Subscribe to The Jewish Standard free weekly newsletter


entries tagged with: Beth Rishon


Another campus for BCHSJS

A lot of Jewish kids have never had a Jewish education, said Fred Nagler. He keeps hearing about 13-year-olds who decide after their b’nai mitzvahs that they’ve had their fill.

“Some parents don’t see the need to go past bar mitzvah education,” said the principal of Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies. “That’s unfortunate, because you leave your child at a very elementary level.”

For families looking for more Jewish education but not for day school, programs like BCHSJS can provide it. As the once-a-week Hebrew high school begins its 36th year, it is adding a third campus at Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, and Nagler expects enrollment numbers to jump in the coming weeks.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Jewish teens to come together,” said Beth Rishon’s Rabbi Kenneth Emert.

Enrollment in the synagogue’s own post-b’nai mitzvah program had dwindled in recent years, which led Emert and the synagogue’s leadership to seek out BCHSJS. Beth Rishon’s leaders were eager to replicate the success they saw at the branch at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake, now entering its third year. Three weeks into the new school year, the program has 35 students signed up for the Wyckoff campus, and Emert sees “potential from a great many more.”

“There’s a draw for these Jewish teenagers to come to a place where they can combine the continuing exploration of their Jewish identity with a social space,” said Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi, BCHSJS senior vice principal, who is heading up the new campus.

The school’s original Teaneck branch meets on Sundays at Ma’ayanot High School for Girls. The program doesn’t have confirmed numbers yet, but Nagler expects enrollment among all three campuses to reach about 300 for this year. He hopes the Wyckoff campus will draw new students from western Bergen and Passaic counties.

“There is a need,” Nagler said. “And people want it but for whatever reason they wouldn’t travel to Teaneck on Sundays. So we’re coming there, basically.”

Students enrolled at any of the three sites may attend part-time at other locations. Each semester each student takes three electives. The program also holds Shabbatons, trips, and other social programs that unite the students.

“All research shows that [these] years are the most important for Jewish teens to be involved,” Forman-Jacobi said. “These are the years they’re asking identity questions. Going forward it gives them a good foundation for when they go off to college.”

Since BCHSJS came to Temple Emanuel and took over its Hebrew high school program, the number of students has doubled, said Rabbi Ben Shull. He credited the program’s social and tikkun olam programs with integrating teenagers from the synagogue with those from around the area.

“We’ve been able to sell it to the kids because it’s a fuller program than what we were able to offer ourselves,” he said. “It’s really benefited them in lots of ways.”

With the cost of day school continuing to make headlines, one option that has been proposed is an intensive after-school Jewish education program.

“Families have to understand that … a Jewish education is very, very important,” Emert said.

Programs like BCHSJS are not a replacement for day school, he continued, but they are “an excellent option.”


Foundation donating its fifth emergency vehicle to Magen Dovid Adam

Family head trades on Wall Street to support the foundation’s good works

Mitzvah Day festivities at Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff Sunday morning will include the dedication of a new mobile intensive care unit bound for Israel. The MICU is the latest of several emergency vehicles donated by the 613 Foundation, headed by Donna Fried Calcaterra of Park Ridge.

The $125,000 vehicle memorializes her great-grandmother, Laskeh Helig Freidin — aka “The Great Bubbe Laskeh” — who collected food for the hungry in her pre-World War II Polish shtetl and then was starved to death as persecution of Jews worsened. “We don’t know if it was the Russians, Poles, or Germans who did it,” said Calcaterra, who chose Beth Rishon as the venue for the ceremony because her ancestor’s great-nephew, Jack Berger of Mahwah, is a member of the temple.

Through their foundation, Calcaterra and her 25-year-old daughter, Jenna, have donated five vehicles — including a specially constructed bloodmobile — to Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service. The first, an ambulance dedicated to the memory of Calcaterra’s parents and uncle, was sent off following a ceremony at the Bergen YJCC in Washington Township in 2009.

The Calcaterra family’s 613 Foundation is donating this mobile intensive care unit to Israel’s Magen Dovid Adam. courtesy American friends of magen dovid adam

“I had wanted to donate an ambulance since my first visit to Israel in 1970,” Calcaterra told The Jewish Standard. “I saw all the MDA ambulances dedicated to people, and I thought if I were ever rich enough it was something I’d like to do. I didn’t think I’d ever have the money, because I was supposed to be a famous artist. But instead I wound up on Wall Street as a commodities broker.”

And although she had retired in 1988, the high of that experience sent her back to the trading floor. “I felt so good about donating that first ambulance that I started trading again, looking to support the foundation,” she said. “At 60, I have learned how to trade options on stocks, something I had never done. I also trade the Israeli stock market, which is active and growing.”

