Adath Israel Congregation, celebrating its 90th year, held a Silver Tribute Gala Feb. 8, 2014 to honor Rabbi Daniel Grossman for 25 years of service. At left, pictured are (front) Debra Radin, Stephanie Loesberg, Rabbi Daniel Grossman, Fran Abramson, (middle) Ellen Botwin, Judith Kay, Caryn Rubinstein, Matthew Kestenbaum, (back) Ilena Ryzoff, Lisa Ganzman and Jessica Harris. (Photo by Stacey Pastorella.)

Gala honors Rabbi Daniel Grossman’s 25 years of service at Adath Israel Congregation

Rabbi Daniel Grossman jokes that when his children were younger, he never knew ahead of time where they would sleep on Friday nights.

Grossman’s children, Miriam and Sam, were involved in Adath Israel’s religious school and youth group programs. In their circle of friends, impromptu sleepovers were often arranged at Friday evening prayer services. Grossman and his wife, Elayne, always had extra clothes packed, in case of last minute plans.

“I’m not just the rabbi,” Grossman said. “Our family is part of the synagogue.”

Grossman recalls moments like those warmly, as Adath Israel Congregation celebrates its 90th anniversary, and the rabbi’s 25 years of service.

Festivities began in October, with an event featuring the Ein Prat Fountainheads, an Israeli music group. On Feb. 7, Adath held a service honoring the congregation’s former presidents and long time members. The following evening, the synagogue hosted a Silver Tribute Gala, honoring Grossman for his 25 years of service. Adath’s next major event is scheduled for April 24–27, when the synagogue plans to host renowned artist Mordechai Rosenstein for a series of events.

Grossman said that Adath’s 90th anniversary observances include a celebration of the current community and a look back at its history. Adath has a compilation of documents dating back to 1923, when telegrams were sent to Trenton’s Jewish community looking for people to help organize the synagogue.

In some ways, Adath has remained consistent over the years. The synagogue, which has moved once, from Trenton to Lawrenceville, has always been part of the Conservative movement. Many of the changes that have occurred over the years have been social.

“As the world has changed, the synagogue has changed,” Grossman said.

Adath excels in its commitment to education, including adult education and special education, Grossman said. The synagogue is also designed to be accessible for everyone.

Ellen Botwin, Adath’s executive director, said that the synagogue participates in community events as part of its outreach efforts.

“We’re here for them if they ever need a spiritual home or someone to talk to. I can’t tell you how many people speak to the rabbi. They’re not members, but he’s so accessible,” she said. “Some of them aren’t even Jewish, but they just love him.”

Janice Pincus joined the Adath community in 1982, when she married Larry Pincus, one of the congregation’s former presidents. Pincus remembers that her husband was impressed after interviewing Grossman for the position of rabbi.

“He thought he was great, and they hired him,” Pincus said. “He’s wonderful for Adath. He really put our name on the map.”

Adath is once again in a time of transition. The synagogue is interviewing candidates to fill the position of senior rabbi. After a decision is made, Grossman will move into the position of rabbi emeritus. He is committed to making sure that the changes happen smoothly.

“We’re doing this as a transition, and I think that it’s a much healthier way to do it, much more intelligent,” Grossman said. “From a personal point of view, I think, ‘I worked 25 years to see something flourish. I don’t want to see it damaged.’”

Some of Grossman’s strongest memories revolve around the community.

“The whole township basically used this as the focal point for 9/11,” Grossman said. “We had services here with the imam and myself, and lots of ministers and priests.”

After the national tragedy, Grossman and Imam Ali traveled to local communities to promote peace by addressing issues of anger and Islamophobia.

Perhaps the most vivid of Grossman’s memories revolve around lifecycle events, both with his own family and with those in the congregation.

“There are now lots of kids here who are named as babies, whose parents I knew when they were kids,” Grossman said.

Grossman’s daughter, Miriam, plans to begin her own rabbinical studies in the summer.

“I am very pleased that Miriam wants to go forward and do that,” Grossman said. “It wasn’t something we encouraged or discouraged. It was her choice, and part of that, I think, is a good reflection on the synagogue, that she had a good experience here.”

Now, the synagogue is welcoming the newest generation of congregants. Botwin said that a number of new members have joined, including families with young children. Over the past few years, attendance at children’s prayer services has increased.

“I think in that regard, the future looks healthy,” Grossman said. “It looks very good.”

Information about the Adath Israel Congregation and its upcoming events is available online at adathisraelnj.org or by phone at (609) 896-4977.