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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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Walling off, reaching out

Teaneck shul offers discussion of Women of the Wall

It is not an understatement to say that the saga of Women of the Wall is a metaphor for much of the struggle between tradition and change in Israel.

Founded 25 years ago by a group of Israeli and non-Israeli women whose religious affiliations ran from Orthodox to Reform, it has been a flashpoint for the fight for pluralism in Israel, as one side would define it, or the obligation to hold onto God-given mandates on the other.

As its members and supporters fought for the right to hold services in the women’s section, raising their voices in prayer, and later to wear tallitot and read from sifrei Torah, and as their opponents grew increasingly violent in response, it came to define questions of synagogue versus state and showcase both the strengths and the flaws of Israel’s extraordinary parliamentary system. It also highlighted rifts between American and Israeli Jews.

 

Shabbat in the White City

Fair Lawn man aims for Guinness-record dinner in Tel Aviv

Jay Shultz is determined to set a new world record while promoting Tel Aviv — usually cited for its nightlife and startup culture — as a great place to spend Shabbat.

The 37-year-old Fair Lawn native, who has lived in Israel since 2006, has earned a reputation as the “International Mayor of Tel Aviv” after a series of grand-scale initiatives geared at positioning his adopted city as welcoming haven for young professional immigrants.

His latest exploit: Through his popular White City Shabbat program, which offers communal meals for young Israelis and immigrants at local synagogues, Mr. Shultz launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to sponsor the world’s largest Shabbat dinner.

 

Testing for genetic diseases

JScreen provides easy, low-cost screening for people of Jewish lineage

Looking for a novel engagement or bridal shower gift? “Forget a blender or another place setting. Give a JGift and help them ensure the best future for their family,” advises the website JScreen.org.

For $99 you can “give the gift of screening,” said Hillary Kener, JScreen’s outreach coordinator. Ms. Kener was referring to the online genetic screening program that is coordinated through the department of human genetics at Atlanta’s Emory University. With this unique program it is possible to be screened for up to 80 genetic mutations. Along with screening, the site provides education and access to genetic counseling related to the screening tests. And all of this can take place in the comfort of your own home or dormitory room.

 

RECENTLYADDED

How the boys survived

Paramus-born filmmaker tells story of Buchenwald’s barrack 66

For Rob Cohen, the road to Buchenwald started at Paramus High School.

It was a high school English teacher who saw the hint of an interest in filmmaking in Mr. Cohen. “He encouraged me, made it possible for me to make a couple of small films with a Super Eight camera,” he said. His interest sparked, he crafted a film major at Yale, which was not yet formally offering one when he graduated in 1974.

A few years ago, Mr. Cohen, who now lives in New York, created two future-focused documentaries for CBS and the Discovery Channel: FutureCar and NextWorld.

But his project opening in two New Jersey theaters this week looks backward. “Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald” tells the story of four boys who survived Buchenwald, and chronicles their return visit there in 2010, on the 65th anniversary of their liberation.

 

Welcome to Radzyn

Local man finds a new way to tell sort-of old stories

It is 1896 in Radzyn, a small town hidden deep in a Polish forest. There, Mottel the musician tries to find a few zlotys for Shabbat.

It is 1933 in Radzyn, a small town hidden deep in a Polish forest. There, the rebbe warns about lost children for whom nobody will hunt and who never will be found.

Radzyn, as it unfolds in 1896, is home to a collection of chasidim who at first glance embody the timeless archetypes who seem to replace real people in such mythic towns.

But it is also 2014 in the United States. The story of Radzyn, which will jump from era to era, from character to character, and eventually from the web and mobile devices to other media as well, has just begun to unfold. It will follow the form and conventions of Jewish folktales, but it is being devised to speak most clearly to its own generation.

 

A Torah’s journey

Fair Lawn shul learns about the Holocaust scroll it houses

Housing a Holocaust memorial Torah in your own synagogue is a privilege and an honor.

Learning where that Torah came from — who touched its parchment and read its words — is a blessing. But it is not one that is gained easily.

Indeed, says Rabbi Ronald Roth, religious leader of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel, it is only after months of research that he now understands the journey his shul’s memorial Torah has taken, and the people it has reached.

The Torah has been with the Fair Lawn synagogue for several decades.

“Congregant Ed Davidson brought it here from London in 1978,” Rabbi Roth said of the Czechoslovakian Torah, now encased in a glass cabinet in the synagogue sanctuary.

 
 
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