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Oslo, Birthright, and me

Yossi Beilin, to speak at Tenafly JCC, talks about his past

LocalPublished: 03 July 2015

For a man who never served as Israel’s prime minister, Dr. Yossi Beilin had an outsized impact on Israeli history.

A journalist for the Labor party paper Davar who entered politics as a Labor Party spokesman before being appointed cabinet secretary by Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1984, Dr. Beilin made his mark with two bold policies that were reluctantly but influentially adopted by the Israeli government: the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and the Birthright Israel program.

On Thursday, Dr. Beilin will address “The future of Israel in the Middle East” at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, in a program sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.

Dr. Beilin — he holds a doctorate in political science from Tel Aviv University — ended his political career in 2008, having served as a Knesset member for 20 years, and as deputy foreign minister, justice minister, and minister of religious affairs.

 
 

Burning questions

Rabbi Lawrence Troster reflects on papal environmental letter

Local | WorldPublished: 26 June 2015

On Sunday, Rabbi Lawrence Troster of Teaneck will march through downtown Rome to Vatican City.

The march is being organized to support Pope Francis’ call for action on the environment embodied in the papal letter, or encyclical, he released last week, called Laudato Si (“Blessed Be”). An international interfaith coalition, Our Voices, whose goal is “bringing faith to the climate talks,” is organizing the march. Among the coalition’s members are the American interfaith group GreenFaith, where Rabbi Troster is scholar-in-residence.

This is a period of increased activity for Rabbi Troster and the broader Jewish environmental movement, jumpstarted by the papal letter that Rabbi Troster called “amazing” and leading up to global talks on a new treaty to fight global warming scheduled for November in Paris.

These next few months, Rabbi Troster said, will see the environmental issues taking a higher profile on the Jewish communal agenda, as it becomes a priority for the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center in Washington, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and a group he is organizing of rabbis and cantors called Shomrei Breishit. He hopes it will surface in high holiday sermons, and in interfaith actions during Sukkot.

 
 

An education conference for parents

Dozens of Orthodox educators to speak in Teaneck on Sunday

LocalPublished: 26 June 2015

Rabbi Reuven Taragin has seen Jewish education from all directions on two continents.

He grew up in New York, attending yeshiva and Yeshiva University’s MTA high school before going to Israel to study and returning to New York to earn an undergraduate degree at Yeshiva College.

He studied for the rabbinate in Israel, where he made a career teaching in yeshiva. He is dean of the overseas program for Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem, overseeing the American high school graduates who come for a year or two of study, and teaching them Talmud.

He even has a hand in informal education: He and his wife, Shani, lead the beit midrash program at Camp Moshava in Wild Rose, Wisconsin, each summer.

But his most important educational role, he says, is that of parent to six children, who range in age from 7 to 22.

 
 

His place in Jerusalem

Bergenfield’s Rabbi Steven Burg to lead Aish HaTorah

LocalPublished: 19 June 2015

Rabbi Steven Burg is headed back to Jerusalem next month.

Rabbi Burg, 43, spent two years there after high school; he spent another year there during his rabbinic studies, and he returned many times during the time he worked for the Orthodox Union.

Now though, he will have a more prestigious address: 1 Kotel Plaza.

That’s how Aish HaTorah jokingly refers to its headquarters in Jerusalem’s Old City, which opens to the plaza of the Western Wall, and whose rooftop looks down over the Temple Mount.

That’s quite a draw for the fundraising events that Rabbi Burg will oversee beginning July 1, as he assumes the post of Aish’s director general — the Israeli term for chief executive officer.

 
 

‘Put this at the top of our agenda’

Federation and day schools join OU for state funding push

LocalPublished: 05 June 2015

A new coalition that brings together the Orthodox Union, almost all local Jewish day schools, both Orthodox and Conservative, and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey — as well as their counterparts elsewhere in the state — hopes to ramp up efforts to maintain and increase state funding for New Jersey day schools.

The new coalition, called “Teach NJS,” was launched last week at a meeting in a Teaneck synagogue that drew about 200 people on a rainy night.

“One of the most important levers to change the economics of Jewish education is increased state funding,” Sam Moed of Englewood told the meeting. Mr. Moed is president of Jewish Education for Generations, a local effort launched in 2009 to help day school education. “We need to put this at the top of our agenda, and devote our time and energy to the public policy agenda where the allocation of resources is determined,” he said.

