Assemblyman approves of eruv

The eruv has a significant and important role in the Orthodox Jewish community on the Sabbath and is often invisible to the eye. An eruv allows this community of faith to walk with a stroller to carry a young family to synagogue and handle similar tasks which would otherwise not be permitted on the Sabbath. We know that with an eruv, those who observe will have an increased quality of life in New Jersey.

During my time as a councilman-at-large in the City of Englewood, we took action; we supported the expansion of the eruv to embrace the majority of the city. Our governing body acted to keep our community inclusive, diverse, and accepting of who we are and how we pray.

The recent opposition to the construction of an eruv in Mahwah is troubling. Our great country, at a foundational level, was created to allow for religious freedoms. These liberties are enshrined in the Bill of Rights and these freedoms are a cornerstone of our Constitution. We should not allow a municipal ordinance to veil anti-Semitism and be used as a tool against a community of faith.

Gordon M. Johnson
Assemblyman, District 37

The scene at court

I, along with hundreds of Jews, was present on Friday morning July 28 to support the Bergen County prosecutor. I received at least a dozen emails from various organizations, as did thousands of other Jews in Bergen County.

I had no doubt that many of us would be there in support, but I had no idea just how many of the community would show up until I arrived on the fourth floor of the Hackensack Court House. The courtroom was full, no standing allowed, and so the overflow was in the hallway.

The county court system tried to accommodate as many of us as possible by changing courtrooms, but alas there is no one court room that could accommodate us all — at least 600 Jews.

As they shuffled us back and forth through the halls and finally decided upon the best room, we Jews were orderly. No raised voices in protest. No one was disturbed about the indecisiveness of the moment.

Instead what I witnessed was truly a spiritual experience. The people who gathered wore black hats, black kippas, kippa sruga, no kippa. Men in suits, some in jeans, even shorts. Woman who covered their hair or not. Women in long skirts, jeans, or shorts. Even men with peis.

The Jewish people who gathered that morning were one. We were there with one purpose in mind, to support one another and the entirety of the Jewish people. True achdus (unity) at a most propitious time, during the first nine days of the month of Av. A time when the sages urge us to be particularly careful with our words and actions.

Even though I did not sit in the courtroom, this was truly an uplifting experience.

May we bless one another to continue to gather as one nation, for all purposes. Am Yisrael chai.

Varda Hager

Stigma in the Jewish community

It came to my attention long ago how very large the stigma was in the Jewish community toward mental illness, and how seriously deep these feelings ran. Maybe it is because our people are very conscious of how things look to others and how each person and his or her family fit into the community as a whole. There is, of course, the overrated need for very high academic standards for our children, to the point of excluding those without such abilities. The Jewish people have always valued education, but no one should only value his children on the way they perform scholastically or push them to an end they cannot achieve.. Then there is the marriage issue…… of how our children will find someone suitable if conceivably there is too much grief or depression or otherwise, mental illness in the larger family. This could continue endlessly, including the many things that Jews are respected and/or despised for. The stigma of mental illness is a hard one to bring down. We are dealing with a world of confused and confusing sexuality, and yet, for the most part it is open and discussed. Not illnesses of the soul.

The main point is that one out of four people suffers from some sort of mental illness. It is a physical illness, not really a mental one, in that it affects the neurology and biology of the brain — as do many other illnesses that may or not cause bodily symptoms. Yet mental illness is feared and stigmatized, while all sorts of physical symptomology are accepted.

I included grief. Grief is also not a standard condition. We all grieve differently and for different periods of time.

Some people lose a spouse or a child and forever grieve. Others come to terms with it more quickly. Depression is a similar emotion. It pulls us down with an enormous force, so that we cannot love our lives or ourselves We cease to function. With depression sometimes comes a respite, as with grief, but they are both conditions that people must deal with over a long period and without much understanding from friends and family. People are uncomfortable with those who are downhearted and saddened by their lives. Even our nearest and dearest don’t find the patience to see it through. The words “snap out of it” should be banned from the vocabulary.

I fear that the Jews, who are so concerned, allegedly, over the humanism of their lives and acts, cannot find it within their hearts to openly speak of and include those who are not so fortunate. Those who have problems themselves, or within their families, with mental illness and of grief. I find it unbearable that sometimes when speaking of someone who has such issues, I am not even heard. Or I am heard but not listened to.

If we wish to be the noble people that we think we are, first and foremost we must rid our community of the many stigmas that pull us down into ignorance. We must tolerate those who are not blessed with joyous characters. We must tolerate and embrace those who are on a different emotional level, on a different educational level, and those who cannot part so easily with the death of a loved one, or the loss of people in their lives. We pride ourselves as Jews so much, on our humanity to man, on our compassion and intelligence….

But we fall very short in the area of not trying to understand that not all deal with “simple” matters of health. We deal with huge pain of the heart and soul as well.

Sandra Steuer Cohen

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