Continuing the Jewish Center conversation

Continuing the Jewish Center conversation

Our editorial about the Teaneck Jewish Center’s plans to partner with Yeshivat Heichal Hatorah clearly sparked discussion in our community, as our Letters page has made clear these past few weeks.

Some have questioned what right we as a newspaper have to weigh in on the decision to be made by a synagogue’s board. Those critics have forgotten the essential nature of a newspaper editorial: To weigh in on other people’s business. That other people have no obligation to follow our opinion is a given; had our editorials been binding these pages would have achieved Mideast peace and ended world hunger decades ago.

But how narrowly a synagogue board can consider its disposition of its assets is also a question. The Talmud (Megillah 26a) cautions that the inhabitants of a large town cannot sell a synagogue because it has raised money from, and served, a larger community outside the borders of the town. The Jewish Center of Teaneck was not built and supported solely by the 69 remaining member families; it is a product of the efforts – and – charity of Bergen County Jews who imagined and sought a center for all of the local Jewish community.

The vast majority of those Jews have left, they or their descendants moving to synagogues where they could walk or where women could be called to the Torah. Yet it is the broader Jewish community that built the Jewish Center.

Forgive us, but we don’t see how Heichal Hatorah meets a need for the vast majority of Teaneck’s, or even Bergen County’s, Jews. There is already a boy’s yeshiva devoted to Talmud study and academic excellence in town; the Torah Academy of Bergen County. We do not doubt that Heichal serves its students well; but that is not fulfilling a communal need. Providing a new school with a building at below-market rates is nice for those who benefit – but that is not a communal good.

What would be a communal good? If we were on the board of the Jewish Center – and just typing those words reminds us to appreciate those who actually do the hard and mostly thankless task of governing the Jewish Center, and all our other synagogues and communal institutions – well, we would use the money from selling the building at market value to endow Jewish life in our community going forward. Both the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey and the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County were incubated in the Jewish Center’s classrooms. Would anything be a more appropriate tribute by the Jewish Center to its past and to the community’s future than to provide continuing support to these two institutions that, while serving diverse populations, raise our next generation?

Not that we can think of.