It was on Wall Street that she met and married Salvatore Calcaterra, whose brokerage-floor number was 613 — the number of commandments in the Torah. “Orthodox brokers used to ask how an Italian like him got a number like that and wanted to buy it from him,” she related. “He was the one who told me what it meant. It became his lucky number, and when he passed away in 1996 we put it on his cemetery stone.”

That’s how the 613 Foundation got its name. Calcaterra said she and her daughter — an ardent Zionist, equestrian, and options trader living in Culpepper, Va. — intended the foundation to assist Israelis in a variety of ways. In addition to the emergency vehicles, the fund also is putting a discharged Israeli soldier through college and soon will sponsor another. The Calcaterras also hope to open a physical rehabilitation center for wounded Israeli soldiers.

“Everything the foundation does helps Israel, particularly the soldiers. My goal is to do more,” said Calcaterra.

Once it arrives at the Ashdod port, the MICU will join the fleet of 800 patient transport vehicles operated by MDA. Although it is Israel’s only government-mandated ambulance service, it receives no government funding and depends on the support of fundraising arms in North America and the United Kingdom.

“Israel has requested an unprecedented 100 ambulances from us in 2011,” said American Friends of Magen David Adom Northeast Associate Regional Director Karen Berger.

She said that MDA crews log nearly 10 million miles and take care of 550,000 patients annually, responding to disasters, car accidents, illnesses, and births. For information about opportunities to help, call Berger at (212) 757-1627 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


GreenFaith taps Temple Beth Rishon to help support EPA rule

GreenFaith, an environmental group that works each year with some 200 congregations around the country — many of them in New Jersey — recently called upon Wyckoff’s Temple Beth Rishon to help with an important initiative.

The synagogue, a participant in the group’s certification program, is rallying support for a new national rule aimed at reducing the emission of mercury and other toxins from power plants nationwide.

“This rule will prevent thousands of people from serious illness and death — particularly those in poor communities near many power plants,” said Rabbi Kenneth Emert, the religious leader of Temple Beth Rishon. “It’s the right thing to do, and we are proud to support it.”

On March 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the rule, which is open for public comment.

Founded in 1992, GreenFaith’s mission is to educate and mobilize diverse religious communities to be environmental leaders, said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, the group’s executive director.

“This rule will save lives as soon as it is implemented,” he said. “Temple Beth Rishon is offering important leadership by encouraging its members and community to voice their support.”

According to Harriet Shugarman, co-chair of the synagogue’s T’Green Olam Committee, Beth Rishon is “the first Jewish house of worship in GreenFaith’s certification program. We helped them pilot it two years ago,” she said. “We hope to become certified soon.”

“We look at sustainability issues inside the synagogue and how to reach out to the wider community,” she noted, describing the work of her committee. “We partnered with GreenFaith to get structure for what we were doing.”

Shugarman, who spent years working as an economist at the United Nations, said she is now focusing on environmental issues at a different level. The chair of Wyckoff’s environmental commission, she also maintains a website and blog called Climate Mama (

At the synagogue’s Mitzvah Day on Sunday, May 15, a petition will be circulated in support of the EPA rule.

Stephanie Perl, a member of T’Green Olam, is working with her teenage children to create posters and signs describing the importance of the initiative.

“We’ll go around and have people sign the petition,” she said, adding that Mitzvah Day usually attracts at least 200 people. Signatures will also be collected on May 18, when the synagogue hosts a speaker from the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel. (See related story.)

Harper said GreenFaith was approached by the EPA “because they understand the importance of the religious community in terms of mobilizing public support around the common good.” He noted that he’d been aware of the fact that the agency was planning to issue a rule requiring power plants to install new equipment to reduce mercury emission. “I knew there would be resistance in the business community because of increased costs,” he said.

The GreenFaith leader said the proposed rule would require many power plants to install widely available pollution control technologies that would prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year. In addition, it would reduce the number of cases of childhood asthma and acute bronchitis.

“Half of our electricity comes from coal plants,” he said. “Right now they are not only creating power but releasing mercury into the air, which is killing people. The rule will improve the situation. We think people ought to be aware of that and support these measures. It’s our responsibility as consumers of energy to make sure the energy we use is healthy and clean.”

Congregations that receive GreenFaith certification work over a two-year period on a significant number of environmental projects, integrating them into worship services and synagogue activities; reducing waste and becoming more environmentally responsible in their own facilities; and engaging in advocacy.

According to Shugarman, a participating congregation does an audit of “where you’re at and what you’re doing. It made us take stock,” she said, adding that thanks to the efforts of her co-chair Mark Neiderman, “we took a look at how we can [realize] energy savings in the temple. By being more diligent, at little or no cost, we’ve saved $30,000 over two years.

