When reading the March 18 article on the closing of the Bergen Academy of Reform Judaism, I realized that I was unfortunately not clear in my statement to the reporter about the role of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and its precursors in support of BARJ. The fact is that 25 years ago when my friend and colleague Rabbi Dan Freelander, then serving as the regional director of the Reform movement, approached our federation regarding the creation of BARJ, he was met with support and encouragement. For its 24 years of existence BARJ was blessed with not only financial support from the federation through the allocation process, but also guidance through the federation’s department of Jewish Educational Services. BARJ also received immeasurable support from the regional office of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Also missing from my comments was the answer to the question of a future relationship between the high school program we are launching at Avodat Shalom this fall and the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies. My response to this question posed by the reporter was that my synagogue and I remain open to all possibilities of cooperative programming that will enhance the educational and social life of our teenagers. Temple Avodat Shalom remains firmly committed to cooperation with all segments of the Jewish community in every aspect of our programming, from pre-school through retiree activites. As founding members of the Kehillah Partnership, we believe in seeing our synagogue and other Jewish institutions as complementary partners rather than competitors.
While saddened that BARJ is coming to a close, I will be forever grateful to the lay leaders of my synagogue and our sister/partner synagogues who gave their heart, soul, and might to this effort. Special mention must go to BARJ founders Dan Kirsch, Ted Greenwood, Joyce Massoth, and especially Rabbi Dan Freelander. Credit for the impact that this program has had on a generation of Reform Jewish youth belongs to long-time faculty such as Marc Gruber and Juliet Barr. Finally, Marla Compa, a student at BARJ in its early years and the last BARJ directer, and Dr. Ken Hoffman and Rich Horowitz, the current BARJ co-presidents and the professional staff of UJA Federation, along with my colleagues Rabbis Steve Sirbu and Ruth Zlotnick, worked tirelessly to maintain the quality of the program to its very end.
I hope that the entire Jewish community will join us at Temple Beth Or on Wednesday, May 18, at 7 p.m., for the BARJ graduation and a celebration of its 24 years of achievements.