Jewish Federation Security Initiatives Led Response to Synagogue Threat–
On Nov. 4, 2022, the FBI warned the Jewish community of a credible threat to synagogues in New Jersey.
Immediately, Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ’s Director of Security Initiatives, Amy Keller, made direct contact with law enforcement authorities; activated the community-wide Leaders’ Alert System advising organizations to enact their security protocols; coordinated with law enforcement, private security professionals, and community organizations to increase security; and Federation advised the broader community through social media to increase awareness and vigilance.
Approximately 18 hours later, Gov. Phil Murphy, the State Attorney General, and top brass from the FBI, Homeland Security, State Police, and U.S. Attorney advised Federations, the ADL, and others that the specific threat had been mitigated, and pledged continued solidarity with the Jewish community to reject antisemitic rhetoric, activity, and threats.
“We thank our partners from law enforcement, private security providers, and communal organizations for joining us in making the Jewish community more aware and prepared with Security Initiatives,” Keller said, “from assessments, Blue Sky Day relationship building, planning, training, grant application and implementation support, our alert system, and more.”
Executive Director Susan Antman added, “Financial contributors to Federation’s Annual Campaign make these partnerships and initiatives all possible. Thank you to our donors for helping keep the Jewish community safe.”
Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ Security Initiatives support is available to all Jewish institutions in Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties. If you know an executive director, president, clergy, or security director of a local Jewish organization, please encourage them to connect with Federation.
Learn more at jewishheartnj.org/security.
Neve Shalom Sukkah Tour Reboot=More Joy
Weather, calendar and volunteerism came together in a most happy way for Neve Shalom members and their friends to enjoy a successful reboot of an old favorite tradition: sukkah hopping. On October 16, participants visited five member families’ personal sukkot in Metuchen and Edison, in sequence, to experience the sights, aromas and rituals associated with the holiday, as well as a delicious nosh at each stop. Based in Metuchen, Neve Shalom has been working to mindfully bring members back to in-person communal events. The sukkah tour, with its focus on outdoor activity, not only drew a nice-sized crowd; the creativity displayed in the individual sukkot was positively inspirational. With at least as many additional families’ sukkot yet to be explored, Neve Shalom is looking forward to restoring the sukkah hop as an ever-expanding annual event. For more information please visit https://www.neveshalom.net.
EBJC/EBUSY’s Thanksgiving/Social Action Tikkun Olam (SATO) Event
East Brunswick Jewish Center’s three youth groups, including Chaverim (4th to 5th grade), Kadima (6th to 8th grade), and USY (9th to 12th grade) came together on November 16 for the annual EBJC/EBUSY Thanksgiving/Social Action Tikkun Olam (SATO) event. This included four Chaverim, six Kadima, and nine USY members, totaling 19 participants.
USYers led a dynamic event involving three mitzvah projects. Participants brought cash donations for Make a Wish Foundation (they raised $63), wrote Hanukkah cards to send to the Jewish Soldiers Project (they made 24 cards), and bagged toiletries for Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County (24 filled gallon-sized ziplock bags).
Participants enjoyed pizza and listening to a speech given by USY leaders about the meaning behind the USY “pillar” of SATO as well as the impact the nonprofit organizations featured in the mitzvah project do for the community. It was beautiful seeing the three groups work together.
We Are “One!” NJ Philanthropists Join 1,400 Proud Zionists at
Jewish National Fund-USA’s National Conference
A delegation of philanthropists from Monmouth and Middlesex counties joined over 1,400 supporters of the land and people of Israel in Boston on November 4-6, 2022, for an unforgettable weekend at Jewish National Fund-USA’s largest ever National Conference. The organization’s annual symposium is unique in that it brings together high school students, college students, rabbinical students, leading philanthropists, prominent Zionist thought leaders, and Israelis from the Negev and Galilee who are directly and positively impacted by the partnership of Jewish National Fund-USA.
Jewish National Fund-USA’s President, Dr. Sol Lizerbram, announced that the organization was close to achieving its fundraising target for its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade as its supporters reclaim the Zionist narrative and stand up against Jew-hatred.
