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HIGH HOLIDAYS

A SPECIAL ISSUE OF NEW JERSEY JEWISH NEWS | 2019/5780

On the bima, it’s a family affair PAGE 5

Security in the age of terror PAGE 7

Holiday blues during a celebratory season PAGE 14

PUBLISHED IN COLLABORATION WITH THE JEWISH FEDERATION IN THE HEART OF NEW JERSEY


HIGH HOLIDAYS

NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

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Celebrating our Jewish values and traditions to salve our divisive times

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n 5777 and 5778, it became increasingly clear that anti-Semitism in the U.S., largely lurking in the shadows for several decades, broke out into the open. In 5779, the American-Jewish community finally began to understand — and experience — the manifestation of such baseless hatred. In 5780 we will pray that the previous years were tragic anomalies — and prepare for the likelihood that they were not. Seared into our collective memory, on Oct. 27, shortly after the close of last year’s High Holiday season, we were devastated to learn that 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh were massacred during Shabbat morning services. Exactly six months later, a teenage gunman opened fire during the morning service at the Chabad of Poway in California, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injuring three more, including Brooklyn native Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. And less than a month ago, a 20-year-old man was arrested after making threats on social media to carry out a mass shooting at the Jewish Community

Center of Youngstown, Ohio, approximately 65 miles north of Pittsburgh. Yet in the face of such violence and mourning, it’s incumbent on us to maintain our commitment to social action, celebrate our Jewish identity, and openly — with caution, but without fear — express joy in being free to observe the rituals and traditions that have been central to our faith and culture for generations. There can be no greater statement to terrorists and would-be murderers that, just as others have tried to extinguish the Jewish flame for the last three millennia, their efforts will likewise be in vain. For our annual High Holiday supplement, edited by NJJN contributing writer Jennifer Altmann and in collaboration with our partners at the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, we acknowledge this apparent, and terrifying, new normal and the steps local leaders and organizations are taking to ensure our safety. But we also delve into topics that are always relevant, such as emotional well-being and how to tap into the inherent spirituality of the High Holidays while enhancing our simcha, hap-

piness, an oft-overlooked requirement of not only Rosh HaShanah, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah, but Yom Kippur as well. In addition, bureau chief Debra Rubin examines the tradition of multiple members of the same family taking active roles in the prayer services at their respective congregations; contributing writer Michele Alperin considers ways educators can engage the young generations in Jewish practices at home, in addition to the synagogue; and Altmann takes a look at local leaders who use the High Holidays to push people toward community service throughout the year. And as we flip the calendar from 5779 to 5780, it’s of the utmost importance for us, as Jews, to recognize that even in this age of divisiveness and political polarization — perhaps as intense as any our country has seen since the Civil War — our best chance at overcoming these most recent enemies at our gates is in standing together. Am echad, One nation. Under God’s eternal, watchful eye. On behalf of the entire NJJN staff, we wish you shanah tova, a sweet new year, and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Gabe Kahn Editor

Shira Vickar-Fox Managing Editor


A good year … and other debatable topics

3 NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

A message from Susan Antman, executive director of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey

F

rom prescriptions for peace in Israel to recipes for better brisket, we Jews have plenty to talk about at holiday time. What constitutes a good year is a topic that could take us straight through Shemini Atzeret, and we still might not reach consensus. Few would argue with a year — indeed a world — marked by less illness, violence, poverty, loneliness. Just how we achieve those ideals … that’s when the conversation gets interesting. Drill down a bit further and you’ll likely generate more heat discussing: How do we keep Jewish life alive and well for our children and their children? How do we make Jewish gathering places more secure against increasing anti-Semitism? Which vulnerable individuals and families should get aid when there’s not enough to go around? Because such pressing issues affect every kind of Jew, because individual Jewish organizations cannot tackle certain challenges by themselves, because gaps in programs and services prevent the extended Jewish family from caring fully for its own, there is Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey. We may not be able to change that law of nature — two Jews, three opinions — but that does not stop us from mobilizing partners and resources to address hate and security concerns, aid those in need, inspire young people to build their Jewish future, and enable more people to discover why Israel

Susan Antman matters to them. We are taught in the widely cited Jewish text Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of Our Fathers: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist Continued on next page

TEMPLE BETH SHALOM

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A good year...

NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

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from it, either.”

Among our work in the past year:

• Federation helped generate an additional $1 million in security enhancements for dozens of Jewish organizations across Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties, bringing the four-year total to $4 million. • Federation’s Life & Legacy initiative helped 10 different Jewish organizations reach $14 million in future value of after-life gifts, so the organizations’ programs, services, and resources can continue to thrive for generations to come.

• Federation partnered with Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Monmouth County (JFCS) to launch the stigma-busting, culturally sensitive Jewish Center for Drug and Alcohol Treatment & Education, augmenting existing federation-supported addiction and mental health programs offered by both JFCS and Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County.

• Federation expanded our teenengagement programs, complementing community service and philanthropy programs with Israeli innovation-based Eitanim, which connects teens to Israel and empowers them to become community leaders while developing entrepreneurship, teamwork, presentation, and other life skills. In 5780, we will continue working toward keeping the Jewish heart of New Jersey strong, safe, supportive, and sustainable. With heightening levels of reported anti-Semitic incidents in our area, Federation has committed to an expanded Community Relations and Advocacy Initiative. Working across all facets of the Jewish community and with interfaith, multi-ethnic, and civic leaders, we will convene partners, organizations, and participants to strengthen relationships and communications; build on common goals; and interact with state, local, and national leaders. In addition, we are:

• partnering with the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education (Chhange) and the Monmouth County Pros-

ecutor’s Office to expand a program to help law enforcement officers identify and respond appropriately to anti-Semitic and other bias-driven activity; • increasing our commitment to Chhange in order to expand its previously Monmouth-only Building Bridges public school program to Middlesex County. Building Bridges combats hate by helping administrators, educators, and students build a culture of mutual respect and understanding; and

• supporting Rutgers Hillel in creating programs that educate college students on standing up against and combatting hate.

Our community has much to celebrate as we mark the 10th anniversary of PJ Library and deliver our 150,000th PJ Library package. Federation, in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, currently makes available to some 3,000 children, aged 6 months to 11 years old, monthly deliveries of free books and music that create positive connections with Jewish traditions, culture, and identity starting at a young age. PJ events connect families for community activities, such as Mighty Mitzvah Makers and carnivals, and just in time for the 10th anniversary, the federation won a new grant from the Grinspoon Foundation for PJ Library Ambassadors to create neighborhood-based gatherings strengthening young families’ ties to each other and the Jewish community. Also, the federation and its partners are excited to take a fresh look at ways informal educational opportunities, such as sleepaway camp, youth groups, and Israel programs, can inspire young people to embrace their Jewish identity and peers. Does every Jew in the heart of New Jersey agree on how to battle anti-Semitism, bolster the Jewish future, and care for people in need? Do we all like our brisket the same way? No and no. Do we all want to be free and safe to live as Jews in whatever way is meaningful to us? Absolutely. That’s why you need Jewish Federation and Jewish Federation needs you. As we begin 5780, be in touch. Let me know what a good year means to you — for yourself, your family, your community — and let’s make it happen together. From all of us at the federation and from my family to yours, wishing you a good, sweet, safe 5780. Shanah tova, Susan Antman


It’s a family affair

5 NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

Parents and children who read Torah, blow shofar create a ‘meaningful’ experience

Debra Rubin

T

NJJN Bureau Chief

he High Holiday Torah readings at Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick have been called “the Fabricant family show” by Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer because so many members of the family head to the bima to read Torah. Mom Stephanie, who converted to Judaism, reads in the morning on Yom Kippur. Sons Jacob, 17, and Joshua, 15, read in the afternoon. Daughter Brooke, a student at Rider University, also chanted on the bima before heading off to college. “It makes you feel really good” to be on the bima with so many family members participating, said David, Stephanie’s husband. “It’s pretty cool to watch them read.”

