Press Releases

Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim Replaces Fixed Dues Structure

Cranford – Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim has been serving the Jewish Community of Cranford and beyond for 101 years.  But joining a synagogue, once seen as a necessity for Jews, is increasingly viewed as optional due to the high cost of membership dues.  While no one is ever turned away for financial reasons, many people do not want to bother negotiating for reduced fees, and either don’t join a community, or defer until their children begin Bar and Bat Mitzvah training, traditionally at third grade. 

In an effort to make congregational life more accessible to families in the area, the synagogue’s board of trustees voted on April 8th to switch from traditional dues structure, to a sustaining pledge model, where all commitments to the synagogue are made on a voluntary basis.

Synagogue President, Jackie Baranoff, had looked into changing the dues structure in the past, but it wasn’t until now that she really felt the time was right.  “We want people to feel they are a part of a community – we consider TBEMC a family.  If people feel connected, they will give with their heart. By being able to offer dues in the kind of way we run our congregation, where community comes before money, everyone feels welcome here, regardless of their financial situation.”

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But the big question loomed.  Will this change in financial obligation cause the synagogue to lose too much revenue each year?  A team of members, led by Mark Kaplan, VP Elect, spent months researching existing synagogues that have adopted similar models and the effects it’s had on the congregations.  They researched the over 50 congregations that have adopted this model and spoke in-depth to leaders at several congregations. “We learned the benefits and pitfalls, but in the end, we were so encouraged to hear that on average, membership and contributions increase in this model” says Kaplan.  “Even more importantly, communities that adopted this model saw increased engagement from its members, and there was a better feeling about the community in general.”

The synagogue has unveiled the plan as a ‘sustaining pledge model’ with the goal for full transparency between members and leadership.  Baranoff says, “There is a certain amount we need annually to run the synagogue and by sharing that sustaining amount with members, we are hoping to see members want to contribute as much as they can.  But on the flip side, by making the amount voluntary, we allow families with modest means to know they are always welcome.  As families grow with the community, we hope to see those pledges increase both in volume and dollars.”

This change is part of a very exciting year at TBEMC.  In August, the community welcomed two new Rabbis, Rachel Schwartz and Neil Tow, to the community. This married duo has brought an energy and feeling of growth to the community, and they have been big proponents of this new model “As Rabbis we want everyone to feel welcome in our community. This change allows TBEMC to build our relationships based on our Jewish values and how much this community means to so many.  Right now, there is a great energy in our community and we believe that this new model will enable this incredible spirit to continue to grow in so many amazing ways.”

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Westfield High School Sophomore Dies; Counselors on Hand at School

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WESTFIELD, NJ — Carthoris “Carter” Uziel, a sophomore at Westfield High School, died Sunday night, according to Westfield Public Schools and a letter sent to parents by Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson.

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Cranford High Senior Prom

June 16, 2018

CRANFORD - Cranford High School held its Senior Prom on Friday at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany. Check out the photos our readers submitted. 

Spring Art Show Displays Students' Creativity

CRANFORD - The Cranford High School Spring Art Show was held at the Cranford Public Library, on Tuesday. 

From 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., artwork from classes such as crafts, graphic design, photography, and drawing was on display for the public to promote the creative and unique projects done by students throughout the school year. 

Senior Awards Recipients

CRANFORD - On Thursday, June 7th, Cranford High School held its annual Senior Awards Ceremony. Here is a full list of the awards and winners. 


Cranford High School Award for Outstanding Achievement

Top 5% of the Class of 2018

Recipient: Jack Callan, Alannah Clarke, Meg Cui, Caroline Kelly, Julia Kelly, Nicholas Macchi, Katherine Ruane, Layla Serna, Katherine Stochel, ...

Sports Betting Is Off And Running in New Jersey

June 14, 2018

OCEANPORT, NJ — Governor Phil Murphy officially ushered in sports betting in New Jersey when he made the initial wager at Monmouth Park  on June 14.

Governor Murphy, an avid soccer fan who has called ESPN’s “Sportscenter” his favorite show, placed the first bet  — $20 on Germany to win the World Cup. He also bet $20 on the N.J. Devils to ...

Union County’s Free Summer Arts Concert Series Launches this Friday, June 22

June 19, 2018

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra kicks off Union County’s 57th annual Summer Arts Festival series of free outdoor concerts sponsored by the Freeholder Board with an evening of Broadway favorites, beloved opera overtures and more on Friday June 22nd at 7:30 p.m. at Echo Lake Park in Mountainside.

Attendees are also invited to bring a mat or beach towel and join in a free Union County Get ...

Healthy U Spring Symposium Marks 10 Years of Community Impact

WESTFIELD, NJ — More than 100 Healthy U champions and partners from YMCAs and schools from all over the state gathered at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on May 18 to celebrate 10 years of community impact. Healthy U was also formally presented with the 2017 CATCH® Award for Excellence in State Health. 

CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is the ...

Summer Water Safety Tips

Summer is a great time for parents to ensure their children are equipped with essential water safety skills. The Westfield Area YMCA offers weekly swim lessons all summer long and in Monday-Thursday weekly sessions.

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Upcoming Events

Sat, June 23, 9:00 AM

Between Park Street and Washington Street, Westfield

Walking Tour: What Makes a Great House and ...

Home & Garden

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Dear Editor:

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by ...