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entries tagged with: Kaplen Jcc On The Palisades


Community comes together to bury holy objects

The Rabbinical Council of Bergen County and the North Jersey Board of Rabbis, two organizations that have not had much to do with each other, have dug up a reason to come together.

Together with the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, the RCBC and NJBR are co-sponsoring the Genizah Project, a ceremonial burial of holy objects at the JCC on Oct. 18. With renovations continuing around the JCC, Rabbi Steve Golden, its Judaic director, approached the rabbinical bodies in June with the idea of creating a communal burial plot.

According to Jewish law, sacred objects that contain God’s name, shemot, and can no longer be used, must be disposed of in a respectful way. Such items include damaged or faded Torah scrolls, mezuzot, tefillin, and prayer books.

“When they are essentially used up and no longer functional,” said Rabbi Randall Mark, president of the NJBR and spiritual leader of Cong. Shomrei Torah in Wayne, “rather than throwing them away, because they are holy objects, we bury them as a sign of respect.”

While the project provides a practical resource to the community, Mark hopes to use the occasion more for education about an aspect of Judaism that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

“Genizah” can refer either to the storage space in a synagogue for such items before they are buried or to the actual burial space. Some funeral homes accept religious items, which are then buried next to coffins, with the permission of the deceased person’s family. In ancient times, Jewish communities would designate specific rooms or other locations for storage, and the papers would disintegrate in the dry climate of the Middle East. When Jews moved to less-arid Europe, burial became the modus operandi.

Perhaps the most famous genizah is in Cairo, where almost 200,000 Jewish manuscript fragments were found in the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Jacob Saphir first discovered the genizah in the mid 1800s, while Solomon Schechter is credited for bringing its contents to the attention of the scholarly community later that century.

In addition to the JCC, 17 organizations — including The Moriah School, The Frisch School, and an assortment of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform synagogues, as well as UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey — will share the 2,800 cubic feet at the JCC genizah. Each group has been asked to contribute $150 to help cover the costs of the burial. Organizers have not yet decided if the spot will be marked once it is covered over, but, Golden said, the genizah is located in an area that should not be disturbed.

The entirety of the plot has been allocated to the registered organizations, so individuals with shemot no longer in use must go through one of those groups.

The RCBC, which represents all of Bergen County’s Orthodox rabbis, and the NJBR, which represents mostly Conservative and Reform rabbis in Bergen and Wayne, last came together on the issue of cemetery costs, uniting with the New York Board of Rabbis and UJA-NNJ to lobby for decreasing the high cost of burials in New Jersey. The two groups typically have little contact with each other.

The respectful disposal of religious items, however, is an issue that transcends denomination, Golden said. As they praised the entire community for coming together for the project, the leaders of the NJBR and RCBC appeared hopeful that cooperation between their organizations would continue.

“I am especially proud that these two rabbinic groups have embraced this opportunity,” said Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, president of the RCBC and spiritual leader of Teaneck’s Cong. Beth Aaron. “It is especially inspiring that we have found a common ground by highlighting the special sanctity and immutability of Torah and our collective commitment to insure its preservation.”

“We see this as the beginning steps,” Mark said. “Hopefully this will work out smoothly and we can find other places to work together for the benefit of the community.”

For more information on the Oct. 18 ceremony, call the JCC at (201) 569-7900.


Bonding through basketball

Members of the Hod Hasharon High School basketball team, together with staff. Photos by Sara Lewis

Several months ago, residents of Hod Hasharon in Israel approached the education department of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem with a proposal: They wanted the city’s high school basketball team to travel to America to compete against high school teams on the East Coast.

Soon after, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s community shaliach Stuart Levy received a phone call pitching the idea.

“Members of the high school from Hod Hasharon have a connection to members of the Tenafly community,” said Levy. “Many have close friends and family that live here.”

The team initially intended to come between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. However, said Levy, the Tel Aviv Maccabi Electra and the New York Knicks were scheduled to play at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 18, and he thought the Israeli high school team might want to attend.

“Why not experience Israeli and American culture at MSG?” said Levy. Israeli organizers agreed, and the trip was postponed until October 9. That way, the team would be able to attend the MSG game on the last day of their trip and fly home later that day.

Nine local families hosted the Israeli team members. Sara Lewis, director of the Maccabi team from the JCC on the Palisades, arranged for many of them to be hosted by families of the JCC athletes whose team recently took home the bronze medal during the Maccabi Games.

Although the Tenafly team members are younger than those on the Hod Hasharon team, they were still able to scrimmage against them and, according to Lewis, “play incredibly well.”

During their trip, the Israeli team traveled to Boston to see the Celtics play the Nets. In addition, they visited local yeshiva high schools, including The Frisch School in Paramus and the Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck.

