Aims & History
The aims of JCNJ shall be as follows:
- To increase the awareness of principles of Jainism.
- To provide a platform for projecting a voice of the Jain Religion in the U.S. and other countries.
- To establish communication between scholars on Jain philosophy and this Center.
- To observe Jain Festivals.
- To promote co-operation an1ong different factions of Jainism.
- To promote understanding with other religions.
History of JCNJ
The history of the Jain Center of New Jersey (JCNJ), one of the largest Jain Sangh in North America, is a story of vision, dedication and a strong commitment to nurturing Jain religion in New Jersey and the surrounding areas. The story begins with the period of the early 1970s when a significant number of Jains started to arrive and settle in New Jersey. This flow of Jains continues through the decades and brings us to the present day in 2012. It can be said without any doubt that the major part of this continuing story is still to be written by the young and future generations of New Jersey Jains for whom this is just the beginning.
A small group of people in the Newark/Maplewood/Orange tri‐city area in New Jersey got together and began performing activities to bring awareness of Jain religion. These activities included prayers, meetings, poojas and pratikramans. Activities were held in homes and rented halls. This group made announcements on community TV programs to publicize and encourage participation by those who were not aware of such activities.
A major religious get together took place in 1976 at a church in Maplewood; a 100+ Jains attended this gathering. This gathering sowed seeds for the creation of Jain Sangh and expansion in activities. Major Jain events such as Mahavir Jayanti, Paryushan Parva and other occasions started being celebrated in various churches and rented halls. In keeping with our ancient heritage, the Sangh started to think about having their own Jain Center.
Pujya Gurudev Chitrabhanuji came to bless this New Jersey Sangh in the summer of 1978. A religious discourse was held in a peaceful setting at a park in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Pujya Guruji provided guidance to the Sangh for the formation of Jain Center.
On August 31, 1980, the Sangh incorporated Jain Center of New Jersey (JCNJ). Constitution of the JCNJ was adopted on November 21, 1980. IRS granted tax‐exempt status to JCNJ on July 9, 1981. A small directory of the Jains living in the area was published in summer 1982.
Just two years after the establishment of JCNJ, the members’ dream of having their own temple was realized. In 1981 JCNJ bought a property at 233 Runnymede Road in Essex Fells and renovated it to establish a Derasar. Contributions and loans from the members provided financing for the purchase and renovation. This Derasar is popularly known as the Caldwell Derasar due to its proximity to the larger town of Caldwell and continues to serve JCNJ members in a vibrant manner. Shri Pratapbhai Shah, father of Ramesh Shah donated three Pratimaji – Mulnayak Parshwanath, Mahavir Swami and Ruhsabhdev – to JCNJ. Pratishtha Mahotsav of the Derasar was held in August 1982. Gurudev Chitrabhanuji and Acharya Sushilmuniji provided inspiration and valuable guidance to JCNJ during its formative years.
JCNJ’s religious activities expanded rapidly with Jains coming to the new Derasar in large numbers on various events. Under the able leadership of several Sangh members, the activities expanded to include Celebration of Paryushan Parva, Mahavir Jayanti, Pravachans by Jain Gurus/Scholars from India; Diwali and New Year; Monthly Pooja; Swadhayas; Samuh Samayiks; Shibirs; and Samuh Ayambils.
Executive Committee (EC) members elected at Annual General Body meetings managed activities and operations of the JCNJ. The EC was gradually expanded from 5 to 21 members to reflect the growth in JCNJ membership and its activities. Bylaws were created to streamline management. These were approved in 1996.
Growth of the activities and increase in membership necessitated renting of college and high school halls for Paryushan, Mahavir Jayanti and Diwali/New Year celebrations.
A directory of the members and other local Jains was published in 1986 and again in 1998.
To accommodate the needs of JCNJ, it was decided to search for a larger second site with a goal of constructing a traditional Shikharbandhi Derasar as well as a large hall, dining facility, pathshala classes and other amenities at a suitable site.