Stephanie learned to read Torah with the proper trope, or cantillation, when she enrolled in an adult b’nei mitzvah class at the Reform synagogue. Her enthusiasm spread to her children. “Being up on the bima with the boys chanting Torah is very meaningful,” said Stephanie, who lives in Monroe Township with her family. “It reflects the past and what is coming in the future.” After becoming a bar mitzvah, Joshua “wanted to continue my Judaism, and one of the best ways to do it was by reading Torah,” he said. The Monroe Township High School sophomore said he gets nervous, “but once I’m up there, I feel a part of the community and it feels wonderful.” Jacob started because “my mom wanted me to do it,” he said, but once he began participating regularly after his bar mitzvah, the high school ju-

Continued on next page

Jonathan Barofsky and daughter Emma chant Torah during the High Holidays at Congregation Torat El in Oakhurst. Emma’s two older sisters participate in the family custom as well. COU RTESY BAROF SKY FAM I LY

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A family affair

NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

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degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Continued from previous page Seminary. The family belongs to Conservative Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen. Michele, a shul board member, also chairs the committee that runs the synagogue’s alternate service on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, called “Search for Meaning,” at which the youngest of the couple’s three sons, Daniel, 21, chants Torah. His brothers, Simon, 24, and Ben, who will turn 27 in September, previously have read Torah on Shabbat. Michele reads on Yom Kippur and Mark on the second day of Rosh HaShanah. Mark hopes his children “will continue to use this The Fabricant family of Torah readers at Temple B’nai Shalom ability for the rest of their in East Brunswick includes, from left, Brooke, David, Joshua, lives in whatever commuStephanie, and Jacob. COU RTESY FAB R IC ANT FAM I LY nity they may find themselves,” he said. nior found it “really enhances my appreciation of Daniel, a student at Montgomery Academy, enthe holidays.” The Fabricants are one of several families who are joys reading Torah. “People come up to me and say, making Torah reading and shofar blowing at High Holi- ‘You sound so much like your dad,’” he said. For the Willner family of Morganville, blowing day services a family affair. the shofar on the High Holidays The Barofsky family of Wayhas become a three-generation side is also a family of Torah readers. At Congregation Torat El in ‘It makes you feel really tradition. Marc and his daughter, Aliza, are two of the eight people Oakhurst, Jonathan Barofsky and his three daughters have all read good’ to be on the bima who simultaneously sound the shofar at Temple Rodeph Toon the High Holidays, although rah in Marlboro. His son, Brett, the oldest two — Alana, 21,who with so many family blows the shofar at his Detroitjust graduated from the University of Michigan, and Julia, 19, who members participating.’ area synagogue, and Brett’s 3-year-old son, Nadav, is already is a student there — are no longer getting lessons from his father home to chant at the Conservative synagogue. But the youngest, 16-year-old Emma, con- and grandfather. Marc’s wife, Shelley, sings at High Holiday services with the Reform synagogue’s choir. tinues the family tradition. Marc has been blowing shofar for 48 years, first Jonathan noted both he and his wife, Dawn — who is a synagogue board member and president at synagogues in North Jersey and Michigan before of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Mon- joining Rodeph Torah in 1982. “The idea of blowing shofar to wake up your soul mouth County — had strong Jewish upbringings appealed to me,” he said. “We’ve always felt it’s and passed that on to their children. “We all have the feeling that we want to keep the important to be active members of our temple, which tradition alive,” said Jonathan, who used to practice goes back to my parents and my wife’s parents.” After one of the first times that Marc and his son with his daughters, but “they all became good enough blew shofar together at the Neilah service ending that they don’t need me anymore.” Emma, in particular, seems to have a knack for look- Yom Kippur, people complimented him for letting ing at a parsha, Torah portion, and being able to recite the young boy’s Tekiah last longer than his own. “I it with the correct trope within days, he said. Jonathan, said, ‘It was not a choice,’” laughed Marc. Aliza, 36, of Jersey City returns annually for High who has been chanting Torah since he was young, reads on Yom Kippur, and Emma on the second day of Rosh Holiday services at Rodeph Torah. She became curious HaShanah. Emma, a junior at Communications High about blowing the shofar as a child, when she watched School in Wall, said, “I like being involved and con- her father. “It’s a mitzvah to blow and hear the shofar being blown. It’s really lovely to do it with my dad.” nected to Judaism.” She thinks it’s important for young children to That feeling of connection to synagogue and tradition also inspires Michele and Mark Rosenfield of hear the shofar, and she enjoys seeing that “little bit of glee in their eyes,” said Aliza. “It’s that same bit Metuchen and their children. “My husband has been reading Torah most of his of glee I had.”✦ life, but I came to it as an adult,” said Michele, who became more observant and earned at age 40 a master’s drubin@njjewishnews.com


