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entries tagged with: Rebecca Kaplan Boroson


A matter of life and death

Rebecca Kaplan BorosonEditorial
Published: 14 August 2009

Memo to Arizona lawmakers: We are all immigrants


New head of umbrella group spells out its priorities

Ruth Cole, the new president of the State Association of Jewish Federations, sees “senior population issues” as among the most important facing New Jersey. And the association is marshaling its clout and allies to ease conditions for that population.

The Ridgewood resident cited the association’s support of the “aging-in-place program — we are urging the state of New Jersey to direct resources to serving underserved seniors so they can … continue to live as well as they can in their own homes, along with transportation so they can get to health care, nutrition services, and socialization. That would maintain their quality of life and avoid [their having to live in] nursing homes.”

The cost of maintaining people in their own homes, she noted, is about 10 percent of what it would be in nursing-home care.

For example, she said, “we try to further legislation that would amend the laws to include volunteer drivers’ efforts” for senior transportation.

“We are collaborators,” Cole said of the umbrella organization created by the state’s 12 Jewish federations. “We build teams of people” — professional and lay leaders of affiliated agencies — “with mutual interests” about “the public interest.” And then those leaders, either individually or as a group, advocate for needed funding and/or legislation.

“We really need to continue to help nonprofit agencies find funding in this very tight budget situation in this state,” she stressed. “If we weaken our nonprofit agencies, then the state would incur greater expenses in administering these services.”

At the annual meeting July 8 of the State Association of Jewish Federations, Ruth Cole was installed as the umbrella organization’s president. She is flanked by Jacob Toporek, its executive director, and Roy Tanzman, its outgoing president. Rachel Toporek

Another high-priority item is boosting the New Jersey-Israel Commission. “The people in our leadership care about this,” she said. They are “very supportive of increasing the activities of the New Jersey-Israel Commission and its visibility and viability.”

The association has “a long history of promoting New Jersey as a premier location for Israeli companies. Our goal is to assist Israeli companies in making their move to New Jersey a successful one.”

This state, she pointed out, is Israel’s 12th-largest trading partner in the United States. “That translates into millions of dollars annually for the economy of New Jersey.”

Noting that Gov. Chris Christie had expressed a commitment to leading a trade mission to Israel, Cole said that the association offered its help to set up areas of interest and meetings for the mission, which would enhance the economic development of the state.”

Homeland security is also high on the association’s list of priorities. “The New Jersey-Israel Commission,” she noted, “was one of the major sponsors in June of ‘09 of a symposium on terror medicine, preparedness, and transportation systems, etc., that should be protected.” A similar symposium, focusing on local preparedness for terrorism and disaster, is set for Sept. 22 at Montclair University and is being coordinated, she noted, by her husband, Dr. Leonard Cole, an expert on bioterrorism. “At last year’s symposium,” she said, Gov. Jon Corzine was the honorary chair, “and we are anticipating that Gov. Christie will be the honorary chair” of the September symposium.

The state association also advocated for the state’s divestment from Iran, and as of March, according to Cole, “had divested more than 90 percent of its investment in companies [that do business with Iran] and are working with our Community Relations Councils and other community partners to now work for the ‘No Nuke for Iran’ initiative and ‘New Jersey Stop Iran Now.’”

Cole came to the SAJF as a member of the board of trustees of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, where she serves as chair of Partnership 2000 with the city of Nahariya in the Western Galilee. A past chair of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council and a past president of Jewish Family Service of Bergen County and North Hudson, she was also chair of leadership development for the federation. Her fellow officers have similar federation activities on the résumés. (Cole’s is also heavily weighted with Hadassah accomplishments, and she is the current national chair of Hadassah magazine.)

Another representative from UJA-NNJ, Susan Penn, is a member-at-large of the association.

Members-at-large, Cole explained, “represent the other executive board members of the state association and bring years of dedication and experience in community policymaking and advocacy.”

Penn, Cole continued, “is a very experienced knowledgeable leader on these issues, since she has been a chair of the CRC and along with myself and others is a leader in the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,” a community-relations councils and policy group umbrella organization. “She and I work with Joy Kurland,” director of UJA-NNJ’s Jewish Community Relations Council.

Asked how effective the association is, Cole said, “Very.” She noted that Stephen Sweeney, the president of the state Senate, had driven two hours from Gloucester to address the July 8 meeting, which had also been attended by the deputy consul general of Israel, Benjamin Krasna. “Having the top senator at our meeting,” she said, “indicates his respect for what we do.”

