Anyone trying to predict the course of newborn Sofie Dittmann’s life in 1928 would have imagined a solid, possibly even stolid upper-middle-class life, most likely in her birth city — Nuremberg, Germany.
It would have seemed an odd leap to imagine Sophie Dittman Heymann as she is today — the Republican mayor of Closter, coming to the end of her term as she completes eight years in office.
Her story, as Ms. Heymann tells it, involves hats, salamis, of course ambition, and a surprising but logical take on Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
It began with Sofie, as her name then was spelled, and her younger sister, Ilse, growing up in a comfortable German-Jewish home. Her father, Fritz Dittmann, a leather dealer, was a World War I veteran, and he had earned an Iron Cross fighting for Germany in that war. Her mother, Gerda, was the daughter of a banker. The family’s life in Germany ended abruptly in 1933, however, when one of her father’s employees — who “was a Nazi, but also very loyal to my father,” Ms. Heymann said — warned him that the Nazis would be coming for him the next day.
The family escaped that night — by taxi.
“We can accomplish more together by pooling our resources for a common goal,” explained Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, head of school of the Yavneh Academy in Paramus.
“Through this project, we hope to raise awareness across the broader community about the benefits of a stellar dual curricular Jewish education,” he said.
“We’re trying to educate different audiences within our community about the value of a Jewish education and the importance of investing in these schools,” Ms. Scherzer said. “These are the schools that produce leaders.”
In addition to the advertising campaign, planned marketing efforts include a short video, a website, and parlor meetings to take the case for day schools directly to community leaders.
Convincing children to chew gum is easy. Distributing gum that prevents tooth decay to children in urban slums is a bit trickier.
Still, given the success they enjoyed during their pilot year in India, the creators of Sweet Bites stand a good chance of making widespread gum distribution a reality.
According to 22-year-olds Josh Tycko of Demarest and Eric Kauderer-Abrams of Englewood, who joined with several friends at the University of Pennsylvania this year to found the group, tooth decay has been a terrible burden on the lives of millions of slum dwellers.
Sweet Bites wants to popularize the use of 100 percent xylitol-sweetened gum to reverse the trend. The students point out that clinical trials in both the United States and India have proved the gum’s efficacy in re-mineralizing enamel and reducing tooth decay.
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”
Is there any way to turn that around? To make any miniscule amount of good come out of great evil?
The Holocaust as living memory soon will flicker out. Survivors who can tell their stories are growing old. Soon it will be just images, photographs, videos, written and spoken words.
The Holocaust was pure evil, the unleashing of the worst human fears and instincts. There was nothing at all good about it. But in a soul-affirming act of reversal, it now is possible, almost 70 years after it ended, to use it to teach students how to become better people.
The first steps in that process are never to forget it, to honor its victims, and to listen to its survivors.
If local rabbis attend the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to take advantage of what Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner calls “great learning and great people,” this year they got more than they bargained for.
Rabbi Kirshner, religious leader of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, who this year spent his fifth summer at Hartman, said that “ironically, the topic was war and peace in Jewish texts. Little did we know it would be so relevant.
“A lot of rabbis in the diaspora talk about Israel from a distance,” he said. “But to be there, to attend the funerals of the three boys” — Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah, whose abduction and murder were the catalyst for the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza — “to be familiar with bomb shelters,” makes a big difference.
The sages say that before a Jewish community builds a synagogue or buys a Torah, it should build a mikvah, the ritual bath used to observe laws of family purity and complete conversions.
The Teaneck mikvah on Windsor Road, next to Temple Emeth, was built in the 1970s, and the township’s mikvah association opened a second ritual bath this spring. Set across the street from the Jewish Center of Teaneck, it is positioned to better serve families on the south side of town. The two mikvaot serve about 1,000 people each month, but rely solely on donations to cover operating costs. Now, many of Teaneck’s Orthodox synagogues are creating a new kehilla fund fee in their membership dues to help support the mikvah.
“Certain things are communal responsibilities,” said Michael Rogovin, president of Teaneck’s Netivot Shalom. “The eruv and the mivkah are really critical to our functioning as an Orthodox community.”
The face of terrorism in the Middle East is a 60ish grandmother and her 9-year-old grandson.
Before I left on my first trip to Israel with the Washington Township YJCC in 2008, my son said, “You’ll be surprised at your response to the trip. It will change you.”
Many readers of this newspaper have grown up with an ingrained sense of responsibility to aid Israel, both financially and in spirit. We regularly read about the terror of the rockets and the suffering of the border cities. As a Jew, I feel that as long as Israel exists, we are safe here. That is the big picture.
But I am not a big-picture person. I am a microcosm person, most involved with my immediate family, than my larger family. My involvement ripples out from the family, like the ripples from a rock thrown into a pool of water. Eventually the ripples touch the entire pond. That’s where Roni and her 9-year-old grandson come in. They are now part of my small picture.
They didn’t want to sit on the sidelines.
So last week, they went to Israel on a mission with the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
“Instead of sitting in my family room with my iPad reading the news in Israel and feeling bereft, I was standing shoulder to shoulder with the families in the south who are suffering,” said Nina Kampler of Teaneck, who helped organize the trip as its volunteer chair.
The group spent most of its time in the south, but ventured north to visit the federation’s sister city, Nahariya, at the end of the trip. The visit combined meeting with Israelis, including the wounded and the mourning, and hearing from experts.
“We were able to witness a society just beginning to emerge from the depth of the war but still reeling from its enormous impact, while directly infusing the people we met with support and love,” said Ms. Kampler, whose husband, Dr. Zvi Marans, is president of the federation.