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Security at home

Second suspect arrested in synagogue attacks

 
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With the arrest of a second Lodi resident, the Bergen County Prosecutors Office (BCPO) says that it has resolved all the executed and planned attacks on area synagogues that took place in December and January.

Nineteen-year-old Aakash Dalal was arraigned on Monday as co-conspirator in the most dangerous attacks, in which firebombs were thrown into the rabbi’s residence at Congregation Beth El in Rutherford. According to Prosecutor John Molinelli, who announced the arrest at an afternoon press conference on Friday, March 2, Dalal has been friends since middle school with Anthony M. Graziano, who was arrested in January and charged with nine counts of attempted murder for the Rutherford attack.

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Aakash Dalal, seen here with Rep. Ron Paul, for whom he campaigned in New Hampshire, is alleged to have masterminded synagogue attacks in December and January. The photograph was posted on Dalal’s Facebook page.

Dalal pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He and Graziano are being held on $2.5 million bond each at the Bergen County jail.

The prosecutor said Dalal orchestrated all five anti-Semitic incidents, which began in December with anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on synagogues in Maywood and Hackensack, and concluded with a planned, but never executed, attack on the Jewish Community Center of Paramus.

Following Graziano’s arrest, a message fingering Dalal as the mastermind was anonymously posted in the comments of news reports about the arrest, including on The Jewish Standard’s website.

“I have personally known anthony for a few years now. he is not mentally all there he needs help, he shouldn’t be serving his time in prison he should be placed in a psychiatric hospital. he has been influenced/taking under the wing by and individual named aakash dalal. this individual has put thoughts into his head that rich upper class people of the jewish community are going to take over the world. I believe that this individual made anthony commit these actions to aid in ‘the movement’ dalal is trying to create.”

The Jewish Standard forwarded the message to the BCPO, which began investigating Dalal and obtained text messages exchanged by the two teenagers.

On the day of Graziano’s arrest, a letter to the editor signed by Aakash Dalal was published on the website of the Rutgers student newspaper, The Daily Targum, defending Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and attacking the Federal Reserve. It identified Dalal as a sophomore majoring in chemistry and biological sciences.

Acquaintances of Dalal described him as someone who was difficult to get along with, and an atheist who hated religion.

“I got into arguments with him for his views on Muslims, Jews, and pretty much any religion,” wrote Ishan Patel at the NJ.com website. “The kid was very smart in high school, but people including myself thought he was weird.”

Dalal’s attorney said that while text messages show communication between Dalal and Graziano, that itself is not criminal. The text messages show Graziano boasting of his attack on the Rutherford synagogue, and Dalal egging him on. Dalal was not actually at the attack, for which Graziano faces nine counts of attempted murder, because he was in New Hampshire campaigning for Ron Paul, Dalal’s attorney said.

 

More on: Security at home

 
 
 

NJ institutions weigh Iranian threat

Amid analysis of the Iranian nuclear threat and how the United States should respond on a national level, recent attacks on Israeli embassies in India and Georgia have Jewish institutions asking a question that is much closer to home: Does Iran pose a local terror threat?

“Homeland security really starts as security in the neighborhood,” Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Jewish Federations of North America-affiliated Secure Community Network (SCN), told JointMedia News Service.

SCN, which partners with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and 56 major Jewish organizations, is asking Jewish organizations “to remain vigilant, to ensure that they have tested their [emergency management and response] plans,” and if they do not have plans, to develop them, Goldenberg said.

 
 

Maywood Rotary donates a synagogue’s ‘eyes’

Warning: If you have an unshakeable belief that the Jews are an ever-persecuted people, please skip this story.

On the other hand, if you are looking for another example of how the good people of Bergen County have no truck for anti-Semitic vandalism, read on.

Back in December, when 19-year-old Anthony M. Graziano allegedly spray painted hate slogans at the Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood, volunteers from local chapters of Rotary International and the American Legion helped scrub away the graffitti. Now, the synagogue’s neighbors have chipped in to make certain it does not happen again.

 
 
 
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

 

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.

 

Reality check

Author to discuss intergenerational ‘experiment’

Katie Hafner began her professional career writing for a small newspaper in Lake Tahoe.

That didn’t last for long, though. “I worked my way up,” said Ms. Hafner, who now writes on health care for the New York Times.

A seasoned journalist, Ms. Hafner was exceptionally well prepared to chronicle an experience in her own life that she calls both an “experiment in intergenerational living” and a “disaster.” Inviting her 77-year-old mother to live with her and her teenage daughter, Zoe, in San Francisco, Ms. Hafner learned that fairy-tale imaginings are no match for emotional truths.

(In her book, Ms. Hafner calls her mother Helen. That is not her real name; her mother requested anonymity, and Ms. Hafner honored the request.)

 
 
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