On meeting the Israelis, Frisch’s Judah Schulman commented, “They seemed timid at first, but after I approached them, they began telling me about their trip in America. I could tell they were ballers.”

The Israeli ballplayers faced off against TABC in a scrimmage in the school’s gym, commonly referred to by students as “The Weather Center.”

Nimrod Sofrin and Eyal Shamban, members of the Hod Hasharon High School basketball team.

Hod Hasharon coach Dror Birger said the Israeli team prepares differently when competing against American teams.

“In Europe, the teams play man-to-man. In America, from a young age the athletes are taught how to play a zone defense. The younger players on my team are not familiar with a zone, so when we got here, I had to teach them how to play against one. It is very different.”

Still, the Israelis were able to use their size and agility to defeat the TABC team. TABC guard Jason Katz explained one problem his team faced when playing against the Israelis.

“Some of the kids on our team don’t speak Hebrew fluently,” he said, “so when the Hod Hasharon team began screaming out plays in Hebrew, our players had no idea what was going on. I can’t say we have that particular problem when facing American teams.”

The TABC Video Squad broadcast the entire game live on the Internet, so that family and friends of the TABC and Hod Hasharon athletes could watch the international battle from home.

On Sunday, the Israeli team went to Madison Square Garden to see the Maccabi Electra of Tel Aviv play against the New York Knicks. Earlier in the morning, The Frisch School played against the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway in a rematch of last year’s Yeshiva League Championship, during which HAFTR won in the final seconds. The game ended in a tie and was not allowed to go into overtime due to time restraints presented by the subsequent game between the Electra and Knicks.

The proceeds from the games went toward the Israeli charity Migdal Ohr, one of the largest orphanages in the world. The 2007 game between the Knicks and the Maccabi team was played during the evening and was reported to host the largest crowd for an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. This year, the game was played during the day so that fans back in Israel would be awake to watch.

Midway through the third quarter, Maccabi coach Pini Gershon was ejected for his second technical foul. Gershon refused to leave, however, and instead lingered around his team’s bench. After an eight-minute delay — with the crowd chanting “Ma-cca-bi!” and with Migdal Ohr’s founder, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, pleading with the referees to allow Gershon to stay — the decision was upheld and Gershon eventually agreed to leave.

One member of the Hod Hasharon team, Adam David, said “[The trip] was really helpful for me as an athlete and Israeli. It was a chance to have fun and gain experience playing the game. American teams really taught us about the game and the culture.”

Levy speculated on whether the trip might become an annual event. “It’s up in the air,” he said. “It’s a matter of finances.” This trip was financed by members of the Hod Hasharon community.

Hod Hasharon is seeking to become part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership 2000 program, to be paired up with a city in America containing a strong Jewish community. Such a partnership, similar to the one northern New Jersey has with Nahariya, would likely be the catalyst for future trips connecting the distant Jewish communities.

“One of my aims as shaliach from Israel is finding ways to bridge the gap between northern Jersey and Israel,” said Levy.


JFS Conference for caregivers at UJA Federation

When an elderly parent or spouse begins needing daily assistance, the caregiver faces often overwhelming dilemmas: How can I manage a balance between my own young family and responsibility for my parent? How can I find time for myself? What options exist for respite and long-term care?

Sheila Steinbach, director of clinical and adult care management at Jewish Family Service of Bergen and North Hudson, is familiar with these questions on both a professional and personal level.

“It can be a complex, overwhelming situation and we receive quite a few inquiries on this subject from ‘sandwich generation’ children and spouses,” said Steinbach, who is herself in the position of helping to tend older and younger family members.

On Nov. 15, the agency will present “Caring for a Loved One: You are Not Alone” at the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, 50 Eisenhower Drive in Paramus, 12:45 to 4 p.m.

The conference is co-sponsored by UJA-NNJ, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, the Bergen County YJCC in Washington Township, and Jewish Family Service of North Jersey in Wayne.

“So many of us are dealing with this situation, and it was clearly larger than our client base,” said JFS Bergen & North Hudson Executive Director Lisa Fedder, who travels frequently to Baltimore to see to her own mother’s needs. “This is a community-wide problem, and we wanted to reach out to as many community partners as we could.”

Fedder added that the economic crisis has contributed to the stress felt by many family caregivers. “What pushed this issue to the forefront now was the fact that money has become tighter and many people are no longer able to juggle all the balls by themselves. If we can help answer their concerns, we hope they will be able to be more effective in providing care.”

Steinbach and Debbie Turitz, director of Senior Adult Services at the Kaplen JCC, will present a workshop on creating a balance specifically for members of the so-called sandwich generation — a term coined in 1981 by sociologist Dorothy Miller to describe a segment of the middle-aged generation that cares for both young and older family members without receiving reciprocal support.

