We must work together to fight hate
I am mourning Leah Minda Ferencz, Moshe Deutsch, and all other victims of the horrific terrorist attack in Jersey City.
Make no mistake: they were targeted for being Jewish. Anti-Semitism is a cancer on the world, and it must be stamped out wherever it rears its ugly head. This poisonous hate can never and will never be accepted in our communities.
I have requested that Congress immediately increase funding to protect religious institutions from targeted acts of violence like this. I am devastated this security funding remains necessary, but we must act. The rise in religious persecution and domestic extremism can only be defeated by working together to identify people before they radicalize, and with comprehensive gun safety reform that washes our streets from the flood of guns. An attack on any person for their religion is an attack on every one of us.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress (NJ-Dist. 9)
Doing holy work every day
What more satisfying place to donate funds than to an organization that is doing, in the words of one of its employees, “avodat kodesh,” holy work, every day?
Through the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, my husband and I were privileged recently to donate to such an organization in Israel: Tebeka, Amharic for social justice. With its small staff of highly trained lawyers, Tebeka addresses the legal and social needs of Ethiopian Israelis who have no other place to turn. Tebeka works with individuals, communities, local police departments, and the Israeli government to address and ameliorate the conditions that serve to keep members of this population from achieving their full potential. From small, sparsely furnished offices in Rishon LeTzion, Rehovot, and two other cities, Tebeka serves Ethiopian-Israelis from all over Israel.
We came to know this law firm as an outgrowth of the Bernard and Rosalie Shawn donor-advised fund we set up with the federation in 2001 for the purpose of helping Ethiopians attend college. One of our scholarship recipients was a brilliant young man named Tomer Marsha, who chose to use his funding to study at IDC Herzliya after his IDF service. He graduated at the top of his class with a dual degree in law and business and soon passed the bar exam. We were thrilled that he was immediately hired at a top Tel Aviv law firm in the department of mergers and acquisitions, knowing that we had contributed to his success.
After he married and began a family, he told us that he had decided to leave his position because it was no longer satisfying to him. He wanted avodat kodesh—meaningful work that would help to improve his community and, by extension, his country. He took a position at Tebeka, where, as an attorney and mediator, he is the director of their legal division. He has argued cases in front of the Supreme Court and meets regularly with government officials.
It was with great pride and joy that we were able to contribute the balance of our federation fund to Tomer’s law firm. Our gift helped him; now he helps countless others.
It is said that teachers affect eternity. It is clear that federation donors do, as well.
Dr. Karen Shawn
Loretta Weinberg speaks about gun safety
On the Shabbat weekend immediately following the aftermath of the Jersey City massacres, on December 14, I attended a Sandy Hook vigil at Temple Israel and JCC in Ridgewood. The main speaker was Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who Governor Murphy appointed as as an ombudsman for New Jersey. She was introduced by Paul Aaronson, former mayor of Ridgewood, who spoke of her dedication and commitment to gun violence prevention and to other important issues that make our community safer and better.
Ms. Weinberg spoke from her heart about her long involvement with and love of politics, especially about the issue of gun violence, which unfortunately is still so prevalent. She was becoming less hopeful pursuing common sense legislation, she said, until the involvement of the Students Demand Action in Bergen County, led by high school student Laurence Fine. The group was a powerful force in signing up students for voter registration, protesting against gun violence, and advocating for sensible gun legislation. When she mentioned the Sandy Hook children’s names and ages, as she described what their last day at school was like, tears rolled from my eyes. I pictured their innocent faces as she read their names and some personal comments they shared with their teachers and parents. She also spoke of meeting some of the parents of the children when they came to Trenton to visit with the legislature. It was difficult to see their pain and listen to their stories of being unsuccessful in getting any new federal legislation passed, she said.
Senator Weinberg ended on a positive note, since she believes our younger generation will be a positive force in changing laws to create safer schools and communities. Hopefully we can see legislation on thorough background checks and restriction of sales of AK-15 rifles to everyday citizens. These should be reserved only for the military.
Do not assimilate — hold on to our glorious identity
I believe that the Jewish people have throughout our long history identified as a unified culture in opposition to and in conflict with powerful tyrannies. The result has been suspicion, hostility, isolation and abuse (anti-Semitism)! This animus has been conditioned into the collective psyche of the nations for four millennia. But this animosity (while stubbornly persistent and self reinforcing) has been tempered with respect and recognition for our strength.
Many Jews have tragically mistaken this as encouragement to assimilate into the host cultures. This has had the contradictory effect of pouring gasoline over glowing embers. I maintain that the only way to combat anti-Semitic hostility is to hold on to our glorious identity. We must find a way to provide a Torah true education for every Jewish child. While we gratefully contribute to our host cultures, we must always hold on to our ancient mission of opposing tyrannical injustice.
We must remember our ancient godly heritage and our awareness of who we ARE!
Consider adopting a pet
Thank you so much for “Adopt Don’t Shop” in last week’s Chanukah Gift Guide in the Jewish Standard. It is my mission to help anyone adopt dogs and cats (no charge, just trying to make a difference in the world), especially in the Jewish community. I am happy to speak with anyone about the mitzvah of fostering, adopting, or just becoming involved with the rescue world. Thank you so much for the reminder about this important topic! I am on the board of trustees at Ramapo Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc., but I also help adopt from many other reputable rescues.