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Local shuls awarded security grants

Federal funds flow to synagogues targeted last winter in Rutherford, Hackensack

 
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Two synagogues attacked last winter are among the eight local recipients of nearly $10 million awarded nationwide by the Department of Homeland Security to organizations and facilities considered at high risk of terrorist attacks.

The funding, announced last Friday, came from the DHS’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which aids nonprofit organizations that are at risk of terrorist threats and helps those organizations coordinate with broader security initiatives. DHA allocates the funds in response to grant proposals; across the nation, Jewish organizations received 97 percent of available funds.

In the last two years, program funding has been cut from $20 million. But the consequences have been borne largely by non-Jewish institutions, which in the past had received as much as $6 million from the program.

Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, which had been firebombed, received a $30,000 grant. Temple Beth El of Hackensack, which was defaced by graffiti, received $55,000.

At Beth El, the grant proposal reflected the results of a security assessment performed by Bill Stallone, Bergen County’s risk mitigation planner.

“He came in and came up with a list of things we can work on to harden our security,” said the congregation’s rabbi, Nosson Schuman.

Schuman declined to detail the planned security upgrades; he did not want to risk highlighting present weaknesses. He said that the congregation was able to install security cameras six weeks after the January attack. A website soliciting donations brought in $11,000, which came from institutional donors — both synagogues and churches — and individual donors, both Jews and non-Jews.

This round of funding was the program’s seventh allocation since its creation. The program has distributed a total of $128 million, according to the Jewish Federations of North America, which has made support for the program a legislative priority.

Since 2007, 33 local institutions have received a total of 44 grants for a total of $3.1 million, according to Alan Sweifach, managing director of community planning at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. This year, the eight recipients shared $479,550.

This year, all the local recipients are synagogues. Past recipients have included area day schools, the Jewish Family Service, and the federation itself.

Sweifach worked with 40 local institutions to help them prepare the grants. He wrote a 15-page guide to the process, aimed at “the members of the shul who were given the task of writing the grant,” who generally are not professional or experienced grant writers.

For David Goodman, president of the Jewish federation, Sweifach’s success in helping local organizations secure grants is evidence that gifts to the federation have an “exponential effect by enabling us to bring almost a half million dollars in these homeland security grants.”

Goodman, a member of Jewish Community Center of Paramus, noted how the security systems in place at that congregation were helpful in apprehending Anthony Graziano, charged with throwing the firebombs at the Rutherford synagogue.

“One of the ways they were able to catch this perpetrator is because the JCC in Paramus had a video surveillance system already. They were able to photograph the person who did this walking around on the property,” Goodman said.

Police found incendiary devices in the woods behind the Paramus synagogue.

“It’s great to know there will be other institutions in our community that will now be able to protect themselves with additional security,” Goodman said.

Schuman praised the federation’s Sweifach for assisting with the grants; preparing them was difficult for synagogue members, he said, so the help was crucial.

He also praised Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. “When we ran into some difficulties, we called him up. His office did some research for us, and they really helped us out tremendously,” he said.

Pascrell was among the members of Congress who urged U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to maintain federal funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

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Praying while female at the Kotel

Women of the Wall representative to speak locally

What’s going on with the Women of the Wall now?

What’s happening with gender equality and pluralism in Israel, now that the Israeli election is over?

Women of the Wall, made up of women from across the Jewish spectrum, has fought for the right to pray at the Kotel — Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the symbolic center of Jewish life, the magnet that draws observant and non-observant Jews, non-Jews, poets, and often even skeptics, close to it, as if they were pure iron filings.

The group, which was formed in the late 1980s, has been bolstered by legal wins. Its most important recent victory was the April 2013 decision by Judge Moshe Sobel of the Jerusalem District Court, who ruled that the city police were wrong when they arrested five women for the crime of wearing tallitot at the women’s section of the Kotel.

 

Twenty years later

Stephen Flatow remembers his murdered daughter Alisa

When you ask attorney Stephen Flatow of West Orange how many children he has, his answer is immediate.

“I have five children,” he says.

Not surprising. What father doesn’t know how many children he has?

And how are they doing?