Other breakout workshops will include “Accessing Community Support Services” by Patty Stoll of JFS Bergen and North Hudson; “Caregivers are Important Too” by Ann Pogolowitz of JFS Northern New Jersey and Devra Kanter of the Bergen County YJCC; and “Creative Planning: Legal and Financial Issues” by Ridgewood elder-law specialist Michael Manna, who also will give a presentation on legal and financial planning.

Stoll will make a presentation on care options in and out of the home. Dr. Terri Feldman Katz, director of the Center for Dynamic Aging in Hackensack, will speak on medical issues of the elderly.

The conference, which is open to the general public, is not only for those already providing care.

Steinbach said that many clients have told her they were suddenly plunged into the caregiving role and were caught unprepared.

“One day the parent is doing fine and then something happens overnight and the adult child or spouse needs immediate answers and resources,” she said. “So we are also hoping to attract people who are not yet in the situation so that they can learn what’s available to them.”

Registration costs $12 by Nov. 10 or $15 at the door. Kosher refreshments will be provided. For information, call (201) 837-9090 or go to


Sexuality and the special-needs child

Workshops at the JCC on the Palisades

It’s not easy for parents to speak with children of any age about sexuality. But when the children have special needs, it may be even more challenging, says Shelley Levy, director of the Guttenberg Center for Special Services at the JCC on the Palisades.

To help parents face this challenge, on Nov. 15 the center will offer two workshops presented by Mary Greenfield, sexuality trainer for the New York-based Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities.

The Guttenberg Center is “based on the premise that individuals of all ages should be provided with programming geared to meet their needs,” said Levy, adding that the center serves more than 500 participants, at least 100 of whom are teens.

The JCC on the Palisades’ Guttenberg Center provides respite and recreational programs for more than 500 people, including about 100 teens.

The facility meets a wide range of specific needs, including autism spectrum disorder; Asperger’s syndrome; communication and learning differences; moderate cognitive, intellectual, and neurological challenges; and developmental disabilities.

Levy pointed out that center programs are considered “recreational and respite programs. There’s always a strong focus on communication and social skills, but we’re not a school,” she said, noting that the staff recently determined that sexuality training would be a valuable skill to add to existing offerings, “to go along with self-grooming and health” modules. The staff itself has already participated in training classes with Greenfield.

The parent workshops will be split into two sessions: one for parents of younger children, ages 5 to 15, and one for those with children between the ages of 16 and 20.

For those with younger children, “it will help build the foundation for healthy sexuality and helping children deal with sexuality issues,” said Levy.

“Parents go through many things as they see their teens entering young adulthood. We’re trying to help them find a way to communicate with their kids to keep them safe, but also to help [their children] recognize that what they’re going through is very typical.”

For some special-needs children, she said, “there is a disconnect between their behaviors and their ability to express themselves in an age-appropriate way.”

The workshops are “extremely important because they come at a juncture in time where we have to look at [the youngsters] as young men and women first, [dealing] with the reality of them transitioning into adulthood. We need to prepare them as best we can.”

The morning session, she said, “will explore proactive ways to address sexual education with children with special needs. The goal will be to help parents provide a foundation for their child’s later experiences.”

The afternoon session will focus on helping teens 16 and above “deal with their developing sexual interests, safety, and relationships,” covering how to approach the topic with the teen, sexual hygiene, understanding privacy, and sexual safety.

According to Greenfield, “an important part [of this effort] is to translate the information into ways that can be understood” by the teenagers.

“Parents of special-needs children have to be much clearer about the message they want to give” regarding issues such as boundaries and privacy, she said. They must try to do some “future thinking — thinking about their children as adults and about how they want them to act as adults.”

She noted that the parents of younger children may be called upon to explain issues such as puberty. When that occurs, she said, they should “start with what is going on inside the body, not with the sperm and egg piece.”

Parents must also spell out what many consider the “unwritten rules” of social behavior, such as “who can you touch, and where.” With older children, the need for such discussions may arise when the children talk about dating or are beginning to flirt, she said, noting that she is called most often by the parents of teenagers.

The question is, “Where is my child right now? What information is useful? Be specific.”

At the Nov. 15 session, Greenfield will answer parents’ questions and talk about resources available to them, such as a recent book geared to the parents of children with Down syndrome.

For further information about the workshops, call Levy at (201) 408-1489.

Dan Senor explains Israel’s economic miracle

From upstart nation to ‘Start-Up Nation’


Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” is one heck of a fine book — which helps explain why it’s now No. 6 on The New York Times Business best-seller list.

