Beth Ahm President Thanks Town Council, Government For Support

By on November 17, 2017

The following remarks were delivered by Debbie Dretel Lawrence at the Monday, November 13, Town Council meeting:

I am the soon to be past president of Congregation Beth Ahm. As you are aware, our synagogue closed at the end of May and our building was sold in October.

Beth Ahm had been part of our town for 80 years. In 1936, a few Jewish families decided that Verona needed a Jewish Community Center. In May of that year, the JCC of Verona was organized and officers were elected. The first rabbi was hired in April of 1937–Rabbi Alter Kriegel. In May of 1937 while celebrating our one-year anniversary, $1,500 was raised to purchase the house at 56 Grove Avenue. And in 1950 our then new building, the current Beth Ahm, was dedicated.

Our synagogue has been a vital part of our community for so long. Our founding rabbi, Alter Kriegel, was well known in town–strolling around wearing his cowboy hat, carrying his walking stick and while smoking his cigar. He formed strong alliances with the police department, the superintendent and principals of the schools, and other clergy. For many years we had a pulpit exchange with Rev. Moore of the First Presbyterian Church. We were very honored when our corner of Personnette was named Rabbi Alter Kriegel Way. Our building housed a full-size basketball court where many of the kids in town played basketball.

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Throughout the many years, we have always tried to be a good neighbor and to be supportive of our community. But despite the efforts of many who labored to keep our synagogue strong, staying afloat is no longer feasible. So with great sadness our congregation voted that the time to close our doors had come.

I had the dubious honor of heading up the closing of our synagogue. I cannot tell you how much stuff can be accumulated in 80 years. The sorting, throwing, donating was a task beyond anything I could have ever imagined. However, we got through it. The synagogue has given the town our menorah which was on our front lawn for many years. We are all looking forward to seeing it lit in town center when Hannukah comes around.

And I wanted to come before the Council tonight to thank Matt Cavallo and Chuck Molinari for all their support and assistance. They were both so eager to assist me in any way possible. I would call Chuck and the answer was always “no problem Deb, we will take care of it.” You have no idea of how much I appreciate knowing I had your help.

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We now move on to our next chapter and hope that the legacy of Beth Ahm will live on in Verona for many years to come.

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