Middlesex Black-Jewish Coalition Hosts Fundraiser for HP Gives A Hoot and Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County

The Middlesex Black-Jewish Coalition (MBJC) will host an “Open Mic Night” Fundraising Event on Sunday, October 3, from 5pm to 7pm. Karen Krause, a Highland Park resident, and former comic and improv actress, will be the emcee for the occasion. The Open Mic Night event will be held in Pino’s Gift Basket Shoppe, Wine Cellar & Lounge, which is located at 13 North 4th Avenue in Highland Park, NJ. 

There is no fee for attending or performing but there is a $15 suggested donation per person. All proceeds from the event will benefit two organizations that serve the community: 

HP Gives A Hoot, a nonprofit fund created by the Borough of Highland Park to contribute to the wellbeing of the town’s children in need. They provide free groceries, school supplies, scholarships to summer camp, and mentoring services. Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, a nonprofit human services agency serving individuals and families throughout the county. READ MORE

Main Street Highland Park Plans an Action Packet Weekend for the Community

Friday 9/24: Squash Muffin Contest at the Highland Park Farmers Market, 3:30-5:30pm. Come see Highland Park’s finest bakers show off their culinary creations made of squash! Saturday 9/25: Annual downtown Window Art Walk, an artist-led tour of the downtown window art displays. Starts at 3pm at Garden Party (60 Raritan) and ends with refreshments at Pino’s (13 North 4th). Saturday 9/25: Minari in the Highland Park Outdoor Movie Theater at the Welkovits Pavilion next to 212 Raritan Avenue. READ MORE

Rutgers Develops Rapid Test to Detect New Emerging Coronavirus Variants

Rutgers researchers have designed a new rapid test that can detect all three of the rapidly spreading variants of the coronavirus in a little over one hour – much shorter than the three to five days required by current tests, which can also be more technically difficult and expensive to perform. Details and information on easily creating and running the rapid test – which is not being patented by Rutgers because researchers believe it should be widely available to the public – are published on the pre-print online server MedRxiv and available at no charge. The Rutgers researchers designed and clinically validated the test, which is the first to use “sloppy molecular beacon probes,” which are highly sensitive and specific DNA sequences used to detect frequent mutations in organisms.

“This rapid test was developed and tested over a few weeks in a crash program to respond to a serious public health need,” said David Alland, director of the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) Public Health Research Institute and professor and chief of infectious disease at NJMS. “Despite our hurry to get the test completed, it performed extremely well with clinical samples in our initial studies. We are very pleased with these results and we hope that this test will help in the control of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.”

The new more contagious variants, isolated in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, appear to be more easily transmitted, cause more severe disease and may be more resistant to some of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. The new rapid test is easy to set up and can be adapted for labs that use varying types of equipment and methods. READ MORE

Highland Park Families Ask School Board to Implement Common Sense and Science-Based Strategies to Keep Students in School This Year

Highland Park Families For A Vaccine Requirement are calling upon the Highland Park Board of Education, as well as Governor Phil Murphy to implement common-sense strategies to keep students in school. 

Parents and caregivers are expected to attend the September 13, 2021 Board of Education meeting in Highland Park to reiterate their demand for a true vaccine mandate and a Test & Stay program. 

“Availability of rapid tests make quarantines due to exposure unnecessary” said Rob Scott, a Highland Park parent. “Quarantines are comparable to a suspension — a punishment — for preventable exposures.”

The meeting will be held in-person tonight, but a zoom option will be available for public comment, which is expected to start around 7:30 PM ET. The zoom link is https://zoom.us/my/highlandparkboe. 

“Schools are an essential service and educators are essential workers,” said Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, a parent of a Highland Park public school student. “It’s time Governor Murphy starts acting like it.” 

The Highland Park group is calling on their local school board and Governor Murphy to implement common-sense strategies to keep children in school: 

— Test & Stay: Many places around the country (including the entire states of Massachusetts and Utah) and the world are doing Test & Stay programs as an alternative to quarantines. Such a program could help keep thousands of students in school. READ MORE

Shorter Days? Better Nights of Shopping and Supporting Local Artists, Artisans and Crafters in Highland Park

Main Street Highland Park(MSHP) once again has demonstrated its creativity for enhancing a vibrant local shopping environment in Highland Park, NJ. MSHP Executive Director Rebecca Hersh welcomes Highland Park residents and their friends throughout the region to downtown Highland Park for four “Night Owl” outdoor markets featuring local artists, artisans, and crafters selling their wares! Complete all your holiday shopping while contributing the health and well being of the community by shopping local in the public square by the pavilion next to 212 Raritan Ave. Markets are October 16, October 30, November 27, and December 11, from 4-8pm. Mark your calendar. READ MORE

