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Lois Goldrich
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Bonding through music

HaZamir unites teens from U.S., Israel

LocalPublished: 13 March 2015

Ask members of HaZamir, The International Jewish High School Choir, what the group means to them. Although making beautiful music is always near the top of the list, you’ll also hear glowing testimonials about friendship, growth, and a deepening connection to Israel.

Founded more than 20 years ago, HaZamir now brings together some 350 teens from 27 chapters across the United States and Israel. The Bergen County chapter, created in 2007, meets at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, under the leadership of Cantor Ronit Hanan.

“I started as a parent when Bergen County didn’t have its own chapter,” Cantor Hanan said. “My daughter and another Teaneck girl traveled down for rehearsals at Kushner [Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy] in Livingston.” After spending a weekend as a parent/chaperone for a HaZamir retreat, “I was hooked.”


When cultures collide

‘Crossing Delancey’ poses universal questions

TheaterPublished: 13 March 2015

Theater director Carol Fisher was pleasantly surprised when the Players Guild of Leonia enthusiastically accepted her suggestion that it mount a production of “Crossing Delancey.”

“It’s one of the few shows I’ve pitched,” she said. Another, “A Shayna Maidel,” was launched last year by the Bergen Players in Oradell.

“I’ve always loved it,” she said of her newest venture, noting that she also “adored” the movie version starring Amy Irving.

A nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital by day, Ms. Fisher — with four sons ranging in age from 15 to 24 — has spent the past six weeks rehearsing the play and familiarizing cast members with the cultural milieu underlying the plot.


How to support aging in place

Lavish Lunches support Kaplen JCC senior services

LocalPublished: 06 March 2015

It’s a story we hear more and more these days.

Someone’s father, or grandmother, or friend, who once was so active, is no longer able to participate in the activities that previously sustained them.

Whether they have slipped into dementia or simply cannot keep up physically, their lives now must change.

Fortunately, said Susan Marenoff of Tenafly, a sponsor of Lavish Lunches, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades is tackling this problem, “providing a place for seniors to go to get out of their homes and be social with each other.”

Ms. Marenoff, who has supported the culinary fundraising event for several years, said she finds the event — which benefits the JCC’s Senior Adult Services Department — “probably one of the most fulfilling days of the entire year.”


Still your bubby’s Yiddish

Just a bit louder

MusicPublished: 06 March 2015

Somehow, it seems a bit incongruous to see the words Yiddish and rock in the same sentence.

It’s even more startling to hear the phrase Yiddish rock. Still, says Jeffrey Shandler — a professor of Jewish studies at Rutgers and a scholar of contemporary Yiddish culture — that genre of music not only exists but is thriving.

“There’s a tendency to think of the history of the language as ending, or starting to die out, with the Holocaust,” Dr. Shandler said. “That’s not the case. What changed was who uses the language, and how.”

To demonstrate its use in the musical arena, Rutgers’ department of Jewish studies has joined with the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers to bring the rock band Yiddish Princess to campus on March 10 to perform a free concert.


Sounds of joy

Children’s choir ranked number one by congregation

LocalPublished: 27 February 2015

Perhaps if Tzipporei Shalom’s music were to be reviewed by a professional critic, the word “wow” might not find its way into the finished product. But to the congregants of Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck — home to the children’s choir — the word seems just about right.

“It was the top-rated program in two synagogue surveys,” said Ronit Hanan, the shul’s musical director, who co-founded and co-directs the group with congregant Adina Avery-Grossman.

The a capella singing group has appeared with Safam, recorded a selection on a CD with the noted chazzan Netanel Hershtik, sung with Neil Sedaka, and joined with the synagogue’s adult choir, Tavim, on special occasions, most recently at CBS’s recent Shabbaton. They also participate in an annual community-wide junior choir festival together with choirs from local Reform congregations.


