April 14, 2024
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RJX Event Draws Huge Crowd for Warm Tribute

Some Jewish organizations set the bar higher for all the others.

Such was the case on Saturday night, December 14, when the Rutgers Jewish Experience (RJX) held its annual fundraiser in the Highland Park/Edison community at Congregation Ohr Torah in Edison. The event featured an art sale and auction, led by a professional firm, which offered dozens of high quality works of art. There was a wine tasting led by Ari Lockspieser of kosherwine.com, an expresso bar, and a wide selection of dairy foods set in buffet style.

RJX came to the event with impressive markers of success. Rabbi Meir Goldberg, RJX director, shared that the organization reaches over 400 students each semester and has interactions with about 150 each week. RJX has also started to branch out to Montclair State University, where it has enlisted 20 students, and set up pilot programs at Rider and Princeton universities. It A program at Columbia University, started 18 months ago, now reaches 45 students.

The top attraction of the night, however, was an exceptionally deserving honoree. RJX presented a tribute to Harvey Paretzky, z”l, a community member well regarded throughout the area for his hospitality, his equanimity in the face of difficult medical struggles, and his passion for Torah learning.

Rabbi Goldberg started the formal program by welcoming and thanking everyone for attending. Leah Paretzky greeted all the guests and thanked the community for its tremendous support of Harvey and herself in their many decades in town.

Rabbi Shraga Gross, former head of school of Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva, offered his fond reminiscences of Harvey, praising him for both his professional work with HIAS in rescuing Jews from the Soviet Union and his personal drive to make sure his three children developed firm roots in Torah. Rabbi Gross noted that Harvey “never missed a siddur play or a siyum of one of his children” and always attended family simchas. He molded a family of B’nai Torah who cared for one another and demonstrated exceptional bitachon in the face of very grueling medical challenges.”

Eddie Lowinger of Edison, the evening’s primary organizer, spoke about how RJX’s work, to attract college students to greater knowledge of their Jewish heritage, is “deeply aligned with Harvey’s heartfelt beliefs” of helping all Jews. “Harvey taught us that emunah and bitachon in Hashem are essential. Even if something happens that you don’t like, you know that Hashem has done it for your own good.”

Lowinger quoted Melissa Krublit, an RJX alum who now lives with her husband Ross and daughter in Highland Park. She fondly remembers Shabbat meals at the Paretzky home and “hanging out with them afterwards, enjoying Shabbat and their company.”

Rabbi Eliezer Kaminetzky, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Ohav Emeth of Highland Park, spoke of the serious medical challenges and pain Harvey faced, with Leah’s complete support, and how they managed to take things one day at a time. He said that Harvey epitomized the phrase said in davening, “Sheh Asa Lee Kol Chorchi—Who has given me all I need.” He then invited Leah Paretzky to the podium, where she accepted the tribute from RJX with gratitude.

The evening was a clear success and reflected the exceptionally high regard the organization has earned in the community. Moshe Sheldon of Highland Park, another RJX alum, commented: “It (RJX) helped me get my priorities aligned, so I could have the best chance to reach my potential—in Yiddishkeit and in life. Through RJX, I learned that Yiddishkeit and ‘real life’ are one and the same.”

By Harry Glazer

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