The first organized Jewish group in the City of Summit began in 1923 as the Unity Club of Summit. Twelve families decided to meet together to support religious practices, pray together, and educate their children about Judaism.
In 1927 the first teacher was hired for Hebrew education, and the first rabbi was hired to lead High Holy Day services in the Knights of Columbus Hall at the corner of Woodland and Springfield Avenues.
By 1929 the need for a spiritual home was clear and on June 5 the Jewish Community Centre of Summit (SJCC) was incorporated. A single-family home at the corner of Morris Avenue and Kent Place Boulevard was purchased and remodeled in time for High Holy Day services. Jacob Mantel was the first president, Samuel Cohen was the first rabbi, and the congregation numbered about 20 families.
By World War II it was clear that the original building was no longer adequate. A fundraising campaign retired the mortgage, and a long-term campaign was begun to finance a new building. In 1953 construction began for a new Jewish Centre – now known as the SJCC – at a cost of approximately $120,000. The new facility was dedicated in March 1954. This building included the original sanctuary (now Rabbi Friedman's office), the social hall, a small kitchen, and several classrooms on the lower level. The congregation, consisting of about 60 families, was led by Rabbi Aaron Shapiro and Cantor Jay Stoffer and had an active and vibrant Sisterhood.
In 1962 Rabbi William Horn was hired as the rabbi of the SJCC. The congregation again outgrew the existing facility and in1967 the expansion was finished, including the previous sanctuary, additional classrooms, the library, offices, gift shop area, and a new kitchen. In 1969 the nursery school was founded and began with a single class for three- and four-year-olds.
Rabbi Horn (now Rabbi Emeritus) grew the congregation from 75 families in 1962 to over 325 households at the time of his retirement in 2005. Cantor Janet Ilene Roth joined the SJCC family in 1991.
New Jewish Center in 1954
Once again, the facility was inadequate for the needs of the congregation. In 1995 and 1996 a major renovation was undertaken to rejuvenate the building. A substantial fundraising effort retired the mortgage on the building and established an investment/endowment fund to provide for future needs.
JCC in 1981-1984
THE NEW MILLENIUM
In 2002 the opportunity arose for the SJCC to acquire the two lots adjacent to the synagogue. With a congregation that continued to grow and welcome many new families, the SJCC clearly required a facility better suited to our diverse needs. A new capital campaign was undertaken in 2004 and 2005 to raise funds to go forward with a new addition that allows us to worship, socialize, and learn together in a setting ideally suited to our needs. As a result of the successful fundraising campaign, architect Alex Gorlin was retained to redesign our facility to include a new sanctuary, expansion of the social hall, additional classrooms, a multipurpose room on the lower level, and other improvements to our existing space.
2005 also ushered in the first new rabbi in 43 years. Rabbi Avi Friedman, who continues the tradition of vibrancy and warmth that makes our synagogue a uniquely wonderful place to call our Jewish home. In 2013, the completion of the expanded and redesigned synagogue was celebrated with a dedication and naming ceremony. Our new name is Congregation Ohr Shalom-The Summit Jewish Community Center. Our dreams have been realized and the benefits of our expanded space continue to grow. Every activity has been enhanced: services (daily worship and holidays) and family celebrations, the Early Learning Center, the Jewish Learning Center, youth programs, adult education, social programs for all ages, artist in residence, environmental programs, guest speakers, Family Promise community program, and much more.
Congregation Ohr Shalom-SJCC now draws members from surrounding communities such as New Providence, Berkeley Heights, the Chathams, Madison, Short Hills, Springfield, and more. As we approach our centennial celebration, our congregation looks forward to many more generations as a vital part of the Jewish community and the community at large.
Sanctuary Construction 2012
Congregation Ohr Shalom Today