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Eleven schools. One message.

Federation video highlights cornerstone role of area Jewish education

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A gallery of students is featured in a video about the 11 day schools in the area served by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

“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.”

The second audience is the non-day school community. “We want them to understand what these schools are about. We’re trying to take the mystery out of the schools for the wider community,” she said.

The goal is not recruiting new students — though if some parents of preschoolers watch the video and consider day school as an option, that would be nice, Mrs. Scherzer said. Rather, “we want the non-day school community to understand the value of these schools,” she continued. “That these are state-of-the-art institutions where Jewish values begin at morning meeting.”

“We want to lift the hood off of the day schools and show the community their overall academic excellence and social impact,” said Scott Leibowitz, the federation’s managing director of marketing and communications.

The video talks of day schools as conveying Jewish values and continuity and basketball. It spotlights students who have won science, math, and stock-picking competitions. It shows children telling how they help the community, feeding the hungry and assisting in the wake of natural disasters.

And it features area residents who are Jewish day school alumni with impressive accomplishments — from recent graduates who are pro-Israel activists on campus; to Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, who made aliyah after graduating from the Frisch School in 1983; to Jason Shames, the federation’s CEO, a graduate of the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy in the Bronx.

“It was really sweet to be in those schools and engage with these kids,” said David Thomas, who shot the film. The production took 15 days.

“When you set up filming, generally you’re going to try to keep it as little work as possible. You want everyone in one location. For this, however, we made a big commitment to go to all the locations,” he said.

This included not only the eleven different schools — “I was up at night making sure I was as fair as possible for all the schools,” Mrs. Scherzer said — but also graduates’ homes and workplaces.

“We’ve got all these different schools that are really focused daily on their own students and their own little world. The piece was written where you felt there was one voice from all of the Jewish day schools,” Mr. Thomas said.

To anchor the disparate shots visually, “I began to shoot beautiful stills of the kids. Every day I added two, three, five faces to a wall of photos that was being built.” The final grid of faces “represented building and community and the Jewish day schools being the cornerstones of the Jewish community,” he said.

“We hope the film leaves a feeling of what these schools are about,” Ms. Scherzer said.

The video has been distributed by the day schools and posted to the federation’s Facebook page and website.

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Oslo, Birthright, and me

Yossi Beilin, to speak at Tenafly JCC, talks about his past

For a man who never served as Israel’s prime minister, Dr. Yossi Beilin had an outsized impact on Israeli history.

A journalist for the Labor party paper Davar who entered politics as a Labor Party spokesman before being appointed cabinet secretary by Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1984, Dr. Beilin made his mark with two bold policies that were reluctantly but influentially adopted by the Israeli government: the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and the Birthright Israel program.

On Thursday, Dr. Beilin will address “The future of Israel in the Middle East” at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, in a program sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.

Dr. Beilin — he holds a doctorate in political science from Tel Aviv University — ended his political career in 2008, having served as a Knesset member for 20 years, and as deputy foreign minister, justice minister, and minister of religious affairs.


A new relationship in Ridgewood

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

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.


Mourning possibilities

Local woman helps parents face trauma of stillbirth, infant mortality

Three decades ago, when Reva and Danny Judas’ newborn son died, just 12 hours after he was born, there was nowhere for the Teaneck couple to turn for emotional support.

Nobody wanted to talk about loss; it was believed best to get on with life and not dwell on the tragedy.

Reva Judas wasn’t willing to accept that approach, and she did not think anyone else should, either — especially after suffering six miscarriages between the births of her four healthy children.

She soon became a go-to person for others in similar situations, and eventually earned certification as a hospital chaplain. In January 2009, Ms. Judas founded the nonprofit infant and pregnancy loss support organization Nechama (the Hebrew word for “comfort”) initially at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and then at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.

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