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Fair Lawn Jewish Center shofar blasts hearten area shut-ins

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Members of the Shofar Corps are, back row from left, Seth Seigel-Laddy, Danny Stolar, Stuart Alper, Sophie Goldberg, Miranda Alper, and Sima Alper. In front are Alyssa and Kayla Seigel-Laddy, Jonathan Marcus, Adam Alper, Chloe Goldberg, Risa Anczelowicz, and Melissa Gotlib. Sammy and Leah Flanzman and Zachary Shinkar are not pictured.

The Shofar Corps of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Cong. B’nai Israel sounded the ram’s horn last week for people in Fair Lawn and Elmwood Park unable to attend synagogue services during the High Holy Days. The corps, made up of 13 preteens and teenagers and four adult volunteers, learned about the shofar and trained to both sound it and call the four notes sounded during the holidays. They also practiced conducting a special shofar service that was written by corps members last year.

The idea sprang from a conversation last year between the synagogue’s Rabbi Ronald Roth and Stuart Alper, president of the Men’s Progress Club. Leah Kaufman, executive director of Jewish Family Service of North Jersey, provided a list of 10 seniors who wanted to hear the shofar. The Men’s Progress Club donated shofarot for the corps members to take home and practice, printed the services, and provided dinner to the members after they visited the seniors. Through the Men’s Progress Club, the corps — which broke into four groups — also gave honey cake to the seniors, a symbolic and traditional gesture to welcome in a sweet year.

Alper told of visiting a man who “was quiet and seemed content to just listen, but after we read a story about a rabbi who blew the shofar on a ship that was heading for disaster, he slowly began to open up,” Stuart Alper reported. “Amazingly, he was on a ship being deployed to Korea during the Korean War on Rosh HaShanah, and landed in Korea on Yom Kippur.”

Adam Alper, 10, added that the man “told us a story about when he fought in Korea. When I blew the shofar, I could see his face light up with joy. He seemed very happy and I thought I saw him start crying when we finished our service.”

Danny Stolar, a high school senior and a two-year corps member, said he “was very shocked when [the man] started to cry. I believe I truly realized how meaningful our gesture of sounding the shofar was at that moment. Until then, I’m not sure I fully appreciated what we were doing and how important it was for these people.”

Risa Anczelowicz recalled the group’s visit to a woman who “was very friendly and outgoing and really excited to see us…. After I blew the shofar the first time she came over and gave me a hug and a kiss.”

Seth Seigel-Laddy, who coordinated the event, led a group that visited a Holocaust survivor. “It was great to see her face light up each time the kids sounded the shofar,” he said. “She told us that the Auschwitz portion of the readings reminded her of her childhood…. She briefly recounted her youth while on the run [from the Nazis]. Before leaving she asked for the kids to blow another tekiah gedolah.”

“She was only 18 when the war started,” added Chloe Goldberg, 10. “She now is in a wheelchair and tries to take advantage whenever she can of being around young people.”

Kayla Seigel-Laddy and Jon Marcus sounded the shofar at another home the group visited. The man “wasn’t really talking at all,” Kayla said. “But then I blew the tekiah gedolah; he started smiling when he heard how long I could hold the note.”

The third group, lead by Sima Alper, was composed of three bat mitzvah-aged girls, Melissa Gotlib, Sophie Goldberg, and Alyssa Seigel-Laddy, along with two-time corps member and recent bat mitzvah Miranda Alper.

“I went to the same house that I went to last year, with a woman who was on oxygen and could not get around very well,” said Miranda. “She said that she couldn’t wait to see us again next year, and how much she enjoys our visit. I hope I get to visit her again.”

“One of the homes we visited was ([that of) an elderly couple,” Sophie said. “The husband, Rolf Saloman, was a Holocaust survivor who was in hiding in Holland for three years with a Catholic family. His sister-in-law met Anne Frank at Auschwitz, and he met Otto Frank after the war in Holland and became very friendly with him.”

Melissa said, “When I blew the shofar, they said that they never heard a girl blow it before. I was really proud of myself.”

Ilene Flanzman lead the final group, which included her two children, Sammy and Leah, and Zachary Shinkar. Sammy and Zach are two-time corps members.

“Our group was so fortunate,” said Flanzman. “We had the pleasure of meeting an Auschwitz survivor who was a participant in the ‘Paper Clip’ movie. He showed us his Israeli army photographs, a medal given to him by David Ben-Gurion, and many other citations…. He shared some stories with us on his training for the Israeli army and about his liberation from Auschwitz. We all felt so moved when we read the segment in our service about Auschwitz…. The gentleman was so thrilled to watch young people blow the shofar as he never had the opportunity to learn to do it. He wanted us all to sign the service, which he wanted to keep.”

Leoni and Rolf Saloman are visited, from left, by Alyssa Seigel-Laddy, Melissa Gotlib, Miranda Alper, and Sophie Goldberg.
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Oslo, Birthright, and me

Yossi Beilin, to speak at Tenafly JCC, talks about his past

For a man who never served as Israel’s prime minister, Dr. Yossi Beilin had an outsized impact on Israeli history.

A journalist for the Labor party paper Davar who entered politics as a Labor Party spokesman before being appointed cabinet secretary by Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1984, Dr. Beilin made his mark with two bold policies that were reluctantly but influentially adopted by the Israeli government: the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and the Birthright Israel program.

On Thursday, Dr. Beilin will address “The future of Israel in the Middle East” at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, in a program sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.

Dr. Beilin — he holds a doctorate in political science from Tel Aviv University — ended his political career in 2008, having served as a Knesset member for 20 years, and as deputy foreign minister, justice minister, and minister of religious affairs.


A new relationship in Ridgewood

Conservative, Reconstructionist shuls join forces, work together, retain differences

Last December, Rabbi David J. Fine of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood wrote a thoughtful and perceptive op ed in this newspaper about why the word merger, at least when applied to synagogues, seems somehow dirty, perhaps borderline pornographic. (It is, in fact, “a word that synagogue trustees often keep at a greater distance than fried pork chops,” he wrote.)

That automatic distaste is not only unhelpful, it’s also inaccurate, he continued then; in fact, some of our models, based on the last century’s understanding of affiliation, and also on post-World War II suburban demographics, simply are outdated.

If we are to flourish — perhaps to continue to flourish, perhaps to do so again — we are going to have to acknowledge change, accommodate it, and not see it as failure. Considering a merger does not mean that we’re not big enough alone, or strong enough, or interesting or compelling or affordable enough. Instead, it may present us with the chance to examine our assumptions, keep some, and discard others, he said.


Mourning possibilities

Local woman helps parents face trauma of stillbirth, infant mortality

Three decades ago, when Reva and Danny Judas’ newborn son died, just 12 hours after he was born, there was nowhere for the Teaneck couple to turn for emotional support.

Nobody wanted to talk about loss; it was believed best to get on with life and not dwell on the tragedy.

Reva Judas wasn’t willing to accept that approach, and she did not think anyone else should, either — especially after suffering six miscarriages between the births of her four healthy children.

She soon became a go-to person for others in similar situations, and eventually earned certification as a hospital chaplain. In January 2009, Ms. Judas founded the nonprofit infant and pregnancy loss support organization Nechama (the Hebrew word for “comfort”) initially at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and then at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.

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