Sunday, December 31, 2006


I woke up yesterday morning and the headline read: HUSSEIN HANGED!

So weird.. Like Good Morning Baghdad! A blast from the past.

We like to say Justice is Swift there however he was after all hung for crimes he committed 25 years ago. Is that like a commuted sentence or something. Talk about a mercury retrograde ...

One less twisted, tortured soul on this planet and without a morning paper delivered to my doorstep I never would have know.

Is there a Lubavitcher on the face of this planet that did not immediately go back in time to the first Gulf War and or think of this like Haman being hung on the Gallows? I think my eyes initially read it as "Haman Hung" and I felt like I should find a grogger or something. But, I was groggy and I felt like I was in a time warp and could suddenly hear farbregens in my head where the Rebbe spoke about that time and place. How many years ago was that? Time does catch up with everyone, doesn't it?

The man was a bad man. Not much more you can say about him. He's gone now. About 26 years too late I suppose. If people can indeed sell their soul to the Devil for power and gold, than he was a prime example.

Chabad Telethon on Ebay

For all those things you can't live without.

More than a cookbook

New issue is full of ethnic history, creativity, and favorites

Sparta - “Creative Kosher Cooking” is not just another Kosher cookbook. Into its pages and recipes are woven the fabric, makeup and story of its contributors. The history and legends of the foods reflect the story of the Jewish community of Sussex County.

Shmuel Lewis, the rabbi of the Chabad Synagogue of Sussex County, often relates that every time he meets a Jew living in the metropolitan area of New York and tells them that he is a Rabbi in Sussex County, they are always shocked: “You mean there is a Jewish community nestled in the woods and farms of the northwestern tip of New Jersey?” Actually he receives the same surprised response from the Jewish people in the area: “We never knew there were so many Jews living in the area!”

“I came here with my wife and children four years ago to assist the local Jewish community in experiencing and learning more about their Jewish heritage,” says Rabbi Lewis, a native of London, England. Not growing up in this rural enclave, he knows only a limited amount of the Jewish history in the county. But according to Lewis, recently there has been a much larger influx of Jewish people into the area. “They have come from all over, including Brooklyn, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and Paterson, areas that were well known Jewish communities of the last century”.

The same holds true for many of the recipes in this book. Although one of the criteria for the recipes to be included in this cookbook is that they are a favorite of the contributor, and some may have been recently created, many of them have a long history and have been passed down from generation to generation and carefully carried along from country to country as the immigrants moved from place to place. Some of them are exactly as they were 100 years ago and some of them have changed reflecting the style, preference, and taste of the new generation.

A great example would be some of the recipes submitted by Phyllis Polio. The original knaidlach (matzoh ball) recipe was used by her grandmother. Esther Gittel Horowitz, in a small town near Minsk, Russia called Smolovitz, or the cheese blintzes recipe that was used by her mother-in-law in Hungary. Phyllis who now lives in Sussex County, still uses both these recipes but has amended. Her knaidlach now have a little fresh ground pepper instead of salt, the entire egg instead of just the yolks, and seltzer instead of water.

Sheila Kane has a story to tell about her honey cake recipe. “This recipe, from my aunt Alice, my mother’s older sister, invokes family memories that began in Bialystok, Russia. After a pogrom in 1905, my grandparents left Russia with their three children to sail to the United States. They settled in Manhattan’s East Side but then my Aunt Alice and her husband pioneered and moved out to Vineland, an unheard of destination. I have childhood memories of this never ending trip to get to Vineland. Somehow the car would always break down at the side of a farm with a huge frightening bull.” She also tells of her memories of her Aunt Rose’s zucchini cake. Aunt Rose was an excellent hostess and cook. “Many of my favorite recipes come from Aunt Rose, whom I believe was the Martha Stewart of her time. She married my mother’s younger brother who was a cantor in a synagogue. I still remember him chanting the Yom Kippur prayer of Hineni. He would cry as his beautiful voice begged G-d to deem him worthy of praying on behalf of the congregation.”

Some of the contributor’s memories and recipes go back to when they were new immigrant to the country. Sandy Cohen’s grandmother’s brownies were something her brother, sister and she eagerly awaited. According to Sandy, “We lived in the same brownstone as my grandmother and aunt, so we would always go up to grandma’s apartment when she was baking brownies. Of course she always let us know when it was “brownie making day” so that we could be there to lick the leftover batter. They have been a great favorite of our family throughout the generations.”

“The cookbook was the result of the inspiration of many women in our community” says Toby Lewis. Toby, the wife of the Rabbi, is herself a cook par excellence. Her Challah recipe, one of the recipes that she has contributed to the book, gets raving reviews from all who taste it. Most of the time she receives compliments like “It is the best challah I have ever tasted” or “Your challah tastes just like cake”. One congregant told the Rabbi: “Tell your wife that her Challah is outrageous!”

The cookbook was put together by a group of people who now live in Sussex County but come from diverse backgrounds, who have shared of their own favorite recipes, many of which have a long history, that are saturated with memories of the past, and are mixed with creativity for the future.

The cookbook which will be a great edition to your kitchen and make a wonderful gift can be ordered online at, or by phone at (973) 726-3333.

Chabad switching its FSU focus

By Lev Krichevsky

MOSCOW, Dec. 28 (JTA) — Russia’s largest Jewish group has announced new targets for the upcoming year, changing its primary focus from expansion to the quality of services.

Now that its previous policy of expanding the network of Jewish communities in Russia has resulted in more than 190 member communities, the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities said in its end-of-the-year report that “it is now becoming more important to increase quality of activities in the existing communities.”

The change in the group’s approach stems from the fact that the Jewish community in Russia has matured since the end of communism and is now demanding a better quality of service, FJC Executive Director Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz said.

Unlike earlier days, today’s local Jewish community in Russia “is not just a rabbi covering the town,” Berkowitz said.

Local communities now have a network of Jewish life that in the larger ones includes a synagogue, a Jewish school, a kindergarten, youth activities, and social and welfare programs.

FJC did not disclose its budget, but Berkowitz said 2006 saw a 15 percent increase compared to the previous year and that the trend would continue into 2007. In 2005, FJC’s budget was estimated at $60 million, with nearly $36 million raised in North America by the Russian group’s U.S. arm.

Most of Chabad’s programs continue to rely on funding from the group’s few major donors in Israel and the Americas.

Only in larger cities does locally raised funding constitute sizable portions of the FJC communities’ budgets. In most smaller communities, Berkowitz said, foreign funding still accounts for an average of 70 percent of the budget.

About half of the federation’s corps of rabbinical emissaries, or schluchim — 152 rabbis with their families in Russia and 146 in the rest of the FSU — are Russian born. The rest are mostly Israelis and Americans.

Now, the group says, it is time to localize as much of its operation as possible.

One example of such need is the summer camps run by the organization.

“Our summer camp network always relied on staff from the U.S.,” Berkowitz said, referring to the dozens of yeshiva students that travel every summer to the former Soviet Union to work as camp counselors.

“But there was a big disconnect” between young American yeshiva students — most of whom were born to Orthodox families — and largely assimilated and non-observant Russian kids. Over time the group has concluded “it was much better to have local staff” working at camps, Berkowitz said.

With this goal in mind, last summer FJC started a new year-round training program for local counselors.

The program now works in seven cities. Future Chabad camp counselors “are not necessarily Chabadniks,” Berkowitz explained. “They are people with various levels of observance, but they should all be devoted Jews.”

A pioneering project launched this year could significantly influence the essence of Jewish life in the region.

The project, called Stars, is a $10 million enterprise funded by Lev Leviev, the Russian Israeli diamond mogul and federation president, and Elio Horn, a Brazilian Jewish philanthropist.

Its idea is to get Jewish college students involved in a few hours of Jewish studies a week. Participants are paid stipends that differ from city to city but generally are about $100 a month — by local standards a substantial amount for young people.

Berkowitz said the program that started a few months ago already has some 5,000 participants across the former Soviet Union who study at Chabad-run centers five hours a week.

Students will learn for one year, and the budget is enough to operate the project for three years, Berkowitz said.

The program’s aim is not only to educate Jewish students, Berkowitz said.

“If they go through this program,” he said, “hopefully they marry each other and become part of the community.”

The federation is focused on those who are Jewish according to halachah, or Jewish law — that is, born of a Jewish mother. This exclusiveness has often become a target of criticism in a community known for a very high level of intermarriage.

Despite that, FJC is billing itself as the voice and umbrella for all Jews living in Russia, and traditionally shuns the image of a fervently Orthodox organization trying to impose its standards on Russian Jewish life.

Berkowitz said his group’s activities in the region are carried out with “Chabad enthusiasm and love for Yiddishkeit without imposing Judaism” as religion.

Not crossing the line into pushing religious observance — a charge some make against Chabad in the region — constitutes an especially challenging task in several dozen of the federation-run schools and kindergartens. The group operates more than three-quarters of some 100 Jewish day schools in the former Soviet Union.