In addition to hearing from incredible speakers and influencers including Israel’s Ambassador, Michael Herzog, Ronald S. Lauder, Olga Meshoe Washington, Rachel Fish, Hen Mazzig, and Ben M. Freeman, attendees also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jewish National Fund-USA’s Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss). Participants also learned about one of the organization’s largest initiatives ever announced—the creation of a 20-acre World Zionist Village to be built in Be’er Sheva, Israel, which will bring together Jews and Zionists of all ages and backgrounds from around the world.
Additionally, through various engaging plenaries and interactive sessions including a “Shark Tank-style,” event, attendees were impressed to learn how Jewish National Fund-USA is the largest provider of Zionist educational activities in the U.S., and how it is improving the quality of life throughout Israel by providing new beginnings for Ukrainian refugees and families making aliyah (immigration to Israel); creating new employment and housing opportunities; delivering ag-tech solutions to farmers in developing countries; empowering people with disabilities to thrive in Israeli society; solving global food and water crises, and so much more.
“A dairy farm in the desert, a 100% off the grid aquatic center in the middle of nowhere, building the finest culinary institute in the world located in the Greater Kiryat Shmona area—a region in which people never before talked about moving to, only moving from,” said Jewish National Fund-USA CEO, Russell F. Robinson. “This is our opportunity to stand up and say to the world and to future generations, ‘we are one and we are in!’”
“We are proud of the role Jewish National Fund-USA continues to play in broadening and deepening the people-to-people connection between Israel and the U.S.,” explained the organization’s Central New Jersey President, Barbara Israel Bortniker.
Jewish National Fund-USA’s National Conference also welcomed over 600 high school and college students from across the country. Other conference highlights included emotional performances by the organization’s Special in Uniform band, an initiative that empowers young people with cognitive disabilities to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and enjoy the same “rite of passage” as their peers. An exclusive late-night cocktail reception was also held for 200 young philanthropists ages 22-40.
“Our conference showed how our Zionist movement and the Jewish people are an extraordinary kaleidoscope of passionate individuals from different backgrounds and experiences who unite in support of the land and people of Israel,” added Jewish National Fund-USA’s Co Chair of its Monmouth Middlesex Committee, and member of its Central New Jersey board, Phyllis Chancy Solomon.
Registration is now open for Jewish National Fund-USA’s 2023 International Conference for Israel taking place from November 30-December 3 in Denver, Colorado. Sign-up at jnf.org/nc2023 or contact Celine Leeds at firstname.lastname@example.org or Anna Milstein at email@example.com.
Temple Shalom of Aberdeen Names New Religious Director
David Gronlund-Jacob has joined Temple Shalom of Aberdeen as the Religious School Director. After a career in sales and sales management, David returned to graduate school and received a MARE (Master of Arts in Religious Education.) from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2004. He has been the director of the Religious Schools in Westfield, Chester, and most recently with Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro.
David has been married to his wife, Judy, for over 40 years. They have two grown children, Noah and Sarah. David’s favorite holiday is Shabbat, and he bakes his own challah every week. In his free time, he plays, repairs, and builds wooden musical instruments. His hobbies include repairing guitars and playing guitars. He has built and repaired acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles, and mandolins. For more information about the temple please visit https://templeshalomnj.org.
Monroe Township’s Congregation Etz Chaim Installs New Rabbi
In July, Rabbi Shmuel Polin joined Congregation Etz Chaim Monroe Twp Jewish Center, the only full-service Reform Congregation in Monroe Twp, after Rabbi Doctor Ben Levy retired.
Rabbi Polin, a Greater Philadelphia/New Jersey native, completed his B.A. at American University where he studied Jewish Studies and International Studies. He completed M.A.s in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Jewish Studies from Gratz College. Most recently, Rabbi Pollin served as Rabbi of Temple Israel, Columbus, GA. Rabbi Polin’s installation Shabbat Service was attended by Dean of his Rabbinical school, Rabbi Doctor Jonathan Hecht, Phd; Dean of Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, Rabbi Doctor Ben Levy, congregants, family, and friends.
Rabbi Polin led his first High Holiday worship here, Shabbat Under the Stars on Sukkot, and blessed congregants’ animals for Parshat Noach in addition to joining with members and friends of Etz Chaim in hosting an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service and dinner with Spotswood Reformed Church, Trinity United Methodist Church, and Central Jersey Moslem Community Center.
