Thank you, Mr. Burstein

Thank you for your wonderful and warm tribute, “Remembering Albert Burstein” (editorial, January 11).

Our own connection to Mr. Burstein was back in 2002. My husband had just been awarded his first patent and we really needed advice about starting a business. (Before that, we were just asking acquaintances for advice, most of whom were very kind and supportive, while others were, let’s just say, painfully, unhelpful.)

When we met with Mr. Burstein, he described our options. He was a teacher, without being pedantic, and he was caring and compassionate. He helped us register as an L.L.C.

We were impressed by his gentle kindheartedness, of course his brilliance, and the confidence he had in us. As his clients, we were awed by the depth of his consideration for us and by his sage advice.

We recognized that we were in the presence of a very intelligent and skilled lawyer and knew he had a long and exemplary career in Trenton, but it was his kindness and interest in us that we like to remember. He knew we were unschooled in business matters and helped us understand what we needed to understand. He was there to elevate his clients rather than stand on the pedestal he actually deserved.

We will miss you very much, Mr. Burstein.

Linda and Stanley Rutta

Let’s work together

I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, where the Jewish community was small, but in spite of its size it was strong and solid. We took care of one another. Each person’s individual success was our success, and their concerns were our concerns. We had our differences, but underneath it all we were really one.

It’s with this backdrop in mind that I am so surprised when one Jewish organization in our Jewish community tries to compete with another Jewish organization for participants within the same exact demographic and geographic area for almost identical programs. To that point, I am struggling to understand why the JCC of Northern New Jersey has decided to reopen a competing early childhood center within the same Pascack Valley community as that of the existing early childhood program at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley.

Approximately 3 1/2 years ago the early childhood program at the YJCC in Washington Township shut its doors abruptly, just a couple of weeks before the September school opening. That left its parents, students, and teachers stranded. Almost all the nearby schools were full, and the parents were frantic. Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley did what had to be done by one Jewish organization for another. Temple Emanuel hired many of those same teachers, offering continuity and familiar faces for the displaced children and parents. Temple Emanuel also absorbed those students within their program by creating new classes and classrooms. It was a very difficult task to complete within just a few weeks.

But it was the right Jewish thing to do.

The parents had already paid deposits of up to half the tuition (totaling over $250,000) to the YJCC of Bergen County (rebranded as the JCC of Northern New Jersey). This money was not paid back to the families. Temple Emanuel forgave the parents that school deposit money and only collected the balance of the yearly tuition monies that were due. This was a tremendous financial risk for Temple Emanuel.

But again, it was the right Jewish thing to do.

Imagine my surprise when I read a long article in the Jewish Standard saying that the JCC of Northern New Jersey is opening a new school, in the same location as before, but now owned by the Bethany Church (“Early childhood center poised to reopen,” Dec. 27, 2018). I was told that the JCC of Northern New Jersey solicited “their” teachers who are now working for Temple Emanuel ,and tried to get them to switch to the JCC.

And a second surprise this week…the JCC is offering grants toward the tuition for the first students who apply to their program. It is hard for any early childhood program to compete against that sort of financial assistance.

Is the Jewish world in northern New Jersey just about business, no matter what the cost to the Jewish organizations around you, and not about loving kindness towards those who helped you out in your time of need? Why try to fracture another Jewish organization? What happened to Jewish ideals?

My suggestion is that the JCC of Northern New Jersey should stick to programs that build the community up and not try to take sister organizations down. I want to ask the JCC of Northern New Jersey — an organization that I supported for many years as a member, from its inception in Bergen County until the end — and any local organizations supporting their endeavor “What in the world are you thinking? What kind of an example are you setting for our ONE community? Are these the Jewish values you will be teaching the children?”

Simone Wilker
Township of Washington

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