Rank and File

Hipsters and Hasids on stage; Israel dental exams in New Jersey; mishloah manot in Mumbai

MEN IN BEARDS: J-Town Playhouse’s latest production, “Division Avenue,” about Satmar Hasidim and hipsters in Brooklyn, struck a chord with its audience on opening night, Wednesday. “[A]s residents of Jerusalem, we know all too well about the poignancy of the idea of ‘division’ when it comes to interactions, or lack thereof,” proclaimed this week’s review on the website Jewlicious. The production features Yoseph Needleman, a former Williamsburg resident, as Efraim, a widower who is rejecting his past. He meets social worker Sarah, played by Jewrotica founder and New Jersey native Ayo Oppenheimer, who becomes his love interest. Other actors include Ronnie Adamowicz as a gay civil rights lawyer hired by Efraim’s father Moishe, portrayed by Yedidya Fraiman. J-Town artistic director and producer Rafi Poch picked Randolph, New Jersey native Eryn London to direct the show. “It’s a story about change, how we relate to change within ourselves and others, and how our own personal changes affect those around us,” said London. “It’s enjoyable for me to be watching from the back the audience laughing or being silent at the end because they don’t know what to do.” The play runs through March 8. For more info, call (02) 566-1181. 

SMILE: A “record” 20 dentists planning on moving to Israel took the Israeli licensing exam in Paramus, New Jersey, on Monday. “The Health Ministry always says if you have enough people we will go there and administer the test there,” said Lizi Martin of immigration aid organization Nefesh B’Nefesh, which lobbied for holding the exam in the United States. Martin, who organized the logistics for the test, told Haaretz Wednesday that NBN assists and advises medical professionals before immigration with the entire licensing process. She said licensing department head Amir Shanon collected the paperwork from the dentists in November. The head of the ministry’s dental department, Shlomo Zusman, flew to the United States with NBN’s Zev Gershinsky to administer the exam. Results will come in a few weeks, added Martin, whose parents moved to Israel from South Bend, Indiana and New York. Some of the dentists plan to move to Israel by this summer. “This new option is saving a lot of waiting time and energy,” said Debbie Goldschmiedt of New York City, one of the dentists who took the exam.

PURIM GIFTS IN MUMBAI: After Modi’in resident Jakob Sztokman established his Gabriel Project Mumbai in 2011 to assist poor children in the Indian city, he saw an opportunity to work with the Jewish community there as well. “The American Joint Distribution Committee does an amazing job looking after the 4,200 Jews in and around Mumbai,” Sztokman told Haaretz on Wednesday. The opportunity he saw was to assist the JDC with its mishloah manot baskets for Purim. “I went and said I’d go to my friends and fund the mishloah manot program,” he said. “We said let’s raise more per package, give rice, lentils and staples they need for cooking. It’s more like the concept of matanot l’evyonim,” added Sztokman, referring to the Purim tradition of giving gifts to the poor. Gabriel Project volunteers, who spend two months in Mumbai providing nutrition and literacy help for children living in the slums, will assemble and distribute the 200 baskets, said Stzokman, who moved to Israel from Melbourne, Australia 21 years ago and is married to Elana Sztokman, the former executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. To donate, go to http://www.rootfunding.com/campaign/india-mishloach-manot-2014.

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.

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Shahar Azran