A special evening of song, ceremony and speakership marked the 90th anniversary of the Mount Freedom Jewish Center. On hand Saturday evening were Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, joining with the families of founders - Heistein, Rosenfarb, Hirschhorn and Messer, to name a few – and the rest of the congregation, in celebration of the Randolph Jewish community’s history and presence.
“We have come a long way in our ninety years, from the beginnings of a couple dozen members to what we have today, and the most important focus of this evening is the multigenerational attendees…those families who came here and put down roots to establish their families and start this shul,” President Bernie Elbaum said.
In the lighthearted spirit of the gala evening Rabbi Menashe East took the podium, to enthusiastic applause, and joked, “after ninety years it gets hard to remember which rabbi is which, so for convenience sake just for now call me ‘Rabbi Number 14.” He recalled the founders saying, “the spirit of those original families fill this holy place, and if not for their vision and their hard work there wouldn’t be a Randolph Jewish community, so we are forever grateful to you.”
Distinguished guest and speaker Rabbi Avi Weiss, activist, founder and proponent of what he calls “Open Orthodox” Judaism, took over from Rabbi East with a rousing speech and blessing. “You’re celebrating the lights of the past, many years ago, which founded this glorious synagogue, which informs the lights of today.”
On that note Pey Daled, the band for the evening, struck up a tune and practically everyone in attendance took to the dance floor with traditional Jewish dancing.
At the reception, Toby Messer, a 65-year member and “everyone’s grandmother,” had nothing but fond memories of the old days when Randolph was a summer community of bungalows and hotels, each with a house band, and New York City’s Jewish community would come by Route 46 for a few weeks of vacation and nightlife. “[In the beginning] they would collect donations from summer people, enough to run the synagogue and put on a few small additions,” she recalled. “From a very small congregation we kept growing.”