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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.”

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