“Ninety percent of the 15,000 kids in our schools are secular,” Berkowitz said. “But directors of religious studies are Chabadniks.”

Ideally the schools need to be delicate to avoid creating a conflict at the students’ secular homes.

In part, this goal can be achieved through the group’s extensive network of community centers that run a variety of programs in culture, arts and sports, and can bring participants closer to the Jewish tradition without forcing them into strict observance.

In the past several years, FJC spent millions in mostly foreign donations to build new community centers with synagogues in locations across Russia.

The new FJC Jewish community center opened Dec. 19 in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Believed to be the largest Jewish facility in Siberia, the Beit Menachem Tabacinic center includes a synagogue, kosher soup kitchen, library, education classes, sports and music facilities.

Of late, the federation has stressed grandeur in its projects, constructing impressive and costly facilities.

Bob Dylan on Chabad Telethon with Repo Man

More to the point, I found the weirdest Bob Dylan clip on YouTube. It's from September 24, 1989, a Chabad Telethon in Los Angeles. I guess he's been doing this since the late 80s after his born-again phase or whatever and into the early 90s. There's a bunch of Dylan Chabad footage but what makes this one a standout is that there is Repo Man a.k.a. Daddy Big Love Harry Dean Stanton playing the harmonica along side Dylan who is playing a flute and recorder next to his son-in-law Peter Himmelman singing an old Yiddish song called "Einsleipt Mein Kind Dein Eigalach." The trio called themselves Chopped Liver. Hallelujah for YouTube!

p.s. My Jewish friend Jon Durbin told me that Chabad (short for Chabad Lubavitch) is a study group of Hasidism.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

770 Eastern Parkway goes Worldwide

Dec 31, '06
10 Tevet 5767

Replicas of the headquarters of the 770 Eastern Parkway headquarters of the Lubavitch movement are now located in 13 different places in the world and have been photographed by two artists, Max Becher and Andrea Robbins.

The Crown Heights, Brooklyn building is the center of Lubavitch, whose late leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, usually referred to as "The Rebbe," was the spiritual mentor to tens of thousands of Jews who visited him for counsel.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Supreme Court has already ruled on menorah diplays

Larry Cohen

Lately, there have been references to many court decisions involving Menorahs.

Perhaps a legal primer on appellate court procedures and how they fit in might prove useful.

The final decider of disputes is the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whatever position the Supreme Court takes, that is the final law of the land on the matter. Other federal Courts of Appeal are considered to be lower courts and subservient to the decisions of the Supreme Court.

Only the essential decision of the case is considered to be the law.

A lower appellate court can make law on the matter if it addresses a portion of the issue that has not been decided by the Supreme Court.

Finally, what a federal Court of Appeal decides is only applicable to the particular jurisdiction it occupies.

How does this all apply to the question of the menorah? The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the matter in the Allegheny Case (1989).

While there are considerable words used in their analysis, the basic decision of the court is that it is OK to place a menorah next to a Christmas tree.

This is the law of the land and no other court can overrule this decision.

A decision made by a federal Court of Appeal, in which Colorado is in that jurisdiction, can only apply to that portion of the issue that the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed.

For example, if the Supreme Court did not decide on the dimensions of the menorah, then a federal Court of Appeal could come up with the menorah dimensions and that would apply throughout its jurisdiction which could include Colorado. Further, a federal Court of Appeal that affects Florida would have no effect on Colorado.

U.S. presidents since President Carter have participated in public menorah lightings on public land.

Governors of states have participated in menorah lightings. Mayors of many, many cities in the United States have participated in public menorah lightings.

Fort Collins City Council members believe that they have a clear understanding of the law and have applied it contrary to presidents of the United States, governors of various states and many, many mayors.

Wow. Our City Council must have a novel and new understanding of the law.

Why should Fort Collins stand out as being so different as to what has become commonplace in America?

A final word on Chabad, which is represented locally as the Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado. They do not stand only for Jewish things.

When Katrina struck, Chabad at Tulane University spearheaded a relief effort for New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast that provided food, shelter and clothing.

They were publicly praised and thanked by President Bush.

When the tsunami struck Thailand, Chabad of Thailand provided food, clothing, shelter, and even toys for children.

They were thanked by the government of Thailand.

I can tell you, if some disaster struck Northern Colorado, Chabad in Fort Collins would spearhead a relief effort, too.

Larry Cohen is a retired attorney and president of Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Menorah lighting a simple affair, after years of strife

Hundreds celebrate Hanukkah on Fountain Square

For years, a Jewish group has been lighting a huge menorah in Fountain Square to celebrate Hanukkah. And this year has been no exception.

What's different this year, however, is that the group Chabad did not file a lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati to get approval to light its menorah. The agency that now runs Fountain Square, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., granted permission without putting up a fight.

"It really felt good," said Rabbi Sholom Kalmanson, leader of Chabad of Southern Ohio, a Jewish outreach movement.

Kalmanson said that, in prior years, he'd grown accustomed to sitting in court during the weeks leading up to Hanukkah, battling for the right to light a menorah on the publicly owned land.

"It almost became part of life, so to speak," said Kalmanson, referring to the time spent in court.

To celebrate how easy it was to get approval this year, Chabad organized a parade of 35 cars Wednesday night, with menorahs attached to the top of them, to the lighting ceremony.

Then, Chabad lit an 18-foot menorah and a 5-foot menorah. Hundreds of people filled the square to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah.

After the ceremony, they ate potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts, which are symbolic Hanukkah foods.

In April 2004, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals declared that a city law banning all private displays on the square was unconstitutional, ruling in favor of Chabad, which argued that the constitutional right to free speech entitles it to hold the lighting ceremony.

The ruling was a defeat for city officials, who had hoped a new law would eliminate disputes over the placement of menorahs and crosses on the square by private groups, including the Ku Klux Klan.

The debate over the square had raged for a decade, ever since the KKK won permission to erect a cross.

Chabad celebrates first night of Chanukah

Members of Chabad of Sussex County in Sparta, took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to have music and other activities at the lighting of the menorah at Sparta Plaza, to make the event more fun and interesting for the children who attended with their families. Rabbi Shmuel Lewis, left, with his son, Ephraim, 4, was enthusiastic about the crowd. Sparta Mayor Manny Goldberg was invited to light the menorah. The service was held for the first time at the same location where the Chabad holds its services. Both Goldberg and Rabbi Lewis are enthusiastic about the way such events strengthen the community.

Dreidel adds symbolism to celebration

Thursday, December 21, 2006

By Laura Pace, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Christians have many beautiful and joyful religious songs to celebrate Christmas, from "Joy to the World" and "O Tannenbaum" to "Silent Night."

But ask most non-Jewish people if they have heard of any traditional songs to mark the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and it's likely that they've heard of only one, "The Dreidel Song."

If you listen to the words of the song, you might think the only dreidels around are made by children, out of clay. Not so. Some are made of crystal, Lucite, wood, metal, glass and other artistic materials. Some look too delicate or beautiful to spin like a top but many really are made for the job, said Steve Denenberg, of Create-a-Frame/Handworks Gallery in Mt. Lebanon, which carries several styles.

Some dreidels are decorated with seemingly unrelated themes, such as sports, carousels or Noah's ark animals. You might even have to squint to see the Hebrew letters.

An array of unusual dreidels is online at, a site operated by Pinskers Judaica, a Squirrel Hill store that's been selling them since 1954.

This year, Hanukkah began with the lighting of the first candle last Friday at sundown, and ends at sundown Saturday.

The Hanukkah holiday commemorates the Maccabees' victory over the Greek-Syrians and the liberation of Jerusalem about 2,200 years ago.

Although the Syrians, who were idol-worshippers, didn't mind the practical aspects of Judaism and its moral code, "They didn't like this slavish worship of a God that you couldn't see, hear, feel or touch," said Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum, of Chabad of the South Hills.

The victory of the Maccabees is applicable today, he said, because it reminds us that people have the right to practice the respectful, spiritual laws of their religions.

When the Maccabees reclaimed the Jewish temple and set to rededicate it, they found enough oil to light the temple lights for only one day. But it lasted eight days and was considered a miracle.

Dreidels were used during the conflict, when Jews were forbidden to study Torah. They would sneak off to study wherever they could but carried the tops to use as a cover in case they got caught.

Nowadays, dreidel is a game played mostly by children as a way to recall the meaning of the holiday.

"It's a bonding experience," Rabbi Rosenblum said. "It's just one little accent of the holiday."

He said lighting the menorah has more religious significance than the dreidel.

Lighting the menorah, which has slots for eight candles and one extra candle used as a lighter, is so important that Jews in concentration camps during World War II would poke holes in potatoes, fill them with oil and light them as menorahs.

Of course, it would be unlikely that they would risk their lives for the dreidel game, the rabbi said.

The top of a dreidel has four sides, each bearing a Hebrew letter, which stand for the words: "A Great Miracle Happened There."

