New Brunswick

Ruby Tuesday Firetruck

My son (the middle son, the filmmaker) went on a field trip last week with his class to the Rutgers Agricultural Museum in New Brunswick. Here is an old-fashioned firetruck that he photographed. (I didn’t go on the trip; he took his own camera).

Part of the reason for the trip was the boys have been studying the 39 Melachot, the 39 acts of work that a Jew is not allowed to do on the Sabbath. All of these Melachot are agriculturally-based, so their teacher used the museum as a way to show them threshing, winnowing, grinding sheaves (I have no idea what those are; I took those words off Wikipedia). Each boy had been assigned one Melacha to study in detail.

My son’s Melacha was weaving. He had already presented to the class, and his teacher told me later that he gave my son weaving because it was a more difficult one, but he knew my son could handle it. He did an origami basket project with his class. Yes, I am proud of him!

For more posts with a little or a lot of red:

Public History

Public History Partners is a site I worked on last spring and finished up in the late fall. If you are familiar with New Jersey, you may enjoy seeing the beach at Asbury Park and the Delaware and Raritan Canal. The 1777 map in the header shows the City of New Brunswick, from a Rutgers collection of historical maps.

There is also a photo of a Passover seder on the site. Can anyone tell me where that seder took place?

Visit Public History Partners.

Ruby Tuesday Visits Rutgers

Before attending my business meeting at Rutgers today in this building, I photographed a detail of the red brick building across the street (above photo, Winants Hall).

Do you think Rutgers chose red as their color so I could use their new emblem (the PR department had it redesigned last year) for Ruby Tuesday?

For more Ruby Tuesday pics, visit:

Ruby Tuesday: Bench Roses

Last week Mary asked for a “macro.” Not sure how close a macro is, but I did enjoy this bench of roses I found in New Brunswick.

A little more of the bench.

And here’s the bench in its setting on Easton Avenue in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

For more Ruby Tuesday pics, visit:

Sky Watch in New Brunswick

swftomSky Watch Friday is a photo meme with photos of sunrises, sunsets, blue skies, gray skies, pink skies, dark skies and any other kind of sky posted by bloggers all over the planet.

I took this photo standing in Highland Park looking across the river at New Brunswick last month in early December. I believe that steeple is in Cook/Douglass Campus of Rutgers (Voorhees Chapel?).

These last two photos were taken this morning. Much bluer sky, right? The above shows the contrasts of old and new architecture in New Brunswick.

This is Easton Avenue in New Brunswick, one block from the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University. I was visiting my favorite computer fix-it folks: Cyber Knight Computers.

Zimmerli: Art and a Pomegranate

It’s a Sunday afternoon in Central New Jersey. It would be nice to visit the Guggenheim, but it’s a bit far. We’ve been to the Metropolitan; that’s also a full day trip. I used to visit the MFA when I was a student. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is my favorite in Boston. I’ve been to the Louvre. Years ago I enjoyed wonderful art at the Tel Aviv Museum. But if you want an art trip that’s five minutes from Highland Park, you go to:
Zimmerli Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey

The Zimmerli

A few weeks ago my daughter, her friend and I went to Family Day at the Zimmerli.

ballons in front of stained glass at the Zimmerli
The event was free; balloons floated in front of the stained glass window. There were guards stationed in every room of the museum. All the guards were nice to the children, explaining sweetly that the children should not touch the art (this was not our experience at the Princeton Art Museum, which seems much less interested in having children in their building, or the Newark Museum, in which a guard once told my son he could not sit and draw the paintings. Maybe if I write this on a blog post someone at one of those museums will read it and try to be more kid-friendly?).

Activities included face painting, a scavenger hunt, a dance performance, an art activity, and storytelling.

