Wednesday, August 31, 2005

מחיר של גלות

מחיר של גלות

The Last Best Place: Shlichum Meet With Bohlinger

The Last Best Place: Shlichum Meet With Bohlinger
PHOTO L-R: Arik Denebeim, Chaim Shaul Bruk - sitting by the request of the Lt. Gov, for being the "ordained rabbi", and the Lt. Governor

Late last week, Tmimim Chaim Shaul Bruk and Arik Denebeim who are on Merkos Shlichus in Montana, met with Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger. The meeting took place in the state capitol building in Helena.

The Lt. Governor is a good friend and supporter of Jews here in Montana and in Israel. He welcomed them and the Bochurim thanked him on behalf of the Jewish community for all his support and shared with him insight on many ethical and moral issues. Of note, I believe Lt. Gov Bohlinger also addressed the Shabbaton sponsored by the Montana Association of Jewish Communities last month.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Bochuirm presented the Mr. Bohlinger with a copy of "Bringing heaven down to earth."

Back on August 12, the Gazette surprisingly ran a story on the shlichum's visit to Montana which can be found here.

posted by Mike at 9:53 PM

Treasure State Jew said...
Rabbi Chaim and Mr. Denebeim are here in Great Falls now. I had the pleasure of meeting with them and laying tefillin yesterday.

The Lt. Governor did address the Shabbaton. He was very gracious and was very well received.



The Last Best Place: Third World at Home

The Last Best Place: Third World at Home
Not having felt well for the last 24 hours or so I've been fairly glued to the television watching various reports of the destruction following Hurricane Katrina. Words simply cannot convey my true feelings on the destruction I have seen unfold in the past 24 hours.

While living in the third and fourth-world during my service in the Peace Corps I can tell you that that world now exists in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Thousands of people have died or will die from the public health implications following Katrina, and the number of displaced persons will far surpass the population of the state of Montana.

From an agricultural perspective, I doubt a single corn or soybean crop still exists in eastern LA or all of MS. There are also implications for the rice, cotton, and sugar cane crops in these states as well. As soon as I receive information on how to donate to the rural residents of these areas I'll pass it along in case anyone's interested.

A number of organizations are set up to provide immediate aid and assistance to the displaced. I tend to shy away from giving even a penny to the United Way because the majority always tends to go to administrative costs. The Red Cross is always a good bet, and their donation page can be found here.

Chabad-Lubavitch of Louisiana is also seeking donations to help the 12,000 displaced Jewish residents of New Orleans. For a number of hours Rabbi Rivkin, along with members of his congregation in NOLA, were missing, having stayed behind. They have since been found and have set up a website to assist with donations of money, time, or food. The website can he found here, the donation link here.

A list of other relief organizations can be found at the FEMA website here.


Rabbi Nemes is Still Safe!
We just had a bit of good news. Rabbi Nemes (director of Chabad of Metairie) managed to reach his parents in New York, in a brief phone conversation. He is OK, but he is stuck in his home in Metairie (Jefferson Parish, )with water on the first floor. They have been on the second floor for two days, and they are still OK.Rabbi Nemes stayed because he was contacted by a few people that were stuck in the city and were afraid to shelter in the Superdome. So, he and his family invited them into his home to ride out the storm. They are now 13 people on the second floor, waiting to be rescued. They are running our of drinking water, and cannot boil more, because the stove is on the first floor.As soon as we get in touch with him, he will post some information on this site.
Morning of Prayer 8/31 8:44 AM
The governor of LA has called for a Day of Prayer today. At 8:30 AM, they are having a prayer service in Baton Rouge. It is amazing how powerfully people feel the need of help from G-d, in these situations. All day Sunday and Monday, as we evacuated, our alumni and students called us to ask what they can do right now to help, and we kept saying that they should put on Tefilling, resolve to light Shabbat candles.Many Alumni have told me that they put on Tefillin on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, in our merit."All Jews are responsible for each other." The Rebbe points out that the word that the Talmud uses for "responsible" is related to the Hebrew word that means "intermixed." All Jews are "intermixed" with each other. One Jew's Mitzvah can make a difference for all Jews throughout the world.
Community Members 8/30 11 PM
I just spoke with two families in our community. One evacuated to Memphis area, the other, to Lafayette. Neither of them had seen the Mayor predicting the nine feet of water in our neighborhood, and I was not about to argue. Let's hope that they are right.One family has a wedding scheduled for the middle of September, in New Orleans. At this point, we have to start thinking about where to do this wedding. The community is scattered across 8 states...
9 Feet of Water 8/30. 8:10 PM
This just appeared on the WWLTV website.ALL RESIDENTS ON THE EAST BANK OF ORLEANS AND JEFFERSON REMAINING IN THE METRO AREA ARE BEING TOLD TO EVACUATE AS EFFORTS TO SANDBAG THE LEVEE BREAK HAVE ENDED. THE PUMPS IN THAT AREA ARE EXPECTED TO FAIL SOON AND 9 FEET OF WATER IS EXPECTED IN THE ENTIRE EAST BANK. WITHIN THE NEXT 12-15 HOURSUntil this, we had hopes of eventually returning to New Orleans and to our house. Not all the homes are flooded yet. But, now, we have the final realization, that, barring a Divine miracle, our house, the Chabad House, and all of our friend's houses are going to be flooded completely.Our minds turn to the famous story of the Maggid of Mezritch, who lived in abject poverty. A wealthy man once visited his home and asked "where is all your furniture?" He answered, "Where is all your furniture?" The man replied, "In the home, it is different, now I am travelling!" The Maggid said, "I, too, am travelling. In my home, it is also different!" When you lose your entire life's possessions in one day, you start to realize that we live pretty impermanent lives, and you thank G-d for giving you the ability to live a a meaningful life, which makes some part of your life eternal!
Chabad Evacuee Assistance Program 8/30. 5:15PM
We have been in contact with Chabad representatives in Texas and Florida. People are looking at dislocation for a month or more, and the Chabad Network is ready to help people that need spiritual, emotional and material support. I want to urge any evacuees in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham, Atlanta, Talahassee, or Gainesville to contact the local Chabad House. Rabbis are waiting for your call.
Chabad Will Rebuild 8/30 11:50 AM
My father, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, has managed to leave the city, with the other members of my family. In a phone conversation, we resolve that Chabad will be on the forefront of the rebuilding effort in the area. Meanwhile, we are connecting with our network of Chabad representatives to provide assistance to evacuees that may be in other areas served by Chabad.
Rabbi Nemes 8/30 7:30 AM
The water in New Orleans continues to rise. My mother says that her street is still dry, but they are beginning to get scared. We have not managed to hear from Rabbi Nemes since 2 PM on Monday. He is in his house, with several people that were unable to evacuate. We are watching footage from the rooftops rescues, and we are wondering if he and the other 12 people in his house are in need of this type of rescue.
A Breach in the Levee! 8/29 11:30 PM
The news from New Orleans is getting worse, not better. There seems to be a breach in the levee holding Lake Pontchatrain out of the city, the water is rising.
Talahassee and Gainesville 8/29 - 5PM
We spent the morning with Rabbi Shneur Oirechman and his family, the Chabad directors in Talahasee. They went out of their way to provide us with food, a place to rest, and other things that a family traveling with four kids needs. After lunch, we continued to Gainesville and were greeted warmly by Rabbi Berl and Chanie Goldman. This trip really gave us the feeling of the brotherhood of the Jewish people!
Inside New Orleans 8/29 2 PM
Having spoken with my family in New Orleans, they sound safe, but Rabbi Nemes, in Metairie is in trouble. There is flooding in his house, and he has had to stay on the second floor. The flood water is contaminated, and there is no potable water or power.
Good News? 8/29 6:30 AM
The news from New Orleans looks better than it could have been. The storm did not it the city directly. But, the wind, rain, and possible storm surge could still be devastating. Our Alumni from all over the country are calling us constantly, and they want to be sure that we evacuated. Alumni from Nashville,Memphis, Birmingham, Miami, Boca Raton and Atlanta have all called to offer us places to stay.
Days Inn - Talahassee
Even though we were going east, it took us 12 hours to get to Talahasee, FL. We found a motel with a vacancy. Throughout the trip, we listened to coverage of the city officials begging people to leave, and we regularly talked to our family back in New Orleans, urging them to leave as well. They are riding it out.
The Rabbis Decide to Stay
My father, the Executive director of Chabad of Louisiana, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, has decided to ride the storm out at home. In addition to my father and mother, my brother, Rabbi Mendel Rivkin, is staying with his wife, and five children, and three of my other siblings and my brother-in-law are staying as well. Rabbi Yossi Nemes, director of Chabad of Metairie, has decided to stay, with his family, because several people have contacted him and cannot get out of the city, so he has invited them into his house. We leave the city at this time.
Where to Go?
Where to Go? The west bound evacuation route is clogged, it might take 20 hours to get to Houston, the Northbound route is good, but that might be the path that the storm takes after it hits New Orleans. We are going East, and we hope to reach our friends, the Goldmans, who run Chabad of UF, in Gainesville FL.
Category Five
The morning news is not good. Katrina has been upgraded to a category five, and the track is still taking it directly over the city. We are going to leave!
Stay or Go?
Students have been calling us for the last hour and a half. Those that are in town are trying to find ways to evacuate. Those that are not in town want to know what is going on, and whether we are leaving. We are still thinking about it. We have decided to wait until Sunday morning for more clarity, and then make our decision.
Katrina is Coming
This was a very up and down day. For Shabbos, our Shul was filled with congregants celebrating the wedding of one of our students, Ari Maddoff, who just graduated from Tulane Law. Today was also Freshmen move-in day for Tulane students, and we had a stream of Freshmen and their families stopping in to find out more about Chabad Campus programming. At about 2PM, we were informed that Tulane University had decided to evacuate the campus, sending home the Freshmen who had just arrived! A few hours later, we heard that the city was calling for a voluntary evacuation, ahead of Hurricane Katrina. We waited nervously until the end of Shabbos, and then immediately turned to news outlets for information. Right now, things look bad, but not too bad. View RSS feed
Chabad-Lubavitch of Louisiana • 7037 Freret Street • New Orleans, LA 70118 • 504-866-5164Powered by © 2001-2005 Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. All rights reserved.In everlasting memory of Rabbi Yosef Y. Kazen, pioneer of Torah, Judaism and Jewish information on the web

Frum Road Trip!!: The Chabad of Boulder Catwalk

Frum Road Trip!!: The Chabad of Boulder Catwalk
After rolling into Boulder with about 30 seconds till Shabbos, we made our way over to Chabad of Boulder County for Sabbath Services and a wholesome meal. However, the real fun started the next day, as the Morning Service turned into a wacky wild local fashion show, with local designers and models strutting their stuff all over the synagogue. The top three entries:

3. White Srugie clapping guy: All decked out with a long pony tail, tallis over his head, and beard, this guy RRReaally got into the davening. This cat checked in just in time to catch the end of krias shma, but was still able to get right into it. His clapping during the silent devotion ranged from somewhat rhythmic but still distracting to just really off. But hey, we're happy that he's a spiritual guy.

