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By: Kelly Jemal Massry

Ohel Yaacob Congregation, also known as the Lawrence Avenue Synagogue in Deal, New Jersey, has an almost 40-year history. For decades it has been serving the community and developing and expanding to meet the needs of the community. To keep up with rapid growth and in order to accommodate the large and growing kahal and “standing room only” minyanim, its latest renovation and brand new state of the art expansion is set to be unveiled this summer.

A spacious first floor lobby gives way to a completely renovated main sanctuary, a world-class bet midrash and an elegant, enlarged banquet hall. The second floor features an expansive and impressive library for Torah study and classes. The full-sized lower level features a grand space for our youth minyan and various classrooms for learning.  A full kitchen is being installed allowing for catering to take place on the premises in the beautiful social hall that comes complete with a mezzanine balcony with gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean. If this sounds majestic, that’s because it is – all in the service of Hashem.

                To appreciate just how far the Synagogue has come, we must go back to its origins. In 1980, a Friday night and Saturday minyan started in Ike Kassin’s house to accommodate people who lived too far to walk to Deal Shul. As the minyan’s attendance outgrew the house, Jack Mamiye renovated his garage and the minyan relocated there.  David E. Franco, A”H, and Moe D. Gindi led the prayers and David Tawil read from the Sefer Torah.

Services might have remained there indefinitely if not for the forward thinking of Victor M. Azrak, A’’H, Albert S. Dweck, Isaac J. Kassin, David E. Franco, Jack E. Mamiye, Albert D. Sutton, A’’H. and Moe D. Gindi who located a piece of land on Lawrence Avenue and pooled together the money to purchase and seed the construction of a new synagogue.

The Congregation was named Ohel Yaacob in honor of Chief Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin, ZT”L. Hacham Baruch Ben Haim, ZT”L, was the founding Rabbi of the Congregation and led the congregation until his passing in 2005. Rabbi Michael Haber served the synagogue faithfully year-round for close to two decades.

As the community keeps growing, with adherence to our religious tradition becoming ever important to us, men of all ages are flocking to the synagogue to hear the rabbis they admire speak and children of all ages as well are following in the ways of their fathers. For this reason, a new expansion was necessary. Led by Ike S. Franco, Chairman of the Building Committee and Jack A. Kassin, President of the Congregation, renovations were instituted from the ground up. Beginning this summer, under the auspices of Rabbi Eli Mansour, Rabbi Moshe Malka, Rabbi Yaakov Elbaz, Rabbi Isaac Yedid, Rabbi David Shelby and Rabbi Joey Mizrahi, congregants will experience a spiritual renaissance in the newly renovated Ohel Yaacob, Lawrence Avenue Synagogue.

“We have expanded, enhanced, and beautified Ohel Yaacob Congregation in order to serve our entire community” says Jack A. Kassin, President of the Congregation. “Our goal is to provide all our people from all segments of the community, with a beautiful synagogue and a glorious venue that can accommodate our religious, educational, and social needs, and all our happy occasions.”

Though the amenities have been upgraded, the atmosphere of the shul – its holiness and antiquity – remains the same. The exalted spirits of Chief Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin, Z”TL, and Founding Rabbi Hacham Baruch Ben Haim, ZT”L, can be felt throughout its halls, elevating the tefilot of the congregants who gather there. These two Rabbis, whose teachings formed the cornerstones of our community and of the Synagogue’s philosophy, worked hard to set the community on a certain path – one of adherence to Sephardic tradition, reverence of Hashem and unconditional peace and unity.

Plaques commemorating their legacies will be prominently displayed on one of the synagogue’s walls. The entire community, including community members who don’t live in the vicinity of the synagogue, are invited to express homage to these two gedolim via sponsorships.

Ray Falack, a board and building committee member, echoes the words of Rabbi Mansour, calling the new infrastructure of Lawrence Avenue Synagogue “old wine in a new bottle” “The physical aspects of the synagogue may be new and improved,” he says, “but the spiritual core of the synagogue is grounded in deep and sacred traditions going back thousands of years.” The new synagogue feels very much like the original. The layout remains very similar albeit on larger and expanded scale.

Ike S. Franco, Chairman of the Building Committee proclaims, “The key is continuing the tradition in the way of Chief Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin, who the Synanaguge is named after, and Hacham Baruch, who was the spiritual leader and whose words, perpetuated by Rabbi Mansour, continue to echo the halls of the synagogue. The hope is to more broadly continue the teachings of those Rabbis in the Jersey Shore area.”

              This summer, we hope you’ll step through the doors of the new Lawrence Avenue Synagogue. Ohel Yaacob is a place that is welcoming to all. Pray in a minyan, stay for a class, enjoy its magnificent views, and study for a time in the amazing bet midrash. Allow the holiness of those who came before – Rabbis and laymen both – to enter your soul and enhance your spiritual growth.          

  There is so much being offered for community members young and old and we hope you’ll take advantage of every enrichment opportunity during the summer months.

“Our synagogue's history is as rich as its beauty” say’s Rabbi Eli J. Mansour, Head Rabbi of the Congregation. “I am certain that our chief rabbis, Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin and Hacham Baruch Ben Haim, are receiving much pleasure from the completion of our new synagogue Ohel Yaacob.”