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“We have a lot more in common than I thought we would,” is how N.J. State Sen. Nellie Pou of Paterson (D-Dist. 35) summed up her impression of the similarities between New Jersey and Israel, on the final day of her first trip to the Jewish state.
Ms. Pou was one of 12 state legislators in Israel from February 27 through March 3. They were on a tour organized by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations. Most of the participants are not Jewish; for most of them it was a first trip to Israel.
“As a Christian and as a person who has only been able to understand Israel by reading and hearing about it through the media, it was a wonderful opportunity to actually be here. It was the best decision ever,” Ms. Pou said. “So many people have misconceptions about Israel and don’t know how amazing it is. I’ve learned many things by engaging in it and speaking to people here.”
The OU Advocacy Center — formerly known as the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs — has added “mini-missions” to its outreach efforts. Among the first group to take advantage of this opportunity were local advocates from Bergen County, who traveled to Trenton on February 20.
Participants included 12 delegates from Teaneck, Bergenfield, and Fair Lawn, said Josh Pruzansky, OU Advocacy-NJ’s regional director.
Such missions are vital, Mr. Pruzansky said, because “legislators know that anyone who comes all the way down there must really be committed to the issues they’re advocating for. And they know that these people are representing others, so it’s like a mission of 500. It resonates with them.”
With thousands of bills proposed each session, “90 percent don’t go anywhere,” he said. When people advocate for a particular bill, it stands a “better chance of getting closer to a committee.”
If the Beatles’ appearance 50 years ago on the “Ed Sullivan Show” led to millions of record sales, perhaps a bunch of Jewish boys singing a cappella at Torah Academy of Bergen County could lead to thousands of dollars for a worthy cause.
Yeshiva University junior Gaby Novick knows this is possible. The March 12 “V’ata Banim Shiru” a cappella competition, to benefit the Koby Mandell Foundation, is the fourth annual event of its kind that he has executed.
“We have already raised thousands of dollars for the foundation and created a really great program,” he said, adding that he chose to move the competition from Long Island’s Five Towns to Teaneck this year when he heard about TABC’s newly expanded building.
For five years, Hamas held Sgt. Gilad Shalit in captivity in the Gaza Strip, and the global Jewish community prayed and lobbied for his freedom.
In 2011, back-channel negotiations between Israel and Hamas secured Sgt. Shalit’s release in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
At the center of those talks was Dr. Gershon Baskin, co-founder and chair of the Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, who for several years has held quiet talks with contacts in the Gaza Strip while reporting back to the Israeli government. Dr. Baskin will speak Sunday at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes about his role in the negotiations and their aftermath. The talk is co-sponsored by Barnert Temple and the American Jewish Committee’s New Jersey chapter.
It is not an understatement to say that the saga of Women of the Wall is a metaphor for much of the struggle between tradition and change in Israel.
Founded 25 years ago by a group of Israeli and non-Israeli women whose religious affiliations ran from Orthodox to Reform, it has been a flashpoint for the fight for pluralism in Israel, as one side would define it, or the obligation to hold onto God-given mandates on the other.
As its members and supporters fought for the right to hold services in the women’s section, raising their voices in prayer, and later to wear tallitot and read from sifrei Torah, and as their opponents grew increasingly violent in response, it came to define questions of synagogue versus state and showcase both the strengths and the flaws of Israel’s extraordinary parliamentary system. It also highlighted rifts between American and Israeli Jews.
A South Brunswick rabbi says he has no idea why two former confidants of Gov. Chris Christie joked last August about causing traffic problems in front of his home two weeks before the events leading to the political scandal being called “Bridgegate.”
“I am absolutely clueless,” said Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, about why he was singled out. “I am a rabbi, and I go about my work as a rabbi.”
In an exclusive March 3 interview with NJJN on March 3 with Carlebach and his father, Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, the younger rabbi told the New Jersey Jewish News that he remained astonished at being entangled in the growing scandal and drawn into global media attention.
When Vered Ben Saadon, a 37-year-old Israeli winemaker who is in the United States on a marketing tour, was born, the future that stretched out in front of little Rosa Van Kovordan of Hausen, Holland, did not seem as if it would include immigration, religious conversion, changes of name and language, or, for that matter, winemaking.
But little Rosa was born into a background so complicated that no one should have been surprised by the twists in her own life.
Her father was born Jewish, but her mother was not. Her paternal grandmother, Lisha de Paris, was a teenager at the start of World War II. “Her story was the same as Anne Frank’s,” Ms. Ben Saadon said. “The same age, the same country.” Of course, Ms. de Paris’ story ended better. “And it is because of that, that we are here,” her granddaughter said.