Many sites were visited. Eventually, the Franklin Township (FT) site at 111 Cedar Grove Lane was identified as a possible site to pursue in 1999. After a detailed comparison of alternative sites, our Sangh selected the FT site.
JCNJ initiated the project with Stage 1 (2000‐2006) consisting of land acquisition, approval from several governmental agencies, project design, site work, initial fundraising and performing of several auspicious events at the site. Several leading members of Board of Trustees, Executive Committee and Jain community assisted in Stage 1 (2000 – 2006).
A conceptual design for the project comprising of Derasar, multi‐purpose Main Hall and Care‐Taker House. A site engineering firm, The Reynolds Group, was hired to prepare the site plan. Critical wetlands approval was obtained from the NJDEP in Trenton. Franklin Township Planning Board unanimously approved the project subject to obtaining approval from several additional local, county and state agencies. With the blessings of our Tirthankars, JCNJ purchased the 9.6 acre FT site in December of 2000.
After meticulous work with consulting site engineers, all approvals were obtained including from the Somerset County Planning Board, Somerset County Engineering Division, FT Sewerage Authority, FT Water Authority, NJDEP, Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, and Somerset Union Soil Conservation District. The site work was approved by the FT after JCNJ posted a performance bond. Fund‐raising for the project was initiated.
To manage expanded activities of JCNJ, Bylaws approved in 1996 was updated and a new Board of Trustees was established and elected in 2002. Subsequently, biannual elections of the EC and BOT were held to govern the operation of JCNJ
The wooded FT site was partially cleared so that our auspicious Bhumi Poojan can be performed at the site. The Bhumi Poojan and Shilaropan muhurat dates were given by Pujya Acharya Ashokchandrasuriji. Bhumi Poojan was performed on May 18, 2003, guided by Gurudev Chitrabhanuji and Shri Rajendrabhai Dalal; and Shilaropan Mahotsav was performed on June 22, 2003, guided by Shri Rajendrabhai Dalal. Local, County and State dignitaries were invited to the events.
Extensive amount of site work consisting of underground stormwater detention and drainage system, water system, sewer system, partial paving, and curbing was completed. After meeting code‐required asbestos abatement and environmental regulations, an old dilapidated house on the site was demolished. Water, sewer and gas connections were made.
Proposals were obtained from consulting architects, MEP and structural engineers for detailed design of the buildings. A concept of the two‐phase project was developed to match costs with available funds. Revised approval was obtained from the township for Phase 1 to include construction of Derasar and one wing of the Main hall consisting of Digambar Derasar, Sthanakvasi Upashraya and Shrimad Rajchandra Dhyan Mandir on the upper floor, and kitchen and bathrooms on the lower floor. Phase I also included Shell structure for the balance of the Main Hall building.
Activities at Caldwell Derasar as well as Pathshala at multiple locations continued to expand while the FT project was in progress. Attendance at Caldwell Derasar on Saturdays and Sundays was steadily increasing. Enrollment in Pathshala classes was rising. Additional Swadhyay and other religious activities were being organized.
Under the leadership of prevailing Board of Trustees and Executive Committee, a decision was made to celebrate 25th anniversary of the Caldwell Derasar, and carry out Jirnoddhar of the Derasar. The Jirnoddhar project included the addition of Bhamati, internal Shikhars, Gokhlas for Dev/Devi and space for two additional Pratimaji. After careful evaluation, contract for renovation was given to International Construction Contracting, Inc. A contract for fabricating marble‐look components of Derasar was given to Temple Arts of San Diego.
Utthapan Vidhi was performed by Vidhikar Narendrabhai Shah of Ahmedabad. Dr. Prakash Doshi and family kindly offered a separate area in their home for temporary Sthapana of our Bhagwans during Jirnoddhar. The Jirnoddhar of Caldwell Derasar was completed in 2009.
