Monday, November 17, 2008

I Just Can't Afford It Anymore

To be an orthodox jew is to make sacrifices. No work on Saturdays, no eating in 99.9% of the restaurants in the world and exorbitant day school tuitions while still paying taxes for the rest of the town's kids to attend public school. High prices for kosher foods, high prices for synagogue membership and building funds for shuls and schools.
Recently, I decided to compare restaurant prices.
I started with fast food. I went to Kosher Experience on Cedar Lane. The world's smallest hamburger is $2.50. It's a medium sized bun with a two ounce patty that even the "Where's The Beef" lady from days gone by wouldn't believe. A chicken sandwich is a mere $8.50. Do you want fries with that? That'll be $2.75.
Then I drove up to Wendy's. For 99 cents each, you can have a chicken sandwich, a hamburger with a quarter pound of meat, a fries and a soda.
Okay, I know kosher food has some inherent additional costs, but it's getting to be ridiculous. In this economy especially, they're limiting their customers to only the wealthiest among us.
The RCBC is partly to blame. The Jewish Standard reported recently that to take on RCBC supervision costs a restaurant upwards of $60,000 a year.
The other issue is the fake "glatt kosher" requirement. Ashkenazic jews are not required to eat glatt kosher. Lately, companies are labeling chicken products as glatt kosher when that's not even a possibility. What is the fascination with "glatt?" Obviously, it's not required, so why are the RCBC, the OU and most other mainstream kashrut supervision agencies requiring it? How much money can the community save if this fake requirement went by the wayside?
Last week, I stopped by Glatt World on New Bridge Road in Bergenfield. The price for a pound of chopped meat was $5.49. At Pathmark, across the street, the non-kosher ground beef was $2.49 a pound. Sure we must pay a premium for kosher meat. But more than double?
The lone saving grace in all of this is the fish department at the Englewood Shop Rite. The fish in the kosher and non-kosher sections are the same price for the same item. Thank God for that one. Let them eat fish!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The $10 Million Dollar Charter School

I wanted to write something about impeaching Mayor Feit, but I'll leave that to the Teaneck Truth folks.
Wednesday's Bergen Record had a piece about how the Teaneck Community Charter School, which has 287 students in grades K-8 (with hundreds more on a waiting list), broke ground on a new building, set to cost $9.5 million dollars.
Here's the nice part for Teaneck taxpayers: It's not your money.
Charter school facilities projects are not eligible for state or federal funding. While the Teaneck Board of Education pays for the students tuition (at 90% of the amount spent per public school student), the building will be paid for by the school itself, through fundraising activities.
That's a good thing for Teaneck.
For my next proposal, how about selling the land where the Teaneck High School football field is now situated. It's right off Route 4 and would be the perfect size for a shopping mall. I'm sure a sale of that land would bring in a hefty price. I'm assuming there's nothing in the law books that requires a football field at the high school. Seems like quite a waste of space for a football field that hosts just a few games a year. I don't think there's anything wrong with moving football home games somewhere else, like Votee Park, if it can be configured, or some other town facility. That would be another good thing for Teaneck.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Unfriendly Crosswalks of Cedar Lane

When I was a kid there was a public service announcement on TV: "Cross at the green, not in between." I wish I could do that in Teaneck.
Over last Shabbat and Rosh Hashana, I had occasion to cross Cedar Lane a number of times. I made it across alive. This was no small accomplishment.
Barbara Toffler will be happy to know that I walked on the sidewalk and not in the street, as she has claimed the orthodox always do. But when I got to Cedar Lane... YIPES!
Seems that the walk/don't walk signs only operate, at least at some intersections, when a pedestrian pushes the button on the pole. Being Rosh Hashana, I could not push the button, so I was left to take my life in my hands trying to estimate whether or not I could make it across before the light changed to red. You'd think a town like Teaneck would know better than that.
Other areas of Cedar Lane have no traffic lights, but have marked crosswalks, with signs telling drivers to yield to pedestrians, as if most drivers give a darn.
While trying to cross near the 7-Eleven (I guess near Red Road), when finally a driver decided to let me continue across the street, the lady behind the stopped car layed on the horn and gave me and the children with me the finger!
So if anybody sees a large black woman with glasses driving a dark colored SUV with New Jersey license plate VAN 47F, tell her I'd like to have a few words with her and that she owes some children an apology!
I've noticed that there are large stretches of Queen Anne, Palisade and Garrison/Sussex without crosswalks for many blocks at a time. You either have to walk a half a mile out of your way or take your life in your hands to cross those avenues. Being we have a large number of walkers in town, especially on Shabbat and religious holidays, more crosswalks and enforcement of the law on the books would be a good thing for all of us.
By the way, I've never seen the crosswalk law being enforced here (that doesn't mean it isn't), but I have read of some towns in New Jersey using undercover cops to try to cross at crosswalks and busting the drivers who fail to stop. Food for thought. 
FYI, here's the law in this state:
Driver to yield to pedestrian at crosswalk; exceptions; vehicles approaching stopped vehicle from rear; yield of right-of-way by pedestrian The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except at crosswalks when the movement of traffic is being regulated by police officers or traffic control signals, or where otherwise prohibited by municipal, county, or State regulation, and except where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided, but no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield. Nothing contained herein shall relieve a pedestrian from using due care for his safety.
Whenever any vehicle is stopped to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
Nothing contained herein shall relieve a driver from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Time To Develop Route 4

