Gary Schaer Helps Orthodox Jews From Signing Papers On Shabbos In NEW JERSEY

28 12 2007

Shabbat-observant Jews who find themselves hospitalized on Saturdays will now be able to keep the Sabbath and fill out admission paperwork after sunset, thanks to a new bill signed into law last week.

Gov. Corzine signed two religious-themed bills that were part of a seven-bill package pushed by North Jersey legislators to promote religious diversity in the state. The bills are meant to provide accommodations and protections for religious observance across the private and public sectors, according to the package’s sponsors.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-dist. 36) authored the bills in the Assembly in the spring, and Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-dist. 37) introduced them in the Senate soon after. The new laws are an important step forward for New Jersey, Schaer said.

The first bill guarantees alternate testing dates for applicants seeking a state-issued license when the test date conflicts with a religious observance. The second bill provides religious accommodation to patients when entering a licensed health-care facility.

“The governor supported and signed this bill because it responsibly addresses situations where religious observance may prevent a person from signing hospital admission papers on a particular date,” said Gloria Montealegre, spokesperson for Gov. Corzine.

Although life-threatening situations can override Shabbat observance, not all hospital visits are immediately life-threatening, Schaer said. This bill allows the patient to avoid making a decision to break the Sabbath.

“It simply makes it easier for people, and I think that’s a positive thing,” Schaer said. “It’s one less decision that one has to make in a difficult and trying situation.”

Asked how often these cases came up to require legislation, Schaer answered, “If it’s once, it’s enough.”

“Clearly there are many faith communities which have certain needs,” he said. “Those needs have not been met. New Jersey prides itself — and rightfully so — on its diversity. This is one more way New Jersey can reaffirm the importance of diversity in the state, not only racially and ethnically, but religiously as well.”

Schaer hopes that the lame-duck legislature will pass one more bill from the package before the end of the session. The bill in question would require employers to accommodate employees who choose not to work on their holy days. For example, if a Shabbat-observant retail store employee was asked to work on a Friday night or Saturday and refused on religious grounds, the employer would be required to provide an alternate date for that employee to work.

For Linda and Stanley Rutta of Englewood, this bill is long overdue.

Stanley Rutta works for a Netherlands-based computer company that services the retail industry. Two weeks ago he received a memo about vacation time in 2008. The company defined the start of the retail season in October, and accordingly no requests for vacations between Oct. 15 and Dec. 14 would be approved. Sukkot begins on Oct. 14 and is followed by Shemini Atzeret.

Three vacation days would be offered to employees before Oct. 15 or after Dec. 14, according to the memo. If Schaer and Weinberg’s bill becomes law, Rutta’s company would have to allow him to take off on the holidays.

“This legislation is very significant and long overdue,” said Linda Rutta. “They’re planning the retail season in October. Because of that stretch it’s affecting us more.”

More companies require weekend hours now than they did 30 years ago, when her husband began working, Rutta said. This requirement has kept her husband from advancement because he won’t work on Saturdays or Friday afternoons, while recruiters ignore applications from people who say they won’t be available on weekends, she said.

“You have to go begging to get your holidays off,” Rutta said. “It has become onerous. and we need federal protection for the wage-earners.”

New Jersey has not been as accommodating to religious needs as it should be, Weinberg said.

Her interest in the legal protection of religious observance was sparked as a result of the Torah Academy of Bergen County Mock Trial Club. In 2005 the team found itself unable to compete in a national competition because it conflicted with Shabbat. In the end, the National High School Mock Trial Championship board of directors made special arrangements so TABC could compete but then said the board would not make any future accommodations. To protest that decision, the New Jersey Bar Association and the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers created a separate competition that did not conflict with weekend religious observance.

“Our environment was so unaccommodating,” Weinberg said of the incident. “It was those kinds of issues that we’re attempting to call attention to in this legislation, to remind people that they have to be accommodating.”

Other measures in the package would require New Jersey colleges and universities to accommodate students whose religious obligations prevent participation in testing that falls on holidays.

Schaer was hopeful that this bill would pass within the first two quarters of next year.

The package includes two other bills that would affect the state’s health-care governance. One ensures nursing home residents the right to receive food in line with their religious dietary laws, such as kosher or halal. The second bill ensures that doctors make their medical decisions — end of life issues, for example — in accordance with the patient’s religious beliefs.

Those bills still require work before they pass out of the legislature, Schaer said. The assemblyman was hopeful that they would all pass by the end of 2008, though.

