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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

Many ways to learn

Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey reboots its adult ed program

We don’t know much yet about the findings of the soon-to-be-released survey by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, but there is one nugget that already has been made public.

Jewish adults hunger to know more. Their desire for Jewish learning continues to grow. Jewish educators and leaders know that to be true intuitively, and that understanding is borne out in the proliferation of programs and institutes around the area.

Until recently, the federation has fed that hunger with its Melton program. For years now, the Florence Melton program has brought its two-year, pluralistic, in-depth lessons to synagogue classrooms across the region. But nothing lasts forever, and the Melton program has now ended locally — as it has, in fact, in many of the other places that once hosted it.

 

Walking for life

Bone marrow donor, recipient to meet

At the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation’s third annual Walk for Life in Memory of Mel Cohen on Sunday, October 26, a 23-year-old Englewood bone-marrow donor will meet his 43-year-old recipient for the first time since the successful procedure was done, more than a year ago.

These emotional meetings are a highlight of the annual walk, Gift of Life’s CFO, Gregg Frances, said. “Every year at these events we introduce a donor who has never, until that point, met the recipient whose life he or she saved. There’s a one-year moratorium from the date of transplant to the date of meeting, as legislated by the United States.”

 

Teens: Don’t drink on Simchat Torah

Local yeshiva high schools send joint letter urging celebration but also restraint

The principals of six Jewish high schools serving northern New Jersey sent a joint letter to parents urging vigilance in the face of teenage drinking on Simchat Torah, “to guarantee that this special time of holiness will not degenerate into the opposite kind of experience for anyone.”

Nobody is sure how alcohol consumption became a tradition of this holiday, which celebrates the completion of the yearly Torah-reading cycle.

“There are rabbinic sources about drinking wine in the context of the Purim seudah,” or meal, says Teaneck’s Rabbi Michael Taubes, head of school for the Yeshiva University High School for Boys, and one of the six signatories.

 
 
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