You might expect that a book dealing with economics and technology, and about a foreign country yet, would be one great big sleeping pill. But “Start-Up Nation” happens to be lively, surprising, and fun to read.

A key reason: The authors heeded the advice of their publisher, Twelve Books, and emphasized story-telling. The book is chockfull of short, punchy narratives — such as one about Yossi Klein, a 20-year-old helicopter pilot serving in Lebanon during the war. (See box.)

The authors — Dan Senor, adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, and Saul Singer, former editorial page director of the Jerusalem Post — present powerful evidence that Israel is far, far above most other nations when it comes to creating important technology, and then they try to explain why — every which way since Sunday.

The authors also answer such probing questions as:

How can the United States and other nations emulate Israel? (Short of reinstituting the draft: Apparently compulsory military service helps account for the Israelis’ success.)

Why have other formidable nations, like Singapore, not enjoyed anything like Israel’s success when it comes to innovation?

What’s the greatest threat to Israel’s continuing economic growth?


If there’s a flaw in the book, it may be that the authors downplay the importance of certain aspects of Jewish/Israeli culture — the historic Jewish emphasis on education, the historic approval of ambition (the “My son the doctor” syndrome). When the authors told people about Israel’s being so innovative, many responded, “It’s simple — Jews are smart, so it’s no surprise that Israel is innovative.”

The authors disagree. Israelis have little in common, they argue, with 70 different nationalities living there. Jews from Iraq, Poland, or Ethiopia, they contend, don’t share a language, education, culture, or history (apart from a legacy of persecution).

Well, some might argue, Jews do seem to share smarts, wherever the heck they came from — not that other factors don’t help explain Israel’s technological success. Natan Sharansky, the famous Soviet refusenik, is quoted as saying, “For us in the Soviet Union, we received with our mothers’ milk the knowledge that because you are a Jew … you had to be exceptional in your profession, whether it was chess, music, mathematics, medicine, or ballet…. That was the only way to build some kind of protection for yourself, because you were always going to be starting from behind” because of anti-Semitism.

The Yossi Klein story

“Start-Up Nation” is full of absorbing stories, all of them making a point. This story demonstrates how creative Israeli soldiers learn to be:

Yossi Klein, a helicopter pilot, was ordered to evacuate a badly wounded soldier from Lebanon. When he flew his chopper to the battlefield, though, he saw that the soldier was on a stretcher surrounded by dense bushes — which prevented the copter from landing, or even hovering close to the ground.

So Klein used the tail rotor of his helicopter like a lawn mower, cutting down the bushes. Then, by hovering close to the ground, he was able to pick up the soldier — who was rushed to a hospital in Israel and survived.

What Klein did was original — and certainly not something recommended by his superior officers.

Here is some of the evidence the authors produce to show how far in front Israel is in regard to originating technology:

• Israel is only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a state of war since its founding, and with no natural resources like oil or precious metals. Yet it has produced more new companies than Japan, India, China, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

• Israel has more companies listed on the U.S. NASDAQ (mainly for small, promising companies) than those from all of Europe, Korea, Japan, Singapore, China, and India combined.

• In 2008, venture capital investments in Israel, per person, were over 30 times greater than in Europe, 80 times greater than in China, and 350 times greater than in India.

• Google’s CEO and chairman, Eric Schmidt, has said that the United States is the best place in the world for entrepreneurs, but “after the U.S., Israel is the best.” Steve Ballmer, who runs Microsoft, has called Microsoft “an Israeli company as much as an American company” — because of all the Microsoft teams working in Israel.

Granted, Israel is in a class unto itself. In fact, in June a major financial service, Morgan Stanley Capital International, decided to upgrade Israel from an emerging market to a developed market. This will happen next year. Both South Korea and Taiwan were not promoted.

Over the last five years, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index has fallen 4 percent. The Tel Aviv Index has soared 60 percent.

Here are just some of the many explanations that Senor and Singer give for Israel’s pre-eminence in technological innovation:

• Young Israelis are unnaturally mature. They must serve two to three years in the army, so early in life they learn responsibility. “It comes down to maturity,” says an officer of a British company working in Israel. Nowhere else in the world, he points out, “where people work in a center of technological innovation, do they also have to do national service.” In Israel, the authors write, “you get experience, perspective, and maturity at a younger age, because the society jams so many transformative experiences into Israelis when they’re barely out of high school.”

• Israelis tend to know a lot of other Israelis — in large part, from their military service. That’s why some companies, when they need new employees, don’t bother using help-wanted ads. “It’s now all word of mouth,” someone says. “Everybody knows everybody; everybody was serving in the army with the brother of everybody….”

• Israelis are impatient. Their future has always been in question, the authors write, so, when an entrepreneur has a business idea, he or she will start it that week. (And when an Israeli wants to date a woman, he asks her out that night.)

