Skip Navigation LinksHome > Blogs > From Leslie's Laptop

From Leslie`s Laptop, a blog by Leslie Dannin Rosenthal "From Leslie's Laptop

Little Sleep, Lots of Emotion

I am blogging on very little sleep, and lots of emotion, so I hope this makes sense.

The Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission is on the move, from the city of Saloniki, which was once the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora, to a Jewish summer camp run with the support we give to the Jewish Agency for Israel. The history of Jewish identity in Greece is very different than in the former Soviet Union. Jews have been in Greece for thousands of years, until the murder of 87 percent of the population in the Holocaust. We have visited with the small Jewish community here for the last three days and will fill you in on more in the days to come.

What I want to share with you right now is that after we finish our visit to camp, this mission will be heading to Israel. It is a decision we made with great thoughtfulness and with advice from the JFNA Israel office, making sure that we are not adding to the issues on the ground and that we will have meaningful content for the almost 120 participants from across the United States. 

As always, I cannot wait to be in our homeland, even during — especially during a time like this. When we met with Minos Moisses, the head of the Jewish community in Athens, he was discussing both the economic and political challenges facing the Greek Jewish community and he said, "We are worried, we are alert, but we are not afraid." They are not afraid because, unlike during the Shoah, there is a Jewish State. We pray for her soldiers, some of whom are our former rishonim (emissaries), her people, many of whom are our friends, and for peace.

Posted by: admin (July 09, 2014 at 11:38 AM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Am Yisrael Chai

We are never ready, and yet we are always ready. I think I already knew there was bad news coming about our three boys, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, and yet when I saw the posts begin to show up on Facebook, I was still heartbroken. 

There have already been so many eloquent words written and spoken, from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, from the boys' esteemed teacher, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, from Benji Lovitt, normally a hilarious comedian in Tel Aviv who is today another grieving Israeli, and even from one of the mothers. I don't have much to add, other than that I know this community of ours had already taken these boys into our hearts. Now we will cherish their memories and seek to provide comfort to their families.

Next week I will be in Israel, with the Campaign Chairs & Directors Mission from Jewish Federations of North America. On this, my first day as president of this amazing Federation, I promise to convey how much all of us in Greater MetroWest share in the sorrow of the families and of all Israel. I hope we have an opportunity to visit with our friends in Gush Etzion while we are in Israel, as they are bearing up under so much loss.

We stand together, as one people, as one community. And that is why, although we never want to be ready, we will always be ready to protect ourselves, and our Land.

Am Yisrael Chai.

Posted by: rbogart1 (July 01, 2014 at 1:12 PM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Coincidence, Commitment, and Community

It is the season of the “Yoms” — Yom Hashoah, which we commemorated early this week, Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, next Sunday into Monday, which segues directly into Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s 66th Independence Day.  


There are many commemorations and celebrations on our community calendar, and we are also still in the process of raising the funds for the UJA Annual Campaign so there are still campaign events on the calendar. I’m out a lot at night, and in the course of these evenings, I have found stories of coincidence and commitment because of our Greater MetroWest community and our larger Jewish community.


On Monday night, the community observance of Yom Hashoah took place at Kean University. It was a moving tribute to the victims of the Shoah, the survivors, their children and grandchildren, as well as rescuers, veterans who served during World War II, teachers of the Holocaust curriculum, and those who stand as individuals to remember. With words and song, we came together as a community to say, “Never Again” and to pledge to combat hatred today and in the future.


On Tuesday night, the Building and Allied Trades Division of the Annual UJA Campaign had its annual event. The division grew out of the dedication of the “builder” families to the Annual Campaign and to the larger goals of the Jewish Federation, including strengthening Jewish identity and creating and maintaining a strong State of Israel. The absence of three leaders of that community, Sam Halpern, (z’l), Eddie Harvitt (z’l), and Abe Zuckerman (z’l), all Shoah survivors and all of whom passed away this year, was deeply felt and movingly noted.


As the Campaign Chair, it was my privilege to speak at this event. I chose to tell a story of commitment and coincidence, rooted in the work our dollars do, related to the Holocaust. 


Rosa Rivka
Rosa Rivka
It’s the story of Shauli Dritter, the JDC field director for the former Soviet Union, who persisted in the rescue of an 87-year-old woman named Rosa Rivka, from the midst of the battle in August 2008, during the conflict between Russia and the Republic of Georgia. Because the JDC Hesed centers provide food, medicine, and homecare on a daily basis, they knew where the Jewish community members were located. Shauli and his team were sent to find the 17 Jews living in the small town of Tsikinvali.


Shauli and his colleagues had already located 16 of the 17 by the end of their first day. The only one they hadn’t found was Rosa Rivka. There was increasing pressure to get those 16 out to safety, but Shauli wanted to stay behind to find Rosa Rivka. Why? Because they knew that Rosa Rivka needed her medication and would not survive unless they found her. And because Shauli’s parents are Holocaust survivors. Shauli remembered his mother telling him of waiting at the gates of Auschwitz as the war ended, waiting for angels to come rescue them. Shauli knew that to save one life is to save the entire world. 


JDC Rescue Team
JDC Rescue Team
Indeed, the whole group stayed, and, at great personal risk, Shauli and his team found Rosa Rivka two days later, huddled in her kitchen, the only room still standing in her house, which had been destroyed in the constant crossfire between Russian and Georgian forces. And Shauli called his mother in Israel to tell her that for Rosa Rivka, the angels had come to rescue her.