Learn more at https://www.etzchaimmtjc.org.
Stein Assisted Living’s Unique Approach
Sporting black converse and gold buckles, a very special guest by the name of Michelangelo paid a visit to the residents of Stein Assisted Living on Thursday morning.
To the surprise of many, Michelangelo was not the typical visitor, but instead an eight-year-old miniature horse. Michelangelo is described as a gentle presence and has been visiting different facilities since five months old. He is trained to go in elevators, up and down stairs, and into resident bedrooms as needed. In spending a few minutes with each resident, Michelangelo was able to meet and greet over thirty residents during his trip to Stein.
Michelangelo is part of an organization based out of Chester, New Jersey, known as Hope’s Promise. This organization is known for its educational and therapeutic equine programs for individuals of all ages.
“Never did I think I would be so happy to see a horse in the living room!” shared Muriel Hyman, a resident of Stein Assisted Living. “It is such a unique way of destressing and it gave us all a little excitement early in the morning. I think that having animals around and just watching the interactions is a wonderful experience.” For more information about Stein Assisted Living please visit https://www.wilfcampus.org.
Creating a Positive Learning Environment
On November 3, 2022 The Early Learning Center at Congregation Torat-El in Oakhurst and Temple Beth Ahm Preschool in Aberdeen, early childhood educators, met for a professional development day of learning and collaborating.
Our theme, “Creating a Positive Learning Environment,” included workshops in “Music with Early Learners”, Mindfulness in the Preschool”, “The Educators Role in Children’s Play’,and “Playing with Loose Parts.” The day was spent understanding how preschoolers are navigating their world through creative play, sensory exploration, movement and music.
The Early Learning Center at Congregation Torat-El and Temple Beth Ahm Preschool annually meet not only to learn from our workshop facilitators but to share ideas and best practices. For more information please visit https://www.torat-el.org/early-learning-center/.
United Synagogue Youth
Registration is now open for USY summer programs, with Israel and other travel opportunities for current 7-12th graders to help shape Jewish identity and build community. USY trips are eligible for RootOne vouchers and Jewish Federation Teen Israel Grants for travel to Israel for qualified participants. Availability is limited. Additional financial needs-based scholarships are available. To learn more about the programs, check out the website: www.usy.org/summer or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a call with one of the staff.
Jewish Communal Security Professionals Convene for Homeland Security Summit Synagogue Threat
Nearly 90 security professionals, including Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey Director of Security Initiatives, Amy Keller, CPP, gathered in New Orleans the week of Nov. 14, 2022, at the Homeland Security Summit to address the safety and security issues facing the Jewish community. The annual conference was hosted by the Secure Community Network (SCN), a valued Jewish Federation partner in the safety and security of the Jewish community in North America.
“Coming together with security leaders from across North America positioned us for continuous improvement in approaches and solutions to making our Jewish communities—individually and collectively—more prepared and resilient in the face of growing threats,” Keller said.
Attendees received briefings on security and law enforcement issues; discussed case studies of previous antisemitic attacks; engaged in facilitated discussions and breakout sessions related to emergent threats and issues; participated in safety trainings; and discussed best practices and national standards.
“This year’s Summit–the largest ever–reflects not only the rising level of antisemitic threats facing the Jewish community but the increasingly professional and sophisticated response our community has mustered,” said SCN National Director and CEO Michael Masters. “Together with our partners throughout local, state, and federal law enforcement, Jewish security professionals and lay leaders are working to create a security shield over the Jewish community.”
To learn more about Jewish Federation Security Initiatives on behalf of the entire Jewish community or get support, visit jewishheartnj.org/security.
Tired of Wordle? “Gimme Some Torah”
People get so many emails that messages they do want to see can get lost in the landslide. That fact—and the goal of sharing Torah with people on a daily basis—led Rabbi Eli Garfinkel of Temple Beth El Somerset to publish “Gimme Some Torah,” a free Torah blog, on Substack.
“I want it to become part of a reader’s daily ritual or routine,” Rabbi Garfinkel says. “That is why I publish GST every day at 6:00 am except on Shabbat and festivals. I want GST to be for Torah what Wordle is for word games!”
