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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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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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