But secondarily, the letters stand for Yiddish words that explain how the game is played.

The game is played with coins, called gelt, or other objects, such as chocolate pieces, buttons or raisins. Sometimes, the gelt is foil-wrapped chocolate made to look like coins.

Each player starts with the same number of items and each takes a turn spinning the top.

How it lands determines whether he or she gets items from the pot or puts them into the pot.

If the dreidel lands on the letter "nun," the player gets, and loses, nothing. Nothing happens. If the player gets the letter "gimel," the player takes the whole kitty. The letter "hay" means the player takes half the kitty and "shin" means the player must put one item into the kitty.

Play continues until someone loses all his or her items and then that person is out.

It keeps going until one person is left or until everyone is so tired they give up and start eating the chocolate coins.

Winners sometimes donate part of their cash winnings to tzedakah, or charity.

Want to play with a virtual dreidel? Try

Also, check out Chabad of the South Hills' Hanukkah Mega Site at or

(Laura Pace can be reached at or 412-851-1867. )

Treat homeless with the respect they deserve

by shmuley boteach

I recently got into a debate with one of my producers on the set of my TLC series, “Shalom in the Home.” A subscriber to the extreme capitalism and “greed is good” values of social philosopher Ayn Rand, he said that he would never give money to a beggar on the street.

“It encourages them to be dependent, and in that sense it hurts them and it hurts society. We get these lazy, unproductive people whom we have to support,” he said.

I have listened to many other arguments from those who passionately believe we should not give money to homeless people. I have heard it said that such undesirables are an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful city landscape and that many of the homeless are mentally unstable and should be in a shelter, where they can be cared for.

But by far the most arduously held opinion on the side of those opposed to giving money to people asking on city streets is that they will use it for something bad, like alcohol or drugs.

I remember once, while walking with one of my students at Oxford University about a decade ago, he gave a man who asked him for money a half-eaten candy bar.

“That way I know he’s getting food,” he told me. But the man with his hand out examined the curious gift and said, “My, that’s tacky.”

My own opinion, and practice, is that we must give to those who ask of us. I am well aware that the people in question can abuse the money we give them. But there is an even more important consideration that must be taken into account: human dignity.

I believe that our primary obligation on God’s Earth is to bestow dignity on all of God’s children and, indeed, on all of God’s creatures. To bestow dignity is to make someone feel he matters, to make him feel important.

When someone speaks to us and we ignore him, we make him feel nonexistent. When we walk right by people and pretend they are not there, we make them feel their lives are inconsequential.

Passing by a man or woman who has been reduced to begging, especially with foreheads raised so that we avoid eye contact, confirms in their mind their status as inferior, subhumans.

When I give a homeless person a dollar, I am not motivated by reasons of charity. I do not flatter myself that my dollar is going to make any material difference in his or her life. But it will make a difference in terms of that person’s dignity. I give it because that dollar is a small price to pay for purchasing and bestowing human significance upon one of God’s forlorn children. By stopping in my tracks, looking him graciously in the eye, giving him a dollar and saying, “God bless you,” I am afforded an opportunity to live out the purpose of my existence.

Yes, I recognize that the money can be abused, and yes, it can create a dependency. But the main reason people are reduced to begging is that they have lost a sense of their own dignity. They are no longer ashamed of their circumstances, because shame can only be experienced by those who esteem themselves.

Shame is the human alarm bell that goes off whenever our actions strip us of self-respect. So my tiny gesture of simply acknowledging that they are my human brothers, by recognizing and affirming their infinite value, lends itself to the possibility that they will become cognizant of the state to which they have fallen, and endeavor, to whatever degree, to pull themselves out.

A month before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I was walking late one night with my wife and children through beautiful Jackson Square in New Orleans. A man asked if I could spare some change, and I made sure not to miss the opportunity because my children were watching. The man was holding a small brown paper bag with what looked to be a can of beer inside.

I put a dollar in his hand and said, “You look like a really special man. You have kind eyes. You’re too good to throw your life away on booze. So promise me you’re going to do something good with this, like buy food.”

The man nodded his head eagerly, and said, “I promise.” I told him, “God bless you,” and he asked that God should bless me too. Then I walked off.

As I did so, my eldest daughter said, “Tatty, you know he’s gonna go and buy liquor. So why did you give it to him?”

I responded, “Because you can’t just walk by a guy with his hand out and pretend he is thin air. That’s probably how he got to where he is in the first place. In his own mind he became thin air, and he probably had a lot of people who treated him like he was one big zero.

“Now, I can’t, in one brief interaction, rescue him. But I can give him a moment of dignity, a solitary second of human acknowledgement which reminds him that he is my equal in every way but one: I am still trying to raise myself up through my own exertions, while he has tragically fallen into dependency.”

My daughter still thought I was wrong. But a few days later, as she walked through the streets of Vicksburg, Miss., I caught her giving a man on the street a dollar and making him promise he would do something positive with it.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to give out dollars to thousands of people who came to him every Sunday. The rebbe knew they waited not for the dollar, which he gave to inspire people to give more charity, but for the blessing of being even momentarily in his presence.

And of the maybe 50 or 60 times the Rebbe gave me a dollar, he never once asked me what I would do with it.

He trusted it would be something good.

Shmuley Boteach’s latest book is “Parenting With Fire.”

The President meets with Jewish leaders in the higher education community


The President traditionally meets with leaders from the Jewish community prior to the White House Hanukkah Reception. In 2001 and 2003, he met with organizational leaders of the Jewish community. In 2002 and 2004, he met with congregational rabbis, and in 2005 he met with Jewish day school leaders. Today The President will discuss his higher-education priorities with administrators, professors, and students in the the higher education community.


Karen Bacon, Dean, Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University (New York City, New York)

Dr. Bacon received her Ph.D. from UCLA and has spent most of her professional career in academic administration, fostering the education and upward mobility of the undergraduate women of Stern College. Established in 1954 through a major gift from the late industrialist Max Stern, Stern College for Women is the undergraduate college of arts and sciences for women of Yeshiva University.

Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (Elkins Park, Pennsylvania)

Dan Ehrenkrantz is the President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC). Founded in 1968, the RRC is the rabbinical training institution of Reconstructionist Judaism. The RRC offers a five to six year curriculum leading to a master’s degree in Hebrew letters and the title of Rabbi.

Arnold Eisen, Chancellor-elect, Jewish Theological Seminary (Stanford, California)

Arnold Eisen is the Chancellor-elect at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Jews worldwide. Previously since 1986, Professor Eisen served as a Professor of Jewish Culture and Religion at Stanford University. As a product of the Conservative Movement, he has long been known as an avid advocate for strengthening the connection between American Jews and Israel. Professor Eisen’s book, Taking Hold of Torah: Jewish Commitment and Community in America, addresses the renewal of the Jewish community and commitment in America.

Rabbi David H. Ellenson, President, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (New York City, New York)

Rabbi Ellenson is the eighth President in the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s 130-year history. Rabbi Ellenson received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1981, and is considered a distinguished leader of the Reform Movement. He is internationally recognized for his publications and research in the areas of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history.

Rabbi Zalman Gifter, President and Dean, Rabbinical College of Telshe (Wickliffe, Ohio)

Rabbi Gifter has served as the President and Dean of the Rabbinical College of Telshe since 2001. The Rabbinical College of Telshe provides a well-rounded education to Jewish students and affords them the opportunity to become concerned, involved members of the Jewish community, and productive members of society as a whole.

Richard Joel, President, Yeshiva University (New York City, New York)

Richard Joel was inaugurated in September 2003 as the fourth president of Yeshiva University. Founded in 1927, Yeshiva University ranks among the Nation’s leading Jewish academic research institutions. The university currently enrolls 7,000 students from 38 states and 55 countries. Mr. Joel previously served as the President and International Director of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

Danielle Josephs, Student, Rutgers University (Teaneck, New Jersey)

Danielle Josephs is a student in her senior year in the Douglass College at Rutgers University. She founded the Middle East Coexistence House with hopes of bridging the gap between Jewish/Israeli and Arab/Muslim/Christian women at Rutgers and encouraging women’s involvement in international conflict resolution and negotiation.

Bernard Lander, Founder and President, Touro College (Forest Hills, New York)

Dr. Bernard Lander is the Founder and President of Touro College. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and was ordained a Rabbi by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University. Touro College was established in 1971 as an academic institution of higher learning, designed to enhance the Judaic heritage and to serve the larger society. It now enrolls upwards of 23,000 students in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.

Avi Mayer, Student, University of Maryland (Silver Spring, Maryland)

Avi Mayer is the Founder and President of The Pro-Israel Terrapin Alliance (PITA), a political advocacy group on the campus of the University of Maryland. Avi is an active member of the Hillel Center for Jewish Campus Life and has served as President of the Jewish Renaissance Project; as Vice President for Education and Religious Life of Kedma, the Orthodox Jewish student organization; as Vice President for Education of the Tzedek Hillel Social Justice Institutive; and as Opinion Editor of The Mitzpeh, the University of Maryland’s Jewish newspaper. Avi is currently a Senior at the University of Maryland and expects to graduate in May 2007.

