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Abigail Klein Leichman
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Mourning possibilities

Local woman helps parents face trauma of stillbirth, infant mortality

LocalPublished: 03 July 2015

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.


Music and money

Local music teacher/philanthropist helps students perform at food-rescue fundraiser

LocalPublished: 19 June 2015

Buy a $25 concert ticket and feed Israel’s needy.

That’s the win-win deal on offer at Mexicali Live in Teaneck on Monday, June 22. Two shows that night will spotlight 21 young music students of Ben Hyman of Fort Lee at the same time that it raises money for Leket Israel, Israel’s national food bank and largest food-rescue network.

Mr. Hyman — who is a musician, a music teacher, and the owner of — explains that this will be the fifth benefit concert he has staged with pupils, most of whom are yeshiva day-school students.

“I try to find a charity that has some type of relevance to the children,” Mr. Hyman said. “We’re fortunate to live in a comfortable place, never worrying about how to get food on the table, a roof over our heads, and clothing on our backs. I want my students to be able to connect to children of the same age who have a completely different kind of life without that kind of security.”


Self-expression through art

Sinai Schools’ special needs students display their work

LocalPublished: 12 June 2015

Jewish students with learning or developmental disabilities got to express their artistic talents for the benefit of the Sinai Schools scholarship fund last Monday in Teaneck.

More than 70 original artworks — from sunsets and self-portraits to animal and abstract motifs — were created by 60 7- to 16-year-olds during art therapy sessions at three Sinai locations. The artworks were framed professionally and displayed at an open student art show and sale at the Avenue, an event space.

The third annual “Unique Inspirations” show served many purposes: Giving Sinai students a platform for showing and selling their artworks, helping additional families access Sinai’s inclusive special-education schools and programs for adults, and raising Sinai’s profile in the North Jersey community. The evening raised nearly $3,500.

Each art therapy participant from Sinai’s programs at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge and the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston chose two or three finished projects to donate to the show, Sinai art therapist Sarah Tarzik said.


‘Very, very cool’

Frisch students learn high-level engineering

LocalPublished: 12 June 2015

If three high school boys put many months of work into tricking out a walker — not a bike, a walker — you know there has to be a mighty strong motivation pushing the project along.

For Justin Sohn, Izzy Selter, and Harry Kramer, all students at the Frisch School in Paramus, that motivation was a strong interest in engineering, combined with the tools to create a useful health-related product. The interest was innate; the tools came courtesy of CIJE-Tech, a discovery-focused interactive curriculum for Jewish high schools including Frisch, developed in collaboration with the Israel Sci-Tech network of schools and New York-based Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education.

CIJE-Tech offers a year each of scientific and biomedical engineering geared to introducing a diverse range of science and technical knowledge while encouraging multidisciplinary and abstract thinking as well as leadership and teamwork skills. CIJE also provides intensive teacher training and mentoring and it also gives students laboratory equipment.


Taking care of our seniors

Motivated group of older women watches out for elder abuse

LocalPublished: 05 June 2015

On April 6, Elmwood Park police discovered the bodies of Michael Juskin, 100, and his wife, Rosalia, 88. The man had killed his sleeping wife with an ax and then committed suicide.

To the women of the Bergen County organization Saafe (Save Abused and Frail Elderly), there was a tragedy within this tragedy: Police had been called to the Juskin home on previous occasions but failed to alert the state’s Adult Protective Services agency.

“It really points up the need for communication, because any one discipline cannot handle the problem alone,” said Saafe member Dorothy Kaplan of Fort Lee, speaking ahead of United Nations-designated World Elder Abuse Day on June 15.

Greater coordination must be encouraged among all those who deal with the elderly, from nurses and social workers to police, Ms. Kaplan continued.

According to the latest figures available, from 2012, people 60 or older accounted for five percent of reported domestic-violence victims in New Jersey and 18 percent of domestic murders — seven out of 38 that year.


Mark the SPOT

Family of melanoma victim works with hair stylists to raise awareness

LocalPublished: 29 May 2015

Less than two years have gone by since Rachel Samitt noticed a suspicious mole under the wet hair on her dad’s sunlit scalp after a swim in the family’s Woodcliff Lake pool.

