N.J. synagogue holds Blessing of the Animals event (PHOTOS) – NJ.com

Posted By on April 30, 2022

Congregation BNai Tikvah Beth Israel synagogue in Washington Township, Gloucester County, held a Blessing of the Animals Sunday to help celebrate the end of Passover.

Rabbi Rachel Dvash Schoenfeld led the blessing for approximately two dozen dogs and one cat.

Animals are incredibly important to Judaism, said Schoenfeld. There is a mitzvah, a commandment to be nice to animals, and actually were supposed to feed animals before we feed ourselves. Were supposed to take care of animals.

Members of Congregation B'Nai Tikvah Beth Israel hold up a tallit to gather under before a blessing of the animals ceremony in the synagogues parking lot in Washington Township, Sunday, April 24, 2022. Joe Warner | For NJ Advance Media

Two years ago, the congregation had planned an in-person Blessing of the Animals, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. So instead of canceling the event altogether, it was held virtually via Zoom.

We had more than 60 screens and well over 100 people on the call, said congregation member Eric Goldstein. (The rabbi) said a few prayers for all of the animals, including dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, bunnies, birds, and hamsters. And then she called on certain students and members of the congregation to talk about their pets.

Blessing of the Animals at Congregation B'Nai Tikvah Beth Israel Synagogue in Washington Township, Sunday, April 24, 2022. Joe Warner | For NJ Advance Media

This years blessing was the first in-person event held to include the entire membership as well as the community since the pandemic hit. It was held at the conclusion of the days Hebrew School to include children and families in recognition of how important animals were to people during the pandemic.

Those in attendance were asked to bring items to donate to the Animal Welfare Association.

The blessing, written by Schoenfelds colleague Rabbi Josh Snyder, conveyed the message that as God created the world, the creation of the animals was important and beautiful, and may they be blessed to always reflect the love of people and love of God, said Schoenfeld.

But perhaps the highlight of the day for Rabbi Rachel Dvash Schoenfeld: I got to pet all the dogs.

Click on the Animal Blessing photo gallery above for more photos.

Freelance photographer Joe Warner contributed to this story.

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Lori M. Nichols may be reached at lnichols@njadvancemedia.com. Follow Lori on Instagram at @photog_lori.

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N.J. synagogue holds Blessing of the Animals event (PHOTOS) - NJ.com

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