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entries tagged with: Cong. Beth Sholom


Golf outing will raise funds for Parkinson’s research

Three years ago, just after Teaneck surgeon Lou Flancbaum informed family and friends that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, neighbors started bringing the Flancbaums dinner. Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg, a friend and fellow Cong. Beth Sholom worshipper, brought a golf club.

Though both gestures were appreciated by Flancbaum and his wife, Debby, the club proved to be the gift that kept on giving. Flancbaum, now 56, was told by his physician that exercise — yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, dancing, and activities such as golf — can keep the progressive neurological condition from causing debilitating stiffness and loss of balance. “I had him enrolled in so many classes, he said he felt like an over-programmed 12-year-old,” said his wife.

But it was golf that particularly caught his fancy. So it was only natural to combine his love of golf with the quest for a cure for Parkinson’s, one of the most common disorders in people over 50. The Flancbaums and a committee of volunteers, recruited partly through the Yahoo group Teaneckshuls, will co-chair a June 11 fundraiser at Lochmoor Golf Course in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., next to Vacation Village. The donation of $180 per player, to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation, will include the cost of two kosher meals.

Members of the Pars for Parkinson’s committee include, from left, back row, Phil Rhodes, Ira Goetz, Debby Flancbaum, Dr. Lou Flancbaum, Brian Blitz, and Dr. Les Glubo; middle row, Mindy Silverstein, Ricki Kudowitz, and Avi Goldin; and foreground, Marlene Rhodes. Not pictured are Cindy Blitz, Tova Flancbaum, L’via Weisinger, and Alex and Vicki Wulwick.

“We chose the Fox Foundation because, outside of the [federal] National Institutes of Health, it is the only one really focusing on cutting-edge research likely to lead to new frontiers in the search for a cure,” said Flancbaum. “Its goal is to find a cure and then put a lock on the door.”

Meeting each Sunday for the past six months, the “Pars for Parkinson’s” committee — whose members hail from diverse Jewish communities in Teaneck, River Edge, Fair Lawn, and Englewood — has been recruiting players for the event under the auspices of the foundation’s Team Fox (see details at Members include L’via Weisinger, Les Glubo, Marlene and Phil Rhodes, Cindy and Brian Blitz, Ricki Kudowitz, Orna Zack, Avi Goldin, Tova Flancbaum (Lou Flancbaum’s daughter), Ira Goetz, and Vicki and Alex Wulwick.

“We thought we’d raise $5,000, but have raised about $20,000,” said Debby Flancbaum more than a month before the outing. “I think ultimately we’ll see between $25,000 and $30,000, which is amazing. We’ve even gotten checks from total strangers.”

Thanks to the committee’s efforts, the only non-donated expense is the rental of the facility, a Sullivan County golf course where Lou Flancbaum takes lessons with resident pro Mike Deaver. “It’s an easy course, so it makes middle-aged Jewish guys feel good about themselves,” joked his wife. The former surgeon now shoots a respectable 94 or 95 on average.

Before his condition forced him into early retirement, Flancbaum was not a stereotypical golfer doctor. “Golfing passes a lot of time and is very enjoyable, which I think in my former life I never would have liked,” he said. “If you want to do it correctly, it poses motor challenges that are beneficial for my Parkinson’s. The right golf swing is complicated, which is why even Tiger Woods has a full-time coach.”

Flancbaum explained that intellectual and physical neurological challenges are considered at least as important as the Israeli-developed medication he takes to slow the disorder’s progression. “People used to think that once a nerve cell was injured, it was lost. But we are starting to understand that cells, and even organs, have ways of opening new pathways to weasel around injury.... The more you challenge yourself, the more you can recruit new cells and neurons to maintain function.”

He added that a possible link has recently been discovered between Parkinson’s and a form of Gaucher’s disease, a neurological condition prevalent in Ashkenazi Jews. Parkinson’s is not always hereditary, but this link may lead to its classification as a “Jewish disease,” Flancbaum said.

Sponsorship of Pars for Parkinson’s is solidly Jewish. Breakfast will be donated by Fusion Caterers, which caters lunch at New Milford’s Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. The Flancbaums got to know owner Jay Marcus while volunteering at Schechter, where their granddaughter, Aleeza Reich, is a student.

Clark Lofman of Fish of the Cs in Teaneck is donating lunch; cakes are contributed by Zadie’s Kosher Bakery in Fair Lawn. Golf shirts are courtesy of Jonathan Speiser of Dougies BBQ in Teaneck. Five Star Caterers, also based in Teaneck, is throwing in the golf balls — three per player. In addition, Hoerr’s is sending potato chips and ShopRite of Liberty is providing soft drinks.

