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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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‘It’s valuable to hear both sides’

Ridgewood man discusses Israeli, Palestinian narratives

Jonathan Emont — a 2008 graduate of Ridgewood High School who celebrated his bar mitzvah at the town’s Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center — always has felt a deep attachment to the state of Israel.

Still, the 23-year-old said, he never expected that country to be at the center of his professional life.

Things changed, however, when the recent Swarthmore College graduate went to Israel on a tour the America-Israel Friendship League offered to young journalists.

“I did journalism in college,” he said, explaining that although he majored in history, he also was the editor of Swarthmore’s Daily Gazette.

 

Walling off, reaching out

Teaneck shul offers discussion of Women of the Wall

It is not an understatement to say that the saga of Women of the Wall is a metaphor for much of the struggle between tradition and change in Israel.

Founded 25 years ago by a group of Israeli and non-Israeli women whose religious affiliations ran from Orthodox to Reform, it has been a flashpoint for the fight for pluralism in Israel, as one side would define it, or the obligation to hold onto God-given mandates on the other.

As its members and supporters fought for the right to hold services in the women’s section, raising their voices in prayer, and later to wear tallitot and read from sifrei Torah, and as their opponents grew increasingly violent in response, it came to define questions of synagogue versus state and showcase both the strengths and the flaws of Israel’s extraordinary parliamentary system. It also highlighted rifts between American and Israeli Jews.

 

Yet more Pew

Local rabbis talk more about implications of look at American Jews

The Pew Research Center’s study of American Jews, released last October, really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As much as the Jewish community deplores the study’s findings, it seems to exert a magnetic pull over us, as if it were the moon and we the obedient tides. We can’t seem to stop talking about it. (Of course, part of that appeal is the license it gives us to talk, once again, about ourselves. We fascinate ourselves endlessly.)

That is why we found ourselves at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly last Wednesday night, with the next in the seemingly endless series of snow-and-ice storms just a few hours away, discussing the Pew study yet again.

 

RECENTLYADDED

Doing well, doing good

Israeli band full of New Jersey locals hopes to tour U.S.

If a crowd-funding appeal is successful, the Israeli band G-Nome Project is coming to the United States.

This is not the scientific kind of genome project having to do with decoding DNA, but a musical project launched by four young expatriates — two of them from Teaneck.

It’s also a kind of chesed project. The band’s proposed 10-city “Giving Tour” aims to combine nightly gigs with days of good deeds such as visiting nursing homes and working in a soup kitchen.

This unusual twist was inspired by drummer Chemy Soibelman’s volunteering with Israeli children suffering from cancer.

 

Less is more

Moriah to institute new tuition affordability program

Good news for the middle class — and for Jewish day school affordability.

The Moriah School in Englewood, which runs from prekindergarten through eighth grade, has announced a new tuition affordability program, which will cut tuition for parents making as much as $360,000 a year.

Full tuition at the school ranges from $12,000 for kindergarten to $15,425 for middle school. (The prekindergarten program is not eligible for the tuition breaks.)

“We’ve been talking, as a board and as a community, about tuition affordability and the tuition crisis for years,” said Evan Sohn, the school’s president. “We decided this was the year we were going to address that issue.”

 

Scrolling through Jewish art

Local exhibit looks at text and images in old and new ways

The English letters that Harriet Fincke of Ridgewood learned when she was young are straightforward symbols that combine to form words, just as they are for everyone else.

But Hebrew letters — ah, they are something else again. “They always seemed kind of solid,” she said. “They seemed more like things,” objects in their own right, opaque. “It’s both the meaning and the look, and the relationship between them,” she said.

Those letters were a foundation part of her childhood — she went all the way through school at the Yeshiva of Flatbush. “I’d always had a kind of richly ambivalent relationship with my religious upbringing, and with the text,” she said.

 
 
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