Home March 2023 Jlife Buzz-March

Jlife Buzz-March

Social Action Committee Cooks Food for Rotating Interfaith Shelter

    This winter, the Social Action Committee took on the responsibility of providing Sunday dinners on five Sundays for New Brunswick’s Rotating Interfaith Shelter.

The Sisterhood and Youth Community cooked dinner in January as part of their Mitzvah Day; Men’s Club cooked in February following their World Wide Wrap and before their Super Tailgate Party. The Social Action Committee and other Temple members cooked in January and February as well.

The Rotating Interfaith Shelter offers overnight shelter to up to 15 men in New Brunswick during the winter. The dinner meal HPCT-CAE provides is for 17, which includes two Shelter volunteers; HPCT-CAE will have provided 85 meals.

For further information, please contact Terry Chazan Rothberg, chair, HPCT-CAE Social Action Committee or Linda Tondow, HPCT-CAE Executive Director at 732-545-6482 or Email: ltondow@hpct-cae.org. For more information, visit hpct-cae.org/learn/music-film.


Temple Beth El Helps Navigate Funeral Arrangements

    All of us have to face it, but some of us don’t like to think about it. A death in the family and, ultimately, our own death—we know it will happen sooner or later, sometimes unexpectedly, and although we are careful to plan for other major events, this one, the most major of them all, is too difficult too think about for some of us.

    Yet when it happens, and emotions overtake the survivors, that is absolutely the wrong time to start thinking about funeral arrangements, says Bill Gleason of the Gleason Funeral Home in Somerset. Does the deceased person already have a cemetery plot? Did he leave instructions about who should administer his estate? And when it’s your own turn to go, who should handle the details? Do you want Uncle Morris to say a few words, and simply do not want Tante Bessie to speak at all?

    Bill Gleason will discuss how to make happen what you want to happen in a talk at Temple Beth El of Somerset Sunday, March 12, starting at 1:30 p.m.. He will explore legal issues in the state of New Jersey; costs for services other than the funeral home, such as a fee the cemetery will charge for opening up the grave; what is involved in pre-planning, and other details that can make a difficult time less stressful. Rabbi Eli Garfinkel will join the discussion to talk about Jewish customs and traditions relating to burial and mourning practices.

    The program is free, but registrations is encouraged. Call the temple at 732-873-2325 to RSVP. For more information, please visit https://www.ourbethel.org.


Celebrate Purim with Temple Shalom 

 On Friday, March 3, Temple Shalom will hold a Kabbalat Shabbat Purim Palooza. It will be a fun interactive service celebrating the festival of Purim. Fifth and sixth graders will help co-lead. The service starts at 6:30 p.m..

    On Sunday March 5th from 10:30 am until noon, a fun age-appropriate Purim event will take place. The event includes games, crafts, and a Purim celebration. Come join the fun and enjoy hamantaschen from the women of Temple Shalom.

    There will also be a session of Torah Tots on March 5 to commemorate Purim. It is a free program for parents and their children from ages 2 1/2 to pre-kindergarten. The program is open to the community and starts at 9:30 a.m..
  For additional information, contact Temple Shalom at (732) 566-2621 or visit https://templeshalomnj.org.

Join the Rutgers Bildner Center 25th-Anniversary Celebration

    The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University continues its celebration of 25 years of public education on Jewish history, culture, and experience. Join them for two upcoming in-person public talks. 

    On April 19, world-renowned Bible scholar Robert Alter will speak on the art of biblical narrative, bringing his keen-eyed literary training to the nuances and complexity of the stunning poetry and prose of the Hebrew text. On May 18, award-winning journalist Nadine Epstein (Moment Magazine) will discuss her collaboration with the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on a collection of short biographies, RBG’s Brave and Brilliant Women: 33 Jewish Women to Inspire Everyone. Free copies of the book will be distributed at the event. 

    Free and open to the public, enjoy light refreshments following both public talks at the Douglass Student Center in New Brunswick. Free parking is available. For more information, and to register, go to the Bildner Center website at BildnerCenter.Rutgers.edu. 


East Brunswick Jewish Center Holds a Hazak Brunch and Shakes, Rattles & Rolls

    On February 11, EBJC hosted Shake Rattle and Roll dueling pianos. 125 people danced and sang to music from the ‘20s to the ‘60s. Charcuterie boards, desserts, a candy bar, wine and and beer complimented the evening. And on February 12, it held a Hazak brunch. Hazak is its senior program that is co-sponsored by JFS and Federation. EBJC had 65 attendees for the brunch and John Kenrick’s presentation of “Mel Brooks… It’s good to be king.” For more information, please visit https://www.ebjc.org.


Hartman Institute’s students. Front row (left to right): Elan Goldman, Class of 2026, from Highland Park, NJ; Chana Fisher, Class of 2024, from Teaneck, NJ; Maya Minsky, Class of 2025, from Livingston, NJ; Hannah Levine, Class of 2023, from Fair Lawn, NJ; Jeremy Davis, Rutgers Hillel staff, from Merrick, NY; Betzalel (Buzzy) Brickman, Class of 2025, from Livingston, NJ
Back row (left to right): Tova Braun, Class of 2023, from Long Branch, NJ; Naomi Butler, Class of 2024, from Woodmere, NY; Emily Jurkevich, Class of 2024, from Edison, NJ; Leora Benson, Class of 2026, from Teaneck, NJ; Mitch Wolf, Class of 2025, from White Plains, NY; Yochanan (JJ) Rosenblum, Class of 2023, from West Orange, NJ.

Rutgers Hillel Provides Opportunities for Students and Birthright Trips

    Rutgers Hillel held two different Birthright trips with 40 students each. It also provided a program for 11 Rutgers students at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem sent by Rabbi Esther Reed, interim executive director of Hillel. For more information, visit https://rutgershillel.org.



