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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

Israeli Company Converts Natural Gas to Car and Jet Fuel

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Primus Green Energy, a subsidiary of Israel Corporation inaugurated a new plant in Hillsborough, New Jersey that converts natural gas into gasoline.

The experimental plant can generate 100,000 gallons of gas a year. Primus says their price for gas is competitive.

Primus says the plant is able to produce various grades of gas, including home, car and jet fuel.

NJ Sen. Menendez: Iran, Hezbollah ‘Could Possibly’ Attack Israel

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez told CBS Tuesday morning that Iran and Hezbollah “could possibly” strike Israel if the United States attacks the Assad regime although  Syria is full of “ bluster.

The Senator, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said on the “This Morning” program, “The Iranians and Hezbollah … ultimately could possibly strike against neighbors in the region, including our ally, the state of Israel” but that the price of inaction could be a lot higher.

“It sends a message to those very same countries — the Ayatollah in Iran. … It sends a message to North Korea about our determination to stop them from continuing to make the Korean peninsula a nuclear peninsula,” he said. “It sends a message to terrorist groups: Seek access to chemical weapons because the world will largely stand by when you use them. I think those are ultimately national security questions we cannot have come to fruition as a result of inaction.”

Tossing a Jewish Lasso over Wyoming’s Wild West

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

By Carin M. Smilk

Summer is winding down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a short season, weather-wise, but it’s also a season that brings in tourists, lots of them, who come for the mountains and national parks, the outdoor sports and the wide open spaces. They come to make good on the state slogan: “Like No Place on Earth.”

Not long after they leave, winter beckons a slew of other travelers, those lured to the skiing and snow activities. It’s another bustling time; the two seasons bring in about 4 million visitors a year.

And about 1 percent of them—an estimated 40,000 people—are Jewish.

That helps make life busy for Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn, co-director of Chabad Jewish Center of Wyoming with his wife, Raizy. Not that it’s so quiet the rest of the year. The couple, based in the town of Jackson—in western Wyoming near the border of Idaho, almost completely surrounded by mountains and in the well-known valley of Jackson Hole—serves the roughly 500 permanent Jewish residents there, out of a general population of nearly 10,000. It’s an interesting mix, says the rabbi, of singles, couples, families, retirees, tourists and those with second homes in the area.

“We have a very small community,” acknowledges Mendelsohn, “but we offer quality services—substantive services. We’re reaching out to individual Jews in a very personal, warm, inviting way.”

Since their official 2008 move to Jackson, they have started all kinds of programs. There’s the annual Jackson Hole Jewish Music Festival, which brings in bands and performers from all over, coupled with Camp Gan Israel, a Jewish women’s circle, a “Mommy & Me” class, Torah study, lectures, “Coffee & Kabbalah,” and Shabbat and Jewish holiday dinners and services. Currently, they rent space for High Holiday services but are looking for a place to buy.

 

Also on tap are lecture series, including one to take place this weekend, Aug. 16-17. The Shabbaton will include services and a Friday-night dinner, then Saturday-morning services and a three-course lunch, with lectures both days by guest speaker David N. Weiss. A Hollywood film writer with several blockbusters to his credit, Weiss has traversed religiously from being a secular Jew to a Christian youth worker, and now follows a life of observant Judaism.

“His story is very compelling,” says Mendelsohn. “He never really had the opportunity to study Judaism in-depth. It shows that you can always start fresh and new, even if you’re very famous or a celebrity. You can always rediscover your roots.”

The series has attracted 50 to 60 people on average, and the rabbi expects a similar turnout for Weiss.

‘Very Much at Home’

 Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

So how has life changed for a couple raised in completely different living environments? The rabbi, in his early 30s, hails from Miami, Fla., and Raizy, in her late 20s, grew up in Israel. What’s it like to live in the least populated state in the nation?

“We felt very much at home right away,” says the rabbi. “People are warm and welcoming; there’sthe renowned Western hospitality. It’s a cowboy town, it’s the Wild West, but people also have a more spiritual character here. And our goal is to introduce a Yiddishkeit element to it.”

