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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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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, cookwithchefeitan.com, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”

 

Killed in the name of God

Fair Lawn scholar studies medieval Jewish child martyrs

“Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago,” read the headline in ads signed by Elie Wiesel and placed in newspapers around the world by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Our World organization. “Now it’s Hamas’ turn.”

But that may be stretching the truth.

In the 12th century — not even a thousand years ago, making it recent by the standards of Jewish history — Jews boasted of making martyrs of their children, deliberately killing them rather than allowing them to be converted to Christianity.

It was an era in which Jews were besieged by Christian mobs demanding their conversion or death, a horror recalled by the radical jihadist army of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its massacres of non-Muslims.

 

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Unity first

Groups from across the Jewish spectrum make solidarity missions to Israel

As rockets fell on Israel, the North Jersey Jewish community made a grand show of support through rallies and donations, but some local rabbis decided to show their support even more strongly, by putting boots on the ground.

Earlier in the summer, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin led a large group of congregants and friends to Israel, and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey sent a mission as well. Local rabbis and laypeople, too, have been going on their own.

Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis jetted off to Israel in July and August, making a statement to their communities — and to Israelis — that the American Jewish community continues to support Israel, especially during times of war.

 

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, cookwithchefeitan.com, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”

 

Unpacking Samuel

Salon Tiferet offers layered readings of biblical texts to grown-ups

The two books of Samuel tell rich, textured stories of a world both similar to ours and radically different.

They describe people whose motivations are recognizable to us, although their actions might not be; they place those characters in a world whose governance is constantly under discussion. They look at power and powerlessness, at prayer and action, at faith and strategy; they are written in language that is supple and nuanced. They are multifaceted and evoke strong emotion.

And many of us know simply what we’ve known since childhood or from listening to haftarah readings. We know little vignettes of Hannah praying silently for a son, of Samuel in the Temple, of David fighting Goliath, of David and Jonathan devising a pact of safety together. But many of us have not read them as adults, through an academic lens or even through adult eyes.

 
 
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