News Briefs: ‘Maisel’ Sweeps Emmy Awards, Homemade Bomb Found at NJ Jewish Cemetery, and More

Ordinance Prohibiting Eruv to Be Repealed

Mahwah Township, N.J., will repeal an ordinance that prohibited an eruv from being constructed, JTA reported. The township’s announcement on Sept. 17 settles a lawsuit the state attorney general’s office filed in 2017 that claimed the ordinance discriminated against Orthodox Jews.

The township had said previously that its signage rules were violated when PVC pipes were attached to utility poles.

An eruv is a boundary within which observant Jews may push strollers and carry objects outside their homes on Shabbat.

Earlier, the township repealed an ordinance that prohibited out-of-state residents from using its parks. That ordinance had appeared to be aimed at Orthodox Jews in neighboring New York.

Charlotte Synagogue Sends Kosher Food to Wilmington Via Helicopter

The Chabad Synagogue in Charlotte, N.C., arranged for a helicopter to transport 150 pounds of kosher food so Jewish families in Hurricane Florence-swamped Wilmington could eat a kosher meal before Yom Kippur, JTA reported.

A truck loaded with kosher food that originated in Raleigh was turned back because of road conditions, so Ben Tzion Groner, son of Rabbi Yossi Groner of Oh HaTorah, contacted a helicopter mechanic friend who helped secure a helicopter. The helicopter was able to fly to Wilmington on Sept. 18 with kosher chicken, dairy products and prepared meals.

“It was tremendous, and certainly a relief,” Rabbi Moshe Leiblich of the Chabad of Wilmington told the Charlotte Observer. “It gave us kosher meat until the stores are back to normal.”

Jews, Jewish Themes Do Well At Emmys

Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which depicts a Jewish housewife-turned-stand-up comedian, won eight Emmy awards, including best comedy and best actress in a comedy, JTA reported. Show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino won awards for writing and directing. Alex Borstein, who plays Mrs. Maisel’s manager, won best supporting actress; her mother is a Hungarian Holocaust survivor.

Meantime, Henry Winkler won best supporting actor for his role in HBO’s Barry, former CIA officer Joe Weisberg won for his writing for the FX drama The Americans, and Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff were part of the team winning for best drama series.

And Glenn Weiss, winner of best directing for a variety special, used his acceptance speech to propose to girlfriend Jan Svendsen.

Homemade Bomb Found in N.J. Jewish Cemetery

A homemade bomb was found attached to a headstone at the B’nai Abraham Cemetery in Newark on Sept. 15 during the Jewish Federation Cemetery Visiting Day, JTA reported.

The cemetery was evacuated, reported.

Robert Wilson, chief security officer at the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, said the device was a can of WD-40 with what looked like fireworks attached. A motive remains unknown.

“There is no indication at this time that the device was targeted as a bias/hate crime incident, but we will be following up with our law enforcement partners at Homeland Security to advise them of the incident,” MetroWest Federation CEO Dov Ben-Shimon said in a Facebook post.

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Pagosa Springs Offers Scenery Galore

The Durango and Silverton Railway offers a spectacular steam-powered train ride through the Rockies. It is in nearby Durango, a recommended excursion. | Photos by Jeff Orenstein

Pagosa Springs is a picturesque little resort town in the heart of Colorado’s beautiful San Juan Mountains only 35 miles north of New Mexico.

With many impressive mountain peaks in the San Juan range nearby, it is where the high desert plateau meets the western slope of the Continental Divide. It is also adjacent to the 1.8 million-acre San Juan National Forest with extensive recreational opportunities, including extensive recreational trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

The road from Pagosa Springs across Wolf Creek Pass has some spectacular vistas and several scenic turnouts. One of the most memorable is beneath towering Treasure Falls.

Over the last few centuries, the area has been inhabited or attracted a mélange of Native Americans, fortune seekers and Spanish explorers, and each has left its mark and given the region some of its flavor. Remnants of ancient cave dwellers can be found at Chimney Rock and at Mesa Verde National Park, both accessible in a day trip.

The city is bisected by the San Juan River, which can range from a tame trickle to a torrent, depending on the season. Swimming, tubing and fly fishing (stocked trout) are all common as the river flows through town. The city is situated atop the largest and hottest thermal field in the U.S., hence its name and the source of the town’s justly famous hot springs spas.

