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Super Sunday exceeds expectations

 
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Nina Weiss, left, and Ricky Kreinberg of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck make calls. Photos by KEN HILFMAN

This is a time to reach out to the community, and I thank you all for what you are doing,” Gov. Jon Corzine told more than 400 volunteers on Sunday morning at the start of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s annual Super Sunday fund-raiser. The phonathon, held for the first time at UJA-NNJ’s new home in Paramus, is the organization’s biggest fund-raising event.

“I like your spirit,” he said, “and hope for success. We’re all working together, and my heart is with you.”

Zvi Marans, campaign director, told those manning the telephones, “Everyone has an obligation to give something to charity, even a poor person. It is critical that everyone give something. This is a holy day here, and for all those who work raising funds for the Jewish community.”

Corzine later told The Jewish Standard that “the spirit of ‘mitzvah’ expressed here today is great. It is absolutely essential that the world … pull together. There is evil in the world, and we’re recovering from the tragedy of Mumbai. Here, today, we see goodness in these economic times, and that should inspire us.”

“It was an outstanding day,” Allison Halpern, director of donor relations, told the Standard.

As of Wednesday, the effort had raised $1,115,566 for the 2009 annual campaign, according to Miriam Allenson, UJA-NNJ director of marketing services.

Gov. Jon Corzine, shakes hands with Zvi Marans, UJA-NNJ campaign director, at Sunday’s phonathon.

The group received 2,422 contributions, an increase of 509 donors over last year, and 178 new gifts were secured for a total of $11,884.

“We exceeded our expectations by far,” said Halpern.

“Gov. Corzine kicked off the day with strength, feeling, and emotion and everyone pitched in,” said Halpern. “He drove home the point that in these [hard] economic times, it’s important to raise funds for those in need.”

Alan Scharfstein, UJA-NNJ president, said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s a real challenge in this economy.”

As to how funds would be divided between local and overseas needs, Scharfstein said, “It’s a very interesting time, and we have dealt with crises before — in Israel, Argentina, and the former Soviet Union. Now we have a crisis in our backyard, and we’ll deal with this crisis as we have dealt with the others.”

He indicated that the organization’s efforts will be directed through its two Jewish Family Service agencies, other social service groups, and the rabbinate.

“We’re going to have a summit meeting on this crisis soon,” he said.

Many local political leaders were present to make telephone calls or to address the volunteers. They spoke of the need for funds for local communities and for individuals who have lost their jobs.

Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-9) also stressed the need to continue aid to the State of Israel, “this country’s strongest ally in the Middle East.”

Synagogues were well represented at the event, as were their rabbis, and volunteers included callers from Jewish schools and community organizations.

Sally Seymour, president of Cong. Sons of Israel in Leonia, was at Super Sunday for the first time.

“This is wonderful,” she said. “We’re a small congregation, and we’re happy to help today.”

Volunteer David Goodman was at the telephone with his young “assistants,” 2 1/2-year-old Sari and 8-year-old Miri. George Hantgan, 92, was at his usual place, soliciting pledges for the federations for the 58th time.

UJA-NNJ is still accepting pledges. For information, call (201) 820-3900.

 
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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.”

 

When rabbis won’t speak about Israel

AJR panel to offer tips for starting a conversation

Ironically, what should be a unifying topic for Jews often spurs such heated discussion that rabbis tend to avoid it, said Ora Horn Prouser, executive vice president and dean of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Dr. Prouser, who lives in Franklin Lakes and is married to Temple Emanuel of North Jersey’s Rabbi Joseph Prouser, said that she heard a lot over the summer from rabbis and other spiritual leaders. They said that they were “unable or not comfortable talking about Israel in their synagogues,” she reported.

“It didn’t come from a lack of love,” Dr. Horn said. “They’re deeply invested in Israel, and yet they felt they could not get into a conversation without deeply offending other parts of their community.”

 

‘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.’”

 

RECENTLYADDED

Initiative brings student nurses together with Holocaust survivors

Nursing is changing, according to Kathy Burke, the assistant dean in charge of nursing at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah.

“Nurses need to be prepared to move into the community, away from the hospital,” she said. “The community is the most important care-giving site.”

To ensure that their nurses receive this training, Ramapo provides its students with a variety of clinical experiences which “will redefine the health care of the future,” Ms. Burke said.

A new initiative — conceived by Dr. Michael Riff, director of Ramapo College’s Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Leah Kaufman, director of JFS of North Jersey — brings Burke’s students together with Holocaust survivors.

“Taking care of the elderly, especially those with such a unique history, will double the impact of this experience” for her students, Ms. Burke said. “It’s [important] for this newer generation of nurses to talk with individuals who have experienced the Holocaust.”

 

‘You are not numbers. You have a name’

Tenafly JCC Holocaust commemoration highlights survivor from Tappan

When the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades marks Yom Hashoah this year, its ceremony will combine words from the past with the voices of youth. Indeed — in a twist of fate Holocaust survivors could not have foreseen — Jewish children will sing the same opera performed by children at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

In 1942, Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger, who lives in Tappan, N.Y., performed the role of the cat in the children’s opera “Brundibar.” The show was staged in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, as part of an effort to convince Red Cross inspectors, visiting delegations, and the world at large that nothing improper was taking place there.

“They took them to a staged area,” Ms. Weissberger said. “They were really fooled.”

On April 16, Ms. Weissberger — the last surviving member of the original cast — will share her memories as part of the JCC’s annual Yom Hashoah commemoration.

 

Evil, hope onstage in Teaneck

Yavneh students tell the story of Berga slave camp in annual Holocaust play

Glen Rock eighth-grader Shmuel Berman took on the role of murderous SS Sgt. Erwin Metz in Yavneh Academy’s recent Holocaust play about the little-known slave-labor camp at Berga in eastern Germany, where hundreds of American prisoners of war were interned along with Holocaust victims.

What was it like to portray a real-life Nazi?

“It was hard,” Shmuel said. “I had to try to get into the character of someone who was not a good person and did terrible things to people.

“I was hoping the audience saw that Erwin Metz considered himself a ‘normal’ person, yet he lied during the court scenes, claiming that he didn’t mistreat anyone. We can learn that evil could happen anywhere; it doesn’t require an evil person.”

 
 
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