• If you’re looking for the cream of the cream, you can readily find it — in the Israel Defense Forces’ elite units, such as the 8200. “The unit in which an applicant served tells prospective employers what kind of selection process he or she navigated, and what skills and relevant experience he or she may already possess,” the authors write.

• Israel gives special training to its best students. The Talpiot program has produced only some 650 graduates in 30 years, but many have become the founders of a country’s most successful companies. NICE Systems, the company behind call-monitoring systems used by 85 of the Forbes 100 companies, was founded by a team of Talpions.

• Failure may be failure, but it’s not “abject.” There’s a tolerance in Israel for what some Israelis call “constructive failures” or “intelligent failures.” In fact, South Korea — another country with a military draft — hasn’t emulated Israel’s success, the authors argue, because the bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000 caused many Koreans to fear losing face in the future. As for Singapore, even though its military is modeled after the IDF, Senor and Singer report that its culture doesn’t encourage initiative and risk-taking.

• Israelis, as President Shimon Peres has said, are eternally dissatisfied. “The greatest contribution of the Jewish people in history is dissatisfaction,” he claims. “That’s poor for politics but good for science.” They tend to believe that whatever is “clearly impossible” is in reality perfectly possible.

• Israelis aren’t timid about challenging authority. Somewhere, “Israelis learn that assertiveness is the norm, reticence something that risks your being left behind.” As one Intel employee put it, “From the age of zero we are educated to challenge the obvious, ask questions, debate everything, innovate.”

One Israeli lawyer claims that in the Israeli army, “A private will tell a general in an exercise, ‘You are doing this wrong, you should do it this way.’”

Using your own judgment instead of blindly following orders is admired in Israel. Soldiers in the army are divided into those with a rosh gadol (a “big head”), who think for themselves, and those with a rosh katan (“little head”), who interpret orders as narrowly as possible.

This sense of entitlement is re-enforced by Israelis’ two- or three-year military experience. In the IDF, low-ranking soldiers have a lot more responsibility than in other nations’ militias.

• Israelis are willing to try new things. They spend more time on the Internet than people in any other country, and the average Israeli even has more than one cell phone.

• Israelis admire the ability to get things done — and someone with this ability is admiringly called a bitzu’ist, a pragmatist.

• Employers can readily find well-educated employees. Israel has the highest concentration of engineers in the world. Today, Israel has eight universities and 27 colleges — four are among the top 150 worldwide universities, and seven in the top 100 Asia Pacific universities.

• Israel spends a lot on research and development — a higher percentage of its economy than other nations spend.

• The kibbutzim, those famous communes, helped. With less than 2 percent of the Israeli population, today kibbutzniks produce 12 percent of the country’s exports.

• Immigration, especially from the former Soviet Union, was a big shot in the arm. Between 1990 and 2000, 800,000 immigrants came to Israel — among them many professionals, from engineers to physicians. Which is why Israel has more engineers and scientists per capita than any other country. They were also risk-takers. One Israeli is quoted as saying, “A nation of immigrants is a nation of entrepreneurs.”

• Israel is a land of multi-taskers. In the army, specialization is frowned upon; everyone is expected to be somewhat knowledgeable about everything. This fosters “mashups,” where innovation results from the combination of wildly different technologies and disciplines. Example: fitting a camera into a pill that someone could swallow, so a physician could study his or her insides. (Given Imaging, which sells PillCams, went public in 2001.) Multi-tasking, the authors assert, “produces particularly creative solutions.”

• Surrounded as they are by enemies, Israelis love to travel. “There is a sense of a mental prison here,” an Israeli editor says. “When the sky opens, you get out.”

Another way to escape: telecommunications. An Israeli venture capitalist says, “High-tech telecommunications became a national sport to help us fend against the claustrophobia that is life in a small country surrounded by enemies.”

This “avid internationalism” has helped Israel penetrate industries in nations around the world. Netafim, an Israeli company that provides drip-irrigation systems, now operates in 110 countries. Just in Asia, it has offices in Vietnam, Taiwan, New Zealand, China (two offices), India, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, and Indonesia.

• Finally, there are “clusters” in Israel. Lots of schools, big companies, start-ups, suppliers, and venture capital in close proximity — as in Silicon Valley.

Senor and Singer sum up their wide-ranging explanations for Israel’s economic success this way:

“[I]t is a story not just of talent but of tenacity, of insatiable questioning of authority, of determined informality [those at the bottom can question those at the top], combined with a unique attitude toward failure [go ahead, try again], teamwork, mission, risk, and cross-disciplinary creativity.”

Israel certainly should not rest on its laurels. There’s a lot to worry about.

