Peter Tannenbaum, a past synagogue president who is in charge of planning for 50th anniversary activities, echoed Ebbin’s description of Ohav Sholom. “I’ve been a member for 18 years,” Tannenbaum said. “Some people have come and gone. But the thing that has stayed the same is the welcoming, warm feeling … Anyone who wants to stop by at any time can. Our doors are open. We made ourselves available to the community during Sandy. We had food here and let people come inside to charge their cell phones.”
David Denenberg, a Nassau County legislator from Merrick and another past president of Ohav Sholom, also said the synagogue has played an important role in helping the community in times of crisis. “Churches and synagogues are an integral part of our community,” Denenberg said. “I was president in 2001, and I remember how they provided a base of support, friendship and prayer to help people cope with the tragedy of 9/11.”
The synagogue’s anniversary celebration will continue with two special events this fall: a reunion of graduates of its Hebrew school, and a “women at Ohav” program, which will consist of a scholar-in-residence weekend and tributes to past presidents of Ohav Sholom’s Sisterhood. The dates for these events are yet to be scheduled.
In addition to its regular prayer services, Ohav Sholom runs a Hebrew school for children and young adults, a Sisterhood and Men’s Club for its respective female and male members, continuing education classes, youth programming and holiday events. It also engages in charitable work and in political lobbying on behalf of Israel and “issues of justice,” according to Ebbin.
The rabbi said that Ohav Sholom has about 150 to 175 congregants who attend Shabbat services each week, and a greater number who attend prayer services during the High Holy Days. About 70 children are enrolled in the Hebrew School.
Though Ohav Sholom adheres to the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, its leadership stresses that it includes congregants from a variety of Jewish backgrounds and levels of observance. “What’s unique about Ohav is that it’s an orthodox synagogue that has reached 50 years in a community that is not extremely observant. It’s very non-judgmental,” Denenberg said.