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Larry Yudelson
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Book magic

Federation hosting ‘Golem and Jinni’ author Helene Wecker

Cover Story Published: 01 May 2015

It took magic to bring Helene Wecker’s writing to life.

Writing without magic, in a realistic literary mode, Helene Wecker had been working on a series of short stories based on her family history and that of her husband. Her family are American Jews; his are Arab Americans from Syria.

“So may of the themes are so similar — about coming to America and feeling like a fish out of water, and having that handed down to you as the child and grandchild of immigrants,” she said.

“I was working on these stories but they were not going very well. They were a little boring. They just lay there on the page.”

As a reader, Ms. Wecker loved magic. In high school in suburban Chicago, she devoured fantasy and science fiction novels. As an English major at Carleton College in Minnesota, she had discovered classics and literary fiction. But now, as a student at Columbia University’s masters program for writers, in class she championed writers like Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon, who brought fantastic elements into their novels.


A Jewish day school with a difference

Shefa School helps students with language disabilities

LocalPublished: 01 May 2015

It took “a giant leap of faith” for Gila Cohen and her husband to send their son from Teaneck to the Shefa School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for fifth grade.

The school, after all, was just opening its doors.

But her son, who had been diagnosed with dyslexia, was struggling at his Bergen County Jewish day school.

“They were helping him but not giving him the skills to read himself. They don’t have time to do that,” Ms. Cohen said.

She in fact had been looking for a non-Jewish school that could help with his disabilities. Then she heard about the Shefa School “and we decided to apply.” The Shefa School promised to be a Jewish school for children with language-based learning disabilities.


Connecting through music

Yemenite singer from Tenafly to take stage in Dumont

MusicPublished: 24 April 2015

An Israeli who has lived in Tenafly for almost two years and a Los Angeles native who has lived in Israel for the past seven years are teaming up for a series of area concerts featuring contemporary arrangements of Hebrew, Arabic, and Yemenite songs.

One of the concerts is set for next Saturday night in Dumont.

The duo is promoting the record they released in February: “The Seal of Solomon,” which they recorded as “Shlomit and Rebbe Soul.”

Shlomit is Shlomit Levi. She grew up in Kiryat Ekron, a largely Yemenite community in central Israel. Her parents came from Yemen as teenagers in the 1950s. Her singing career included recording with Orphaned Land, an Israeli heavy metal group, and performing with Boaz Sharabi.


Rockland Holocaust Museum set for renewal

LocalPublished: 24 April 2015

Before the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington or the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan, there was the Holocaust Museum and Study Center in Spring Valley. With its roots in the Rockland County Legislature, which launched the Rockland County Commission on the Holocaust in 1979, in 1988 the museum opened in a building belonging to Spring Valley’s public library.

Now, more than a quarter century later, the museum has a new home and a new name, and it is about to start building a larger exhibition with state-of-the-art interactive exhibits.

The new home is less than four miles away, at Rockland Community College. There the center will occupy a 6,000-square-foot floor of a library building. Last week, a hundred museum supporters took a tour of the soon-to-be-renovated space, before joining an audience of 500 for a Yom Hashoah lecture.

For the Holocaust Museum, the new home is about more than space.


Election fever

Local candidates running for World Zionist Congress

LocalPublished: 17 April 2015

There’s an election taking place — and some of your neighbors are asking for your support.

They’re candidates for the World Zionist Congress. And if you’re Jewish, at least 18 years old, live in the United States, and believe in the centrality of Israel to the Jewish people, you’re eligible to vote for them. (See box.)

But you can’t vote directly for a candidate you know. Elections for the Zionist Congress, like elections in Israel, are on the parliamentary system: You vote for a specific party. Each party presents a list of candidates ranked in order. The more votes the slate gets, the more of its candidates will make it to the World Zionist Congress in December. Most of the parties competing offer a full slate of 155 delegates. And among all those would-be delegates are many from northern New Jersey.


Eight days of Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations

Federation holds ‘Israel Week’

LocalPublished: 17 April 2015

On Tuesday night Israel will mark its memorial day, remembering the thousands of Israelis who fell in battle or to terrorism.

On Wednesday night Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence day, marking Israel’s 67th anniversary, begins.

But two days marking Israel aren’t enough for the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which is sponsoring and promoting a variety of events from this Sunday through next Sunday, under the banner of “I Heart Israel Week.”

“It’s a whole week where the whole entire community is celebrating Israel,” said Danit Sibovits, director of the federation’s Center for Israel Engagement.

The “I Heart Israel” events include activities at synagogues and community centers as well as those organized by and at the federation.

“The federation is the go-to place to celebrate Israel,” Ms. Sibovits said. “Anyone can pick and choose what works for their family.”

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Eleven schools. One message.

Federation video highlights cornerstone role of area Jewish education

LocalPublished: 09 April 2015

“This is where Jewish community begins,” says a woman with a broad smile, as children walk down a locker-lined school hallway behind her.

What follows is a video of many brief scenes. Cuts follow fast and furious, as children and adults recite lines that in less than five minutes tell the story of the Jewish day schools of northern New Jersey. The film is the latest product of an ongoing marketing collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the area’s 11 Jewish day schools.

“There are two audiences” for the video, said Linda Scherzer, who leads the day school marketing project and wrote the video’s script.

There’s the part of the community that’s very familiar with the day schools — and already sends its children there.

“We want them to know the value we as a federation place on these schools,” Ms. Scherzer said. “We’re saying to our day school parents and our day school community that we understand you to be the cornerstone of the community, where we create the next generation of leaders.”

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The senator went to synagogue

Robert Menendez talks Israel, anti-Semitism in Franklin Lakes

Local | WorldPublished: 03 April 2015

It’s not every day that a United States senator stops by a synagogue to discuss the Middle East.

That’s what happened Sunday morning, when Senator Robert Menendez visited Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes.

He anchored the talk in this Passover holiday.

“Friday night begins the eight-day festival of Passover commemorating the emancipation of the people of Israel, a story that is not over for Israelis still longing to live in their homeland of thousands of years,” he began.

“This year, as Passover approaches, let us pray that the time of peace and security will finally come for Israel and for the Jewish people.

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Teaneck school budget highlights town’s fissures

Hundreds turn out to protest mooted cuts in day school busing

LocalPublished: 20 March 2015

Call it the trial balloon that filled the room.

A proposal to trim $116,457 from the Teaneck Board of Education budget by consolidating bus stops for private schools drew a record crowd of hundreds of Jewish day school parents to a board meeting last week.

In the end, the president of the board, Dr. Ardie Walser, rejected the proposal.

But in the course of the evening, fissures in the township came out in the open.

Teaneck has about 4,500 students in its public schools. Some of them take buses to school. About 2,400 students who live in Teaneck are bused to private schools — day schools and yeshivas, secular schools, and parochial schools.

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More fun than you can shake a banana at

LocalPublished: 13 March 2015

How do you make a Passover seder interesting for children — the ostensible target of the evening’s command to “tell your children” of the Exodus from Egypt?

How do you ensure the story of the redemption from slavery to freedom aren’t drowned out by whines of “when do we eat?”

Dr. Zalman Suldan has been thinking about these questions even before the birth of his daughters, now 11 and 14. Dr. Suldan, a nephrologist, will share his suggestions and experience at two upcoming talks in synagogues in Teaneck. (See box.)

But before we get to his story, here’s one secret trick that will stop all your guests — adults as well as kids — from interrupting the parting of the Red Sea with their pangs of hunger: Instead of (or in addition to) dipping parsley into salt water, dip bananas into chocolate syrup.

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