The West Orange community is excited to welcome visitors and prospective residents to its annual Discover West Orange Shabbaton, to be held this year on the Shabbat of March 8-9, Parshat Pekudei. The shabbaton is a way for the township’s Jewish community to show potential newcomers what makes West Orange so special.
When families are considering a new community, there are many factors to consider. Affordability is always paramount, likely followed by proximity to work or ease of commute and quality of schools. West Orange fulfills both of these very important criteria.
West Orange offers housing at a variety of price points, giving the buyer more for his money in every price range. The township is located within 15 miles of New York City, giving commuters easy access via bus, train and PATH. For families needing access to Manhattan or elsewhere, the township provides jitney service to and from NJ Transit stations in nearby towns.
The community is fairly centrally located in terms of schools. There is a preschool, the Lauren Elise Bier Nursery School, housed at Congregation AABJ&D, and the local yeshivas also offer pre-kindergarten programs. These yeshivas, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, located in the adjacent town of Livingston, and The Jewish Educational Center, located in nearby Elizabeth, provide schooling for pre-k through grade 12. Not only are the schools easily accessible, they, in cooperation with the shuls and MetroWest JCC, offer newcomers to the community tremendous financial incentives. The New Family Incentive program offers families who move to West Orange, join one of its shuls and send their children to one of these yeshivas financial incentives amounting to over $50,000. For those who opt for public school but still desire a Jewish education, the community is currently in the planning stages of offering a Hebrew School-type program to meet those needs. This Kulanu program is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2019.
For observant families, once you get past these basic criteria, the next two community must-haves are eruv and mikvah. The West Orange eruv has been in place since 1983, was expanded fairly recently and is checked weekly. The mikvah has been a strong and vibrant institution in the community for decades and is maintained at the highest halachic standards.
Beyond these important considerations, families often look to the amenities. The greater community boasts more than a dozen kosher eateries and shopping establishments. The biggest addition to the township was the opening of Aron’s West Orange in the fall of 2018. A full-service kosher supermarket, Aron’s also sells freshly made sushi, and prepared food.
The Discover West Orange Shabbaton showcases the unity within the town. Congregations AABJ&D and Ohr Torah typically host this special Shabbat, and AABJ&D’s Rabbi Zwickler believes that by joining forces, the shuls “send a message of unity” to prospective community members.
Rabbi Marc Spivak, spiritual leader of Ohr Torah, agrees. “What I believe is truly special about West Orange is how well the shuls and people from all walks of life get along.”
Rabbi Yosef Sharbat, the rabbi of the Sephardic minyan at AABJ&D, noted that it is not only Ashkenazic families who can feel welcome in West Orange. “We may not all daven together, but we all come together and are united as a community.”
Andrew Yolin, shabbaton co-chair for the past several years, commented, “We have welcomed over 30 new families in the last two years. It’s especially great that they are moving in from all over and blending together into one strong, growing community.”
Nicole and Sam Reinman, who joined the West Orange community in late August with their two school-age children, commented, “We saw right away that every community member has an opportunity to be involved in the growth of our community. The proximity to all the local schools gives us options.”
Jennifer and Gabriel Minsky, who moved to West Orange from the Upper West Side with their 2-year-old son, recently welcomed a new baby to their family. The couple noted, “We instantly felt at home here.”
Rabbi Zwickler stated, “In a world where so many of us are searching for identity and uniqueness, West Orange is a warm embracing place. We are a community where every individual and family, regardless of where they daven, is welcomed and cherished as a friend and neighbor.”
Anyone interested in learning more about West Orange is invited to attend the upcoming parlor meeting, which will be held on February 10 in Riverdale. For any questions about the parlor meeting, the community in general or the Discover West Orange Shabbaton, please visit discoverwestorange.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All are welcome to attend the shabbaton, but registration is required. Please visit discoverwestorange.com to register.
By Jill Kirsch