2. Vest man- This dude was the gabbai during Torah service, but left just before musaf. Classy. We think they flew him in just for the job. Big beard, slightly unconventional black hat (taken off before davening), a green shirt with a large floppy biege vest made him perfect for the mountain-jew role. The tzitzis and the bandanna around his neck really completed the ensemble.

And the winner is....

1. Arnie- Where do we start with this guy? A self-proclaimed street smart ex-new yorker, he was sporting a hawian shirt that almost covered his protruding stomach, but not quite. He also had on jean shorts, stylishly exposing his big, round, calves. A slightly folded up velvet kippa was perched precariously on his shock of silvery grey hair. He had an abnormally strong kesher with a young Israeli Lubav, who was only there for that Saturday. Arnie was nice enough to give us a ride when Shabbos was over.

Move over Versace, the Chabad of Boulder County is the fashion capital of the world!
posted by Mas at 12:46 PM

Anonymous said...
I think you can get a job as the fashion editor of the LA times when you return! Love, Mommy and Grammy. P. S. Gerri says she misses you!

3:49 PM
Anonymous said...
Sounds like you guys are having an awesome time. Great posts and keep on keepin on!



12:42 PM
meyer p said...
one time, my parents went to a chabad in santa fe and everyone wore cowboy hats. how come all these smalltown jews have all the fun. my bowler hat and i feel so inadequate right now.

4:18 PM
All Alone Blitz (cause Ford Ranger left:( said...

Good Post!

Too bad that you didnt take any pics-If only my reform HUC friends were there....

Deena left tonight-if u see her in NY, you should go to Duane Read, also open 24hours but nothing like Ralphs.


10:53 PM
Anonymous said...

Rabbi Jacks

Rabbi Jacks
I am an Orthodox Rabbi, who is the spiritual leader of a Montreal Synagogue, called congregation Zichron Kedoshim. The congregation is named Zichron Kedoshim which means "in memory of the [6 million] martyrs [who perished in the Holocaust]". The Synagogue is situated at 5215 Westbury Avenue.
About me

Rabbi -->Ads-->

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by Rabbi @ 2005-08-28 - 11:43:48

This is my first foray into the world of blogs. We will see how this goes.
I am preparing a class that I will give this Wednesday explaining what Zionism is, and why I am a Zionist. This class is a response to an article in the Canadian Jewish News, where my esteemed colleague – Rabbi Poupko – accused the Lubavitch movement of being “anti-Zionist”. I am a member of the Lubavitch movement, and I took offence to the Rabbi’s unfair criticism.
The class is open to all people, whether they are members of my Synagogue or not.

Jewish Music to the Tune of Peter, Paul and Mary

The Commentator - Arts & Culture Issue: 8/31/05

Jewish Music to the Tune of Peter, Paul and Mary

By Rifka Slurzberg

The exciting day had come! 10 years old and I was on my way to sleepover camp. I even began getting my own mail. Addressed to me was an entire packet from Camp Emunah, Bnos Yaakov Yehudah. This included a packing list, a request slip to use to ask to be in a bunk with other girls I knew (there were none), and a list of rules. Most of the rules applied to modesty. We were required to wear skirts that covered the knee while sitting, standing and walking, shirts that cover the collarbone, elbow and midriff, and socks to the knee. "Absolutely no bobby-socks are allowed." Heck, I didn't even know what bobby socks were. To acquire the appropriate garb my family made a trip into Boro Park and shopped at a very crowded store: Rosenberg's. I fit in quite well with my bow shirts and baby-o skirts but I didn't have knee socks, just knee-highs. Pity me. Nylon is hot in the summer. The bottom of the rules paper said something to the effect of, "Any inappropriate reading or listening materials will be confiscated." Indirectly, this directive referred to non-Jewish books, magazines and music. Being ten years old and somewhat sheltered, I didn't run into too many problems with this rule. It wasn't until I was 14 that it became an issue. As a waitress at the same camp, I was asked not to read my summer reading material during the day in a place where it could be seen. My Australian friend, Rochel Hoffman, encountered more contention in this area. She attended Camp Gan Israel in Sydney at age twelve and was apparently worldlier than myself. Rochel packed her favorite Backstreet Boys CD, but it was quickly confiscated. She got it back at the end of the summer, after much badgering and nudging.Apparently, all Lubavitch camps have similar policy. This year in Gan Israel Detroit I came across similar circumstances. Deli Braffman and Berky Berkowitz, a couple of teen campers who visited my infirmary, informed me of an even stricter criterion."We are allowed to listen to any Jewish music on personal headsets, but public music on a boom box in a bunk house is limited. The artists that they listed as banned are Blue Fringe, Matisyahu (a self proclaimed Lubavitcher himself) and Kinderlach," they explained to me.I've never even heard of Kinderlach, but its mention in this context sparked my interest. In addition, in Detroit's camp, the only music played over the Public Address system is Lubavitcher niggunim. Niggunim are usually wordless melodies written by Chassidic leaders as part of their divine service. I felt quite restrained by this edict and searched the camp for someone with whom to discuss my qualm. Since I value her opinion, I spoke to Mrs. Pershin, the camp lifeguard of 25 years, about the limitations on music in camp. She explained that the camp directors were only attempting to create an intensely Chabad atmosphere in camp, something which many children do not get at home. Many campers already have the popular Jewish rock artists on their shelves at home, but may not have experienced more soulful niggunim. This, she said, is the motivation for camp to expose the campers solely to niggunim, at least for a month. Mrs. Pershin also explained the limitation of public Jewish music. Popular Chassidic opinion is that si many of the Rock and Roll beats in modern Jewish tunes originated from gentile sources, whose original intentions were to provoke seductive dancing, it is better to avoid them.At this point in my analysis of music-related camp experiences, it is clear to me that Lubavitchers intend to distance themselves from popular culture. Precisely because of my personal knowledge of their extreme standards, the following incident was quite shocking. In days immediately following camp, intense detoxification from camp songs and hand motions takes place. All campers, including me, come home overtired, jump onto dining room chairs and sing at the top of our lungs. This is much to our mother's dismay."All my bags are packed and I'mready to go,I'm standing here and I want to know,What will this coming sum mer hold for me?All of those great activities,The sunny skies, the grass and trees,Emunah, you're especially for me," comes flying loudly from my little mouth."That isn't a Jewish song. That's leaving on a jet plane by Peter, Paul and Mary," my mother injects, shocked.I was shocked. I had just spent an entire month enwrapped in Judaic songs, niggunim and prayers, and one of my favorite camp songs wasn't even Jewish? I knew that whoever had permitted its acceptance into the camp repertoire must have been unfamiliar with its origins. But, more importantly, I also wondered who had written it in the first place. Years later and still motivated to find out more about the secular/Jewish song dichotomy, I spoke to friends about it late one night in the kitchen. They were appalled at the thought of someone criticizing their camp, and tried to convince me not to look into it further; definitely not to publicize it. One girl had the gall to tear my notebook from my hands. I got it back, thank G-d, and used the notes to write this article. That night eventually proved productive, as I learned of a few more camp songs with non-Jewish origins.The only song that I can remember that comes from a rock song is the one already mentioned. The others come from folk songs such as, "He'll be stroking his beard when he comes", to the tune of, "He'll be coming round the mountain," that we sing for one of the camp rabbis. Aliza Weinberger went to Raninu, an equally religious camp in which they sing, "It never rains in Raninu," to the tune of, "For he's a jolly good fellow."It's a camp of laughter, a camp of fun.For me, Gan Yisroel is the only one.It's a camp for me; it's a camp It's a great camp after all.We will miss you in the fall.It's a great camp after all.Machaneinu Gan Yisroel."Which is sung to the tune of, "It's a Small World After All."One of the girls who tried to dissdissuade me from commenting on this paradigm, Devorah Leah Cohen, gave a soulful explanation. She claims that the practice of creating camp songs from secular songs is acceptable because we are elevating the tunes into Judaism. After this closer look into Lubavitch camp music -- its restrictions and its origins -- I am still left with a question. It is still unclear to me whether camp is being contradictory, or whether they are simply feeling the effects of acculturation, despite their efforts to avoid it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Avodah: Har Habayit (touching the Kotel)

Avodah: Har Habayit (touching the Kotel)
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Har Habayit (touching the Kotel)

Continuing the discussion, I stumbled upon an interesting testimony.

In Av 1929, the Rayatz, 6th Admor of Chabad, visited Eretz-Yisrael and
on his first afternoon in Yerushalayim, visited the Kotel. According
to the Chabad in-house history of the events, "Masa HaRebbe b'Eretz
HaKodesh" by David Ze'ev Rotenberg, 1999 (no publisher; distribution:
Eshel - Kfar Chabad), p. 81, the
Rebbe asked if it is the custom to kiss the stones and he did do so.

Btw, on p. 77, translating from a letter he wrote to his daughter
Sheina, he declares that as the Holy City has theatres, one can
perform kri'ah twice and
he did - once upon seeing the city from afar on the train near Betar and the
second time at the Kotel.

And pp. 131-137 describe his visit to Ma'arat HaMachpela in Chevron inside!

Yisrael Medad

Saturday, August 27, 2005

yk russia

yk russia
YK Russia is currently having their farewell banquet.

Ps. being that we are leaving to Moscow tonight, pictures of the banquet will be posted iy"h before Sunday night.

