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News: Local

Many ways to learn

Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey reboots its adult ed program

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We don’t know much yet about the findings of the soon-to-be-released survey by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, but there is one nugget that already has been made public.

Jewish adults hunger to know more. Their desire for Jewish learning continues to grow. Jewish educators and leaders know that to be true intuitively, and that understanding is borne out in the proliferation of programs and institutes around the area.

Until recently, the federation has fed that hunger with its Melton program. For years now, the Florence Melton program has brought its two-year, pluralistic, in-depth lessons to synagogue classrooms across the region. But nothing lasts forever, and the Melton program has now ended locally — as it has, in fact, in many of the other places that once hosted it.


Walking for life

Bone marrow donor, recipient to meet

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At the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation’s third annual Walk for Life in Memory of Mel Cohen on Sunday, October 26, a 23-year-old Englewood bone-marrow donor will meet his 43-year-old recipient for the first time since the successful procedure was done, more than a year ago.

These emotional meetings are a highlight of the annual walk, Gift of Life’s CFO, Gregg Frances, said. “Every year at these events we introduce a donor who has never, until that point, met the recipient whose life he or she saved. There’s a one-year moratorium from the date of transplant to the date of meeting, as legislated by the United States.”


Teens: Don’t drink on Simchat Torah

Local yeshiva high schools send joint letter urging celebration but also restraint

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The principals of six Jewish high schools serving northern New Jersey sent a joint letter to parents urging vigilance in the face of teenage drinking on Simchat Torah, “to guarantee that this special time of holiness will not degenerate into the opposite kind of experience for anyone.”

Nobody is sure how alcohol consumption became a tradition of this holiday, which celebrates the completion of the yearly Torah-reading cycle.

“There are rabbinic sources about drinking wine in the context of the Purim seudah,” or meal, says Teaneck’s Rabbi Michael Taubes, head of school for the Yeshiva University High School for Boys, and one of the six signatories.


Diversity and its discontents on Simchat Torah

Manhattan shul welcomes everyone but hopes they’re sober

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Although most yeshiva high school students go to their own shuls on Simchat Torah, do not drink, and go home safely after the dancing has ended, as the letter from six of their school leaders makes clear, some of them do not.

Where do those students go for their evening of drunken revelry?

No doubt to many places, but one great glittering magnet for them seems to be Congregation Bnai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, just a bridge-span away.

Simchat Torah services at BJ, as the shul is called, are unusual, combining reverence, exuberance, and expertly performed and sung music into a potent, fervent, pulsing mix.


Privacy vs. the right to know

Looking at privacy, politicians, and power in Franklin Lakes

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What was Anthony Weiner thinking?

How many women did JKF sleep with?

Who really wanted to see LBJ’s scar?

What did Newt Gingrich really say to his soon-to-be-ex-wife as she recovered from surgery?

Why did Eliot Spitzer keep his socks on?

What does the Appalachian Trail really mean?


Teaching tolerance

Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s stepsister, to speak at Eternal Flame program

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The Eternal Flame Holocaust education program — a pilot project funded by the George and Martha Rich Foundation — got off to a good start this year, using interactive workshops to teach some 20 children about the human costs of intolerance.

The venture — now centered at Valley Chabad in Woodcliff Lake but slated to expand — “is about much more than just teaching,” said Michael Leob, son of George and Martha Rich and a trustee of the foundation, which George and Martha Rich established in 1992.

The nonprofit foundation, he said, was created not only for Holocaust education but also for using that education as a basis for learning to prevent genocide and intolerance at every level and toward any ethnic group.


Sinai and Synapses

Talk at Teaneck temple looks at the strangeness of time

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Is science at war with religion?

Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman has devoted his career to showing that not only are those two forces for good in the world not at war with each other, but in fact they work together.

He has founded an institute, Sinai and Synapses, to help connect those two worlds, and to help people see the connection. And he will talk about it tonight when he delivers the 2014 Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg Memorial Lecture at Temple Emeth in Teaneck.

Rabbi Mitelman, who was ordained at Hebrew union College-Jewish Institute for Religion in Cincinnati, until recently was a pulpit rabbi in New York’s suburban Westchester County. Sinai and Synapses, his brainchild, was incubated at Clal — The National Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership.


Drunk on Simchat Torah

Diversity and its discontents on Simchat Torah

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Manhattan shul welcomes everyone but hopes they’re sober

Although most yeshiva high school students go to their own shuls on Simchat Torah, do not drink, and go home safely after the dancing has ended, as the letter from six of their school leaders makes clear, some of them do not.

Where do those students go for their evening of drunken revelry?

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Laughing with Joan

I made Joan Rivers laugh.

Of course she made me laugh, like she did to millions of others through her decades-long, often unfiltered, and ever-funny career, but yes, I made Joan Rivers laugh.

At the time, I was working at the celebrity-obsessed New York Post, and as the features writer for its women’s section, I had reason to ring up the raspy-voiced, Brooklyn-born blonde for a quickie. I had to grab a quote for some story that I was writing. As I recall, the conversation had turned to food, a favorite subject of the Jewish woman on my end of the phone, and, apparently, of that Jewish woman on the other end as well. Joan told me that she just adored the creamed spinach served at the legendary Brooklyn restaurant, Peter Luger’s — a must-have accompaniment to its famous and robust steaks. Joan told me she would dine there with a hairdresser-to-the-stars, the late Kenneth Battelle. (She kept her physique petite with this practice: She never ate anything after 3 p.m. If she did find herself dining with someone, she popped Altoids to keep her mouth busy.)


Cookin’ it up!

Tales of a Teaneck kitchen prodigy

How did 12-year-old Eitan Bernath of Teaneck come to be on the Food Network’s popular cooking show “Chopped”?

“He’s always been curious and he likes science,” said his mother, Sabrina Bernath. “He thinks it’s cool to mix flavors and watch things rise. He also likes to make people happy,” she added, pointing out that he had just brought his friends a freshly baked batch of cinnabuns.

For Eitan, a student at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, cooking is more than just a hobby. Struggling for the right word, the fledgling chef — whose website,, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”


Policies are the best policy

Teaneck synagogue forum addresses child sexual abuse

Does your synagogue have policies in place to protect children from sexual abuse? Do your children’s schools and camps?

Such policies, Dr. Shira Berkovits told a meeting in Teaneck on Sunday night, can make a difference to children’s safety.

Dr. Berkovits is a consultant for the Department of Synagogue Services at the Orthodox Union, and she is developing a guide to preventing child sexual abuse in synagogues. She was speaking at Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael, as part of a panel on preventing child sexual abuse co-sponsored by three other Teaneck Orthodox congregations: Netivot Shalom, Keter Torah, and Lubavitch of Bergen County.



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