“It’s all part of a bigger picture,” said Shugarman, “[of] how to make our homes and our congregations more sustainable and how to move outside and have an impact on the world around us. There’s no downside. It’s all part of what we’re trying to do to be better people.”

For more information about Temple Beth Rishon’s environmental efforts, visit To learn more about GreenFaith, visit


In economic slump, congregations aid unemployed

Synagogues and their rabbis have been taking on extra roles as congregants have lost jobs in the Great Recession.

They have offered employment-networking programs and informal job banks.

They have offered dues-reductions for people struggling.

And they have been counseling members stressed by economic problems.

Congregational support programs for members who lost their jobs have been both formal and informal.

Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes helped establish an employment-networking program with fellow Reform synagogues Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Ramapo and Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, said the congregation’s Rabbi Elyse Frishman.

At the peak of the crisis, “We had a networking group and also a group focusing on job search skills,” said Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of the United Synagogue of Hoboken.

With their change in economic circumstances, “People who never thought they would be in the position of asking for a reduction of dues or tuitions from a Jewish institution — who saw themselves as the benefactors — were now in that position,” said Scheinberg.

“We’ve had a greater number of people who need financial assistance,” said Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner of Temple Emanu-El of Closter. “Anywhere from someone saying, I can’t afford the whole nut, can you take 10 percent off, to people saying, I can only pay 10 percent.”

Kirshner said that his congregation has successfully encouraged congregants to join as “patron members,” paying extra dues to help make up for those who can’t pay.

“We hope that people who are able to make a difference for those who can’t will make that difference,” he said.

At Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center, in Ridgewood, Rabbi David Fine said that “even though we’ve had a number of families who have not been able to pay their dues because of their employment situation, the membership as a whole has increased its giving.”

Fine said that synagogues can “take a leading role in reaching out and giving community to people in need of it, as the community of the work place becomes more transient. That’s very important in trying economic times.”

Barnert Temple created a community support fund “to offer dues relief, in essence,” asking families who were able to support to help the families who were thinking of leaving the synagogue for financial reasons.

“We raised enough money to carry forth for three years,” said Frishman. “It was very helpful for people.”

The first year of the economic crisis had a direct impact on Frishman: The synagogue’s staff was asked to take a salary cut.

The following year, the pay cuts were restored, but on the whole, the synagogue’s budget “is growing tighter.”

At Temple Beth Sholom of Pascack Valley in Park Ridge, Rabbi Gerald Friedman has reached into his discretionary fund for synagogue programs that no longer fit into the budget.

Financially, “we’re down. We’re carrying a number of additional families on either partial or more complete scholarships. People can’t shoulder the burdens they used to be able to shoulder,” he said.

With the real estate market still frozen, new families aren’t moving in to the community, he said.

“I’ve heard from some of my grandparenty types that young people can’t move to Bergen County; it’s too expensive still,” he said. “That affects people, when you don’t get feeder families.”

Kirshner said that some congregants have pulled their children out from Jewish day schools.

“Not many. Some. It’s painful. In some cases, they pull their kids out because tuition goes up six percent and they got a 10 percent pay decrease. That 16 percent is tough to make up when you have three or four kids. We do what we can to help them.”

Friedman said that in addition to the financial crisis, members of his congregation lost money in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. All of this added up to what he sees as “a sense of uncertainty, a lack of confidence.”

“Real estate was so sure in America. When the stuff is so shifted around, what do you count on? What’s the rock?” asked Friedman.

Is it religion?

Friedman paused before answering.

“I don’t see a more varied chromatic, more in-depth absorption in Judaism. People who are on that path are doing it. I don’t see a greater proportion of my congregants reciting tehillim, psalms, or suddenly discovering the depth of Shlomo Carlebach’s songs. I don’t know what fills or solaces these terrible doubts. I try to speak the language of the spirit, that life is not only bank accounts and this and that, but if they don’t have this sense of it’s going to be OK, it’s very hard.”

Scheinberg said that he has counseled congregants going through “various kinds of personal financial crises, whether job loss or people who are underemployed or people who are now overworked because they’re expected to do what was previously the work of more than one employee.

“Sometimes I’m able to help them to have the courage to think creatively about new ways to approach their situation. Sometimes it’s helping them to face their fear.

“Often it’s helping them to realize that our lives are so much more than our work, even though we sometimes lose sight of that.

“Hopefully people can remember all the parts of their lives that go beyond career. There’s family and personal relationships, the role that one plays in one’s community, the role that an individual plays vis-à-vis the Jewish people and God. There’s our intellectual lives, our cultural lives, our spiritual lives.”

Page 1 of 1 pages
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31