Friday, August 26, 2005

article from

Article published Aug 25, 2005


Jewish congregation celebrates its first year

By JANEL STEPHENSEAST MANATEE -- The area's only Jewish congregation already is counting major success in its first year.Chabad Lubavitch of Bradenton now has a Hebrew school for children, meets at Braden River Middle School and plans to build a synagogue.The congregation celebrated its first anniversary Friday with a Shabbat family service and a Kiddush dinner at the school. A crowd of more than 85 attended the event."It was a wonderful, joyous occasion where people showed their excitement and enthusiasm and are looking forward to many more years," Rabbi Mendy Bukiet said.Chabad is a 250-year-old movement of Orthodox Judaism that rigorously adheres to the Torah and tradition. It follows the teachings of seven "Rebbes," or leaders, the last of whom, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, established the outreach arm of the movement to help Jews learn about traditional Judaism.Bukiet and his wife, Chanie, started Chabad of Bradenton out of their Lakewood Ranch home last August. Since then, the couple and their congregation have sponsored a variety of festivities, such as Hanukkah and Purim, the latter a first in Lakewood Ranch. The holiday, considered by some as a Jewish Halloween, attracted families from Sarasota and Manatee counties. Attendees came dressed in cowboy hats and plaid shirts to go along with the event's country theme.To celebrate Hanukkah, the congregation spearheaded the display of a 9-foot menorah at Prime Outlets mall in Ellenton. It was the first known public display of the menorah in Manatee County."We are overjoyed and very happy with the success," Bukiet, 28, said. "We didn't expect the enthusiasm like we received. The people are very welcoming."The Bukiets consider the two events a "major success," but find gratification in lower-profile activities such as teaching families how to create a Kosher kitchen or visiting the sick. The couple has extended their ministry to prisons and hospitals."We're trying to touch the community in any way possible" Bukiet said.He moved to Lakewood Ranch with his wife and two sons, 3-year-old Chaim Meir and 1-year-old Mordechai, last year to establish a Chabad Lubavitch center for the area's growing Jewish population.Bukiet estimated that there may be more than 2,000 to 4,000 Jews living in Manatee County today, doubling in size within the past six years.He said the overwhelming growth east of Interstate 75 is what attracted them to this region. Other Jewish congregations from Sarasota and Bradenton also have offered programs in East Manatee to better serve a community that has no temple.Bukiet said he's focused on growing Chabad's membership and looking for a permanent location. He also wants to start educational classes for adults."I think there is a certain community feeling within the Jewish people here that there is a center that we can get together," he said. "People are proud now that there is a Jewish organization on the east."

Letter from the Rebbe to Ariel Sharon - 1970

Letter from the Rebbe to Ariel Sharon - 1970

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
770 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY



By the Grace of G-d
18 Menachem Av, 5730
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greetings and blessing!

I gratefully acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 16. Due to the importance and urgency of the matter I am hastening to respond, especially to the letter’s conclusion.

As we discussed when you were here, it is my opinion that your proper place is in Tzahal, and it is there that with G-d’s assistance you are successful and will continue to be so. Of course, this is in addition to the benefit derived thereby by the general public - the Jewish Nation, the Holy Nation that dwells in the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, which G-d has blessed you with the privilege of protecting by means of your exceptional abilities, effort and vigor.

For this reason - and I told you this when you were here - you must certainly continue to serve in this very important capacity and role. I strongly hope that even if someone in Tzahal is not treating you properly, he too will ultimately acknowledge that you are a sincere person with a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to your mission - indeed, to the extent that it is your very life.

Based on the above-stated, one can readily appreciate my opinion, that it makes no sense at all for you to switch to a different occupation, and most certainly not in the political arena - even to become a government official - for that is not your mission, and you will not utilize your talents and experience thereby. Quite the contrary.

In addendum to the above-mentioned, if only Mr. _____ had also not left the army... The fact that he was harmed by others, who reportedly humiliated him and broke their promise to him, etc., does not make it sensible for him to harm himself. His departure from the army has harmed him, and likewise, the rest of the army which now lacks his skills and talents. This would be true even if had remained in the government; all the more so considering that he has not.
I generally do not meddle in army regulations, but I consider it very odd that when an amateur soldier, in whom only a few months of training was invested, wishes to leave the army, it is reckoned - and rightfully so - as a serious offense, yet when a general or the likes - in whom training of the highest order was invested, as well as considerable energy, money, and so on - wishes to leave, the decision is left to him, even when he explicitly states that his considerations are of a personal nature, and moreover, even when it is certain that his absence will harm the army and consequently, the general state of security.

The above-stated is intended as a parenthetical remark. With regard to you, however, I have not the slightest doubt that your mission and your success is specifically in the Army, especially at present when you fill a high-ranking position that is also vital to the security of the entire land. Of what consequence is a bit of personal discomfort or squabbling relative to the well-being and security of the general public?

All of the above is true even now, when their is no war. But, although I am not at all pessimistic, one cannot ignore the reality, i.e., the situation that will arise if things continue in their natural course. The enemy, situated on the other side of the Suez Canal, continues to strengthen and fortify itself. Despite all of Israel’s official condemnations, the enemy utilizes each and every day towards strengthening its military might, towards acquiring the most potent weapons, etc. - for there is no doubt that the Unites States is not going to enter into a war with the Soviet Union over this. As for Israel’s demand and outcry, "How dare they not abide by their promise?" (in reality, no one ever believed that the enemy would not take advantage of the ceasefire to reinforce itself, as was also stated publicly by General Chaim Hertzog in a newspaper interview, which means that by now it is clearly evident that even fools can no longer be deceived - if such fools who believed the enemy would not take advantage of the ceasefire ever existed. Most certainly, neither the members of the Israeli government nor of the U.S. government ever believed it, and the same is true of the Soviet Union and all the rest. This was also the case regarding the ceasefire of three years ago, fourteen years ago, and a number of times before that - no one ever believed that the enemy would not reinforce itself), these will continue as long as possible, and then in the end the Israeli government will resolve to maintain the status-quo, as they always do in the end. From this it is understood that in the negotiations concerning peace conditions - now that the enemy is reinforced and so on - the Israeli side will be at a disadvantage, because the state of security will have changed from one extreme to the other between the day the ceasefire was put into effect and the end of the above-mentioned negotiations.

I’m afraid - or perhaps I should say, I sort of hope - that just as they did at the beginning of the Six Day War, the enemy will again make a foolish move which will necessitate an annulment of the ceasefire agreement, and G-d will once again perform miracles and wonders, empowering Israel to mobilize all of its resources (in complete defense, rather than partial defense, as the case has been until now) immediately after the annulment of the ceasefire and the reinstitution of self-defense, the sole definition of which, in our context, is the launching of a preemptive strike. If these things would be done then there would be some hope that enemy-fire would cease permanently and peace would finally prevail - unlike the current situation in which, as mentioned above, the path being followed is one that leads directly to war, G-d forbid, with conditions much worse for the Israeli’s than they were on the day of the ceasefire agreement..

The above elaboration comes in response to your claim that what I wrote regarding the Canal is no longer relevant, for I suspect that in the not-so-distant future the matter will become relevant once again. If only this assessment of mine would turn out to be incorrect - but judging by the natural course of things this does not seem likely.

I was pleased to be informed by Mr. _____ that matters are well with you and your family. May it be G-d’s will that we should finally hear tidings of true peace in the land, which certainly will not come about by showing signs of weakness and readiness to make broad compromises and concessions, as is being done in the current negotiations, as even the newspapers are now publicizing. Quite the contrary. As the saying goes - if one truly desires peace, then he must demonstrate that he is even prepared to fight for it, with the utmost intensity and under the most advantageous conditions.

With esteem and blessing.

May we hear good news.

P.S. I didn’t want to mention it during the conversation we had when you were here - but on the other hand, I don’t see what right I have not to mention it - I strongly hope that you are careful to put on t’fillin every weekday. In your case it is not merely a matter of a single mitzva performed by a single person, but rather, a matter which concerns the well-being of the general public. Despite the fact that you are extremely busy with security matters and so on, as is well known, nevertheless - in fact even more so because of it - you should be careful to fulfill this mitzva properly. This relates to both the hand-t’fillin and the head-t’fillin. I hope you will pardon me for mentioning this.

Construction of synagogue halted as leaders cite lack of funds,0,4732505.story?coll=stam-news-local-headlines

Construction of synagogue halted as leaders cite lack of funds

By Joy L. Woodson
Staff Writer

August 26, 2005

STAMFORD -- Chabad Lubavitch of Greater Stamford has stopped construction on a $7 million synagogue because the congregation ran out of money last year to fully build, landscape and furnish it, according to leaders in the group.

The Jewish congregation had expected to finish the building, which is shaped like an open book, this month. Backers of the project say they still hope to finish the religious center at 752-760 High Ridge Road by next year.

Neighbors, however, are frustrated, saying the site is unkempt and the entire project is poorly planned.

Leaning back in his office chair during an interview, Rabbi Yisrael Deren sighed and explained "the situation was one where we had the option of either borrowing more money to go ahead and complete it or slowing the construction down considerably and raising the money."

Deren said the lack of money is distressing, but the group is too far into the project to stop now. More than $3 million is still needed.

Part of that total includes more than $1 million owed to at least four contractors who have current mechanic's liens on the property for work done between 2003 and 2004, according to city land records.

A mechanic's lien entitles anyone who provides work -- such as carpentry, plumbing and painting, or supplies building materials and supplies for the project -- to claim compensation for services. If the lien is not paid, the contractors can begin foreclosure proceedings to recoup their losses.

The four companies that have liens on the property are: Riccardi Bros. Inc. of Greenwich, which is owed $21,000; Steeltech Building Products of South Windsor, owed $25,142; Main Enterprises Inc. of Stratford, owed $120,697; and Norwalk-based P&H Construction, which was the principal builder and is owed $920,303.

"At the end of the day, no one is going to be left holding the bag," Deren said. "Everybody will not only be paid, but hopefully we give them the opportunity to make even more money."

Deren said the congregation had been "somewhat naive" about how much money it could raise. He hopes two recent donor grants totaling about $1 million, which the congregation must match, will help erase the liens and move the project forward.

The rabbi anticipates moving to the new center by the end of the 2006 school year; the congregation currently leases space from Agudath Sholom on Colonial Road. Chabad-Lubavitch is an ultra-Orthodox Jewish movement with its headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y.