Security in the age of terror

7 NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

Synagogues grapple with keeping congregants safe while providing a warm welcome

Additional security measures are being taken at Congregation Ahavat Olam in Howell, which include keeping all external doors locked. P HOTO COU RTESY CONGR EGATION AHAVAT OL AM

Debra Rubin

I

NJJN Bureau Chief

n the wake of shootings targeting Jewish institutions in Poway, Calif., and Pittsburgh, as well as a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country, synagogues are faced with the challenge of tightening security while providing a welcoming environment. Understandably, synagogues are reluctant to publicly share specifics about increased security initiatives. Several told NJJN they had been in contact with local police, and many said they were requiring photo identification to enter for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey established a security task force several years ago to address communal needs and enhance security and preparedness at Jewish institutions. Federation plays “a key role” in helping local institutions get security grants, obtain high-level expert preparedness training, learn how to prioritize security improvements, and assess security needs, according to federation executive director Susan Antman. She added that federation has also helped bring in millions of dollars in security enhancements. The task force maintains close relationships with public safety and law-enforcement professionals, and federation has a portal on its website for reporting incidents. Harry Glazer, who is in charge of security at Orthodox Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park, where he is also a vice president, said the federation had arranged for the state police and homeland security to do a full assessment of the shul. While the congregation’s doors formerly were left unlocked during services and programs, for the last eight months they have been locked at all

times. Glazer said members enter through a rear door, which has a lock with a passcode known only to congregants. Security cameras have also been installed, and the synagogue is recruiting greeters and screeners to monitor the front entrance during services and events. Rabbi David Bassous of Congregation Etz Ahaim, a Sephardic Orthodox synagogue also in Highland Park, said the shul has had a security guard for several years and, with the help of federation, received a grant to “harden” security. He declined to give specifics. David Kobb, security chair at Conservative Congregation Ahavat Olam in Howell, said that in light of recent events, additional measures are being taken, including keeping all external doors locked; when only one person is in the building, the office door is also locked. Eleven years ago, when the synagogue was renovated, a buzzer and automatic door opener were installed on the front door. In preparation for the High Holidays, the Howell Police went through the building several months ago, and the synagogue has offered to let the department use its building for security training, although the offer hasn’t yet been taken up. “I wouldn’t say people are scared, but they are concerned,” said Kobb, although the synagogue also is getting “a little” pushback from some congregants who don’t like the new constraints. Kobb said the facility has also applied to FEMA and the state for grants to help cover the cost of security measures such as installing shatterproof glass. Board member Eleanor Edelstein of the Young Israel of Aberdeen/Congregation Bet Tefilah said that congregants are more aware of their surroundings these days: “Given the tenor of the times, people are more vigilant.”

Continued on next page

L’shana Tova Temple Shalom of Aberdeen is a Reform Jewish Congregation that Opens Gateways to Jewish Living, Learning, Worship and Community.

