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Lay Leadership


President Jay L. Kooper Welcomes You to TBA

 

Welcome to Temple B'nai Abraham. We are proud of being a warm, embracing synagogue and community with an excellent educational institution.Jay L. Kooper, photo by Jan Press

Rooted in tradition and progressive in outlook, we are one of the oldest and largest independent synagogues in the United States. We continually define ourselves by our pulpit, our lay leadership, and the generational legacies that have been lovingly embraced and preserved for more than a century and a half. 

We are an extended family that offers inclusive connection, compassion, and community to all. Our religious services for Shabbat, High Holy Days, and all the holidays and festivals in between are rich, meaningful, and filled with warmth. 

Our temple is in constant motion, reflecting active involvement across all age groups. In the mornings our preschoolers arrive at our highly regarded Early School, and afternoons see students engaged at our exceptional Jewish Learning Program, ongoing bar and bat mitzvah lessons, and our dynamic High School program and youth groups: Temple B’nai Abraham is a busy and exciting place. In addition, there is a steady stream of opportunities to participate in the meetings, programs, committees and associations that make up every aspect of our rich Temple life, ranging from our active Adult Learning, Social Action, and Ritual Committees to our events hosting important regional, national, and international speakers. 

Temple B’nai Abraham combines the best of what the modern Jewish community has to offer. I invite you to explore our website and then come and see us in person—meet our clergy, tour our schools, sit in on services, or participate in an open program. See us in action and be inspired! I look forward to welcoming you personally.

B’shalom,

Jay L. Kooper
President 

** headshot by TBA member Jan Press**


Report of the President at the 
171st Annual Meeting of the Congregation
January 23, 2024

My fellow congregants-

One year ago, immediately following my election as temple president, I stood before you and provided my baseline assessment of Temple B’nai Abraham – that the temple was a strong institution. The events of this past year have both confirmed and added to this baseline. So let me offer this updated assessment with the benefit of one year into my presidency – Temple B’nai Abraham is not only a strong institution; our temple is also a resilient and resourceful institution when it needs to be in order to address the needs of our congregation, our greater community, and our extended family whether here or in Israel.

Let’s start with the challenges we faced. This past year our temple, as with many synagogues in our community, faced the continuing demographic headwinds of fewer Jewish households in our geographic area. Emerging further from the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our two-parent working families faced the challenge of having to return to the office, at least part-time, while needing care for their children especially during the after-school hours. And while this past year we declared as a community that we were done with COVID-19, our experience over the High Holy Days proved that COVID-19 was not done with us.

With a mixture of nimbleness, outside-the-box thinking, and decisiveness, Temple B’nai Abraham and our temple leadership met these challenges head-on. Last May, an opportunity arose to create a Jewish after-school program based on a curriculum developed by an Atlanta-based organization called the Jewish Kids Group funded by the Bernard Marcus Foundation. Temple B’nai Abraham was selected out of a nationwide competition as one of four inaugural institutions to implement this program, which came with a three-year matching grant opportunity, a curriculum playbook, and enrollment targets for the three years of the matching grant opportunity; all designed to achieve the long-term goal of building a self-sustaining Jewish after-school program at the end of this three-year grant program.

Our Director of Jewish Learning, Melissa Weiner, came up with the name of this new program at Temple B’nai Abraham – JPlay – and added her own creativity to the curriculum playbook to make JPlay what it is now, a vibrant place of warmth and caring, with a curriculum filled with fun exploration of arts, sciences, Jewish study and culture, and a place for our children to both complete their homework and socialize at their own pace; all while meeting the critical needs of our community’s two-parent working families. JPlay has exceeded every expectation we and the Jewish Kids Group had for it, and we hit the enrollment targets that we were not expected to hit until year 2 halfway through year 1. And Melissa and her staff accomplished this while still operating our core Jewish Learning Program, which continues to thrive. There are no words that are adequate for me to convey how grateful and proud I am of Melissa and her entire team for all they have done for both the JLP and JPlay this past year. Thank you, Melissa.

In late August, two weeks before the start of the school year, the West Orange Board of Education came to us in a bind. A facility they depended on to house West Orange’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program was no longer available. West Orange needed classrooms for their children, and under the State’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program, was ready to devote a significant revenue figure per child to have TBA serve as a host location.

TBA had plenty of space to host the classrooms West Orange needed without disrupting any of the temple’s core schools. On short notice our board of trustees fulfilled their fiduciary responsibilities, performed the necessary due diligence, and approved the hosting of two classrooms of children for the West Orange Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program. Our Director of Early Education, Debbie Aronson-Ziering, stepped in to perform the state-required role of Director for this program in addition to The Early School. The results have been positive. The West Orange program is running smoothly alongside our core schools located in what I now call our thriving, vibrant and busy “education hub” in the lower level of our temple building. West Orange has already approached us about hosting additional classrooms next year, again in a manner that will not encroach upon or interfere with our other schools at the temple.