When workers vanished about eight months ago, weeds began growing rampant and a fence enclosed the property. Neighbors said they suspected something was financially awry.

"That does happen in construction projects occasionally, but if they didn't have the money, why even start," asked Edward Pirro, who lives on Crystal Lake Road.

Jodi Hoff, who moved to Brandt Road in 2000, decided to move in June. She feared the area would be too urban with too much traffic from the synagogue. Besides, she said, "it just never seemed like it was going to get finished."

Another resident, Eva Astrom on Hartswood Road, said even with a lack of funds the congregation should clean up along High Ridge Road, which has an abandoned trailer and a pile of boulders.

"That project should never have been here in the first place," she said. "I think it's an eyesore, and it's way too big for the area there."

Meanwhile, neighbors say they are still dealing with construction mishaps. One mistake caused a dozen trees to be chopped down at the rear of the property, which must be replaced. Also, contractors built below the water table, forcing the use of a generator to continuously pump water from the site. The additional costs were not anticipated, Deren said.

Construction started on the building in 2003 after the congregation received approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2001. Asked why construction started without all the money, Lubavitchleaders said seeing part of a building was more important to the Jewish community than seeing no building at all.

Richard Redniss, the land-use consultant for the project, said many nonprofit organizations go through the same thing. In a situation like this, construction liens are common guarantees for contractors who may be worried about a full and timely payment, he said.

"We found, that over the years, that many nonprofits end up optimistically beginning construction and then run into delays and cost overruns and unexpected problems," he said. "It's happened many, many times."

Located on the former site of the Turn of River library, the new synagogue will include a preschool, a center for families with special needs children, adult studies programs, a banquet hall and a meditation garden.

Parents of children in the Jewish preschool and members of the congregation said they are confident that the new building will be finished within a year. They asked neighbors for a little more patience.

Not only will Jews benefit from having another community center in the city, neighbors will reap higher property values, they said.

"It's unfortunate that it's become so long to build the building," said Dinah Miller Marlowe, who has one child enrolled in the school and two other children who have graduated. "We are very looking forward to having our children utilize the beautiful building."

Parents Arkie and Randie Engle are eagerly anticipating the new building, where their 1-year-old daughter will attend preschool.

"I have full confidence that it will be constructed by the time our daughter enters the preschool,"Arkie Engle said. "I sort of see any delays as a bump in the road, and this is a worthwhile project, and anything worthwhile is worth waiting for."
Copyright © 2005, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

Thursday, August 25, 2005



By: Yossi Shuchat

Having just returned from Germany I write this article to share with
all my friends one of the most inspiring programs I have participated
in my life in Bavaria, Germany.

You might ask what brings me to Germany during the months of July and
August, a place that for many of us bodes of dark memories and not
pleasant thoughts. As so avidly displayed, when I see the destruction
and persecution of the Jewish communities in Germany and Europe
throughout the ages. In the center of many a town, during the middle
ages a large church was built atop the ruins of a synagogue. These
towns have seen the expulsion of its Jews many times throughout

But after all that's said and done I would like to let you get a
glimpse of my travels in Germany. Every step of the way, from the Jew
we met at the train station who hasn't been in contact with Judaism
for years, to the middle aged businessman who put on Tefillin for the
first time in his life, to the teenager who remembers Tefillin from
his counselors in Gan Yisroel summer camp in Russia more then 12
years ago, was wrought with divine providence.

All this thanks to a program started 60 years ago by the Lubavitcher
Rebbe to reach out and enable Jews living in any far-flung town in
the world to connect with their heritage of Torah and Mitzvos.
Starting out in 1955, with 10 pairs of Rabbinical students in the
United States the program has now blossomed to over 280 rabbinical
students visiting Jews in all four corners of the world.

We start out in the city of Augsburg with a list of 3-4 Jews calling
them to ask if we can schedule a meeting to discuss some Yiddishkeit?
We meet, put on Tefillin, distribute shabbos candles, affix a mezuzah
and discuss all aspects of Yiddishkeit. With words of encouragement
we part. We ask them for more Jews in town whom we might be able to
contact as part of our quest to meet with as many Jews as possible.

We receive the number of a older Jew in town. He is very busy but
with a little nudging agrees to meet us for a few minutes. As it
turns out he is a famous lecturer on the holocaust and moved to
Germany after the war. We were taken aback when he revealed that he
was the secretary to the commander in the concentration camp near
Krakow. He secretly made contact with Mr. Schindler in order to save
the Jews employed at Schindlers factory, in the now famous Schindlers
list documentary. We are truly in awe by the courage this man had
shown in saving the lives of his fellow Jews during the holocaust.

Now it was our turn and we asked him if he would like to put on
Tefillin. Hesitating, he replies that he doesn't remember how to wrap
them. With our encouragement, he puts on Tefillin and starts reading
the Shema. After carefully reading shema and boruch sheim, he chokes
up with emotion, he cannot continue reading further. It has been at
least "50 years" since he put on Tefillin. Full of emotion he asks
where he can buy Tefillin. Telling him we have a pair he most
excitedly purchases the Tefillin insisting to pay their full price.
Concluding that now he understands why he agreed to squeeze us into
his schedule that his Neshomo receive the food it craves and deserves.

Another story I must share is about a Jew from Lithuania who is l"o
sitting in prison in Germany. The way we found out about him is a
story unto itself. During the course of a visit with a Jewish family.
the wife mentions to me that she works as a translator for the
prisons authority. If we would like, her husband may arrange
permission for us to visit the few Jewish prisoners. We of course

Upon arriving at the prison, we were told we can only meet one
prisoner. In the midst of our conversation he mentions he had just
recently written a letter to Chabad Lubavitch (he wasn't sure to
whom) asking for a rabbi to contact him. After leaving the prison I
realized the magnitude of what has just occurred. This man had
written a letter to Chabad Lubavitch and the Rebbe with his intrinsic
connection and Ahavas Yisroel for every Jew had ensured that this Jew
receive the encouragement he needs at this time.

These tales are just a few of the many in which Jews were inspired to
buy Jewish books, Tefillin, Mezuzois, to add in mitzvah observance,
and just simply to reconnect to our rich heritage and find meaning in
being Jewish. This especially holds true regarding the many recent
immigrants from the former Soviet Union for whom this might have been
their first opportunity to connect with Judaism.

To summarize my emotions of my 3 week stay in Germany, I can say that
we truly feel and see that no matter how many of our enemies plotted
to destroy the Jewish people G-D forbid, the Jewish nation has always
triumphed. Today in Nuremburg, one of the cradles of Nazism, there
now exists a Jewish camp where children walk proudly in their
yarlmukes and tzitzis proclaiming to all the pride we have in being
Jewish and living a Jewish way of life. And let us all join together
with Jews all over the world by adding in mitzvah observance thereby
hastening the moment when we will be joined together in Yerusholayim
with Moshiach immediately.

google Talk


Dem life of a Lubavitch teen...: Ok so I guess I'll introduce me....

Dem life of a Lubavitch teen...: Ok so I guess I'll introduce me....
I've been Lubavitch all my life. I never was able to appreciate what I had, given the attitude around me... but it's really true what they say- go to seminary and grow up. So I did. And now I'm ready to take the world on.... get ready, here I come! I will actualize my highest potential by using all my talents for a higher purpose- to serve the Almighty... how beautifully, deliciously simple and clear. How come I was never able to see that before? Hashem, only please help me stay on the straight and narrow...

Chaim Potok

by Marius Buning

Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Post-war Literatures in English
March 1995
Groningan: Nyhoff


Chaim Potok was born in the Bronx, New York, on 17 February 1929, to Polish Jewish immigrants, and was educated in Jewish parochial schools. At the early age of ten he showed talent in drawing and painting but was dissuaded by his father and Talmudic teachers from pursuing this interest. Instead, he undertook a serious religious and secular education, first at the Orthodox Yeshiva University, New York, where he received a BA in English (summa cum laude) in 1950; then at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, where he received his rabbinic ordination in 1954; and finally at the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained a PhD in 1965.

Potok served as a chaplain in the United States Army with front-line units in Korea from 1955 to 1957. During that time, he made a number of trips to Japan, which turned out to be a crucial experience since it forced him to rethink his religious and cultural position. In an interview Potok has said that all of his books came about 'as a result of that moment in time when I stood in Hiroshima, trying to figure out where I was and what I was doing there, and what it all really meant to me'. He then began a distinguished teaching and publication career in Jewish studies; he became editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society of America and collaborated on the new authorized translation of the Hebrew Bible, which was finally completed in 1982.

Meanwhile Potok had started writing, first in diary form, on his experiences in Korea. This work appeared in strongly revised form as I Am The Clay more than thirty-five years later; it was followed by the first draft of what was to become his best-known novel, The Chosen, written in Jerusalem during the fall and winter of 1963-64, and published after major revisions in 1967. Basically dealing with the interplay of the Jewish tradition and Western secular humanism, it had an extraordinary world-wide success. The novel was turned into a major film in 1982. It was followed two years later by The Promise a sequel that continues to examine in fictional form the complicated relationship between Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. In 1972 My Name Is Asher Lev appeared, a novel about a Hasidic painter as a young man in conflict with his family and his religious community. This further established Potok's literary reputation.

From 1973 to 1977 Potok went to live with his wife and three young children in Jerusalem. In 1975 In the Beginning appeared, which deals with anti-Semitism both in Europe and America. In 1977 he returned to America and settled with his family in Merion, a distinguished suburb north of Philadelphia, where he now lives in a lovely Tudor house, with a large painting studio on the second floor. Potok is a self-taught painter, who since the late sixties has produced a considerable number of idiosyncratic paintings.

In 1978 Potok published a non-fiction work, calledWanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews which is a highly personal and imaginative account of what Judaism is, what it borrowed from surrounding cultures and what it gave back to the world. It was followed in 1981 by The Book of Lights, which centers on the apparent contrast between the constructive 'light' of Jewish cabalistic mysticism and the destructive 'light' of the atomic bomb, co-developed by Jewish physicists. ln 1985 Davita's Harp appeared, the first Potokian novel with a female protagonist, who reclaims her Jewish heritage during its course. Published in 1990, The Gift of Asher Lev takes up the further developments of his earlier eponymous fictional hero, who now appears to be in a personal as well as artistic mid-life crisis that is ultimately resolved by an uneasy compromise between the demands of his family and the Jewish community on the one hand and those of his artistic calling on the other.

