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Friday, June 30, 2006

12th Anniversary of the Death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Twelve years ago on the 3rd of the Hebrew month Tammuz (June 12, 1994), the Lubavitcher Rebbe was laid to rest next to his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson, both of blessed memory.

The late Rebbe, also known as Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, would go to his father-in-law’s grave to pray for the thousands of people who sent him notes several times each week. He would meticulously read each one of the thousands of notes he would receive from every individual in need of prayers. After reading the note, he would tear it in half and leave it as a memento.

Not much has changed since. The small red house near his tomb looks like any other -- from the outside. Walking in the front door, however, leads one into a whole different world: the Rebbe’s world.

A video monitor hangs in the corner near the ceiling, playing a tape of one of the Rebbe’s farbrengens (literally “spending time together” in Yiddish, but featured Torah insights and singing). It is a way of sharing the experience with those who remember it, and with those who never had the privilege.

When the Rebbe would lead a farbrengen, it was an emotional Torah learning gathering that was punctuated by singing and dancing. This memory often would bring tears to his followers.

A couple of small tables and a few chairs are placed in the center of the room next to his gravesite, each with blank paper and pencils available. His followers explain that visitors are invited to write a pidyon nefesh, called a "pon" -- a note to the Rebbe, asking him to bring their prayer before G-d. After reading it the visitor tears up the note and tosses it into a pile of previous requests, invitations and simple updates on one’s life.

Visitors stand in awe. Chassidic men and women shuckle (rock or sway), as they pray with the intensity of an Olympic athlete. Some weep quietly and others stand in silence, communicating without words from the heart.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was born on the 11th of the Hebrew month of Nissan 5662 (April 18, 1902) in the small Ukranian town Nikolaev. Three years later, frightened families hid from a raging pogrom in their neighborhood. They tried to hide their screaming children. The last thing in the world that they wanted was for their children to be discovered. It was young Menachem Mendel who came to the rescue. He offered soothing words and the smooth touch of a child’s hand to comfort his peers.

The Rebbe loved all people: men, women, and children. As an adult, he saw a child’s unique perspective to life as something advantageous to all. The Rebbe taught that an adult enhances his learning experience by learning from a child as well. He also taught that the purpose of an education was not only prepare a child for adulthood, but also to help him preserve childhood gifts and innocence in the most positive way.

It was in this light that that the Rebbe established Tzivos Hashem (G-d's Army of Children) in1980. The army's strategy was to bring the ultimate redemption to the world through the mitzvot (performance of G-d's commandments) of each individual child. He considered every little boy and girl to be a crown jewel.

In 1935, the Rebbe founded the Lubavitch Women’s Organization, which helped change the way women study Torah today. Through the new movement, the Rebbe broke down the barriers that limited Torah study to men and boys. When he sent men out to the streets to put on Tefillin with their Jewish brethren on the streets, he would also send women out to the shopping malls and the markets to distribute Shabbat candles to perform the weekly commandment of lighting them and reciting a special blessing on Friday evenings.

The Rebbe spoke many languages fluently. His linguistic talent was most obvious when he would distribute dollars every Sunday at 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch World Headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. The Rebbe would give a dollar to each person who came to receive his blessing so that he or she could perform the commandment of giving charity - either with the dollar he gave, or more often with a dollar the recipient exchanged for it. He spoke to each person in his native tongue.

Sometimes the Rebbe would give two or even three dollars — and he would tell his visitor what each was for. “This is for your daughter, this is for you, and this is for a speedy recovery for…”

These are only some of the memories of the Rebbe. For more information, click on www.chabad.org

20+ Ideas to Jump-Start Jewish L.A.

To celebrate The Jewish Journal's first 20 years, we asked 21 passionate, committed members of the community to share their ideas on how to invigorate L.A. Jewry's next 20 years. Their answers range from the lofty to the practical, from ethereal to down-to-earth — much like the people to whom they belong. — The Editors

David Suissa:
“Drink more coffee.”

One big, bold idea to energize L.A.’s Jewish community?

Three words: Drink more coffee.

I’m not kidding.

A new study from the University of Queensland in Australia suggests that drinking coffee makes people more open to a different point of view. In other words, it can make all of us more open-minded.

Can you imagine what would happen if our precious Jewish community in Los Angeles became more open-minded? Let’s go on a high-octane ride together:

Imagine if on one Shabbat, every synagogue would “open up” to a different rabbi. For example, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky could switch with Rabbi Yacov Pinto, Rabbi Yosef Shusterman with Rabbi David Toledano, Rabbi Laura Geller with Rabbi David Wolpe, Rabbi Elazar Muskin with the Happy Minyan, Aish with Chabad, Rabbi Steven Weil with the Persians, and so on. All over Los Angeles on this One Sharing Shabbat, Jews would experience something different, but very Jewish. If it’s a hit, we can make it a monthly tradition, and yes, the chazans would also switch, to give us the full effect.