My daughter and her friend waited in the bus stop sculpture by George Segal to get their faces painted. George Segal, known for his life-size human figures, also did a sculpture called The Holocaust, which is in the Jewish Museum in New York and in a park in San Francisco.
Bus Stop by George Segal

We worked on the Family Day scavenger hunt, searching for details in paintings.
painting at the Zimmerli

As our grand finale event, we listened to story told by Peninah Schram, who was introduced as a “world-reknowned storyteller.” Peninah enjoyed having her picture taken with the girls (a third friend joined us):
peninah schram

Peninah began her story with: “Shalom Aleichem.” We were then supposed to yell back: “Aleichem Shalom!” The audience was a mix of Orthodox Jews, Asian Americans, Caucasian Americans, and at least one Muslim family (one could tell by the head scarf and pants)–typical Central New Jersey audience.

The story was about three brothers and a magic pomegranate. Peninah encouraged audience participation; when she talked about a shuk, the children were asked, “And what do you think was being sold in the market?” When she asked how many seeds does a pomegranate have, I whispered to the girls: “613”, so they happily yelled out “613!”, and Peninah explained how a pomegranate is reported to have 613 seeds, like the number of mitzvot in the Torah. (Aside: years ago, my brother and I counted the seeds in a pomegranate, and we found way more than 613 seeds. When I told my teacher, he responded: “but was it a pomegranate grown in Israel?”)

We bought a copy of the book, The Magic Pomegranate. I see we got a good price; we only paid $15 for the book at the museum.

On the way out, the girls got prizes for their participation in the scavenger hunt. One prize was a kite, so we ended the afternoon with a bit of kite flying.

Cemetery Vandalism ‘not bias’ & civil suit

From the Jewish State (local Central New Jersey newspaper):

According to a statement issued by Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan’s office the teens’ “alcohol-fueled vandalism” came from teenage boredom, not anti-Semitism. Kaplan said this means while the teens will still face vandalism charges in Family Court, they will not be prosecuted on the more serious charge of committing a hate crime.

and, on the civil suit filed against the teens:

The cost of reconstruction is currently estimated to be between $500,000 and $1 million. While adjudication of a juvenile is not a matter of public record, [Attorney Gerald] Gordon said, punitive-damage civil judgements remain in effect until they are paid. This would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the teens to get credit cards as adults and also damage their future credit reports.

Children need to learn at a young age to respect other people’s property. I believe Rabbi Bassous mentioned this in his speech on the cemetery desecration, but I will retell in my own words here:

The story in the Gemara (thank you to Olomeinu, a children’s magazine) is Mar Zutra’s goblet was stolen. He saw a man wiping his hands on someone else’s garment without permission. He then knew that that was the thief, for he saw that this man had no respect for the possessions of others (Bava Metzia 24a).

UPDATE: On the Main Line has the Olemeinu cartoon along with analysis of such cartoons. If you don’t take Olemeinu too seriously, it’s humorous.

We certainly can’t control how others raise their children. It seems like the best we can do is make it difficult for non-respecting people to get credit cards.

Rutgers students condemn cemetery vandalism

When I first blogged about the cemetery vandalism in New Brunswick, I wrote Are we in Eastern Europe? I am pleased to say we are not. What is the difference? Here in Central New Jersey, not only is the Jewish community reacting with shock to the recent vandalism, but there is also condemnation from the general community.

From today’s Daily Targum, the Rutgers student newspaper:

“It is one of the most dramatic events you [can] see in a physical sense,” said Rutgers University Student Assembly treasurer Yonaton Yares, a School of Arts and Sciences student.

RUSA unanimously passed a resolution Thursday to get students involved in the site’s repair.

Members of the assembly said such a resolution was necessary in order to make a statement on behalf of the student body that such acts are unacceptable.

“[The resolution] shows that Rutgers University doesn’t tolerate that kind of crime, because we don’t want to destroy our diversity,” said College Avenue Council Vice President Yelena Shvarts, a Rutgers College junior.

The key to preventing such acts from occurring in the future is to become opinionated, said RUSA recording secretary Kathryn Jenkins, a Douglass College student.

Yares said this incident has brought together members of Rutgers Hillel.