With I Am The Clay, which he had started writing before The Chosen but subsequently strongly revised and rewrote during the period of the Gulf War, Potok entered a new phase in his literary career. Although the Holocaust and the themes of suffering and survival have been thematically present in all his work, they become central in his latest fictions, The Trope Teacher (1992) and The Canal (1993). Both works show the devastating after-effects of the Holocaust on the respective main characters, neither of whom is an observant Jew any more. These novellas have still to appear in America, but they have already been published in Dutch translation. They show a remarkable change in style and tone; there is a greater spareness of language, a more flexible narrative technique, and above all a much more pessimistic outlook on the world than in Potok's earlier work. As he stated in a recent interview, 'we must learn to live with the possibility that there are no answers any more, at least no Answers with capital letters'. It may be more than accidental that his most recent publications include two children's books, The Tree of Here (1993) and The Sky of Now (1994), illustrated by the Pennsylvania artist Tony Auth. At present Potok is working on several projects, including a non-fiction work, that traces the tribulations of a Jewish family through several generations in modern Russia. He also continues to teach contemporary literature and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and creative writing at Johns Hopkins University.

Note: I should like to record my gratitude to Chaim Potok for the hospitality with which I was received in his Merion home, for allowing me to see his paintings, and for the many conversations we had both in America and in The Netherlands. I am also grateful to Professor Lillian Kremer of Kansas State University, whose several articles on Potok have been of great value to me.

Critical Essay

Most of Potok's novels can be seen as the fictional sites of cultural confrontation and how that confrontation affects the people involved in them. The cultural confrontation is that between a minority immigrant Jewish subculture and the 'umbrella' culture (as the author himself calls it) of Western secular humanism; the problem for his characters is how to fuse what he terms 'core-to-core' or fundamental elements of both cultures without losing the essential nature of their own identity. Out of this 'culture shock' the typical Potokian 'Zwischenmensch' ('between-person') is born, one who rejects neither his original culture nor the contemporary culture surrounding him. Inevitably such a dialectical, transgressive personality will be under constant pressure from either side; at best he will achieve a precarious equilibrium between old loyalties and new ideas, as is the case in the early novels, from The Chosen to Davita's Harp. However, from the companion novels My Name Is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev (which appeared eighteen years later) it becomes painfully clear that the tenuous balance is no more than provisional and cannot last. 'To be a Zwischenmensch is to feel at home everywhere and nowhere simultaneously,' according to Potok, who considers the novelist to be an outstanding example of such a 'Zwischenmensch,' since he is the mediator between himself and his readers, between the past and the present, and between reality and the imagination.

Although it is true that the theme of cultural confrontation has been dealt with by other American Jewish writers like Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and many others, it is equally true that none of them has situated this problem in terms of a cultural conflict between orthodox and ultra-orthodox Judaism - comprising Jewish theology (including Talmudic studies and the mystical writings of the Cabala), liturgy, history, and scholarship - on the one hand, versus Western on the other, a humanism represented by modern literature, Freudian psychology, 'scientific' or 'higher' Bible criticism, nuclear physics, Marxism, and modern art. It is Potok's particular gift as a novelist and storyteller to have subjected these rather abstract areas of cultural expression to novelistic treatment and to have made them available to the common reader. He writes about these modern achievements with great enthusiasm and succeeds remarkably well in making them exciting for us, however complex they actually are. Yet he is not blind to the darker aspects of Western civilization, particularly since its history is fraught with an antiSemitism that reached its greatest intensity in the Holocaust.

The Chosenwe encounter a cultural confrontation between the closed, fundamentalist world of ultra-orthodox Judaism in which the brilliant young boy, Danny Saunders, son of a patriarchal Hasidic rabbi (who has imposed a gulf of silence between himself and his son to educate him into pain) is brought up, and the more enlightened upbringing of his friend, Reuven Malter, whose father indirectly helps Danny to become acquainted with some of the great texts of Western scholarship, notably the works of Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud. After much torment and conflict Danny Saunders decides not to become a rabbi, but a student of psychology in a secular graduate school whereas, ironically enough, Reuven Malter does end up planning to become a rabbi.

Parallel to this cultural clash runs a political conflict with regard to the founding of the State of Israel after the Holocaust between the Messianic Zionism of Rabbi Malter, which consists in piously waiting for the Messiah since 'it will all emerge through holiness'-'God will build the land, not Ben Gurion and his goyim! When the Messiah comes, we will have Eretz Yisrael. A Holy Land, not a land contaminated by Jewish goyim!' (198) - and the activist Zionism of Theodore Herzl that Reuven Malter's father supports:

Some Jews say we should wait for God to send the Messiah. We cannot wait for
God! We must make our own Messiah' We must rebuild American Jewry. And
Palestine must become a Jewish homeland! ( 197)
Malter's father firmly believes that

the slaughter of six million Jews would have meaning only on the day a Jewish state
was established. Only then would their sacrifice begin to make some sense; only then
would the songs of faith they had sung on their way to the gas chambers take on
meaning; only then would Jewry again become a light to the world. (226)
In The Promise, sequel to The Chosen, we witness the clash between fundamentalist rabbinical scholarship that insists upon a literal interpretation of the Torah and the Talmud, which it considers divinely-inspired and therefore sacred, and the new, 'scientific' approach that allows for textual emendations and substitutions and, more generally, for an enlightened reading of these texts. The question of the right kind of approach is fought over to the death by all parties concerned, especially by one of the teachers, Rabbi Rav Kalman, a Holocaust survivor, who torments his mind, wondering:

If one accepted the possibility of changing the text of the Talmud, then what might
happen to the laws that were based upon these texts? ... Why not change the text of
the Ten Commandments or the various other legal passages? What then would happen
to the sanctity of the Bible? How was one to regard the Master of the Universe if one
could simply go ahead and rewrite the Bible? How was one to regard the revelation at
Sinai? The entire fabric of the tradition would come apart as a result of this kind of
method. It was a dangerous method, an insidious method; it could destroy the very
heart of Yiddishkeit [Jewishness] ... Had Jews suffered two thousand years for a
tradition based on texts that were filled with scribal error? (228-29)
The same problem of how to keep a deep commitment to Judaism in balance with the findings of modern biblical scholarship, which originated in Germany towards the end of the last [19th] century, lies at the heart of Potok's fourth novel, In the Beginning. In it Potok's alter ego, the brilliant young yeshiva student David Lurie, undertakes to bridge the gulf between fundamentalism and secular humanism, including ugly aspects of Western anti-Semitism, even at the risk of losing the respect of his family, his friends, and all of his teachers but one. David Lurie's transgressive personality bears comparison with that of Asher Lev, the brilliant young artist in the novel carrying his name in the title.

My Name is Asher Lev, Potok's third novel, is by common consent one of his most successful and most memorable creations, not least because of the use of a first-person narrator who is also the central character, which gives the novel a great deal of immediacy. It describes retrospectively and in vivid colors the painful, heroic struggle of the young Hasidic boy, Asher Lev, who tries to break away from his fundamentalist upbringing in order to become an artist. With the exhibition of his two powerful, highly controversial 'Brooklyn Crucifixion' paintings, in which he has used the crucifixion motif in order to depict his sense of his mother's protracted suffering because of the tense relationship between her husband and her son, Asher Lev has outraged his parents as well as his religious community to such a degree that he is temporarily exiled. And so Asher Lev moves to Paris, although he remains an observant Hasidic Jew.

In defense of his protagonist, Potok has remarked in interviews that for Asher Lev there was '[no] comparable aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment', adding that the cross as an artistic motif was repeatedly used by Picasso, the quintessential pagan, as well as by Chagall, who represented the plight of the pogrom-ridden Russian Jews in a painting of a Jew on the cross. From the sequel, The Gift of Asher Lev, published eighteen years later, we learn how deeply this core-to-core cultural conflict has struck, extending as far as the next generation of children and grandchildren. Having returned to his Brooklyn Hasidic community with his wife, a Holocaust survivor, and his two children in order to attend the funeral of his uncle Yitzschok, himself in private a collector of modern art, Asher Lev faces continuing resentment over his notorious crucifixion paintings, which to many survivors of Christian anti-Semitism amount to pure blasphemy. Moreover, he is confronted with a personal as well as an artistic mid-life crisis since his critics have strongly criticized his recent paintings for repeating themselves too much. After prolonged soul-searching he rediscovers his 'gift' as an artist and decides to return to France, albeit at the cost of partial separation from his family and at the price of allowing his son, Avrumel, to eventually succeed the aged, charismatic, childless Rebbe. This, then, is Asher Lev's 'gift' to the Hasidic community; it is an act that' in a symbolic way, parallels the biblical story of Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac, which also happens to be the subject of one of Asher Lev's own paintings.

The novels that feature Asher Lev as their central character belong to the genre of the Kunstlerroman My Name Is Asher Lev offers a portrait of the Hasidic artist/painter as a young man, and The Gift of Asher Lev depicts the same artist as a middleaged family man. Although the later novel can be read independently, it obviously acquires more relevance in the light of the former. One important difference between the novels is that the earlier novel is more concerned with the psychology of the artist, whereas the later novel focuses more on the artistic process itself, offering a great deal of insight into such painterly problems as the use of color, space, forms and techniques, besides making us share in a good many discussions on art.

This shift of emphasis is, no doubt, in large measure due to Potok's own growing interest in painting. As he has intimated, he had wanted to become a painter at the age of ten but both his father and his Talmudic teachers refused to permit him to pursue this interest because it was considered an idolatrous activity. It was only after the successful publication of The Chosen that Potok actually started painting. Potok has now created a small but distinguished collection of paintings, often related to characters or episodes in the earlier novels which, curiously enough, they often precede rather than follow.

In The Book of Lights the cultural confrontation is enacted on a more global scale: it deals with the values of Jewish esoteric mysticism known as the Cabala (literally: the tradition), encapsulated in the Zohar ('The Book of Splendor or Light') and composed around 1300 in Spain, which became after the Bible and the Talmud the third sacred source of Jewish spiritual guidance; it was much enlarged upon by a small group of Cabalists under the direction of Rabbi Isaac Luria in Safed, in the mountains of northern Israel, in the middle of the sixteenth century. Lurianic Cabalism is based on a mytical method of interpreting sacred texts that allows initiates to penetrate life's mysteries and foretell the future; theologically speaking, it offers interesting unorthodox speculations about the nature of God, the creation of the world, the interplay of good and evil, and the notion of the 'restoration' of the divine man in the medium of mortal man.

