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Oslo, Birthright, and me

Yossi Beilin, to speak at Tenafly JCC, talks about his past

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For a man who never served as Israel’s prime minister, Dr. Yossi Beilin had an outsized impact on Israeli history.

A journalist for the Labor party paper Davar who entered politics as a Labor Party spokesman before being appointed cabinet secretary by Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1984, Dr. Beilin made his mark with two bold policies that were reluctantly but influentially adopted by the Israeli government: the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and the Birthright Israel program.

On Thursday, Dr. Beilin will address “The future of Israel in the Middle East” at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, in a program sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.

Dr. Beilin — he holds a doctorate in political science from Tel Aviv University — ended his political career in 2008, having served as a Knesset member for 20 years, and as deputy foreign minister, justice minister, and minister of religious affairs.

 
 

A new relationship in Ridgewood

Conservative, Reconstructionist shuls join forces, work together, retain differences

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Last December, Rabbi David J. Fine of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood wrote a thoughtful and perceptive op ed in this newspaper about why the word merger, at least when applied to synagogues, seems somehow dirty, perhaps borderline pornographic. (It is, in fact, “a word that synagogue trustees often keep at a greater distance than fried pork chops,” he wrote.)

That automatic distaste is not only unhelpful, it’s also inaccurate, he continued then; in fact, some of our models, based on the last century’s understanding of affiliation, and also on post-World War II suburban demographics, simply are outdated.

If we are to flourish — perhaps to continue to flourish, perhaps to do so again — we are going to have to acknowledge change, accommodate it, and not see it as failure. Considering a merger does not mean that we’re not big enough alone, or strong enough, or interesting or compelling or affordable enough. Instead, it may present us with the chance to examine our assumptions, keep some, and discard others, he said.

 
 

Mourning possibilities

Local woman helps parents face trauma of stillbirth, infant mortality

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Three decades ago, when Reva and Danny Judas’ newborn son died, just 12 hours after he was born, there was nowhere for the Teaneck couple to turn for emotional support.

Nobody wanted to talk about loss; it was believed best to get on with life and not dwell on the tragedy.

Reva Judas wasn’t willing to accept that approach, and she did not think anyone else should, either — especially after suffering six miscarriages between the births of her four healthy children.

She soon became a go-to person for others in similar situations, and eventually earned certification as a hospital chaplain. In January 2009, Ms. Judas founded the nonprofit infant and pregnancy loss support organization Nechama (the Hebrew word for “comfort”) initially at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and then at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.

 
 

A new haven for abused seniors

Jewish Home to offer short-term shelter, community education

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It is common, when discussing abuse, to think of victimized children, or mistreated spouses. The abuse of seniors is less publicized, but it is equally horrific.

According to Carol Elliott, president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family, “the national estimate is between 3 1/2 and 5 million [elderly] victims each year,” and some studies indicate that 1 in 10 seniors have suffered some form of abuse.

To address this problem, in mid-July the Jewish Home will unveil SeniorHaven Elder Abuse Shelter. It will be the first such facility in New Jersey and the 12th such shelter in the United States. SeniorHaven will offer community education as well as emergency short-term shelter for victims.

Abuse takes many forms, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and financial, Ms. Elliott said. It may also take the form of neglect. With elder abuse on the rise, SeniorHaven is sorely needed.

 
 

JONAH loses

Jurors say ‘gay conversion’ group defrauded clients

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After deliberating for just two and a half hours, six Hudson County jurors awarded $72,400 on June 25 to three religiously observant men who claimed they were defrauded by a Jersey City-based organization that said it could “cure” them of their homosexuality.

Two of the men are Orthodox Jews, and the organization is called JONAH, which stands for Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing.

The jury sided with the plaintiffs’ allegation that JONAH engaged in “unconscionable commercial practice” under New Jersey law by claiming that same-sex attractions can be reduced or eliminated through therapy.

Plaintiffs Chaim Levin and Benjamin Unger — both formerly Orthodox Jews — and Michael Ferguson, who is Mormon, along with Mr. Levin’s mother and the mother of another JONAH client, Sheldon Bruck, sued the group under a tough New Jersey consumer protection statute. (Because Mr. Bruck was only 17, he was not permitted to be a party to the suit.)

 
 

Iran deadline approaches

Skeptics on both sides draw dueling red lines

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WASHINGTON — It’s deadline time at the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers, and skeptics on both sides are laying out red lines in a bid to shape a final deal.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, who had been wary of the talks, last week outlined his own expectations for the deal — and where there would be no compromise.

On the American side, a five-point memo circulated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has been influential in shaping how Congress and others are pressing the Obama administration.

Among the contentious issues are the period that restrictions must stay in place and how much Iran must reveal of its nuclear past.

Officials on both sides say that the talks being held in Vienna, Austria, will stretch for a week or so beyond Tuesday’s deadline.

 
 

Will Israelis pay the price for a natural gas ‘monopoly’?

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Israeli consumers are no strangers to high prices.

Basic household goods like food and toiletries cost more in Israel than in all but two countries in Europe, a recent Nielsen research study found. Israeli real estate prices are up nearly 60 percent since 2008. Tel Aviv is the world’s third-most expensive city in which to buy beer, and furniture prices at IKEA Israel are more than double those at IKEA Norway, recent surveys have shown.

Now Israeli consumers are worried about high natural gas prices.

At issue is a deal on which the Knesset is preparing to vote that would give a partnership between two companies — Texas-based Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group — control over developing the two largest gas fields discovered off Israel’s Mediterranean coast in recent years.

 
 

Remembering Steven Sotloff

Honoring the slain journalist in his Florida hometown

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It’s been eight months since Jewish freelance journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS.

Still shaken by the loss, his hometown, Pinecrest, Florida, an upscale community of some 20,000 people, just south of Miami, continues to find new ways to honor his memory.

The tributes to Sotloff range in scale from local tributes to programs that are global in reach.

“Temple Beth Am Day School wants you to know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten,” fifth-grader Zachary Marcus wrote in a dedication in the school’s yearbook. “It must have been too terrible to put into words what you went through leading to your death. You have more bravery and courage than anyone else we know. You are a true superhero, a real superman.”

 
 
 
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