PEABODY – Temple Ner Tamid has come a long way since holding makeshift High Holiday services in the lower levels of the Northshore Mall.
Sixty years later, the Peabody congregation gathers in a large synagogue atop a hill. It boasts roughly 200 families, including increasing amounts with young children drawn to its reinvigorated Hebrew school.
To celebrate its six decades as a center of Peabody’s Jewish community, Ner Tamid will host a three-day celebration from Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 2.
“I love the fact that my shul is 60 years old, and I can’t wait for them to be talking about it when it’s 120,” said Rabbi Richard Perlman, who will perform a concert with his three brothers, Emanuel (Manny), Josh, and Eli – who are also rabbis and cantors – for the celebration. “This synagogue has a beautiful reputation – there have been many, many years of wonderful, spiritual, programming, education; great leaders, great people who have put so much into it to see that the shul did well.”
Ner Tamid was founded in 1959 as droves of Jews were moving to Peabody from places like Malden, Everett, and Chelsea. Before the High Holidays, a few of these new transplants decided to get together for Conservative Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. They hired a rabbi and cantor, and held the first services at Cy Tenney Hall in West Peabody.
Those in attendance decided that they would form a temple and call it “Ner Tamid,” Hebrew for “Eternal Light.” After moving around to different locations in Peabody for a few years, the current building was completed off Lowell Street in 1965.
The anniversary festivities will kick off with a Friday night Shabbat dinner to honor all past presidents of the temple, the Sisterhood, the Men’s Club, and United Synagogue Youth chapter, followed by the installation of new temple officers. Rabbi Perlman’s brother Manny, who is a recently retired cantor from just outside Baltimore and has been deemed the “Hazzan-in Residence” for the weekend, will assist in the Friday night service.
The following day, Marvin Wilson, who taught Old Testament, Hebrew, and Jewish Studies at Gordon since 1971 at Gordon College in Wenham before retiring last year, will give a talk after Shabbat services. A luncheon and study session will follow.
On Sunday, the old band will reunite. For many years, Rabbi Perlman and his brothers have performed music together. Manny is the hazzan emeritus at the Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville, Md.; Josh is the cantor at B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville, Md.; and Eli is a rabbi and cantor at Congregation Beit Shalom in Monroe Township, N.J.
The Perlmans bring decades of musical experience and kinship to their performances. In the auditorium of Peabody’s new Higgins Middle School, the brothers, along with keyboardist David Sparr, will treat the congregation to an eclectic combination of cantorial classics, Jewish and Israeli songs, and secular music like the Bee Gees and the Kingston Trio.
“The 60th is the diamond year,” said Temple President Adele Lubarsky. “The vision of Temple Ner Tamid 60 years ago was a very rough stone, but because of all of the hands that have been part of our temple, they have turned it into a precious stone.”