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NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

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Security

Continued from previous page However, because of the relatively small size of the Orthodox shul, those attending services and events are usually recognized by Edelstein or others. “If they are somebody new, they are welcomed,” said Edelstein. “We always need 10 men for a service, so it’s nice to have new people, and we have always paid attention to who is walking in and out, because we are a very warm, friendly congregation.” The synagogue is taking added security

measures, she said, including contacting the local police. At Reform Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick, Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer noted that balancing security concerns while remaining welcoming is a challenge. “We want people to feel welcome and feel the warmth of being part of a community of other Jews and this congregation,” he said. “But we’ve also had to take steps for the safety of everyone who attends our religious school, services, and programs.” Even before the incidents in Pittsburgh and Poway, the temple had put in place new security measures. Those have been enhanced since

Harry Glazer is in charge of security at Ahavas Achim in Highland Park.

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those tragedies. “I think people are very saddened we have to put these security measures in place, but we are looking to reassure our congregation,” said Eisenkramer. “We want our congregants to know they are secure and safe while continuing to come together to learn, pray, and teach our children.” ✦

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Educators offer books, holiday kits, and ideas to help people engage with Judaism on their own turf

Michele Alperin

T

NJJN Contributing Writer

en years ago, Rabbi Lisa Malik of Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen participated in an activity that powerfully influenced her rabbinate. Both clergy and teen attendees at an interfaith event were asked to bring in a ritual object from their faith traditions. “Quite a few of the Jewish kids brought in kiddush cups,” Malik told NJJN. She contrasted this home-based ritual object with the chalice brought by a Christian clergyperson, which looked like a kiddush cup, but was used in a ceremony he conducted in church on his congregation’s behalf. “After I had this experience, I remember thinking it is important to remind people that Judaism is a home-based religion,” Malik said. One way she does so is by inviting congregants to her home for a Shabbat meal or a holiday dinner. There are many ways that e d u c a t o r s a r e i n s p i r i n g f a m ilies to bring Judaism into their homes, whether it is an invitation to Shabbat at the rabbi’s home, books and music sent to families by PJ Library, a Jewish movie night, or other means of inspiring engagement. PJ Library works to increase Jewish engagement at home with the Jewish-themed books and music it provides monthly to 3,000 children in the Middlesex and Monmouth communities. Its packages include explanations of the books’ Jewish content as well as recipes, holiday decorations, and craft ideas. The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, with support from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, has two new programs under the PJ Library umbrella that bring together Jewish families in people’s homes. One is a “get together” grant of $100 for families to do something social or Jewish with their friends, which can often be home-based Shabbat dinners and Chanukah celebrations. A second program will engage four

Rabbi Lois Ruderman in a congregant’s home with students looking at tzitzit like the ones they will tie for tallitot of their own. P HOTO BY C AROL DICKERT parent ambassadors to encourage families in their neighborhoods to gather at people’s homes for a joint activity, such as making challah. “It works really well because it’s parents engaging other parents,” said Inbar Singal, who is the community engagement manager at the federation. PJ Library is ideal for “people who don’t know where to start. Sometimes a book with a story is a good conversation starter,” said Stella Stanway, who is the educational director of Temple Beth Miriam in Elberon. Families that are already tuned into Judaism, Stanway said, are often open to many different ways of engaging. She recommends checking denominational websites for suggestions on how families can engage in Shabbat and holidays. Another idea is to attend informal educational events at local congregations, such as Tot Shabbat services. For Rabbi Donald Weber of Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro, “one of the keys to all Jewish life is Shabbat,” which for him is about rest, family, and giving thanks, he

Continued on next page

Celebrate

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NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

Keeping the Jewish spirit flourishing at home

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said. But he finds that “sometimes people are scared away from the idea of Shabbat.” Weber promotes family engagement with the holiday by inviting people to imagine what a day of rest would look like to them — perhaps eating Shabbat dinner as a family, or, for families with young children, spouses switching off child care to give each other some alone time.

