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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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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Where greatness lies

A memorial to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

On July 3, 5 Tammuz, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died. He was 89.

He inspired tens of thousands of people directly — and indirectly he inspired millions more, people who have yet to discover that the spiritual approaches they hold dear were invented and graciously shared by him.

Reb Zalman was prodigiously influential over many decades, but he was not proportionately famous. He was not always given credit for his vast learning or for his astonishing array of contributions. And he was okay with that.

The first time I saw Reb Zalman, he was on the bimah of an auditorium that held 2,000 people. His face beamed love at the congregation. I had been leading another High Holiday service, and I was able to join his congregation for the last few minutes of Rosh Hashanah morning.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

RECENTLYADDED

Lessons from the Shoah

Interactive program uses testimonies to give Schechter students a new understanding

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

Is there any way to turn that around? To make any miniscule amount of good come out of great evil?

The Holocaust as living memory soon will flicker out. Survivors who can tell their stories are growing old. Soon it will be just images, photographs, videos, written and spoken words.

The Holocaust was pure evil, the unleashing of the worst human fears and instincts. There was nothing at all good about it. But in a soul-affirming act of reversal, it now is possible, almost 70 years after it ended, to use it to teach students how to become better people.

The first steps in that process are never to forget it, to honor its victims, and to listen to its survivors.

 

Hands-on learning for local rabbis

Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute teaches about war as rockets fall

If local rabbis attend the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to take advantage of what Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner calls “great learning and great people,” this year they got more than they bargained for.

Rabbi Kirshner, religious leader of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, who this year spent his fifth summer at Hartman, said that “ironically, the topic was war and peace in Jewish texts. Little did we know it would be so relevant.

“A lot of rabbis in the diaspora talk about Israel from a distance,” he said. “But to be there, to attend the funerals of the three boys” — Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, whose abduction and murder were the catalyst for the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza — “to be familiar with bomb shelters,” makes a big difference.

 

‘It’s a communal responsibility’

The sages say that before a Jewish community builds a synagogue or buys a Torah, it should build a mikvah, the ritual bath used to observe laws of family purity and complete conversions.

The Teaneck mikvah on Windsor Road, next to Temple Emeth, was built in the 1970s, and the township’s mikvah association opened a second ritual bath this spring. Set across the street from the Jewish Center of Teaneck, it is positioned to better serve families on the south side of town. The two mikvaot serve about 1,000 people each month, but rely solely on donations to cover operating costs. Now, many of Teaneck’s Orthodox synagogues are creating a new kehilla fund fee in their membership dues to help support the mikvah.

“Certain things are communal responsibilities,” said Michael Rogovin, president of Teaneck’s Netivot Shalom. “The eruv and the mivkah are really critical to our functioning as an Orthodox community.”

 
 
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