Maya Pick, Student, University of Virginia (Annandale, Virginia)

Maya Pick is a second year student at the University of Virginia. In the spring of 2006, Maya traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi to work with the Hands On Organization, gutting houses and removing debris as a result of Hurricane Katrina. She later worked with the directors of Hillel to plan a similar trip to New Orleans in the summer of 2006.

Danielle Rugoff, Student, University of Texas at Austin (Dallas, Texas)

Danielle Rugoff is currently a Senior and serves as the Student Body President at the University of Texas at Austin. Danielle has been recognized by the University’s oldest and most prestigious honor organization, The Friar Society, where she serves as an Executive Officer. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and is highly involved on campus in Texans for Israel and Texas Hillel. Later this month, Danielle will be traveling to Israel in the American Delegation to the World Union of Jewish Student Congress.

Julian Sandler, Chairman of the Board, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life (Dix Hills, New York)

Julian Sandler received a Ph.D. from Rice University and is the Founder and CEO of Rent-A-PC. He has been with Hillel in a leadership position for the last eight years. In September 2006, Julian became the Chairman of the Board of Hillel, which provides Jewish college students with the opportunity to celebrate their Jewish heritage and contribute to the broader community.

Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, Founder, Lubavitch House (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Rabbi Schmidt was appointed by Rabbi Abraham Shemtov to work in Philadelphia as an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. That year, he founded the Lubavitch House at the University of Pennsylvania, where he serves as the Executive Director. He has helped to found many of the Chabad Lubavitch centers in the Delaware Valley, and was instrumental in creating the national network of Chabad Houses on campus, which evolved into the Chabad on Campus International Foundation. The Foundation has built 91 Chabad Houses on campuses around the world.

Bob Wexler, Ph.D., President, University of Judaism (Los Angeles, California)

Dr. Wexler has been with the University of Judaism since 1978, and has been President of the institution since 1992. For the past six years, he has served as host of the University Judaism Public Lecture Series. Founded in 1947, the University of Judaism provides a wide array of undergraduate educational programs and curriculum for Jewish and non-Jewish students.

Posted: 12/21/2006

Menorah light will shine tonight

Despite the blizzard and citywide state of emergency, the Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado will still light the Menorah in downtown Fort Collins.

However, Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik urged everyone to put safety first and stay home. He encouraged Fort Collins residents to light a menorah in their homes.

Gorelik will lead a small group of people in lighting the menorah outside Coopersmith's in Old Town Square.

"The very message of Hanukkah is about perseverance, triumphing over adversity, rising above challenges," Gorelik said. "We feel the lights of the menorah, symbolizing the lights of freedom and hope can never be extinguished, darkness will always be dispelled by light"

What was billed to be a mega event, covered by national press in a media storm that shook the region for the last several weeks was to be attended by dignitaries including Sen. Wayne Allard, Mayor Doug Hutchinson .

Rabbi Gorelik's response "Man plans, God laughs".

Information: Rabbi Gorelik at 407-1613 or 690-1718

Chasids in the Hood (or Not)

By David Suissa

It's one of the quirks of the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. There's a movement that owns a huge block on Pico Boulevard right in the middle of the hood, runs a preschool, elementary, middle and high school for girls on that same block, has official or unofficial connections with six shuls in the area, has one of the higher-profile brand names in the Jewish world and yet, strangely, you walk around the hood and you don't really feel their presence.

I'm talking about Chabad-Lubavitch.

They have two shuls on Robertson Boulevard, both south of Pico. The one closest to Pico -- commonly called the Yemini shul, after its founder and leader Rabbi Amitai Yemini -- has been in the area the longest. The other shul, farther south, is a small minyan called Chabad of Beverlywood.

On Pico, you'll find one minyan officially connected to Chabad -- a tiny weekly minyan in their Bais Rebbe building -- and three independents: a Persian Chabad near Cresta Drive; a shul near Beverwil Drive recently opened by Rabbi Eyal Rav-Noy, who used to run a branch of Chabad's Jewish Learning Institute, and finally, near Robertson is Bais Bezalel, the biggest Lubavitch synagogue on Pico, also known as the Rabbi Lisbon shul.

So with all this presence, how come Chabad is so, er, quiet around here?

In a way, it's an easy answer: Chabad doesn't make a lot of noise in areas where people put on tefillin.

They thrive in nonobservant communities, where their unconditional love for every Jew, and their flair for promoting mitzvahs, make them highly visible. For more than 50 years, Chabad has taken this outreach model throughout the world and has lit up thousands of communities with a tireless, single-minded focus on "giving you" a mitzvah.

The problem is that here in the hood, most of the mitzvahs are already taken. The soul of the hood is clearly Modern Orthodox, with the majority of Jews already observant and affiliated with one or more congregations, which cater mostly to their members. So it shouldn't surprise anyone if there isn't a market in the hood for Chabad-style outreach.

Of course, I had to meet a rabbi who thinks all this is baloney.

He's a chabadnik who lives in the hood and who believes that there is, in fact, a market for outreach in this part of town. He doesn't just believe it, he lives it.

In truth, he does outreach all over Los Angeles -- with an emphasis on the Westside -- but he has a special place in his heart for the hood, maybe because he lives and hangs out here. He's like a gold prospector. He loves, for example, those buildings on Bedford and Wooster avenues, where he has discovered plenty of single, unaffiliated Jews who are now on his mailing list and come to his outreach events.

He recognizes that the hood is more of a post-outreach neighborhood, where Jews come to pursue their Judaism after their Jewish spark has been lit, usually elsewhere. But that doesn't faze him. He thinks there's a fair amount of unaffiliated Jews in the hood, but they are hidden (I think some of them are hiding). Either way, he says that even if there's a tiny amount, he wants to reach them all.

His name is Rabbi Mendel Schwartz, and for the past few years he has been running the outreach organization called Chai, started 20 years ago by his father and former Chabad emissary Shlomo Schwartz (I've rarely met a Jew in L.A. who hasn't heard of "Schwartzie"; I go to a lot of events, and he or a look-alike is at all of them). Chai, like the other independents, does not fall under the official Chabad umbrella, and it is neither a shul nor a location.

Rather, it's a nimble guerrilla outreach operation that uses cool events to bring Jews to Judaism. A Purim party at a comedy club; a haimish Shabbat "dinner for 30 strangers" at Schwartzie and Olivia's (his wife and partner); High Holiday services at the Writer's Guild; a Chanukah lighting party in a minimansion. Because they move between venues, they supplement the work of other shuls. Their outreach feeds the shuls for inreach.

But while Chai may be eclectic and independent, their inspiration is classic Lubavitch: using mitzvahs to light Jewish sparks.

This, for me, is the Chabad genius: a knack on the deed, not the talk. They don't get turned on by grand debates that lead to more grand debates. While the Jewish world agonizes over "profoundly important" issues, Chabad agonizes over getting to Kinko's on time to get their flyers out for their Chanukah event.

And at Chanukah time, all Chabads make noise. Here in the hood, the Yemini shul had their big outdoor bash at the Wells Fargo parking lot on Saturday night, with the hot band, 8th Day (major sound system). Across the hood, many Lubavitchers have placed large portable menorahs on their cars (they were part of a Chabad citywide parade Monday night) and a giant menorah billboard is on the wall of their Bais Rebbe building, to go along with the actual menorah in front of the building.

There's no doubt: Hood or no hood, outreach or inreach, Chabad salivates for Chanukah.

It's the holiday that embodies, through one simple icon, what the Lubavitch movement yearns for all year long: a chance to make observant Judaism shine. With thousands of public menorah lightings around the world, they proudly shine a light on the Jewish faith, on the freedom to practice that faith, and on the value of doing another mitzvah.

They are the Nikes of the Jewish world: They believe that if you just do it, the mystical power of the mitzvah will win you over, and your heart and mind will inevitably follow. And if you live in Los Angeles, where might that lead you?

I'm guessing right back here in the hood, to look for a house.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and He can be reached at

© 2006

Building A Lego Menorah

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Chabad Center for Jewish Awareness in Bellevue teamed up with the Mall at Green Hills to host a family Hanukkah festival Thursday.

The free event is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Mall at Green Hills, 2126 Abbott Martin Road.

Shoppers will be able to construct Nashville's first menorah made entirely of thousands of Lego pieces. The Lego pieces will be donated to the Gordon Jewish Community Center preschool, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and Israeli children's charities.

The goal is to create a 10-foot tall menorah, which is recognized as a symbol of religious freedom, according to Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel of the Chabad Center for Jewish Awareness.

The Chabad Center for Jewish Awareness is affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which is a branch of Hasidism.

The Hebrew word Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, means "dedication." The annual eight-day observance commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been desecrated.