This afternoon, there was a serious accident on Route 4 Westbound in Teaneck. A car was disabled in the right lane. A police car stopped behind the disabled vehicle and had its flashers on. A dump truck could not stop in time and rear ended the police car. A BMW was also involved.
Thank G-D, nobody was seriously injured.
The key point is that THERE IS NO SHOULDER on that section of Route 4.
Which brings me to my question: Should Teaneck develop the sides of Route 4? Wouldn't some strip malls and gas stations on the side of the road (for instance on the big empty patch near Belle Avenue, where the road shrinks to two lanes) be a good thing for everybody? More businesses to pay taxes to the town and a place to pull over if you're stuck, so you can get out of traffic.
I say do it.
Of course there may be reasons from a space and engineering standpoint why it can't happen.
What do you think?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Teaneck International Film Festival

Just read some good news. The Teaneck International Film Festival, which will take place November 14 through 16, has received a grant from Target which will allow them to offer FREE admission to children under 12 throughout the weekend.
I haven't been around for the last two festivals, but I did notice that last year's selections included "A Cantor's Tale" and "Secret Courage: The Walter Suskind Story," both movies with Jewish themes.
I think it would be great if the organizers (I see Tom Abbott's name on the list) would offer up a few movies from Israel, with subtitles, for the Jewish community to enjoy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dan is Barack's Man. Oy Vey.

I try to keep this blog free of presidential election fodder, but this one is the exception.
To those in the orthodox community who even had a little itty bitty thought of voting for Barack Obama (and I'm betting there are very few of you), this may be the clincher for John McCain.
Barack Obama's "Senior Middle East Advisor" is none other than our former ambassador to Egypt and Israel, Daniel Kurtzer.
This is the same Daniel Kurtzer who graduated Yeshiva University and then in his PhD dissertation at Columbia proceeded to rip Israel.
As a State Department official, Kurtzer helped formulate the decision by the US to recognize the PLO and Yasser Arafat (may he rot in hell). Kurtzer is of the belief that both sides are equally to blame for the Middle East conflict.
Kurtzer was the author of George Schultz' 1988 speech which recognized "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including political rights."
Kurtzer coined the term "land for peace" in a speech he wrote for James Baker. Yitzhak Shamir referred to Kurtzer as "Baker's little Jew."
In a recent book, Kurtzer blames Israel for the failure of the Camp David II summit with Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Arafat: "During the Camp David II summit in July, there was much more back and forth between the United States and Israel than was the case in Geneva, but in the end Clinton acceded to Barak's request to blame Arafat publicly for the summit's failure."
Just this summer, Kurtzer traveled to Syria and gave "advice" to Syria's Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem.
"Jews like Kurtzer chose to ignore the Zionist revolution and the opportunity it offers to serve your people first," said Efraim Zuroff. "And one of the tenets of Orthodoxy is that the interest of your people always takes priority."
His anti-Israel policies caused the late Rabbi Pinchas Teitz to ban Kurtzer from the shuls in his hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. When Kurtzer lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, his shul, The Kemp Mill Synagogue, suddenly had to stop raising money for charities which helped people who lived in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. [One of his fellow congregants at KMS was 'Rabbi' Dov Zakheim, the former US official who helped kill Israel's Lavi jet fighter program].
(Not to mention Kurtzer's dismal failure as commissioner of the doomed Israel Baseball League last summer).
This man is now Barack Obama's "senior Middle East advisor." And there are orthodox jews who might still vote Democrat. Oy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Jewish Voice & Opinion" Weighs In On Side Of Shul

The September issue of the Jewish Voice and Opinion came in the mail today. My Shabbat would not be complete without it.
The shul controversy story is addressed with a headline that reads:
Trying to Shut Down the Etz Chaim Minyan, Teaneck May Be Using Unconstitutional Regulations to Ban Religious Assembly
Here's the whole story.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Shul On Queen Anne II