Want a refill?

On campuses, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller would down a double espresso and invite hard-nosed right-winger Mort Klein, of the Zionist Organization of America, to speak. Seidler-Feller himself would go (with three bodyguards) to give his message of peace at Rabbi Moshe Benzaquen’s shul.

You get the picture: cross-promotion across all the colors of Judaism to energize a great community. All we need to put this ingathering of exiles together is one enthusiastic volunteer who is not afraid of rejection and has a good phone plan. (Any takers? E-mail me at dsuissa@olam.org)

This is peoplehood, my friends. We are one big, noisy, opinionated family, and we are diverse. But what good is a diverse family if we all stay in our own rooms? How can we strengthen our bonds if we so rarely hang out, pray, eat, sing and learn with each other? The opposite of love is indifference. Instead of obsessing over Jewish continuity, we should ignite Jewish curiosity. Sure, the unfamiliar can be uncomfortable, but in this case it has one thing going for it: It’s Jewish!

Forget the whiskey club. For those of Jewish unity, let’s all choose the coffee bean.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.



Robin M. Kramer:
“Welcoming, modern, accessible, authentic Jewish nursery school experience....”

What if a welcoming, modern, accessible, authentic Jewish nursery school experience were available to the families of every 3- and 4-year-old Jewish child in Los Angeles?

The result would be new dynamism, connection and community, judging by the experience at my shul, Temple Israel of Hollywood, which has tried to create a program worthy of emulation.

What are the characteristics of a top-quality nursery school program? A school’s learned and loving faculty should reach out in the best tradition of Abraham and Sarah, welcoming strangers and those less connected to the Jewish tent, extending the community’s embrace to grandparents and to families of all configurations, including the diversity of faith traditions. Where isolation exists in our big city, the school community should offer warmth and connection — a family-centered, holistic port of entry to Jewish life. This essential school should, with mirth and through experience, mark the sacred moments of the Jewish year, and introduce the literature, music, art and soul of our people, bringing to life the belief that every individual is both special and part of a larger human family. A fine nursery school experience builds family demand for an ongoing pipeline of robust Jewish invention and education, both formal and informal. This could be catalytic.

But how could this be affordable for all Jewish families? It would require unprecedented focus, partnership, wisdom and vision — as well as the development of millions of dollars of new financial and institutional resources. Regional and master plans for early education could provide a roadmap, which would include support for educator preparation, increased salaries, and ongoing professional development. Another key is providing facilities and scholarships to ensure universal accessibility that does not presently exist.

All told, it would be a massive undertaking, but relatively speaking, the investment would be modest, given the potential yield of enduring communal dividends.

Robin M. Kramer is chief of staff for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Gary Wexler:
“The physical center could be the Brandeis-Bardin Institute.”

The idea is about ideas.

In my work with Jewish communities throughout America and Canada, I have learned that Los Angeles possesses a wonderful characteristic that none of those other communities have.

We are blessed with the absence of ingrained tradition, free of the boundaries cast by “the way things are just done.” Unlike the New York, D.C. and Boston Jewish communities, we aren’t committed to pass our thinking and ideas through a paralyzing hyper-critical sieve encumbered with an inner lining of hyper-intellectualism, hyper policy orientation, and a hyper-sense of ownership of all things Jewish.

The L.A. Jewish community is a wide-open environment where we can embrace the vibrant, free flow of ideas. It is time we grabbed that opportunity. Los Angeles, with its thriving creative industries, is poised to become the center for the creation of new ideas in Diaspora Jewish life and beyond.

If we will it.

We even have space where this mission could be planted, nurtured and allowed to flourish. The physical center could be the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, an institution that has for years been in search of its mission. The Institute could convene the best Jewish and non-Jewish minds in Los Angeles, even establishing a creative and thinking discipline, a Los Angeles/Brandeis-Bardin brand — something that would be celebrated, respected and sought after.

Four times a year, the best minds would convene to discuss such topics as

American values and how they are influenced by Jewish traditions, including themes like education, literature, music, Next Generation issues, Israel/Diaspora relations, medicine/healing, humor, etc. The participants would represent diverse perspectives so that we are not just exchanging the same ideas back and forth. Ideas, like genes, need to be cross-pollinated, or you have a flawed process.

The Institute would have to be strategically and carefully reconstructed so that the Jewish world would wait to see what ideas are coming out of Los Angeles, the natural environment for this gestation. The discipline would lend itself to all other offerings of the Institute, including its camps, and community activities, turning them into national models.

