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Local student gets HIAS help

Russian emigre looks forward to resuming medical education

 
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Robert Goldberg of North Haledon, a former Muscovite, is among the 60 scholars chosen this year to receive a scholarship from HIAS, the international organization that has assisted in resettling Jewish immigrants for 130 years. Goldberg is a biology major and recent graduate of Ramapo College in Mahwah. He hopes someday to be a cardiothoracic surgeon.

HIAS scholars are chosen on the basis of academic excellence, commitment to community service, and coming from a family resettled with the help of HIAS, according to Amy Greenstein, director of young leadership development for the organization.

Goldberg, 24, who graduated this spring with a 3.9 GPA, emigrated from Russia in 2008 along with his mother, to escape anti-Semitism. His brother and father chose to remain in Russia.

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Robert Goldberg, a HIAS scholarship winner, hopes to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. Courtesy hias

Although he did not encounter violence, he says anti-Semitism was so pervasive in Russia that it colored and strained relationships.

“Anti-Semitism has different ways of expressing itself,” Goldberg told The Jewish Standard. “Sometimes your friends use the fact that you are Jewish to diminish your accomplishments—‘You are Jewish, [so] that’s why you got that job or grade.’ You always feel yourself [to be] someone different.

“It’s not really violence, but hearing things like that from your friends can be worse than violence.”

When he left Russia, he still had a year-and-a-half to go to complete his studies at Russian State Medical University. He was forced to start over as an undergraduate at Ramapo. That setback has done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for becoming a doctor, however.

“It was tough to start all over again but I guess I am handling it,” he said. “I want to be a surgeon, a physician. My ancestors were almost all doctors. My great grandfather, Lev Goldberg, was a personal doctor of Stalin’s daughter; he was a famous doctor in his time.”

Goldberg has taken the MCAT and is applying to medical schools. This is the second time he has been awarded a HIAS scholarship. He says he will use his $4,000 scholarship award toward repayment of undergraduate student loans.

Recipients are expected to complete a community service project as part of their scholarship obligations. Goldberg is interested in participating in a program called “My Story,” in which scholarship recipients interview fellow immigrants who received assistance from HIAS and write their stories, which are then archived on a website called http://www.mystory.hias.org. Eugenia Brin, mother of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, started the site. The Brins received help from HIAS to leave the former Soviet Union in the 1970s. Sergey Brin gave the organization $1 million in 2009 from the foundation he and his wife Anne Wojcicki maintain.

Goldberg has great love for Ramapo College, Northern New Jersey and the American people.

“I’ve been here three years it’s amazing compared to Russia,” he said. “Absolutely everything is different, especially the people, [who are] very friendly, nice, helpful people. It’s such a drastic difference.”

 
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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.”

 

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Everybody’s on the bus

Bergen, other local counties send 1,500 to lobby for Israel on Capitol Hill

The relationship between Israel and the United States might be somewhat strained right now, so at least 1,500 concerned Jews from around the area traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to plead Israel’s case.

Many of the members of that Norpac delegation are from Bergen County.

“It was very gratifying,” said Norpac’s president, Dr. Ben Chouake of Englewood. Norpac brought 33 buses to the nation’s capital on May 13.

“We cut off registration on May 4, the deadline date,” he said, noting that while the organization has been known to extend the deadline, this year, as the number of would-be attendees steadily grew, that was not possible.

“The turnout was really impressive,” said Dr. Chouake, adding that the large number of legislators who cleared time in their calendar to meet with members of his group was impressive as well.

 

The North, the South, the Civil War, and us

In Teaneck, Princeton rabbi to examine the war’s roots, its results, and its effects on the Jews

Maybe you think that we fought the Civil War to stop slavery.

Maybe you think that the causes of the war were entirely economic, and had nothing to do with slavery.

Maybe you think that good and evil were clear in the Civil War, and that the North — that would be us — represented unsullied virtue.

Well, you’d be wrong, according to Rabbi Eric Wisnia of Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction. The North was as morally culpable as the South in the great vice of slavery. There were no angels. He will discuss his understanding of American history at length and in detail during Kabbalat Shabbat services at Temple Emeth in Teaneck on Friday, May 29, at 8 p.m., in a talk he’s called “An Impartial Jewish View of the War of Yankee Aggression.” The talk coincides with the 150th anniversary of the war’s end.

 

A band of sisters

It makes sense, really. There was music everywhere. They were a family immersed in music, four sisters who sang together for years, a talented songwriter, and dreams for the future that always included music.

What else could the Glaser sisters do?

“I always wanted to be a singer in a band,” said the eldest sister, Faige Glaser Drapkin, 34, who, with her sister Chaya, one year younger, helped make that dream come true.

Chaya, too, wanted music to be “a big part of my life.”

Much of it had to do with the link between music and family. “When I saw the Mamas and Papas on Ed Sullivan, I actually thought they were a family,” she said. “I loved their harmony, spirit, and colors, and it looked like they loved what they were doing! I knew that I wanted in on that beautiful fun too.

 
 
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