To the Editor:
Regarding “Reclaiming Modern Orthodoxy” (JLBC 8/14/2014).
When I came to this country, some 25 years ago, I tried to understand the trends, groups and institutions around and their interrelations. At a certain point I was describing the Orthodox behavior using the following metaphor: “If an Orthodox Rabbi would ever ordain an Orthodox woman, standing on an Orthodox ground, then Orthodoxy would withdraw that ground and would never RECLAIM it!”
Little did I know at the time how literal would that metaphor materialize. But as we can clearly see, the mainstream of Modern Orthodoxy is in the active process of withdrawing from YCT and when this process would finalize, I can guarantee that YCT would never be reclaimed by Orthodoxy, the same as the JTS has never been reclaimed.
I am not a rabbi, just a layman, and my opinion does not hold any halachic weight, but I am a student of history and I can see trends and how they repeat themselves. And yes, I am of the school that believe that history repeats itself and wow to those who ignore the lessons of history.
Ze’ev Atlas Teaneck
To the Editor:
Two weeks ago I brought to your attention the fact that fall programming at the Rodda Center was being suspended until after the outcome of the town council meeting on Aug 12.
There seems to have been some conflict between statements made by the town manager and members of the town council and the rec center management, some “he said/she said” which I tried to resolve by several emails to town council members and the rec center management and I never really got clarity on the issue. Although in your article, the main issue was senior programming, I can tell you that there was a huge outcry over the possible loss of youth programming, as well as teen and adult. There were painful cuts proposed to the library, too, among other quality of life issues.
The only reason the majority of attendees at the town council meeting were seniors is that they showed up early and got seats. Scores of parents of youth participants, as well as adult participants (my daughter loves her Zumba with Miss Ginny and I love my pottery with Michael!) were turned away at the start of the meeting due to lack of space, me being one of them. I went home and watched the meeting on local cable TV and sat through lots of boring numbers, figures and charts as described in your article. All our successful tax appeals seem to have cut a huge hole in the budget.
The end result regarding the Rodda Center programming is that there was a $121,000 rec center budget gap, somehow the town council figured out a way to fill it or make it go away, so the programming was not cut and we all lived happily ever after.
However, during the week or so when we all thought we would lose the programming, I came up with some ideas which I presented to the town council. Since we escaped this time, they said no thanks for now, but I advised them to keep these ideas in mind for the future so we don’t end up here again.
Here are my ideas, based on the assumption that A. Not all classes are filling up as needed to cover expenses. B. Even at capacity, minimal coverage of expenses is not being met. C. There is a need for subsidy. This is how I presented them to our town council in two emails – #1-7 the week before the meeting, and point #8 during the town council meeting when I did some simple math:
“1. Open up the kids programming to other surrounding towns, for a higher price, after a sign-up grace period for township residents. This will fill every class to capacity, based on the lamenting I hear from my friends in Bergenfield who would love to sign their kids up for our Zumba, art, hiphop, Karate and more. They are supremely jealous. We have state of the art affordable programming and no class should ever be less than full.
“2. Overbook by a couple of kids. Someone is always absent, there will always be room.
“3. Raise the price, just a bit. It’s super affordable now, adding another $5- 10 here and there won’t hurt. We’d much rather pay a little more than lose it altogether. It will still be far more affordable than private alternatives.
“4. Do online sign-up. Believe it or not, some parents never get around to going in and signing up and that’s why their kids don’t go. Trust me. I know this. Online sign-up will increase registration. If you must, tell parents that the first time they sign up, it must be in person to show documentation and after that, they’re in the system and can sign up online. If you must, make a 3-5 day grace period of mail and in-person only registration before the online registration goes live if you think there are actually people in Teaneck who are not internet-savvy enough to sign up online...(maybe seniors, but doubtful any parents of kids around here...)
“5. Make sure your schedule jives with yeshiva kids’ schedule whenever possible. Our kids get home rather late (in two shifts depending on age) and that locks us out of a great deal of programming. Sometimes making it 15-30 minutes later would be enough to get our kids off the bus and over to the center on time for a class, otherwise we don’t sign up. Public school kids can still sign up if it’s later but yeshiva kids can’t if it’s earlier.
“6. Look for local business corporate sponsorship to subsidize the program. They may want free advertising, ok, so what?
“7. Use social media!! The existing website is lovely but old fashioned and gives information in a perfunctory way. Get a Facebook page and/or website that has all the programming stuff and schedule on it in a family friendly, user-friendly format. You will get more traffic, more interest and fill up those classes. We need the schedule online, not only in the booklet.
“You also need to jazz up the online presence. That probably won’t cost much and will be well worth it, especially if there’s online registration. Time to take us to the 21st century...who even mails checks anymore?
“8. Charge an annual rec center family membership fee of about $36 in addition to per-class fee (higher for non-residents). If about 3,500 families join (about 25% of the households in Teaneck), you more than cover the $121,000 budget gap we had this year. Again, I know I would rather pay that than lose programming altogether—and it will still be affordable.
Some of the council members thanked me for my input and said they will take my suggestions into consideration for the next budget. Message to your readers: If you live in Teaneck and have not yet checked out the amazing programming offered, please do – you might be pleasantly surprised at the quality, quantity and affordability. And if you like it, please be a vocal supporter and let the powers that be know that this a quality of life issue that we do not take for granted, our taxes are being put to good use here and we are motivated to secure its future.
L’via Weisinger Teaneck
To the Editor:
(JLBC ran an article last week that described the Museum of Polish Jewish History which opens its Core Exhibition next month. We emailed the designer of that exhibit, Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett about how the Museum will depict the history of Orthodox Jewry.)
Today’s modern Orthodox Judaism was indeed largely shaped within the 1000-year history of Polish Jews and that story will come through clearly in the Core Exhibition of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews from the medieval period to the present.
To mention just a few examples: In the galleries dealing with the period 1569- 1772, we feature Rabbi Moses Isserles (REMU), his Shulhan Arukh, which, with his mappah adapting Karo’s Sephardic text to the customs of Poland, has become the Code of Jewish Law for modern Orthodox Jews.
This period marks the rise of rabbinical authority in Poland and shift of the centre of the Ashkenazi world to this territory. The rise of Hebrew (and Yiddish) printing and communal autonomy contributed to this development. We feature the Vilna Gaon and development of the modern yeshiva, with special attention to Volozhin, and the Ba’al Shem Tov and rapid expansion of Hasidism in the 19th century. The founding of the Agudah and its development in the interwar years is featured in its own display, and Jewish religious schools are one of the four types of schools presented in our display on education in the interwar years. These are just a few examples.
Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett ProgramDirectoroftheCoreExhibitionforthe Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw