The Nierenbergs joined Beth El at about the same time that Rabbi and Sylvia came to the congregation and throughout the years, we had so many opportunities to learn from both their teaching and their modeling of how to live a life full of acts of lovingkindess. In the early years, Rabbi Orenstein led the Young Couples Club in studying Pirkei Avot, and we learned that to grow in our practice of Judiasm, we should try performing just one mitzvah at a time. If it wasn’t working for us, he taught that, rather than give up, we could place that mitzvah on a lower rung of the ladder and move on to another. His sermons on Shabbat morning usually gave us a teaching that helped us become better people in the week ahead. A memorable act of lovingkindness that Rabbi Orenstein performed for our family occurred when he appeared at the hospital with his newspaper on the morning of Arnie’s open heart surgery. He was prepared to remain with Arnie until he went into the operating room, and indeed, he sat with him outside the operating room until the nurse came over to ask if they were finished praying so Arnie could be prepared for surgery! What a comfort it was for us to have him there at that stressful time!
Claire and Arnie Nierenberg
By: Claire & Arnie Nierenberg
Beth El became our second home when we moved to New Jersey. Rabbi Jehiel (Jerry to our Ramah memory) and Sylvia immediately became part of the fabric of our family. You were always an integral part of our Shabbatot, our Life Cycle events, our Jewish studies, and most certainly our “dugmaot” in life. However, what we also loved were the “other” times – your home was always opened to our children when they played at the park, paying attention to our kids on our walks home from shul, attending Avi’s First Grade Siddur Play because he had invited you on one of those walks (and then writing him a thank you note!!), witnessing the joy you felt becoming a grandparent for the first time when you picked up a carriage, and not to mention your competitive tennis in our backyard even when the temperature reached 100 degrees!! Jehiel, you are always our Rabbi, our teacher, our dear friend. The world changes around us but one constant is our love, our respect and our friendship for you and of course for Sylvia. We are honored to help celebrate your 77th! With much love, Brenda and Jerry
By: Brenda & Jerry Deener
Dear Rabbi Orenstein and Sylvia,
I came to work at Congregation Beth El in 2005 as the Rabbi Roston’s assistant. Of course, I had been connected to my Judaism my entire life, having grown up in a large Conservative congregation in Queens, NY. My husband and I were members of B’nai Keshet, the Reconstructionist synagogue in Montclair, from 1978 to 2007 when we became Beth El members.
How astounding it still it is for me to think about how early in my working at Beth El, I discovered that Rabbi Orenstein’s father-in-law, Sylvia Orenstein’s father, was Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz, my rabbi from that large Conservative congregation in Queens – Hillcrest Jewish Center. It was Rabbi Mowshowitz who performed my marriage to Marc in 1971. It was Rabbi Mowshowitz who always visited my Hebrew School classes regularly, especially to keep the kids on their toes! It was to hear Rabbi Mowshowitz’s sermons on Shabbat that my maternal grandfather rushed to services when he visited us.
Then, in the summer of 2006, Rabbi Orenstein was getting ready to officiate at High Holy Day services at a congregation in Montreal. My family and I were getting ready to celebrate my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding in Montreal in August. The rabbi who was marrying my children was the rabbi who Rabbi Orenstein would be working with at High Holy Days. In a conversation with Rabbi Bright of Montreal, Rabbi Orenstein told him that he would be marrying the children of congregants from Beth El. He then said to me, “Cheryl, I told Rabbi Bright about who you are –so the pressure is on!”
And one more connection….in February 2010 when Rabbi Orenstein turned 75 and the naming of our granddaughter Ashley coincided with his birthday celebration…we shared the simchas together at Beth El. It was so sweet. And to this day, we are connected to you. As are so, so many other people whose lives you have touched.
Happy Birthday, Rabbi!
It’s always enjoyable to see you on visits and family s’machot. You always have interesting stories and experiences to relate, and it’s a pleasure to talk to you.
I (Shlomo) remember particularly a Shabbat I spent with you and Sylvia and the family in the 1960’s in Jerusalem, where I was able to appreciate your outstanding Midot, as expressed in your interpersonal relationships.
Mazal Tov on your birthday.
Wishing you all the best.
Shlomo and Zipora Polachek and family
By: Shlomo and Zipora Polachek
When Ivan and I moved to South Orange, our son Eric needed a “friend” at shul and you became his. You told him it was your shul, and if he needed anything he should come to you. What a gift that was for him, because he always looked forward to Shabbos and spending time in your shul. Thank you for that and for all the other times, during simchas and sadness, when you were there for us and our family.
Wishing you a very happy birthday.
Frema & Ivan Sobel and family
You were and you are our spiritual guide.
You have been with us in our saddest times and in our most joyous times.
You and Sylvia inspire us to lead more Jewish lives.
You are our role models.
We are blessed by your presence in our lives.
We thank you.
We love you,
Ruth and Aaron Bernstein
By: Ruth & Aaron Bernstein
Dear Abba, Based on the example that you and Ema set, I pledge to do hands-on work with and for people living in homeless shelters this winter. I am also encouraging my synagogue to reach out even more to the homeless in Bergen County. The Social Action Committee of Congregation B’nai Israel already cooks and serves food for the homeless, and we have many collections for underprivileged folks. Recently, with you in mind, I began exploring the possibility of hosting homeless families in our synagogue building for three non-consecutive weeks per year. We have logistical issues to overcome, and I am not sure when or if this will happen, but the exploration will certainly lead to more awareness and action in the area of gemilut hasadim — thanks to you. Love, “daughter #2”