• The biggest threat, as the authors see it, is to Israel’s continued economic growth. Only a little over half of the workforce contributes to the economy, compared to 65 percent in the United States. Two minority communities are the laggards: the haredim, or fervently Orthodox Jews, and Israeli Arabs.

The haredim are not permitted to work if they want a military exemption, and ten of thousands of Israeli haredim go to yeshiva instead of the army.

As for Israeli Arabs, they are not drafted into the army and they don’t develop business networks that help people become successful entrepreneurs.

Both groups are expected to increase from 29 percent of Israel’s population in 2007 to 39 percent by 2028 — meaning that an even smaller percentage of Israelis will be working.

• Israel depends too much on global venture capital, and Israeli companies depend too much on exports — to Europe, North America, and Asia. Because of the Arab boycott, Israel doesn’t trade with most regional markets.

• If Iran becomes a nuclear power, there could be a nuclear arms race throughout the Arab world — and discourage foreign investment in the region.

• There’s a “brain drain” from Israeli universities. The authors report that an estimated 3,000 tenured Israeli professors have relocated to schools abroad. One possible reason: Gidi Grinstein, a political leader, is quoted as saying that “the quality of life and the quality of public services in Israel are low, and for many emigration is an opportunity to improve their lot.”

What advice do the authors have for the United States? That it create not a military draft but a national service — compulsory or voluntary — to give young people, before they attend college, “something like the leadership, teamwork, and mission-oriented skills and experience Israelis receive through military service.” (Something like the Peace Corps?)

The authors also pass along the advice that Peres gave to Israeli entrepreneurs and policymakers: “Leave the old industries. There are going to be five new industries. Tremendous new forms of energy, water, bio-technology, teaching devices (there’s a shortage of teachers), and homeland security to defend against terrorism.”

Dan Senor dedicated this remarkable book to Jim Senor, his father, and Saul Singer dedicated it to his brother, Alex. On his 25th birthday, Sept. 15, 1987, Alex was flown by helicopter into Lebanon to intercept terrorists bound for Israel, and was killed while trying to rescue his downed company commander.


Jewish agencies team up to offer internships

Even as the economy slowly recovers, many recent college grads are finding themselves unable to land jobs and are increasingly returning to the area to live at home.

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, Jewish Family Service of Bergen County, and Jewish Family Service of North Jersey are teaming up to create an internship program to help these young adults through this transition from college to the working world.

The idea, said Rabbi Ely Allen, director of Hillel of North Jersey, part of UJA-NNJ, is to place these recent grads in programs in or related to their fields that could lead to permanent jobs.

“We’re going to be finding young people who have just graduated who could use something to do,” he said.

“Several months ago the JCC recognized that there was a whole group of people in our community that we never catered to — the post-college age group,” said Judi Nahary, director of Children & Teen Services at the JCC. “We’ve never provided programming for that age group because they never lived locally.”

Recent college graduates tend to move to New York City or other hubs but typically do not return to their hometowns — until a bad economy began limiting job opportunities for recent grads, Nahary explained.

“They’ve never been part of our community, and this was an opportunity for us to cater to them,” she said.

The internship network doesn’t have a name yet, but that is expected soon, along with a Website, according to Nahary. She said she hopes the database would be up and running within the next few weeks and people could then sign up for internships.

To date, internships have been arranged with the JCC, UJA-NNJ, the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in Englewood Cliffs, and Rampage/ECI in New York. Other programs are in the works as well, said Esther Mazor, director of Adult Services at the JCC.

Allen would like to see the internship network be the first step in reaching out to recent college grads. The Jewish communal world outside of major urban areas has done little for this age group, according to the rabbi. The federation’s Young Leadership Division, which shut down two years ago, was mainly a fund-raising tool rather than a social group, and nothing has taken its place, he added.

“Ultimately, there’s not too much for people in their 20s and early 30s to be doing around here,” he said. “We hope we can create a network for young Jewish people that can be a network not only for people to find employment, but … feel part of the Jewish community.”

Allen has looked to such programs as Moishe House — a national program that provides subsidized housing for Jews who run programs for other Jewish young adults — as an example of what’s missing in the area. The federation’s new youth emissary, Niva Kerzner, is looking to such organizations as Birthright Next, a follow-up to the popular Birthright Israel free trips, as a draw for college students and recent grads.

“We’re really missing this entire age group and we really need to do something to keep them in the Jewish community,” Allen said. “If we can identify people and have them socialize together and take it to the next level that would be amazing.”

For more information on the internship program, call Allen at (201) 820-3905.