“We have decided to say that Rutgers students – Jewish, non-Jewish, black, white or Latino – all care about this,” he said.

RUSA hopes the assembly can generate the same solidarity among students that the University community demonstrated during the Don Imus controversy last year to prevent future acts from occurring.

“When someone goes on the radio and attacks our women’s basketball team, they don’t just attack those women. They attack the entire Rutgers community,” said RUSA chair Jim Kline, a Rutgers College senior. “The same goes when you attack the Rutgers community and what it stands for.”

Surveyors are beginning to assess the damage done to the site in an attempt to estimate the amount that repairs will cost.

A week after the incident, four teenagers were arrested and charged for committing the vandalism, though the acts were not deemed anti-Semitic by authorities, according to The Associated Press.

But Kline said the acts are upsetting to the Jewish community.

“I think our voice as the student body lends an olive branch to the Jewish community. It allows students to enter into this dialogue about racism, sexism and, in this case, anti-Semitism,” Kline said. “It’s important to have these conversations now that we live in this bubble where we can openly discuss ideas and thoughts.”

Somehow I think there is a connection to the film I viewed by a Franklin Township student yesterday. Sonal Thawani’s film “Take a Stand Against Violence,” a 6-minute piece showed the positive action taken by her community’s youth in response to the recent violence in her township. It was heartening to see in Sonal’s film that many people in her community wanted to see a stop to the violence. Likewise, we all would like cemetery desecration to stop as well.

My main thought is it is easier to teach a five-year old to respect property, respect the dead, and respect others than a 17 year old. And as both cemetery desecration and violence against one’s peers reflect poor anger management, some kind of positive channeling is needed at a young age. I hardly profess to have answers, but I am good at asking the questions.

Suing over cemetery


Accused vandals sued over Jewish cemetery destruction
A Rutherford resident whose parents’ gravestones were desecrated in a New Brunswick Jewish cemetery this month has filed a lawsuit against the four teenagers charged with causing the damage to nearly 500 headstones.

Mark Elfant is a member of Congregation Poile Zedek with familial ties to the congregation dating to the 1800s. Gerald Gordon, Elfant’s lawyer, said he is seeking monetary damages from the accused teenagers, their parents and anyone else involved. Damage has been estimated between $500,000 to $1 million.

“We’re not going to let them off the hook,” said Gordon, whose mother ran the cemetery for 30 years and who is handling the case pro bono. “The money we get will go to a fund for the restoration, security and perpetual care of the cemetery.”

Elfant’s mother, Ann Elfant, cared for the cemetery for five decades. His father, Morris Elfant, played a key role in creating the cemetery association. And his grandfather, Benjamin Elfant, was a founder of the congregation in the late 1800s.

Caryn Lipson, administrator at Congregation Poile Zedek, declined to comment.

“He is acting as a private citizen,” Lipson said. “This has nothing to do with the congregation.”

The commenters to the article all want to see something done. The idea that a 17 year old can commit such an act and walk away scot-free is bizarre.

Learning from Cemetery Desecration

Rabbi Bassous devoted his speech this past Shabbat to learning from the cemetery vandalism in New Brunswick. I missed the speech (my daughter had other plans for me), so I apologize in advance to Rabbi Bassous if I botch my summary of what he said. My husband related to me that he spoke about two topics:

1) Even when you are dead, you may still not be at rest. Vandals can still attack your grave.
2) It is important to raise children from an early age to respect property. This can start with teaching children to pick up a candy wrapper from the floor. Unfortunately, the teens involved in this incident were not raised to respect property.
My husband pointed out that if the teens were tried in a Jewish Halachic court, they would be considered adults. In the American judicial system, they are considered juveniles.

In my searches on the web, I discovered that cemetery desecration is all too common a pastime for some teens. Clearly, there are a lot of parents out there NOT teaching their children to respect property, especially buried dead people. On one forum, I found young men bragging about their exploits, and saying the only reason why this is getting such publicity is because it is a Jewish cemetery. Sad. And scary.

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