The Book of Lightscontrasts the creative 'light' or 'spiritual fire' provided by Jewish mysticism, and to which the young rabbi, Gershon Loran, feels deeply attracted, with the destructive, annihilating 'light' of modern science that, with the help of Jewish physicists, such as his best friend's father, developed the atomic bombs that were eventually dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of World War II. At the same time, the novel highlights the culture shock that Gershon Loran, closely modeled on Potok himself, experiences when he is confronted with the pagan world of the Orient, whose forms and values he has learned to appreciate. This experience makes Loran wonder whether the God to whom he prays also listens to the prayers of the Shinto, Buddhist, or Confucian Japanese priests, and if so, what the implications are for the centrality of Western religions. Loran also questions the apparently pointless suffering of the Koreans - a subject dealt with more fully in I Am The Clay; eventually he goes to Jerusalem, hoping to find enlightenment in a further study of the great texts of Jewish mysticism.

Up until now women had played only secondary and tertiary roles in Potok's maledominated fictional world. With Davita's Harp the first female character and narrator appeared in the shape of a very young girl, llana Davita Chandal, who grows up in New York City in the 1930s and early 1940s. The novel describes the cultural confrontation between Marxist ideology, represented by her non-believing parents, who support the republican case during the Spanish Civil War, and the orthodox Judaism to which the young protagonist feels attracted. However, Davita discovers to her dismay that she is barred from full religious participation because she is not allowed to recite Kaddish (the prayer for the dead) for her father, who has died in the Guernica atrocity, and at the yeshiva (a Jewish parochial school) she is denied the first prize in Talmud studies because she is a girl. In the end she is left with a 'sacred discontent' and decides to become a writer, thus breaking away from fundamentalism while still remaining a non-Orthodox Jewess. As a character she will reappear as a writer of contemporary ghost stories in one of Potok's latest fictions, The Trope Teacher.

Both the character of Davita and the story of the withheld first prize are with minor changes, 'true to life,' like so many of Potok's characters and events: Davita is the author's wife, Adena, to whom the narrated events actually happened. At the same time Davita's Harp is about the power of the human imagination as a way of coming to terms with the often bewildering and frightening world we live in; its salutary effect is symbolized by the door harp that makes the 'gentlest and sweetest of tones' when Davita's door is opened or closed.

It must be stressed, however, that in Potok's most recent fictions, starting with I Am The Clay - which can be seen as an absolute watershed in his literary output - the theme of cultural conflict between Judaism and Western humanism no longer plays the central role it did in the earlier, by now 'classic' novels. I Am The Clay tells us how the traditional, non-Christian values of Korean society are confronted with and destroyed by the technological warfare of the United States during the Korean War, while a Jewish chaplain plays only a minor and rather distant role in the events. The novel, whose title refers to several biblical texts and a Christian hymn, describes in stark detail the tortuous, nomadic flight of an old peasant couple through a war-ridden landscape and how they rescue at great risk and with great effort a severely-wounded young boy, who ultimately makes himself indispensable to their survival. The namelessness of its three main characters, only indicated as 'the old man', 'the old woman', and 'the boy', the theme of the journey through darkness and devastation, together with the persistent use of archetypal images of flight, degradation, and death as well as of recovery and restoration, allow us to read the novel as a haunting modern allegory or parable of human suffering and survival.

For the middle-aged protagonists of The Trope Teacher and The Canal their Jewish background is mainly a thing of the past; neither of them is any longer religiously observant. Their problem is how to come to terms with their own traumatic past and how to survive individually in today's thoroughly secularized, postmodern world, which no longer offers any apparent hierarchy of values to live by.

For Benjamin Walter, the central character in The Trope Teacher - the novel's peculiar title alludes to the trope as a figure of speech and as a form of liturgical chanting - his Jewish heritage mainly consists of burdensome memories of his former trope teacher, Isaac Zapinsky, who helped him prepare for his bar-mitzvah by teaching him how to chant passages from the Torah in the prescribed manner. To his utter dismay Walter discovers that both his teacher and his own father were deserters from the Austrian army in World War I. Himself a soldier in the Second World War, he imagines himself to have seen Zapinski's dead body in a mass grave near one of the concentration camps he has helped to liberate. This memory haunts him for the rest of his life and prevents him from writing his memoirs (his 'deathwork') as a professor of military history since he fails to see 'the cords of connection' both in his private and his professional life; it is only thanks to a number of encounters - cast in the form of retrospective confessions - with Davita Chandal, his new neighbor, and writer of ghost stories, who acts as his therapist and as his Muse, that he is able to come to terms with his painful past and, perhaps, with his cheerless present situation.

The Trope Teacher, aptly subtitled 'A Ghost Story for Our Times', can be read on several Ievels simultaneously. Besides being a story about the burdens of the past and of contemporary political problems in Europe and America as exemplified by the 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkans and the 'political correctness' rage in American academic life, it can be seen as a metafiction, that is, a fiction about the act of writing and storytelling. We are given sophisticated discussions about the 'destroyers' versus the 'defenders' of fiction, with Flaubert, Joyce, Kafka, Conrad, Mann, Virginia Woolf and Beckett among the former, and Dostoevsky, Melville and Bellow among the latter category. Of the contemporary writers only Bellow and Pynchon can pass muster, all the others are 'small potatoes,' which leads to the somber conclusion that the art of writing or telling stories has come to an end. The professor/narrator also lashes out against poststructuralist literary criticism as practiced in today's American academe.

The novella's literary character is further accentuated by the its intertextuality, with references and allusions to at least some fifty authors, among whom Dante takes pride of place (notably Canto 13 of the Inferno) next to the Bible. Finally, The Trope Teacher can also be read as a philosophical inquiry into the origin of evil and the nature of suffering, as will be argued below.

For Amos Brickman, the successful, Philadelphia-based architect in The Canal, Potok's latest fiction to date, his Jewish heritage harks back to his childhood days spent in Krakow, Poland, and in particular to the gruesome details of his escape, together with his cousin Joel, from Nazi violence by jumping into a canal. These memories are relived in fragmented, highly dramatized flashbacks, which use both the past and the present tense. Hearing a mysterious voice insistently calling him to come, he decides much against his will to return to his birthplace and to visit Auschwitz and the crematorium at Birkenau. On his return to Philadelphia Brickman accepts, after much internal conflict and physical unease, the offer of his friend, the jovial Reverend Ellis Franklin - who ardently believes in reconciliation and healing between Christians and Jews to build near the city's canal a hypermodern, ecumenical, multifunctional church; its architectural shape is the form of a cube, a biblical Tent of Meeting, a place of worship 'where even questioning is a form of reverence,' with an actual stream flowing around the Sanctuary, to divide it from the Ambulatory.

Even from this incomplete outline it should be clear that The Canal is a highly symbolic story, a parable about religious relativism, replete with archetypal imagery, in particular of water connoting both death and redemption as well as spiritual mystery. Amos Brickman's name is also doubly suggestive: it refers not only to constructing buildings, in particular a modern church as the meeting place between the horizontal and the vertical, the profane and the sacred, but also to Amos, one of Potok's favorite prophets, announcing God's promise to His people of restoration and rebuilding - in this story extended to include all people of good will. On a more personal level restoration also entails resolving the generational and psychological conflict between Brickman and his son, a young anti-establishment artist trying to find his own way in the world.

Although one may be tempted to classify Potok's novels as 'novels of ideas,' in which characters, plots, and dialogues are subservient to the pervasive theme of cultural confrontation, such a classification would do injustice to the psychological and philosophical impact they have had and still have on generations of readers, young and old, Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and secular. Indeed Potok's readership is of the greatest possible variety and diversity.

To account for this worldwide impact is not easy. It is manifestly true that, from a structural, narrative point of view, they are not particularly complicated (unlike several novels by some of the American Jewish writers mentioned earlier), nor is Potok's style in any way exotic or difficult; on the contrary, there is always a recognizable basic story line, with a resolution of conflict at the end, and the style is, on the whole, simple and accessible. But these obvious literary features, characteristic of most bestsellers, cannot fully account for the immense popularity of his work that, content-wise, is far from simple, superficial or sentimental.

An explanation in terms of the psychology of Carl Jung may provide an answer: Potok's characters, situations and symbols or associations are thoroughly archetypal or universal; they draw on the collective experience of the entire human species, and are therefore basically relevant to all cultures. Clearly, readers of all kinds and persuasions can identify with the archetypal search for one's identity or 'roots', together with finding one's place in the world and giving some sort of meaning to it. Potok has succeeded in depicting this questpattern, involving a journey from innocence into experience, in a particularly concrete, lively, highly visual way that evidently lends itself to 'translation' into universal experience.

Moreover, with the exception of the most recent fiction, all Potok's novels end on an affirmative note, ranging from almost unbound optimism in the first two novels to a more qualified form in the later ones. This positive attitude derives in part from the fact that Potok's novels are decidedly American, so that his protagonists to varying degrees share in the ethos of the American Dream, something of worldwide appeal. In part this optimism (as Potok has himself pointed out) is inherent in the Jewish tradition of philosophical idealism: 'in the world it may seem that life is without meaning, and perhaps it is, but it is the task of mankind to give meaning to it.' As S. Lillian Kremer, one of the most perceptive of Potok critics, has convincingly shown (1989), his fictional heroes aspire, as the novelist himself does in Wanderings, 'to rebuild ... [Judaism's] core from the treasures of our past, fuse it with the best in secularism, and create a new philosophy, a new literature, a new world of Jewish art, a new community, and take seriously the meaning of the word emancipation.' Hence Potok's emphasis throughout his work on a restoration through renewal of Judaism in America and Israel.

According to Potok, American Judaism mirrors in microcosm the tensions not only in the Western world - but by extension within any civilization - of finding a balance between the values of the past and the achievements of the present. Potok is fond of quoting James Joyce's remark (in answer to the question why Joyce always wrote about Dublin) to the effect that 'if I can get to the heart of Dublin, I can get to the heart of all the cities in the world,' since '[i]n the particular is contained the universal.' In Potok's work Brooklyn Judaism in all its forms is the central metaphor in Potok's work through whose prism the universal search for identity and meaning in the modern world is reflected.

