By Christine Barcia
Members of Temple Shaari Emeth, Manalapan, will have at least two good reasons for heading to Miami Beach this month. One is the warm weather and the other is the Reform Jewish temple’s 50th anniversary celebration and reunion.
“A lot of snowbirds have migrated to Florida for the winter months,” said Cantor Wayne Siet, who will be in attendance at the celebration.
The event, which is set to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 6 in Miami Beach, will include the gathering of 10 past presidents of the Manalapan synagogue, according to Barbara Tinkler Pekor, who was the temple’s first teacher.
“A lot of us can’t come up (to Manalapan) for events happening up north. This will be a reunion of temple members – retired people, snowbirds and visitors. About 60 people are expected to attend,” Pekor said.
According to Pekor, the temple started in 1966 with nine families and now has a membership of between 800 and 900 families. The name Shaari Emeth, meaning “gates of truth,” was chosen by the founding members.
Attendees at the Florida reunion are being asked to write remembrances and share them at the celebration, Pekor said.
Siet, who has served the temple for more than 40 years, said it has been a “wonderful journey.”
“The temple continues to thrive in the community,” he said.
Rabbi Melinda Panken has guided the congregation for 13 years and plans to attend the celebration in Miami Beach, saying, “many people responsible for building the congregation” will be there.
Through her tenure as rabbi, Panken said, interfaith initiatives in the community have been accomplished.
“We have interfaith dialogues in the community with Christians, Jews and Muslims. It is significant that we have less hatred and more understanding,” she said.
The connection to the non-Jewish community, Panken said, is important. In addition, she said there is a focus on “making connections between congregants.”
“We try to become more inclusive in every way,” the rabbi said.