The Brandeis-Bardin Institute would have to give up a lot of what it is holding on to, which is actually holding it back. It would need to form the type of board capable of bringing this to reality. (Imagine that process!)

Of course, you could expect that the East Coast Jewish establishment would reflexively try to negate what we do. The owners of Jewish life on the Upper West Side of Manhattan would write articles challenging our every move.

It could be just what Los Angeles and the Diaspora Jewish community needs.

Gary Wexler is the founder and president of L.A.-based Passion Marketing.

Lisa Stern:
“More children ... born, adopted, fostered and reared in loving Jewish homes.”

Twenty years ago the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and my son were born.

In the ensuing years I, indeed my generation, have been busy chasing the illusive balance between career, community service and family. Many of us delayed marriage and restricted the size of our families so we could collect degrees and worldly possessions. We had the lowest birthrate in our history and the trend, we are told, is getting worse. In that echo we may have short-changed our community and ourselves.

It’s time to do something about this. We cannot afford to let our legacy evaporate. This will involve sacrifice. Our progeny may have to do more with less and those who are able will have to fund this vibrancy.

Ours is a shared mission because we are a covenantal people; our fate is inextricably bound one to another. History teaches us that even during the most cataclysmic times our people did not deviate from the Jewish narrative: the preciousness of life, family, community and continuity.

My vision for the future is both simple and radical. I pine for a bold and transformative era where more children are born, adopted, fostered and reared in loving Jewish homes.

Lisa Stern, a Hancock Park attorney, has long been active in local Jewish causes and spearheaded litigation that forced Nazi-era insurance companies to pay benefits to families of Holocaust victims.

Joan Hyler:
“The next generation must learn.”

We are at a key moment — our culture must engage a conversation between the Heeb generation and The Federation generation. The way to do this is to develop a single citywide program that will identify, train and involve these young up-and-coming adults. The program must transcend organizational and denominational boundaries.

We who have come before already know the essentialness of The Jewish Federation, synagogues, the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, etc. The next generation must learn and, indeed, must take over. To make this transition successful, these vital organizations will have to do something that they don’t always do well: work together. The future of the Jewish community in Los Angeles depends on a focused collaboration among these well-funded, mainstream institutions.

As someone who helped initiate start-up groups in Los Angeles (MorningStar Commission under Hadassah and the National Foundation of Jewish Culture’s Entertainment Council), I’ve witnessed the difficulty in getting these large unwieldy institutions to talk to one another. They must do so, and open up to new conversations with the 20-somethings who are pouring into public life — or waiting for the right invitation.

Along the way, we must embrace the tension of not knowing who and what is next.

Joan Hyler, a former William Morris Agency senior vice president, runs Hyler Management, a boutique entertainment company and agency.

Rachel Levin:
“Bring back salons.”

Conversation. That is my “bold” idea to help invigorate Jewish life (and just plain life) in Los Angeles — good old, face-to-face, word-flying, idea-exchanging talk. In a city dominated by cell phones, Blackberries and dinner reservations, the idea of inviting people to your home to sit in person and talk about things that matter may just be a radical notion.

Specifically, I am suggesting we bring back salons — a structure for conversation that originated in 16th-century France, eventually making its way to 19th-century Germany, where the most important salons were run by Jewish women. These evenings mixed Jews and non-Jews, artists and aristocrats and according to some, were “nothing less than central to the development of modernity.”

Lest I scare you off with the weight of these previous gatherings, have no fear. I am not talking about the wittiest of hostesses and guests the likes of Klimt or Rodin. At their core, salons are just “talking parties” and, according to Mireille Silcoff, who started one in Toronto (and is the inspiration for this idea), for a salon to work you only need four things: (1) a willing host; (2) a good mix of people (you don’t want “like minds to sit there and be in agreement all night”); (3) someone to keep the conversation on track; and (4) food and drink. Add to that a topic of your choice - anything from “Jewish Guilt and Pleasure” to “What’s great about our city/What’s missing?” and you’re set. (See www.rebooters.net to download topic ideas and readings.) Now imagine if 100 of these were happening around the city - with people of all ages and backgrounds. Imagine how they could change the way people experience community - not to mention the new ideas they could spark. Now go talk amongst yourselves!

Rachel Levin is the associate director of Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation.

Rabbi Marvin Hier:
"24-hour satellite network...."

Today, the majority of Jews are unaffiliated, and our challenge is how best to reach them. In a world dominated by media and technology, one of the answers is through the medium of television. The time has come for the creation of a 24-hour satellite network that would combine films, concerts, theater, educational programs and live coverage of breaking news events that have particular relevance to Jews around the world. After all, there are specific cable networks for African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc.

