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And the winners are…

Adler Family Innovation Fund grantees emphasize community, collaboration

When leaders of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JFNNJ) hammered out a strategic plan last year, they were clear that they wanted the organization to continue playing a role in the community beyond raising money. They wanted it to take a lead role in bringing new and innovative Jewish programs to northern New Jersey.

To do this, the federation leaders created a special fund. With a major gift from Dana Adler; her husband, James; and in-laws, Mike and Elaine Adler; JFNNJ created the Adler Family Innovation Fund, now a $200,000 project.

In November, the federation announced six grantees, culled from 75 proposals.

According to Dana Adler, volunteers evaluated the proposals and selected the recipients.

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The Adler family: Elaine and Mike Adler, Dana and Jim Adler

“The federation did a great job” including people in the evaluation process, said Adler, who was part of a small group reviewing dozens of proposals.

“There was a very specific rating system. Was a proposal innovative, was it financially responsible, could it be replicated? And then you had to kind of fight for what you were passionate about,” she said, adding that she enjoyed the chance to meet new people through these discussions.

Carol Silberstein, who chaired the funding process subcommittee of the Innovation Fund, said the criteria for selection reflected federation’s fourfold mission: to promote and expand a sense of Jewish identity; to expand the affordability and accessibility of Jewish learning and cultural experiences; to provide a safety net; and to strengthen the connection of the Jewish community of northern New Jersey with Israel.

“The vast majority of programs had to do with first two categories,” she said. “Almost all of the projects involve collaboration or leveraging the dollars. We’re able to really see the value-added of what we do.”

With the grants just announced, many details have yet to be worked out. Most activities are scheduled to begin in the spring. But the first funded program takes place this Sunday morning at Temple Avodat Shalom.

The following programs received Innovation Fund grants.

Kehillah Partnership/PJ Library: A ‘concierge’ website for young families

Is there one place young families can turn for information about Jewish resources in the Bergen County area?

Soon, there will be.

“It will be both a 24x7 guide to what’s happening locally in this community, what kind of Chanukah programs are there, for example, as well as a directory of what’s out there, so if a family moves to the area, it will be one-stop shopping,” said Linda Ripps.

Ripps works on community programming for the Kehillah Partnership, an umbrella group for area synagogues and Jewish institutions, which will be administering the grant together with the PJ Library

“The Kehillah Partnership’s goal is to make Jewish life more accessible and more affordable,” she said. “The website’s goal is to make the wealth of Jewish life that’s available in our community more accessible for families.”

The proposal, she said, is an example of how new ideas are percolating through the national Jewish community. Ripps learned of a similar program, Mazeltot, in Denver during a national conference for communities participating in the PJ Library program, which distributes Jewish children books.

Matan: Special needs awareness in congregational schools

Is your Hebrew school able to teach children with special needs?

Making the Jewish community fully inclusive of students with special needs is the mission of Matan, which will bring its services to New Jersey thanks to the Innovation Fund.

The grant will enable Matan to offer professional development workshops for Hebrew and Sunday schools. A two-day program planned for March will bring together heads of congregational schools, and training will continue over the subsequent year. An August program is planned for congregational teachers.

“Our hope is that we will have teams [consisting] of an educational director, with a few of his or her teachers, who will become much more knowledgeable about the resources that exist, what schools can and should be doing, how to speak to parents, and how to diversify lessons,” said Dori Frumin Kirshner, executive director of Matan and a Closter resident.

“Whether we’re talking about children struggling with language and auditory processing issues, or with more social issues, we would like to empower and educate the current leadership on how to handle that in their own institutions,” she said.

Kirshner is beginning the process of reaching out to the community’s rabbis and educators to invite them to apply for the program.

Kaleidoscope: Mainstreaming Ethiopian children through soccer

About 10 of the 75 grant proposals received by the Adler fund came from Israeli programs, so it’s fitting that one of the six winners is an Israeli project, this one targeting Ethiopian children.

“Their particular program combines teaching soccer skills — and the teamwork that comes from learning soccer — with computer activities, as well as learning from Jewish texts about what it means to be Jewish,” says Silberstein. “I love the approach.”

The program is run by the Israel-based Kaleidoscope organization, which seeks to promote the development of social and emotional skills. In keeping with the principle of using federation money to leverage other resources, the Adler grant is being matched by the Israeli Maccabi Association.

The program is based in Rosh Pina, near Safed. One of the conditions for receiving the grant is that the program be expanded to include the absorption center in Nahariya, the federation’s partner city, about 40 miles to the west of Rosh Pina.

“To infuse soccer with Jewish culture is incredible,” said Dana Adler. “To be able to help these immigrants in our partnership city is incredible.”

Shalom Hartman Institute: Upgrading the Israel conversation

Acknowledging that Israel has become a fraught subject for American Jews — with the long-standing intensity of Israel political debate having made its way to our shores — the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute has created a program to “elevate” the ongoing dialogue.

“We’re trying to introduce a new way of approaching and talking about Israel,” says Rabbi Julia Andelman, director of the Engaging Israel project of the Hartman Institute. “It’s based on Jewish values, as discerned through Jewish texts, to bring people together across political lines into a substantive and meaningful conversation about Israel.

