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Touro Med to set up shop in Hasbrouck Heights, not Hackensack

 
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Plans to convert a shuttered Westwood hospital into Touro University’s new medical school have been scrapped and the university will instead set up shop in Hasbrouck Heights.

Administrators at Touro University College of Medicine hope to open the school at 377 Route 17 south in Hasbrouck Heights sometime in 2010, with a student body of 40 that is expected to grow to more than 100. Hackensack University Medical Center recently reopened emergency services at the Pascack Valley Medical Center, which the two organizations bought in June to convert into a school. The Pascack Valley area has been without a hospital since PVMC closed last year.

Hackensack University Medical Center North at Pascack Valley PHOTO COURTESY HUMC

HUMC plans to turn the facility, now known as Hackensack University Medical Center North at Pascack Valley, into a 128-bed acute care community hospital. HUMC will buy out Touro’s interest in the site. According to Sharon Dilling, a Touro spokeswoman, specifics are being worked out.

“We are going back to Hasbrouck Heights to free up space for Hackensack University Medical Center to have a bigger hospital in the former Pascack Valley site,” said Dilling. HUMC “wanted to broaden services for the community,” she added.

The move will not affect Touro’s relationship with HUMC, which partnered with Touro last year to create the state’s first private medical school.

“HUMC is our primary affiliate,” Dilling said. “That relationship remains intact.”

Touro bought the building in Hasbrouck Heights in 2007 with the intention of turning it into the new school. Dr. Paul Wallach, vice president for allopathic medicine and dean of the planned school, previously told The Jewish Standard that Touro’s leadership wanted a pre-existing building that could be retrofitted for their needs. Officials said at the time that the 100,000-square-foot six-story building would be renovated to include classrooms, clinical skill centers, and faculty offices.

Touro’s leaders turned toward the former Pascack Valley Medical Center after the school partnered with HUMC. As Touro prepared to open in Westwood, the Hasbrouck Heights plan was pushed aside, although Touro still owned the building.

“We are going back to our original plan,” Dilling said.

She added that Touro wants to complete renovations by June.

Touro administrators had hoped to open the school sometime in 2009 but hit a roadblock in June when the school failed to win needed accreditation from the U.S. Department of Education’s Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

LCME had scheduled a site visit to the former PVMC in March, shortly after Touro and Hackensack announced they had won the bidding on the shuttered hospital. However, the medical school did not close on the property until April 30. Under LCME regulations, accreditation applicants must own the proposed property before accreditation can be granted.

The accreditation process is a form of quality control that assures that a program meets certain requirements in structure and performance. Accreditation by the LCME is required for schools to receive federal grants and participate in federal loan programs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, LCME is charged with the accreditation of medical education programs in the United States.

The New Jersey state board of medical examiners approved Touro’s application in 2006 to open in Florham Park in a building donated by real estate developer and philanthropist Charles Kushner, a member of Touro’s board of directors. The school began using offices in Hasbrouck Heights in 2007 and soon after decided to locate the school in Bergen County.

Touro has 33 campuses across the United States and eight other countries. It is named for Judah Touro, a 19th-century entrepreneur and philanthropist who was a major benefactor of Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island. Touro University’s president, Dr. Bernard Lander, founded the medical school in 1970 in New York.

 
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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.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

How to learn Hebrew

Confronting American Jews’ linguistic illiteracy, many programs offer help

Can you read a Hebrew newspaper or order a meal in an Israel restaurant? If you’re like the vast majority of American Jews, the answer is no.

“Half of Jews (52%), including 60% of Jews by religion and 24% of Jews of no religion, say they know the Hebrew alphabet,” according to last October’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” the famous study released by the Pew Research Center.

“But far fewer (13% of Jews overall, including 16% of Jews by religion and 4% of Jews of no religion) say they understand most or all of the words when they read Hebrew,” the report continues.

Alarmed by this finding, the World Zionist Organization, the Israeli Education Ministry, and several partner organizations recently launched the Hebrew Language Council of North America to help more Jews become conversant in the language of their literature, lore, and land — as well as the language of their peers in Israel.

 

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Mississippi burning, remembered

Puffin marks jubilee of Freedom Summer

It was a summer that changed lives.

It was a fight for American democracy in the face of terrorism.

It was dubbed “Freedom Summer,” and it drew 700 college students and young adults to help Mississippi activists fight for civil rights.

The year was 1964.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech the previous August, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In Washington, a far-reaching civil rights bill that would desegregate public facilities had been introduced to Congress by President Lyndon Johnson — but quickly stalled and was then filibustered for months.

 

Adding to Jewish life in Clifton

Rabbi Moshe Mirsky heads religious services department at Daughters of Miriam

Rabbi Moshe Mirsky thinks his new position as the director of religious services at the Daughters of Miriam Center/Gallen Institute in Clifton is a perfect shidduch.

Actually, it is not quite a new job. Rabbi Mirsky had already worked there with Rabbi Ira Kronenberg, who just retired from the home this month, in the late 1980s. Back then Rabbi Mirsky was studying for simicha — rabbinic ordination. He worked there once again in the 1990s, while he was teaching at various day schools.

“I would come on the weekends for Shabbat and on yom tov to assist Rabbi Kronenberg,” he said. “I would lead davening, give Torah classes, go to the Alzheimer’s unit, and try to engage the residents Jewishly. I had a special rapport with Rabbi Kronenberg and the residents.”

Indeed, then he already was doing many of the things he is doing now as director of religious affairs.

 

Poor assumptions = poor policy

ZOA’s congressional lobbyist talks about Israel, Oslo, and plans doomed to fail

The two-state solution is a chimera, Joshua London says. It is a lovely vision of something that never can be real, and chasing it — chasing the plan that would make Israel and Palestine two separate states, living next to each other in prickly but sustainable peace — is chasing the wind.

Mr. London, who lives in suburban Maryland, is the Zionist Organization of America’s co-director of government affairs. He will be taking a break from his daily routine — lobbying Congress to further the ZOA’s own understanding of the Middle East — to speak at a parlor meeting in Teaneck on Wednesday.

His goal, he said, “is to bring clarity and critical analysis to the longstanding U.S. policy for support of — and in fact to apply pressure toward — the creation of a Palestinian state from territory that otherwise belongs to Israel, and to do so under the notion that this will bring peace.”

 
 
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