While it is true that such an undertaking would require significant funds, it is also true that the Jewish community has the resources and its prominence would surely be an incentive for the major network and cable television providers to offer the programming.

Let us remember that our world has changed. If we want to reach the unaffiliated, we must think beyond our small neighborhood and the traditional methods to deliver the message of Jewish continuity as widely as possible.

Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.

Zev Yaroslavsky:
"We cannot afford to be silent or absent from the compelling issues facing our community.”

Years ago, when I was active in the struggle to free Soviet Jewry, there were two Jewish Community Relations Committees that made a huge difference. The JCRC chapters in San Francisco (under the leadership of the legendary Earl Raab), and Cleveland, Ohio, stood tall and pushed the envelope of social activism. They successfully rallied the Jewish and non-Jewish community to pressure our government and the international community to do the right thing. Our cause was helped, our community was energized and our relations with other communities were strengthened.

It’s time to bring that formula to Los Angeles.

The JCRC of The Jewish Federation should be a forum for discussion, advocacy and action on the issues that affect us and our relations with others. The JCRC should be invigorated by making room at the table for representatives of the wide variety of stakeholders within our community. This should include the breadth of the religious spectrum, our diverse social welfare and social action organizations, and the myriad active youth movements.

We cannot afford to be silent or absent from the compelling issues facing our community or our neighbors at this critical time. We should speak out on foreign affairs, domestic policy, immigration and much more. Our voices need to be constructively heard both within and outside our organizational walls.

We really don’t have a minute to waste.

Zev Yaroslavsky is a Los Angeles County supervisor.

Rabbi Harold Schulweis:
"We need a believable Jewish theology, not a set of dogmas.”

Can the Siddur be taught without Jewish theology? Can you pray without a conception of God? Can you read the Torah or haftorah without understanding the philosophy of the Bible? Can you observe the Sabbath or keep kosher without understanding its sense of purpose?

You can.

It is being done in school and shul, and to our great loss. We have been taught and learned to mimic the "how,” "when,” and "where” of ritual behavior, absent the "why” and "what for.” That sort of practice will not satisfy our spiritual and moral yearnings.

Jewish theology deals with ultimate questions: to whom do we pray; for what do we pray; and can we pray for anything? What is the nature of the God we worship? What are the attributes of Godliness, and can they be imitated in our lives? Stripped of Jewish teleology — the Jewish sense of purpose — we are left with a mindless orthopraxy. Fluency in reading Hebrew does not reveal the meaning of the sacred prayer and biblical text.

The common complaint is boredom. Boredom signifies the emptiness that comes from belief-less living. Add responsive readings, enlarge the choir, multiply musical instrumentation, shorten the sermon and all to no avail. Prayer is poetry, but it is poetry believed in. Without belief, prayer is reduced to rhetoric.

Belonging, behaving and believing are the three marks of Jewish identity. We have wrongly thought that we can overcome the need to believe and fill its vacuum with belonging to institutions, paying dues and making contributions. We have wrongly thought that ritual busyness can substitute for the rationale of our behavior.

The Sabbath; the salting of the meat; the binding of the tefillin; and the blessing over lights, bread and wine — must not be gestures of mechanical behaviors.

We need a believable Jewish theology, not a set of dogmas. We call not for a monolithic set of doctrines, but for the adventure of the ethical and spiritual wrestling with our angels of conscience. Our goal is to persuade the so-called Jewish atheists and acquaint them with the rich theological alternatives within the Jewish tradition. The role of Jewish theology is to awake in our people the excitement and moral sensibility of ideas as ideals, which makes our earned belief system credible and actionable.

C.S. Lewis sagely wrote, "When a person ceases to believe in something, it is not that he believes in nothing, but that he believes in anything.”

Human nature, Jewish human nature as well, abhors a vacuum. A theological hole is soon filled with magic, superstition and cultic sectarianism. Neither esthetics nor edifices can serve as surrogates for the foundation of religious rationale. The three intertwining threads of belonging, behaving and believing must not be unraveled.

Harold Schulweis is a rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.

Daniel Sokatch:
"Jewish tradition is just as insistent that Jews respect the rights of workers as it is that Jews adhere to the rules of kashrut.”

Observant Jews in Los Angeles (and elsewhere) look for a certificate of kashrut, a heksher or a teudat heshgoha on a product or on the wall or window of a restaurant or market. These symbols tell them what they can buy and where they can eat. These foods, these restaurants, are certified as strictly following Jewish ritual observance.

Similarly, many Jews and non-Jews have come to rely on the county health department for its own version of a teudat heshgoha: letter grades, portrayed in bright colors on a uniform white placard - to determine, at a glance, the level of cleanliness at restaurants and markets. Whether a restaurant has a blue "A,” a green "B,” or (God forbid) a red "C” has become part of the calculation Angelenos make when considering where to dine.

