rabbi Emeritus, he continues to be a respected and loved part of our community.
The second defining event began when a bit of ink on one of the letters on a Torah scroll fell from the parchment—making the scroll unfit for use. The congregation commissioned a scribe to examine all six of our Torah scrolls. A fundraising plan ensued, with congregants invited to sponsor the examination and kashering of whole scrolls, books of the Torah, weekly portions, and even single letters. On the day of the rededication, there was a grand parade, with Torah scrolls carried by singing congregants for a full mile along Pleasant Valley Way to the synagogue. There, the scribe sat ready to inspect and repair every Torah. By afternoon, all scrolls were pronounced kosher.
In the late 1980s, with the development of a strong YM/YWHA (now the JCC) in West Orange, the congregation changed its name to B’nai Shalom, identifying itself as a religious organization and not a community center.
By the mid-1990s, a grant by the Maron Family, in memory of Lynn Sunshine Maron, the first woman president of B’nai Shalom, sparked a Building Campaign that funded the modernization that produced the beautiful building we know today. Maron Hall, dedicated in Lynn’s honor, became an elegant room, suited for High Holiday services, receptions, and special events. Thanks to the generosity of the Gruhin Family, the sanctuary was significantly enlarged and reoriented to the east, with the bimah in the center. An impressive, glass-walled loggia was added, dedicated by the Legow Family. The Morris and Miriam Hammer Campus was dedicated in 2006.
Rabbi Asekoff retired in 2011. When his successor, Rabbi Robert L. Tobin stepped onto the bimah for the first time, he was only the third rabbi to serve B’nai Shalom in 79 years. Dedicated to infusing every aspect of congregational life with opportunities for learning, Rabbi Tobin initiated the congregation’s latest venture, development of the Culture and Learning Center at B’nai Shalom.
In 2017, Verona’s Congregation Beth Ahm closed its doors. Its members joined B’nai Shalom, bringing with them their spirit and strength, and a set of beautiful stained glass windows that now enhance our sanctuary and sanctuary lobby.
Goldman’s Hotel is now the Wilshire Grand and its golf course is the Woodlands, a condominium community. Green’s on the Lake is a nursing home.
But, stable and resilient, B’nai Shalom is thriving, looking to the future, welcoming young families and all who seek a place to learn, pray, make friends, and build community.
B’nai Shalom’s campus and building are fully accessible. There are ramps and railings to facilitate participation at the bimah, and an audio-amplification system in the Gruhin Sanctuary.
In the last several years, our facility has benefitted from multiple Homeland Security grants for special windows, safety systems and staff training. Partnering with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department for on-site security personnel, we take the safety of our members and visitors very seriously.
B’nai Shalom welcomes inquiries about space rental for all kinds of events, and we will work with you to make your planned event beautiful.
Set on a verdant, spacious property, our Morris and Miriam Hammer Campus in West Orange is minutes from Rte. I-280.
We are a kosher facility with commercial meat and dairy kitchens under the supervision of Rabbi Robert L. Tobin. Outside kosher caterers are welcome at B’nai Shalom, provided that their certification of kashrut is approved by Rabbi Tobin. For individual events, glatt kosher Orthodox supervision can be arranged.
B’nai Shalom can comfortably accommodate up to 400 for weddings and B’nei Mitzvah parties, and up to 750 for lectures and performances. Spaces in our building can be customized for all kinds of events, and we are experienced in working with a variety of caterers and event designers.
His classes on Jewish history and thought, weekly Talmud Mondays, discussions of text on Shabbat afternoons, and graduate-level Melton class have faithful followings.
Rabbi Tobin grew up in Rochester, New York, and has lived and studied in South Africa, Chile, France, and Israel. He speaks English, Spanish, Hebrew, and French.
Rabbi Tobin holds four university degrees: a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University; an M.A. in Religion from Syracuse University; a Master’s of Hebrew Letters from the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University); and another M.A. in Judaic Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. He came to B’nai Shalom in 2011.
