Norristown Jewish Center Reunion Bringing Old — and New — Friends Together Again

Just how desperate was Steve Schwartz to make the Norristown Jewish Community Center reunion at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell a success? He was willing to join Facebook to help spread the word.

Just how desperate was Steve Schwartz to make the Norristown Jewish Community Center reunion at Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell a success? He was willing to join Facebook to help spread the word.
This Shabbat, June 24, he’ll finally find out if it paid off.
“There was the Norristown Jewish Center and Tiferet Israel in Lansdale. They merged with Bet Israel to become Tiferet Bet Israel in 1989,” the 59-year-old Schwartz, a computer consultant from Wynnewood, explained about what has been nearly a six-month endeavor. “My father was involved in the construction.
“Both my parents [Alvin and Janet Schwartz] died within the last year. I’m doing this to honor them. They would’ve loved it.”
Schwartz first approached TBI Executive Director Susan Kasper with the reunion idea during the winter. She immediately came aboard.
“TBI has such a rich history,” Kasper said. “To bring the idea Steve had of bringing back some of the people — some who’ll be coming out of state — to reality, I think will not only help bring that community together but also help build our new community.
“It’s going to shed a wonderful new light on TBI’s history.”
To get the whole thing started, though, Schwartz needed an inside man, since he wasn’t a member at TBI.
He enlisted former TBI President Marc Bernstein, who was not only happy to run with the idea, but is looking forward to a separate reunion — with the Rising Tide — the band he played in as a teenager.
“It was Steve’s idea,” said the 61-year-old Bernstein, who’s still a musician and has been busy learning some of the old melodies to the prayers for the Shabbat service. “He made me the liaison.
“All I’ve done is help put services together and put out the social media stuff. I usually play guitar with the cantor (who’ll be away that night). I hope to bring some of that spirit to it.
“It’s a nice way to spend Friday and come back and connect with people.”
Now that he had a place to hold it and someone connected with the synagogue, all Schwartz had to do was track down nearly 30 years of NJCC members.
He began by posting class confirmation pictures on Facebook — which he previously refused to join — and was overwhelmed with the response.
“The next day I had 150 members,” said Schwartz, who’s been busy ever since contacting people.
“Since there, there’s been about a 50-50 breakdown. I find there’s a sharp division between the young, who are on Facebook, and older people, who are not. I’ve been spending my Sunday afternoons calling people at random.
“When I talk to older people, they want to share their history with me. I’ve been to people’s houses. I’ve learned a lot about how the synagogue was founded.
“I’m looking forward to rekindling more of those old relationships.”
The program will start at 4 p.m. on June 24 with videos of the old Norristown center on Powell Street and other tidbits about the city, coupled with history and schmoozing. That will be followed by a dairy dinner, services and an Oneg Shabbat. Dinner is $18 a person but only $36 per family — no matter how many attend.
“We want to cook traditional meals from the cookbook of that era, and we’ll have services of that era,” said Schwartz, who was assisted in the project by Marsha Ginsberg Axler. “We must’ve contacted 500 people, but I’m not sure how many are coming.
“People don’t RSVP anymore. No one commits until the last minute. We had 12 people as of Memorial Day. Now I’m getting five to10 a day. But anyone’s welcome. I just don’t know how many to expect.”
He’ll find out soon enough, then will be able to decompose a bit.
“I’ll be relieved when it’s over,” he admitted. “It’s been a lot of work, but I’m praying it’ll be a success — just for people to come and have a good time.”
Then see how many “likes”  they put on his Facebook page.
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729


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