Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Last week was perhaps one of the busiest, most packed weeks I have ever experienced as the publisher of The Jewish Link, and now that I have begun to recover from it, I just had to write about it and share it with our readership.

The week kicked off with the standing-room-only, jam-packed Renewal melava malka and seudat hoda’ah for Rabbi Yosef Adler at Teaneck’s Keter Torah, which also honored the 12 local kidney donors (many of whom we have written about and featured extensively in The Jewish Link). The highlights of the evening were the emotional and moving speeches by Rabbi J.J. Schacter and Rabbi Adler, as well as the arranged first-ever meeting between a Renewal kidney donor and recipient. How could one not be touched and affected by seeing them cry and meet each other for the first time?

In addition, approximately 100 people signed up at the event to be swabbed and tested as potential kidney donors, and at least one of the people who signed up at the event may be a potential match. Wow! From that event alone, another person’s life may be saved, if not multiple lives—as future matches may still occur! It’s hard to beat that kind of return.

For me, the success of Renewal’s event was both personal and professional, as I felt a sense of pride, and ownership even, as I recalled that their efforts and outreach into our community largely began with a phone call in late 2014 from my old friend Benji Hain, asking about how we at The Jewish Link could help him and his family find a kidney donor for his brother Donny and help Renewal make inroads into our community. At the time, few in our community had ever heard of Renewal. With God’s help, over the past three years and culminating at this event, Renewal is now on the map in a big way in our community, and I am happy that The Jewish Link has a small chelek (share) in this.

On Sunday morning, I got on a plane to Los Angeles to participate in the American Jewish Press Association’s (AJPA) annual conference, which takes place on the sidelines of the larger General Assembly (GA), the annual gathering of all of North America’s Jewish Federations. Over three days I bounced back and forth between the GA and the AJPA conferences and heard Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speak, shmoozed with Natan Sharansky in the hallways, listened to other Jewish media members share their best practices or complain about the challenges of declining Jewish identity and lower readership numbers among the broader and mostly secular Jewish communities they are serving.

Although I have gone before to both the GA and AJPA, I am always struck by how different the Orthodox community’s foremost concerns and issues are from the concerns of our Conservative, Reform and secular brethren. The main topic that everyone at the GA was talking about was the Kotel deal and the Netanyahu government’s cancellation of it and how this may affect the Diaspora Jewish communities’ relationship with the State of Israel. I feel very confident in saying that this is not very high on the Orthodox community’s list of issues and gripes with the State of Israel, and barely even rates in the top 25.

Rather, our community’s connections to the State of Israel are deeply personal as almost everyone I know has close family and/or friends living there; we dream of visiting there once or twice a year if we can; and we are sending our children there for yeshiva and seminary, many of whom are staying to live there as well. We in the Orthodox community are simply not that exercised by the Israeli government decision to maintain the status quo at the Kotel...it’s just not a hot-button topic for us, I feel.

Perhaps most impressive to me this year was that the most important person at the GA was Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America), who is proudly Orthodox and a resident of Teaneck. I had the pleasure of davening with Jerry at minyanim there and I have promised him that we need to do a sit-down profile piece on him in The Jewish Link in short order...and I am sorry we haven’t gotten this chance yet.

On Tuesday night, I boarded a late red-eye flight and landed back in Newark early Wednesday morning. After working for a few hours on our deadline day, I drove over to one of my favorite annual events: Kosherfest. My editors and I like to grouse and joke about the fact that we write about Kosherfest for weeks and weeks after it occurs as there is so much to write about it, but it’s not really a complaint or a negative at all—it’s the truth. You will see articles and pictures all over this week’s paper and next week about this unique kosher industry event.

As I am not a recognized foodie, chef, caterer, food blogger, food vlogger or even an aspiring foodie (although I am a committed food consumer), I enjoy Kosherfest for many reasons. On the business side, it’s a critical event to be at as so many of our current, past and prospective advertisers are there; these are the only days of the year that so many are in one location. And it’s not just our food-related advertisers who are there at Kosherfest; walking around the aisles and exhibits, I run into so many other contacts and advertisers who run Pesach programs or are part of all manner of services to the Orthodox business community. I also have the chance to network a bit with my colleagues from other Jewish papers and media companies. Of course, the fact that there is so much food available to taste and sample only makes it more pleasant. It’s not a day for diets, that’s for sure.

After Kosherfest ended, I ran back to the office in a state of near collapse and exhaustion (having only slept a total of six to eight hours since Sunday night), and for the first time ever I fell asleep at my desk for an hour in a sitting position. Not good. Even so, with the brief rest and the help of our production editor, we were able to finish last week’s papers on time.

After resting up a bit on Shabbat, the week ended up back in Keter Torah for another special event, the NJ Yachad Gala Melava Malka celebration, where so many people turned out again from all over northern New Jersey to support Yachad and pay tribute to the honorees. We enjoyed each of the honoree videos and the evening’s entertainment, and all in all, Yachad did a wonderful job with the program. A bonus for my wife and me was seeing so many nice pictures and video images of our son who is a Yachad member and attends a number of Yachad’s programs. Our son even made a short guest appearance at the event, as his Yachad adviser brought him to us on his way home from the annual RPRY Yachad shabbaton in Edison/Highland Park. He was quite happy to see the Yachad staff and his friends there.

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough space and time to write about my attending the Chabad Kinus Shluchim last Sunday night. What an experience that was! That will be for next week. All in all, it was a special, intense week. May there be more such weeks in the future...but with a bit more spacing and down-time, please.

 By Moshe Kinderlehrer, Co-Publisher, The Jewish Link of New Jersey