Shooting Hoops For Israel

Staff Writer
What happens when a professional Israeli basketball team plays a pickup game against a bunch of amateurs? "Take a wild guess," says Helen Katz, executive director of the Women's International Zionist Organization of New York, which sponsored the fund-raising event last week at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice gym in Manhattan.

Comforting The Afflicted

Staff Writer
The Talker family faced a medical crisis and a moral dilemma last month. Kinneret Talker, 30, required surgery to remove a thyroid tumor. The operation would cost at least $6,000. "I don't have $6,000," says Chaim Talker, Kinneret's husband, a native of Israel who works in a Brooklyn electronics store. The couple, who came from Israel in 1991 and have no health insurance here, live in Midwood.Kinneret would have the surgery, Chaim decided. Maybe they would arrange to pay the bill over time. Maybe they couldn't pay at all.

In Search Of A Miracle

Staff Writer
Vered Ben-Shimon speaks slowly, rolled up on a couch. She is frail and constantly short of breath. Once an Israeli dance teacher who worked out four times a week, she now sleeps 14 hours a day. She cannot lift or take care of her 19-month-old son."I can't do anything physical. I can't drive," says Vered, 34. The Huntington resident, who moved from Israel with her husband, Uri, in 1987, has been diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, or congestive heart failure. "I need a new heart. I could die any day," she says.

Repairing The Word

Staff Writer
It was wrinkled, soaked with mud, smelled moldy. For Rabbi Emmanuel Vinas, it was a godsend, "a dream come true for me." The Jewish family life education director at the JCC on the Hudson in Tarrytown is using the 150-year-old sefer Torah heavily damaged in November during flooding caused by Hurricane Mitch as the center of a communitywide learning program.

Saluting A 'Holy Martyr'

Staff Writer
Stephen Odzer's first reaction on an overcast autumn day four years ago, when his pager beeped and a call home informed him that a kidnapped Israeli soldier had been killed by Palestinian captors, was to make a small blessing. "Baruch Dayan Ha-emes," he recited. Blessed is the True Judge: the words traditional Jews say when told of a death.

The Secular Becomes Sacred

Staff Writer
It has been the setting for art exhibitions and military stagings. It is cavernous and utilitarian.But on short notice, for the Ten Days of Repentance, the Seventh Regiment Armory on the Upper East Side was turned into a house of worship. Within days of the late-August fire that gutted Central Synagogue, New York City's oldest Reform Congregation, Gov. George Pataki granted permission for religious activities to be held in the Armory, a half-mile away, on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Then the work began.

Three-Way Conversation

Staff Writer
'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." And a Jewish scholar, a Christian scholar and an Islamic scholar recently explained what those words (and some others in the Bible) mean. The representatives of the three monotheistic faiths offered their insights into the opening of Genesis, the description of the world's creation, at a biblical study session at Central Synagogue in Manhattan.

Secular Court Tackles Conversion Case

Staff Writer
Is a conversion motivated by financial benefits a valid one? Rabbinic authorities have debated this issue for thousands of years. This week, in what is believed to be a first, a Manhattan jury considered the question in the context of a breach-of-contract trial. The sincerity of a conversion obtained by a Catholic-born woman who married a member of a local Orthodox family 26 years ago was a primary fact contested in Lowinger vs. Lowinger, a civil case in New York State Supreme Court.

Tragedy Without The Turmoil

Staff Writer
A station wagon driven by an Orthodox Jew, allegedly running a red light, is involved in an early evening, late August accident with two African Americans on the streets of Brooklyn. This scenario happened in 1991, when Yosef Lifsh's car, in a motorcade escorting the Lubavitcher rebbe, spun out of control in Crown Heights and jumped a curb, killing 7-year-old Gavin Cato and injuring his 7-year-old cousin Angela. Crown Heights erupted in anti-Jewish riots.

Son To Succeed Rebbe

Staff Writer
During the funeral last week for Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, a weeping voice barreled over loudspeakers to tens of thousands of mourners gathered outside the main Bobover synagogue in Borough Park. From the crowded synagogue in the Brooklyn neighborhood, where a simple wooden coffin held the 92-year-old body of the Bobover rebbe, the speaker announced, in Yiddish, that Rabbi Halberstam's eldest son, Naftali, would succeed him as leader of the chasidic group. "Mazel tov," the speaker added in a tearful undertone.
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