 
 

‘Indescribable’ connections

Zahal Shalom brings Israeli veterans to Ridgewood for touring, love

Cover Story Published: 22 May 2015

What happened when the alarm went off in the Pentagon was a reminder of one of the reasons local volunteers behind Zahal Shalom are so eager to open their homes, their schedules, and their wallets to 10 wounded Israeli veterans each year.

During their two-week stay, the Israelis get to see New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C.

In Washington, they visited the monuments, ate in the Senate dining room, and took a tour of the Pentagon, where — and this was not on the five-page itinerary — a fire drill caused alarms to clang loudly.

For Anat Nitsan, the alarm brought back memories from the Yom Kippur war, more than 40 years ago. Now an art curator, then she was a soldier at the air force base at Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of Sinai. She survived the initial surprise attack from the Egyptian air force. And then, in a case of friendly fire, she watched in horror as a missile seemed to target her directly. Somehow she survived that too — though not without a case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

 
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Old books, new art

Artists’ Beit Midrash at Teaneck’s Beth Sholom displays creations

LocalPublished: 22 May 2015

There’s a 10-year-old cover from the Jewish Standard pinned to a panel in the social hall of Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck.

The cover is from the first time this paper reported on Beth Sholom’s Artists’ Beit Midrash. While the program is now concluding its 11th year, the art produced by its students is new. It will be on display at Beth Sholom over the Shavuot weekend.

The Beit Midrash — or study hall — has three components. There is an hour of text study, led this year by Rabbi Gary Karlin, a doctoral student in Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who is writing a curriculum on Jonah for the Schechter day school network. In the six fall sessions the group studied the book of Jonah, which is read during the afternoon on Yom Kippur; in the six spring sessions it looked at the Book of Ruth, which is read on Shavuot. Then there is an hour of more artistic study, led by Harriet Finck this year. Ms. Finck brought in art and literature related to the biblical texts, and she led discussions of the third component: The art project that students worked on at home.

 
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The whole world is watching

Schechter uses technology to connect school with broader community

LocalPublished: 15 May 2015

A new project at the Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford brings a personal story to mind.

After his first day of kindergarten, my son figured out how to bridge the gap between home and school.

When I asked him question after question about his day, he finally said in exasperation: “If you want to know so much, why don’t you just put a camera on my head?”

Perhaps by the time it’s my son’s turn to send children off to kindergarten, kid cams will be as accepted, as cop cams are starting to be. But in the meantime, some schools are using video technology to connect the school to parents, grandparents, and the broader community in ways that aren’t quite as all consuming or intrusive as the full-time monitoring that, to be honest, I probably would have wanted as the parent of a kindergartener.

 
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Putting the coalition back together

Rabbi Saul Berman to speak at joint JCRC, NAACP event

LocalPublished: 15 May 2015

After 50 years, Rabbi Saul Berman hasn’t forgotten Purim 1964.

He spent it in a prison cell in Selma, Alabama.

He had traveled from Berkeley, California, where he led an Orthodox congregation, to take part in the civil rights movement, registering voters and protesting injustice.

In a letter he left to be read on Shabbat in his absence, Rabbi Berman explained that “my going to Selma did not arise out of my social activism, it arose out of my Jewish commitments. The Torah works very hard to instruct us in a sense of responsibility for the disadvantaged. Not just a theoretical responsibility but in having a sense of active responsibility.”

 
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Making a minyan in Paterson

LocalPublished: 08 May 2015

Every other Shabbat, Jerry Schranz crosses the Passaic River to keep the final echo of Paterson’s once-storied Jewish community alive.

It’s a one and three quarters mile walk from his Fair Lawn home to East 27th Street, in what 50 years ago was the center of Paterson’s Jewish life. East 27th Street was the sensible place for the Jewish Federation of North Jersey to build housing for seniors: It was three blocks away from Barnert Temple and half a mile from the Barnet Hospital — both named for the Jewish industrialist and philanthropist who was Paterson’s mayor from 1889 to 1890. And it was across the street from the Yavneh Academy, Paterson’s Jewish day school.

Today, Barnert Temple, founded in 1847, is an empty shell; the Reform congregation moved elsewhere in Paterson in 1964 before decamping to Franklin Lakes in the 1980s. Yavneh moved to Paramus in 1981; the building is now home to the Rosa Parks High School of Performing Arts.

 
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