Moreover, this quest for identity and authenticity has been dramatically accentuated in our century by World War II and in particular by the Holocaust and the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These unprecedented atrocities require a radical review of the human predicament. Indeed, the traumatic aftermath of these events, particularly of the Holocaust, overshadows all of Potok's works. He is not only concerned with its devastating after-effects on his characters, but at the same time with what theologians and philosophers call the problem of Divine Providence or theodicy, centering on the unanswerable question of how God can allow the existence of physical and moral evil in a world supposedly created by Him. The question can be illustrated, for instance, by the case of Levi Abramovich in one of Potok's early, little-known, short stories (published in the same year as The Chosen) called 'The Dark Place Inside', who collapses when, sixteen years after having himself narrowly escaped a Nazi mass shooting, his murdered wife's watch is returned to him. This seemingly insignificant event provokes Levi into a dispute with God, echoing Job, another righteous sufferer:

Master of the Universe ... if You are truly real, then You are powerless and cruel. If
You are able to prevent evil but are unwilling, You are cruel. If You are willing to
prevent evil but are not able, then You are without power. And if you are able and
willing, why then is there evil?
He bitterly concludes that God 'no longer merits consideration'. The theodicean question is also raised in Potok's first novel, The Chosen, in which the pious Rabbi Saunders, after having been informed of some of the gruesome details of the Holocaust, exclaims: 'Master of the Universe, how do You permit such a thing to happen?' although he adds that we should accept God's will under all circumstances. In The Gift of Asher Lev the protagonist's wife (who has been in hiding during the war years and whose whole family has been killed in concentration camps) wonders: 'Can God have a plan? That is what I always thought when I was in that secluded apartment in Paris. That God had a plan, a great plan.' And Asher Lev himself rebels against God, the Master of the Universe, for allowing the death of his good friend, Lucien Lacamp, a righteous 'goy', in a bomb attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris.

In The Trope Teacher the theodicean question is reduced to its most pregnant, minimalist, yiddish form: 'varoom' ('why'), repeated more than ten times throughout the ghostly story: why did Auschwitz exist and why did the Allied forces arrive too late; why does the protagonist's wife have to die and why did his student have to commit suicide; why do massacres take place in the Balkans or in Africa? Similarly in The Canal the protagonist bluntly raises the overwhelming question: 'What has God to do with Auschwitz? Even Satan doesn't live in Auschwitz'. After having visited that 'black hole in history' himself in the fall of 1992 Potok has been quoted as saying that Auschwitz is the place where God never was. Cultural confrontation and philosophical questioning, then, are Potok's major thematic preoccupations, to which must be added his abiding interest in the psychology of human relationships, particularly between fathers and sons, teachers and students, and among young men.

In almost all of Potok's novels father-son relationships are central to our understanding of the various conflicts that occur. It is the task of the fathers to pass on the Jewish heritage to their obedient sons. Critics have pointed out that the stress put on the authority of the father parallels a similar stress in traditional, patriarchal Judaism on God as King, Judge, and Father; hence the high level of respect, based on mutual love, that the sons display towards their fathers. Although the relationship may be vitiated by rebellion against the father, as is the case with Danny Saunders in The Chosen, or even more strongly in the two Asher Lev novels, this never results in a purely negative presentation of the father nor does it entail a final breach of family ties.

Equally important is the vital part played by teachers or tutors, either at the yeshiva or at the university level, all of whom take their profession very seriously; in their role as substitute fathers they act as mentors to the educational, psychological and spiritual requirements of their bright students, whose further course of study as well as their personal development is thereby greatly influenced. Examples are the tolerant scholar Abraham Gordon in The Promise, who is deeply responsible for Reuven Malter's intellectual progress, Rav Sharfman in In the Beginning, who strongly supports David Lurie's studies in modern biblical scholarship, or the exemplary teacher Jakob Keter (modeled on the great scholar Gershom Scholem) who will guide Arthur Gershon further into the mysteries of the Cabala. In the case of Asher Lev it is his unorthodox art teacher, Jakob Kahn, who strongly supports him in becoming an artist.

In all the novels mentioned we also encounter a pattern of intense, supportive friendship between two highly sensitive, studious and talented young men, often from different religious or educational backgrounds, both reacting to their upbringing and keen to discover the world for themselves. They are always skillfully set off against each other, thereby allowing the author to present opposite viewpoints from within a particular cultural conflict: such pairs are, for instance, Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter in the first two novels, or Gershon Loran and Arthur Leiden in he Book of Lights. This emphasis on human relationships no doubt adds to the emotional impact of Potok's novels on his readers.

So far this critical essay has been mainly, though not exclusively, concerned with Potok's world in terms of subject-matter. It remains to add a few remarks on its narrative technique and style, particularly since these have received blame as well as praise. As to technique we can clearly observe an increase of narrative complexity: from fairly straightforward, thinly-disguised authorial narration in the earlier novels, with much information told rather than shown, to more complex forms of story-telling and character presentation in the later ones, starting with The Book of Lights. These forms include the deft use of extended flashbacks, often narrated in the so-called dramatic present in order to heighten their impact, the vivid presentation of apparitions and visions, and the employment of more distinct free-indirect speech patterns approaching a stream of consciousness presentation of inner thought and emotions, as is the case in I Am The Clay and especially in The Canal.

Several critics have taken exception to Potok's style, which they consider too simple and even unnatural in its presentation of dialogues; they also complain of the lack of irony and humor in the novels and of an absence of sophisticated language games in them. This kind of criticism seems off the mark because it fails to accept the novels on their own terms and in the light of what the author has clearly set out to do. It has never been Potok's aim to create true-to-life characters (however realistic they may appear), flawless plots and mimetic dialogues but (as argued above) to present the emotional, intellectual and moral impact of cultural conflict, as well as philosophical questioning, on his characters. In order to counterpoint the complexity of his themes Potok always strives for maximal simplicity (which is, in fact, the result of a great deal of rewriting) and to reach the point where language is at its most communicative. In his most recent writings, which confront perplexing contemporary issues, this has even resulted in a kind of stylistic minimalism, a spareness of language, that - to use Ezra Pound's phrase - is 'nearer the bone' and therefore all the more effective than it might otherwise be.

Finally, however difficult it may be to categorize Potok's work, one thing is certain: it belongs to the mainstream of American fiction where it has earned its own distinctive place, next to Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage Ernest Hemingway's early work (In Our Time and Farewell to Arms), the U.S.A. trilogy of John Dos Passos (whose technique of using newspaper montages to present socio-political events Potok has borrowed to advantage), William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, to mention just a few formative influences. Potok is deeply resistant to being labeled a Jewish or (even more so) an ethnic writer since such labels are essentially reductive. He prefers to be thought of as an American writer with his own subject and territory: American Judaism, especially of the rabbinical tradition, as it confronts the twentieth century. A final quotation may fittingly and pointedly sum up Potok's view of his own writing:

I advocate nothing in my fiction: I look, I absorb. I gaze into my own mirror, I write.
That is all I know to do on earth, and all I want to know.

Webmaster's note: This essay has been included in the website at the request of the Author. The webmaster has copied the original publication using an Optical Scanner making corrections using an a Spell Checker with an American Dictionary. Any errors that have been introduced into the text as a result of this process are regretted and will be eagerly corrected if pointed out.--WMA

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Power of Da'at

The Power of Da'at

How knowladge of the holy and profane is critical to your healing success; The kabbalistic understanding of energy healing.

Not all energy is good. Huh? How could energy be labeled good or bad? After all, isn't energy simply neutral? Yes and no. The problem comes when we mistranslate the term "energy" and start to label all phenomenon we don't understand or that seems to us as holistic as "energy." According to this, the only distinction is how it is used. If it is used for constructive purposes it is "good" and if not it is "bad." In the realm of energetic medicine (the kind performed by healers, not by radiation technicians) "energy" is considered to be self-regulating, meaning that you can't do any harm because no matter what you do the body will simply self-regulate itself back into balance. While this may be generally true, it is not necessarily true. We can also discuss what is the nature of "energy". Obviously, the "energy" in your wall socket is not the same "energy" emanating from a gifted healer of Torah sage, but this has to do with how we define and use terms such as energy medicine, spiritual energy, healing energy, electromagnetic energy and so on.

I would like to bring your attention to a new dynamic - the source of the energy. In spiritual energetics the source is primary; drawing from pure and holy sources is of paramount importance. The success of the entire treatment depends upon it. We cannot say that all universal energy has the same source and therefore is all good. Shockingly, there are negative energies in the world. To many people the energetic domain was seen as the last spiritual frontier, the place where a person could be spiritual without any religious obligations. After all, what could be more neutral than "being in balance with the universal energy?"

But, by flipping this "energy is neutral" issue around we come to a much more palatable (and mature) understanding of Torah. Instead of the Torah being a moralistic code book, it is seen as a cause-and-effect energy-transference protocol. It goes something like this: the performance of a mitzvah causes an influx of pure holy energy into the world (including the person). Inversely, not following a Torah commandment (G-d forbid) causes an influx of negative energy into the world (and into the person). There is no reward and punishment, it is simply cause and effect. This negative energy is floating around in the universe somewhere waiting to be activated.

Then what exactly is "energy?" In the West we have simply "borrowed" other cultures' terms for "energy" and incorporated them into our own conception of what "energy" is. For example, Chinese "qi," Japanese "ki" and Indian "prana" are not "energy", they are qi, ki and prana respectively. But, in the West they are all simply called "energy." Why? Because these words have no translation, and the phenomenon they come to explain seem very "energetic," as if they "flow." This issue is more acute in the realm of spiritual energy healing where the use of terms like "spiritual energy" is used to imply, somewhat, that in the spiritual realms all energy is neutral and therefore permissible to use as one wishes. But, In the Jewish mystical tradition as taught in Kabbalah, there is no simple word for "energy." There is "G-d's endless light" on one side and the negative forces of the world on the other. Obviously, a self-respecting Kabbalist will only use the holy light. The closest he will come to the negative energy is to study it so that he can avoid it like the plague. As we can now see, spiritual energy comes in two forms - holy and negative.

