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Teaneck lecture features noted composer, visual artist

LocalPublished: 08 May 2015

Ilan Marans, the music and video specialist at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County is New Milford, is eagerly anticipating the tenth annual Alfred and Rose Buchman Endowed Lecture in the Visual Arts, a project of Teaneck’s Congregation Beth Sholom.

Chaired by Joan and Reuben Baron, the program, he said, will feature “quite an important person.”

That is no exaggeration.

Musician Steve Reich, who will visit the congregation on May 11, together with his wife and frequent collaborator, Beryl Korot, is widely recognized as one of America’s greatest and most influential living composer.

At the Teaneck program — “A Theater of Ideas: Exploring the Life and Legacy of Abraham through Video, Music, and the Spoken Word” — Mr. Reich and Ms. Korot, a pioneer in the field of video art, will describe their joint work in an innovative art form, documentary video opera.

 
 

Moving from music to art

But, says local cantor, leaving is hard

LocalPublished: 01 May 2015

After 20 years spent singing, teaching, conducting, and embracing the congregation at River Edge’s Temple Avodat Shalom, Cantor Ronit Josephson of Tenafly is hanging up her ritual robe and picking up a paint brush — again.

“To be an artist, you can’t be interrupted,” she said. But as a member of the clergy, “I was always on the job, 24/7, even on my day off. If someone needs you, you must be totally committed.”

So “I stopped painting and the muse left me,” Cantor Josephson said. “But now a voice is shouting in my ear to do it.

“I’m leaving because after 20 years, I have another passion. There’s a nagging voice telling me I must do it. But I want people to know that for the clergy to leave is one of the hardest things in their lives. People come to me and say they’re sad I’m leaving, but they don’t realize how difficult it is for me.”

 
 

Surviving ‘Monuments Man’ to speak in Teaneck, Paramus

LocalPublished: 17 April 2015

Harry Ettlinger of Rockaway has nothing negative to say about the movie “The Monuments Men.” In fact, he said, it is both “educational and recreational.”

Still, he pointed out, “Hollywood made it.” So it’s not surprising that the film doesn’t show what the former soldier, a real-life member of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Allied Armies — the MFAA — really did during his 15 months with the group.

The MFAA, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943, worked to retrieve and return priceless works of art looted or displaced from private and public collections in Nazi-occupied countries.

Mr. Ettlinger escaped from Germany with his family in September 1938 and “was the last bar-mitzvah boy in Karlsruhe, before the synagogue was burned down.” The family settled in Newark. He was drafted into the U.S. army in 1944. He was trained as an infantryman, and before he volunteered to work with the MFAA, he had little knowledge of fine arts.

 
 

JFNNJ Holocaust commemoration retains tradition, adds new insight

Keynote speaker will discuss biological implications of trauma

LocalPublished: 09 April 2015

There is something particularly meaningful about hearing the stories of individual survivors.

Allyn Michaelson and Rosalind Melzer, longtime organizers of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s annual Holocaust commemoration and this year’s co-chairs, have interviewed some 85 survivors, compiling their stories for these events.

“Finding survivors is getting harder,” Ms. Michaelson said, noting that as survivors age, it’s more difficult for them to go through the interview process and then show up at the programs. In addition, many have already told their stories, while others have chosen not to do so.

“We’re also running into survivors who were very young at the time” of the Holocaust, she said. In fact, one of the people who will be honored at the April 16 ceremony was 2 years old when he was placed on a kindertransport with his brother and sister.

 
 

Asking questions, finding your ‘Jewish trajectory’

LocalPublished: 03 April 2015

Abigail Pogrebin recalls that when she was growing up, her family frequently had dinner guests. Their minhag, apparently, was to grill those guests, asking them a lot of questions about themselves.

“That was the Pogrebin way,” she said.

Learning to interview people, causing them to “recognize that they were their truer self, even for a moment, in that interview,” has served her well, allowing her to dig deeper not only into the lives of others, but into her own life as well.

A noted journalist, author, and producer, her knack for asking questions, for engaging in conversation, will form the basis of a program at Temple Avodat Shalom on April 7, when Ms. Pogrebin will engage in conversation with Rabbi Paul Jacobson and answer questions from audience members.

