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A blessing for new brides

 
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 Two years ago, '0-year-old Naava Applebaum and her father, Dr. David Applebaum, were among seven killed by a suicide bombing in Jerusalem's Caf? Hillel, which injured 51 people.

Naava was to be married the following day.

Several charity projects were launched in memory of the Applebaums, who have close family in Bergen County. Most recently, a bride's room was dedicated at the mikvah in Har Choma, Jerusalem, in memory of Naava.

According to Debra Applebaum, Naava's mother, the Teaneck community played a large role in sponsoring and raising funds for the new room.

Dr. Paige Applebaum Farkas, Teaneck resident and second cousin to David Applebaum, said she and her brother, Dr. Eric Applebaum, also of Teaneck, had little trouble raising the money needed for the facility.

"Debra wrote a letter describing the project and we sent it out to members of our shul, Rinat Yisrael, and dropped some off at the local mikvah," she said.

Farkas said the response was overwhelming.

"We received $10,000," she said, adding that there were over 100 donors.
"I'm sure we would have gotten a good response from the wider community as well," she said, "but at the time, we just reached out to those who knew our family." She added that since Naava had been killed only hours after attending the mikvah, the appeal was particularly poignant.

The Farkas and Applebaum families have been actively involved in honoring the memory of David and Naava Applebaum. Two years ago, Eric and his wife, Sandie, coordinated a memorial service for their cousins, held at Cong. Keter Torah in Teaneck and drawing over 1,000 people.

In addition, Farkas and Sandie Applebaum have instituted a program at the Moriah School of Englewood through which they distribute books of tehillim (psalms) to bat mitzvah girls, each inscribed in memory of Naava.
Farkas describes Naava as a "kind, generous, and down-to-earth girl, exceptionally bright," who had just been accepted into a doctoral program through which she hoped to do cancer research. She said that the summer before the wedding, Naava had come to visit and had gone shopping with cousin Sandie.

Debra Applebaum, who e-mailed The Jewish Standard a description of the mikvah dedication ceremony, said the event drew hundreds of women of all ages. She noted that prior to the dedication, Naava's unworn wedding gown had been made into a covering for the aron kodesh at Kever Rachel, and the skirt of the gown had been fashioned into a chuppah. Numerous relatives and friends of the family have been married under that chuppah, said Applebaum.

Naava's mother said that the bride's room in the mikvah, constructed with red-veined marble, is "lovely to look at [with] an atmosphere … that is suited for these young women and their family members who come to wish them well on this most auspicious occasion."

A ceramic work on the main wall of the room depicts large red pomegranates, an ancient symbol of fertility, and bears words of blessing for Jewish brides.

Farkas cites other projects created to memorialize Naava. The Circle of Life Endowment Fund, established by the Women's Division of Shaare Zedek to fund the National Service program at the hospital, raises money by renting couples a specially commissioned wedding canopy. The canopy, designed by Jewish artist Fred Spinowitz, incorporates biblical verses with the word "naava," meaning "beautiful."

The chuppah can be shipped anywhere in the world and rents for $5,000. In addition, a gold and blue topaz Circle of Life pin designed by Spinowitz's daughter, Daphna Brainson, can be obtained for $3,600.

Also launched in Naava's memory was the Naava Applebaum Kallah Fund for Israeli couples who cannot afford to pay for a wedding or for basic household necessities. Sharon First of Teaneck, American coordinator for the Kever Rachel Fund, oversees donations to the fund.                   

 

 


 

 
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Not just blah-blah-blah and pizza

Mahwah shul develops programming for pre- and post-b’nai mitzvah kids

So now there’s a how-to-write-a-blessing class. “The parents are really appreciative,” Rabbi Mosbacher said.

“I used to meet with b’nai mitzvah kids and their families twice,” he added. “Now we meet seven times in the course of a year. The last one is right before the bar mitzvah. Now I’m thinking the last one should be after the bar mitzvah. It’s a lot of time on my part, but it’s time well spent in developing a relationship with the kids and with the families.”

While these efforts are designed to connect children and their families to the congregation before the bar or bat mitzvah, the synagogue also has changed its post-b’nai mitzvah connections to the children.

 

Reworded interdating rules sow confusion, controversy

United Synagogue Youth convention may have eased standard … or not

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.

 

French Jews face uncertain future

A look at some stories from a local leader

In the wake of the terror attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office and the Hyper Cacher grocery store — a kosher market — I participated in a Jewish Agency mission to Paris.

Our delegation of Americans and Israelis arrived last week to show solidarity with the French Jewish community. We also sought to better understand the threat of heightened anti-Semitism in France (and, indirectly, elsewhere in Europe). We met with more than 40 French Jewish community leaders and activists, all of them open to sharing their concerns.

On January 7, Islamist terrorists murdered a dozen Charlie Hebdo staffers as retribution for the magazine’s cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed. Two days later, another terrorist held a bunch of Jewish grocery shoppers hostage, killing four, which French President Francois Hollande acknowledged as an “appalling anti-Semitic act.”

 

RECENTLYADDED

A school grows in Englewood

Moriah, first local Jewish day school, celebrates turning fifty

It was 1971, and Dr. Norman Sohn was finishing his training in Boston. He and his wife, Judith, were faced with a decision. Where would they go next? Where would they settle down?

As a newly fledged surgeon, the world was open to him. He could get a job almost anywhere. He was originally from Manhattan, and his wife was from New Rochelle, so the New York metropolitan area made sense to them.

They knew they wanted a yeshiva education for their children — Dr. Sohn had gone to the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School on Henry Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a school that combined religious and secular studies in a way that was progressive for its time — and they also wanted the luxury of choice. They didn’t want a one-school city, as Hartford and even Boston were at the time. “What really attracted me was the multiplicity of neighborhoods that were hospitable to Orthodox people,” Dr. Sohn said. “But here there were so many that if one didn’t work out, there was another.”

 

Sounds of joy

Children’s choir ranked number one by congregation

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.

 

Affordable BRCA screening available for all Ashkenazi Jews

A new program at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in the Bronx is offering affordable genetic testing for the Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA cancer mutations.

Anyone who is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, with at least one Ashkenazi Jewish grandparent, is eligible for the testing for a modest fee of $100.

For many years the recommendations to test for the gene were based on family or personal history of breast or ovarian cancer. But a research study recently revealed that in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, the risk of harboring BRCA cancer genes is high whether or not there is a family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

One in forty Ashkenazi Jews carry genetic glitches in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that elevate the risk of breast and ovarian cancer to as high as 80 percent by the time they are 80 years old. In fact, the landmark study of randomly selected Ashkenazi Jewish men in Israel found that “51 percent of families…harboring BRCA1 or BRCA1 mutations had little or no history of relevant cancer.”

 
 
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