“One of the core aspects is to try to move beyond a crisis narrative, of thinking about Israel in perpetually post-Holocaust terms and in a defensive mindset, and instead allowing ourselves to think in aspirational terms about what Israel can be, what role we can have, even from North America, in creating and strengthening the Jewish state based on our Jewish values,” said Andelman, a Teaneck resident.

With the grant, Hartman will train area rabbis to bring its nine-unit curriculum into their congregations. The course examines questions such as the meaning of Jewish sovereignty, Jewish power, war and occupation, religious pluralism, and human rights — “the really core issues that come into play once you have a Jewish state,” said Andelman.

The grant will also enable the creation of a mini-course for lay leaders — details have yet to be determined — as well as a series of public lectures for the community by Hartman scholars.

“I’m definitely excited to bring this into my home territory,” said Andelman. “It’s a fantastic curriculum, uniquely able to bring people together from different positions, people who are in an uncomfortable place with Israel and people who are in a more comfortable place and not able to understand the discomfort of others.”

Sparks: Raising awareness of post-partum depression

Sparks (Sparkcenter.org) assists women suffering from pre- and post-natal depression and other mental illnesses. Founded in Brooklyn, it currently servies mainly Orthodox communities, including Lakewood in New Jersey.

The Innovation Fund grant will bring Sparks to northern New Jersey, where it will work with local Jewish Family Service agencies to develop an awareness of the problem. They will engage not just the mothers but also their husbands, caregivers, doctors, rabbis, etc., and then create a model of service delivery.

Temple Avodat Shalom/Jewish Outreach Institute:

Inviting non-Jewish mothers into the community Are you — or someone you know — a non-Jewish woman raising Jewish children?

Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge has a program for you — with help from an Adler grant.

Sunday morning at 9 a.m., a “Hanukkah Helper” program will offer guidance to participants on celebrating the holiday.

After the holiday, there will be a three-part discussion group.

This schedule — one pre-holiday session followed by three weeks of post-holiday discussion — will be repeated for Passover and the High Holy Days.

The program is being designed by the Jewish Outreach Institute, which is adapting a longer program to this more focused and compact schedule.

“If I really wanted to reach the families on the periphery, I had to offer something different than a 16-week program,” said Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Avodat Shalom.

“The reality is that many interfaith couples in our community are like the fourth child at the Passover seder. They literally don’t know the questions to ask. They’re not against bringing Judaism into their lives and raising their children Jewish; they don’t know where to go and how to do it.

“If this works, we’ll be able to replicate this on an ongoing basis and share it with sister congregations,” he said.

 
 

Hartman scholars come to north Jersey

Yossi Klein Halevi, Rachel Korazim bring perspectives on Israel

Joanne PalmerLocal | World
Published: 25 October 2012

Israel seems to be on everyone’s mind right now.

We heard that clearly in the presidential debates. But dig just a bit below the surface, below the fireworks and bellowing smoke of presidential politics, and you learn that younger Jews increasingly care less about the Jewish state.

That’s why the Hartman program, iEngage, is trying to advance Americans’ understanding of the country, on the theory that you can more truly love what you more fully understand.

Many Jewish institutions across the area are using the iEngage program, which is funded by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, and some are adding their own speakers and programs to it. That group includes Temple Emanu-El of Closter, which will host two speakers in residence over the next two Shabbatot, among many other people and programs.

Yossi Klein Halevi, a well-known and highly accomplished journalist, writer, and speaker who made aliyah about 30 years ago, also is a senior scholar at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He will be scholar-in-residence this Shabbat, and he will talk, he said, about the current crisis in Israel. That, he pointed out in a phone interview, is a title that would always apply to Israel, now matter what the crisis might be.

The crisis now, though, he said, is dire.

“We’re really at an extraordinary moment,” he said. “On the one hand, the external threats haven’t been as acute as they are now at any time since 1967. Not even in 1973,” which was the year of the Yom Kippur War. That, he said, is because the war started and ended quickly. The situation today — he’s talking about Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, “and everything else we’re facing” — has built up over many years.

On the other hand, he continued, “many Israelis’ attention is on internal issues.

“That’s counterintuitive. We’ve always deferred dealing with domestic issues because of what we call hamatzav — the situation — but now the external situation is really acute, and Israelis are focused elsewhere. That may be a useful survival technique, or maybe there’s an element of denial about it.”

Israel’s elections are scheduled for early in 2013 — its parliamentary system demands that dates be penciled rather than chiseled onto calendars — and the question of the price of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s genuinely achieved stability will be raised, Halevi said. “On Israeli radio these days, the interesting thing is that the left-winger will begin by saying that there is no denying the fact that as the region is roiling and the world economy is shaking, Natanyahu has brought stability. That’s from the left! On the right, you hear that Israelis are hurting and people are wondering about the future.”

