Congregants celebrate shul’s new home

Congregants celebrate shul’s new home

Congregants unveiled a sign marking the new home of Cong. Arzei Darom on Sunday.

There was no dancing in Teaneck’s snow-covered streets on Sunday but at 725 Queen Anne Road Champagne bottles popped and music carried through Cong. Arzei Darom’s new building as congregants celebrated finally having a home of their own after eight years.

The shul has met in different homes through the years, most recently in the basement of a family two blocks farther south on Queen Anne. Eight years ago, a handful of people, including current shul president Donny Furer, met to discuss the growing number of families moving south of Cedar Lane and the long walks they faced to get to existing synagogues. They wanted an alternative.

Deciding to create their own house of worship, they collected more than $13,000 at that meeting to begin their new shul, which they named Arzei Darom, Hebrew for “south of Cedar.” Now Arzei Darom has more than 80 member-families, a rabbi, and its own Torahs.

Rabbi Aharon Ciment affixes a mezuzah to Arzei Darom’s front door as congregants look on. PHOTOS BY JOSH LIPOWSKY

“With the help of HaShem, look what we have all created,” Furer told celebrants. “I have never seen such unique, diverse people as we have at Arzei Darom. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a great future ahead of us.”

Rabbi Aharon Ciment led the crowd outside, where he hung a mezuzah on the building’s front door. A group of founding members unveiled a sign bearing the synagogue’s name. The transition was finally complete.

Arzei Darom bought the building on Queen Anne Road in 2006, and after winning approval from the township, began renovations in 2007. The house had to be completely gutted to accommodate the shul, but construction moved quickly and Arzei Darom moved into its new home just a day before Rosh HaShanah.

“Part of the idea always was that we were in the process of establishing a permanent home,” Shabsi Polinsky, who just completed his six-year shul presidency and who spearheaded the expansion, told The Jewish Standard. “It took a while to get here but we’re very excited about the future.”

The building “gives us the ability to accommodate all our current services and programs and expand things we can offer to our membership and the community at large,” Furer said.

Furer, who has lived in the neighborhood with his wife, Melissa, since 1994, has seen the shul grow from a loose handful of people meeting every other Friday night in somebody’s living room to a core group to what it is now.

Five years ago, Ciment came to a shul without a home, and congregants credit him with playing a large role in shaping the synagogue.

“The rabbi’s had a very positive impact on the shul,” Polinsky said. “He’s formed close relationships with the members and the families and been there for them, especially in times of need.”

It’s the “out-of-town values” of the shul’s members that Ciment credits for its growth, though.

“You’re going to get a hug when you come into shul and people will notice when you’re not there,” he said. “I don’t look at the growth by how many members we have. I look at what people are doing with the hours in their day, how they’re feeling part of a community. There’s a camaraderie in our shul – a certain awareness has grown of one another.”

Although it is the people who have made the shul what it is, Ciment said, he praised the new building as the “umbilical cord” of the congregation.

“This is the connector of our community,” Ciment said. “What makes us one is this shul, this place we can come and unite. It’s a tremendous thing for our community.”

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