How We Began
East Brunswick was once a tranquil and rural town. Can you imagine that Clusters of homes were interspersed with groves of trees, apple orchards and potato farms? Shopping centers did not exist and Route 18 served the town as the two-lane road. When Route 18 was only a two lane highway, shopping centers did not exist and you could buy your food and drink (including those with alcohol) and your hunting licenses and supplies at the Foodtown on Milltown Road and Ryders Lane, where the Walgreens now stands. It was in 1957 when Dorie Mandel and Bea Hess were faced with a dilemma. They desperately needed more players! Dorie and Bea did become successful in enticing a group of players and soon this group took up other social activities. Shortly after, someone voiced concern that there was need for a local Jewish group.
Mel and Bea Rosenhack held a meeting in their home for the purpose of determining whether there actually was a need to form such a group. Bea expected twenty guests. She was, “Dumbfounded and flat-footed” when instead, forty people appeared! It was then decided that there was definitely a need for a Jewish organization. The group planned to convene next at AmVet’s Hall in East Brunswick. And thus, the seeds were sown for the organization that would eventually evolve into the East Brunswick Jewish Center.
Murray Rosenthal insisted that he was asked to chair that first meeting because “I was older than most of the young residents, had a deep bass voice and had spoken up a few times at Lawrence Brook Village Association meetings.” We believe it was because he had the wisdom and tact necessary to lead an infant group.
The name first adopted for our organization was the East Brunswick Community Group. We were somewhat in doubt about where we were headed. The enthusiasm generated at the AmVet’s Hall was sufficient fuel to stoke all those present through an exciting and growing experience. However, by early 1959, links to synagogues in Highland Park, the hiring of a temporary Rabbi, the formation of a constitution and regular meetings in the Grange Hall, lead to the first Bar Mitzvah with our first Torah on January 27, 1962, only five years after that first coffee klatch in the Rosenhack home. (By the way, the Grange Hall stood next to the firehouse on Dunhams Corner Road near Ryders Lane. It became Playhouse 22 which has since moved south on Cranbury Road to a beautiful new facility.)
Our first rented facility, which was to serve us until we moved into our own home, was the Township Grange Hall (previously the YMCA) on Dunhams Corner Road.
Since that time many things have taken place. Twenty-five thousand dollars purchased a five-acre plot of land at 511 Ryders Lane, our current home. After multiple expansions, we have grown into a facility that can house up to seven hundred families for the High Holy Day services and several hundred children in various levels of Hebrew school classes.