More than 2000 years ago, Syrian-Greeks outlawed Jewish practices. A band of Jews under the leadership of a family called the Maccabees revolted and won. As they prepared to rededicate the temple, they found a small jar of oil that unexpectedly burned for eight days instead of one day.

Known as the "festival of lights," Hanukkah began at sundown Friday, Dec. 15, with the lighting of the first flame on a menorah. Jews light one candle each night for eight nights. Hanukkah ends Friday night.

For information or to sponsor a bucket of Lego pieces, call 646-5750.

Light the Menorah

Menorahs have begun an explosion in styles in recent years, and it was a giant one that several residents lit when Rabbi Mendel Bluming of Chabad Shul led a community Chanukah celebration at the Cabin John Shopping Center on Sunday, Dec. 17.
Chanukah, also known as the festival of lights, is a minor, post-biblical Jewish Holiday which falls on the 25th of Kislev in the Jewish Calendar.
The Holiday is a result of the victory of the Maccabbes, a group of Jewish fighters, over the Syrians in 139 B.C. When the Jewish fighters took back the Temple, they found only enough oil to keep eternal light burning in the temple for one day.
The oil lasted for eight days, enough time for more oil to be acquired.
To commemorate the miracle, Jewish people light a menorah at sundown on each of the eight nights of the holiday, lighting one candle the first night, two the second night, and so on.
It is also traditional to eat latkes (potato pancakes) because they are fried in oil, as a reminder of the oil which lasted eight days. The menorah and latkes were all present at Cabin John on Sunday night.

Ladera's Hanukkah symbol stands as a tribute to tolerance and healing.

Menorah stands a little taller and brighter

Rebuilding faith

Menorah repaired after last year's vandalism.


The Orange County Register

Thanks to the dedication of many Ladera residents, and members of the South Orange County Jewish community, the metal menorah in Town Green, vandalized last year, was rededicated at a gathering of about 1,500 people of all faiths on Dec. 17.

"This is a time of celebration!" Shalom Elcott, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Orange County said. "We are re-inaugurating a new menorah."

The Jewish Federation was one of the sponsors of the event. Elcott was at the event, accompanied by his daughter, Jordan.

Last year about 1,200 people showed up in support of the Ladera Jewish community.

"We decided to show the people who did that terrible act last year, that not only does it not affect us, but we come back stronger," Rabbi Zalman Marcus said. Marcus is director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo.

Rabbi Marcus, as last year, performed the Hanukkah lighting ceremony for Sunday's celebration.

Doug Long of Trabuco Canyon built the Menorah that was vandalized last year.

"When I heard it was destroyed I wanted the opportunity to fix it." Long said. "My main goal was that it look taller and shine a little brighter."

Robert Cohen, chairman of the Hanukkah event, lauded Long and said, "he really opened up his heart."

Cohen welcomed people to Hanukkah at the Ranch with a challenge, saying that the theme of this year's celebration was symbolized by the Hebrew words, "tikkun olam," which means "healing by repairing the world."

"Let's send the message that we will not stand intolerance," Cohen said, "we will not stand vandalism; we will not stand anything to do with hatred and we will not let negative actions dictate our positive behavior. Let us practice 'tikkun olam!'"

This year's Hanukkah at the Ranch Celebration took on a greater scope than last year's festival of lights. Sue Shaver, Ladera Ranch Community Services director, provided community and financial support to Cohen.

Shaver said, "We've got a great crowd and the weather is cooperating; it's a great night."

Jeff Blugrind, LARCS Board Secretary, was master of ceremonies for the event and opened the festivities at 4 p.m. with Klezmer Music from the Orange County Klezmers.

The Town Green Gazebo was decorated in art work describing Hanukkah from students at the Morasha Jewish Day School in Rancho Santa Margarita and Tarbut V'Torah (TVT) Community Day School in Irvine.

The two schools also provided singers and dancers for the celebration.

Rabbi Heidi Cohen's daughter, Dahvi, 7, goes to Morasha and sang with the choir. Cohen's husband, Matt and her son, Yoni, 3, enjoyed the candle dipping workshop provided by the Silver Gan Israeli Day Camp before the ceremony began.

Children could choose from several planned activities provided.

Sandee Gee was busy painting the faces of the children. Albertson's provided food in the form of soup, hamburgers, hot dogs and chips.

Traditionally, hot chocolate and foods fried in oil are served. A long line of people waited for the warming chocolate and jelly donuts (or sufganiyot).

Rabbi Sender from the Silver Gan Camp provided the candle-dipping factory for the children.

Lexi Woods, 3, considered the candle-dipping her favorite activity of the evening. Her mother and father, Lani and Briny, and her brother, Dean, 2, are recent residents of Ladera.

Woods said she enjoyed the candle-dipping, but she was here to "celebrate Hanukkah."

At 4:30, Mr. Funn entertained children and adults with a comedy magic show. He also made balloon animals for some of the children.

Meg and Rob Ervais of Mission Viejo, watched the show with their children, Kelvin, 6, and Ethan, 4.

Both boys liked the balloon animals that the magician created and the 4-year-old loved a puppet that Mr. Funn interacted with.

Before the lighting ceremony there was entertainment from BBG, the TVT Elementary Dance Group and the TVT Celebration Singers.

The Sharon Haas Dance group from Saddleback College then performed a dance to Peter Yarrow's "Light One Candle."

Elcott introduced Cohen as, "one man who decided to stand up and be counted' by deciding to rebuild the menorah and make this year's event bigger and better than last year's.

Elcott added, "(Cohen's) efforts helps to show that one person can make a difference, that one person can change a life, one person can make a difference in our world."

Ladera Ranch Robert Cohen hoped putting up the newly-repaired menorah would heal hearts and unify the community in south Orange County.

"There are Hebrew words 'tikkun olam' – meaning 'heal the world,'" said the 44-year-old Ladera Ranch consultant who built the candelabrum together with his friend, Doug Long, 45. "I feel it's our obligation to try to heal. You don't forget it but you look beyond it."

Last Christmas, Cohen found the giant menorah built from steel lying on the ground at Town Green, where the celebration of Hanukkah was to be held. Vandals sawed the religious icon at its base, making it topple and shatter. Widespread media attention drew more than 1,200 people, including many non-Jews, to a commemorative menorah lighting following the desecration.

On Friday, Dec. 15, glimmering in the afterglow of sundown, the first of eight lights was lit marking the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. But it was bittersweet – commemorating the one-year anniversary of the menorah's destruction by vandals.

Cohen was touched by the community's outpouring last year. Rabbis from Carlsbad and Yorba Linda attended. Church leaders outside the Jewish faith told their congregations to support the Jewish community.

"When this happened, it happened to all of us," Cohen said. "It was an eye-opener for the community to stand in unison."

Long, a Mormon, also felt the sting of destruction.

"I have certain things in my religion I hold valuable and sacred," said the Trabuco Canyon resident. I may not have the same feeling (for the menorah) but I know what that feels like."

In rebuilding, Long, who owns an automotive shop in Mission Viejo, used the old menorah's structure but reinforced it. He placed a power box at its base so lights can be switched on.

"I wanted to make sure we put the same menorah back up," he said. I just wanted it to stand taller and brighter."

"We're not sure if it was a hate crime or some local kids who were misguided," said Dennis Javens, town manager. "Embracing the lighting of the menorah fits perfectly in what developers envisioned when they created this community. Intolerance is something we all don't tolerate."

Cohen moved to Ladera Ranch with his family five years ago. For Christmas the town was decked with spirit – sparkling trees and lights on every corner, wreaths, snowmen, candy canes and reindeers in front of many homes.

As a child, he hated the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

"I just felt like it was festive for everyone else," he said. "There was so much focus on Christmas with house decorations, school events and music on the radio. As a Jewish kid, I had nothing to focus on."

Since then, Cohen believes, attitudes have changed. People respect the diversity of faiths. He wanted Jewish children to have a sense of belonging.

Ladera Ranch seemed the perfect place to celebrate the season by including the Jewish holidays. The community was brand new. It had many young families and people were open-minded.

In 2001, he and Long built the first menorah.

For five years the sparkling lights of the menorah drew revelers. Each year the group grew. Sunday's event attracted a community of many faiths.

"This is what the holiday season is about," he said. "It's not about diversity but about unification. It shows we can all be individuals but come together for a common cause."

Contact the writer: 949-454-7307 or eritchie@ocregister

Two photography exhibits capture Cleveland's many faces

Reviewed by FRAN HELLER, Contributing Writer

Herbert Ascherman Jr. is the people's photographer. For more than three decades, he has captured the many faces of Cleveland, from movers and shakers to surgeons and steelworkers.

Two exhibits currently on view reflect the broad range of Ascherman's work.

In 󈬢 Faces,” Ascherman focuses his camera on Northeast Ohio Holocaust survivors, POWs, and concentration-camp liberators. The exhibit is at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage through Feb. 18.

