THE CONGREGATION ETZ AHAIM IN RECOGNITION OF 75 YEARS OF SERVICE -- (Extensions of Remarks - November 20, 2004)
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge Congregation Etz Ahaim, the oldest Sephardic Jewish congregation in New Jersey, as it celebrates the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish community in the United States.
Etz Ahaim has been serving the Sephardic community of New Jersey for more than seventy-five years. It was founded by Jewish immigrants who named the congregation Etz Ahaim, "Tree of Life," after the oldest synagogue in Salonica, Greece. Founded at the start of the Great Depression, the synagogue struggled to stay afloat. Unable to afford a rabbi, they relied on the uncompensated services of Rabbi Benjamin Naar of Salonica, and on unordained lay leaders Eliyahu Nahama and Elie Saporta until 1955.
Since then, Etz Ahaim has been lead by Rabbis Ishmael Cohen, Murray Greenfield, Rafael Wizman, David Glicksman, Yamin Levy, and, from 1991 until today, Rabbi David Bassous. It has grown since its incorporation in April of 1927 from a circle of 25 worshipping in private residences, to a small community of 75 families in a building on Richmond Street, New Brunswick, to a vibrant congregation of 155 families in Highland Park. What was once a small group, barely able to afford the mortgage on their building during the Great Depression is now a thriving community and religious center of New Jersey.
Today, Etz Ahaim is deeply involved in the Middlesex County community. They sponsor community outreach, philosophy classes, dance lessons, educational opportunities. Etz Ahaim also has an active Sisterhood as old as the congregation itself, and which just came out with a Sephardic cookbook, "Come, es Bueno." On Sunday, November 7, they will be celebrating the 350th anniversary of the start of the Jewish community in the United States.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the profound cultural achievements of Congregation Etz Ahaim, both for the Sephardic community, and for Highland Park in general. I ask that my colleagues join me in honoring them, and their many years of service to Jewish life in the United States.