When rabbis won’t speak about Israel

AJR panel to offer tips for starting a conversation

LocalPublished: 20 February 2015

Ironically, what should be a unifying topic for Jews often spurs such heated discussion that rabbis tend to avoid it, said Ora Horn Prouser, executive vice president and dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Dr. Prouser, who lives in Franklin Lakes and is married to Temple Emanuel of North Jersey’s Rabbi Joseph Prouser, said that she heard a lot over the summer from rabbis and other spiritual leaders. They said that they were “unable or not comfortable talking about Israel in their synagogues,” she reported.

“It didn’t come from a lack of love,” Dr. Horn said. “They’re deeply invested in Israel, and yet they felt they could not get into a conversation without deeply offending other parts of their community.”

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Town tackles decline in civility

Upcoming meeting will explore ways to raise the tone of public discourse

LocalPublished: 20 February 2015

Why can’t we all just get along?

The rabbis have been asking that question for years, particularly in late summer, around the time of Tisha B’Av, when sermons inevitably wrap around the themes of baseless hatred and intolerance.

But our secular community — especially as political discourse turns ever more hostile and bullying pervades both our schools and our social media — has been asking that as well, and at least one town has decided to do something about it.

According to Ridgewood’s Mayor Paul Aronsohn, the town began its civility initiative last year. With a core group including Rabbi David Fine of the town’s Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center, Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck, the Rev. Jan Phillips of the Religious Society of Friends, and Mr. Aronsohn, the town already has held two roundtable discussions on the issue, seeking to identify the problem and locate the line between disagreement and incivility.

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Vaccinate your kid!

Cover Story Published: 13 February 2015

While all local day schools canvassed by the Jewish Standard adhere to state guidelines on vaccination, some school health professionals are particularly passionate about the need for families to comply. (For the state guidelines, see sidebar.)

“All kids needs to be immunized,” said Toby Eizig, the nurse at Englewood’s Moriah School. “There should be no picking or choosing — one from column ‘a’ and one from column ‘b.’ I’ve sent letters home saying students don’t have a certain vaccine — and unless they have it as of a certain date, they may not attend school.”

Believing that “these vaccines are used with the best interests of children in mind… [that] there are illnesses that can be eradicated… and that some of these illnesses can have devastating effects,” Ms. Eizig said she does not understand why parents would opt not to have their children vaccinated.

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Family pays tribute to Tikvah program

LocalPublished: 13 February 2015

For the past five years, 20-year-old Adam Berzin of Ramsey has spent his summers at Camp Ramah Wisconsin, at the camp’s Tikvah program.

Created more than 40 years ago and offered at nine Ramah camps in the United States and Canada, Tikvah welcomes children, teens, and young adults with a wide range of learning, developmental, cognitive, and social disabilities, “enhancing Jewish identity and teaching Jewish values in a supportive, inclusive, fun environment,” according to its website.

Parents Rita and Mitch Berzin clearly believe that the program more than fulfills this commitment.

“We make the effort to send Adam to this program, which is so far away, because the effects on his self-esteem, independence, and identification with the Jewish community have been so powerful,” Ms. Berzin said. While other Ramah camps have programs of this kind, “what made this one unique for us was that it was more inclusive.”

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Guess who’s coming for Shabbas?

Dinners nurture connections among congregation families

LocalPublished: 06 February 2015

In late October 2014, the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel began a program that is already bearing rich fruit.

Modeling their “Guess Who’s Coming for Shabbas” program on a similar venture launched in a Pennsylvania synagogue, the congregation already has connected nearly two dozen families. And many more are planning to participate, according to Rabbi Ronald Roth, religious leader of the Fair Lawn congregation.

Begun in 2012 by Debbie Albert, a member of Temple Sinai in Dresher, Pa., the goal of the Shabbat initiative is to bring congregants together, using Friday night dinners as the initial meeting point. In a 2013 article written for the Conservative movement’s biannual magazine, CJ: Voices of Conservative Judaism, Ms. Albert called the program a living memorial to her father, Bernie Albert, and said it was designed to “engage the unengaged, be interactive, and help strengthen our congregation.”

“I read about it and felt that I wanted to do it here, providing an opportunity for people to form closer relationships with each other and celebrate Shabbat together,” Rabbi Roth said. “I announced it on the High Holidays and had one or two classes with potential hosts.”

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