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Finding unity at the GA

Local leaders reflect on the Jerusalem conference

 
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For Rochelle Shoretz, this year’s Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Jerusalem was a chance to meet with Jews from all over the world as an expression of unity.

“As the executive director of Sharsheret, a New Jersey-based national organization addressing breast cancer and ovarian cancer in our community, I’ve already connected with many federation executives who want to bring Sharsheret programming to their community,” she said. “My ah-ha moment today was that together we could bring best practices in Jewish health to our brothers and sisters in Israel.”

Ms. Shoretz said that she was feeling the sense of unity that the GA brings to the Jewish world. It makes it even better when the GA convenes in Jerusalem, she added.

“I always feel a sense of unity with Jews from different denominations and backgrounds,” Ms. Shoretz said. “All of Sharsheret’s programs reach women and families from all walks of Jewish life. It is a core component of all we do.”

Jason Shames, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, agreed with Ms. Shoretz as he noted a strong sense of unity among the GA attendees.

“The Pew report is a common thread,” he said on Monday. “The common practice is that reports such as the Pew report help motivate people.”

Mr. Shames found that the chance to listen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a highlight, as it has been at earlier GAs. “He spoke to us about what Iran was up to, and he talked about the Palestinian issue,” he said.

The federation’s president, Dr. Zvi Marans, also noted the energy of having Jews from all over the world together in Jerusalem for this year’s GA.

The Pew report, he said should help world Jewry in the future. “We want a Jewish future that is vibrant and thriving,” he said.

The meetings and messages he had heard so far connected directly to Israel’s national security, juxtaposed with the ever-present Iranian nuclear threat and the issue of a two-state solution.

Dr. Marans said that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants that two-state solution, but Israel’s security must be a reality, not just a talking point.

On the subject of Jewish identity, Dr. Marans talked about the overall concern on how to connect with detached or disinterested Jews.

“The Pew study emphasized that,” he said.

Ms. Shoretz added that northern New Jersey had a strong showing of lay and professional leaders in attendance.

“Our commitment to Israel extends far beyond words alone,” she said.

“We are supporting communities abroad, shaping educational programming about the issues facing Israel back home, and collaborating with nonprofit organizations, like Sharsheret, that are national and international role models of Jewish engagement.”

The GA ended on Tuesday, November 12. Next year’s GA will be held from November 9 to November 11 in Washington, D.C.

 
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Laughing with Joan

I made Joan Rivers laugh.

Of course she made me laugh, like she did to millions of others through her decades-long, often unfiltered, and ever-funny career, but yes, I made Joan Rivers laugh.

At the time, I was working at the celebrity-obsessed New York Post, and as the features writer for its women’s section, I had reason to ring up the raspy-voiced, Brooklyn-born blonde for a quickie. I had to grab a quote for some story that I was writing. As I recall, the conversation had turned to food, a favorite subject of the Jewish woman on my end of the phone, and, apparently, of that Jewish woman on the other end as well. Joan told me that she just adored the creamed spinach served at the legendary Brooklyn restaurant, Peter Luger’s — a must-have accompaniment to its famous and robust steaks. Joan told me she would dine there with a hairdresser-to-the-stars, the late Kenneth Battelle. (She kept her physique petite with this practice: She never ate anything after 3 p.m. If she did find herself dining with someone, she popped Altoids to keep her mouth busy.)

 

Cookin’ it up!

Tales of a Teaneck kitchen prodigy

How did 12-year-old Eitan Bernath of Teaneck come to be on the Food Network’s popular cooking show “Chopped”?

“He’s always been curious and he likes science,” said his mother, Sabrina Bernath. “He thinks it’s cool to mix flavors and watch things rise. He also likes to make people happy,” she added, pointing out that he had just brought his friends a freshly baked batch of cinnabuns.

For Eitan, a student at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, cooking is more than just a hobby. Struggling for the right word, the fledgling chef — whose website, cookwithchefeitan.com, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”

 

Policies are the best policy

Teaneck synagogue forum addresses child sexual abuse

Does your synagogue have policies in place to protect children from sexual abuse? Do your children’s schools and camps?

Such policies, Dr. Shira Berkovits told a meeting in Teaneck on Sunday night, can make a difference to children’s safety.

Dr. Berkovits is a consultant for the Department of Synagogue Services at the Orthodox Union, and she is developing a guide to preventing child sexual abuse in synagogues. She was speaking at Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael, as part of a panel on preventing child sexual abuse co-sponsored by three other Teaneck Orthodox congregations: Netivot Shalom, Keter Torah, and Lubavitch of Bergen County.

 

RECENTLYADDED

Many ways to learn

Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey reboots its adult ed program

We don’t know much yet about the findings of the soon-to-be-released survey by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, but there is one nugget that already has been made public.

Jewish adults hunger to know more. Their desire for Jewish learning continues to grow. Jewish educators and leaders know that to be true intuitively, and that understanding is borne out in the proliferation of programs and institutes around the area.

Until recently, the federation has fed that hunger with its Melton program. For years now, the Florence Melton program has brought its two-year, pluralistic, in-depth lessons to synagogue classrooms across the region. But nothing lasts forever, and the Melton program has now ended locally — as it has, in fact, in many of the other places that once hosted it.

 

Walking for life

Bone marrow donor, recipient to meet

At the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation’s third annual Walk for Life in Memory of Mel Cohen on Sunday, October 26, a 23-year-old Englewood bone-marrow donor will meet his 43-year-old recipient for the first time since the successful procedure was done, more than a year ago.

These emotional meetings are a highlight of the annual walk, Gift of Life’s CFO, Gregg Frances, said. “Every year at these events we introduce a donor who has never, until that point, met the recipient whose life he or she saved. There’s a one-year moratorium from the date of transplant to the date of meeting, as legislated by the United States.”

 

Teens: Don’t drink on Simchat Torah

Local yeshiva high schools send joint letter urging celebration but also restraint

The principals of six Jewish high schools serving northern New Jersey sent a joint letter to parents urging vigilance in the face of teenage drinking on Simchat Torah, “to guarantee that this special time of holiness will not degenerate into the opposite kind of experience for anyone.”

Nobody is sure how alcohol consumption became a tradition of this holiday, which celebrates the completion of the yearly Torah-reading cycle.

“There are rabbinic sources about drinking wine in the context of the Purim seudah,” or meal, says Teaneck’s Rabbi Michael Taubes, head of school for the Yeshiva University High School for Boys, and one of the six signatories.

 
 
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