Halevi worries that “there is an emerging liberal narrative of Israel that is partly true, and because it’s partly true it’s fundamentally distorted. There are ugly snapshots that are indicative of certain trends in Israel” — here, he was talking specifically about the arrest of the Women of the Wall’s leader, Anat Hoffman, for saying the Sh’ma out loud in the women’s section of the Kotel — “but if those become the totality of how liberal Jews think of Israel, then it will be as distorting as your parents’ view of Israel as being Ari Ben-Canaan.” (Ari Ben-Canaan was the hero of Leon Uris’s novel “Exodus”; he was as lion-hearted as his first name demanded, and because he was played by Paul Newman in the movie, his name evokes visions of lean, blond, blue-eyed wiry glamor.)

“American Jews finally began to look at Israel more closely, which is something that should have happened years ago,” Halevi said. “But the lens they’re using is so narrow, and in some senses so self-referential, that liberal American Jews will end up making the same mistake their parents did, in the other direction.

“There is an anti-Leon Uris narrative emerging that is as distorting as the original.

“That is not to underestimate what happened to the Women of the Wall,” he added. “There is an outrageous lack of respect for the non-Orthodox denominations from the top. But if one understands that there is no one Israel but a multitude of Israels, which reflect the reality of the ingathering of dozens of Jewish communities around the world, then one would relate to Israel in a more expansive and nuanced way.

“Israel is a wonderfully chaotic, anarchic society,” he said. “How wide a lens will you use to look at it?” It should be a very wide lens, he suggested.

Dr. Rachel Korazim, who followed a career in the Jewish Agency with her new life as a freelance educator with a part-time connection to the Hartman Institute, will be at Emanu-El the next Shabbat, which begins Nov. 2. In a Skype interview from Israel, she said that an assumption underlying much of her work is that the old paradigms governing the way we see Israel no longer work. One classical paradigm is made clear in the lament, “By the waters of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion,” from Psalm 137. The other is apparent in Judah Halevi’s early 12th century poem that begins “My heart is in the East, and I am at the edge of the West.” In the first paradigm, we are in exile; in the second, we are living in beauty but Jerusalem is in ruins. “But for the last 60-odd years, both exiles and Jerusalem are doing fine,” she said.

Jerusalem certainly is not trouble-free, but it is flourishing, and Jews in exile live very well and have built fulfilling and actively Jewish lives. “We have to create a paradigm that allows for two success stories,” Korazim said.

At Emanu-El, she will teach a series that she thinks of as providing windows into Israeli society through literature.

“When you live outside Israel, there are various platforms or ways to get to know Israel,” she said. “It can be the Israel of the synagogue, or the Israel of fund-raising, or the Israel of the media. When you come to Israel often you take a tour, and it will show the highlights, but not necessarily the heart. When you are invited into the literature, you are invited into the intimate discourse of Israelis.”

 
 

Hartman scholars come to north Jersey

Donniel Hartman’s ‘Tribes of Israel’

What even Israelis don’t know about Israel

The topic of Donniel Hartman’s talk at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades on Thursday is “The Tribes of Israel.”

His talk will “tell the story of how in fact Jewish life in Israel has undergone some dramatic changes in the past 15 years,” Hartman said. It will present “a picture of a religiously diverse and dynamic Israel — and one that has a potential for far more similarity with North American Jewry than most North American Jews and even Israelis themselves understand.”

Hartman uses the word “tribes” to describe Israel’s different communities as a way to refer to the interplay of unity and diversity in earliest Jewish history.

Jewish tradition “talks of a community that grows out of a family. Embedded in the story of the family is the story of particular tribes, each with their own conflicts and interests,” he said. “Differences and how to live with differences is an integral part of our national story.

“The ethnic tribes have disappeared, but have been replaced by ideological ones.”

He plans to tell the story of some of the tribes, their challenges, and what it means for the story of Israel and North American Jewish life.

He identified six primary tribes in Israel’s Jewish community. (“I could have given you 12; 48; there are always subtribes. Dayeinu with six.”)

They include, he said:

• The ultra-Orthodox (8-10 percent of the Jewish population)

• Religious Zionists (8-10 percent)

• The traditional (primarily Sephardi) (30 percent)

• The Jewish secular (30 percent)

• The Israeli secular (10 percent)

• Jewish non-Jews (5 percent)

“The non-Jewish 21 percent of Israel also have tribes,” he said, but they are not part of this talk.

Hartman said all of the groups are undergoing their own “challenges and changes and complexities.”

The story is often news to Israelis, who tend to still use the old categories of either “religious” — Orthodox — or “secular.”

“I basically introduce them to their own Judaism,” Hartman said. He was talking about his lectures to Israeli army officers who come to the institute to learn about Zionism, religious pluralism, and democracy.

“The classic notion is that an Israeli says, ‘yes, I have a Shabbat dinner; yes, I have a sukkah; of course I fast on Yom Kippur. I go to a tikkun on Shavuot. But Judaism — I have no connection to that.’

“They are doing so many Jewish things they don’t have an expression for. When you see yourself as an outsider, where Judaism belongs to someone else, you don’t understand what you’re doing and you don’t respect what you’re doing,” he said.

Hartman’s lecture is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m. If you can’t make it, you can watch a version he presented at the Hartman Institute online at http://bit.ly/js-tribes.

 
 
 
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