SPRINGFIELD, NJ — As Temple Sha'arey Shalom prepares to close at the end of this month, one of the responsibilities facing the synagogue is the return of memorial plaques and milestone markers to members of the congregation.

The memorial plaques, which adorn the wall in the synagogue list the names of congregants and their family members who have passed away, with their date of death written in both the Hebrew and English calendar dates. In the Jewish faith, mourning and death are a regular part of the life cycle, and keeping reminders of loved ones not physically present is incorporated into every service.

For Bill Moesch, Chair of the Artifacts Committee at Sha’arey Shalom, the task of returning the more than 700 plaques is a big one, but he and the other members are working to oversee it.

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Moesch is asking those who wish to retrieve their plaques to email him at the address provided in this article with specific instructions.

In the email, congregants are required to list the name of the person on the plaque, which will then be compared with a master list. A similar procedure will take place for the leaves on the tree of life decoration, where congregants are asked to remember "to the best of their abilities" what was written on their leaves.

Even when the emails come in, Moesch noted that the milestone leaves and memorial plaques will not be available for pickup until some time in July, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. He also said that anyone unable to get to the temple for pickup could have the plaques shipped to them, which he also has the information for.

As Moesch noted, the group responsible for cataloguing and distributing the plaques down the road is taking the utmost care with the distribution and contact process.

"We're all people who have been members for a pretty long time," he said. "And there's a real high commitment on our part to making sure that we get particularly the memorial plaques back to whoever is left in the family and whoever wants them."

Moesch also said that readers who know of a former Sha'arey Shalom member should feel free to reach out to them and let them know that plaque collection will be taking place.

In order to get in contact with Moesch regarding the dispersal of memorial plaques and milestone markers, email him at wmoesch@verizon.net.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Matthew Kass is a member of Temple Sha'arey Shalom.]