Meanwhile, “tough economic times require more advocacy and more education of our elected officials. You [have to] work with other bodies or you can’t be effective. It takes teamwork and working together to reach consensus and find a way to reach the goals — that programs that need to be supported are supported.” It helps, she said, that “the Jewish community leadership is strong, talented, experienced, and wise.”


The swastika and the migration of symbols


Chelsea Clinton, Marc Mezvinsky — and Jewish marriage


Mosque near Ground Zero?

ADL plans taskforce to address Muslim concerns

Organization had opposed Cordoba House

The Anti-Defamation League, which has come under fire for its opposition to the planned mosque near the site of the World Trade Center, is launching an interfaith taskforce to help Muslim communities denied permission to build mosques in their neighborhoods.

The taskforce would “receive complaints, requests, [and] pleas from Muslim communities that run into … prejudice,” Abraham Foxman, the organization’s national director, said.

The initiative, Foxman said in a telephone discussion with The Jewish Standard last Friday, “needs a national specific focus and response. It will take a while because we need to find the partners.”

Abraham Foxman Courtesy ADL

The initiative is not in conflict with the ADL’s stance on the New York mosque, he said, arguing that it had been misunderstood and distorted. “People didn’t bother reading what we said but what other people said that we said…. We were so careful in our words, so deliberate in making sure that our position is clear and understood…. It’s not a question of right or religious liberty; we raised a question of sensitivity to the location.”

Sensitivity to discrimination against Muslims is also part of the ADL’s tradition, Foxman said. “We have always stood [up] for victims of hate — and for victims of terror.”

“The Jewish community has been caught between two very strong emotions” regarding the New York mosque, Foxman said. One emotion comes from history. Because Jews were “personally singled out and separated out, we are so sensitive to human rights. This is our passion.

“The other feeling is of fear — fear of the forces that have captured Islam in the last 20 to 30 years. Not that all Muslims are radical and jihadist,” he was quick to add, “but there are still voices in the world” against Jews. “The leading advocates of anti-Semitism in the world today are radical Muslims.”

France in particular, Foxman noted, has been plagued by anti-Jewish Muslim behavior, and Jewish sites — and Jews — in Malmö, Sweden, have been targets of Muslim attacks.

“Jews are fearful [about the mosque] because all around the world Islam is threatening Jews,” he said. “There are a lot of questions being asked about the imam. By asking, you’re not a bigot, no matter what the mayor says.” (New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has forcefully supported the building.)

“What this issue has done,” Foxman said, “is triggered both passions.”

It has also triggered a “growing phenomenon” that Foxman called “troubling” in a different way: Opposition to building new mosques, even in states far from the World Trade Center attacks. Protests against them have been mounted in California, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. (The website lists more than 2,000 existing mosques across the country, but Foxman does not think they are facing opposition.)

“This is a classic phenomenon in American history,” Foxman said, “when immigrants come with a faith. There was opposition, when the Irish came, to Catholic churches.”

But, he continued, “established faiths have a responsibility to come to the aid of (Muslims) who face prejudice in their neighborhoods.”


Mosque near Ground Zero?

Locals call Cordoba House ‘the wrong place’

All of Islam bears some responsibilty for 9-11 and the epidemic of terror carried out in its name and by its adherents,” wrote Rabbi Benjamin Shull of Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard.

Asked to elaborate, he added, “I realize that there are many Muslims who practice a moderate form of their religion and who do not condone terror or violent jihad, but it is obvious to anyone who has studied the history of Islam that the violence we see today is not a mere aberration. There is endemic to Islam an aggressive and imperialistic strain that, many times in the past, has reared its head and brought much religiously fueled violence to the world. Many truly moderate Muslim leaders have acknowledged this and called for a reform of Islam. The leader of the World Trade Center mosque has not — though he will condemn terror in one breath he will excuse it in another. He actually once claimed that Osama bin Laden was created in the United States (by U.S. foreign policy).

“I don’t think that the government should stop the mosque, but I do believe that we, the Americans, can demand accountability. This is not Islamophobia, it’s common sense.”

Alex Grobman, a historian who lives in Englewood and is the author, most recently, of the ironically titled “The Palestinian Right to Israel” (Balfour Books), was similarly negative about the mosque site.