With passion for Jewish community and the State of Israel, Rabbi Tobin has served on numerous local and national boards, including Jewish Vocational Services, the United Jewish Communities Rabbinic Cabinet, regional UJA/Federation Executive Committees, and the Northern New Jersey Rabbinical Assembly. He works to support Israel through the Masorti Movement, MERCAZ/USA, the Jewish National Fund, and Greater MetroWest Federation’s Religious Pluralism Committee. On his days off, he teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Drew University, and also serves as a community chaplain.
Rabbi Robert Tobin is a compassionate pastor, dynamic speaker, and master teacher. Ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1999, he is an inspiring mentor for Jewish exploration that blends credible tradition with joyous diversity.
During his 39-year tenure at B’nai Shalom, Rabbi Stanley Asekoff’s warmth and compassion touched nearly every family in our congregation and established a spirit of hesed that enriched all our lives.
A proud Bostonian and graduate of the famous Boston Latin School, Rabbi Asekoff received his BA in psychology from Brandeis and BA in Jewish Education from the Hebrew College in Boston. He earned both an MA in Hebrew Literature and Rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
He was certified as a Mesadder Gittin (expert in Jewish divorce) by the Joint Bet Din of the Conservative Movement in 1989, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from JTS in 1998.
Rabbi Asekoff came to B’nai Shalom in 1972 as Assistant Rabbi. He was elevated to Associate, then Senior Rabbi. Among many accomplishments, he increased membership and service attendance; and enhanced the Jewish knowledge and commitment of the congregation. He also established a Camp Ramah scholarship fund and created a unique Teen Torah Reading Academy.
Rabbi Asekoff served as secretary, then president of the Essex County Board of Rabbis; as president of the New Jersey Region of the Rabbinical Assembly; and as a member of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. He was a chaplain for the West Orange Police Department and played a significant role, working though the Anti-Defamation League, in training the police to recognize and deal with bias crimes. In addition, he was a certified disaster chaplain.
A professionally trained chaplain, Rabbi Asekoff worked in that capacity at St. Barnabas Medical Center for six and a half years after his retirement from B’nai Shalom. His wife, Cecille, retired as Director of the Joint Chaplaincy Committee of Greater MetroWest in 2019. She is Executive Director Emerita of Neshama Association of Jewish Chaplains. The Asekoffs have two married daughters and two granddaughters.
|President||Jesse SchneiderEmail Me|
|Immediate Past President||Orit KastnerEmail Me|
|Immediate Past President||Debra GrossmanEmail Me|
|Executive Vice President||Misha TsirulikEmail Me|
|VP for Finance||Bruce GallantEmail Me|
|VP Tech. & Communications||Ed BierEmail Me|
|Secretary||Marcia PaisnerEmail Me|
|Treasurer||Myron SpektorEmail Me|
|CO-VP Administration||Irwin PollackEmail Me|
|CO-VP Administration||Debra LawrenceEmail Me|
|VP Programming & Education||Ari KampelEmail Me|
|VP Membership||Vicki Phon CaplanEmail Me|
|Presidential Appointee||Debra Lawrence|
Max Richman Z"L
1944 to 1945
Lee Sherman Z"L
1945 to 1946
Edward Goldfein Z"L
1946 to 1947
Irving Gennet Z"L
1947 to 1948
Macyln Goldman Z"L
1948 to 1949
Irving Galin Z"L
1949 to 1950
Harold Jay Z"L
1950 to 1951
Sol Eichler Z"L
1951 to 1952
1952 to 1953
Milton J. Schwartz Z"L
1953 to 1955
1955 to 1956
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1958 to 1961
1961 to 1962
Eugene Ross Z"L
1962 to 1963
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Murray Gottlieb Z"L
1969 to 1971
Irving Berkowitz Z"L
1970 to 1990
Walter Springer Z"L
1971 to 1972
David Millstein Z"L
1972 to 1973
Irving Kerzner Z"L
1973 to 1974
1974 to 1975
Joseph Friedman Z"L
1975 to 1976
Mortimer Eber Z"L
1976 to 1977
Melvin L. Benjamin
1977 to 1979
Lynn Sunshine Maron Z"L
1979 to 1980
Murray Gottlieb Z"L
1980 to 1982
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Leonard Fisher Z"L
1987 to 1989
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Barry Liben Z"L
1997 to 1999
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