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Lois Goldrich
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Fighting for the rights of survivors — and their heirs

Cresskill couple gets SSA to clarify statute on exemptions

LocalPublished: 30 January 2015

Barbara and Michael Lissner have a mission.

“It’s who we are — what we do,” said Mr. Lissner, who has spent practically his entire life witnessing — and furthering — efforts to help Holocaust survivors get the benefits to which they are entitled.

The couple, partners in the New York law firm Lissner & Lissner LLP, are both children of survivors.

Michael Lissner’s father, Jerry, started the firm, which soon came to win the trust of the “tightknit community of German Jews living in Manhattan and Queens,” the son said. “He was an incredible man, able to help people in a very knowledgeable and calming way. He became a tall pillar in the community.”

Mr. Lissner, who formally started working with the firm in 1983 but “had been around the firm my whole life,” was able to maintain the trust of that community.

Ms. Lissner was no stranger to survivors’ unique needs. Her parents were from Poland — her father was on Schindler’s list, while her mother survived in Eastern Russia. Both lost many relatives.


At night of learning, NJBR revisits Sinai

Community rabbis will take us back to the mountaintop

LocalPublished: 30 January 2015

Now in its sixth year, Sweet Tastes of Torah — a project of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis — remains committed to its original goal.

“The Bergen County Jewish community is siloed in many ways,” said Rabbi Steven Sirbu, religious leader of Teaneck’s Temple Emeth and president of the NJBR. “We’re attached to our synagogues. We identify with our municipalities. It’s difficult to realize we’re part of a greater Jewish community.”

One reason to sponsor the annual night of learning, he said, is “to emphasize that we are much more when we connect with other communities.”

Apparently, this message resonates with its intended audience.

“Every year the community shows up and participates,” Rabbi Sirbu said. “The feedback has been one of gratitude.”

This year’s program — Sinai Revisited: Views from the Mountaintop — will bring together 20 rabbis from Bergen and Passaic counties, who will explore the topic from a variety of perspectives.


Breaking borders

Closter teen aims to foster dialogue, create ‘safe environment’ for divergent views

Local | WorldPublished: 23 January 2015

Two years ago, Carter Hirschhorn of Closter, now 17, went to a program in Maine that brought him together with teens from conflicted regions around the world.

“I went to Seeds of Peace, connecting with teens from Southeast Asia and the Middle East, living for three weeks with these kids,” he said.

Engaging in team-building activities and spirited dialogues, “I learned about conflicts through the eyes of the people in them.” With exposure to a variety of different views, “I learned about conflict resolution. It was valuable to sit in a dialogue room with Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians, and Israelis.”

When he came home, he continued to talk to friends from the camp, with whom he discussed “great foreign policy issues.” But he realized that there was something missing.


New ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in Tenafly

Young musician chooses home community for opera debut

LocalPublished: 16 January 2015

When we last checked in with now-15-year-old Benjamin Wenzelberg of Tenafly, he was working on an opera, “The Sleeping Beauty,” due to be given a piano-vocal reading by New York’s Chelsea Opera. Now, for the first time, that opera will be performed in its entirety.

“Benjy began composing the piano and vocal score for his opera at age 11, and spent the last three years developing the score,” said Rochelle Lazarus, public relations director of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, where the opera will be performed on January 25. The cast will include professional singers as well as members of the JCC Broadway Youth Ensemble.

“It’s been a magical experience,” Benjamin said. “It’s so great to work with such wonderful singers and the JCC to put it together.” The cast, he continued, “has been incredible. All of the singers have been people I’ve worked with in singing and composing collaborations. They’re incredibly talented, and dedicated to the piece and to music.”


Raising their voices in introduction

‘Teaneck Sings’ helps unite a diverse community

LocalPublished: 16 January 2015

When Atara Schulhof, a sophomore at the Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, won last year’s Teaneck Teen Idol contest — sponsored each year by the Teaneck Community Chorus — she walked away with more than just a “huge trophy.”

“The competition opened up many doors,” she said. “Now I’m getting myself out there and performing more.” She soon also will be enjoying the two-hour recording session offered as part of the Teen Idol prize.

Atara, who studied at the Manhattan School of Music’s summer program this year, said she enjoys singing different kinds of music. “We put on ‘Aida’ and ‘Oklahoma,’” she said, calling herself “more of an ‘Aida’ person,” but noting that she enjoyed performing in “Oklahoma” as well.

“I’m passionate about singing,” she said, though she tries to put it to good use, “helping others.” For example, she participated both this year and last year in a benefit concert for Emunah, “and when our school goes to nursing homes, we sing.” She’s lucky, she said, that “one of my passions combines with another.”


Reworded interdating rules sow confusion, controversy

United Synagogue Youth convention may have eased standard … or not

Local | WorldPublished: 02 January 2015

What’s in a name — or a word?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Take the word “refrain,” for example.

At its annual international convention in Atlanta this week, some 750 members of United Synagogue Youth voted to change some of the wording in the organization’s standards for international and regional leaders.

Most of the changes are clear, easily understood, and warmly welcomed. For example, the group added provisions relating to bullying and lashon hara — gossiping. Leaders should have “zero tolerance” for such behavior, the standards say.

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More aid for Holocaust survivors

Home care is called the ‘top social welfare priority’

Local | WorldPublished: 19 December 2014

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.

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Rolling up our sleeves

Why we should pitch in and help the less fortunate

LocalPublished: 19 December 2014

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.

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Local chess whiz brings home another prize

LocalPublished: 12 December 2014

It’s not really surprising. After all, he began playing chess when he was 5.

So to learn that Gilad Drillich of Harrington Park — a senior at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan — won the New Jersey Grade School Chess Championship for the third consecutive year should come as no shock.

Still, it is quite an accomplishment for the 17-year-old, who won five out of five one-hour games at the tournament, held recently at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.

Gilad explained that the participants, in kindergarten through twelfth grade, were matched with one another according to a chess rating system.

According to Gilad’s mother, Michal, “there is a lot of pressure involved” in the competition, and the amount of concentration needed to compete in five hour-long games is immense. After each game, I texted him that he should be calm.”

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Clergy takes on climate change

Shomrei Breishit calls environment a “moral issue”

LocalPublished: 05 December 2014

In its founding mission statement — a resounding call to action — members of Shomrei Breishit declare that “The world is on fire and God is calling upon us to act.”

“The crisis of climate change is not primarily a crisis of technology, political or economic policy. It is a moral crisis that demands that we respond,” say the signatories, including more than 90 cantors and rabbis.

Rabbi Lawrence Troster of Teaneck is the group’s founder. “The moral crisis arises from inequities between those who have benefited most from carbon-based energy — and have the most abundant resources to deal with the consequences — versus those who benefited the least, are least responsible, will suffer the most, and have the most meager resources to deal with it,” Rabbi Troster said.

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