Rabbi Garfinkel shared with Jlife how GST came to be and how it came to the Substack platform. In his journey with GST, persistence and adaptability in the digital age intersect with timeless Jewish learning.
My Gimme Some Torah free blog on Substack is the latest iteration of various things that I’ve done online for years. The name comes from my years as a teacher at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. I would deliver a short d’var torah at the end of services, and I would always start by telling the kids to yell, “Gimme Some Torah!”
For a long time, I tried to make Gimme Some Torah a vlog, or video blog. The problem was that producing quality video, even just a few minutes of it, became very time consuming. It was hard to keep up a regular, weekly schedule. I turned to the written word, which has always been where I express myself best. On Substack, I found a place where potential readers could find me and subscribe for free. So far, 146 people have done so, and I started it in the middle of July, 2022. For more information please visit https://rabbigarfinkel.substack.com/subscribe.
RJX, the Rutgers Jewish Xperience
Jewish rutgersjx.com student group at Rutgers University, New Brunswick campus, had it’s Highland Park/Edison Shabbaton this Nov 4 – 5 for 45 of its students and alumni.
Hundreds of Jewish Rutgers students come from all walks of Jewish life and are drawn to the warm RJX campus community and its various Jewish learning, professional and social opportunities.
The Highland Park/Edison community hosts several RJX Shabbaton’s throughout the year.
This Shabbaton was hosted by Sarah and Eli Mirlis of Edison, in a beautiful tent in their backyard.
Spirited Friday night services, full of singing and dancing, were held at Congregation Ohr Torah of Edison. Students then made their way to local hosts for a sumptuous Friday night dinner. The Mirlis tent was the place to be following the meal, as the students mixed with the local Jewish community at a gala oneg that lasted well into the night.
Students gathered at the home of Elie and Yitz Lieblich for a kiddush on Shabbos morning, followed by a group lunch back at the Mirlis tent.
This beautiful and uplifting Shabbos came to a close, with havdalla, singing and dancing, at the Schwimmer family in Highland Park.
For many of the students, it was their first complete Shabbos experience that they have ever had.
The HP/Edison RJX Shabbaton has been going on since 2007 and is a community tradition. It hopes to be back soon!
The Aberdeen Kollel
The Aberdeen Kollel has kicked off its second year as of the 6 Cheshvan. Housed at Young Israel of Aberdeen, Congregation Bet Tefilah, the Kollel is conducted by a cadre of eight distinguished Rabbis, who direct in-depth study sessions for the benefit of the community every week night after Maariv. On Thursday nights, the Kollel hosts a lecture on the weekly Torah portion and its connection with contemporary issues. Recent topics have included a three-part exploration of the origin and nature of the blue thread mentioned in the Torah and Jewish perspectives on abortion. The Kollel is anticipating another year of growth and learning. Classes are open for all to join and partner with rabbis. For more information please visit http://www.yiaberdeen.com/.
Highland Park Conservative Temple–Congregation Anshe Emeth (HPCT-CAE) Welcomes New Youth Engagment Coordinator, Phylicia Cook
Highland Park Conservative Temple—Congregation Anshe Emeth (HPCT-CAE) is pleased to welcome Youth Engagement Coordinator Phylicia Cook, who is creating new programs and opportunities for youth—from our youngest children to teens, and their families. Phylicia comes to HPCT-CAE from positions in Ohio and Florida. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University, she served as an Education Justice Fellow with Repair the World (Pittsburgh, PA) and holds a certificate in Jewish Education for Emerging Adults from Hebrew Union College.
Commenting on the new programs she has designed, Phylicia notes “our community is so diverse, and we wanted to create programs for affiliated and unaffiliated families, Jewish students in day schools, supplementary schools, and even no religious school at all. It’s all about building community, Jewish identity, and showing that Judaism is something fun and relevant to today.”
New programs designed for age groups from toddlers through kindergartners, include the children’s “significant others” – parents, grandparents.
Programs designed for older children from ages 7 to pre-B’nai Mitzvah, and for teens, respectively, engage students creatively in learning, including through lively discussion and much more.
