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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.”

 

Policies are the best policy

Teaneck synagogue forum addresses child sexual abuse

Does your synagogue have policies in place to protect children from sexual abuse? Do your children’s schools and camps?

Such policies, Dr. Shira Berkovits told a meeting in Teaneck on Sunday night, can make a difference to children’s safety.

Dr. Berkovits is a consultant for the Department of Synagogue Services at the Orthodox Union, and she is developing a guide to preventing child sexual abuse in synagogues. She was speaking at Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael, as part of a panel on preventing child sexual abuse co-sponsored by three other Teaneck Orthodox congregations: Netivot Shalom, Keter Torah, and Lubavitch of Bergen County.

 

RECENTLYADDED

Pascrell, Paul face off

Dr. Dierdre Paul, a 49-year-old Montclair State University professor, faces an uphill battle against Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., the 77-year-old nine-term Democratic incumbent in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District.

In a candidate’s forum Monday night at the Community Baptist Church in Englewood, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Bergen County chapter of the NAACP, Dr. Paul said that she has not been a Republican for very long.

In fact, in 2008 she had been the Englewood chair of the Obama campaign. “No one hoped more than me that the president would succeed,” she said. “Even as late as 2012 I tried to maintain that hope and faith in the Democratic party. Instead, it was the African American base masking the same old Democratic policies.

“We have a failed war on poverty, a failed war on drugs,” she continued. “Why does the Democratic establishment feel they only need to show up in election time? People are hurting now.”

Mr. Pascrell opened by saying that his “first objective in Congress is to keep us safe. I solemnly swear to each one of you that I will keep us safe against foreign enemies and any domestic enemies who want to take advantage of us.”

 

RCA responds to scandal

Englewood rabbi to head committee looking into conversion process

Shmuel Goldin, the senior rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, has agreed to chair a new committee the Rabbinical Council of America is convening to review its conversion process.

Rabbi Goldin also is the RCA’s immediate past president.

The committee includes 11 members; six are RCA-member rabbis and five are women. Two of the women are converts, one is a yoetzet halacha — an advisor in Jewish law — and one is a psychotherapist.

The committee has been established in response to the arrest of one of the RCA’s members, Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue, in Washington, D.C. (Rabbi Freundel’s RCA membership has been suspended in response to the arrest, and he has been suspended from his job, without pay.) The shul arguably is the most prestigious Orthodox synagogue in the nation’s capital, and Rabbi Freundel’s arrest, for videoing some of his conversion candidates with a camera hidden inside a clock radio as they stripped for the mikvah, has been profoundly disturbing, both within the Kesher community and outside it.

 

Hearing, helping each other

Support groups for people with mood disorders to open in Paramus

A person who has a mood disorder has a chronic, manageable condition.

She is not lazy, not immoral, not self-indulgent. She is not suffering from some embarrassing unmentionable syndrome. She is just one of a large number of people whose body chemistry plunges her into the black hole of depression, or is one of the smaller but not insignificant group of people who swing between that hole and a fierce but unsustainable elation that takes them up into the blue sky until they crash again.

There is a stigma attached to having a mood disorder, though, that makes it hard to address, to attack, to subdue, to co-exist with.

Dena Cohen of Teaneck, a writer, editor, and social activist who writes under her maiden name, Dena Croog, knows this territory well. An op ed contributor to this newspaper, she introduced it to our readers on February 13, when her column, “I have bipolar disorder,” was printed and almost immediately went viral.

 
 
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