Though Mark Samitt immediately made an appointment with his dermatologist, the skin cancer his daughter saw took his life on May 6. He was 52.

Mr. Samitt’s tragic death makes this Sunday’s cut-a-thon all the more poignant — and vital. Mark the SPOT, a program he launched with his wife, Gayle, and daughters Rachel and Danielle, in partnership with the Melanoma Research Foundation, will be held at six Pascack Valley-area salons. Its goal is to teach hairstylists that “If you spot something, say something.”

Mark the SPOT educates stylists about how to identify possibly cancerous marks on their customers’ heads or necks and how to communicate their findings in a way that does not panic but encourages the customer to seek medical attention. The first salon to host a training session was Mania Hair Studio in Park Ridge. Owner Phil Mania lost his own father to melanoma at a young age.

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Making sick kids a little bit happier

Tenafly Eagle Scout, remembering what it feels like, cheers them on with special packs

LocalPublished: 29 May 2015

Daniel Nachum of Tenafly, 17, recently became an Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America.

This is remarkable, given that less than 10 percent of Scouts achieve this milestone.

Even more remarkable is that Daniel survived a childhood bout with cancer and decided to dedicate his Eagle Scout community-service project to pediatric oncology patients at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“For me, this decision was a no-brainer because I was treated there for leukemia and remain a patient there at Cure and Beyond,” said Daniel, who has lived in town all his life and is now a junior at Tenafly High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 86.

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Mom’s Day in motion

LocalPublished: 08 May 2015

Natalya Michaels is forgoing breakfast in bed in Mother’s Day.

Instead, she will go for a run with her husband and sons — along with about 1,300 others from as far away as Canada — in the annual Rubin Run, now in its 34th year at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly.

“It’s a nice family day,” Ms. Michaels said. “I like running and it’s what I’m choosing to do on Mother’s Day.

“I’m doing the 10k; my husband, Adam, is doing the half marathon; and our second-grader, Gregory, is doing the 5K, as he did last year. Gregory is in the JCC’s youth running clinic on Monday afternoons.”

Their younger son, Alex, a pre-kindergartner at the JCC, was to participate in the “Rubin Romp” on the Friday before the big race.

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Chapter and verse

Local middle-schoolers compete during Bible contest in Israel

LocalPublished: 08 May 2015

Just back from two weeks in Israel as a contestant in the International Youth Bible Quiz, Teaneck eighth-grader Tehila Kornwasser offered encouraging words to contestants at the 56th annual National Bible Quiz last Sunday at Manhattan Day School.

It was here, last year, that Tehila captured first place in the famously difficult contest’s middle-school division as a seventh-grader at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge. She qualified for a free trip to Israel, culminating with the international round in Jerusalem on Israel Independence Day.

Based on their scores on preliminary written tests administered during the two weeks before the trip, she and Shalva Eisenberg of Passaic placed among the 16 finalists in the nationally broadcast competition, which Shalva’s brother Yishai won in 2013.

Another Passaic resident, YBH of Passaic seventh-grader Avi Rybak, took first prize in the national middle-school division and will have a chance to ply his knowledge at the internationals in Israel next May.

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Gap year alternative

Teaneck native offers new gap year option for boys

Local | WorldPublished: 01 May 2015

At the end of the summer, hundreds of recently graduated yeshiva high school students from North Jersey will board planes bound for Israel, where they will spend a “gap year” of intensive Jewish studies before starting college.

Many of them will thrive and mature. But many others will skip classes and flirt dangerously with newfound freedom far from home, wasting their potential and the money their parents spent on tuition for a program that probably wasn’t a good fit for them from the start.

“On any Thursday night in Jerusalem, you can go to the center of town and see hundreds of young people involved in chaotic behavior — drinking, drugs, and violence. And the overwhelming majority of these kids are from America or England on one-year programs,” said Dr. Simcha Chesner, director of two Jerusalem high schools for boys with severe educational and emotional challenges: Yeshivat Bnei Chayil for Israelis and Matara Therapeutic Boarding School for English-speakers.

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