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As a result of a local notice placed by Freehold native Bernie Wagner (of Bill's Plumbing Supplies), about twenty-five curious Brooklyn/Bronx "transplants" met at the "Trotters & Pacers" (now the Empire Diner) to discuss an alternative for our children to the Orthodox/Conservative synagogues (two of them) in our area. Some of the men present had had a limited Jewish background - a few had been Bar Mitzvahed. Two women could actually read Hebrew and one had even been confirmed in the Jewish faith. Five or so couples made inquiry of the Conservative and Reform Unions in New York City and quickly concluded that since the Reform movement seemed much more interested in securing a "foothold" in the now fastest growing area in New Jersey, and offered us the best options and encouragement and resources, that was the best route for us.

In February 1966, nine couples filed our corporate certificate in Trenton and chose the name "Gates of Truth" (Shaari Emeth). And so we began.

The UAHC furnished us with prayer books, religious symbols, and many other resources, and provided us with a bi-monthly student rabbi (as long as we fed him and housed him on Friday night). We searched for places to conduct services and school, and wandered in "nomad-like" fashion to the basements of various homes, the First Presbyterian Church in Englishtown, the Clark Mills Elementary School, and the then Carver Nursing Home in Manalapan.

Our children between the ages of five and ten all met together in the "one room schoolhouse" (the basement of our two volunteer teachers, Mrs. Whitehouse and Mrs. Tinkler).

The key to our success and rapid development was: 1) the unlimited use of the News Transcript with a constant barrage of information which helped increase our numbers; and 2) all of us doing everything from door to door seeking of members, to forming the best local softball team in the area, to holding the first high holiday services at what was then Koos Brothers Furniture Warehouse in Freehold. Eventually we organized the biggest yearly social event in the area which came to be known as the "Shaari Shindig" and five of the men formed a local singing group known as the Shaari Shockers.

To the general public, we appeared to be the largest and most active group in the community, and before long we were almost two hundred families strong and growing rapidly. On land donated by K. Hovnanian and Company, we soon constructed the main wing of our present building, adding the school wing and eventually the youth lounge.

The original small close knit Temple group is gone - but in its place, Shaari Emeth at one time grew to a nine hundred family community in the Freehold area.

The founding families were: Eleanor and Stuart Caine, Leah and Joel Gillule, Audrey and Allan Pekor, Gail and Joel Price, Sandy and Paul Solomon, Barbara and Les Tinkler, Babette and Bernie Wagner, Sandy and Don Whitehouse, and Arlene and Norman Weiner.

Click here for a history of the clergy at Temple Shaari Emeth.

Thu, May 23 2024 15 Iyar 5784