Pratishtha of the three original Pratmaji, new Kausagmudra Pratimaji of Shri Shantinath and Shri Nageshwar Parshwanath, Dev/Devis and Guru Pratimas was celebrated with great enthusiasm in July 2009. Concerted, all‐out efforts were made by the members of the prevailing Board of Trustees and Executive Committee members to launch and finish Stage 2 of the FT project (2007‐2012). Many members of JCNJ assisted in Stage 2. Stage 2 consisted of the detailed design of buildings, awarding of construction contracts, marble procurement and fabrication, continued fund raising and construction.
After a thorough comparison, contracts for the detailed design were awarded to Architectural firm of Misra and Associates, MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing) firm Lakhani and Jordan, and Structural Engineering firm CEC. Detailed design of the Derasar was developed with the guidance from our Acharyas and help of C.B. Sompura in India.
Under the guidance of Acharya Rajyashsuriji, Anjan Shalaka of five Tithankar Bhagwan Pratimaji – Mulnayak Munisuvrat‐Swami, Mahavir‐Swami, Simadhar‐Swami, Sankheshwar Parshwanath, and Vasupujya‐Swami was performed with a great celebration at the Kulpakji Tirth near Hyderabad, Andra Pradesh, India in December of 2008 with members of JCNJ in attendance. Kulpakji Tirth graciously obliged by accommodating JCNJ Tirthankar Bhagwan Pratimaji in the Anjan Salaka and Pratistha Mahotsav of their Shantinath Bhagwan Derasar. Kulpakji further obliged JCNJ by caring for the five JCNJ Bhagwan Pratimaji till July 2010 without any request or contribution from the JCNJ.
Proposals were invited from several construction companies to construct Phase 1. After thorough analysis, the construction contract for Phase 1 of the project was awarded to Rashi Construction. Second Shilanyas was performed at the exact location of the Ghabhara.
Construction and fundraising continued. Building shells were constructed. JCNJ assumed the responsibility for marble design, fabrication, and procurement.
Idea of adding Phase 2 construction was approved by JCNJ. Phase 2 included all interior work for Main Hall with a large stage for cultural events, Green Rooms, Library, Entry Foyer on the first floor; Seating area and projection room at the mezzanine floor; and Dining Hall, Pathsala Rooms and storage, on the lower level. Chal Pratishtha of five Pratimaji was done on July 18, 2010, at Dr. Prakash and Pritiben Doshi’s newly constructed Derasar (attached to their House) in East Hanover. Doshi family went on to care for the five Bhagwan Pratimaji till July 2012 when the Sthir (final) Pratistha of these Pratimaji is planned for on July 7, 2012. Doshi family’s contribution to the Sangh in this regard remains noteworthy and remarkable.
Construction and fundraising continued. Marble shipment started to arrive from India requiring significant commitment from the Board of Trustees leadership team in logistics management. Substantial guidance was graciously provided by Shree Sankheshwar Tirth Pedhi with the marble work. JCNJ assumed the responsibility of marble installation and worked directly with a master marble installer.
With the blessings and guidance of Acharyas Rajyashsuri Maharaj, Pratishtha date of July 7, 2012, was announced creating a tremendous sense of anticipation.
Phase 2 detailed design contract was awarded to Mistry Design architect firm. A construction contract for Phase 2 was awarded to International Construction Contracting.
Phase 1 and 2 were substantially completed with significant efforts and oversight by the JCNJ leadership. Various dignitaries/gurujis from India blessed our site during development and construction ‐ including Chitrabhanuji, Bandhu Triputiji, Acharya Chandanaji, and many more.
PRATISHTHA of New Jinalay
Under the leadership of the 2011‐2012 Board of Trustees, Executive Committee, Advisory Board and 30 plus committees and many volunteers, the Pratishtha Mahotsav was celebrated by JCNJ members. The Pratishtha Mahotsav created tremendous enthusiasm and excitement in the Sangh. All members of the Sangh had pulled together with a singular vision of celebrating this once‐in‐a‐lifetime Pratistha in the most memorable manner.