For some reason, the Suburbanite has not updated their website since August 26, so if you don't get the paper delivered, here's what you missed in today's edition regarding Rabbi Feldman's private prayer group and/or synagogue:
Story doesn't have much that differs from the Jewish Standard's piece last month other than the fact that the cease and desist order has been appealed, during which there is a stay of the decision.
Notice that the headline comes to the conclusion that the house is a synagogue, when that is the whole point of contention; whether it is a synagogue or a private prayer group. Didn't really expect more from the Suburbanite, which is not a friend of the orthodox community (ever notice how even the ex-mayor's Chinese restaurant, which plasters their ads everywhere, does not advertise in the Suburbanite?)
The story also quotes Rabbi Feldman as saying "the letter gave us no guidance as to what would have to be stopped, as the act of praying itself was explicitly approved..." The way I interpret these words is: if the house is found to be a synagogue, they plan to "revert" to a private prayer group.
What would that take?? If they no longer call the place Etz Chaim, but instead refer to it as Rabbi Feldman's house, would that be enough?? What would make the house minyan a private prayer group and not a synagogue? Beats me!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

School Talk

With the start of the new school year, the time has come to discuss the Teaneck School District, especially as to how it relates to the orthodox community.
Here are some verified statistics (rounded off):
Spending is 7th highest in the state, over $16,000 per student. (The state median is $12,000).
Teaneck's teacher and administrator salaries are among the highest in the state.
86% of the school budget comes from local property taxes.
More than 60% of the property taxes are paid by the orthodox community, which makes up less than 20% of the population.
The population of Teaneck is 40% black and hispanic, while the school population is 70% black and hispanic. (This is not, G-d forbid, a racist statement, I'm only trying to show that the orthodox do not use the public school system).
Of 1,460 students at Teaneck HS, over 1,000 are black and hispanic, and only 300 are white.
Teaneck High School ranks among the bottom third of high school's in the state.
Of 1,300 students at our two middle schools, only 200 are white.
Of 40,000 residents in Teaneck, 10,000 are under 18.
Only 35% of households have children under 18 years old.
There are nine seats on the Teaneck Board of Education, of which three are up for election every year.
Enough for the statistics.
The question I pose is this: Should the school board be made up entirely of people with students in Teaneck Public Schools, or should other members of the community (such as retirees, the orthodox, those without children, etc.), who are funding the school district with their tax dollars, become members of the board of education? Should there be some sort of "check and balance" system by having non-parents on the school board?
Awaiting your thoughts.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Proud Of Aliyah Rates?

People in the community seem to take pride in Teaneck's high rate of Aliyah to Israel. It's certainly something to be proud of. But we make no mention of the equally high rates (maybe even higher rates) of "yerida" from Israel to Teaneck.
My feeling is these "yordim" should not be accorded honors in our synagogues or schools. These people are the antithesis of what we want to teach our children, of how we want to live.
For most religious Zionists, of which Teaneck has more than a few, the goal is to end up in Israel.
Having "yordim" as community leaders here is bad public policy.
Recently, one of the largest synagogues in town installed a "yored" as its president. Our schools honor "yordim" on a regular basis at their dinners. "Yordim" make up a large percentage of our school's hebrew teachers.
While "yerida" may not be a sin on a level with Shabbat desecration, it is certainly not something we should be proud of. Those who leave Israel and move (permanently) to our community should be shunned.
What say you?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is Teaneck Still A Modern Orthodox Community?

We moved to Teaneck years ago because it was one of the very few Jewish communities remaining in the New York area that could be considered "modern orthodox."
Back then, the Five Towns were an option, but The Five Towns are now pretty much haredi communities.
Now Teaneck is changing. We've had an influx of velvet yarmulkes, black hats and sheitels. To me, it appears the community has taken a sharp turn to the right; Bergenfield even more so.
I bear no ill will to the haredim, (other than my disagreement with their views on Israel) but I've begun to feel like I'm being looked down upon because I don't cover my hair or because I wear pants. I don't want my kids to feel ill at ease wearing shorts on Shabbat afternoons in the park instead of black pants and white shirts.
This does not seem to be the Teaneck of old. Then again, modern orthodoxy in America may be dead.
Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kosher News: Hamsa in Tenafly

Hamsa Restaurant in Tenafly has changed their kosher supervision from UKS (Raabi Yaakov Spivak) to the OK.
That should ease some of the "pain" of losing Jerusalem of Gold on Queen Anne Road.
My review of Hamsa: Food is pretty good, although the prortions were quite small, prices are high and many entrees are not served with side dishes, which you'd have to order separately.
Interior is nice enough. We were seated on a cushiony type bench. Service was quick. Not a great value for the money, but nice to have in the area.
I hear there is a Saturday night sing along (a shira b'shidur type thing), and it fills up.
They're a couple of doors down from the Tenafly movie theaters and parking is available at meters on the street in front of the restaurant.
Check out the menu at
Note that the website still has a copy of the "old" teuda with UKS on it. I contacted the OK and they confirm that they're supervising the place.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Let The Shul Stay

Who has a problem with Rabbi Feldman's shul? Why?
Seems the other Teaneck Blogs want to avoid the topic. We want to keep the dialogue open.