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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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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

‘Because the Middle East is funny…’

He hates to say so, but American-Israeli comic Benji Lovitt must admit that last summer’s war was good for business.

It led to a 14-show cross-country tour that will include stops at Temple Emanu-El of Closter on October 30 and at the United Synagogue of Hoboken on November 11.

Since making aliyah from Texas eight years ago, Mr. Lovitt has come back to perform in the United States many times, using his immigrant experiences as fodder for his standup routine. But his daily helpings of humor during Operation Protective Edge in July and August splashed his name across the social-networking world like never before.

“People are looking for really positive Israel programming after the war,” he said. “I spent a lot of the war expressing how a lot of us in Israel were feeling, and many people told me that when everybody was depressed I was the one they looked to for a smile.

 

Project Ezra offers help to job seekers

Robert Hoenig of Teaneck takes over as its second director

This is a tough economy that we live in.

It can be hard to find a job, and hard to think straight when you lose one. It’s hard to figure out how to reorient yourself, how to present yourself, how to maintain at least the façade of confidence.

And it’s also hard to figure out how to pay your bills at the same time.

Project Ezra, founded in 2001, has provided help to local Jews ever since then. It was the brainchild — and really, by all accounts, the heartchild and soulchild too — of Rabbi Yossi Stern of Teaneck, who was its first director, and led it until he died unexpectedly in February. His work not only allowed many people to find work, but also helped support them and allowed them to maintain their dignity as they searched.

 

Roy Cho shows up

Democratic challenger in House race talks about Israel and more

What if the Jewish Community Relations Council held a candidates forum — and one of the candidates never came?

That was the situation in Temple Israel in Ridgewood on Monday night.

Joy Kurland, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, had invited both candidates for Congress from the 5th district.

Roy Cho, 33, the Democratic challenger was there.

Scott Garrett, 55, the Republican incumbent, was not.

 
 
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