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News: Local

Face-to-face dialogue

Jewish, Muslim teens meet for a semester in River Edge

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It seems like such a reasonable, obvious idea.

Have Jewish and Muslim teenagers talk to each other. Let them listen to each other. Let them compare traditions and experiences; let them figure out what makes them similar and what differentiates their own tradition and makes it special.

Let them see the humanity in each other.

Right now, though, the world is not a place where such conversations flourish — in fact, the world right now seems to be a place where hatred and willful misunderstanding are valued. That’s why the program bringing together Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge and the Peace Island Institute, a national organization with local headquarters in Hasbrouck Heights, is unusual.

First Person

Sydney under siege

A personal reflection

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On Sunday evening, in the midst of putting our daughters to bed, our cell phones began buzzing with messages from local friends, directing our attention to a most troubling incident in the heart of Sydney’s central business district.

Reports from television and online media offered varying perspectives — but the truth was that Sydney was under siege, and as many as 50 innocent Sydneysiders were being held hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place.

Throughout our time together in Sydney, the two of us, along with our friends and family, enjoyed many cups of coffee and hot cocoa at the Lindt Cafe. Martin Place is only three train stops from Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, including world-famous Bondi, where Lisa was raised, and where Paul, who was born in the United States, spent the first seven years of his career as rabbi at Emanuel Synagogue in Woollahra.


Meeting the troops

Englewood couple joins Friends of the IDF mission to Israel

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Dr. Robert and Barbara Cohen of Englewood met plenty of top-brass VIPs on their recent visit to Israel with the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces National Leadership Mission — President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz among them.

But what stands out in Dr. Cohen’s mind are the regular soldiers in uniform.

“I was so impressed by the goodness of the individuals I met, the young soldiers and their commanding officers,” Dr. Cohen, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said. “These young people, right out of high school, are giving up two or three years of their lives for Israel. And they all, to the man or woman, told us they consider it an honor to preserve and protect Israel for the Jewish people.”


More aid for Holocaust survivors

Home care is called the ‘top social welfare priority’

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It would appear that the needs of aging Holocaust survivors are being increasingly recognized.

Last month, following years of negotiations with the German government, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany announced increased financial assistance for child survivors of the Holocaust as well as for survivors of forced labor. This week, the Claims Conference reported that elderly Holocaust victims will receive significantly more aid in 2015.

Indeed, Claims Conference president Julius Berman said, total allocations to social service organizations around the world in 2015 will be $365 million. That is a 21 percent increase over 2014. In New Jersey, 12 social service agencies will receive a total of $6.5 million, more than double the amount for 2014.


Things to do on December 25

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Thursday, December 25, is a Very Big Holiday. And it seems like everything is shuttered. Not so. We’ve come up with plenty of things to do that day, Jewish and not Jewish. So go ahead and enjoy!

1. Magical moments

Come to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades and be wowed by the magic and comedy act performed by David Caserta, who was recently showcased on “America’s Got Talent.” The show runs from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Caserta is known especially for the art of illusion and for letting the audience in on the act. Tickets for the hour-long show are $10 for adults and $8 for kids who are members, $12 and 10 for nonmembers. After the show, hang out at the center and work up a sweat as you work out. For tickets, go to, call Michal at (201) 408-1467, or email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). JCC on the Palisades, 411 E. Clinton Ave., Tenafly.

2. Camp for the family at the Bergen YJCC


Bridgegate revisited

Local cyclist tells a different story of trans-Hudson travails

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I try to walk, kayak, or bike as often as possible. That’s part of my effort to save the planet, stay in good health, and get the most out of my time here.

So when I arranged to meet a pretty lady for a date in Brooklyn, there was never any doubt about how I would get there. I biked from my Teaneck home to work in the Heights, and after a long day I headed south to Brooklyn.

The date went well.

At 11 p.m. I pedaled up through Brooklyn on Flatbush Avenue and thought back on my evening. Over the Manhattan Bridge bike path, across town, and up the Hudson River Greenway, I rode through the night on a dark and empty bike path. The Hudson resonated with Manhattan’s nightlife. It reflected towering skyscraper lights and pulsed against the rocks with water so black that a sleepy cyclist could lose himself in it.


Rolling up our sleeves

Why we should pitch in and help the less fortunate

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As a Jew, “calling” — as in “having a calling” — isn’t something I hear often in conversation. But I heard it Sunday morning as I worked with about 25 other volunteers sorting food for the Center for Food Action in Saddle Brook.

What I heard was this: “I skipped church this morning to do this, but I guess it was a higher calling.” The statement was echoed and applauded by several other volunteers.

My first (childishly defensive) instinct was to look around and try to calculate how many of the volunteers were Jews. Sadly, the number wasn’t high. And frankly, I was a bit jealous. After all, we may not have a “calling,” but as a community, we do have a highly developed social conscience.

According to Jennifer Johnson, CFA’s director of communications, the number of people requiring food assistance is rising.


Norpac hosts fundraiser for Huckabee

Norpac’s president Dr. Ben Chouake weighs in on the state of the U.S.-Israel relationship

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It’s hard to sign on to social media these days without seeing a right-wing news article decrying President Obama’s relationship with Israel. Despite a plethora of stories of how the president is abandoning Israel, “the current status of the U.S.-Israel relationship is very strong,” Dr. Ben Chouake, Norpac’s president, said.
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What did he know? When did he know it?

State Senate majority leader Loretta Weinberg discusses GWB scandal interim report

On Monday, the New Jersey state legislative committee investigating Bridgegate submitted an interim report.

Anyone expecting a final answer to the question of what did he know and when did he know it — or to be more specific, how much did Governor Chris Christie know about the closure of the three local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, creating potentially lethal havoc in Fort Lee, and when did he learn that his aides had been responsible for it — would be disappointed.

Still, there are nuggets there about the scandal, lying ready for gleaning.

This is very much an interim report, Loretta Weinberg stressed. Ms. Weinberg, a Democrat, is the state Senate’s majority leader. She lives in Teaneck, and Fort Lee is in her district.


Pruzansky vs. Matanky

Rabbi’s Nazi analogy draws fire

The president of the Rabbinical Council of American, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, has weighed in on the ongoing dispute between Rabbi Steven Pruzansky of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck and Gary Rosenblatt of Teaneck, editor and publisher of New York’s Jewish Week.

“I am pained that I have to distance myself from a colleague, but the kind of language that Rabbi Pruzansky used is unacceptable and crosses the line of decency and discourse,” Rabbi Matanky is quoted in the Jewish Week as having written. (Rabbi Matanky lives in Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood — which is more or less the Teaneck of the Midwest — where he is rabbi of Congregations K.I.N.S. and dean of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy.)


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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