Dr. Tamara Freeman of Saddle River is a Holocaust music recitalist and educator.
She shares that job description with only a few people worldwide.
“There are only a few Holocaust ethnomusicologists in the world,” said Freeman, who first entered the field by researching the music of the Jews interned in ghettos and concentration camps during World War II.
For the last 13 years, Rabbi Ron Hoffberg has been on a journey that was meant to last a week.
“There was an emergency situation,” he said. “They needed someone in Prague in a hurry, just for a week. That week turned into a year, and that year into 13.”
Hoffberg, spiritual leader of the Masorti (Conservative) community in the Czech Republic, has found that time both exciting and challenging. He will speak about his experiences — and the area he serves — when he visits the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel this weekend as scholar in residence.
Last May, 4-year-old Ezra Fineman had a stem cell transplant.
Now, once again — still — the family is searching for a match.
Diagnosed with the primary immune deficiency Hyper-IgM Syndrome when he was 5 months old, Ezra does not have the ability to fight off infection, his mother, Robin Fineman, said. When it is faced with a virus or bacteria, Ezra’s body cannot create antibodies.
While Robin and Evan Fineman have been searching for a bone marrow donor for Ezra since 2010, they have not yet found a match.
People like to eat, said Jane Spindel of Fair Lawn, a longtime member of the Glen Rock Jewish Center.
“Where there’s a major event, there’s food,” she said. “People like to come and eat and share experiences. It makes for more conversation.”
To help facilitate food consumption — and jazz up some traditional recipes — the synagogue recently published a cookbook, its second in 40 years.
Part of a seven-member “cookbook committee,” Spindel said that the committee members recalled a cookbook, “Fun with Food,” which had been created by synagogue members in 1970. Apparently the book sold out — committee members have been able to locate only one copy.
Thirteen-year-old Jessica Baer of Fair Lawn was hooked the first time she saw the video.
“The kids were the same age as me,” she said, recalling the first time she saw the film about child slaves in Ghana. “I was trying to compare my life with theirs. I felt very fortunate.”
Jessica saw the video three years ago at Camp Nah-Jee Wah in Milford, Pennsylvania. Evan Robbins, a Metuchen social studies teacher and founder of Breaking the Chain through Education, made a presentation at the YM/YWHA camp “and I was hooked right away,” said Jessica, who is a student at Fair Lawn’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Like all organizations, synagogues need a steady supply of new leaders if they are to function effectively — but motivated men and women may be hard to find.
“We have a crying need to develop more synagogue leaders,” said Rabbi Ronald Roth, religious leader of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel. “It’s a challenging time for all synagogues.”
Facing assimilation on one hand and indifference on the other, “synagogues have to be a place of meaning, of inspiration. People are not knocking our doors down. Their lives are busier. But if we inspire them, they’ll give us the time.”
By all accounts, the Bergen Reads program, a project of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, has been a major success, both for students and for volunteers.
“The reading buddies love the children,” Beth Figman, the project coordinator, said. “Seeing them is the highlight of their day. The kids give them hugs, make them cards. Sometimes I think the volunteers get more than the kids.”
Last weekend, some 800 Russian-American Jews from across the country came together in Princeton for a conference of Jewish learning that spoke their language.
“There were many different people giving lectures in Russian and English,” said Oleg Shalumov of Teaneck, who attended the Limmud FSU conference. “I went to the Shabbaton last year and was really looking forward to this. The good thing about it is that there are so many different topics — not just religious or specifically Russian. There’s more variety. You can choose the topic you’re interested in.”
Some life journeys are, well, more interesting than others.
Take, for example, Teaneck’s Arielle Sandor, who went to Princeton, majored in Chinese history, and then moved to Nakuru, Kenya, to launch a tech startup.
Profiled in Forbes magazine (as well as in other publications) as a leading college-student entrepreneur, Sandor has brought her company, Duma — the Swahili word for cheetah — to Africa. The venture, co-founded with Princeton student Christine Blauvelt, is designed to make job searching easier and faster.
“I love where they bring you and how they can really open up your thinking to things,” said Marson, schoolwide enrichment coordinator at the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. (The school is more commonly known as SAR.)
“We think of creative thinkers as people who are simply gifted, and it is a component. But it’s also a skill,” she said, “and we can be trained in the skill.”
For her new book, “More Than Four Questions: Inviting Children’s Voices to the Seder,” Marson took questions she had compiled from students and referred them to small groups of youngsters for their reactions and answers. The whole process took six years.