Four of them are flourishing; they are all married and all parents. Mr. Flatow and his wife, Rosalyn, have 13 grandchildren, and another one’s on the way. (And three of the Flatows’ children live in Bergen County.)

But the fifth, his oldest, Alisa, was murdered by terrorists when she was 20; her 20th yahrzeit was last week. She has been dead as long as she was alive.

“Just because she isn’t there now, that doesn’t mean I’m not her father,” he said. “I just don’t have any recent pictures of her to show.”

 

‘A do-it-yourself disease’

Before Saddle Brook walk, families of ALS patients talk about the disease’s impact

In early 2014, just shy of his 12th birthday, Eitan David Jacobi of Teaneck told his parents he was having trouble raising his arms. It was particularly hard for him to shoot basketballs.

This was a first for the youngster, said his mother, Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi, who described her son as an active, funny, and very social kid.

In fact, she said, he had spent the previous summer as a camper at Ramah Nyack. And when he fell off a horse in early November, “we told him to get back on.” Usually that’s good advice. But Eitan did not have the strength to stay on the horse.

“We didn’t have a clue,” Rabbi Forman-Jacobi, a past vice-principal of the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies. “It took us until Thanksgiving to get to a neurologist.” By that time, Eitan was “unable to reach to get to the microwave or to open cabinets.”

 

RECENTLYADDED

Should we toughen or baby our kids?

Panel at Emanuel at Franklin Lakes to look at innocence, experience, expectations

Say you begin with the assumption that just about everything in life demands a balance — between work and pleasure, home and office, family and friends, saving and spending, responsibility and heedlessness, tradition and change. That’s just part of being an adult. Maybe you can call it the balance between pleasure and pain.

But what about children? What about adolescents? What do they have to balance? What do we as their parents have to balance for them?

That’s what Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser’s latest panel, “Preserving Youthful Innocence…or Teaching Adult Responsibilities… What Do We Owe Our Children?” will explore.

Rabbi Prouser, who heads Temple Emanuel of North Jersey in Franklin Lakes, said that we — parents, educators, leaders, and the community in general — have two very different sets of responsibilities toward our children. “One is to teach them adult responsibilities, to help them grow up,” he said. “The other is the critical responsibility to protect and preserve their innocence, to keep them as children so they can have a full, wholesome experience of childhood.

 

Yvette Tekel, 1925-2015

Community mourns loss of beloved leader ‘active in anything Jewish’

The loss of Yvette Tekel will be keenly felt throughout our community and beyond its borders.

Indeed, the words family, friends, and colleagues — across communities, across organizations — used to describe Ms. Tekel — who recently moved to Fort Lee from Haworth — paint a picture of a woman who brought joy and inspiration to all who knew her.

“She was a five-foot giant,” said her husband, Louis, singing the praises of his nearly 90-year-old wife to Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, who conducted Yvette’s funeral on May 20 at Temple Emanu-El of Closter. The couple had been married for 68 years.

Lou, who worked in the linen business and was a decorated hero of World War II, “was chairman of the Yvette fan club,” Rabbi Kirshner said. “He supported her and stood by her side” in all her many charitable endeavors.

 

Mark the SPOT

Family of melanoma victim works with hair stylists to raise awareness

Less than two years have gone by since Rachel Samitt noticed a suspicious mole under the wet hair on her dad’s sunlit scalp after a swim in the family’s Woodcliff Lake pool.

Though Mark Samitt immediately made an appointment with his dermatologist, the skin cancer his daughter saw took his life on May 6. He was 52.

Mr. Samitt’s tragic death makes this Sunday’s cut-a-thon all the more poignant — and vital. Mark the SPOT, a program he launched with his wife, Gayle, and daughters Rachel and Danielle, in partnership with the Melanoma Research Foundation, will be held at six Pascack Valley-area salons. Its goal is to teach hairstylists that “If you spot something, say something.”

Mark the SPOT educates stylists about how to identify possibly cancerous marks on their customers’ heads or necks and how to communicate their findings in a way that does not panic but encourages the customer to seek medical attention. The first salon to host a training session was Mania Hair Studio in Park Ridge. Owner Phil Mania lost his own father to melanoma at a young age.

 
 
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