But there is a next, important step to take. It’s beyond the reach of county inspectors but entirely in keeping with Jewish tradition. The notion of what is "kosher” should extend beyond preparation of food in accordance with ritual law; it should encompass the way in which human beings treat one another.

Jewish tradition is just as insistent that Jews respect the rights of workers as it is that Jews adhere to the rules of kashrut. We can tell if the restaurant we are about to enter is clean and kosher by looking for the certificates. But how does it treat employees?

Los Angeles needs a Human Rights heshgoha. We should insist that businesses that want Jewish customers treat their workers fairly and pay them a living wage. Those that do so could proudly display the blue aleph. And we would know to avoid the businesses with the red gimmel in the window - until they improve working conditions.

Who knows? Other community groups might just follow our lead, making Los Angeles fairer and better for all its inhabitants.

Daniel Sokatch is executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance.



Uri D. Herscher:
"Jews do not and cannot thrive as "a people that dwells apart.”

For many centuries of the Jewish people’s history, the world outside was hostile at best, lethal at worst. In such a world, insularity was tempting, and sometimes essential. We now live in a nation that strives, if not always successfully, to realize democratic ideals that include openness and inclusiveness. The Skirball Cultural Center was founded on the conviction that Jews need to respond in kind, that Jews do not and cannot thrive as "a people that dwells apart.”

And full Jewish participation means that our good works, too, must resist insularity. The Jewish obligation to help the needy, to heal the sick, to school the unschooled only begins in the Torah. It ends on the street, whether that street runs through Fairfax or Pacoima.

If we offer a Judaism that stops at the margins of the Jewish community, we will have marginal Jews. They will walk a narrow path, and a futile one. For we have learned, to our sorrow, that unless the society at large is safe, Jews will never be safe. In an open society, insularity is a grave danger. Even if we could exist in a vacuum, there would be no air to breathe. Whatever the future holds for the Jews, our destiny is tied to the society as a whole, the two strands intertwined — a double helix, like life itself.

When the Torah commands, "Open your hand to your needy brother,” it does not qualify the statement. The person in need is not subjected to an identity test. Jewish concern is ultimately human concern.

We should discover and give voice to people within and beyond the Jewish community. Examples matter! We must seek out opportunities — as individuals and through our organizations — to make positive examples of ourselves. And we should focus the benefits of our good deeds where such acts are most needed — outside the Jewish community as well as within. To open our hands to those in need is to open them as wide as we can.

Uri D. Herscher is founding president and CEO of the Skirball Cultural Center.

Dr. Michael B. Held:
"Build inclusive schools where all students benefit from diversity.”

As awareness of "full inclusion” grows, the distinction between "regular” and "special” education is changing. In truth, every child has both typical and special features and Jewish education should be for every child regardless of ability or challenge.

By typical standards, 10 percent of all students have special needs. Given that, we would expect to find 1,000 students with special needs out of the 10,000 enrolled in local Jewish day schools. But fewer than 100 such students have been identified in this category. Why are so many students apparently excluded and how do we go about creating "inclusive” Jewish schools?

Largely because current efforts to help special-needs children are simply inadequate.

Local educators have sincerely tried to address the need, by adding on special services, but in a piecemeal fashion. Rather, we can build inclusive schools where all students benefit from diversity, state of the art curriculum, and a truly collaborative, team-based approach.

In other words, there needs to be a paradigm shift from the goal of simply creating make-do programs to adopting a human rights model, guaranteeing full access for all Jewish students.

As utopian as that sounds, it is the only way to create and sustain access for special needs children and improve education for all students.

And it is doable. Anyone who doubts this should visit the CHIME Charter Elementary School in Woodland Hills, an inclusive public school. CHIME’s Academic Performance Index (API) jumped an amazing 77 points in one year. Further, the school was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a national model for innovative education.

It is not about the money; it is about transforming Jewish education by including 900 new students who belong in our school system with programming that is educationally sound and morally right. Let’s not delay!

Dr. Michael B. Held is the founder and executive director of the Etta Israel Center.

Rabbi Boruch S. Cunin:
"Any child in Los Angeles who wants a Jewish education should get one.”

Any serious discussion about revitalizing Los Angeles’ Jewish community must focus on one thing: our children. They’re our most precious resource, and we must protect and nurture them to safeguard our future as a people. Sadly, we’re neglecting this responsibility each day that we fail to guarantee them access to an affordable Jewish education.

