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A diverse and marvelous community this writer will miss

A diverse and marvelous community this writer will miss

Dr. Melinda Wagner, at left, with sister Miriam Carmona. Their story of finding each other, “Oh, sister, am I glad I found you,” appeared in NJJN in 2019.  
Courtesy Melinda Wagner
Dr. Melinda Wagner, at left, with sister Miriam Carmona. Their story of finding each other, “Oh, sister, am I glad I found you,” appeared in NJJN in 2019. Courtesy Melinda Wagner

As a veteran journalist, I’ve seen publications other than the New Jersey Jewish News encounter hard times and an uncertain future. I will miss many things — the camaraderie of my talented colleagues who made up a great team as we brought you news — and the marvelous people who comprise New Jersey’s Jews.

To report on this community was a privilege. So many contribute according to their skills and abilities to help both fellow Jews and the general community, and providing a writer with an opportunity to report that can be unique.

How often does a writer have the good fortune to interview and get to know two Holocaust survivors, both in their 90s, who overcame abuse and horror none of us could really imagine? Ed Mosberg of Morris Plains survived three Nazi concentration camps to build an impressive career as a property developer. And Bob Max of Summit — who spent 90 days in a Nazi slave labor camp after being captured during the Battle of the Bulge — celebrated a third bar mitzvah this year after long retiring as a successful publicist and marketer for several major firms.

To me, both Ed and Bob were proud examples of why “Am Yisrael Chai,” the people of Israel live.” No matter where I go from here, I will always try to have a conversation with both and wish them well.

I enjoyed telling the community about sisters Dr. Melinda Wagner, a Red Bank dentist who grew up in Fair Lawn, and Miriam Carmona, a retired school psychologist who lives in Agoura Hills, Calif. They had not known they were sisters for decades, but after connecting, Miriam said, “We do look alike, and do things alike in so many ways.”

Then there is Livingston native Jared Goldsmith, who performed as Jared Kleinman, one of the lead characters an the Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen,” over 500 times. Proud of both his Judaism and the acting career he has built, he is an example of an accomplished younger member of our community making a name for himself in the larger world.

Staying with Broadway, I found it fascinating to have a conversation with Rutgers assistant professor of practice, library, and information science Dr. Marc Aronson — the Maplewood resident’s father was noted set designer Boris Aronson, and his mother was Lisa Jalowetz, who created much of the iconic imagery for the original 1964 “Fiddler on the Roof” — on his experience as a child around the set of what would eventually be considered an all-time classic. Aronson was friends with the children of Samuel Joel “Zero” Mostel, the nickname bestowed on him by his parents, who believed their son would amount to nothing because he cared more about the stage than school. Zero, the original Tevye, proved
them wrong.

Retired chef Esther Kosoffsky of East Brunswick explained to me why, as a Jew and as an American, she remains firmly in President Donald Trump’s camp. She appreciates the president’s support for Israel and his tax cuts, and Mike Liebowitz of Flemington is glad “Trump is not a politician.” Come November, will Esther and Mike be smiling or frowning?

South Orange resident Lee Gaitman’s need for a kidney transplant was brought to our attention. Lee explained how the organization known as Renewal tries to arrange transplants for Jews in need of such treatment. Not only was NJJN able to get publicity for Gaitman, but a friend in my own community in need of a transplant learned about Renewal in my story and is now on their list as well. Writers cherish the feeling that we did a mitzvah for our community.

A sweet story came from Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston. Congregation member Casey Dutch, of Troop 15 in Short Hills, joined with his fellow scouts, Rabbi Emeritus Clifford Kulwin and beekeeper Mike Banker of Morristown, to establish a hive on the synagogue’s seven-acre property. Synagogue members were the beneficiaries of the initiative, having been gifted with fresh honey to dribble on their apples and challah on Rosh HaShanah.

So many organizations stepped up to the plate to help the local Jewish community during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. All exemplified themselves in assisting Jews in need, as well as the general community. In spite of the tragedy, for many it was their finest hour. NJJN staff also reported on restaurants and bookstores and other businesses struggling to come out on the other side of the Covid-19 era. I hope that one day soon you will once again thrive at full force.

During my 45 years as reporter and editor, I enjoyed my time at NJJN as much as any, and I feel special to be a part of the field of Jewish journalism. My colleagues are special people to work with, and you are special people to report on.

I will miss you.

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