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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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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

Where greatness lies

A memorial to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

On July 3, 5 Tammuz, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi died. He was 89.

He inspired tens of thousands of people directly — and indirectly he inspired millions more, people who have yet to discover that the spiritual approaches they hold dear were invented and graciously shared by him.

Reb Zalman was prodigiously influential over many decades, but he was not proportionately famous. He was not always given credit for his vast learning or for his astonishing array of contributions. And he was okay with that.

The first time I saw Reb Zalman, he was on the bimah of an auditorium that held 2,000 people. His face beamed love at the congregation. I had been leading another High Holiday service, and I was able to join his congregation for the last few minutes of Rosh Hashanah morning.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

RECENTLYADDED

An American tale

Closter’s mayor talks about her journey from Nuremberg to New Jersey

Anyone trying to predict the course of newborn Sofie Dittmann’s life in 1928 would have imagined a solid, possibly even stolid upper-middle-class life, most likely in her birth city — Nuremberg, Germany.

It would have seemed an odd leap to imagine Sophie Dittman Heymann as she is today — the Republican mayor of Closter, coming to the end of her term as she completes eight years in office.

Her story, as Ms. Heymann tells it, involves hats, salamis, of course ambition, and a surprising but logical take on Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It began with Sofie, as her name then was spelled, and her younger sister, Ilse, growing up in a comfortable German-Jewish home. Her father, Fritz Dittmann, a leather dealer, was a World War I veteran, and he had earned an Iron Cross fighting for Germany in that war. Her mother, Gerda, was the daughter of a banker. The family’s life in Germany ended abruptly in 1933, however, when one of her father’s employees — who “was a Nazi, but also very loyal to my father,” Ms. Heymann said — warned him that the Nazis would be coming for him the next day.

The family escaped that night — by taxi.

 

Got day school?

Federation launches marketing effort for nine area Jewish schools

“We can accomplish more together by pooling our resources for a common goal,” explained Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, head of school of the Yavneh Academy in Paramus.

“Through this project, we hope to raise awareness across the broader community about the benefits of a stellar dual curricular Jewish education,” he said.

“We’re trying to educate different audiences within our community about the value of a Jewish education and the importance of investing in these schools,” Ms. Scherzer said. “These are the schools that produce leaders.”

In addition to the advertising campaign, planned marketing efforts include a short video, a website, and parlor meetings to take the case for day schools directly to community leaders.

 

As easy as chewing gum

Sweet Bites launches program to prevent tooth decay

Convincing children to chew gum is easy. Distributing gum that prevents tooth decay to children in urban slums is a bit trickier.

Still, given the success they enjoyed during their pilot year in India, the creators of Sweet Bites stand a good chance of making widespread gum distribution a reality.

According to 22-year-olds Josh Tycko of Demarest and Eric Kauderer-Abrams of Englewood, who joined with several friends at the University of Pennsylvania this year to found the group, tooth decay has been a terrible burden on the lives of millions of slum dwellers.

Sweet Bites wants to popularize the use of 100 percent xylitol-sweetened gum to reverse the trend. The students point out that clinical trials in both the United States and India have proved the gum’s efficacy in re-mineralizing enamel and reducing tooth decay.

 
 
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