Remembering Mayor Frank Hall

On April 19, Frank Hall died. As a former mayor of Teaneck, he was a true friend of the Jewish community, although most people who remember his efforts on our behalf are no longer around. When Bnai Yeshurun was vandalized with a swastika in 1978, Mayor Hall publicly expressed his outrage at such a desecration. His words were “anyone who expresses hate towards my brother, expresses his hate to me also and this will not be tolerated.”

But he did much more. In the late 1970s, Teaneck was desperately trying to build a mikvah near the Bnai Yeshurun site but could neither get the land nor the Board of Adjustment approval it needed. As mayor, Frank Hall singlehandedly came up with the idea of using a township-owned parcel of land between Temple Emeth and the Bergenfield border, which was to be sold to the Jewish community for the express purpose of building a mikvah. His reasoning was — who was going to object? Certainly not Temple Emeth (which has graciously let mikvah patrons use its parking lot!).

I got to know him after I read that he served with the 3rd Marine Division in WWII and told him about my experiences with that unit in Vietnam as its Jewish chaplain. When the park alongside Windsor Road was dedicated in his honor, he asked me to give the invocation — an honor which I will never forget.

May his memory be a blessing.

Frank Breslau

No no Natalie

Among the questions I found myself asking after reading the two articles in the Jewish Standard on April 27 — “Et tu, Natalie?” by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and “Portman’s complaint” by Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, were “who and why?”

It was interesting to read the two different takes of the situation — Natalie Portman refusing to go to Israel to accept the Genesis Award. We read the quote in Rabbi Boteach’s article from Portman, saying, when the announcement of the award was made in 2017, “I am deeply touched and humbled by this honor. I am proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage; they are crucial parts of who I am … and I look forward to using the global platform it provides to make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond.” Then, just weeks before the award was to be given, we are informed, in a statement from her, “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing” and she refuses to go to Israel and be in the presence of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

According to Rabbi Kirshner, her refusal to accept the award is because “Portman is angry with Netanyahu’s decision to grant asylum to refugees seeking a haven in Israel.” “I [Rabbi Kirshner] came to this conclusion simply because this situation with refugees is the only significant event that has happened from the time the award was offered…”. Rabbi, I am surprised that I have to be the one to inform you that there has occurred very critical conditions along the border with Gaza. Hamas has organized thousands and thousands of Arabs to approach the area bordering with Israel to instigate a “return” to lands they left and to bring about the destruction of the State of Israel. They are using burning tires, Molotov cocktails, rocks, rifles, bombs and assaults on the fences to manifest their “peaceful protests.” Many in the international communities, government, and private have come out in condemnation of Israel’s attempts to protect her borders and citizens.

If Natalie Portman had come out with a more implicit statement, we wouldn’t have the problem I and many others have, figuring out what she meant. We are now told that she does not want to share the stage with the prime minister because this would be viewed as endorsing him. What would have stopped her from chastising him as part of her speech while he was present?

There are many who accuse her of a boycott of Israel, this writer included, who would like to know the answers to the two questions in my first sentence. Who are the ones (or one) who instigated her boycott and what is the reasoning behind it (why)?

Hopefully the Genesis Award organization has rescinded its award to her.

Howard J. Cohn
New Milford

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