That sense of spirituality could have something to do with the physical backdrop. Jackson is a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton Mountains. The rabbi talks of the everyday appearance of bison, moose, deer, wolves and bears. “There’s wildlife in the streets,” he says, pausing to add that he just saw a herd of elk run up the side of a nearby mountain.

He also notes the atmosphere—both scenically and spiritually—is good for the couple’s four young children. After all, for kids in such a place, aside from their home-schooling time, “life is surrounded by G-d’s great outdoors.”

Of course, it’s not all vales and wild flowers. There’s no kosher food, no Jewish schools, no other Orthodox presence and no mikvah. The closest mikvahs are in Bozeman, Mont., and Salt Lake City, Utah—both a five-hour drive or one-hour flight away.

“Still,” says Mendelsohn, “we have a wonderful community, and we are honored to also accommodate visitors who come through. I travel around the state quarterly visiting Jewish people. We’ve put up about 60 mezuzahs in the last three years all over the state. One by one, we’re connecting Jews with their heritage.”

“That’s the story of Wyoming. We may be one of the most remote Jewish communities in the country, but I want people to know that Yiddishkeit is alive and well and thriving in Jackson Hole.”

Laura Goldstein, 34, can attest to that. Originally from New Jersey, she now lives in Victor, Idaho, which borders Wyoming and is about a 45-minute drive from Jackson. She and her husband Howard, a wildlife biologist, came to live out West in 2009, and she says the rabbi was one of the first people they met.

“We were looking for a way to connect with other Jewish people, and we knew Chabad would be a good way to do that,” says Goldstein, an administrative assistant. “They invited us over for Shabbat dinner, and it was lovely. They were so gracious. They make you want to be part of the community.

“And every opportunity they have of doing a mitzvah, they do. It’s incredible.”

She’s also seen Chabad grow as an organization. At Rosh Hashanah, there used to be three men, not even a minyan; now there may be 14. And Shabbat dinners in the summer can draw 40 to 50 people. She even mentions that just this year, she met a Jewish woman from New York who runs a clothing store/jewelry shop in Victor.

Learning by Example

Most of all, Goldstein says she and her husband have modeled their Shabbat observance at home on the Mendelsohns’ example. “Knowing them has been a huge part in that direction. We feel that we’re better Jewish people out here. It probably wouldn’t have been as big a part of our identity” back East.

She adds that Raizy has shown her how to make challah, light Shabbat candles and recite the Havdalah prayers.

“It’s great to see how they bring in what they need,” says Goldstein. “These people are making it work; they’re doing it.” So she figures she can, too.

“Rabbi Zalman,” as Josh Beck and other local residents call him, “is involved in everything. He’s an amazing man.”

“And he’s one of my closest friends here.”

Beck, 41, an orthopedic surgeon from New Jersey, has been living in Wyoming for seven years. He says he considers himself a very big supporter and very active with Chabad there.

He attends Shabbat dinners (the true reason, he says, is because of “Raizy’s fantastic cooking”) and various programs, but admits to preferring “the off-season, when there’s a handful of locals.”

He says that he, his wife and 3-year-old daughter “love living out here.” Beck hunts and fishes and skis; in fact, he notes, he found his job there while on a ski vacation.

A Spiritual Change of Scenery

Cross-country skiing also appeals to Stephen and Linda Melcer from Boca Raton, Fla., who have rented a house in Jackson the last two winters and intend to come again this year.

“It’s a nice change of scenery, of climate,” says Stephen Melcer, a 61-year-old lawyer. “It’s also a nice change religiously and a change in diversity.”

The couple belongs to Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox shul. “Whenever we travel, we look for a place to be for Shabbos, and a good place to start looking is Chabad. We’ve noticed here that a lot of people attending are travelers, and a larger percentage of people are not observant.”

Melcer says he appreciates “going into an environment where a rabbi is focused on the less observant.”

“They are very warm,” he says of the Mendelsohns. “I think they enjoy the challenge of it. And they certainly have a lot of challenges. The incredible thing is that challenges never cross their minds.”

Ken Begelman is glad that’s the case. He and his wife, Helen, helped the Mendelsohns come to town.