As I was telling this story, I was watching my friend and our Israel Center Director, Amir Shacham, nodding his head, and I thought, “Oh, Amir already knows this story.”


I finished by reminding this group that without our dollars, without the Annual Campaign, the JDC cannot be on the ground every day, and that Shauli and his team would not have been able to find Rosa Rivka. 


I stepped away from the podium and Amir took me aside to tell me that he was nodding not because he knew this story, but because he knew Shauli, knew Shauli’s mother, and had never heard the story! It turns out that Amir and Shauli went to school together as children, lost touch and then met again in 2005 as Amir led the creation of Operation Atzmaut, our program for improving the lives of Ethiopian olim (immigrants) to Israel. We partnered with JDC to create Operation Atzmaut and at an early meeting, Shauli attended and recognized Amir from those long-ago childhood days, and they have been in touch ever since. But Amir had never heard this story of courage and commitment.


It is crucial to our lives as Jews that we never forget the lives lost in the Shoah to baseless hatred and to always honor those who emerged from the ashes of history to build new lives that have made the Jewish world and the State of Israel strong and vibrant. And we should not be surprised when the combination of commitment and community leads to coincidences large and small that prove how we are all connected.


Wishing you a happy season of “yoms,” community, and connection  



Posted by: admin (April 30, 2014 at 1:57 PM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Making Jewish Life Better, Stronger, and Safer

It’s fairly easy to make me feel guilty — after all, I’m Jewish. But I’ve really been feeling guilty about not writing my blog over the last couple of months. 

One of the great privileges of writing this blog, and why I’ve missed writing it, is the opportunity to share with you ways in which your support through Federation makes a difference.

This is what you helped to make possible in just the last week:

Since the outbreak of violence in Kiev, our support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has allowed elderly Jews to receive food, medicine and most importantly, the human contact with the dedicated hesed workers who care for them, despite harrowing conditions.

On Friday, just before Shabbat, Federation wired $20,000 to a Jewish orphanage in Ukraine named Tikva Children’s Home, which is facing skyrocketing food costs and security concerns.

On Sunday, the Hebrew Academy of Morris County (and now known as the Gottesman RTW Academy), one of the four Jewish day schools supported by the Annual Campaign, held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new school building that will serve as a center for sustainability, purpose, and community.

Every day, your support of the Annual Campaign means that Jewish life is better, stronger, and safer than we ever could have dreamed of just a few decades ago.

And here is why the last few days are, to me, something close to a miracle. 

Seventy years ago, when Jews in Europe were hungry and needed to know that the rest of the Jewish community cared about them, we were not strong enough, or unified enough, to be there for them. Today, we are. 

Fifty years ago, the idea of a thriving, growing Jewish day school in Morris County was a dream in the hearts and minds of a few wonderful families. Today, it is a reality.

Because of your participation in the Annual Campaign, we can do many things at once. It’s like the philanthropic equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. We do that, because of you. 

Between now and mid-May, we are going to continue to change lives and save lives. We are going to focus on raising half a million dollars more than we originally projected for the Annual Campaign — so that we can make Jewish life better, stronger, and safer. 

Finally, I promise to find the time to share with you more of the moments and stories that I get to see. You deserve to see the impact you make.

See you back here soon –

Posted by: admin (March 04, 2014 at 3:34 PM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Please Join Me for the Telephone Town Hall Briefing on “Chaos in the Middle East”

I might be calling you in the next few days. Well, you'll be hearing my voice, inviting you to participate in our second Telephone Town Hall, happening on Monday, October 28, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. You will have the opportunity to hear from Andrew Tabler of The Washington Institute, who is an expert on Syria and the Middle East, having lived and worked in the region for many years. He also was the keynote speaker at this past Sunday's excellent Israel Advocacy Summit.


Mr. Tabler will be discussing recent developments in Syria, Iran, and the wider Arab world, and the consequences, challenges, and perhaps even opportunities for Israel and the United States.

I will be moderating the Town Hall — it is a call-in format, so there will be a lively discussion with Mr. Tabler. I am always impressed with how knowledgeable and thoughtful our community is on so many topics related to the Middle East. I'm looking forward to being better educated on this complicated topic. I read the newspapers, listen to the commentary, and there always seems to be another facet to the fractured story of the modern Middle East.

However fraught things are in the countries surrounding Israel, I am always struck by how life in Israel carries on. I am so looking forward to participating in the upcoming mission to Israel, sponsored by Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, from November 5-13. We will visit with our partnership communities across the Negev and then go up to Jerusalem for the General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America. I'll fill you in on what we see and learn when I get back.


I am asked by friends who haven't yet been to Israel if I am nervous about going to so unstable a region. And my answer is always the same: "Never!" To be sure, I know very well the dangers Israelis face every day from possible rocket fire. But of all the places to be in today's Middle East, there is no place safer or more welcoming than Israel.  


Please join me for the Telephone Town Hall - and sometime soon, please join me on a Federation mission to Israel!



Posted by: admin (October 23, 2013 at 9:39 AM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Follow Us

"From Leslie's Laptop
Untitled Document What's new in Greater MetroWest

Up Close and Personal: Perspectives on the MetroWest Experience

Search This Blog