I view this opportunity as a win-win. West Orange, an important town in our core temple geographic footprint, needed our help. Our temple had unused space available that could be managed in a way so as not to interfere with our other schools. The State of New Jersey provides a substantial per-child-tuition payment to Universal Pre-K host sites that in turn can now provide us with a new opportunity to reinvest in multiple areas of need at our temple. And the temple lived the values of its mission statement – by being a warm, welcoming, and inclusive community. On that note I want to thank Debbie and her team. I also want to especially thank our current Early School families and our entire congregation who went out of their way to welcome our West Orange neighbors to the temple and make them feel welcome, included and valued.

In September, the High Holy Days arrived and with it, once again, COVID-19, which temporarily placed our Senior Rabbi David Vaisberg on injured reserve for Rosh Hashanah. But we had learned from our prior experience and we were prepared. Rabbi Vaisberg prepared and delivered his sermon and other critical portions of the Rosh Hashanah service on high-quality video beamed into the Ross Sanctuary so he could meaningfully participate. Cantor Jessica Fox and Associate Rabbi Max Edwards stepped in to make sure that all of our services ran smoothly – upstairs and downstairs. Rabbi Vaisberg triumphantly returned for Yom Kippur, our services continued seamlessly and as meaningful as each year’s High Holy Days Services. Behind the scenes, our Maintenance and Technology Director Tracey Bent worked around the clock on short notice to make sure the High Holy Days worked seamlessly for our congregants, and that’s while Tracey was not busy getting our new expanded outdoor patio finished or overseeing the installation of our new pews and carpets in the Ross Sanctuary. I don’t know where we would be without Tracey and his team and I am sure glad that over the course of my presidency I will not have to find out – thank you, Tracey.

Of course, sitting in the center of all of this is Mara Suskauer, our indispensable Executive Director. Mara, I am fortunate in that working closely with you I get to see many sides of you that many of our congregants do not get to see, and they are all wonderful. Your leadership, your good and kind nature, your wise counsel have all sustained me in my first year as president more than I can express. To you and the entire incredible temple staff who keep the trains running and look after the needs of all of our congregants day-in and day-out, thank you all so much!

And then came October 7, 2023, a day which will live in absolute infamy alongside a select few horrific dates of history burned into our collective memory. There is no way to prepare any temple community for a day where we saw more Jews killed within a single calendar day since the Holocaust. We were all heartbroken and still to this day remain so heartbroken for ourselves, our extended family in Israel and for all who continue to suffer at the hands of an unjust and evil group and ideology intent on annihilation and nothing more.

As much as we could have easily let this demoralize us into paralysis, this temple and our clergy and congregation acted. Our Senior Rabbi David Vaisberg, already vocal and engaged on rooting out within our greater community acts of antisemitism and intolerance of others once again took up that mantle in taking the fight against antisemitism to our local governments and schools who absent our intervention may have been more tolerant of allowing demonstrations of unjust intolerance to proceed. Cantor Fox traveled to Israel on a mission with MetroWest clergy just weeks removed from October 7 to bear witness, hear survivors’ stories, represent us in Israel, and movingly recount this trip for us all. Rabbi Edwards, as he has always done and continues to do, spoke to us from his heart in sermons, connecting with us as to both his hopes and apprehensions in viewing the modern Middle East, and in his special way providing emotional comfort to many of our congregants that have sustained them in ways I don’t think he even realizes. To our beloved clergy, David, Jessica and Max, thank you for all you have done this past year to sustain our temple through difficult times and on a personal level sustain me as a first-year temple president.

Temple presidencies do not come with an instruction manual, and nothing can truly prepare you for the events that will unfold before you. I owe more thanks than I can ever adequately express to the officers and board of trustees for your wise counsel and patience with a rookie president. I owe more thanks than I can express to those board members whose terms will end with this temple year and those incoming board members who have stepped up to lead, driven by nothing more than their desire to serve a temple they dearly love. I owe more thanks than I can express to our volunteers at our committee chair positions, committee member positions, and auxiliary organizations for their leadership in changing times at our temple and facing decisions that are often thankless but extremely important. I owe more thanks than I can express to my immediate predecessor Julie Silbermann and my other predecessors for serving as sounding boards and for their counsel as I faced circumstances that even they did not face as a temple president. We have a warm, welcoming, inclusive and caring community indeed, filled with very special people.

There is one more person who is my final acknowledgment of the evening and one who deserves all our collective thanks: Jessica Kooper. Jessica did not sign on for the presidency of Temple B’nai Abraham but has nonetheless lived it in ways great and small this past year; most of them in the form of dinners without me there, entire evenings when I am either at the temple or tucked away in my upstairs home office attending meetings, or phone calls I have had to duck away to take even at inopportune times. Jessica performs a service to this temple as selflessly as anyone and has done so with incredible grace and without complaint. Jessica, I love you very much and thank you for all you have done for the temple this past year.

