Ahavat Olam recently concluded a yearlong series of festivities celebrating 10 years as a congregation. The celebration began in April 2015 with a trip to Israel, continued with their first-ever Jewish Food Festival and ended with the celebration of Shavuot in June.
“We’ve had a tremendous year of events to celebrate,” said Danny Marmorstein, Ahavat Olam’s founding spiritual leader, rabbi and cantor.
“We are very grateful to have been together for these last 10 years and feel blessed to look forward to what we call another ‘decade of love.’”
Founded in 2005, Ahavat Olam’s name translates from Hebrew to “everlasting love” or “love of the world.”
Marmorstein’s roots can be traced back to Congregation Bet Breira, where he served as cantor with the temple’s founder, Rabbi Barry Tabachnikoff. When Tabachnikoff passed away, some members of the congregation turned to Marmorstein, who, with Tabachnikoff’s blessing, had recently been ordained a rabbi from Maimonides University. They began looking for a permanent place to have their services and eventually chose Killian Pines United Methodist Church, which coincidentally was where Rabbi Tabachnikoff founded Bet Breira many years before.
“We looked at many different places, but this was the one that embraced us the most,” he said. “It’s a good neighborhood, parking is plentiful and there are handicap accommodations. We took all of this into consideration and found it best fit our needs.”
Ahavat Olam and the church have a complimentary relationship. They share a sanctuary and temple artisans have designed religious adornments, quilt and plaques that can be moved easily to accommodate whomever is using it at the time. They are an open congregation; all Jews and interfaith families are encouraged to participate in their vibrant community.
“No matter what faith you are or what your gender is, in our congregation everybody has equal rights, opportunities and honors,” he said.
“Even our prayer books have readings from sources other than the Jewish faith, like Buddhism.”
Music is an enormous component of Ahavat Olam’s identity.
Marmorstein, who received degrees from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the University of Miami in music education and choir conducting, refers to their Shabbat service as a “musical cornucopia.”
Traditional Hebrew songs, Marmorstein’s own compositions and contemporary numbers whose lyrics have relationships with Hebrew prayer (such as Lady Antebellum’s Compass and Bette Midler’s From a Distance) are included in services and performed by the Big Bad Bima Band, a rock ensemble of seasoned professionals, and the Choral Society, who also perform in retirement homes and shopping malls during the holidays.
“Musicians are drawn to our synagogue and I believe part of that has to do with my love of music” he said. “We have Grammy winners in our congregation. We have a harpist who is an international award winner in both jazz and classical music. Music is constantly around. It’s as much a love of mine as family and Judaism.”
Outreach is another important element for Ahavat Olam. Coordinated by religious school director Linda Levinson, Marmorstein’s wife, teen and adult members visit Chapman Partnership in Homestead on teacher workdays to spend time with and educate homeless children.
They also donate food to the Fellowship House of South Miami and host an annual community second night Passover Seder at Roasters ‘n’ Toasters.
“To be open and inclusive is very important, not just about Judaism but of any faith,” he said. “We try through different means — whether it’s food, music, education — to find commonality between everybody while promoting Judaism. If we can find some life experience that we take to enrich ourselves, we share it and talk about it so others can see it as well.”
Ahavat Olam is located at 10755 SW 112 St. For more information call 305-412-4240 or visit www.AhavatOlam.org.