“It’s an important recognition of the role all faith communities play in our state,” he said. “We’re excited by the bills and very gratified.”Jewish Standard


Spring Valley, NY – Miracle of Medicine Brings New Light this Hanukkah to Yeshiva Teacher and Family

4 12 2007

Spring Valley, NY – Teacher Jacob Klang collapsed in front of 200 students in a study hall at the Ohr Hameir Theological Seminary in Cortlandt on Nov. 7. Instantly, students jumped to his aid, one calling 911, another running to get the school’s oxygen tank and others taking turns performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation for nearly 10 minutes until an ambulance arrived.
He went into cardiac arrest and no one knows why. The 37-year-old father of six from Spring Valley was otherwise healthy.He lay in a coma at Westchester Medical Center for nine days. His organs were failing. His mother and wife slept in the waiting room for nearly two weeks. Doctors told them to pray.

But members of the cardiology team under Dr. Melvin Weiss, chief of cardiology, worked to keep his heart artificially pumping using a relatively new device called the TandemHeart.
Doctors pushed a catheter, or a tube, through an incision near Klang’s groin. The tube, nearly the thickness of a garden hose, went up through his femoral vein into his heart. First into the right atrium and then through the thin wall into the left atrium.
Oxygen-rich blood is sucked from the left atrium back into the machine, where the blood passes through a centrifuge and is pushed out through another smaller tube into the femoral artery. This supplies oxygen-rich blood to the lower part of the body and the abdominal organs.
It does the job of the left ventricle, the main muscle of the heart, pumping blood into all parts of the body.

It worked and yesterday Klang was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health.
In one month’s time, Jacob Klang went from near death to a full recovery. His brain is functioning well.

After resting at home for the next month or two, Klang said, he will likely return to teaching at the Cortlandt yeshiva.
Family members, happy to have him home tonight for the first night of Hanukkah. They thanked everyone at the hospital and the school.
“Our biggest gratitude is to God for creating this miracle,” said his brother-in-law, Shaul Seitler, 35, of Monsey.

As for the first responders, the brave students, Klang’s wife, Esther, 32, was at a loss for words.
“What do you say to someone who saves your husband’s life?” she said. “There’s not enough you can say to someone who has saved your whole world. ‘Thank you’ just isn’t enough.”

Don’t scare the children – teach them Handwashing

23 11 2007

I have seen MRSA in my office become more of an issue, just in the last year,” reported dermatologist Marcy Goldstein, referring to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial infection that has been recently reported to have caused the death of a middle-school student in Brooklyn. At the Passaic-based day school YBH of Passaic-Hillel, principal Rabbi Joseph Abrams reported  that “the building is full of signs about hand washing: the hallways, the bathrooms, the stairways, the lunchroom.” 

The school nurse at YBH, Sara Schulman, explained that the administration put signs everywhere, reminding students to wash their hands with soap and water “when coming in from gym, after going to the bathroom, before you eat….”

“It’s important to wash hands with soap for 20 seconds, and then use a paper towel to close the faucet and open the door,” said Schulman, explaining that some people who don’t wash their hands touch the doorknobs.   The paper towel that is used to open doors should be properly discarded.   

Help With Winter Heating Bills Begins; Eligible NJ Residents are Urged to Apply for Assistance

1 11 2007

 Cool weather is finally arriving and the heating season has begun. An important energy assistance program is available effective today to help low-income residents pay their heating bills, and all eligible residents are urged to apply. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is federally funded and administered by DCA through select community-based organizations.

The NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and PSE&G, the state’s largest utility, are partnering to get the word out and to encourage residents to fill out an application.

“Fewer than half the eligible families in NJ applied for energy assistance last year,” said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and COO. “PSE&G and the state are working with community leaders and social service agencies state-wide to ensure that individuals learn about and take advantage of this valuable program.”

Applications and assistance will be available at PSE&G Customer Service Centers at various locations around the state. In addition, information about the assistance programs is being posted on bus shelters in Jersey City, Newark, and in Camden County.

“Thanks to Governor Corzine’s leadership and with the continued support of PSE&G, LIHEAP will be run more effectively and efficiently this year,” said DCA Acting Commissioner Joseph Doria. “We urge people to visit their local community action agency or community based organization, or log on to DCA’s website to determine eligibility and get an application.”

The LIHEAP season begins today. Applications may be submitted until March 31. Individuals are urged to apply as soon as possible, as it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to process a properly completed application. The average LIHEAP grant is approximately $400.