In the year ahead, we will continue to face challenges, all of them serious, and many of them unique challenges of first impression. Meeting these challenges will require deep thought, due diligence, nimble action, and decisiveness while making, at times, extraordinarily tough decisions. Some of these extraordinarily tough decisions will not likely be popular with all of our congregants, but they are ones that will be necessary to make in order to sustain the warm, welcoming, inclusive and meaningful community experience our congregants have come to rightfully expect our temple to provide. My direct message to you my fellow congregants is that as I move forward to confront these challenges, your engagement, your participation, your counsel, your honest and candid feedback, and your support will continue to be critical to me and to the temple as an institution.

Our collective experience from this past year has prepared us for the challenges we will face. I can report to you tonight that even with the demographic headwinds I spoke of earlier, the temple’s membership numbers are stable and not in decline, which is certainly not something that could regularly be said at any given annual meeting over the past decade. I can also report to you at this annual meeting that based on our collective experience from the year now ending, the state of our temple is resilient, resourceful, and strong, and with your continued support, participation and engagement will remain and endure.

Thank you all so very much.

Jay's remarks for Rosh Hashanah 5784/2023

 

Shana Tovah! At this moment, I now experience something only a very few number of congregants in the 170-year-history of Temple B’nai Abraham have had the honor of doing – addressing you as a congregation for the first time as Temple President on Rosh Hashanah. On my election as President, I said no words could adequately express how humbling it is for the trust you have placed in me. I do not think that feeling will ever change for me.

On prior High Holy Days, my predecessors have used their remarks to convey specific themes reflecting on the year that has ended and their vision for the year ahead. I am going to follow in that tradition and offer up the following theme for both my Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur remarks – Building Community and Connectedness.

Click here for the full content

Jay's remarks for Yom Kippur 5784/2023

This past summer, Jessica and I did something that in all honesty, we should have done a long time ago. We traveled to Israel for the first time as part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest’s Centennial Mission To Israel. As first-time visitors to Israel what we discovered amazed us.

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Bio:
Jay L. Kooper is the 30th President of Temple B’nai Abraham. A member of the Temple’s Board of Trustees since 2016, Jay previously served as a Vice President and a Co-Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee prior to his election as President.

Jay is the Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Middlesex Water Company, one of New Jersey’s 13 investor-owned utility companies, and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Water Companies and the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Public Utility Law Section, where he previously served as Chair. A native of New York City, Jay received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Emory University and his Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University Law School.

A longtime public utilities attorney, Jay has represented clients across every public utilities sector – water, wastewater, electric, gas, telephone and cable – across the entire span of his career. In 2019, Jay was honored as General Counsel of the Year by NJBIZ, and in 2020 was honored with the New Jersey Law Journal’s Professional Excellence Award. Previously, Jay was recognized as a finalist in 2016 for the New York Stock Exchange’s Distinguished General Counsel Award.

In addition to his work with Temple B’nai Abraham, Jay serves on the Board of Directors of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s New Jersey Chapter, a board his wife Jessica also served on from 2018 to 2022. In 2022, Jay, Jessica and their two sons, Jordan and Ethan, were the recipients of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Community Impact Award for their longtime work with the Foundation.

The Koopers moved to Livingston, where they still reside, in 2003 and joined Temple B’nai Abraham that same year. Jordan and Ethan Kooper are both alumni of TBA’s Summer Day Camp, Early School and Jewish Learning Program and celebrated their B’nai Mitzvah at TBA.


Officers 2023-24

President
Jay L. Kooper

Vice Presidents
Susan Greene
Tara Heyderman
David Silber
Bennett Wasserman

Secretary
Melanie Wurtele

Assistant Secretary
Deborah Jacob

Treasurer
Carey Gertler

Assistant Treasurer
Scott Moskowitz

Immediate Past President
Julie A. Silbermann

Counsel
Jakob B. Halpern

 

Past Presidents

Julie A. Silbermann, 2021-2023
Jeffrey A. Klein, Esq. 2020-2021

*Bruce H. Greene, z”l 2017-2020
Julie A. Silbermann 2013-2017
Edward Meinhardt 2009-2013
BJ Reisberg 2005-2009
Jeffrey D. Roth 2003-2005
Sandra L. Greenberg 1999-2003
Merle H. Kalishman 1995-1999
Ira M. Starr 1991-1995
Marilyn Rosenbaum 1987-1991
*Joel J. Rogoff, z”l 1983-1987
Peter M. Klein 1981-1983
Martin H. Kalishman 1977-1981
*I. Samuel Sodowick, z”l 1973-1977
*Abram Barkan, z”l 1971-1973
*Dr. Sol Parent, z”l 1969-1971
*A. Sam Gittlin, z”l  1965-1969
*Leo Brody, z”l 1963-1965
*Norman Feldman, z”l 1959-1963
*Leo Brody, z”l 1954-1959
*Louis Rosen, z”l 1953-1954
*Samuel Klein, z”l 1949-1953
*Michael A. Stavitsky, z”l 1939-1949
*Albert Hollander, z”l 1926-1939
*Phillip J. Schlotland, z”l  1913-1926
*William S. Rich, z”l 1896-1912
*Moritz Beria, z”l 1871-1896
*Lesser Marks, z”l 1853-1870

* z”l-of blessed memory

Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784