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tion events, families sometimes create ritual objects they can use at home, like a Havdalah kit. Federation is also creating holiday and Shabbat information boxes that can be borrowed.

q Message 2

use for Kiddush. Melissa Pescatore, educational director at Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan, sends home Shabbat boxes with students, and a class journal goes home weekly with one student, who is asked to write or draw a picture about Shabbat at home. Another way to make the connection between Judaism and the home is to hold synagogue events in people’s homes. Congregation Kol Am May the New of Freehold celebrates “Shabbat on the year Go” on Friday nights in the summer. The popular event takes place in the backyard of a different family’s houseyou each week, Rabbi Lois Ruderman aNd your FaMily said, and features a potluck dinner, informal teaching, a full service often with a new prayer melody, and dessert. Host families pick a theme and often invite neighbors to join. Ruderman suggested a different medium to help parents and children bond at home through a Jewish activity: the omnipresent screens in our lives. She suggests that families commit to a Jewish movie night, watching films like “The Red Sea Diving Resort,” a fictionalized version Your of Israel’s rescue ofYour Jews name from Ethiopia here and Sudan, or older movies such as “Exodus” and “Schindler’s List.” “Why,” she asks, “can’t we use our fixation on screens to teach something about our current and former history?” That’s a lesson well-suited to a cozy family night at home. ✦

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11 NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

Community members commit year-round to helping those in need

Jennifer Altmann

A

NJJN Contributing Writer

t Temple B’nai Shalom in East Brunswick, many social action programs revolve around food. Congregants fill backpacks with healthy snacks for children in Middlesex County to take home over the winter holidays, when the need is especially acute. (Many children get breakfast and lunch served to them at school, so a family may need more food when school is closed.) “We are passionate about the concept of tikkun olam, and we love for our children to learn about repairing the world and understand that it’s everybody’s responsibility to contribute,” said Iris Udasin, chair of the temple’s social action committee. Congregants also knit hats for cancer patients and grow vegetables at the community garden that are donated

to the East Brunswick Senior Center. As synagogues and other organizations look ahead to 5780, they are undertaking many projects to help the wider community, from collecting hygiene products and toys for victims of domestic violence to providing assistance and friendship to immigrants and refugees. Assistance to immigrant communities is a central element of social action at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick. A new program will bring together teens from the synagogue with teens who are immigrants and refugees through Casa Esperanza, a nonprofit in Bound Brook. Social outings to parks and baseball games are planned. Another program through the synagogue provides furnishings for apartments for newly arrived refugees. A program in the planning stages for the coming year will have congregants helping the Puerto Rican Action Board, based in New Brunswick, to combat wage theft, when an employer withholds a paycheck from a worker,

Marlboro Jewish Center congregants collect canned goods for a food drive. COU RTESY MAR LBORO J EWI SH CENTER

typically one who is an immigrant. Congregants will call employers and tell them attorneys will be brought into the matter unless the employee is paid immediately. “Usually all it takes is a phone call,” said Rabbi Philip Baze-

ley, who explained that the project is guided by the teachings of the Torah. “We protect the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and right now we’re seeing that immigrant communities are

Continued on next page

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NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

12

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sey, the event is run entirely by teens who plan, organize, and lead the Continued from previous page program and the volunteer projects. Last year, more than 150 middle and high school students visited assisted living facilities, made blankets for children who live in shelters, and designed challah and matzah covers for Meals on Wheels recipients. JSERVE, to be held March 29, 2020, is open to all community members. Families with young children can help make the world a better place through PJ Library’s Mighty Mitzvah Makers, a program for children 3-11. Projects in the coming year will include visiting assisted living facilities and making pet toys to donate to animal shelters. The Haimesha Helpers at Marlboro Jewish Center come to the aid of congregants and local families who need an extra hand with tasks around the Congregants at Marlboro Jewish Center collected more than 2,000 pairs house, such as moving of shoes that were donated to Soles4Souls.org, which provides shoes to refuse to the curb and those in need. COU RTESY MAR LBORO J EWI SH CENTER changing batteries in the most vulnerable in society and don’t have anyone smoke detectors. to advocate for them.” “Sometimes there’s a pride issue, and people Other ongoing programs at Anshe Emeth in- don’t want to ask for help,” said men’s club presiclude offering shelter to homeless men for three dent Alan Greenberg, who started the program. weeks each winter and legal advice and loans of “Sometimes an older person will just say, ‘I’ll wait car seats and medical equipment to low-income for my son to visit’ to change a light bulb. But we’re families through the Anshe Emeth Community happy to do it.” Development Corporation, a program that aids the Food drives and book drives are also planned for working poor and others. the coming year, as well as volunteer outings to a Teens can find a host of volunteering opportu- local soup kitchen. nities through J-SERVE, the International Day of “I think most congregants would like to do Jewish Teen Service, which involves thousands of something, but they sometimes don’t know where students from around the globe. to go,” said Dara Winston, Marlboro Jewish CenAt the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jer- ter’s executive director, adding that this is why the