“Cleveland, America” is a visual roadmap of the city's rich multicultural and ethnic diversity. It's at The Western Reserve Historical Society through May 31.

Ascherman's photographs are more than mere portraits. Coupled with anecdotal material, each unit conveys a moving personal story as well.

50 Faces

In 󈬢 Faces,” the story is one of unspeakable suffering, followed by almost miraculous survival.

Joseph Klein was 15 when he came to Auschwitz, where Dr. Mengele decided who shall live and who shall die, writes Klein. His mother and two sisters, one with a baby, went left to the gas chambers; his surviving sister went right. Klein describes how Dr. Mengele asked him in German if he could work. “Yes,” stammered Klein. “If I said ‘no,' I would have been sent to the gas chambers.”

Black humor prevails in Sophie L. Billys's story. She recalls walking with her child in a buggy when she came across a pregnant woman being interrogated by a German officer. The officer then stuck a knife in the woman's stomach, which horrified Billys. When the woman didn't fall down, it was because she was carrying a sack of beans, not a baby.

Tibor Messinger was freed after three years in a concentration camp. His self-questioning is as poetic as it is painful. “Free physically? Perhaps. Free emotionally? Maybe. Free mentally? Never.”

As I was viewing the exhibit, docent Erika Gold approached. Pointing to the picture of POW camp liberator Melvin M. Jackfert, Gold described how the medical corpsman helped save her cousin's life by feeding her with an eyedropper. The cousin, now 81, resides in California.

The Holocaust took its toll on the survivors and on their children. Barbara Hertz Beder, daughter of a survivor, describes her mother's screaming at night and wonders if she would have had the strength to endure all her mother went through in the Holocaust. Brother and sister Ralph Solonitz and Sophia (Solonitz) Stern acknowledge feeling different from other children while growing up. They had no relatives other than a grandfather and their parents. With maturity comes understanding and with it, sadness, they note.

The late Dr. Herman Hellerstein was a combat medical officer, whose outfit was part of the British forces that liberated Bergen-Belsen. Hellerstein described the group of starving, bedraggled victims straggling toward their company. One of the stronger ones carried a flag with a crude Magen David on it.

Some Jews survived by disguising their identity. Milanka Bialystok, “Millie” Billys Korman, writes: “During the war, my family lived as Greek Catholics. One day, I yelled ‘dirty Jews' at Jewish inmates wearing the striped uniform marching down the street � When my father told me I was Jewish at age 8-1/2, I thought it was the worst thing anyone could be.”

Others survived by sheer luck, like Karola Dorfberger, who was stripped naked and delivered to the gas chamber and certain death. But something went wrong with the gas, and they were sent back to their barracks.

“Why” is the pervasive question all these photographs scream in silence, the unsmiling faces and vacant eyes staring impassively at the viewer or turned inward on themselves. Images and words vie for attention; each enhances the emotional impact of the other.

Three photographs have the greatest resonance for Ascherman.

One is of Leon Faigenbam, who wears the striped prison cap from Majdanek, which he brought with him to America. To Ascherman, it means Faigenbam didn't want to forget.

Albert Ryb holds two photographs of himself in his concentration-camp uniform taken immediately after his liberation from Dachau. In one, he has scratched his face out because, symbolically, it wasn't he; it was someone else who lived through that hell, explains Ascherman.

Leon Shear props up his chin with his tattooed arm in prominent view. Somebody told Ascherman that Shear's granddaughter asked her grandfather, “Why do you have numbers on your arm?”

“So you don't have to,” was his reply.

Ascherman's original body of work includes 50 pictures with 51 faces. First shown at the Jewish Community Center in Cleveland in 1985, the exhibit has traveled throughout the Midwest and East.

There are three sets of these photographs. The original set is at The Western Reserve Historical Society, another set is at The Temple-Tifereth Israel Museum, and the third is at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, one of only a handful of post-Holocaust artifacts at the Washington, D.C., museum.

What prompted Ascherman to photograph survivors?

“Artists have responsibilities,” he says. “An artist has the obligation to take his art, his talent and ability to give back to the community that supports him.”

Most rewarding to the hardworking artist is that 󈬄 years later, it is still recognized for its validity and importance.” At least a dozen people in the photographs have died already.

A good photograph can provide a window into the subject's soul. How would Ascherman describe the “collective” soul of these photographs?

“Haunted,” he says. “They have seen hell, and they walked out of it.”

Cleveland, America

As a fourth-generation Clevelander, Ascherman wanted to leave a legacy for his son Herbert III, 34, of what still remains of “old” Cleveland. His original architectural photography project ended as a “people” project, which Ascherman soon found more interesting than buildings.

For two years, Ascherman and his Deardorff 8x10 camera and tripod prowled the city streets. “These were people I knew, people I met, and mostly, people I found,” he explains. A map of Cleveland indicates the places where he took the photographs.

Unlike candid shots, each subject played a collaborative part in the process. Each of the 110 pictures on display took two hours to set up and shoot. The images are printed in pure platinum, which Ascherman says is the most archival material available.

Jewish subjects figure prominently in this exhibit, too. A favorite of Ascherman's and this reviewer's is a quintet of Chasidic men in black hats and suits engaging in lively discourse in front of Chabad House on Green Road.

Cleveland Opera co-founder and former artistic director David Bamberger is pictured standing on a table covered with stage props, like a figure out of his own opera.

Other Jewish subjects include back surgeon Dr. Sam Rosenthal and his family at a kosher rib burnoff in Beachwood; urban planner and visionary Daniel Rothenfeld, clutching a blueprint in his hand; and renowned Case Western Reserve University physicist and Trekkie Lawrence Krauss.

The first picture in the display, and another of Ascherman's favorites, is of laundry worker Marie Jackson taken at Swift's Cleaners at East 86th Street and Carnegie. Despite the menial labor she performs, there is great dignity in her bearing.

Striking about the exhibit is its democratic perspective. Poets and punk rockers, physicians and performance artists are nestled side by side.

There are stories of inspiration, like that of composer Dennis Eberhard, photographed standing on crutches in front of Lake Erie. Eberhard had polio since childhood, which motivated him to discover things inside himself. He died in 2005.

Other stories will make you chuckle, like the two entrepreneurial geezers sitting on a park bench in Ohio City, who asked the photographer for $10 (cigarettes for one, a sandwich for the other) in exchange for granting permission to have their photos taken.

It's nice to think of Cleveland as a tourist destination, as Ascherman turns his camera on Austrian teacher and photography enthusiast Viktor Groszhedl standing in front of the Rock Hall of Fame. Dressed like the archetypal tourist in a garish floral shirt, trekking shorts and sandals, with his camera and camera bag in tow, Groszhedl has visited Cleveland six times in the past 20 years.

There are 65 registered ethnic groups in Cleveland, notes Ascherman. That rich diversity is reflected in his portraits of Hispanics Aaron Rios and Iris Madonado, king and queen of the Latino Festival; Robert Madison, the first black architect in Cleveland, wearing a hard hat; and David Dwoskin, the Jewish owner of Stadium Mustard, a Cleveland institution.

Another prized picture of Ascherman's is of Thomas R. Krizman, a steel mill worker standing in front of a 300-ton bucket handled by a 400-ton crane pouring 85,000 pounds of molten steel into a 2,000-degree furnace.

This visual documentary is an affectionate homage to Cleveland and a gift to the city from one of its best photographers.

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage: 216-593-0575 or The Western Reserve Historical Society: 216-721-5722 or

For Some Jews, Christmas Eve A Night Of Romance

RACHEL DAVIS SUMMONED HER klatch to Toscanini's in Cambridge, Mass., to help her make one of the most important decisions she will face this year — what to wear to the Matzo Ball on Christmas Eve.

“If I wear the red cocktail dress with the spaghetti straps, I'll look hot,” the 26-year-old paralegal said to her three buddies. “But I don't want to send the wrong message. It's a fine line between hot and tramp, you know?”

Davis confesses that she's feeling pressure to find just the right ensemble because Christmas Eve is perhaps the most important night of the year for Boston's Jewish singles. While Boston's gentiles are tucked away with their eggnog, plastic Santas, and enough sugar cookies to feed the population of Luxembourg, something massive has happened in the clubs. Christmas Eve has evolved into Jewish Valentine's Day.

Boston can take credit for this national shift. Back in 1987, a young real estate agent named Andrew Rudnick decided he had enough of Chinese food and “It's a Wonderful Life” on Christmas Eve. He got in touch with nightlife impresarios John, Patrick and Michael Lyons to see if he could use one of their Lansdowne Street clubs for a Christmas Eve mixer for Jewish singles.

“They were expecting about 200 or 300 people,” says Rudnick, who moved from Boston to Florida two years ago. “They thought it was going to be a slow night. We had 2,000 that first night. The Lyons brothers had to leave their Christmas party and work. John was in the coat room, Patrick was with me walking the floor, and Michael was behind the bar.”