Cigars and beer, traditional to golfing culture, will be available as well. Debby Flancbaum said that nicotine in controlled doses has been found to ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s, “although I wouldn’t encourage people to start smoking.”

M&M Auto Group of Liberty is contributing the hole-in-one prize: a three-year lease on a 2010 Ford Fusion. “Usually, you have to buy insurance for a donated car, but they are covering that, too,” said Debby Flancbaum. “We’ve just been very lucky that the community has rallied around this idea.”

Committee member Avi Goldin said, “This is a cause that is of particular interest to me and my wife, Rena. We are familiar with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and participated in a previous event in New York City. My wife saw one of the original posts about the tournament [on teaneckshuls] and I responded that I would like to bring a foursome of golfers. Lou thanked me and asked if I would be willing to help them plan the event, and I agreed.”

The Flancbaums hope to get close to the maximum capacity of 72 golfers, and if the event is successful, plan to make it an annual outing.


New voices in the community

Joel Pitkowsky: Opportunities and challenges

Lois GoldrichLocal
Published: 23 September 2011

Cong. Beth Sholom — a Conservative synagogue in Teaneck headed for three decades by Rabbi Kenneth Berger, now rabbi emeritus — recently welcomed Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky, most recently religious leader of Cong. Beth Israel in Worcester, Mass.

Pitkowsky is the third full-time rabbi to serve the Teaneck synagogue since it was founded 60 years ago. Born and raised in Fair Lawn, he held his first service at Beth Sholom on Aug. 5, after serving for eight years at the Massachusetts synagogue. Ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2001, he is one of only several dozen Conservative rabbis certified to write gittin, or Jewish divorce documents.

The rabbi, who arrived here with his wife, Ingrid, and children Jonah (10) and Lili (8), said he is “trying to adjust to the move, to the [children’s] schools, and to life in Teaneck.” Ingrid will be teaching kindergarten at the Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford.

His is an unusual synagogue, because it includes as congregants a number of the very JTS faculty members who were his own teachers.

“They’ve been very supportive — wonderful and kind,” he said. “It’s clear that they are here to be supportive members of the Jewish community, providing whatever resources they can. I’m thrilled to have them.”

Far from feeling daunted, he said, “I feel I need to do my best to have something to teach everyone in the community — including my teachers.”

Pitkowsky said Beth Sholom is similar to his last congregation, in that they “both have a committed group of laypeople.” Still, he said, “There’s more of everything here. Larger regular Shabbat attendance; a larger number of other synagogues. I’m not used to it. There’s so much more Jewish culture.”

While this creates “a wonderfully rich community,” it also creates “an open market,” he said.

“We are in a strong position to help in building bridges to other synagogues in the community, to help explain what Conservative Judaism means, and to work together toward furthering common goals and interests.”

The rabbi said the synagogue has handled the transition from one rabbi to another “wonderfully.”

Berger served for 30 years, deeply affecting all aspects of the synagogue, Pitkowsky said, adding, “My role is to figure out where the shul is now and where we need to be in the future, building on the foundation he set.”

The 400-member-unit synagogue has a wide age range, he noted, with members ranging from people in their 20s to their 90s. There also are many children, he said “the vast majority” of whom go to day school.

The shul’s merger four years ago with Cong. Beth Israel in Bergenfield brought a religious school to the Teaneck congregation. “It’s now our religious school,” he said. “We’re pushing hard to have it be the best it can, so we can provide the best education in different settings.”

Pitkowsky is excited to arrive at the synagogue as it celebrates its 60th anniversary.

“I feel we have built a wonderful foundation of learning, commitment to Jewish life, and prayer, and [can now] take it into the next 60 years,” he said.

Among his duties, he said, he will “care for the religious, spiritual, and Jewish life of every member of the community, providing pastoral care, teaching classes, and helping to organize all the synagogue’s educational programs.” He will also teach occasionally in the religious school.

The synagogue has alternative minyanim each week, he said, adding that in addition to leading the sanctuary service, he plans on “having a presence” in each of the other services, as well.

While opportunities abound, there also are challenges.

One challenge is “creating a community that appeals to all different kinds of Conservative Jews,” he said. For example, if a family is shomer Shabbat [Sabbath observant], sending their children to day school and Jewish summer camps, that family should be as comfortable in the shul as a family whose children attend public school and receive supplementary religious education.

“My goal is to create an environment where people feel personally connected to the community, seeing how Judaism can enrich their lives and how a committed Jewish community can enrich the greater community. The mission of the synagogue is to be a vehicle for personal and communal growth,” he said.

“I’m privileged to be in a community where so many people care about what happens here, about the Jewish community, and about the broader community. We can really make a positive impact on the world around us. That’s something I want to help foster.”

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