Don’t be fooled by the 90-degree weather; it’s time for Chanukah. Just ask Rabbi Alan Stein. His newborn congregation, Temple Shalom in Woodbury, is holding its first-ever community event on July 24th.
“This event is designed to put the Chanukah celebration into perspective, at a time when people are not so stressed out by formal observance of the actual holiday itself,” Rabbi Stein says.
According to Stein, the immediate Woodbury area has been without a Reform presence for at least 25 years, and neighboring congregations are all older and more established. He says the time has come for a new alternative congregation.
“The Chabad congregations are growing by leaps and bounds,” says Stein. “The Reform congregations, the Conservative congregations are having trouble growing. People don’t have the money to be able to spend on a traditional Reform or Conservative congregation.”
The congregation will be led by a father son team: Alan Stein will be rabbi, and his father Stephen (until recently, of Temple Beth Torah of Melville and a rabbi as well) will serve as cantor. The synagogue is moving into the Historical Chapel, originally a Methodist church. Their first services will be held this Friday.
“I may have to bring folding chairs,” says Stein, “We hope to have a full house.”
The Steins hope to gain attention and members with a new business model. Membership and High Holydays fees are low, and families can pay additionally for lifecycle events, from bar/bat mitzvahs to unveilings. The Steins theorize that families who leave synagogues after the bnei mitzvah of their children may stay if the price is right, and think it’s only fair that seniors without children to educate have the opportunity to belong to a congregation. Early efforts at grassroots campaigning and social media connections have given the Steins more hope that their congregation will take flight.
“The overall response happens to be fabulous,” says Rabbi Stein, “We’ve gotten a warm reception from a lot of people in the community.”
“Chanukah in July” is free, but the congregation is also asking for a contribution to their toy drive. The event will be held Sunday, July 24, at the temple at 8205 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.