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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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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

How to learn Hebrew

Confronting American Jews’ linguistic illiteracy, many programs offer help

Can you read a Hebrew newspaper or order a meal in an Israel restaurant? If you’re like the vast majority of American Jews, the answer is no.

“Half of Jews (52%), including 60% of Jews by religion and 24% of Jews of no religion, say they know the Hebrew alphabet,” according to last October’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” the famous study released by the Pew Research Center.

“But far fewer (13% of Jews overall, including 16% of Jews by religion and 4% of Jews of no religion) say they understand most or all of the words when they read Hebrew,” the report continues.

Alarmed by this finding, the World Zionist Organization, the Israeli Education Ministry, and several partner organizations recently launched the Hebrew Language Council of North America to help more Jews become conversant in the language of their literature, lore, and land — as well as the language of their peers in Israel.

 

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Mississippi burning, remembered

Puffin marks jubilee of Freedom Summer

It was a summer that changed lives.

It was a fight for American democracy in the face of terrorism.

It was dubbed “Freedom Summer,” and it drew 700 college students and young adults to help Mississippi activists fight for civil rights.

The year was 1964.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech the previous August, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In Washington, a far-reaching civil rights bill that would desegregate public facilities had been introduced to Congress by President Lyndon Johnson — but quickly stalled and was then filibustered for months.

 

Adding to Jewish life in Clifton

Rabbi Moshe Mirsky heads religious services department at Daughters of Miriam

Rabbi Moshe Mirsky thinks his new position as the director of religious services at the Daughters of Miriam Center/Gallen Institute in Clifton is a perfect shidduch.

Actually, it is not quite a new job. Rabbi Mirsky had already worked there with Rabbi Ira Kronenberg, who just retired from the home this month, in the late 1980s. Back then Rabbi Mirsky was studying for simicha — rabbinic ordination. He worked there once again in the 1990s, while he was teaching at various day schools.

“I would come on the weekends for Shabbat and on yom tov to assist Rabbi Kronenberg,” he said. “I would lead davening, give Torah classes, go to the Alzheimer’s unit, and try to engage the residents Jewishly. I had a special rapport with Rabbi Kronenberg and the residents.”

Indeed, then he already was doing many of the things he is doing now as director of religious affairs.

 

Poor assumptions = poor policy

ZOA’s congressional lobbyist talks about Israel, Oslo, and plans doomed to fail

The two-state solution is a chimera, Joshua London says. It is a lovely vision of something that never can be real, and chasing it — chasing the plan that would make Israel and Palestine two separate states, living next to each other in prickly but sustainable peace — is chasing the wind.

Mr. London, who lives in suburban Maryland, is the Zionist Organization of America’s co-director of government affairs. He will be taking a break from his daily routine — lobbying Congress to further the ZOA’s own understanding of the Middle East — to speak at a parlor meeting in Teaneck on Wednesday.

His goal, he said, “is to bring clarity and critical analysis to the longstanding U.S. policy for support of — and in fact to apply pressure toward — the creation of a Palestinian state from territory that otherwise belongs to Israel, and to do so under the notion that this will bring peace.”

 
 
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