Our advice is to plan to explore Pagosa Springs shops, restaurants and activities and enjoy the uncrowded Western ethos in town. You should also tour nearby attractions since the entire region is filled with delights for tourists of every level of agility and a wide range of interests.

Check Out:


Getting There:

Pagosa Springs can be reached by highway, air or train.

  • By car, Pagosa Springs is at U.S. Highways 160 and 84, 277 miles from Denver.
  • By air, the nearest airport is Durango, Colo. (DRO), 56 miles away. The Albuquerque Sunport (ABQ) has extensive connections at 207 milesdistance.
  • By train, the nearest Amtrak stations are Albuquerque at 205 miles and Pueblo, Colo., at 211 miles.
  • There are no cruise ports near this inland location.
The picturesque San Juan River runs through downtown Pagosa Springs and is a popular venue for those seeking on-water recreation or walking paths, hot springs and restaurants along its banks.

Must-Sees for a Short Trip:

  • Enjoy one or more of the town’s three downtown hot springs. Each has a different character.
  • Explore Chimney Rock National Monument, 17 miles away.
  • Walk along the scenic San Juan Riverwalk Trail adjacent to the river as it flows through town. Tubing the river is also popular.

If You Have Several Days:

  • Take a ride through the mountains and history on a narrow-gauge steam-drawn train. The Durango and Silverton in Durango and the Cumbres and Toltec in Chama, N.M., are both superb choices.
  • Consider a day trip to Mesa Verde National Park.
  • Enjoy fine dining at the Alley House and sample the local brew pubs.
  • Visit Durango, a pretty little Western town.
  • See Treasure Falls (East on Highway 160) and drive up through Wolf Creek Pass.
  • Visit Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park, especially at feeding time.
  • Take the historic buildings walking tour (

Ginny O’s Tips for Dressing the Simply Smart Travel Way for Pagosa Springs:

Bring a bathing suit and clogs for the hot springs, plan on wearing nice casual with accessories providing a western panache. Nice jeans are always in order.

 The weather can change quickly at this altitude, so be prepared to layer clothes.

This Destination at a Glance:

Over 50 Advantage:

Great scenery, easy walking and good shopping and dining make this a great place to relax.

Mobility Level:

Moderate. There are some hills in town, but none are steep.

When to Go:

May through September has the nicest weather. Winter skiing is also popular.

Where to Stay:

Pagosa Springs has several nice bed-and-breakfast inns and the usual national lodging chains.

Special Travel Interests:

Hot springs, mountain hiking, mountain scenery. 

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The spectacular vistas and impressive ancient cliff dwellings make Mesa Verde National Park an excellent day trip from Pagosa Springs.
The Spa, on the San Juan River in downtown Pagosa Springs, houses one of the town’s namesake hot springs.
Among the many attractions on the riverwalk along the banks of the San Juan River in Pagosa Springs is this outdoor chess set.

Jewish Pagosa Springs

There are no Jewish places of worship in Pagosa Springs and no Jewish residents according to a survey of Colorado religious affiliations, but Jewish tourists can visit Congregation Har Shalom in Durango, Colo., 43 miles away. A much larger Jewish community and set of institutions is found in Denver, a five-hour drive to the north.

According to reputable anthropological studies, conversos — Jews who endured forced conversion to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition — are found in the San Luis Valley area of southern Colorado. Many of them retain some Jewish cultural and even religious practices even though they consider themselves Roman Catholics. There also was a small community called Cotopaxi founded by Russian Jews in 1882. It was abandoned by 1884.

There are about 103,000 Jews in Colorado out of a population of about 5.6 million.

While few Jews were employed as miners, Jewish merchants were attracted to the region by the burgeoning mining industry. They opened shops in the new settlements and mining camps that figured prominently in Colorado history and development. They include Fred Salomon, who opened the first general store in 1859, and David May, who opened a small store in Irwin that grew to become the May Co. department store chain. Other Colorado-based Jewish businesses include the Samsonite Corp.

Denver had a Jewish mayor as early as 1889, and Simon Guggenheim was a senator in the early 20th century.

Jeffrey and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Fla.

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Building Community Beyond Walls

Rabbi Michael Stern and his wife Denise have an open-door policy when it comes to hosting gatherings for Shabbat or community classes.