 
 

About a cemetery

Centerville yields rich historical data, but much remains unknown

LocalPublished: 03 April 2015

What do you do when all the people who can answer your questions died long ago — and then, when you search for relevant documents, you find that most have disappeared or are moldering away in a damp cellar?

What happens is that you end up with partial answers — many of them mere speculation — and with more questions than when you started.

In 1847, B’nai Jeshurun, a small congregation of Orthodox German Jews in Paterson, acquired land for a cemetery in the Centerville section of Acquackanock Township, now modern-day Clifton. According to an article by George Holmsey in the Herald-News in 1967, the plot was “nestled between several backyards of homes off Broad Street, overlooking the New York skyline.”

The fledgling shul — containing only a handful of families — bought the property from Joseph V. Ashman, a doctor from New York City, for $50. The oldest organized Jewish cemetery in the state, today Centerville lies hidden away, virtually inaccessible, and scarcely remembered.

 
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Initiative brings student nurses together with Holocaust survivors

LocalPublished: 27 March 2015

Nursing is changing, according to Kathy Burke, the assistant dean in charge of nursing at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah.

“Nurses need to be prepared to move into the community, away from the hospital,” she said. “The community is the most important care-giving site.”

To ensure that their nurses receive this training, Ramapo provides its students with a variety of clinical experiences which “will redefine the health care of the future,” Ms. Burke said.

A new initiative — conceived by Dr. Michael Riff, director of Ramapo College’s Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Leah Kaufman, director of JFS of North Jersey — brings Burke’s students together with Holocaust survivors.

“Taking care of the elderly, especially those with such a unique history, will double the impact of this experience” for her students, Ms. Burke said. “It’s [important] for this newer generation of nurses to talk with individuals who have experienced the Holocaust.”

 
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‘You are not numbers. You have a name’

Tenafly JCC Holocaust commemoration highlights survivor from Tappan

LocalPublished: 27 March 2015

When the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades marks Yom Hashoah this year, its ceremony will combine words from the past with the voices of youth. Indeed — in a twist of fate Holocaust survivors could not have foreseen — Jewish children will sing the same opera performed by children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

In 1942, Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger, who lives in Tappan, N.Y., performed the role of the cat in the children’s opera “Brundibar.” The show was staged in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, as part of an effort to convince Red Cross inspectors, visiting delegations, and the world at large that nothing improper was taking place there.

“They took them to a staged area,” Ms. Weissberger said. “They were really fooled.”

On April 16, Ms. Weissberger — the last surviving member of the original cast — will share her memories as part of the JCC’s annual Yom Hashoah commemoration.

 
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Teaneck rabbi talks about slavery

New haggadah stresses both oppression and liberation

LocalPublished: 20 March 2015

T’ruah — The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights recently created a new haggadah, targeted to the issue of anti-trafficking.

“It’s really exciting,” said Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster of Teaneck, the group’s program director.

“It’s a full-length haggadah, to be used as a full anti-trafficking seder,” she continued, and users also may “pick and choose pieces. We saw that people were starting to do public anti-trafficking seders, and we wanted to create a resource for people to use in their homes.”

The new haggadah, “The Other Side of the Sea: A Haggadah on Fighting Modern Slavery,” edited by Rabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson, T’ruah’s director of education, looks at the issue of modern slavery through classical and contemporary texts, exploring “how we blot it out; how we support its survivors, and how we understand it religiously and spiritually.”

 
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Talking about liberation

New seder resources from Emerson tackle the issue of modern-day slavery

LocalPublished: 20 March 2015

Some two years ago, Rabbi Debra Orenstein, religious leader of Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson, got a call from the Rabbinical Assembly — the Conservative movement’s rabbis’ organization — asking her to write a sermon on human trafficking for the High Holidays.

“I wanted to do my duty and help the organization, so I agreed to do it,” she said, adding that she had no intention of giving such a sermon herself.

“I normally talk about personal issues, growth and development, on the High Holidays,” she said. But as she started reading “A Crime So Monstrous: Face to Face with Modern-Day Slavery” by Benjamin Skinner, “it made such a profound impression that I was drawn into the issue.” In fact, she did give a sermon on the topic on Rosh Hashanah.

The issue became a central focus for her, and as she began to think about Pesach this year, she realized “the irony of sitting around the Passover table and talking about being lifted out of the house of bondage. We can go through a whole seder and not acknowledge that there are millions of people still in slavery in the world.”

 
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