Along the peaceful streets of Riverdale on a sunny summer afternoon, signs of Jewish life are everywhere. Kosher shops and restaurants abound on Riverdale and Johnson avenues, and seven synagogues and the Riverdale Y are bursting with activity in this suburban-flavored, hillside Bronx enclave overlooking the Hudson.
Yet synagogues, kosher shopping or even housing stock do not hold the key to Riverdale's Jewish future, community leaders say, as much as a single unremarkable building on the corner of Independence Avenue and 237th Street: Middle School 141.
A former Westchester couple and their Torah scroll, each with roots in Russia, have new homes now. Edward and Renee Mendell, former residents of New Rochelle and South Salem, settled in London, Renee’s hometown, after Edward retired from the pharmaceuticals industry in 1986.
They recently donated their own sefer Torah, which they serendipitously acquired in Israel, to the Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem. The couple, who have sold their home in New Canaan, Conn., near the Westchester border, are co-founders of the Reform synagogue.
A Vatican representative accused Israel of a "blood libel" against a World War II-era pope, and blamed the Jewish state for mounting tensions between Jews and the Catholic Church, shocking an audience at a conference on anti-Semitism in Tel Aviv, and prompting interfaith leaders to say severe damage has been done to the Jewish-Catholic dialogue. Rev.
Come September, several dozen Orthodox Columbia University students, men and women, will be paid to learn Torah near their Upper West Side campus. The yeshiva will be housed at Ramat Ora, a revitalized Orthodox synagogue on West 110th Street, several blocks from the university's main campus on West 116th Street.
Already, 47 Columbia undergraduates have enrolled for the intensive, 10-hour-a-week program offering classes in Talmud and Torah, in addition to their regular secular studies during the academic year. Men and women will study separately in the program.
With its focus on Jewish poverty here and in the former Soviet Union, UJA-Federation's annual fund-raising campaign raised $129.5 million for the year ending June 30. Combined with donations to the capital campaign and planned giving and endowments, the philanthropy brought in $228.8 million: $25 million more than a year ago.
The outpouring of support (an increase of 11 percent) shattered all records, except for times when Israel was at war with its Arab neighbors, according to Stephen Solender, the organizationís executive vice president.
James Tisch this month completed the first year of his three-year term as president of UJA-Federation. He recently reflected on his tenure in a conversation with The Jewish Week.
Jewish Week: Has this year been fulfilling?