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Joanne Palmer
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Turning point

Local man rises above injury to start home health aide venture

Cover Story Published: 03 July 2015

Ronald Gold’s life is so dramatic that it’s hard to resist the temptation to start with a cliché.

The story of his life is about the moment when everything changed, the second that split it inexorably into before and after. The time when he almost died, when his understanding of himself in the physical world ended, when through great pain he was reborn.

But really, the person Mr. Gold became after the terrible accident that rendered him paraplegic was a logical outgrowth of the person he was before. His integrity, athleticism, ambition, courage, tenacity, brains, competitiveness, and strength — as well as, yes, his deep Jewish connections — not only saved his life but allowed him to embark on this next part of it.


A new relationship in Ridgewood

Conservative, Reconstructionist shuls join forces, work together, retain differences

LocalPublished: 03 July 2015

Last December, Rabbi David J. Fine of Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center of Ridgewood wrote a thoughtful and perceptive op ed in this newspaper about why the word merger, at least when applied to synagogues, seems somehow dirty, perhaps borderline pornographic. (It is, in fact, “a word that synagogue trustees often keep at a greater distance than fried pork chops,” he wrote.)

That automatic distaste is not only unhelpful, it’s also inaccurate, he continued then; in fact, some of our models, based on the last century’s understanding of affiliation, and also on post-World War II suburban demographics, simply are outdated.

If we are to flourish — perhaps to continue to flourish, perhaps to do so again — we are going to have to acknowledge change, accommodate it, and not see it as failure. Considering a merger does not mean that we’re not big enough alone, or strong enough, or interesting or compelling or affordable enough. Instead, it may present us with the chance to examine our assumptions, keep some, and discard others, he said.


Working for smart guns

Mahwah rabbi forms coalition to help cut back on gun violence

Cover Story Published: 26 June 2015

It would have been entirely understandable if Rabbi Joel Mosbacher wanted to ban all guns. Just collect them all, melt them into a lump, and be done with it.

Rabbi Mosbacher’s father, Lester Mosbacher, was eulogized as a “gentle soul” in 1992; he died, at 52, after he was shot by a burglar who was holding up his store on Chicago’s South Side.

His murder was the textbook definition of pointless — Mr. Mosbacher was shot in the head and arm by a petty thief who got nothing from the robbery and was tried, convicted, and then released for retrial, which never happened. Nothing ever happened, except that Mr. Mosbacher remained dead.

For years, Rabbi Mosbacher, the spiritual leader of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, bottled his rage. And then, just a few years ago, he took its distilled essence, nourished by news stories of other shootings, equally senseless, like his father’s murder causing sudden, catastrophic, and lifelong pain to survivors as their own lives had to reweave themselves around a gaping hole, to lead a new campaign.


Working for smart guns

Rabbi Mosbacher reacts to the Charleston massacre Last week’s shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolin

Cover Story Published: 26 June 2015

Last week’s shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, which left nine people dead after their murderer, Dylann Roof, sat with them at Bible study for nearly an hour before spouting racists tropes as he gunned them down, has brought the issue, which always simmers just below the surface, to an angry boil.

“On the one hand, Charleston is another in a series of mass shootings that seem to happen almost weekly at this point,” Rabbi Mosbacher said. “That speaks to part of the core of this problem, which is access to guns. People will say all sorts of things. They say it is a question of mental health. Yes, it is — but it’s not fundamentally about mental health. I don’t think that we have significantly more mental health problems here than in Europe.” But laws controlling gun ownership are far more stringent in the rest of the Western world, and the numbers of shootings are correspondingly lower.


A very busy 92 years

Al Burstein of Tenafly talks about his life, from Jersey City childhood, WWII horrors, and adventures in legislation to now

Cover Story Published: 19 June 2015

When you talk to Albert Burstein — World War II vet, Columbia grad, lawyer, political reformer, state legislator, education advocate, grand old-school liberal, native and lifelong Jerseyan — you have to reorient yourself.

On the one hand, you feel as if he’s a contemporary. None of the subtly patronizing “he’s still so sharp” assessments can be applied to him. He’s scary-smart, just as he clearly always has been. Ask him a question about this week’s politics, and he’ll analyze it and answer it, elegantly, cogently, convincingly.

On the other hand, Mr. Burstein is 92 years old. That means that he has almost a century’s worth of stored knowledge. Ask him a question about politics in the 1980s, or ’60s, or ’40s, and he’ll analyze it and answer it, elegantly, cogently, convincingly.