The Matzo Ball quickly spread to other cities, and spawned more dances, concerts and comedy shows for Jewish singles. With a little help from the burgeoning Jewish hipster movement, Christmas Eve parties have taken off. This year in Boston, Jewish singles will be making the scene at the Matzo Ball, two parties staged by an organization called JConnection (one at the Hard Rock Cafe for those in their 20s and 30s, and another in Waltham for singles 40 and up). There's even a speed-dating party for gay and lesbian Jews.

Next year, these events will face increased competition when a New York-based group called Let My People Go brings its Christmas Eve ball to Boston. Jeff Strank, the founder of Let My People Go, claims attendance at his New York ball is bigger than the Matzo Ball. Let My People Go holds parties at several venues in Manhattan, and offers complimentary Hummer limousine service so attendees can hop from party to party in VIP style.

“It has become a phenomenon,” says Strank. “Some years there are as many as 15 events for Jewish singles happening in New York on Christmas Eve. And there are big parties in Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. It's really the one night that you have more Jewish people out looking for romance than any other night of the year.”

The answer to the question “Why, on this night, do we look for romance?” is as varied as the people who are throwing and attending these mixers. Sarah Maxwell, associate publisher of New York-based Heeb magazine, says the equation of open bars and “hot Heebs” will inevitably result in multiple love connections.

“None of us have to worry about hangovers the next day, because we don't have to face a big family dinner on Christmas day,” she says. “We can just sleep in late and go to the movies the next day. If you have loads of young, single Jews in a room, it's inevitably going to result in romance, or at least a few fun, drunken hookups.”

Mayshe Schwartz, a Brookline-based Orthodox rabbi who wears a baseball cap embroidered with Hebrew symbol chai (which means living) and answers to the nickname Schwartzy, thinks the advent of Christmas Eve as Jewish Valentine's Day has more to do with loneliness than the consumption of large quantities of booze.

“At some point, many Jews feel isolated at Christmas,” he says. “There's a whole country celebrating something, and you can only run with it so far, then at some point, you can't. You don't have a Christmas tree, stores are closed, everything you're watching is 'Miracle on 34th Street.' It was only logical that these giant singles parties would evolve from this.”

Schwartz, who runs the Chabad Chai Center in Brookline, regularly hosts parties and looks for ways to make religion accessible to singles and families who are not members of a temple. This time of year, he says the talk among the single members of his organization veers toward the big Christmas Eve parties. That was certainly the case among the singles who attended Chabad Chai's Kosher Casino party in the Theater District on Monday night.

“This will be my first one,” says Debi Milkes, a 25-year-old teacher, of Sunday night's Matzo Ball. “I guess I'm hoping to meet someone. I've heard that the people who show up are usually a little more serious about dating.”

Not everyone is a fan of big mixers such as the Matzo Ball. Rob Tannenbaum, music editor at Blender and half of the musical comedy act Good for the Jews, confesses that he's never been to the Matzo Ball, but quickly adds that “all the wild horses in Manhattan couldn't drag me there.” He has, however, spent time on the Jewish online dating site (and written a song about it), and imagines that the scene at the Matzo Ball is the offline counterpart to that.

“The idea of getting everyone on JDate piled together in a room, drunk on $13 cosmopolitans, with 20-year-old Madonna songs blasting at 120 decibels, isn't really my idea of a fun night,” Tannenbaum says. “I can understand the impulse. Being a Jew on Christmas Eve is really kind of horrible.”

Tannenbaum, whose band played in Boston last week, is part of a generation of younger Jews who are looking to create new traditions.

“Most Jewish traditions involve fasting, and that's no fun,” says the cheeky Tannenbaum. “The new traditions involve some element of music, comedy, and sometimes even alcohol.”

Molly Harris's Christmas Eve tradition involves going to the JConnection's annual party. The 29-year-old dental hygienist has gone on dates with men whom she has met at the party, but unlike Tannenbaum, she takes a less cynical approach to looking for love on Christmas Eve.

“I'm basically there to hang out with my friends and have a good time,” she says. “If you take it too seriously, it's going to be stressful. I see Christmas Eve as a bonus holiday. It's like the rest of the world is off doing their own thing, so we get this night to party, and who doesn't love that?”

Menorah allowed, but not Nativity scene at state Capitol

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Dec. 21--OLYMPIA -- Holiday trees are a longtime tradition in the rotunda of the Washington state Capitol, and this week the governor also lit a menorah.

Now a Nativity scene has been ruled out on the advice of the state attorney general's office.

The dispute over displays in the ornate Legislative Building follows a flap at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in which a rabbi asked to place a menorah next to some plastic Christmas trees and threatened legal action if he were refused. The trees were removed, then returned -- without a menorah -- after the rabbi said he would not go to court.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of Chabad Lubavitch in Seattle, whose request led to the nationally publicized uproar at the airport, was delighted Monday afternoon when Gov. Chris Gregoire lit a menorah in a ceremony with singing from the Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder School choir.

The menorah, a candelabrum lit by Jews to celebrate Hanukkah, was added to the rotunda in response to a request Bogomilsky made more than a year ago, officials in the governor's office said.

"This went not just smoothly, it went with open hands. There were just such wonderful words of understanding," Bogomilsky said. "Clearly, if we can increase light and illumination throughout the world, that is such a wonderful thing for all mankind."

Ron Wesselius, a real estate agent in Olympia, then proposed a creche, a display depicting the birth of Jesus that is the religious basis for Christmas.

"I had been thinking about it, but it's one of those things -- you don't want to create waves," Wesselius said Wednesday, "but when I saw the menorah was there, I thought, 'Hey, why don't I ask?'"

He said he didn't know whether he would seek to change the state's decision.

"Working with the people at the Capitol, they were great, but being turned down really surprised me," he said.

Steve Valandra, a spokesman for the Department of General Administration, officials were concerned that in comparison with a tree or menorah, a Nativity scene might carry a stronger impression of government endorsement of religion.

In addition, since Wesselius made his request only this week, lawyers for the state felt there was insufficient time to fully research the issue, Valandra said.

"Based on that, without having more time, we had to say no," he said.

Controversy over holiday displays is not new to the Capitol. Last year state Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane, staged a protest in the rotunda demanding the Association of Washington Business call its donated tree a Christmas tree instead of a holiday tree.

At that time, Ahern also suggested adding a menorah.


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Hanukah lights up the season

Members of the local Jewish community ate latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts at a Hanukah party at Thornton Wilder Auditorium hosted by the Chabad of Hamden.

The party followed the Chabad's 12th annual Menorah Lighting ceremony at Freedom Park Sunday, two days after the Jewish holiday, Hanukah, began.

AOT 2007
Hanukah is the annual festival celebrated on eight consecutive days, beginning at sundown. The first day of Hanukah was Dec. 15.

The holiday also is known as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication, and Feast of the Maccabees. It is based on the destruction of the Jewish holy temple in 165 B.C. , recounted in the Books of the Maccabees.

Judah Maccabee and his followers attempted to repair the damage. When they had finished, the Maccabees held a dedication ceremony, where they lit a golden menorah.

They found enough oil to light the menorah for one day; however, the oil lasted for eight days.

Today, Jewish families everywhere celebrate Hanukah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night at sundown, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle.

Mayor Craig Henrici and Town Planner Leslie Creane were among town officials who honored this tradition.

Rabbi Menachem Piekarski of the Chabad led participants in a blessing before turning on three lights, including the middle light, of the white-painted, wooden menorah.

"The lights of the menorah overcome the darkness," Piekarski said.

Every year the Hamden synagogue hosts the party with featured activities, according to Piekarski's wife, Myriam.

The ceremony was formerly held at the Hamden Mart on Dixwell Avenue before moving to Freedom Park on the corner of Whitney and Dixwell Avenues.

Although there were a few familiar faces, Myriam said she was excited to see new families.

This year, the Chabad enlisted help from Steve Max of the "Simon Sez Show." Max, also of the Jewish faith, performs 300 "Simon Sez Shows" a year, all over the country at schools, companies, and National Basketball Association games, he said.

"There is nothing like playing 'Simon Says' in front of 18,000 people," he said.

Piekarski said he learned of Max's show through colleagues. Last year, the Chabad held a game show.

Over the years, Max said he learned to say "hands on head," in more than 35 languages.

"The best 'Simon Says' players are those who listen," he said.

Parents, grandparents and children all participated in the game. Although the women beat the men, Max said "everyone is a 'Simon Says' champion."

The Queen hit, "Champion," played as the game came to an end.

Pierkarski said the Chabad tries to do different activities every year.

The Chabad of Hamden is located on 17 Park Ave. For more information call 248-9492.