Twelve years ago, the Begelmans moved to Teton County, about 8 miles outside Jackson, from Palm Beach County, Fla. When they arrived, they wanted a shul—a congregation of some type. Begelman says he was familiar with Chabad rabbinical students coming to Wyoming temporarily (they have for decades, as part of the “Roving Rabbis” program), and got in touch with people in Brooklyn to work to make it happen permanently.

“He’s a very outgoing guy, very inclusive; he gets along with everybody,” says Begelman, a 66-year-old retired cardiac surgeon, of Mendelsohn.

He notes that there’s a large number of 20-year-olds who come to work during ski season or in the summer who have never had any religious affiliation or education, and “the rabbi has turned a lot of these kids around.”

As for Wyoming, the former Floridian insists that “it’s wonderful here. It’s what America should be. Everybody respects everybody else. You don’t have to lock your house or your car. There’s no crime.”

Sure, the winter temperatures can fall to 20 below and the snow can average 38 feet a year in the mountainous regions, but residents insist that it’s an invigorating experience.

In regards to future expansion, Begelman says that if “one new Jewish family a year comes permanently, that would be a lot.” Population growth is indeed slow; Begelman has seen signs in the state that note there are 10 horses for every one person residing there.

As far as the rabbi and his family go, “I’m very happy that they’ve fit in well in the community and that they like it here. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

Agudath Israel slams NJ Gay Therapy Law

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Agudath Israel of America condemned a New Jersey law prohibiting gay reparative therapy for minors as an infringement on religious freedom.

The statement from Agudah came just hours after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill barring licensed therapists from providing treatment to help gay teenagers become straight.

“The new law tramples on the rights of mental health therapists to engage freely in their profession, and it unfairly denies teenagers seeking therapy for issues that are troubling them the ability to obtain professional help,” the group said.

“Under the new law, therapists, social workers or counselors who work with minors on these issues risk losing their licenses to practice their professions, and minors who sincerely want to obtain professional help will have nowhere to turn. This is an unconscionable infringement on personal liberty and a trampling of personal rights, including religious and free speech rights.”

New Jersey joins California as the only states with laws barring so-called reparative therapy. The New Jersey bill passed both houses of the state Legislature in June with bipartisan support.

In signing the bill into law, Christie, a moderate Republican who is widely believed to be eyeing a presidential run in 2016, appended a note indicating his reluctance to intrude on parents’ ability to determine the right treatment for their children.

“However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children, we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,” Christie wrote. “The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”

Cory Booker, NJ Torah-Versed Black Christian, on Way to Senate

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is leading the Democratic primary polls and if he wins, he is a shoo-in for a general election victory to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate.

Already touted as possible presidential candidate in the future, Booker’s interest in Jewish studies began approximately 20 years ago when he met a Chabad rabbi. A “chavrutah” Torah study partner is – who else? – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

The Wall Street Journal noted Monday that his wide contacts with Jewish sources have helped him fill his campaign chest, even though Lautenberg’s family is far from thrilled with his candidacy and have endorsed one of his opponents, Rep. Frank Pallone.

Booker, a black Christian, usually appears at a Passover Seder, and he is so interested in Israel that he once took his parents to visit the Jewish state.

His knowledge of Judaism “could put many of us to shame,” New Jersey philanthropist and Jewish Federation leader Lori Klinghoffer told the Journal.

Booker has been in politics since a young age, after having grown up in a predominantly white upper-class borough of Bergen County. His parents were among the first black executives at IBM.

After earning a law degree at Yale, he moved to Newark to become a tenants’ rights attorney when he was  only 27. He quickly moved into politics and was elected to the city council in 1998. Booker narrowly lost his seat in 2002 but regained in four years later and then became mayor.

ADL: Anti-Semitism Up in NY and NJ but Down Nationwide

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

The number of anti-Semitic incidents dropped 14 percent nationwide last year, but vandalism rose, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents that was released Monday. New York and New Jersey saw increases in anti-Semitic incidents.

Nationwide, the audit counted 927 anti-Semitic incidents reported during the 2012 calendar year, a 14 percent decline from the 1,080 incidents in 2011.

The 2012 figures included 17 physical assaults, 470 cases of harassment, threats and events, and 440 instances of vandalism.

The vandalism figure represented a 33 percent increase over the 330 incidents in 2011. While a majority of the vandalism took place on public property or individual homes, Jewish institutions were targeted in 13 percent of the incidents.

