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Daniel Santacruz
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Ray of hope in Beit Shemesh

Rabbi rallies residents to keep city open to all

WorldPublished: 27 January 2012

Say Beit Shemesh and one image comes to mind: religious extremism. The city made news recently when seven-year-old Naama Margolis, who attends the Orot Banot school, was spat on by a religious extremist for not being “modestly dressed” in his opinion.

The incident outraged Israel. Politicians and religious leaders, in Israel and overseas, weighed in on the issue.

On Friday, Dec, 23, Israelis watched a Channel 2 television documentary in which a teary-eyed Naaama said she was afraid to go to school.

On Dec. 28, five days after the documentary aired, a rally was organized in front of Orot Banot that attracted more than 1,000 people from all over Israel, including politicians from the Israeli political spectrum. Media crews from the world over were also present. Beit Shemesh was big news.


Sephardic symposium has royal backing and local participation

Moroccan Jewish journey is the topic

Local | WorldPublished: 13 May 2011

Talk to Moroccan Jews about their country of origin and they will glowingly tell you about the countless rabbis, scholars, entrepreneurs, political leaders, and writers it has produced. Ask further and they will also tell you about the beautiful wedding traditions, and the friendly relations the community has had with the king and with fellow Moroccans of other religions.

That pride of being a Moroccan Jew will be on display on Sunday, May 15, and Monday, May 16, at the Center for Jewish History, in Manhattan, at a symposium titled “2000 Years of Jewish Life in Morocco: An Epic Journey,” sponsored by the American Sephardi Federation.


Muslims come to Paterson with message of peace

Englewood physician among the activists handing out brochures

LocalPublished: 04 March 2011

With the sound of salsa in the background, some 15 activists from the northern New Jersey chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA brought a campaign to downtown Paterson on Sunday called Muslims for Peace. Aimed at showing a kinder face of Islam, the campaign’s slogan is “Love for All, Hatred for None.”

Englewood physician Kashif Chaudry was among them.

At the intersection of Market and Main streets, the activists — some dressed in blue shirts with the logo of the campaign, a white dove on the front and the crossed-out word “terrorism” on the back — handed out about 2,000 glossy, four-page brochures in an hour and a half. The brochures show a phrase from the Koran, “Whosoever killed a person … it shall be as if he had killed all mankind,” as well as a toll-free number, a website and a picture of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya community in India in 1889.


Art of the chazzan revived by Teaneck synagogue

Cantor, choir will bring harmony to Shabbat services

LocalPublished: 25 February 2011

One of the youngest stars in the small universe of cantorial music, or chazzanut, wants to change how people relate to synagogue music and prayer. And he wants to demonstrate it this Shabbat at the Young Israel of Teaneck with the Hampton Synagogue Choir at a Shabbat Chazzanut.

This may be the first-ever of this kind in the township and in Bergen County.

Netanel Hershtik, a member of YIOT and a township resident since the fall of 2009, is the cantor of the Hampton Synagogue Choir in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., where he spends most of his summer weekends.


Art of the chazzan revived by Teaneck synagogue

A master of parts

LocalPublished: 25 February 2011

Born in 1978 in London, where his father served as a cantor of the Fichley Synagogue, Netanel Hershtik grew up in Israel and began singing at age 5 in his father’s synagogue in Jerusalem, along with his older brother, Shraga.

“My first solo was only a word, then I sang a sentence, and then much more. My father gave me confidence,” he said.

As a child, he toured Australia, the United States, and Europe with his father, whom he called his “biggest influence.” Hershtik said he is the 14th member of his family to be a cantor. Among them is his uncle, Chaim Eliezer Hershtik, who lives in Israel.


MKs: New peace initiative to rely on international law

Knesset members — one a Druze — in Englewood

Local | WorldPublished: 06 August 2010

Two Israeli parliamentarians and a political activist told some 35 people last week at a gathering in Englewood of their concerns about attempts to delegitimize Israel.

Ayoob Kara, deputy minister for development of the Negev and Galilee and deputy minister for regional cooperation, is a Druze member of the Knesset for the Likud Party. (The Druze, an Arabic-speaking religious community, serve in the Israel Defense Forces.)

Rabbi Nissim Ze’ev is a member of the Knesset from the Shas Party, which he cofounded in 1984. He spoke to the attendees in Hebrew; his address was summarized in English by Karen Pichkhadze, executive director of the National Organization for Political Action, which sponsored the event at a private home.

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Project will give Sephardic Jews a voice

Local | WorldPublished: 04 December 2009

The goal: 5,000 interviews. The deadline: Dec. 31, 2015. The objective: To record the stories of Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States or were born here.

Called “Sephardic America Voices: A Jewish Oral History Project,” it’s sponsored by the New York-based American Sephardi Federation (ASF), in partnership with the University of Miami and Hebrew University.

The project is the brainchild of Carlos Benaim, an ASF board member born in Tangiers, Morocco.

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A conversation with Robert Bedford

LocalPublished: 27 March 2009

Robert Bedford sees himself as the repository of a once-glorious patrimony, rich in history and culture. He wants to preserve it as he inherited it from his Salonica-born, Ladino-speaking maternal grandparents.

The 40something Bergen County resident is the executive vice president of the New York-based Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture, whose mission, according to its Website, is to preserve and promote “the complex and centuries-old culture of the Sephardic communities of Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, Europe, and the United States.”

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Oh, Jos?, Can You Sing? Oy, vey

LocalPublished: 04 July 2008

photo Courtesy of The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

"The Star-Spangled Banner," the quintessential patriotic song, hasn't always been sung in English.

There are versions of it in Spanish, Samoan, Polish, German, Yiddish, and Latin. More than 400 recorded versions in English are listed on, including the one Jimi Hendrix made popular in 1970.

The latest version in Spanish, a CD titled "Nuestro Himno" ("Our Anthem"), was released at the end of April '006 to coincide with pro-immigration reform rallies that were held across the United States on May 1. Forty performers sing on the CD, among them Gloria Trevi, a Madonna-like Mexican singer, and hip-hop star Pitbull.

It touched a raw nerve with conservatives, one of whom even called it the "Illegal Alien Anthem."

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Americans by choice celebrate the Fourth

LocalPublished: 04 July 2008

Amit Bejar, shown at his Teaneck home, said he is proud of his three nationalities. From left, Amit, Dael, Deborah, and Tamir.

Who are those foreign Jews who live among us, who speak with a variety of accents? What did they leave behind, and how do they view the United States?

There are as many reasons to come to this country as there are immigrants, and each is a tale of wandering and faith.

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