Quite literally.

They had more than 2,400 in total attendance at the programs they hosted in their Bala Cynwyd home last year, Rabbi Stern said.

He hopes that when guests exit his doorway, they enter a gateway into the wider Jewish community.

That’s the point of Rabbi Without Walls, which the Sterns formed after returning to the Philadelphia area three years ago following 11 years away. When they lived here previously, they were part of the founding group of Aish HaTorah in 1996, which Stern credits with helping to build the blossoming Jewish community in Lower Merion and Bala Cynwyd.

Rabbi Michael and Denise Stern | Photo provided

With their work, they helped more people get involved with the broader Jewish community, whether it was joining an area synagogue or enrolling children in a day school.

“What happened was people at that time took upon themselves roles of taking responsibility for helping build community,” he said. “The philosophy of that time was not to just impact people’s Judaism, the ultimate to success was trying to inspire someone to help build the community, take responsibility for the community.”

That sense of inspiring community building has remained a pillar in Stern’s life and work.

When someone gets involved with Rabbi Without Walls, his goal is not to push them to join a synagogue or push them to do anything, really. It’s to inspire them to get involved with the wider community and then, in turn, inspire others in outreach.

He’s partnered with other area organizations such as the Chevra to provide an entry for those seeking to deepen their Jewish experience in whatever way appeals to them. With the Chevra, for instance, he reaches a younger population when he teaches his weekly class, as the organization serves young Jewish professionals.

“The idea of Rabbi Without Walls is not to be its own community, not to be its own synagogue or anything like that,” Stern said. “It’s a gateway to the rest of the community. It works together with all the other Jewish organizations in terms of helping to get people involved in the outreach.”

The organization welcomed the New Year with a 36-hour online Charidy campaign ahead of Yom Kippur to raise $125,000 to cover its budget. It raised more than $126,000 with about 300 supporters and a matching campaign.

Those costs cover Stern’s ability to host weekly classes in his home — he teaches a crash course in Hebrew, classes that teach wisdom for living, fundamentals of Judaism and others — a Friday night minyan and Shabbat (their Shabbat table seats 24 people, he noted), guest speakers, lectures and other programs.

He gives special credit to his wife, whom he said sets the nonjudgmental, warm and welcoming tone for their home as they host 20-some people week after week.

“Our home is the center, but again, it’s not the end goal,” he said.

The campaign signified a resonance in the community for the work he does, but he’s not done yet. 

“What I would love to do is hire more resources so Rabbi Without Walls can spend more time working on the main goal, which would be to activate families in the community to help be part of the outreach process, and be more on organizing that part and doing outreach training,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do; it’s only the beginning of my third year here. That would be amazing.” 

[email protected]; 215-832-074

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Connect with the Lulav, Etrog at Sukkot

By Rabbi Peter Rigler


Sukkot is, at its essence, an agricultural celebration — a time where we leave the comfort of our own homes and are reminded of the impermanence of our lives.

The sukkah, the temporary dwelling, draws us closer to our roots by having us use natural materials to build. Is that all there is to this holiday?

The great teacher and scholar Nechama Leibowitz reminded us that whoever sees only the agricultural aspect of Sukkot removes one of the threads from the threefold blessings that makes up the significance of the festival. The simple joy in the gift of the field and vineyard; the joy in the miracles and wonders performed for us in history; and the joy in the presence of God who is the source of nature and its creator.

The holiday lessons are as relevant as ever. I would suggest that we need to look past the

blueenayim | Thinkstock

sukkah and go deeper to connect with the lulav and etrog. On its surface, we get it, we hold these species and etrog tight in our hands to remind us of the wonders of the earth or, as you may have heard, to remind us of our own physical bodies.

Sometimes we don’t have to look so deep for a message: It is sitting right in front of our eyes. In this case, the etrog is an incredible teacher for us all.

If you have never seen the markets for lulavim and etrogim, they are a sight to behold. It takes great love and care to pick a special lulav and etrog, one of quality and beauty. If you have been to the market, you have seen people inspecting the lulav and etrog with a magnifying glass and a very careful eye.

The etrog itself is identified in the Torah as pri etz hadar, or fruit of a beautiful tree. This beauty in Judaism is not only about appearance but, according to our sources, beauty is also about a deep desire to live through great difficulties in life, the quality of how one lives.