JCC dedicates Berrie Complex

Angelica Berrie cuts the ribbon to the new complex as, from left, Norman Seiden, Stephen Seiden, treasurer of the Russell Berrie Foundation, Pearl Seiden, and Robin Miller look on.
At Sunday’s dedication are, from left, Avi A. Lewinson, JCC executive director; Edward A. Grossmann of the board of trustees; Robin Miller, JCC president; Angelica Berrie; Pearl Seiden, chair of the JCC capital campaign; and Norman Seiden of the board of trustees. Courtesy Kaplen JCC on the Palisades

The dedication Sunday of the Russ Berrie Family Health & Recreation Complex at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly marked a major milestone in JCC history.

In January 2007, the JCC launched a Gift of Community Capital and Endowment Campaign to support renovations and program enhancements. The Berrie Foundation gave the campaign a $2 million challenge grant, and the JCC has named its new fitness center in recognition of the Berrie family. The modern two-story facility features new exercise rooms, a spinning room, family changing suites with private facilities, new lockers, and an expansion of the JCC’s original fitness space to double its previous size, where members can take as many as 60 free group exercise classes each week.

The complex also houses the newly renovated Seiden Wellness Center, featuring adult-only locker suites with a wide range of spa amenities, including private nutritional and fitness consultations, massage, facials, reflexology, stress reduction workshops, private Pilates sessions, sports-specific training, and more.

“It is our honor and privilege to see this state-of-the-art facility named for the Berrie family,” said Pearl Seiden, the campaign chair. “It is particularly fitting that the Berrie trustees, in their infinite wisdom, chose to carry on Russ’s legacy here at the JCC…. Russ was an ardent supporter, board member, and benefactor for the JCC throughout his lifetime and he continued to give as our agency grew.”

In recognition of the center’s naming, Angelica Berrie, Russ Berrie’s widow, said, “I feel today’s message should be about the importance of building our community with the same fervor and spirit that drives us to fly off to New Orleans and Haiti, to bring the same urgency and resources that we contribute to other communities in need to our own federation, our JCCs and Ys, our Jewish Home, our JFS, and our local organizations and institutions that have equally compelling needs. We are strengthened by our sense of connection to our community and our sacred value of tikkun olam (repairing the world) begins with repairing the world right here, where we live. We can be a light unto the world, but let’s not forget our community.”

The complex is the first completed part of the JCC renovations. Still to come are a new front entrance, atrium, and lobby; a centralized, totally renovated Rubin Early Childhood Wing, which will feature many new classrooms, a child-friendly teaching kitchen and a pre-school library; a new Youth Center, including a new teen lounge; and a host of other projects.

“Our goal is to help people achieve healthier lifestyles and we are very pleased about our increased ability to meet the health and wellness needs of our community,” said Avi A. Lewinson, the JCC’s executive director.

“We are so thankful to our community for the support of our campaign, and to the Berrie family in particular, for enabling us to build such an unparalleled fitness facility,” added Robin Miller, the JCC president. “Membership is booming, our facilities are packed with hundreds of new members, and the energy and excitement about belonging to the JCC can be felt by everyone who enters our doors. This is very exciting and very encouraging. Our goal has been to build a stronger Jewish community and we are succeeding.”


Is yoga kosher?

Using yoga to manage your mood

Mood management is the goal of LifeForce yoga, a relatively new form of the ancient Hindu discipline aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility.

Fair Lawn resident Howard Katz, one of only 30 or so certified U.S. instructors of this type of yoga, recently led a three-session workshop at the Kaplen JCC in Tenafly geared toward those suffering from anxiety and depression. Co-leader Batya Swift Yasgur, a medical social worker and author from Teaneck, facilitated optional group discussions on emotional issues experienced by participants during the yoga sessions.

“If you can imagine a simultaneous feeling of calmness and alertness, that’s what LifeForce yoga achieves,” said Yasgur. “One feels a sense of ‘centered flying.’ People leave the workshop feeling better about the world, and better able to cope.”

Howard Katz leads a yoga class at the Kaplen JCC in Tenafly. James L. Janoff

She explained that if practiced on a regular basis, LifeForce yoga can effectively balance the nervous system’s calming parasympathetic component and energizing sympathetic component.

“In our society, our sympathetic nervous system is way overdeveloped and our parasympathetic system is way underdeveloped,” said Yasgur. “LifeForce yoga and its breathing techniques address the parasympathetic system to strengthen it and yet modulate the parasympathetic system as well.”

Katz, who also is director of yoga programming at Manhattan’s Kehilat Romemu congregation, said LifeForce focuses on breathing techniques, chanting to unblock energy centers, and slow postures meant as moving meditations.

“LifeForce also uses ‘mudras,’ positioning of the hands in different ways to configure energy in the body differently,” Katz said. “For example, if you hold your hands at your heart, that creates a calming effect. Holding thumb to forefinger, with your arm outstretched, helps focus your mind.”