This is a real crisis. Whenever a child is denied a Jewish education by prohibitive tuition costs, we lose something that can’t be replaced. We squander a chance to impart our values to a new generation- and we abandon the future leaders of our community.

Simply put, any child in Los Angeles who wants a Jewish education should get one. At Chabad schools, we strive to accept every deserving child who comes to us, regardless of family income, so that nobody is denied for lack of funds. Now our entire community must step forward with generous scholarships for all of Los Angeles’ Jewish schools to ensure that no child is ever turned away, anywhere.

Other major American Jewish communities are already doing this. Does it cost money? Yes. But we live in a city of riches. And if we don’t make this investment today, we’ll pay a terrible price tomorrow.

Rabbi Boruch S. Cunin is director of West Coast Chabad Lubavitch.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley:
"Outreach Centers for Jewish Life and Learning as ubiquitous as Starbucks....”

I am pro-synagogue, but synagogues as they now function do not serve all Jews well enough. The problem for these Jews and other potentially interested spiritual seekers is that affiliated Jewish life is too expensive, too boring, too irrelevant, too far and just too "other.”

That’s a shame, because it’s vital to bring in as many unaffiliated Jews as possible to the wonders and beauties of Jewish life, study and practice. And as a people, we need all possible Jews to commit to Judaism and to the state of Israel. Many good people and good places are taking on this mission, but they are not networked nor coordinated, and they are under funded.

What’s needed, communitywide, is the outreach energy of Chabad and Aish HaTorah. We need to reach the hundreds of thousands of Jews (and un-churched Americans) who will not become Orthodox, who may be turned off by worship services, who might not believe in God, for whom Hebrew is (at least for now) too high a threshold for participation in Jewish life.

I would like to see Outreach Centers for Jewish Life and Learning as ubiquitous as Starbucks, as inviting as the as the first sentence of a leather-bound classic. They should feature libraries and bookstores filled with Jewish books, music and videos — for all ages, intellects and interests. There should be ongoing classes conducted by deep, learned engaging teachers who will bring the profundities of Jewish wisdom to bear on people’s lives. And these classes should be geared to different types of beliefs, learning styles, ages, and goals. These gathering spots should include a Beit Midrash (study hall) — some should remain open 24 hours a day.

Because some people are turned off by worship, or by conventional styles of worship, there should be more create ways to celebrate Shabbat. Maybe a group could read and discuss Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Buber, Harold and Larry Kushner, etc. There could be Learners’ Minyans for those who would like to break the code of Jewish prayer. How about music-oriented experiences, meditative experiences, even political discussion (with knowledgeable, fair and balanced moderators)?

As for the next steps.... Well, the possibilities are many, but first a few caveats.

This effort will take substantial funding. Jewish educational institutions - undergrad program, grad programs and seminaries must be ready and able to produce hundreds of talented teachers (who ought to receive excellent salaries and benefits, and lots of variegated support in their work). And synagogues and other communal institutions need to be ready to transform.

What are we waiting for?

How wonderful it would be to send the word out: "All unaffiliated Jews: Come home. We are now ready.”

Mordecai Finley is the rabbi of Ohr HaTorah Congregation, and serves as provost and professor of liturgy and rabbinics at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California Campus.


Dr. Bruce Powell
"Pay all, or a significant part, of every third child’s Jewish day school tuition.”

Millions of dollars have been expended by our fabulous national mega-donors for the Birthright Project — two free weeks in Israel for college-age students who have never been on an organized program. This is real vision.

What I now suggest is the next big step: The Birthrate Project.

Married couples with two children, and who value Jewish day school education, have told me that they have chosen not to have a third or fourth child because they cannot afford one more child in a Jewish day school or Jewish overnight camp. These choices portend a Jewish demographic reality that does not even replace our current population of Jews in America, given that many who are physically able have one or no children at all. If we believe that Judaism, and by extension, Jews, have an important contribution to make to America and the world, this situation cannot stand. We have not even replaced, in 60 years, those souls lost in the Shoah.

My "Modest Proposal” is to launch the Birthrate Project where the national community makes a commitment to pay all, or a significant part, of every third (or perhaps fourth) child’s Jewish day school tuition, kindergarten through 12th grade and/or for Jewish overnight camp. All awards would be based on financial need. A fourth or fifth child might also be funded in partnership with the local Jewish schools. If, for example, this funding produces 100,000 new kids, the total yearly cost at, say, $15,000 a year for tuition, is $1.5 billion.

Imagine the historic implications for the community, over time, of a 100,000 new, Jewish human beings all in possession of deep Jewish knowledge, vision and values from day school — or deeply identified through their Jewish camp experiences. Now imagine our Jewish future without this new life.

I’m ready to follow up on this idea. Are you?

Bruce Powell is head of school at New Community Jewish High School.