Or ask him to tell you his story.


Leaving New Square

Former chasid Shulem Deen talks about his memoir and his life

Cover StoryPublished: 19 June 2015

Lee Lasher of Englewood has a deep interest in ensuring that different parts of the local Jewish community come to trust, respect, and even like each other.

To that end, Mr. Lasher, an alumnus of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Berrie Fellows Leadership program, and fellow alums — and now friends — Ian Zimmerman of Glen Rock and Ari Hirt of Teaneck, formed a group called Unite4Unity, which until now has explored the bridges that actually do span the community.

Now, the three friends have decided to multitask. Another cause dear to all of them is Israel. What could be better, they thought, than to bring the community together around the Jewish state? And given their own orientation toward action, what would be best would be to give people information they can use to present Israel positively, to combat such threats as BDS with knowledge, insight, and passion.

“We are always looking for topics that will unite the community and allow for a common conversation,” Mr. Lasher said. “And with everything going on in the world, we thought that support for Israel is something that can bring everyone together, regardless of their denomination or religious background.

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Welcome WIZO

Women’s International Zionist Organization opens local branch

Cover Story Published: 12 June 2015

What’s WIZO, and why might it make you think of Julius Caesar?

Think about dividing a large territory into regions.

WIZO is not a shortened version of Dorothy’s magic-performing over-the-rainbow friend the Wizard of Oz, but the very serious and very successful Women’s International Zionist Organization. If you haven’t heard of it (and if you live in the United States, the odds are that you haven’t), that’s where the Julius Caesar part comes in.

Caesar, remember, famously wrote that “All Gaul is divided into three parts.” The founders of women’s Zionist organizations were even more ambitious than the conquerors of the French. They divided the world into just two parts. Hadassah — an organization you most definitely have heard of — got the United States, “and WIZO got the world,” Galina Shenfeld said.

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An ‘unwavering Jewish compass’

As he transitions out of his CEO job, supporters talk about Avi Lewinson

LocalPublished: 12 June 2015

Last week, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly announced a major change in its professional leadership.

According to a press release, the “exciting changes” saw its CEO, Avi Lewinson of Demarest, leave that position to become a fundraising consultant. He will be replaced in the JCC’s executive suite by Jordan Shenker, who had worked for the JCC Association of North America as a consultant to large JCCs, including to the Kaplen center.

Mr. Lewinson has been at the JCC for 25 years, and at its helm for most of that time. Since the announcement of his role change, his many supporters have been reminiscing about his work there.

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Brave new world?

Speaker at Schechter explores implications of ‘terrifying and exciting’ biotechnical revolution

LocalPublished: 12 June 2015

Jamie Metzl is a formidably — perhaps even intimidatingly — well-educated man.

But he was in town last week — New Milford, to be specific — to talk not to academics but to the students at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County.

His subject was his two not-necessarily-obviously-connected intellectual passions — human genetic engineering and the rise of China and Asia. His talk at Schechter was part of the school’s program to bring what it calls “experts, role models, and eyewitnesses” to its middle-schoolers.

Dr. Metzl, who earned his undergraduate degree at Brown, a Ph.D. in Asian history from Oxford, and a law degree from Harvard, has a list of accomplishments so long that it’s hard to figure out how to list them.

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Yiddish in the city

Folksbiene Theater, as it turns 100, makes everything old new again. (And its artistic director lives in Teaneck!)

LocalPublished: 05 June 2015

The week is just so stuffed full of everything that it’s hard to know where to start.

A huge, bursting, ripe, aromatic, extravagantly sensual flowering of Yiddish culture, backward and forward, history and prophesy, will bloom on New York City streets on the week from June 14 to June 21. Theater, music, dance, poetry, academic analysis — all will flourish up and down Manhattan.

The festival, called KulturfestNYC, celebrating the Folksbiene Theater’s first hundred years and moving it into its second century, is the brainchild of the theater’s artistic director, Zalmen Mlotek of Teaneck.

As is true of so many things in life, the festival, and the centennial it celebrates, represent a balance. The obvious one, of course, is the bridge between the old and the new. Another one, which plays itself out continuously during the week — and constantly for the staff at the Folksbiene — is the creative, energizing tension between the general and the particular, the highly specific Yiddish culture that nourishes the Folksbiene and the emotional and artistic connection it provides to people outside as well as inside that culture.

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