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13 NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

Adi Beniluz of East Brunswick socialized with a resident at an assisted living facility during J-SERVE, the International Day of Jewish Teen Service. COU RTESY J-SERVE

synagogue incorporates social action into its calendar. Hebrew school students at Congregation Ahavat Olam in Howell are collecting food for the hungry. “Many people don’t realize there are Jewish families who are struggling right in our area, and particularly around the holidays,” said Debby Milboer, the synagogue’s president. Congregants also deliver food to assisted living facilities and visit residents. In the works is a program to provide rides to synagogue for home-bound seniors. Interfaith initiatives are an important part of social action at Temple Emanu-El in Edison, where families have regular dinners with Muslim families to get better acquainted and develop an appreciation for the other’s religion and culture. Last year, the synagogue began the Teen Interfaith Thanksgiving Day Dinner Drive when youth groups from churches, mosques, and synagogues in Edison and Metuchen mingle and assemble Thanksgiving food deliveries for adults with disabilities. Congregants also participate in the annual Sam Liss Memorial 5K, in honor of a

young member of the synagogue who died in 2017. The race, which takes place this year Oct. 27, raises money for eradicating child slavery in Ghana, a cause that was important to Liss. In October, during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick collects feminine hygiene items for residents of a women’s shelter. Throughout the year, congregants clean up a stretch of Route 1 for the Adopt-a-Highway program. And its Chesed for Chanukah program delivers care packages to first responders on Christmas. The Help A Needy Family for the Holidays program, which has run for more than 15 years, assists poor families in New Brunswick. Congregants buy items on the families’ wish lists, which are delivered with a holiday card from the synagogue. About 50 B’nai Tikvah families participate. The program has donated mattresses, winter coats, snow boots, and toys. Janice Baer, who leads the project, said, “Congregants look forward to doing something directly for families in need.” ✦

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NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

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Strategies for coping with stress, sadness during a celebratory season

Jennifer Altmann

T

NJJN Contributing Writer

he High Holidays can be a time for enjoying family and cherishing one’s religious faith, but for many people those days can also lead to feelings of loss, sadness, stress, and anxiety. “There is the Hallmark TV version of the holidays, and then there’s the realistic one,” said Sheri Bald, clinical social worker at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Monmouth County. “It’s an extremely challenging time for many people, especially those who have lost loved ones.” To cope with those emotions, social workers in Middlesex and Monmouth counties recommend a variety of strategies to deal with everything from navigating political debates among family members to facing the holidays in the absence of loved ones. Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Monmouth County and its counterpart, Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, provide coun- “There is the Hallmark TV version of the holidays, and then seling services that “keep the Jewish there’s the realistic one,” said Sheri Bald, a clinical social community vibrant and strong,” said worker at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Monmouth Susan Antman, executive director of County. P HOTO COU RTESY SH ER I BALD Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Planning ahead is crucial for coping with loss. ThinkJersey. “Jewish Federation and our supporters are proud to enable these federation partners ing through how you want to spend your time on the to provide affordable services to those in need, and to holiday and crafting rituals to honor the person who died can offer solace, Bald said. Each family member may remind all Jews they are not alone.” Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Mon- grieve differently, so it is also important to leave space for people to go their own way. mouth County, which has offices “Acknowledge your feelings, in Asbury Park, Eatontown, and and get help if you feel overMorganville, offers services to whelmed,” she said. those of all ages. It has individual, Other techniques can provide family, and couples counseling as Loss is exacerbated comfort for those feeling anxiety well as a drug and alcohol treator sadness. Relaxation strategies ment program. by the High Holidays can include a self-reassuring talk Those who have experienced before the holidays that focuses on the death of a spouse, child, parbecause of their focus positive aspects of the events, exent, sibling, or someone else can ercise such as walking and yoga, find that the loss — even if it hapon self-reflection, one’s and meditation apps available on pened years ago — is exacerbated smartphones. by the High Holidays because of purpose in life, and Many people find volunteertheir focus on self-reflection, one’s ing is another beneficial option. purpose in life, and relationship relationship with God. “Helping people less fortunate with God. often makes the helper feel good “Your religious and world view about themselves,” said Bald, who can be challenged when you have suggests delivering holiday basa loss,” said Bald. “People can be kets to the elderly, making visits to asking, ‘Why did God do this? Why did this happen to our family?’ and holidays can nursing homes, or working at a food pantry. Marking the holidays with extended family can bring that up again.”