Randall Kaplan
"Adopt-a-cause, create a fun event, and make it easy for volunteers”

Our business model was relatively simple. We started with the idea for a different kind of fundraiser — a fun and cool event for a great cause — and then recruited between 20 and 30 of our most talented friends to serve on our planning committee and sell tickets and sponsorships.

But here’s where we were different. We weren’t well-heeled people in our 70s, or even in our 60s or 50s. We didn’t do this after our primary careers, after we’d made money. We were in our 20s.

And that’s how The Justice Ball was born about 10 years ago. Each year, it raises vital dollars for Bet Tzedek, a legal aid service for the poor, disabled, elderly and homeless. During nine straight sellouts, we’ve raised more than $3.6 million — making the Justice Ball the most successful under-40 nonprofit fundraiser in the country. Besides making donations, our more than 16,000 attendees and contributors have been introduced to the wonderful work of Bet Tzedek.

We started The Justice Ball at ages when conventional thought dictated that we would be more focused on careers than on philanthropy. In reality, most people in their 20s are interested in philanthropy and simply don’t know how to get involved. In essence, we made it easy for them — we formulated our idea after choosing a great cause, and with those in hand we targeted a specific but untapped group of talented volunteers.

This "adopt-a-cause, create a fun event, and make-it-easy for volunteers” approach is transportable and would work in other contexts. There are tens of thousands of young professionals in Los Angeles (and elsewhere) who want to get involved. Each synagogue could appoint a rabbi or lay leader to identify future leaders. Nearly 130 synagogues exist in Los Angeles, and if each of these adopted a cause and put its best young leaders together, this formidable but unused human capital could be harvested to do an incredible amount of good.

Randall Kaplan is CEO of JUMP Investors.

Gerard Bubis
"No economic barriers limiting the creativity and creative continuity of Jewish experiences....”

We live in a silo community — many vibrant communities throughout the city that connect and cooperate, if at all, intermittently throughout the years.

My wish is to ascertain, in a thoughtful and representative way, the driving Jewish visions for the greater Los Angeles Jewish community. Are people and institutions ready to set forth an over-aching vision for our collective future? Are there those who would act to bring those visions into reality?

I propose a series of town meetings throughout the community. Participants would be asked to ponder:

Is it important that a Jewish community exist in Los Angeles that is devoted to the cultural, social, psychological, and physical betterment of Jews here and around the world?

If the answer is some form of yes, then I would want to explore exactly how to enhance Jewish identity and how to expand interactive and purposeful relations with likeminded Jews throughout the world.

I would have as many venues as possible; the gatherings would be heavily advertised. I would train 100 or so discussion leaders to keep the focus on the question. Discussions could then lead to specific proposals to satisfy those answering the question in the affirmative.

The first stage of the follow-up would be bringing together 15 to 20 opinionmakers, shakers and doers from the worlds of business, the arts, academia, the rabbinate, Jewish educators and communal professionals. Their charge would be to refine the suggestions into an action program, set priorities and put a price tag on the visions about which there was sufficient consensus. This group would become the sales force to package and sell this set of visions to those individuals and organizations that could assure and underwrite the effort.

What do I imagine could come of such an enterprise?

I’d like to see no economic barriers limiting the creativity and creative continuity of Jewish experiences for individuals and families

What if education, trips to Israel, memberships in all manner of organizations were truly open to all, regardless of economic or social status? How much more would Jewish life flourish if more scholarships were available for those prepared to spend the lives as educators, communal professionals and rabbis serving the Jewish community? What if subsidies were available to pay decent wages for those now staffing services that assist the Jewish community in a manner related to their Judaism?

We live in a golden city and could produce a truly Golden Age of energetic,

creative and purposeful Jewish life here. Are we ready? I would hope so.

Professor Gerald Bubis is the founding director of the Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Presently he is vice president and fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and adjunct professor of social work at USC.

Rabbi Laura Geller
"A year off between high school and college to volunteer for a Jewish "Peace Corps.”

What if we could change the culture so that most American Jewish teenagers took a year off between high school and college to volunteer for a Jewish "Peace Corps” in the United States or somewhere around the world? What if this year of service was organized in such a way that these young Jewish people would be placed in meaningful work situations with social justice or social service organizations so that they would be serving the larger community? What if, at the same time, they would be living together with other Jewish young people, studying Jewish texts about justice, making decisions together about Shabbat and kashrut, and reflecting together on the work they were each doing?

What if that year were sufficiently funded so that these young Jewish people could earn enough money to live (and maybe even save something for college), and that the program could support the training and placement of spiritual mentors, counselors and resident advisers who would live with the participants? What if other young Jews around the same age from all over the world, including Israelis (before army service), also participated in the program so that all these young people came to understand the reality of Jewish peoplehood simply by living, working, learning and becoming friends with Jewish people from different backgrounds?