He wrote in an e-mail to the Standard that “If those building the imposing 13-story $100 million mosque were truly interested in portraying Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, this is clearly the wrong place to do so. Allowing a mosque to be built so close to the destruction of the Twin Towers will be seen as an act of triumphalism. What else are we to assume when the projected name is Cordoba House, a term obviously identified with conquest? As one analyst noted, the first Cordoba mosque was erected in Cordoba, Spain, following the Muslim conquest of Christian Spain in the eighth century.

Rabbi Benjamin Shull, left, Alex Grobman, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach File Photos

“A very transparent and unmistakable message will be conveyed to the faithful,” Grobma added, “that they have been given a premier platform from which to preach their form of Islam under Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He is a prominent member of Perdana, which is ‘the single biggest donor’ to the Free Gaza Movement, according to David Horowitz, and refuses to say if Hamas is a terrorist organization.”

Grobman wrote that in “Abdul Rauf’s book, published in Malaysia, ‘A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11,’ the word ‘dawa’ refers to spreading sharia [Islamic law] by any way except through violence, according to Islam expert Robert Spencer.

“Is this mosque not then a Trojan horse?”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an Englewood resident and a columnist for this newspaper, has written frequently of his qualified opposition to the mosque. The author, most recently, of “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life,” he wrote on the Huffington Post website on Tuesday that he is, in fact, “a supporter of the mosque being built, but only under two conditions. First, that its builders consult the families of the Ground Zero dead, who are the people whose opinion matters most. Second, that the 13-story complex include a museum detailing the events of 9/11 with exhibits explaining the modern abuse of Islamic teachings by extremists and their repudiation by Islam itself.”

Responding to accusations of bigotry against opponents of the mosque, Boteach wrote, “There are bigots in America but Americans are not bigots. There are a hundred mosques in New York alone and nobody objects. But the average American is souring on Islam not based on any intrinsic prejudice but based on the violence they constantly read in the newspapers….

“[T]his is where the builders of the Ground Zero mosque squandered a unique opportunity to portray Islam in a favorable light,” he continued. “They could have said that while they are firm about their intentions of creating an Islamic presence at this hallowed site, their intention in so doing is not to offend the families’ sensibilities but to repudiate the fanatics who have tarnished the name of Islam and hence, the builders wish to proceed with the greatest sensitivity and understanding.

“Sadly, … none of this happened. Rather, it was announced that a mosque is being built adjacent to a giant American cemetery irrespective of the families wishes, that it’s a First Amendment right, and that all those who oppose it are bigots.”


Of mosques and Muslims


Don’t listen, don’t learn


Bear pays visit to the JCC

What was a young black bear doing in a playground at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly Monday night?

“Playing a little bit,” said Avi Lewinson, the JCC’s executive director. “He was climbing some of the apparatus.”

Lewinson and Paul Costa, the facility director, were close enough to be “almost dancing with the bear,” he said. But, he added, “it was looking to stay away from me as much as I was looking to stay away from it.”

“On all fours,” Lewinson went on, “he — or maybe she — looked like a St. Bernard, or maybe a little smaller. Standing — I didn’t ask him to stand back-to-back with me — he was 5’9” to 5’11”, a little shorter than me, and weighed about 200 pounds, including a lot of fur.”

The bear soon climbed out of the playground and went into the woods in back of the JCC, where the police, whom Lewinson called, could make him out with their searchlights.

“I don’t feel he was dangerous,” Lewinson said. “He was like a big collie. He never charged and didn’t growl…. He was just doing what bears do…. When he realized we were close, he ran from us.”

This was not the bear’s first venture to the JCC; he was seen there about two weeks ago, and by the time the police got there, he had disappeared into the woods.

“If he was interested,” Lewinson said, “I would have sold him a membership.”

Indeed, said Tenafly Police Chief Michael Bruno, “he seems to like the JCC.”

He added that “we can’t and don’t want to shoot the bear, because he has not become aggressive or threatened anyone.”

Noting that a Dumpster is near the building, Bruno speculated that the bear was “just looking for food in a rather congested area that isn’t conducive to bears and humans cohabiting well…. I don’t think [people] need to be afraid.” He added that he had “asked the director to maintain a little bit of heightened awareness.”

The police are working with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Game, Bruno said. “They are trying to see if they can get a trap installed here, and then they would take the bear and release him somewhere else…. I hope it will come to a quick conclusion that’s safe for everyone, including the animal.”

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