A second energy assistance program, the Universal Service Fund (USF), also is available to the low-income community. When consumers apply for LIHEAP, they automatically are applying at the same time for USF. Eligibility for USF is based on income and energy use.

The chart below provides maximum monthly income guideline levels for both LIHEAP and USF.

LIHEAP & USF Maximum Monthly Gross Income Levels for the                          Period of 10/1/07 to 9/30/08

Maximum Gross                      Maximum Gross     Household Size       Monthly Income    Household Size   Monthly Income           1                 $1,489               7              $4,534           2                 $1,997               8              $5,042           3                 $2,504               9              $5,549           4                 $3,012              10              $6,057           5                 $3,519              11              $6,564           6                 $4,027              12              $6,770

Please Note: To determine eligibility for household sizes greater than 12,                      add $135 for each additional member.

The following PSE&G Customer Service Centers will have representatives from community-based organizations (on days and times specified) available to help customers complete the LIHEAP/USF applications:

    Bergen County     Bergen County CAP at PSE&G Hackensack Customer Service Center     214 Hudson Street, Hackensack, NJ 07601     Monday - Thursday, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Essex County     La Casa de Don Pedro at PSE&G Newark Customer Service Center     80 Park Plaza, Newark, NJ 07102     Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

LaCasa de Don Pedro at PSE&G West Orange Customer Service Center     59 Main Street, West Orange, NJ 07052     Wednesday & Friday 9 am - 4:00 pm

Hudson County     P.A.C.O. at PSE&G Jersey City Customer Service Center     3 PATH Plaza, Jersey City, NJ 07306     Monday - Thursday 9 am - 4 pm starting November 5

Middlesex County     Puerto Rican Action Board at PSE&G New Brunswick Customer Service Center     1 Penn Plaza, Albany & French Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901     Fridays, 10 am - 4 pm

Passaic County     UPO at PSE&G Passaic Customer Service Center     651 Main Avenue, Passaic, NJ 07055     Monday - Thursday, 9:30 am - 1:30 pm

Applications for LIHEAP and USF are available at all of PSE&G’s 16 Customer Service Centers. Locations and hours are listed on customer bills. More information can be found by calling the utility at 1-800-510-3102 or visiting

LIHEAP is a federally funded program administered by the Department of Community Affairs. For more information from DCA, please call 609-633-6200, or log on to

Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is New Jersey’s oldest and largest regulated gas and electric delivery utility, serving nearly three- quarters of the state’s population. PSE&G is the winner of the ReliabilityOne Award for superior electric system reliability. PSE&G is a subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG) (NYSE: PEG), a diversified energy company (


Saint Mary’s Hospital trying to turn around for the better

29 07 2007

After a tumultuous spring, St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic appears to be stabilizing, despite some lingering issues, especially related to staffing and the facility’s cardiac program, according to doctors, hospital staff and state officials. The state is reviewing the license for the cardiac program, which expires Oct. 1.

St. Mary’s took over bankrupt PBI Regional Medical Center on March 1 and moved most of its operations to the 350 Boulevard building. That move was fraught with difficulties, including inoperative equipment and too few staff, and the hospital was cited by both the state and The Joint Commission, a national accrediting organization, for safety issues, partially stemming from those early problems.

But since the early post-merger weeks, according to administrators, doctors, nurses and union leaders, the scramble of combining two hospitals is giving way to the steadier rhythm of day-to-day operations.

“We knew we had a lot of work to do, and we knew we had to roll up our sleeves,” said Robert Iannaccone, the chief operating officer at the hospital. “We did that.”

He cited the reopening of the maternal/child unit, which had 13 newborns on a recent day, along with a core of committed doctors and the initiation of patient-satisfaction surveys as evidence of a hospital moving forward.

Some earlier issues are being resolved. A preliminary denial of accreditation in April from The Joint Commission — owing to fire safety equipment problems at St. Mary’s former facility on Pennington Avenue — has been taken care of, said Iannaccone, as have other cited problems, including keeping prescriptions past their expiration date and the lack of a hospital-wide infection control program.

Charlene Hill, a commission spokeswoman, said the hospital now has conditional accreditation and must pass a follow-up survey, likely this fall, to be considered fully accredited. The hospital submitted a plan of correction earlier this month.

Welcome to our new site.

26 07 2007

Today is our first day. Welcome. This site will have up to the minute news of importance to the Passaic and Clifton Jewish Community.