The ADL recorded 248 anti-Semitic incidents in New York in 2012, representing a 27 percent increase from the 195 incidents in 2011. New York City’s five boroughs had a total of 172 anti-Jewish acts, including incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism, compared to 127 in 2011.

“While the great majority of Jewish New Yorkers feel comfortable and safe in their respective communities, it is nevertheless disturbing that we saw almost a 30 percent uptick in the total number of anti-Semitic incidents across the state,” said Etzion Neuer, ADL’s acting New York regional director. “

The number of incidents dropped in other states with large Jewish population. California documented 185 incidents, down from 235; Florida reported 88 incidents, down from 111; Massachusetts logged 38 incidents, down from 72; and Pennsylvania recorded 37 incidents, down from 38.

New Jersey Yeshiva Student Now an Israeli Fighter Pilot

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Notice to readers: Israeli Air Force security severely restricts private information on pilots, whose identity could be exploited by enemies. Lt. B says that many readers who know him will understand from this article that he is the subject. Both Lt. B. and the IDF request that all readers will respect Israel’s need for strict security and will not use the Internet for any communication concerning Lt. B.

 

“Lt. B.” of New Jersey has become one of a few but growing number of religious Jews to pilot Israel’s fighter jets, and he is one of a tiny number of American religious immigrants to do so.

“I had a childhood dream to be a pilot,” says Lt. B., whose name and home town cannot be revealed for security reasons.

In a special interview with the Jewish Press that was arranged through IDF spokesmen under security supervision, he spoke about his unintended venture into the Israeli Air Force. Lt. B. spoke with the Jewish Press on the Fourth of July and said, “Independence Day was a holiday for me when I was in America, but Yom Ha’Atzamaut now is my Independence Day.”

He graduated from a religious high school in New Jersey, and with the support of his father and Israeli-born mother, Lt. B. packed up his bags at the age of 17 for the common “spend a year in Israel” idea before planning to go back to the United States to attend university.

Lt. B. chose a Golan Heights “mechina,” the Hebrew word for a pre-army Torah learning academy, even though he had no intention of serving in the IDF.

He already had made some applications to universities when he was learning in Israel. He was not keen on going into the army until his experience at the mechina “brought out my love for Israel and ambition to do something more special than regular university studies,” the new pilot relates.

Lt. B.rejected the idea of joining the “Machal” program for foreign youth who want to serve for a couple of years before going back home. “I decided to join the army but not to make aliyah,” keeping his eye on university, he admits.

Once he went through the induction tests, the army saw that he was fit both physically and mentally to be a candidate for the Air Force program, in which only one percent of the candidates for pilots’ course eventually end up with their wings.

“I always had a dream about being a pilot,” relates Lt. B. “The Air Force liked my test results. That is when I decided to make aliyah. I told myself, ‘I have a dream and will try to fulfill  it.’ I was 18 and fit. If it had not worked out, I probably would have served 2-3 years and gone back to the States.”

But it did work out.

Lt. B. had a bit of family history to fall back on. “My mother served in the Air Force for five years,” he reveals. “I was not expecting to finish the course because it is difficult, but I did not look that far ahead. You don’t even know what is happening next week.

“My agenda was to take every day and every hour at a time and give 110 percent, finishing the day and knowing that I did what I could, and no less.”

At the age of 22 – yes, girls, he still is single –  Lt. B. was one of several pilots to get their wings last month. His parents were there for the ceremony but did not arrive from the United States. They already had followed Lt. B. to Israel, making aliyah with all of their children and now living in “central Israel,” which is the most specific location that can be published.

The intense pilots’ program is three years, including three semesters of nine courses leading to a Bachelors of Science degree.

Lt. B. is obligated to serve in the Air Force for another nine years.

In training, he flew a Skyhawk fighter jet and his daily routine, after morning prayers and breakfast, is to hop into his plane and fly – every day, except for Shabbat

Lt. B. says that approximately 3-5 percent of Israeli pilots are religious, a sharp increase when compared with 30  years ago when a religious Air Force pilot was a  rarity.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/new-jersey-yeshiva-student-now-an-israeli-fighter-pilot/2013/07/08/

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