Menorah lighting honors triumph

JAMESBURG — The afternoon sun shone brightly on the large white menorah that stood in Veterans Memorial Park.
"The menorah is ultimately a symbol of freedom, of light over darkness, of joy over sadness and of freedom over oppression," Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky, of the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe Township, said to a crowd that had gathered in the park.
Residents, war veterans and elected officials attended the borough's annual public menorah lighting Wednesday in celebration of Hanukkah.
The holiday commemorates the triumph of the Jews over the religious persecution by Greco-Syrians and the miracle thereafter by which one day's worth of oil burned for eight days.
The ceremony was led by Rabbi Zaklikovsky, who said the message of Hanukkah is that of freedom of religion.
Rabbi Zaklikovsky spoke first about the victory of the Maccabees over their religious oppressors.
"Although they were weak and there were few, they nevertheless were courageous and victorious and ultimately freedom of religion became a reality," Rabbi Zaklikovsky said.
He noted how public menorah lightings such as this honor everything that the Maccabees fought for and won.
"How wonderful it is here in this country that we're able to celebrate freedom of religion," he said. "By taking the menorah and not just lighting it in our homes, but also lighting it in public places where people can see it, people can be inspired by it, people can take in the message that's behind the menorah."
Six veterans — Stan Hoffman, Seymour Roth, Frank Slavin, Dan Mann, Moe Ellish and Manuel Fleit — each turned on an electric candle.
"I feel pretty proud," said Mr. Slavin, vice commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post 609.
Perhaps it was those veterans who attended the event who best understood what it means to fight against persecution.
Mr. Hoffman, who is the chaplain of the Jewish War Veterans Post 609, American Legion Post 127 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 262, said the Maccabees and veterans both fought for religious tolerance and freedom.
"It's a good feeling to be part of this," he said. "This is quite important for Jewish veterans.



There's nothing like an R.V. with a giant menorah on its roof to tell you Christmas is coming.

Every year the Lubavitcher happy Chabad - the same people who approach any brown-haired, brown-eyed pedestrian and ask if he or she is Jewish - strap on the symbol of Chanukah and tool around town to remind the faithful to light up.

While I can't speak to efficacy in terms of celebrating the Festival of Light, I can attest that it reminds me to start filling out that Christmas list. Thanks, guys!

Tales of a Wandering Jew: A city of refuge: Shanghai and the Jews

Having lost my guidebook two weeks back, I was wondering how I would find my story on Jewish Shanghai. Then, sitting on the train from Lhasa, Tibet, to Shanghai, the story found me. As I sat sipping tea in the dining car, a security guard handed me a mini-guide to Shanghai, complete with a section on Shanghai's Jewish past. Sometimes the story finds you, and God always grants you what you need.

The Shanghai Jewish community has a long and storied history, beginning with the immigration of Sephardi Jews from the Middle East in the mid-19th century. Iraqi Jewish families like the Sassoons and the Kadoories built business empires as Shanghai began its meteoric rise. Victor Sassoon made millions in the opium trade, and then even more in Shanghai real estate. At one point, he owned more than 1,900 buildings in the city. His other love was horses. He once quipped, "There is only one race greater than the Jews, and that's the Derby."

At the turn of the century, Ashkenazi Jews began flooding into Shanghai from Russia. Three waves of immigration followed: in 1904, during the Russo-Japanese war; in 1906, with the outbreak of pogroms; and in 1917, as a result of the Russian Civil War.

With the influx of Ashkenazim, the Hongkou neighborhood, nicknamed "Little Vienna," teemed with Jewish-owned shops and kosher delicatessens. Numerous schuls were built, including the Ohel Moishe synagogue, which functions today as a small museum on Shanghai's Jewish past.

In the lead-up to World War II, Shanghai became a refuge for those fleeing Europe. While doors the world over were closing to European Jews, Shanghai's status as a free port allowed it to welcome the refugees. Shanghai was one of the few places that did not require papers or a visa for entry. From 1939 to 1941, 20,000 to 30,000 Jews immigrated to Shanghai to escape Nazi persecution.

When the Japanese occupied Shanghai, they designated the new Jewish residents as "stateless refugees" and confined them to a somewhat benign ghetto in the Hongkou neighborhood. The ghetto was wall-less but guarded. The veteran Jewish community was able to move freely through the city to provide provisions for the refugees. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee aided the refugees as well.

With the end of WWII and the rise of Communist China, almost all of the Shanghai's Jews immigrated to America, Canada, Australia or Israel. Traces of the community can still be found in the Hongkou neighborhood, with its European-style tenement houses. In the back alleys, there are still nail holes where mezuzot used to hang and a door grill shaped like a Magen David. In Huoshan Park, in the heart of the neighborhood, there is a small memorial, in Chinese, English and Hebrew, to the stateless refugees who found haven in Shanghai.

Visiting the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, I was met by its caretaker, Mr. Wang. Now in his 80s, he grew up in the neighborhood, side-by-side with the Jewish families. Wang shows visitors a video about the Jews of Shanghai, takes them on a brief tour of the schul and answers their questions. He recalled the Jewish community fondly and noted that both peoples had suffered persecution: the Jews under the Nazis and the Chinese under the Japanese.

Today, the Shanghai Jewish community is the largest in China, numbering around 1,500, coming from all over the world. Shanghai's role as a center of international trade and investment brings numerous businesspeople to its shores. Chabad Shanghai runs a Jewish center, complete with kosher cafe, school and weekly Shabbat services. They also have a service that delivers kosher meals to hotels and offices.

There is even a Jewish Shanghai tour, offered by Dvir Bar-Gal ( Bar-Gal is an Israeli living in Shanghai, and gives a very thorough tour. The story of the today's Jewish community is being written as fast as the skyline grows.

Paul Rockower served as the Press Officer for the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest in Houston from 2003 until 2006. He is currently on a six month trek around the world. You can read more of his misadventures at his blog: and see pictures at

Bush uses Chanukah to emphasise Iran threat

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON — In the White House, the Christmas tree is up but when it comes to policy, it’s beginning to sound a lot like Chanukah.

President Bush and his cabinet have seized upon the Maccabean message of refusing to give in to tyranny to reinforce Bush’s refusal to deal with Iran as a means of resolving Iraq’s burgeoning crisis. In at least one closed meeting, Bush made the connection explicitly.

The message is consistent with Bush’s resistance to recommendations earlier this month by the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group that the United States engage with Iran.

Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have rejected the study group’s calls to bring Iran and Syria into regional talks on Iraq as long as those nations continue to back terrorism and Iran does not comply with international demands to stop a program that could culminate in nuclear weapons.

The tone was set with Bush’s annual Chanukah message, released just hours before the holiday began.

“After Jerusalem was conquered by an oppressive king and the Jews lost their right to worship in freedom, Judah Maccabee and his followers courageously set out to reclaim Jerusalem from foreign rule,” Bush said.

“Though their numbers were small, the Maccabees’ dedication to their faith was strong, and they emerged victorious.”

It was a contrast with Bush’s Christmas message, which was focused on compassion.

“In this season of giving, we also remember the universal call to love our neighbors,” Bush said. “Millions of compassionate souls take time during the holidays to help people who are hurt, feed those who are hungry and shelter those who need homes.”

The tough message re-emerged at the Chabad-Lubavitch-sponsored “national menorah lighting” on the ellipse in front of the White House.

“This menorah is a beacon that guides us away from the forces of darkness,” said US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, referring to the recent Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran.

Schwab, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, said she was delivering the message on Bush’s behalf before she ascended in a scissors lift to light the menorah’s massive oil lamps.

Bush presided over the menorah lighting inside the White House.

“We pray that those who still live in the darkness of tyranny will someday see the light of freedom,” he said, accompanied by his Jewish Cabinet members: Schwab, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

White House Chanukah meetings change in theme from year to year previous years have featured day school educators and rabbis.

This year, participants said, Bush seemed more interested in discussing Iran.

“A lot of the conversation centered on Iran and on the president’s conviction that they not be allowed to pick up a nuclear weapon,” said Avi Mayer, a University of Maryland undergraduate who was one of four students representing Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

“He said there’s no use in propping up despots, they have to be confronted and brought to task for their actions.”

Others agreed that Bush’s central message at the meeting was Iran and the global threat of terrorism.

“The tone was set by the president, who wanted to discuss what was on his mind,” said Dan Ehrenkrantz, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in suburban Philadelphia. “And what was on his mind was more international than national.”

To the extent that Bush discussed higher education, he emphasized its moral imperative against tyranny, said Julian Sandler, chairman of Hillel’s board.

“There was a common refrain of the importance of values and how values are the most valuable antidote” to despotism, Sandler said.

Bush said that despite declarations of piety from Muslim radicals now fighting the United States, he doubted that they believed in God.

“ ‘Terrorists’ can’t be God-believing people,’ ” Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, quoted Bush as saying.

“The impression was of a resolute president with the courage of his convictions,” Joel said. “There wasn’t any sense he was about to renounce directions he has taken.”

Participants were impressed by Bush’s commitment to Israel and his graciousness to his guests, noting that he posed with each participant for Oval Office photos after the meeting, which lasted more than an hour — double the usual time for such get-togethers.