Kadima and USY youth groups complement these programs with fun and engaging social activities for teens under the guidance of Youth Advisor Mikaela Zirin.
For more information, contact Phylicia Cook at YouthEng@hpct-cae.org or visit http://hpct-cae.org.
HPCT-CAE, led by Rabbi Eliot Malomet, is the only Conservative Synagogue in Highland Park, and has been a presence in the community since the late 1920s.
Chabad House Celebrates 44 Years at Rutgers University
Chabad House Jewish Student Center at Rutgers University and its ten affiliate Chabad Houses serving central and southern New Jersey will celebrate their 44th National Founders Anniversary Dinner on December 6. The event will pay tribute to the legacy of Mr. Edward Mosberg, with the dedication of The Edward & Cecile Mosberg Residence Hall by Brock Pierce, Chairman of the Brock Pierce Foundation; Hon. Israel Nitzan, Dep. Consul General-Israel; and Eitan Itzkowitz, Rutgers Chabad Alumnus.
The gala also celebrates the tenth year of operation of the Les Turchin Chabad House serving a population of seven thousand Jewish students at Rutgers University—the largest Jewish student body in the U.S. In addition, Brock Pierce will be honored for his global leadership and philanthropy.
Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, Director of Chabad House, will report on the past year’s outreach programs and activities, which were challenging but successful despite the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as its diversified work in the Rutgers and surrounding communities.
Participants at the dinner will receive a special coffee table “44th Anniversary Album” pictorially depicting the history of Chabad House from its first days in 1978, in a rented room at the Rutgers Student Center, to its location today as the largest Jewish Center on any public university campus in the world.
For more information please visit http://www.chabadnj.org/.
Learn what the future holds for Israel/NJ economic development and business relations
New Jersey and Israel have long-standing partnerships fostering economic, scientific, educational, and cultural ties; the State of Israel is one of New Jersey’s most important trading partners.
On the evening of Jan. 19, learn what the future holds for Israel/NJ economic development and business relations, including how Israel’s evolving regional relationships may open up new opportunities for Israel and its partners.
The event will feature a panel discussion moderated by Andrew Gross, Director of the New Jersey-Israel commission, and formerly with the Consulate General of Israel in NY.
It kicks off Israel@75 programming through Jewish Federation and multiple partners. DK Solutions of East Brunswick has signed on as a sponsor.
Watch the community calendar for details and registration. Jewishheartnj.org/events.
Student-Led Festivals Set Foundation for Hakhel Year on Campus
Hakhel celebrations began around the world with the onset of Sukkot, and Rutgers Chabad emissaries are engaging Jewish people of every age and background throughout New Jersey to participate. Hakhel means “assemble,” according to Jewish Virtual Library, which states, “The Bible enjoins that “At the end of every seven years (following the Shemittah year)… there is to take place an assembly of the whole people, “men, women, children, and the stranger that is within your gates.” In ancient times, Jews would stream to Jerusalem before the holiday of Sukkot to unite in the Holy Temple and hear the Torah read by the King of Israel. In modern times, celebrations of Jewish unity and pride are encouraged throughout the Hakhel year, especially in the Chabad tradition. Rabbi Baruch Goodman, Rutgers Chabad’s Campus Activities Director, reports over 2,000 students from every walk of life and level of observance, saying it is “the greatest number of college students in the nation,” participated this past month in a flurry of campus activities to observe and celebrate the new Jewish year and honor the Hakhel year.
Rabbi Carlebach, added, “We are incredibly proud of all our students, especially our student leaders… I never thought I would see 2,000 young people all celebrating their Jewish faith together at the Chabad House, which started so humbly in a converted firehouse 44 years ago.”
Rabbi Goodman recounts: “At a Simchat Torah event with over 600 students singing and dancing the night away with Torah Scrolls, a few students stood out, sticking together and dancing most enthusiastically—somewhat surprising for new students. I welcomed them and learned three of them had fled Ukraine when Russia invaded. They landed in Brooklyn, where they met the other two, who had heard Rutgers Chabad is the place to celebrate Simchat Torah. After all the dancing and celebration, one commented on the smiling faces and energy of Rutgers students. “We haven’t seen smiles in quite a while. It feels good to be here.” For more information please visit http://www.chabadnj.org/.