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Weathering Irene

Two Jews among 33 deaths, but for most, storm was a costly annoyance

 
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The parking lot of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood was turned into a river, “with actual white rapids at some points,” said its rabbi, David Fine. Courtesy Rabbi David Fine

For some in the Jewish community, Hurricane Irene was a soggy inconvenience.

For others, it became a moment to extend a helping hand — in at least one case, tragically.

Throughout the tristate area, tragedies were at a minimum, but the few tragedies that there were nevertheless were major ones for the families involved.

David Reichenberg, a 50-year-old Orthodox Jewish father of four from Spring Valley, N.Y., died saving a father and his six-year-old son from a downed power line. Reichenberg came into contact with the live wire and was electrocuted. He was one of at least two Jews who were reported killed by the storm.

The other, Rozalia Gluck, 82, was trapped in a Catskills motel that was swept away by flood waters during the storm. Authorities recovered her body late Sunday.

By late Monday, 33 deaths in 10 states were attributed to Hurricane Irene, The Associated Press reported.

Reichenberg's death came after he stopped to help a Jewish boy and his father who had been viewing damage outside their home in Rockland County, N.Y. The boy had touched a metal fence electrified by a fallen wire. Reichenberg pulled the two from the fence, but could not escape himself, according to an eyewitness.

Reichenberg was buried Sunday night. The injured boy was reported to be in critical but stable condition as of Monday. His father suffered only minor injuries.

Even before the storm struck, the Jewish community attempted to prepare for the worst.

Officials offered both practical and religious counsel in preparation for the hurricane. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) issued hurricane preparation guides. The Orthodox website Vos Iz Neias {Ed. Note: it means "What's New?") posted halachic guidelines issued years ago by the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America and others for what to do on the Sabbath in the event of a hurricane.

Lindsay Goldman, the director of UJA-Federation of New York's J-11 Information Referral Center, reported that the philanthropy had advised its partner agencies to activate their emergency protocols, many of which were created only in recent years by federation grants, and were co-coordinating agencies to assist one another. As of Monday morning, she said, all agencies had reported that they were open.

The URJ and B'nai B'rith International both opened Hurricane relief funds to collect donations for hurricane aid. Rhonda Love, the director of B'nai B'rith's Center for Community Action, said that even though this disaster occurred in the densely Jewish East Coast, aid will remain consistent with past natural disaster relief efforts — based on need, not creed. "We'll work where there's any opportunity to help," Love said.

The committee that will allocate the URJ funds is currently reviewing damage reports from congregations but will give according to the needs of "congregations, Jewish communities, or larger communities," a spokesman said. Those decisions will be made in the next week or two, the spokesman added.

 
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What’s it like to be Jewish in Great Britain?

A visiting Brit, former Board of Deputies head, talks about similarities and differences

In a way, British Jewish life can seem to us, here in the United States, to be an alternative universe version of our life here.

Most British Jews have backgrounds similar to our own — most are the descendants of eastern Europeans, some of whom can be traced back three or four generations, others who are Holocaust refugees or survivors. A smaller number of them are Sephardi.

British Jews celebrate the same Jewish holidays, speak the same language, share many Jewish and general cultural references. They even can trace their mythic origins in their country to the east side of its biggest city — Manhattan’s Lower East Side for us, London’s East End for them.

There are many differences as well, though. To begin with, we do not say a prayer for the Queen during our prayer services. Our community is much larger — they have fewer than 300,000, representing about .4 percent of all Britons. (That’s roughly the number of Jews in northern New Jersey.) We have somewhere between 4.2 and 5.3 million, depending on which definition of Jewish the statistician uses. That’s about 1.8 percent of all Americans. They have those lovely, dancing, enviable accents; we plod along in our flat heavy Americanese.

 

Ari Teman’s laughing matters

Teaneck native’s Rocket Shelter Comedy entertains Israelis under fire

What’s the toughest part of working for the Hamas Propaganda Unit? You need equipment to stage films and you can’t go to B&H Photo.

Teaneck-bred standup comic Ari Teman brought a suitcase of jokes like this one when he flew to Israel late last week to headline a series of comedy shows in regular venues as well as bomb shelters and army bases.

With fellow American standup Danny Cohen and Texan-Israeli comedian Benji Lovitt, Mr. Teman’s Rocket Shelter Comedy (http://RocketShelterComedy.com) shows took place from this week in cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheva, and Modi’in. All proceeds are to be donated to the Friends of the IDF Lone Soldier Fund.

When asked how he got the idea for the comedy mission, Mr. Teman — a graduate of the Torah Academy of Bergen County — explained that it resulted from a memo from his attorneys at the Israeli law firm GKH.

 

‘Uncertain Justice’

Joshua Matz looks at the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and preconceptions

As we have seen once again in the last few weeks, as its session drew to its usual dramatic end, Supreme Court decisions tend to be 5 to 4.

The winning side triumphs –often, it actively gloats — and the losing side slinks off to mutter darkly about idiocy and misreading and blatant politicization.

That is an entirely reasonable thing for those of us who are not Supreme Court justices — and that is everyone except nine of us, and none of those nine people read this newspaper — to feel, but it is neither accurate nor particularly helpful to do so, Joshua Matz says.

Mr. Matz, who grew up in Suffern, is the co-author of “Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution.” Working with Laurence Tribe, the lawyer and Harvard Law School professor whose name was mentioned for decades as a likely Supreme Court nominee, Mr. Matz contends that in fact the justices are more different from each other than their glibly applied labels might imply, and that their own histories, beliefs, and casts of mind mean that the decisions they make are fueled by something more powerful, more interesting, and more worthy of attention than the certainties of 5 to 4 might suggest. (Or, as Oscar Wilde put it, “The truth is rarely pure, and never simple.”)

 

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Netanyahu said he had asked his security adviser, Ya’akov Amidror, to establish a committee focused on “minimizing the damage caused” by the report.

 

Facebook and Zuckerberg does an about-face and deletes Palestinian page calling for a Third Intifada

Following widespread criticism, a Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israel was removed on March 29. On the Facebook page, Palestinians were urged to launch street protests following Friday May 15 and begin an uprising as modelled by similar uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. Killing Jews en masse was emphasized.

According to the Facebook page, “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” The page had more than 340,000 fans. However, even while the page was removed, a new page now exists in its place with the same name,  “Third Palestinian Intifada.”

 

Did heated rhetoric play role in shooting of Giffords?

WASHINGTON – The 8th District in southern Arizona represented by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords comprises liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands, which means moderation is a must. But it also means that spirits and tensions run high.

Giffords’ office in Tucson was ransacked in March following her vote for health care reform — a vote the Democrat told reporters that she would cast even if it meant her career. She refused to be cowed, but she also took aim at the hyped rhetoric. She cast the back-and-forth as part of the democratic process.

 
 
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