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UJA-NNJ readies for Super Sunday

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UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey has set a goal of $1.1 million for its annual Super Sunday fund-raising drive this weekend at its Paramus headquarters.

The fund-raiser is the federation’s largest throughout the year and draws hundreds of volunteers, who call thousands of committed and potential donors across the area.

Numerous local and overseas programs supported by the North American federation system have seen their budgets cut in recent months because of the country’s economic downturn. While the economy is in better shape than this time last year, organizers still expect a tough sell. “There’s a greater need,” said co-chair Jonathan Rochlin of River Edge. “There’s only going to be more need.”

The percentage of dollars going to local initiatives rather than overseas is higher than ever, said co-chair Joan Krieger of Franklin Lakes. Krieger also serves as UJA-NNJ’s assistant treasurer. “I see how this has impacted our community and some of the wonderful programs we’ve been involved with overseas,” she said. “Everything’s been cut to the bone. I hope people will step up to the plate to the extent that they can so that we don’t have to cut anymore.”

New Jersey’s 11 Jewish federations coordinated a statewide Super Sunday last December. They did not collaborate on this year’s fund-raiser, but many decided to keep the early December date, said Allison Halpern, UJA-NNJ’s donor relations director. “We found we did very well by doing it earlier,” she said. “Part of it was people want to make donations before the year ends. We raised more money from more people than we had for some years.”

Last year the federation collected $1,115,566 from 2,400 donations, 500 more donations than the previous year’s fund-raiser, which brought in $1,095,819. Because of local organizations’ increased needs, the federation held a second Super Sunday in March, which raised almost $200,000 from more than 400 donors. The federation has set a goal of $9.5 million of undesignated gifts for its 2010 annual campaign, according to Elliot Halperin, UJA-NNJ’s campaign director.

“This represents an increase compared to last year, despite continuing economic challenges,” he said. “Our campaign team, led by campaign chair Dr. Zvi Marans, is working hard to exceed this goal — and deliver even more assistance to people in our community, in Israel, and beyond.”

The success of last year’s Super Sunday at the height of the recession has made organizers hopeful of equal success this year.

“During both Super Sunday and Super Sunday 2 last year, our expectations were far exceeded,” Krieger said. “The number of people that came out and gave — both old donors and new donors — was just overwhelmingly gratifying. It shows that when they know the need is there, the people in our community are there also.”

In addition to calling, the federation will also run a blood drive and bone marrow screenings throughout the day.

Callers will stress the need for donors to do their part to help, Rochlin said. “Nobody has ever gone bankrupt by making a donation,” he said. “It’s not going to impact your lifestyle but it’s going to have a major impact on somebody.”

Those called won’t just be asked for donations, though. “If they need help we’re there to offer help, also,” Rochlin said. “If somebody says, ‘I can’t make a donation this year,’ we’ll ask if they need assistance. That’s the other side of why we’re calling.”

For more information or to volunteer, call (201) 820-3955.

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Oslo, Birthright, and me

Yossi Beilin, to speak at Tenafly JCC, talks about his past

For a man who never served as Israel’s prime minister, Dr. Yossi Beilin had an outsized impact on Israeli history.

A journalist for the Labor party paper Davar who entered politics as a Labor Party spokesman before being appointed cabinet secretary by Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1984, Dr. Beilin made his mark with two bold policies that were reluctantly but influentially adopted by the Israeli government: the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and the Birthright Israel program.

On Thursday, Dr. Beilin will address “The future of Israel in the Middle East” at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, in a program sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.

Dr. Beilin — he holds a doctorate in political science from Tel Aviv University — ended his political career in 2008, having served as a Knesset member for 20 years, and as deputy foreign minister, justice minister, and minister of religious affairs.


A new relationship in Ridgewood

Conservative, Reconstructionist shuls join forces, work together, retain differences

Last December, Rabbi David J. Fine of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood wrote a thoughtful and perceptive op ed in this newspaper about why the word merger, at least when applied to synagogues, seems somehow dirty, perhaps borderline pornographic. (It is, in fact, “a word that synagogue trustees often keep at a greater distance than fried pork chops,” he wrote.)

That automatic distaste is not only unhelpful, it’s also inaccurate, he continued then; in fact, some of our models, based on the last century’s understanding of affiliation, and also on post-World War II suburban demographics, simply are outdated.

If we are to flourish — perhaps to continue to flourish, perhaps to do so again — we are going to have to acknowledge change, accommodate it, and not see it as failure. Considering a merger does not mean that we’re not big enough alone, or strong enough, or interesting or compelling or affordable enough. Instead, it may present us with the chance to examine our assumptions, keep some, and discard others, he said.


Mourning possibilities

Local woman helps parents face trauma of stillbirth, infant mortality

Three decades ago, when Reva and Danny Judas’ newborn son died, just 12 hours after he was born, there was nowhere for the Teaneck couple to turn for emotional support.

Nobody wanted to talk about loss; it was believed best to get on with life and not dwell on the tragedy.

Reva Judas wasn’t willing to accept that approach, and she did not think anyone else should, either — especially after suffering six miscarriages between the births of her four healthy children.

She soon became a go-to person for others in similar situations, and eventually earned certification as a hospital chaplain. In January 2009, Ms. Judas founded the nonprofit infant and pregnancy loss support organization Nechama (the Hebrew word for “comfort”) initially at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and then at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.

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