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Volunteer Beth Gruber's Sense of Community

Beth Gruber is vice president of the religious school at Temple Beth Sholom in Smithtown.

Temple Beth Sholom volunteer Beth Gruber believes in not only teaching children about their faith, but fully engaging the children in their religion.

"I wanted my children to have great experiences [at the school], and really enjoy being Jewish," Gruber said.  She began volunteering with the religious school's kindergarten through seventh grade programs to spread this mission.

Gruber became a member of Temple Beth Sholom seven years ago and started volunteering two years later.

Today, Gruber is vice president of the religious school, where she coordinates the Saturday morning, Monday and Wednesday after school classes and various other activities for children to have fun and become more interested in their religion. 

For the current Jewish festival of Sukkot, Gruber helped to put together "Pizza in the Hut," where the rabbi holds a special holiday service for children to learn about the holiday, as well as eat pizza together in a casual atmosphere.

Gruber also sees the importance of connecting parents, as well as older members of the temple, with children in the religious school to "showcase their talents," whether that be teaching Hebrew or showing children how to make latkes. Both adults and children enjoy working together and they make for memorable experiences.

"I don't want them to go to school and say, 'that was boring.'  I want them to say, 'hey, that was fun,'" Gruber said.

To enhance this sense of community, the temple reaches out to the nearby Grace Church and has a shared Thanksgiving service. The temple also invites the church's youth group to meet the youth of Temple Beth Sholom for various activities. 

"[The activities] bridge religions," Gruber said.  "It was really humanity.  It was amazing."

Gruber also runs the Comedy Night fundraiser at the temple, and has helped coordinate the temple's presentation of Elizabeth Bettina's book, It Happened in Italy, which details the role of Italians in helping Jews during the Holocaust. The temple reached out to local churches, as well as the local chapter of Sons of Italy to join them in a service and discussion of the book with the author, a historian, and Holocaust survivors.

Gruber credits the "wonderful group of parents and older members" to the success of the temple events and religious school.

"It's all a team effort," she said.

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