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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Looking Forward to a Better, More Secure 2016

A year ago, as 2014 was melting into 2015, we hoped, as we do each year, for a year of good news and good health for the Jewish people here, in Israel and all over the world.

But it was just a week before the shiny hope we typically bring into a new year was tarnished. Chances were good that most of us in our corner of New Jersey didn’t know the name Charlie Hebdo, nor did we ever shop at the Paris Hyper Cacher kosher market. On January 7, terrorists killed 12 staffers of the Paris-based Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, a publication that mocked religious icons, including Muhammed. For that mocking, staffers died at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Two days later, four Jews were picked out of a group of Hyper Cacher shoppers and murdered, again by radicalized Muslims.

We learned other names this year. Some, like Ezra Schwartz, were people we possibly never met, but whom we totally knew. The pain and impact of his death on November 19, 2015, lives with us as we transition into 2016.

Horrifically, terrorists murdered Rabbi Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in front of their children in Israel. There were other names as well, and there continue to be in Israel. Perhaps it was Sarah Techiya Litman’s marriage to Ariel Beigel that symbolized the spirit of deeply committed faith we have in Israel. The bride invited the entire nation to dance at her wedding less than two weeks after her father, Yaakov, and brother Netanel were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

In 2014, the weapons of choice by Israel’s enemies were rockets and tunnels. This time around, knives and vehicles have joined firearms as grisly tools of horror. And the horror has spread beyond Israel’s borders, to Beirut, to Paris, to Mali and to San Bernardino.

But this we all know.

We didn’t know earlier in 2015 that the name Donald Trump would be a Republican presidential candidate to take seriously. We also didn’t know that a Jewish guy named Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic-socialist senator from Vermont, would be challenging front-runner Hillary Clinton for his party’s nomination.

The name ISIS and the word “migrants” both became part of the national, indeed the world’s, conversation this year and will come with us into 2016. So will the world’s Western powers’ lifting of a trade embargo to “delay” Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Yes, there were great achievements that happened in 2015. Locally, in Teaneck, we were so gratified that the Herzfeld family received a specially equipped van to transport their four children who have a rare form of muscular dystrophy. And Rabbi Larry Rothwachs successfully donated a kidney to Donny Hain with the help of Renewal, an organization that facilitates the matching of donors and recipients.

On an exciting note, American Pharoah, owned by Teaneck resident Ahmed Zayat, raced to the Triple Crown.

The Jewish Link, meanwhile, reached the milestone of its 100th edition.

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard was released after 30 years in jail for spying for Israel. And the U.S. and Cuba agreed to reopen relations, embassies and seek normalization.

We lost Sharsheret’s founder, the visionary Rochelle Shoretz.

The Confederate battle flag was lowered in some states and removed from other institutions, spurred by the mass killings of members of a black South Carolina church by a white gunman.

The argument between gun owners, Second Amendment rights, and mass shootings and the acts of terrorism both in Paris and San Bernardino, CA, will unfortunately continue as part of our conversation.

But, we want to move into this new secular year with positive feelings based on a 2015 achievement.

We will base our optimism on the generosity of Paula and Jerry Gottesman of the Greater MetroWest Federation which worked to cap day-school tuition at 18 percent or less of a family’s adjusted gross income for qualified middle-income families.

There, that wasn’t about terrorism or presidential politics, illegal immigration or Iran.

Finding a successful way to help the many day-school families in our community afford a quality Jewish education is a priority that impacts so many, and is a real issue we can work on for 2016.

Yes, we want you to be healthy and happy, and we hope that we all arrive at the end of 2016 with much better news to review, both in New Jersey, Israel and all over the Jewish world.

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