Dedicated citizens intent on erasing culture of intolerance by planning local gatherings
The Haddonfield Jewish Center, led by founding president Dr. Ilise Levy Feitshans, has decided to take action and attempt to bring a sense of togetherness and understanding to the community with several events in the near future.
First on the docket will be a small Hanukkah celebration that is scheduled to occur on Sunday, Dec. 9, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Cantor Scott Borsky will add music to the proceedings. His voice will be accompanied by well-known holiday traditions of dreidels and chocolate gelt, latkes to eat and explanations of the traditions for those who are unaware.
“December is a month brimming with holidays, and for Jews, it is no exception. The purpose of a Hanukkah gathering is to have fun,” said Feitshans. “This is a difficult time for many people and therefore it is possible to forget to have fun. But celebrating the joy of life is an important part of Judaism. Everyone is welcome.”
Feitshans also revealed tentative plans for the Haddonfield Jewish Center to hold a model Seder in a large, public space close to Passover, which begins at sundown on Friday, Apr. 19.
Inspired by the turnout for an Oct. 29 vigil at Library Point, Feitshans led a planning meeting at the HJC on Sunday, Nov. 4, to discuss further action within the community and beyond in light of rising intolerance and anti-Semitism nationwide.
On that final Monday night of October, hundreds of borough residents, concerned citizens and local clergy convened for a vigil to lament the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh two days prior that left 11 dead, and to reaffirm their stance that hate cannot conquer love.
From all walks of life, men, women and children of a variety of faiths stood braced against the evening chill. They held hands, lit candles before shielding their light from the wind and unfurled signs advocating love of their neighbors and against assault weapons. Rabbi Gidon Isaacs of Temple Emanuel of Cherry Hill presided over the vigil. Isaacs, with accompaniment by cantor Neil Schnitzer on guitar, also led those gathered in reflection and the recitation of song and prayer.
“Given the history that has troubled so many Jews, and the tragedy in Pittsburgh that ran shivers through the memory channels in Jews across the country, it was not merely touching but quite amazing to feel the kind and encouraging support from Haddonfield neighbors,” said Feitshans.
Feitshans is no stranger to organizing events that sought to bring light to the prolonged darkness that marks the end of the calendar year. She had previously networked with Chabad of Camden and Burlington Counties, alongside borough government, to bring a menorah lighting to Haddonfield back in 2005.
“We the people of the Haddonfield Jewish Center are still a small fledgling group, yet we are confident that out of tragedy we will be able to find a community. This will take long time but we have no deadline. In the years ahead, our community will be comprised of people across generations who love the United States and love Haddonfield, but also love the comfort and richness of Jewish culture in our pleasant town. The task today is to find each other. Every time we gather, we meet new people for the first time,” she added.