Temple Beth Or To Be Sold Amid Shrinking Congregation

Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn

  BRICK – Temple Beth Or, which has been a fixture on the corner of Van Zile Road, just off Route 70, since the early 1960s, is on the market as the 17,000-square foot building has become too large for the congregation, said Rabbi Robert Rubin in a recent phone call.

  “It was great for a long time, but we thought if we could sell the property and find something in Brick, then it would be better for the long term, keep the congregation together, just get a smaller facility,” he said. “Various people have looked at it, and we’ve had some previous closings, contracts and dates, and they didn’t happen. Nothing’s been sold yet.”

Temple Beth Or’s congregation is seeking a new home. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  The office in the building is still open, but meetings, services, shabbat services and board meetings are all online due to COVID-19, which has made selling the building and finding a new space even more difficult, the rabbi said.

  “We went through different ideas,” Rubin said. “Was there any way to stay here and split the current property? Or sell half of it? We went through different scenarios, but again, nothing is firm until there’s a closing.”

  The synagogue and its 4.6-acre site hasn’t been sold, but it is under contract with an eye on a closing date at the end of February or beginning of March, said Temple Beth Or President Sandi Silber.

  While Silber said she could not disclose who the buyer is, it is a group from Lakewood and it is being sold as a temple.

An illustration of the original synagogue was published in the Asbury Park Evening Press on March 26, 1965. (Photo courtesy Temple Beth Or)

  “I don’t know what they’re going to do, I don’t know whether [they are going to run it as a temple] or do something else,” she said.

  There is also a smaller, 3,000 square foot original temple onsite as well as a 3-bedroom residence for the Rabbi, she said.

  The congregation is not happy about selling the property, but they are unable to keep up with the sprawling site, she said. “We cannot maintain it, as is.”

  Most of the congregation are Brick residents, but there are also members from surrounding towns like Point Pleasant, Howell and Lakewood.

This shot was taken when the original building was being constructed in the 1960s. (Photo courtesy Temple Beth Or)

  “The search for a new space has not been fruitful,” Silber said. “We need two acres, by ordinance,” and everything they’ve looked at has been too big or too small.

  “We haven’t decided if we want to buy or lease a new place, or rent an existing place, or build,” she said. “Whatever we do, Brick Township has to approve. We don’t do anything that is illegal or not allowed. That’s where we are.”

  For the time being, the congregation is looking for office space so they can continue to run Zoom meetings and services until the public health crisis ends.

  “If we need to, and the government will allow us for the high holidays, we will rent a hall or a hotel and have the High Holidays there,” she said.

This sketch of what the new synagogue would look like appeared in the Asbury Park Press on December 10, 1976. (Photo courtesy Temple Beth Or)

  The origin of Temple Beth Or goes back to 1951, when a group of 44 Jewish women living at the Shore held a meeting in Manasquan. After a second meeting, they decided to create a structured club with a charter and officers. Afterwards, they met at the Point Pleasant American Legion Hall on a regular basis, which was the beginning of the movement for Jewish families in the area.

  In 1954 they formed a Hebrew school, and by 1959 there were 33 children enrolled. In 1958, a Men’s Jewish Club was formed, and together with the Women’s Club, established the Temple Beth Or congregation in 1961.

  In August 1968 Rabbi Perlman became the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Or. In 1976 Rabbi Dr. Robert E. Fierstien became the new religious leader after Rabbi Perlman’s retirement.

The original synagogue looked like this when it was first opened. (Photo courtesy Temple Beth Or)

  Rabbi Fierstien led the congregation for over 30 years, followed by Rabbi Royi Shaffin who served from 2008 until 2011. Rabbi Rubin has served as the spiritual leader since then.