So what makes the tree so beautiful? It grows, blossoms and produces fruit throughout the year. The tree itself can tolerate heat, cold, wind and storm. This quality and strength of the tree is what makes it beautiful. The translation of the Hebrew word hadar is that which dwells — from dar. Dar reminds us of impermanence and the temporary nature of our world and lives.

The word hadar appears in Torah only twice: Pri eitz hadar (Lev. 23:40) and “Before the grey haired you should rise and honor the face of the elder, (v’hadarta p’nei zakein), and fear your God; I am Adonai” (Lev 19:32). Hadar reminds us of the beauty of those who have lived full lives; it reminds us to honor that beauty.

So what are we looking for when we look for the perfect etrog? Actually, it is not perfect at all.

The sign of a beautiful etrog is its bumps. The more bumps we see, the more we are taken by its appearance. The same can be said from our lives; the bumps and bruises we receive have the ability to make us deeper and more beautiful individuals. Each bump is an experience, a struggle, a moment of transition and so much more.

My hope for us all is that in the coming days and the new year ahead we will all be like that etrog tree.

Seeing our bumps as beautiful, we also have the ability to rise above the harsh elements of weather and the world. The bumpiness can remind us of what is most beautiful, not a life free from struggle but one where we find the beauty by living fully despite the challenges and look to gain wisdom. 

Rabbi Rigler is the rabbi at Temple Sholom in Broomall. The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia is proud to provide the Torah commentary for the Jewish Exponent.

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Leket: Food Rescuers. Community Members.

In 2003, Joseph Gitler had been living in Israel for three years, having made aliyah to work in Israel’s booming tech industry.

In that time, he noticed a major crisis emerging in Israel: More than 1 million people struggled to afford enough nourishing food, while simultaneously millions of tons of prepared meals and fresh produce were being wasted every year. “How could so much go to waste when so many go hungry?” Joseph asked himself.

Then he remembered Leviticus 19:9: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.”

Realizing that sometimes modern problems call for ancient solutions, at age 25 Joseph founded a nonprofit devoted to rescuing food. His goal was nothing less than changing the trajectory of food insecurity in Israel by gathering the excess of our 21st- century harvests, both from the fields and from our many venues for prepared meals. He called his organization Leket, meaning “gleaning,” a word taken from that Leviticus passage he found so inspiring.

Starting as the sole employee, Joseph would drive his Subaru hatchback around Israel, collecting uneaten meals from corporate cafeterias and catering halls. A converted chicken coop packed with five refrigerators served as his first warehouse. His strategy was straightforward: After filling the refrigerators with healthy and nutritious rescued food, he donated it to local Israeli food banks. Then he filled the empty refrigerators all over again.

In the 15 years since, Jewish Federation-supported Leket has grown exponentially, working with businesses, corporations and farmers across Israel to save 40 million pounds of fresh produce each year — that’s 20,000 tons — plus helping serve 23 million hot meals and 2 million pounds of manufactured food annually.

All told, they feed 200,000 Israelis every single week. Their reach may have expanded, but their commitment to efficiency remains the same.

For Joseph and Leket’s 60,000 annual volunteers efficiency is more than just goodwill; it is a religious and national imperative. Efficiency is how we save lives.

We should all aspire to be as efficient as Leket.

For more about Leket, visit

General Assembly 2018: Let’s Go to Tel Aviv

THIS FALL, GET ready for some real talk. Because this year’s Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly (GA) — the annual gathering of thousands of Jewish communal change-makers — will take place in Tel Aviv, where the stage will be set for frank conversations about the Israel-Diaspora relationship today.

Join our Greater Philadelphia delegation Oct. 22-24 as we journey to Israel for GA2018.

“Each year, the GA is an incredible opportunity to connect with and learn from other Jewish communities from across North America,” Greater Philadelphia Chair David Gold said. “This year, the GA is being held in Tel Aviv for the very first time, and we will have the chance to take part in the increasingly important dialogue between Diaspora and Israeli Jews.”

GA2018 will be three not-to-be-missed days of dynamic speakers, thought-provoking sessions, networking, best-practice sharing, celebration and one-on-one interactions you can’t get anywhere else.