Most importantly, for those who want to use spiritual energy, we need to distinguish the holy energy from the negative variety. How?

In order for this to happen we must develop and use our faculty of Da'at. It is this faculty of Da'at, the aspect of our intellect that knows how to distinguish the essential from the non-essential and knows how to integrate it into our life, that makes one a truly great healer. It is only through our faculty of Da'at that we can know the difference between the holy and profane and internalize the desire to only use the holy - at whatever cost. Our intellectual faculty of Da'at is connected to the highest spiritual forces of our soul - our spiritual connection to G-d. It is unfortunate, but some forms of healing may be using non-holy varieties of energy. As a Jewish healer this is unacceptable. We must only strive for holiness. The LifeFirst™ training program teaches you how to develop your Da'at, ensuring that you know how to utilize and use the holy healing energy of pure Divinity.

An open letter to the readers of The Flordia Jewish News

An open letter to the readers of The Flordia Jewish News
Written by Alan Zavodnick
Tuesday, 23 August 2005
Our community of Boynton Beach, Florida has been the target of some damaging press these past few weeks. From our perspective, this negativity is most undeserved, and unfortunately has found its way into the columns of your newspaper as well as a few others around the country.

It was our sincere expectation that a fire which began in Silver Spring, Maryland and had unexpectedly and unfortunately arrived to our community, would have extinguished itself in due time. We never anticipated that individuals and parties to this tragic situation, would find it useful to achieve their respective goals, to serve as accelerants, stoking the flames in an irresponsible manner, to the detriment of our community.

This letter is written with the intent of stating the facts as they occurred. I am an Executive Board Member of Chabad-Lubavitch of Greater Boynton, and was privy to the details of this saga as they unfolded, and I am very much current with the facts as they present themselves today.

The time for our community to defend itself from the damaging claims which have been made against it and our Rabbi, in a premeditated attack by a select few, IS NOW. It is time to make it abundantly clear to all, that what they believed happened, and what really transpired are NOT the same.

All of the published articles, including the ones printed in this paper, were written with the same slanted tenor. Truthfully, the editors cannot be blamed. It was the decision of the board, that the Rabbi, or any other official representative, be precluded from making ANY public comments or granting any interviews regarding this matter. Although the editors requested a response it could not be granted for reasons which will be addressed in a moment. Absent any feedback from our community, they published that which was being promoted as “the truth.”

Our reasons for remaining silent while being attacked were two fold. 1) The ongoing federal multi million dollar lawsuit against the two accusatory families referenced our Rabbi and our Community. Since we became an issue before the courts, our Attorneys strongly advised us to remain silent. 2) Initially, we all empathized with the accused family and did not wish to add more aggravation and hurt, to their already painful situation.

Unfortunately, it has become abundantly clear, that the very victims of the disease of Loshon Harah, have now evolved into being the perpetrators of that very same destructive disease. They and their associates continue to attempt to denigrate, injure and damage the reputation of our blossoming community.

Our Rabbi has received letters and other hate-filled messages from members of the accused family and their associates containing highly derogatory remarks, as well as extortion threats against him and our Community. Their written threats include publishing “the story” in newspapers everywhere. Clearly, this part of their campaign has been borne, in part by this newspaper and others.

What remains puzzling is how our community became the target of this family. One would have expected that their anger, frustration and feelings for retaliation should have been focused on the Community where this issue raised its ugly head. After all, that is where they had their roots and where they had friends and associates to help plead their case. Their contention that this is all a fabrication would have been far easier to prove in an environment where they were a known commodity. Yet, it is Boynton Beach where they are a totally foreign entity, not Silver Spring; it is Rabbi Ciment and not the Silver Spring Community who have become the focus of their anger-filled campaign.

Allow me to focus on some of the more common fundamental issues which are raised in the articles:

1) “At first the family was welcomed with open arms”

It is true; the father and his family found a very sympathetic Chabad Rabbi on that first evening when he brought our Rabbi his dossier of documents which retold the horrific story of Silver Spring. Two pertinent facts are omitted, though, from this “warm welcome”; 1) The Rabbi welcomed him in a private consultation between a potential member, who had suffered tremendously in his past community, and was sharing with a Rabbi his heart-wrenching plight. Our Rabbi obviously did not, nor could he, know the future. The ugly fact that their sordid history followed them to our community, expressing in great detail all of the allegations against these people, triggered a wave of concerned panic and hysteria of extraordinary proportions. The Rabbi, as the community leader, needed to attend to what became a true emergency concern which was ripping through the community. 2) The articles also omit the fact that at the initial meeting, The Rabbi asked the father why all of the community Rabbis were not signed on the Rabbinic proclamation to the Silver Spring Jewish community asking them to cease and desist their activities. Only four of the community’s Rabbis had signed, from amongst many. He was told the others simply didn’t want to take a stand on the issue. Our Rabbi found this troubling, and asked the father to bring back to him a unanimous written decision from all the Rabbonim of the Silver Spring community. The Rabbi’s objective was that in case anyone would ask, he would have in hand this document. Needless to say, until this day, that document has not been procured.

2) “The family was excommunicated from the Boynton Shul...The family was expelled from the community...Rabbi Ciment accused the family of damaging his community.”

After being presented with the very real issue of legitimate concern which led to the panic and hysteria which was overwhelming our new and fledgling community, our Rabbi sought the counsel of a number of veteran Rabbonim, top experts in the Orthodox world in the field of child abuse (outside of any of the “controversial” public figures who are highlighted in these articles), and noted psychiatric and mental health professionals. The panel agreed with one resolution to this very complex dilemma; that an objective, Florida based, amenably chosen, expert psychiatrist should evaluate the alleged perpetrators of these horrible accusations, to make our community members comfortable that there is nothing to be concerned about. This consultation would obviously be kept totally confidential.

This solution was offered and rejected on three occasions by the accused family. Our Rabbi pleaded with them and their friends, to take this offer and allow themselves to be warmly welcomed into our community, in what would be a dignified and seamless transition. If they chose not to, though, the Rabbi cautioned them in writing, that it should never be said that we did not allow them in, rather that this was their own decision not to become a part of our community. It would be on their conscience for not having afforded their family the opportunity to join us.

To label this very professionally handled resolution as “an excommunication or an expelling of the family from our shul and community” is a travesty and a total distortion of the simple truth.

3) Description of Rabbi Ciment using phrases such as “lack of sanity,” "vindictive,” etc.

There have been hundreds of personal attacks leveled against our Rabbi by members of the accused family and their associates, in many forms. I will not use this space to defend our Rabbi against this incredible slander, I will rather “let the record speak for itself.”

Simply put, there are a handful of disgruntled members who “didn’t get their way,” and thus have made it their mission to galvanize their bitterness around this “great humanitarian injustice” and have chosen the media as one of their weapons of attempted assassination.

I invite anyone to come and visit our community and shul and experience first hand our Rabbi, our beloved Kehilla, its array of learning opportunities for the young and old, its forever welcoming institutions of education, outreach and social services and its leadership.

4) “Dr. Arthur Small, the prime candidate for the testing within the community declared no need for evaluations...Rabbi Ciment continually lied to the community saying that Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz of Silver Spring backed his decision to evaluate the children"

In one of the newspapers in NJ which felt compelled to cover this story, Dr. Small himself wrote a letter to the editor to advise them that he was not an expert in pedophilia. As much as the accused family, who are close friends and neighbors of Dr. Small, tries to paint him as “the expert,” anyone close to the case knows clearly that Dr. Small does not fit the criteria of the panel of experts who were guiding our Rabbi on this issue. Particularly because he is not Florida based, has deep personal connections with the accused family, and most importantly he himself admits, does not specialize in this field of psychiatry. This automatically invalidates him as the “expert” which we were seeking.

The Rabbi called Rabbi Breitowitz, a noted scholar and the accused family’s spiritual advisor, as the panic began and told him of the great tumult “his exported Maryland family” was causing in our community. The Rabbi told him of the resolution which was being offered to the family. Rabbi Breitowitz concluded the call with the Rabbi expressing sincere empathy for his very troubling dilemma, and pledging to call the family to impress upon them the idea of the resolution.

This was the extent of the conversation. At the point when The Rabbi heard from a third party that Rabbi Breitowitz said that he only supported the evaluation if it wouldn’t harm the children, but now he needs to defer to Dr. Small, the “expert.” The Rabbi made it a point to immediately stop using Rabbi Breitowitz’s name pertaining to any issue in this saga.

Unlike what the papers report, Rabbi Breitowitz never called our Rabbi to try and persuade him to accede to Dr. Small’s opinion. In fact he never even called our Rabbi to alert him of the reversal of his decision.

It has to be bewildering to any thinking and responsible person, that a private psychological evaluation which would have been the bridge into an unquestioning and forever welcoming community for this family was deemed, “injurious.” Yet, today, and for the rest of their lives these same minor children will find their names and ages printed in newspapers around the country and splashed all over the Internet, as being the alleged perpetrators of very detailed and very sordid, heinous crimes. I can only presume that all of this is being done with the knowledge, compliance and behest of their own parents. Curious.

Enough harm has been done. We never asked or dreamt in our worst nightmare that our community would be the doorstep for this problem. However, when it came to our community, our Rabbi dealt with it responsibly, with great sensitivity and caring, with professionalism, and of course Torah true values. For this, I am sure that our community will continue to grow, now, stronger than ever.

In addition to this bad publicity hurting our community, I cannot help but think that all of this controversy cannot be helping the family in their efforts to relocate into a normal life-setting in a Jewish community, wherever it might be.

In addition, those who might think we mishandled the situation, and have or will express themselves freely on these pages, perhaps they should expend their passionate energies on inviting this family into their communities ASAP and with open arms.

I, in the name of hundreds throughout our community, implore and beseech the press to stop allowing this vicious fire to continue to spread. If you want to educate the public about Loshon Horoh and/or sexual abuse in the Orthodox world, it certainly is your prerogative to do so. But it is simply not befitting any newspaper which calls itself Jewish to allow this very unfortunate saga to affect our community with lies and fabrications being meted out by a few, bitter, disgruntled and destructive people.

May Hashem bless us all with the strength and wisdom which we need to continue doing His holy work of making His world a better and brighter place. May we be able to report only greater and mightier accomplishments, on these very pages, on behalf of Yiddishkeit.