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Yeshivas Ohr Yosef settles in New Milford

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Cong. Beth Tikvah in New Milford is the new home of Yeshivas Ohr Yosef.

Moving in the middle of high school can be tough, but after completing a major move last week to the New Milford Jewish Center almost halfway through the school year, the students of Yeshivas Ohr Yosef are settling in just fine, according to the administration.

The boys’ yeshiva high school started in 2007, with a group of 16 ninth-graders, at Cong. Kehillat Kesher on the Englewood/Tenafly border. With 28 boys enrolled for the 2009-10 year, the school’s third, its director, Rabbi Herschel Grossman, decided Ohr Yosef had outgrown the space.

Classes began in September at a temporary home at the Union for Traditional Judaism in Teaneck, but Grossman kept an eye toward a larger, permanent space. Last week, after some last-minute negotiation, Ohr Yosef moved into the lower level of the New Milford Jewish Center.

“We’re hoping coming into this permanent location — into a real school facility — will put us on the map as a viable option for eighth-grade students and their families,” Grossman said Tuesday as students scurried through the halls of their new home.

“It’s developing into more of a school now,” said Jacob Raskind, a 17-year-old junior from Teaneck. “It’s like a big family here.”

The school is the brainchild of Grossman and its president, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, who is also the rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel in Baltimore. The duo wanted to create a traditional-style yeshiva in Bergen County with rebbe-student relationships and an emphasis on Talmud study, while also stressing general studies. The school offers SAT and college prep and, once the student body grows enough, according to Grossman, it will add advanced placement courses.

“The goal is to inspire our students,” Grossman said. “We feel that during the teenage years there are many temptations competing for the hearts and minds of our youth. We strive to imbue them with a love of Torah and Torah study.”

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Rabbi Herschel Grossman

Most of the students come from around the New Jersey/New York area but five are from as far away as Cleveland. These students end up boarding with local families through the year.

“It’s a big move,” said Dovid Wertheimer, a 15-year-old sophomore from Philadelphia who stays with a family in Passaic. “When I got here I was scared I wouldn’t know anybody. You learn to live on your own. It’s a good experience to have.”

Grossman, who also teaches a Talmud class at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, hopes Ohr Yosef and its students will be able to reach out to the wider New Milford community. While the school was housed at Kehillat Kesher students did community service at Englewood Hospital. Grossman said he would like to see students also begin volunteering at the Jewish Home Assisted Living, Kaplen Family Senior Residence in nearby River Vale. Area residents would also be welcome at the school for special Judaic classes, he added.

“We would like to reach out to the community,” he said.

Faced with shrinking numbers, Cong. Beth Tikvah, the Conservative synagogue that owns the NMJC, had announced in September its intention to sell the building to Torah Links, an Orthodox outreach organization. The congregation would then rent space on the top floor of the building, which includes the sanctuary, social hall, and kitchen. Torah Links, in turn, had planned to rent most of the lower level to Ohr Yosef.

The sale of the building to Torah Links has been agreed upon, but the final details of the contract are still under legal review, according to Bob Nesoff, president of Beth Tikvah. To save time and because Ohr Yosef needed a permanent home, Beth Tikvah agreed to lease the lower level to Torah Links, which in turn is subletting to Ohr Yosef.

“At the last board meeting, the board voted unanimously to go ahead and enter a lease [with Torah Links and the yeshiva],” Nesoff said. “They also realized that if we said no now, it’d only be a matter of time before the sale and Torah Links [rented to Ohr Yosef] anyway.”

Nesoff expects the sale to be completed within two to three months, at which point Beth Tikvah will begin paying rent and Ohr Yosef will become a primary tenant of Torah Links. Until then, Beth Tikvah’s leadership appears satisfied with the arrangement.

“The yeshiva needed a good place,” Nesoff said. “This gives them a chance to spread out a little bit.”

 
 

Corrado’s keeps Israeli products on the shelf

Alerted last week that specialty food store Corrado’s in Clifton had allegedly agreed to pull Israeli products off its shelves, the local Jewish community took immediate action.

“I received two dozen e-mails in two days,” said Frank Corrado, one of the owners of the 60-year-old business. “They said things like ‘How could you?’ or ‘Shame on you.’”

In fact, said Corrado, there was never any boycott.

“We don’t discriminate against anything,” he said. “Our employees and customers are from all over the world. We try to carry products that will make our customers happy.”

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This poster, which appears on a variety of anti-Israel Websites, urges consumers not to buy dates grown in the west bank.

Corrado is based in the family’s Wayne store. The incident that led to charges of boycott took place at the company’s Clifton facility.

When he began to receive the e-mails, said Corrado, “I thought, ‘What the heck is going on?’”

Speaking with cousins who operate the family-owned store in Clifton, he learned that last week, a customer “started making a scene — jumping up and down screaming — because we were carrying ‘Jordan Valley Dates — Product of Israel.’”

According to Corrado, the customer said the store “was not listening to the laws.”

“My cousin said, OK, we’ll take it off the shelf, to get the guy out of the store.” The product was put back on display after the man left, said Corrado.

When the customer returned and started screaming, “my other cousin said OK, we’ll do it.” Again, the products were returned to the shelf when the man left.

Apparently, the customer in question, identified as Dennis Y. Loh in a note posted on usacbi.wordpress.com — the Website of the U.S. Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel — thought his demands had been met.

Titling his post “BDS Success” (BDS stands for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement against Israel), Loh — whose signature cited the group Creative Nonviolent Resistance against Injustice — wrote that Corrado’s had agreed to stop selling the dates, which he identified as a product of Israel.

Loh also suggested that several Middle Eastern store employees were in sympathy with his cause but that “[s]adly, they told me that the wholesaler of the ‘Made in Israel’ products was a Palestinian Arab.”

Corrado said he has responded to each of the e-mails he received from the Jewish community after Loh’s posting.

“I told everyone, if a government official came in and said we were not doing the right thing, we would comply.” In addition, he said, “If it’s illegal, how did it get into the country?”

This is the first time such a thing has happened at the store, he said, adding that he doesn’t know anything about a boycott.

“He was swearing that there’s a law [but] I’m not going to just listen to a customer that comes in. My cousin should have said, ‘If this is the law, have a government official come and explain it to us,’ but he just wanted to get him out of the store.”

Corrado said he’s “flabbergasted,” and that the store has brought in attorneys to deal with the matter. “We definitely want everyone to come shop here. There’s no discriminating, no boycotting.”

This is not the first time BDS has targeted a local store for carrying Israeli products.

Last year, a group called Don’t Buy Into Apartheid threatened to boycott food retailer Trader Joe’s in Paramus. The group’s protest was met by a counter-protest of Jewish activists, organized by Bob Nesoff, president of the New Milford Jewish Center.

“Our message is simply, ‘If you are going to try to harm Israel, we are going to do our best to help Israel,’” said Nesoff at the time. “They’ve got to know that Jews and friends of Jews in Israel are not going to sit back and take it on the chin.”

Trader Joe’s stood up against the boycott campaign, earning praise from the Anti-Defamation League.

 
 
 
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