With discussions about Jewish identity, religious pluralism, Israeli Arabs, the peace process and “How to Talk to Your Kids About Israel,” it’s also an opportunity to examine the work the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia does to strengthen the relationship between Israeli and American Jews — including presenting our work in our Partnership2Gether region of Netivot and Sdot Negev.

“We are so proud to share the work we’ve done to help our communities become a vibrant and innovative society for its diverse and ever growing population,” Gold said. “I hope you’ll consider joining us in Israel to share those moments with us, and to ensure that our Philadelphia Jewish voices are heard.”

For more information about GA18, including program highlights and a registration form, visit Questions? Email [email protected] or call 215-829-0544.

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JFCS Volunteers Bake Babka

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From left: Michele Pesin, Alison Getson, Molly Feith, Eva Greenberg and Fran Highbloom
Fran Highbloom

Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS) Circle of Hands Baking Circle volunteers came together to bake babka that will be donated to JFCS clients. Circle of Hands is a “hands-on” giving circle that creates awareness about JFCS and the community’s needs through day-of-service projects.

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Sophie and Emma Liebman

Jamie (nee Mittin) and Adam Liebman of New York announce the birth of their precious twin daughters, Sophie Isabelle (Yakira Hadas) and Emma Ashley (Hadar Liora), on May 4 .
Sharing in their nachas are grandparents Fern and Neil Mittin of Huntingdon Valley and Caren and Richard Liebman of Boca Raton, Fla.
Joining in welcoming their  nieces are Aunt Stacey and Uncle Andy Salsman; Aunt Sami and Uncle Brian Elbaum; and Aunt Katie and Uncle Matt Liebman; cousins Victoria and Sadie Salsman; Maisie and Dean Elbaum; maternal great-grandparents Harriet and Gerald Finestone; and great-grandmother Nettie Mittin.
Sophie Isabelle is named in honor of her maternal great-grandfather, Gerald Finestone, and in loving memory of her paternal great-grandmother, Harriet Green. Emma Ashley is named in  honor of her maternal great-grandmother, Harriet Finestone, and in loving memory of her paternal great-great grandfather, Leon Walker.

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Comment on A Reconstructionist Shul Grows in West Philly by Mark Mandel

“an invention to destroy the Jewish state of Israel — was done in the ’60s. You all should go back into that church where you belong with the anti-Semites instead of promoting your politics.”

Sounds like a blind, bigoted overgeneralizer. Our members have diverse political opinions about Israel and Palestine, none of which correlate with our gender identities, our “radicalness” on other political issues, feminism, or transness. Please put your head back up your ass and enjoy what you’ll find there, which is what it’s already full of.

BTW, in case it matters to you, I’m male, heterosexual, cissexual, and white — in other words, all the “normal” categories that presumably *don’t* offend you. I’m also not opposed to anyone who is not in these categories. Oh, and I’m also an old fart, nearly 70.

Luffa: It’s Not Just a Sponge

Ever on the lookout for new and exciting produce, I happened upon the luffa last week at the Asian produce stand at my local farmers market.

The merchant informed me that it was a type of edible gourd, and was very high in antioxidants. Further research informed me that the luffa is also high in folates and fiber, and is a good source of vitamin A, as well as thiamin, niacin, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and manganese.

And, yes, further research revealed that this cucumber-esque vegetable that I brought home was a baby version of the bath sponge that was touted on the 1970s version of infomercials to remove cellulite. Once the gourd grows beyond a certain point, the flesh becomes spongy and fibrous and more or less inedible, but the young version is soft and mild, and behaves pretty much like a zucchini when cooked.

Because the plant originates in the East, most recipes for luffa were Asian — featuring ginger, coconut milk, sesame and other items in that flavor profile. I stayed in that lane, and created this simple sauté which was quite tasty with tenderloin and a salad.

Admittedly, most anything sautéed in ginger, garlic, and chili is delicious to me, but this vegetable absorbed the flavors well and had the benefit of being something totally new and different, yet oddly familiar.

Luffa for Two

1 luffa, about 10 inches long, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pinch salt

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon chile flakes (or to taste)

¼ cup vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water

  1. In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil, salt, ginger, garlic and chile until sizzling and fragrant.
  2. Add luffa and stir to coat. Saute, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add broth and cook, uncovered, for about 2 minutes until done.

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