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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
2. Camp for the family at the Bergen YJCC
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.
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.