FAQ

What communities does TSTI draw from and how large is the temple?

 

Our 800+ families live in several communities. The largest concentration is from South Orange, Maplewood, Short Hills, Millburn, Livingston and West Orange. We also have members from Summit and Westfield and a few from other towns.

 

How does TSTI describe its mission?

 

We strive to perpetuate the religious principles and moral values of Judaism through worship, acts of social justice, study of Torah and community service. A member of the Union for Reform Judaism, we are an inclusive community, open to all, with a diverse congregation comprised of Jews by birth and by choice, interfaith, traditional and non-traditional families, and children of all abilities and ages.

TSTI is committed to developing and supporting a lifelong Jewish experience. We offer programs for members at all stages of their lives, from preschoolers and teens to empty nesters and older adults. The Temple’s schools provide a progressive Jewish education to hundreds of children, from pre-K to Grade 12. Led by Rabbi Daniel Cohen and Rabbi Alexandra Klein, TSTI reaches out to new families and welcomes them to a vibrant community committed to the values and beliefs of Reform Judaism.

 

What is it like to be a member of TSTI?

 

The diversity of our membership and the respect we have for that diversity means new members feel at home from the moment they enter the temple building. It is what informs the breadth of programs and worship services we offer our members and how we approach teaching our children in our Religious School.

We tap into the skills, interests and talents among our members to collaborate on programming and projects.  From members interested in environmental issues working on the "greening" of our synagogue facilities to blues coffee houses as purely social fun events, we feel our community offers opportunities to participate well beyond our family friendly Friday night Shabbat services. 

 

How would you describe the religiosity of TSTI?

 

TSTI is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. As such we are a progressive synagogue community that understands and appreciates the fact that each member of the community will connect to Jewish tradition in their own, unique way. We embrace the Reform Jewish approach that celebrates individual, informed choice. As such we do not presume any specific ritual adherence but seek to draw community members more deeply into active Jewish life.

We have members of the congregation who were raised in Orthodox or Conservative Jewish homes as well as members who were raised in non-observant homes. Like our rabbis, many members were raised in homes affiliated with Reform Synagogues. TSTI is fully egalitarian. Many of the Jewish homes connected to the congregation include an adult who is not Jewish but has chosen to create a Jewish home. The congregation is also open and welcoming to members of the LGBT community. Our goal is to create a synagogue that offers a sense of belonging to the greatest number of people.

Our worship is inclusive of both Hebrew and English. Kippot and Tallitot are available for those who choose to wear them but are not required. The congregation’s building is kosher-style meaning that pork and shellfish are not allowed in the building. 

 

How does the synagogue include my partner who is not Jewish in meaningful lifecycle events like baby-namings and Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

 

A philosophical cornerstone of our community is that we look for every possible opportunity to be inclusive. Each household dynamic is different so we encourage you to speak directly with one of our rabbis if you would like more information about the many ways we include all family members in Mitzvahs and every-day life at TSTI.

 

Is there a bus to Religious School from Short Hills/ Millburn or other surrounding areas?

 

Yes. We have a Religious School bus on Tuesday afternoons from Hartshorn school in Short Hills. Summit families also use this bus. If there is a developing need for a bus from Livingston we will certainly provide one.

 

What is the timing and style of Shabbat Services?

 

Shabbat worship on Friday evening takes place either at 6:00pm or 7:30pm throughout the year.

During the programming year from September through June, the times mostly alternate between the two times (Holiday weekends and during the summer worship is always at 6:00pm). There are exceptions however, so please… Click here for our temple calendar to see this week’s specific schedule.

The 6:00pm service is an informal "come as you are” worship experience. We begin promptly at 6:00pm as we welcome Shabbat together. We do our best to keep the 6:00pm service to one hour so those in attendance can then gather at home or somewhere else to enjoy a Shabbat meal.

The 7:30pm service is a bit more formal than the 6:00pm service, but because we always want people to join together in whatever way makes them most comfortable, it is still "come as you are”.

 

What is Rabbi Cohen’s involvement with Israel?

 

All of our clergy members are active and committed Zionists. As a congregation in the Reform Movement, we are connected to, and supporters of, ARZA- the Association of Reform Zionists of America. 

Rabbi Cohen is particularly active in pro-Israel activism. A member of the AIPAC National Counsel, he was one of the co-chairs of the very first AIPAC Progressive Rabbinic Mission to Israel in July of 2014. Rabbi Cohen is also active with Outwardbound Peacebuilders, a small organization that seeks to foster connection and understanding between Jewish Israelis and Moslem Israelis by taking members of both communities into the wild where they learn to rely upon another and communicate better in the hopes of finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict that is respectful of all involved.

 

Do you have to be a member in order for a child to attend the preschool or summer camps? How about Religious School?

 

You do not have to be a temple member to be part of the pre-school or summer camp. And while the pre-school is a formal part of our congregation, some families who are not in any way affiliated with the Jewish community also send their children to the preschool. 

We understand that finding a congregation that is the right “fit” is beneficial to both households and communities. As such, we offer ONE year of study in the Linda and Rudy Slucker Religious School prior to formally affiliating with the congregation, ONLY when your oldest child is in either Kindergarten, First or Second Grade.  During that year, your family is responsible ONLY for tuition, and dues are waived. We know that after a year in our school your family will happily join our temple community. 

We also offer a gift of FREE membership to Preschool families while their oldest child is a full tuition paying student in our Pre-school. 

 

Are there volunteering or community service opportunities through TSTI?

 

A cornerstone of Judaism in general and Reform Judaism specifically is doing our individual and communal part to help repair the world. In order to fulfill this commitment there are many volunteer opportunities both within and through TSTI. For information on many of these please click here to see the Tikkun Olam/Social Action section of this website.

 

Can we attend a couple of services to see how we like it?

 

Of course. With the exception of some High Holy Day services which, for both space and security purposes require tickets, worship at TSTI is open to anyone who wishes to join us. Our hope is that you will come to worship, meet the members of the TSTI community, and want to become a formal part of this congregation.

 

How can I arrange a visit to TSTI?

 

Please visit us! We would love to show you around our beautiful Temple and answer any questions you may have.

To arrange an appointment please contact Leslie Sporn or call (973) 763-4116.

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel
432 Scotland Road
South Orange, NJ 07079