Katz mused that the hand position assumed by kohanim above their heads during the priestly blessing could be considered a type of mudra. “The similarities are strong,” said Katz, who is a kohen. “You’re channeling energy and bringing it down.”


Computer program enriches life of local senior

Published: 23 April 2010

The JCC Computer Center for Adults at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades has opened many exciting doors for its students,” says Leah Duerr, center administrator.

According to Duerr, some participants have found jobs using what they have learned, “while others enjoy a stronger bond with their children and grandchildren by learning e-mail and internet skills.”

Still others, like Mary Mandel, came to the center to learn how to design her own greeting cards and, most recently, to write her autobiography.

Described as a dedicated, 85-year-old “perpetual student” who has been taking classes at the center for about 10 years, Mandel, said her instructors, is consistently the first to arrive for her classes. Additionally, they said, at the end of each term she arrives with platters of homemade cookies to celebrate her learning experience with her fellow classmates, teachers, and coaches.

Over the years, Mandel has taken many classes, repeating the ones she particularly enjoys.

Mary Mandel

“The teachers and coaches are so knowledgeable, and I look forward with great anticipation to my classes each week,” she said. “The skills I’ve learned have made my life easier and more enjoyable, and I plan to keep coming to perfect my skills and learn new things.”

Despite ongoing chemotherapy and other medical treatments, she attends two classes each week, as part of an effort to write her personal memoirs for her children and grandchildren.

“My oncologist tells me to go out and have fun, so that’s what I do,” she said. “And for me, fun is coming to the center, where I get to socialize with some very special people I’ve gotten close to over the years, and learn valuable skills that occupy and interest me. Coming to the JCC for these classes does me a world of good.”

The Tenafly resident has been a JCC member for many years and credits the facility for “enriching my life.” She has also been very active in the community, volunteering for the Girl Scouts and other organizations and working with the League of Women Voters.

Raised in New York City, she taught at Stuyvesant High School, worked in a lab, and later got a master’s degree in biochemistry at Hunter College, going on to become a research chemist. She subsequently received a second master’s degree, in English as a Second Language, from Columbia’s Teacher’s College. Her husband, Dr. Louis Mandel, was the assistant dean of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

“Everyone at the center takes great pleasure in knowing that the JCC Computer Learning Center gives people like Mary the opportunity to attend classes that give them so much personal gratification,” said Duerr.

For additional information, call Duerr at 201-569-7900, ext. 309 or visit


My Father’s Coat and Hat

How the book became…

Carol A. Shulter designed the cover for this book, which grew out of a class at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.

“Recording Jewish Lives,” an anthology just published by the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, grew out of a memoir-writing class there led from 2006 to 2009 by novelist, playwright, and biographer Susan Dworkin.

“People stayed in the class over time and worked very hard,” Dworkin said in a telephone interview last week. She said, for example, of Sarah Gottesman Lubin, who died in 2007 at 73 and to whom the book is dedicated, “she got closer and closer to the truth of her heart.” (Lubin lived in Englewood, and her family recently established a scholarship in her memory at Columbia University as well as the Sarah Gottesman Lubin Program for Arts & Crafts at the JCC.)

Members of the first “Recording Jewish Lives” class are, back row from left, Dorothy Kershenblatt-Silverstein, Sarah Gottesman Lubin, Rochelle Lazarus, and teacher Susan Dworkin. Agnes Guttmann Dauerman, left, and Harriet Wallenstein are in the front row. Not pictured are Carol Carmel and Irene Ross, who joined the class in its second year.

Dworkin is the author, most recently, of “The Viking in the Wheat Field: A Scientist’s Struggle to Preserve the World’s Harvest” (Walker-Bloomsbury) and of a play to be performed at New York’s Fringe Festival in August. She said of the class that she “could see the way people developed their own voices as they got more confidence. It’s really great to see a writer develop.”

She had some suggestions for people who want to write memoirs.

First, “don’t work alone but join either a class or a writer’s group — the chevra is very important. You learn from listening to what other people do and you develop a trust in yourself from sharing what you’ve written and rewritten and having them share [their work] with you.”

Second, “read a lot of autobiographies” — and works with autobiographical elements — “by Proust, Gorky, Amos Oz, and Kate Simon. Proust is very important even though he’s hard,” she said, “because he really had his finger on the way to tell your story.”

Finally, “always read the best stuff.” That gives you “a real shot at illuminating your own work. If you’re going to read show-biz biographies that were ghosted by three different people, that’s not going to get you anywhere. But if you read one page of Proust or one chapter of Kate Simon’s ‘Bronx Primitive,’ it’s sustenance for a year.”

For more information about the anthology, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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