The program will bring ongoing Jewish education classes to Moorestown for kids ages four to eleven, which will be held at Moorestown High School starting in September.
To date, Moorestown has never had a synagogue in town.
“Our community is kind of scattered,” said Moorestown Jewish Association co-president Marla Deibler.
MJA was founded as a way to bring these scattered Jewish families together. Now, the MJA is currently trying to get the word out about the first-ever Shabbat services and Jewish education program in Moorestown, which is being brought to town by the nonprofit Beiteinu, which means “our house” in Hebrew.
Prior to last year, if Jewish families wanted to educate their children in Jewish tradition, there were no options in town, Deibler said. For that reason, the MJA wanted to give Moorestown’s Jewish community a place where young students could learn about Judaism’s rich history alongside the same kids they attend school with during the day.
For that reason, the MJA piloted a Hebrew school program with Beiteinu’s founder Rabbi Howard Cove last year. The experience was an enriching one for both the students and Cove, so Beiteinu, decided to return in order to create the Moorestown Jewish Education Collaborative. The program will bring ongoing Jewish education classes to Moorestown for kids ages 4 to 11, which will be held at Moorestown High School starting in September.
Beiteinu will also hold four Shabbat services over the course of the next year — place and dates to be determined — marking the first time these services have come to town.
While historically there hasn’t been a large Jewish population in Moorestown, Deibler said the number of Jewish families has grown steadily in recent years.
The goal of promoting Jewish education in town is to inspire a sense of Jewish identity, Deibler said. Being among the minority, it’s important to the MJA that kids are given a sense of love and appreciation, Deibler said. This is done by teaching the next generation about Jewish holidays and traditions, fostering a love of Israel and by preparing young adults for their bar and bat mitzvahs.
“We’re very, very excited to be part of our community,” Deibler said. “For many years, we’ve kind of struggled to have a voice in our community, to have a presence in our community.”
Cove said he was surprised to learn Moorestown is home to more than 200 Jewish families without a place to worship. He said coming to Moorestown feels like a natural extension of the work he is doing with Beiteinu.
Through the Philadelphia-based nonprofit, Cove brings Jewish services and education programs to towns throughout the greater Philadelphia area. He said he never wants Beiteinu to be a brick and mortar synagogue because he loves the idea of going to communities, such as Moorestown, where there is a need or desire for these programs.
Synagogue membership can conservatively cost Jewish families between $3,000 and $4,000 a year, Cove said. These fees go toward maintenance of the building, payment of the professional staff and Jewish education programs. Beiteinu is trying to offer a program with a payment minimal enough to cover the cost of expenses but not deter anyone from attending. The cost of attendance is $350 for students in the 4- to 6-year-old age group and $450 for students in the 7- to 11-year-old age group.
His goal has not only been to break down the cost barrier of attending services but to create an atmosphere where attendees can come without any expectations of rules to follow or dues to pay.
“Beiteinu was born to try to address these major challenges to the modern-day synagogue,” Cove said.
For instance, non-Jewish parents are often barred from attending their child’s bat mitzvah, Cove said. The goal of Beiteinu, by comparison, is to generate a sense of inclusivity.
For Cove, the goal is not only to give Jewish families in Moorestown a place to educate their children and an opportunity to worship but to foster connections among the Jewish community with other religious groups in town. He said thus far, everywhere he has gone he has formed strong bonds with other community faith leaders, which in turn has encouraged the Jewish community members in these towns to do the same.
“We’re starting to create something that I hope will not only be a blessing to the Jewish community but be a blessing to the greater Moorestown community,” Cove said.
For more information about Moorestown’s Jewish Education Collaborative, visit https://moorestownjewishassociation.org/