From left to right Douglas Hardin, Benjamin Thomas Berman
and Paul Dorsey. Seated in front Deba Biderman

Music Fills the Old Franklin Schoolhouse

 The Metro-Jersey Section of National Council of Jewish Women held a Baroque concert performed by The Pandemic Ensemble featuring the Section’s president Debra Biderman, a New Jersey Symphony violinist, Paul Dorsey on recorder, Douglas Hardin on violincello, and Benjamin Thomas Berman on harpsichord.
   The concert was held Sunday, February 19, 2023, a

t 2:30 p.m. at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse, 491 Middlesex Avenue, Metuchen. The program consisted of works by Franz Joseph Haydn, CPE Bach, JS Bach and others. A reception followed and a donation of ‘chai’ ($18) was encouraged and gratefully accepted. For more info please email NCJWmetrojersey@gmail.com or call (732)548-6580. For more information, please visit https://www.ncjw.org.


Congregation B’nai Tikvah Holds a Trivia Night

     On Tuesday night, December 22, 2022 and on Thursday night, February 16, 2023, CBT’ers (as members at Congregation B’nai Tikvah “CBTers” are fondly called) gathered together to test their knowledge of a wide array of mostly useless facts. Trivia night attracted more than 60 members who competed vigorously in a friendly competition. Trivia night was run by a professional company and the questions came from various categories, which included everything from geography to music across all genres, to famous people, and everything in between. Although each team was excited when they gave a correct answer, some of the incorrect answers were quite entertaining and gave everyone a good laugh. Gathering as a group is always a great time, especially on a weeknight to break up the monotony of the work week. For more information, please visit https://bnaitikvah.org.


The Rosenberg/Strange Fruit Project Comes to New Jersey Repertory Company (NJRep)

    New Jersey Repertory Company (NJRep) has a 25-year history of producing new and provocative works. Currently on-stage is The Rosenberg/Strange Fruit Project, by John Jiler—an award-winning actor-turned-writer whose work includes one-man shows, plays, musicals, journalism, fiction and non-fiction. We had the opportunity to chat with him about his current show, on stage now at NJRep.

Jlife: Hi John, welcome. We’re excited to discuss The Rosenberg/Strange Fruit Project. Can you tell us a bit about the show?
John Jiler: The show focuses on Robbie Meeropol, the six-year-old son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed as communist spies in the 1950’s. After the death of his parents, Robbie and his brother were adopted—remarkably—by Abel Meeropol, the author of one of Billie Holiday’s most iconic songs “Strange Fruit.” It’s a wild, ambitious tale that seeks to tell the raucous story of our politics from then until now. I’m joined onstage by Lee Odom, considered to be among our foremost clarinetists. The clarinet was specifically chosen to support the piece, because it is an instrument that unites the Jewish (klezmer) and Black (jazz) experiences.

Jlife: Tell us a bit about you as a writer and what inspired you to write this play.
J.J.: I began my professional life as an actor, and in my forties became a playwright—a fairly common progression in the theatre. Between plays, journalism and what my editors have called “non-fiction novels,” I’ve been a writer ever since. This has allowed me to explore “outside things”—politics, history, etc,—and “inside things”—love, parenting, regrets, longings. The Rosenberg project has given me the opportunity to do both, and employ my skills as an actor to boot. I play eight different characters along a wide spectrum of race, gender, age and political persuasion.

Jlife: What inspired you to write this play?
J.J.: I had been asked to create a ten-minute piece for Theatre For The New City’s spring festival, and I was stumped. Ten minutes? What could I do? I’m not a juggler! Then my wife dropped the remarkable factoid on me: the Rosenberg kids were adopted by the man who wrote Strange Fruit. I knew about the Rosenberg case, and suddenly a lot of things about that time and place clicked for me. And when I learned that I’m almost exactly the same age as Robbie, I was hooked. I had to tell this story. Luckily for me, Robbie has written a wonderful autobiography, and my research started from there. So what started as a 10-minute monologue eventually evolved into a one-man show about the Rosenberg case and everything swirling around it, highlighting our politics from then ‘til now.
Jlife: How did the Rosenberg children and Abel Meeropol cross paths?
The adoption was actually facilitated by W.E.B. Dubois. It was at a Christmas party at his house where the two young orphans would be introduced to their adoptive parents.
Jlife: Could you tell me a little bit about Abel and his relationship with Strange Fruit?
J.J.: Abel Meeropol was a high school teacher in the Bronx (among his students was James Baldwin) and a dabbler in verse. He wrote a poem for the NY State teacher’s magazine called “Bitter Fruit,” which he later changed to “Strange Fruit.” It was about a lynching in the South a few years prior. The response was good, and he was inspired to put music to it. He showed it to his friend Barney Josephson, a nightclub owner in Greenwich Village, who in turn gave it to an unknown young singer named Billie Holiday. The piece eventually became Holiday’s biggest-selling recording.

Jlife: Why is it important to tell this story now?
J.J.: To me the guilt or innocence of the Rosenbergs is beside the point. The unimaginable trauma of children essentially watching the public execution of their parents is eternally relevant to the vulnerability of children everywhere caught up in the maelstrom of violence; be it in the Ukraine, the Middle East, or the streets of an American city. I’m also eternally fascinated by the relationship between Blacks and Jews, a major concern of this piece—thematically and musically.

Jlife: This sounds like a very interesting and informative piece. Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us.
J.J.: Thank you for having me. 

Jiler lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children. The Rosenberg/Strange Fruit Project runs March 9 – April 2, NJRep, Long Branch. Tickets available at njrep.org.

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