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Camps taking swine flu precautions

 
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As school ends the camp season begins and many area camps, citing increased precautions, remain unconcerned about the swine flu virus.

Many area camp officials reached by this newspaper reported that they have received guidelines from county and state health departments reinforcing sanitary practices. None of the directors interviewed said that fears of the flu were keeping parents from sending their children to camp.

At Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, which maintains an office in Englewood, only one parent has written to director Rabbi Paul Resnick about flu concerns. Even with 565 children registered, Resnick is not concerned about an outbreak in camp. He has received no advisories from local health departments warning of potential outbreaks and the camp is following hygiene guidelines. Campers and staff will be screened upon arrival and parents have been told to keep their children home if they have a fever within three days of the July 1 start date. With a doctor and four nurses on staff, Resnick is confident that the camp can handle “any eventuality.”

“Parents for the most part have full faith and trust in camp and that’s why they’re not calling or e-mailing in panic, because they feel secure in sending their kids to camp,” he said.

The Neil Klatskin Day Camp at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly receives weekly e-mails from the Center for Disease Control on best practices.

“We’re gathering information at this point,” said day camp director Stacy Budkofsky. “Hopefully we won’t have to deal with anything, [but] we are preparing for the circumstances if they arrive.”

Rabbi Chanoch Kaplan, director of Chabad of Franklin Lakes and its Gan Israel Day Camp of Oakland, said he had recently returned from Costco with commercial-size bottles of Purell hand sanitizer.

“We’re taking precautions,” he said. “We’re taking extra care to ensure children are constantly having their hands cleaned.”

Many camps are looking to local health departments for guidance. Instructions from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services include covering mouths and noses during coughs and sneezes and then immediately disposing of tissues; washing hands frequently with warm water and soap; and staying home if one is sick and avoiding sick people.

“They’re going to set up the policy for us,” said Rabbi Sam Vogel, director of Ma Tov Day Camp in Old Tappan. “Then we’ll formulate our own policy on top of that.”

At the day camps at the YM-YWHA of Greater Clifton-Passaic, counselors are prepared to reinforce hygiene techniques as well as to send home any child exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Children who are sent home will not be allowed back without a doctor’s note.

“The important thing is that the parents communicate with the camp and sick children stay home from the camp,” said Rosanne Mendelowitz, the Y’s assistant director.

Camp is set to begin at the Y on June 29 and its nurse is preparing an explanation of the policy to send home with children on the first day. The camp is being “very proactive,” Mendelowitz said.

The World Health Organization last week declared the spread of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, a pandemic that has struck almost 30 countries. Locally, Yeshivat Noam in Paramus closed for three days in late May because of concerns of flu-like symptoms among students. Ramaz in New York canceled its Grade 8 Advancement ceremony on Monday night and closed its middle school on Tuesday and Wednesday because of an increasing number of sick students and concern that they would attend the ceremony.

 
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Praying while female at the Kotel

Women of the Wall representative to speak locally

What’s going on with the Women of the Wall now?

What’s happening with gender equality and pluralism in Israel, now that the Israeli election is over?

Women of the Wall, made up of women from across the Jewish spectrum, has fought for the right to pray at the Kotel — Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the symbolic center of Jewish life, the magnet that draws observant and non-observant Jews, non-Jews, poets, and often even skeptics, close to it, as if they were pure iron filings.

The group, which was formed in the late 1980s, has been bolstered by legal wins. Its most important recent victory was the April 2013 decision by Judge Moshe Sobel of the Jerusalem District Court, who ruled that the city police were wrong when they arrested five women for the crime of wearing tallitot at the women’s section of the Kotel.

 

‘Oy vey, my child is gay’

Orthodox parents seek shared connection in upcoming retreat

Eshel, a group that works to bridge the divide that often separates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews from their Orthodox communities, is holding its third annual retreat for Orthodox parents of those LGBT Jews next month.

Although most of its work is done with Orthodox LGBT Jews — who may or may not be the children of the parents at the retreat — the retreat offers parents community, immediate understanding, the freedom to speak that comes with that understanding, the chance to learn, and the opportunity to model healthy acceptance.

“There are particular issues to being Orthodox and having a gay child, although it varies a lot from community to community,” Naomi Oppenheim of Teaneck said. “You worry about what the community is thinking about you. Someone — I don’t remember who — said, ‘When my kid came out, I went into the closet.’”

 

Twenty years later

Stephen Flatow remembers his murdered daughter Alisa

When you ask attorney Stephen Flatow of West Orange how many children he has, his answer is immediate.

“I have five children,” he says.

Not surprising. What father doesn’t know how many children he has?

And how are they doing?

Four of them are flourishing; they are all married and all parents. Mr. Flatow and his wife, Rosalyn, have 13 grandchildren, and another one’s on the way. (And three of the Flatows’ children live in Bergen County.)

But the fifth, his oldest, Alisa, was murdered by terrorists when she was 20; her 20th yahrzeit was last week. She has been dead as long as she was alive.

“Just because she isn’t there now, that doesn’t mean I’m not her father,” he said. “I just don’t have any recent pictures of her to show.”

 

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Everybody’s on the bus

Bergen, other local counties send 1,500 to lobby for Israel on Capitol Hill

The relationship between Israel and the United States might be somewhat strained right now, so at least 1,500 concerned Jews from around the area traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to plead Israel’s case.

Many of the members of that Norpac delegation are from Bergen County.

“It was very gratifying,” said Norpac’s president, Dr. Ben Chouake of Englewood. Norpac brought 33 buses to the nation’s capital on May 13.

“We cut off registration on May 4, the deadline date,” he said, noting that while the organization has been known to extend the deadline, this year, as the number of would-be attendees steadily grew, that was not possible.

“The turnout was really impressive,” said Dr. Chouake, adding that the large number of legislators who cleared time in their calendar to meet with members of his group was impressive as well.

 

The North, the South, the Civil War, and us

In Teaneck, Princeton rabbi to examine the war’s roots, its results, and its effects on the Jews

Maybe you think that we fought the Civil War to stop slavery.

Maybe you think that the causes of the war were entirely economic, and had nothing to do with slavery.

Maybe you think that good and evil were clear in the Civil War, and that the North — that would be us — represented unsullied virtue.

Well, you’d be wrong, according to Rabbi Eric Wisnia of Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction. The North was as morally culpable as the South in the great vice of slavery. There were no angels. He will discuss his understanding of American history at length and in detail during Kabbalat Shabbat services at Temple Emeth in Teaneck on Friday, May 29, at 8 p.m., in a talk he’s called “An Impartial Jewish View of the War of Yankee Aggression.” The talk coincides with the 150th anniversary of the war’s end.

 

A band of sisters

It makes sense, really. There was music everywhere. They were a family immersed in music, four sisters who sang together for years, a talented songwriter, and dreams for the future that always included music.

What else could the Glaser sisters do?

“I always wanted to be a singer in a band,” said the eldest sister, Faige Glaser Drapkin, 34, who, with her sister Chaya, one year younger, helped make that dream come true.

Chaya, too, wanted music to be “a big part of my life.”

Much of it had to do with the link between music and family. “When I saw the Mamas and Papas on Ed Sullivan, I actually thought they were a family,” she said. “I loved their harmony, spirit, and colors, and it looked like they loved what they were doing! I knew that I wanted in on that beautiful fun too.

 
 
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