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  • A school grows in Englewood
    Moriah, first local Jewish day school, celebrates turning fifty
  • Made in Israel, watched in Jersey
    Jewish Federation to screen award-winning films across the area
  • ‘At Home in Exile’
    A look at diaspora, ingathering, fear, Bibi, and so much more
  • Standardizing the Times
    In which we announce and describe our new online partnership with the Times of Israel
  • Vaccinate your kid!
    Local Jewish leaders talk about their policies
  • ‘Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem’
  • Who stood at Sinai?
    Conference to look at 25 years of Jewish feminism, examine what might come next
  • How do you staff a Birthright trip?
    Local 10-tour veteran talks about training, tips, and tachlis
  • Honoring an escapee
    Austria celebrates Nobel laureate Martin Karplus’ amateur photography
  • Inclusion by design
    Sinai Schools honors Holy Name Medical Center for community partnership


Sounds of joy

Children’s choir ranked number one by congregation

Perhaps if Tzipporei Shalom’s music were to be reviewed by a professional critic, the word “wow” might not find its way into the finished product. But to the congregants of Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck — home to the children’s choir — the word seems just about right.

“It was the top-rated program in two synagogue surveys,” said Ronit Hanan, the shul’s musical director, who co-founded and co-directs the group with congregant Adina Avery-Grossman.

The a capella singing group has appeared with Safam, recorded a selection on a CD with the noted chazzan Netanel Hershtik, sung with Neil Sedaka, and joined with the synagogue’s adult choir, Tavim, on special occasions, most recently at CBS’s recent Shabbaton. They also participate in an annual community-wide junior choir festival together with choirs from local Reform congregations.


Affordable BRCA screening available for all Ashkenazi Jews

A new program at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in the Bronx is offering affordable genetic testing for the Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA cancer mutations.

Anyone who is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, with at least one Ashkenazi Jewish grandparent, is eligible for the testing for a modest fee of $100.

For many years the recommendations to test for the gene were based on family or personal history of breast or ovarian cancer. But a research study recently revealed that in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, the risk of harboring BRCA cancer genes is high whether or not there is a family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

One in forty Ashkenazi Jews carry genetic glitches in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that elevate the risk of breast and ovarian cancer to as high as 80 percent by the time they are 80 years old. In fact, the landmark study of randomly selected Ashkenazi Jewish men in Israel found that “51 percent of families…harboring BRCA1 or BRCA1 mutations had little or no history of relevant cancer.”


Defending free speech

Local high school student pens winning essay on campus rights

Winning a $10,000 college scholarship for a day’s work is a pretty sweet deal.

But although Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls junior Arianna Samet of Teaneck didn’t spend hours agonizing over her prize-winning essay, the judges at FIRE (that’s the Foundation for Individual Rights Education) clearly felt it stood out from among 2,800 essays submitted by juniors and seniors around the country on the theme of censorship on college campuses.

According to its website, FIRE’s mission is “to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.”

Arianna had never heard of FIRE until she came across an ad about the essay contest on a college-prep website recommended by the guidance department at Ma’ayanot.

“While I was researching colleges it came up, and I thought it would be interesting,” she said. “It didn’t take me that long to write the essay. I spent some time thinking about how to approach it and structure it, and then I wrote and sent it in within the day.”


Who’s the boss of the Bible?

Rutgers professor an expert on the interpretations of Rabbi Akiva and Bruce Springsteen

Dr. Azzan Yadin-Israel, arguably New Jersey’s foremost expert on the teachings of Rabbi Akiva, is coming to Teaneck Saturday night — to speak about Bruce Springsteen.

Dr. Yadin-Israel is an associate professor at Rutgers, where he teaches Jewish studies and classics. Late last year, Princeton University Press published his second book, “Scripture and Tradition: Rabbi Akiva and the Triumph of Midrash.”

But it is a 10-week freshman seminar on God in the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen that put him on the synagogue speaking circuit.

Rutgers asked Dr. Yadin-Israel for a topic that would engage freshman, and he remembered the good response he had received for an article in the Jewish Review of Books on biblical and talmudic references in the lyrics of Hadag Hanachash, an Israeli hip hop group. A fan of Mr. Springsteen’s music since his high school days in suburban Cleveland, Dr. Yadin-Israel had been struck by how often the New Jersey rocker “mobilized biblical images and discussed biblical themes.” So he printed out the lyrics and started going over them with a highlighter, noting every biblical and theological reference.


Non-Orthodox Rockland starts to organize

RAMAPO, N.Y. — Between economic challenges and declining affiliation rates, it has been a rough few years for the non-Orthodox Jewish community in Rockland County.

Only about 30 miles north of midtown Manhattan, Rockland has been named New York State’s most fiscally stressed area by the state comptroller for two years in a row. Median home values are still down about 18 percent from their pre-recession peaks.

The Jewish federation’s donor base is shrinking, the county’s Reform and Conservative synagogues have suffered double-digit rates of membership loss over the last decade, and Rockland’s lone non-Orthodox Jewish day school has only about one-quarter of the number of students that its predecessor had in the early 2000s.

Of all the challenges, however, the most difficult has been the increasingly vitriolic climate in the county, many say.


Purim poser

What is our fascination with villains?

LOS ANGELES — Who is the Haman in your life?

The person, who like the bad guy in the Megillah Esther that we read on Purim, schemes to bring you down.

When we get to the place in the Megillah where Haman is forced to lead Mordechai though the streets of Shushan, saying, “This is what is done for the man whom the king desires to honor,” might we insert ourselves into an updated version of the story, the way we do in a video game? Imagining that a seriously negative person in our life is pushing our car down the street while we sit behind the wheel and wave?

Not that your neighbor is Lord Voldemort or Dr. Moriarty, but what about that boss who is omitting your name from the organization chart? The relative who always leaves you off the guest list? That student spray-painting swastikas on your son’s fraternity house? Or just the forever-interrupting “Rachel” from cardholder services?


When rabbis won’t speak about Israel

AJR panel to offer tips for starting a conversation

Ironically, what should be a unifying topic for Jews often spurs such heated discussion that rabbis tend to avoid it, said Ora Horn Prouser, executive vice president and dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Dr. Prouser, who lives in Franklin Lakes and is married to Temple Emanuel of North Jersey’s Rabbi Joseph Prouser, said that she heard a lot over the summer from rabbis and other spiritual leaders. They said that they were “unable or not comfortable talking about Israel in their synagogues,” she reported.

“It didn’t come from a lack of love,” Dr. Horn said. “They’re deeply invested in Israel, and yet they felt they could not get into a conversation without deeply offending other parts of their community.”


Noshes: celebrity names in the news


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25 February 2011
7 January 2011
20 February 2009


Temple Beth El Re-Dedication
4th Annual Kosherfest Culinary Competition 2011
Kehillah Partnership Pilot Program


Teens from Sha’ar Communities met with Jack Antonoff of the Band FUN, pictured back row, center, to talk about Jewish identity. Rabbi Adina Lewittes of Sha’ar facilitated the discussion as part of a series,  “Teens 2.0: Hitting the Refresh Button on Jewish Identity.” Courtesy Sha’ar

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