Need a Job? Check Out Middlesex County’s Virtual Career-related Services through the One-Stop Career Centers

As of September 4, pandemic-related unemployment benefits will end, impacting 19,200 Middlesex County residents. To assist unemployed and underemployed County residents with their job search, Middlesex County’s One-Stop Career Centers within the Office of Career Opportunity are offering virtual career-related services. In addition to accessing the One-Stop Career Centers for assistance with job searches, resume reviewing, career counseling, and career services for low-income residents, job seekers and underemployed residents are encouraged to sign up for SkillUp, a free online training portal with more than 5,500 courses focusing on business, project management, accounting, human resources, information technology, and customer service. To sign up for SkillUp, please visit http://www.middlesexcountynj.gov/Government/Departments/BDE/Pages/SkillUp.aspx

“With pandemic-related unemployment benefits ending on September 4, we encourage all unemployed residents to begin their job search and to utilize the resources available to them through the County. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the employment landscape for employees, but Middlesex County is here to help our residents find employment in any way we can,” said Director of the Board of County Commissioners Ronald G. Rios.Fortunately, for those who are looking for jobs, Middlesex County and the State of New Jersey are ready to assist by connecting job seekers to the thousands of open positions around the region and offering a variety of services through the One-Stop Career Centers. READ MORE

Not Tragic as in Some NJ Towns, but Worse than Initially Thought, Highland Park Muddles Through Recovery

There were no deaths or injuries, but extensive home and road damage from Ida Storm related flooding. One sink hole was large enough to swallow two cars. The clean-up turned a holiday weekend into a work weekend. But it seems that the disruptions in the lives of Highland Park residents are stressful and frustrating but not catastrophic. In recognition of the many residents that have experienced significant flood damage due to Tropical Storm Ida and are looking for ways to dispose of water-damaged bulk items, Highland Park has put together a program to assist, as follows:

Starting on Tuesday, 9/7 a large dumpster will be made available at the Public Works Garage (444 Valentine Street) for residents to drop off water-damaged bulk items between the hours of 7 am and 2 pm. READ MORE


Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald G. Rios and the Board of County Commissioners have declared a county-wide state of emergency in response to Tropical Storm Ida. The declaration, which will make the County eligible for federal reimbursement for extraordinary measures, authorizes the County and its agencies to take the necessary steps to contain, prepare for, respond to, and recover from Tropical Storm Ida. The declaration also allows the County to procure necessary goods or services under contracts not currently available. “Tropical Storm Ida has severely impacted Middlesex County, causing widespread flooding and storm damage. The safety and wellbeing of our residents is a priority, so we ask that people remain off the roadways, if able, so our emergency crews can continue to respond to those in need,” said County Commissioner Director Rios. READ MORE

Highland Park Unanimously OK’s Cannabis Retail and Delivery Services

At the Tuesday, August 17 Highland Park Borough Council meeting, council members gave unanimous approval to an ordinance permitting the operation of cannabis dispensaries and delivery of cannabis products in the borough. The retail cannabis outlets can operate only in the Central Business District, and the ordinance prohibits cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and wholesale businesses from operating in the borough. READ MORE

Middlesex College Erases College Debt Acquired during Pandemic – costing college $1.8 million

Middlesex College students who have unpaid balances accrued from March 2020 through Summer 2021 will have their debt forgiven. 

Middlesex College is implementing a new Student Debt Amnesty program to forgive approximately $1.8 million of qualified student balances incurred during the pandemic, impacting nearly 2,300 students. 

Under the program, all current outstanding balances incurred from March of 2020 through the summer of 2021 will be forgiven, providing students the flexibility to enroll for a future term. A similar initiative is in place to forgive a limited amount of campus fines (library, parking tickets).  

Middlesex College’s Student Debt Amnesty program was made possible by the American Rescue Plan, the sweeping $1.9 trillion economic recovery legislation passed by Congress earlier this year to address the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on states, local governments, individuals and businesses. 

All eligible Middlesex College students will have their prior outstanding balance forgiven regardless of their decision to continue their education at the College, their GPA or the number of credits they have earned.  

“The College understands the financial hardship that many of our students have faced during the pandemic,” Middlesex College President Mark McCormick. “We hope that students will take this opportunity to register for fall classes and continue to move forward with their studies toward graduation.” 

With this announcement, Middlesex College joins Bergen Community College, Hudson County Community College, Raritan Valley Community College and Salem Community College in using federal COVID-19 relief funds to forgive student debt. 

Additionally, Middlesex College students can take advantage of the New Jersey Community College Opportunity Grant Program, which offers free community college for students whose adjusted gross household income is $65,000 or less. READ MORE