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15 NJ Jewish News ■ Middlesex & Monmouth Edition ■ September 17, 2019

one’s guests feel comfortable, she added. If you anticipate political debates erupting, assigning seats at the table can help separate those with opposing views. Another strategy is laying out ground rules as the meal begins. “If it’s your house, you can establish what subjects can and can’t be talked about,” Stern said. “You can say, ‘I really don’t think we’re going to be able to have this conversation without people getting upset, and we’re not going to change each other’s minds, so let’s not talk about it.’” Warning relatives that you will ring P HOTO COU RTESY J U N E STER N Monmouth Reform Temple a bell each time a forbidden topic comes up will help Invites you to share the achieve peace with some levity, she added. Those who are facing the holidays alone can find High Holy Days themselves feeling despondent, and social media can with us. bring many stressors to the fore. Longstanding conflicts exacerbate those feelings. “People go online and see Experience our Inspiring Clergy among relatives and estranged family members and friends who say, ‘I’m having 30 for dinner, look at my & Friendly Congregation discussions of current events are some of the many fac- table,’ and they feel, ‘Oh, it’s just me and my neightors that can cause clashes, noted June Stern, director of bor.’ It can contribute to feelings of isolation. ‘What’s Our HHD Services are Open to All! clinical and senior services for Jewish Family Services wrong with me that I’m not at a table with 25 other For tickets, please contact the temple office: of Middlesex County. The organization, which often people?’” Stern said. By phone: 732-747-9365 sees an uptick in the number of people reaching out for To alleviate stress, Stern recommends activities such By Email: info@monmouthreformtemple.org help before the High Holidays, offers counseling on as journaling or carving out time for hobbies and keepMRT • 332 Hance Ave • Tinton Falls addiction, eating disorders, relationship issues, bereave- ing to one’s usual routine of exercise. Rabbi Marc Kline ment, and other topics at its offices in Milltown and For those who are not gathering with family memvcuy vnh,j rnd Cantor Gabrielle Clissold Very best Monroe Township. bers, Stern wishes suggested inaugurating some fresh rituals. Rabbi Emerita Sally J. Priesand Those hosting family and friends for a meal should “Create ora acommunity with friends or neighbors,” she be sensitive to their guests’ challenges and adjust plans advised. “Have everybody bring a favorite dish, and Happy Year accordingly, Stern recommended. If someone has start a New new tradition.” vcuy vnh,j vcuy vnh,j rnd rnd a problem with alcoholism, for example, “the wineVery For information about Jewish Family and Chilbest wishes Very best wishes We wish should stay in the kitchen” or not be served at all, she dren’s Service of Monmouth County, visit jfcsoror aa all our friends advised. “Talk to family ahead of time” and point out monmouth.org. For Jewish Family Services of Happy New Year We wish ourYear We wish allall our friends Year A Happy New that it’s not as important to serve wine as it is to make all Happy MiddlesexNew County, visit jfsmiddlesex.org. ✦ a Happy New veu,nu vcuy friends a vbaYear June Stern, director of clinical and senior services for Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, said social media exacerbates feelings of loneliness around the High Holidays.


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