The Early Years
The Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island originated in the early 1950’s as a summer resort congregation. A handful of families opened their homes to the needs of the congregation, holding services in their living rooms and dedicating themselves to building a Jewish presence in this island community.
In 1957, there was a groundbreaking ceremony held for what was anticipated to be the site of the synagogue on 11th Street between Bay and Beach Avenue in Beach Haven. Soon after, it was determined that this location was not appropriate for the needs of the congregation and another site was sought out. In the interim, the growing congregation utilized facilities in the Baldwin Hotel for its services and other activities including Youth Groups, Adult Education, etc.
Summer of 1960
The summer of 1960 was intended to be another great year for the Jewish Community Center. Activities were planned at a reunion, prior to the start of the season, in the Brunswick Hotel in Lakewood. These activities included regular Shabbat services each Friday evening and Saturday morning, a women’s service conducted by the Sisterhood, a young people’s service conducted by the Center’s Youth Groups, and High Holiday Services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In addition to services, other activities included a card party and fashion show, discussion meetings with guest speakers, a carnival and an end-of-season supper party.
Unfortunately, the summer of 1960 did not commence quite as planned, as there was a fire which completely destroyed the Baldwin Hotel in the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Despite this tragedy, the congregation had much to be thankful for,;the Safer Torah, siddurs, and tallit were saved undamaged. Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Shapiro once again demonstrated the strength within this small Jewish community by opening their home to the congregation for Yom Kippur services. Through all of this unexpected misfortune, the congregation on the shore was still surviving.
Center Finds a Permanent Home
For the next few summer seasons the congregation continued by meeting in the homes of members until a permanent building was built in 1961. Finally, the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island had a permanent home on 24th Street in Spray Beach. In 1974, the tennis courts were completed and opened to center members and the center continued to grow and thrive. The first Bar Mitzvah was held in the new facility in 1967, and the first Bat Mitzvah in 1980. Many simchot, including other Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, baby namings and other joyous celebrations have been and continue to be celebrated in the JCC facility.
The Windows in Our Center
One of the most remarkable characteristics of the new building was the stained glass windows. Symbolically, the twelve secular tribes of Israel, with the descendants of Levi who were appointed especially for religious office, together comprising the whole of the Community of Israel, are represented by their traditional emblems on the windows of this edifice.
The emblems of the Priests and of the Levites are placed near the Holy Ark on each side of the Bimah. The other emblems are placed in the order in which the tribes were encamped in the wilderness around the Tent of Meeting, as stated in the Book of Numbers, Chapter II.
Although the windows of the synagogue have been enhanced in recent years, these original windows still remain in the center with as much symbolic meaning today as they had yesterday. They have been placed on each side of the Holy Ark on the Eastern wall of the Sanctuary, and remain a focal point of our new building.
Center Opens its Doors Year Round
The year 1979 was a very important year for the Jewish Community Center as it finally opened it doors year round, and was no longer considered to be just a summer congregation. A search for a permanent Rabbi was initiated. Plans to celebrate all the holidays were made, and ideas put forth for year round social activities.
The Center Today
In the past 20 years, the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island has continued to grow and thrive. . The congregation has grown from a handful of families to a membership of approximately 300 families, a significant number who are involved year round. We have a myriad of activities such as Adult Education, Mah-Jongg, and many educational, fundraising, social, and cultural programs throughout the year. Religious Services are held every Friday evening, on Saturday mornings throughout the five summer months, and for most Jewish Holidays. The growth of our congregation necessitated the demolition of our building and the construction of a new facility approximately three times the size of the old one. This project took most of the 2011 year, during which our services and other activities were held in various locations on Long Beach Island. See other sections of our web-site for a more complete story of this project.
Friday, February 17, 2012 was the big day when we had our first service in our new building. It started with a formal procession of our Torahs into the building and placing them in the Holy Ark. The JCC of LBI now fully occupies its new 9,000 sq. ft. facility, which provides adequate space for classrooms, a kosher kitchen, library, and office. The Sanctuary has permanent seating for 141 persons, and when expanded into the spacious Social Hall it provides seating for about 450 congregants for High Holiday Services. The Social Hall can comfortably seat 200 people at a sit down meal. The classrooms, social hall, and the Sanctuary are available for rental for a variety of functions.
From Barbara Katz Brown, daughter of our long-time Treasurer, George Katz
Congratulations on the new website! My father, George J. Katz, was a long time treasurer and then “Treasurer Emeritus.” He was instrumental in “saving” the existence of the congregation, which was not financially organized when he took over, in this voluntary position. Dad retired as the tax collector for Highland Park, NJ, after 30 years as a public accountant. After retirement, he and my mom, Edna moved to the beach. When the new building was being discussed, he was on the building committee and was instrumental in making sure the new building was built taller (extra cinderblocks) just in time for Hurricane Sandy.
Although we no longer have a house on LBI and live across the country, we like to maintain a little interaction with the JCC.
Thank you. Barbara Katz-Brown for the Katz Family (special hello to Rose Valentine…my parents’ dearest friend).
Mr. & Mrs. Herman Berman
Mr. & Mrs. Leo Brauer
Mr. & Mrs. Joel Elias
Dr. & Mrs. H. Robert Freed
Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Gordon
Mr. & Mrs. William Gordon
Mrs. Thomas Graham
Mr. & Mrs. Maurice Hallam
The Hand Family
Dr. & Mrs. Harry Herman
Dr. & Mrs. Louis Kaplan
Mr. & Mrs. Morton N. Kaye
Mr. & Mrs. Abe Korb
Mr. & Mrs. Elmer N. Lippa
Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Lisagor
Mr. & Mrs. Julius Robinson
The Schwartz Family
Mrs. Jennie R. Shapiro
Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Shapiro
Mr. & Mrs. Jerome Shapiro
Dr. & Mrs. Leo Y. Selesnick
Dr. & Mrs. Leo Shonfield
Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin Weisman
Mr. & Mrs. Louis Zupnick