Ten years ago Rabbi Eli Garfinkel and his wife, Naomi Lasky, arrived at Temple Beth El of Somerset. After a decade immersed in the life of the community and Conservative congregation, a place they call their spiritual home, the couple was honored April 10 at a dinner-dance attended by a sellout crowd of 140 well-wishers.
Guests included Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine, a temple member, and Keith Krivitzky and Susan Antman, CEO/executive director and executive vice president, respectively, of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.
“This is one of the largest dinner-dances we’ve ever had,” said congregation president Marc Hilton. “We actually had to turn people away. That’s a testament to the rabbi and Naomi.”
The two honorees “have really become part of the family since coming here…with their one-year-old twins,” Sari and Josh, said dinner committee member Rick Weitz. “He guided us to becoming egalitarian. His sermons are top-notch. He has led us with joy and compassion and has a wonderful relationship with our young people.”
Garfinkel said that since his arrival he has been most proud of his well-attended adult education classes and the establishment of a second-night Passover seder.
Additionally, he has created a Jewish film festival at the synagogue and has become known for his computer technology skills. He posts his sermons and has created many Jewish-themed smartphone apps.
He also serves as New Jersey president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical arm of the Conservative movement, and is a longtime member of the Franklin Township Martin Luther King Memorial Breakfast Committee, giving the fund-raising speech at the annual event.
Lasky, a trained social worker, is on the board of the Family and Community Services of Somerset County, has organized and led congregational missions to Israel with her husband, chaired Super Sunday for the former Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, and currently serves on the executive committee of the Heart of NJ federation.
Levine told the gathering that Garfinkel, through his educational offerings and divrei Torah, has taught congregants “to appreciate the light” and the importance of caring for the community at large.