Maybe then ... our kids would actually be ready for college when they got there, because they would have come to understand that to be a mensch isn’t measured by SAT scores.

Maybe then... these young people would have a better understanding of the world, because they would have lived in another culture. And they would be more grateful for all the privileges that they have because they will have worked with people who have so much less.

Maybe then ... they would feel more able to make a difference in the world. And they would feel part of the Jewish people, because they would have developed deep and lasting relationships with Jews from other countries and other perspectives.

Maybe then ... they would be turned on to Torah study, and understand how profound the connection between Jewish learning and living can be.

And maybe then ... the foundation of their future Jewish lives would be enriched by an experience that transformed their lives.

Laura Geller is senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila
"A community-funded, community-owned and community-operated House of Torah Learning.”

I dream that one day, Los Angeles Jewry will have the vision to create a community-funded, community-owned and community-operated House of Torah Learning. This centrally located House of Learning would not be Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Persian, Israeli or Russian. It would belong to the entire Jewish community. Its common agenda, ideology and language will be one and the same — Torah study. It would offer no academic degrees, no rabbinic ordination and no teaching diplomas. There would be no prayer services, no "prestigious fellowships,” and no one rabbi would be called "the rabbi” in this building. This House of Learning would be open to every Jew, irrespective of background, age group or financial status.

In this House of Learning, Jews would seek spirituality through the intellect, finding God in a page of Talmud. Singles would ask each other out on a "study date,” and would meet at the House of Learning to get to know each other over a Midrashic text. Lay leaders would gather there to take a break from community meetings, and at the end of the night, new ideas would be inspired and born out of an intense study of Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed. Newlywed lovers would spend a few hours reading Yehuda Ha-Levi’s poems and S.Y. Agnon’s stories, and parents would sit with their children and study Rashi’s commentary to the Torah. Text study would no longer be the realm of a select few rabbis and scholars, but it would belong to everybody. It would suddenly be cool to sit and study text, and the House of Learning would become L.A. Jewry’s hottest hangout. The new Jewish greeting in Los Angeles will be, "Hi, how are you, and what are you learning these days?”

Daniel Bouskila is rabbi of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.


Janice Kamenir-Reznik
"The Circuit Rabbis’ services would be provided free of charge.”

All too often, affiliated Jews and the leaders who serve them, become territorial. This territorialism often clouds the greater sense of purpose of what it should mean to be a Jew or a Jewish leader. Their priority becomes the survival or success of their particular institution, rather than a desire also to serve the broader community or to propose a broader and grander Jewish message. Such behavior presents a special problem in Los Angeles because the Jewish community is so large and dispersed — and because it takes a lot to stimulate people to positive Jewish action in Los Angles’ Hollywood-centered society. Thus, dynamic leaders and dynamic programs need to be even more dynamic.

Here’s one potential remedy: The community could hire 10 outstanding rabbis and/or other leaders to serve as "Circuit Rabbis.” They would travel to various L.A. venues, providing dynamic impetus to stimulate new programs in existing institutions. The Circuit Rabbis would have no bond whatsoever to any existing institution; nor would they have to fundraise as part of their jobs. Their only objective would be to serve as a resource and to work together with the synagogue and organizational leaders and rabbis to improve and elevate programming, learning, and Jewish life. The Circuit Rabbis would be cutting-edge thinkers and effective, collaborative and dynamic doers.

The Circuit Rabbis’ services would be provided free of charge, inasmuch as this program would be underwritten by visionary and generous members of the Jewish community.

Janice Kamenir-Reznik is president of Jewish World Watch.

John R. Fishel
"Our mission is to work toward true community.”

A recent issue of Commentary Magazine contains a provocative article by two well-known Jewish scholars. They hypothesize that the concept of Jewish peoplehood is becoming rarer as efforts to stress individualistic approaches to Judaism and Jewish life in the U.S. increase.

This dilemma manifests itself visibly in Los Angeles. We live here as associated Jews in a vast expanse, but are we a "community” at all or merely a highly diverse group of individuals? Do we coalesce in a meaningful way or are we just occasionally bound together by religious or political ideology, geographic residence or, perhaps, ethnic origin?

I believe our mission is to work toward true community.

A Los Angeles Jewish community that could meld the entrepreneurial creative energies and dynamic singular expressions of Jewish identity with the traditional strength of a collective concern for all Jews as a people, regardless of their beliefs, could set the tone for a potential revolution across the country.

John R. Fishel is president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Bring Orthodox to Communal Table

There was a telling moment at the recent centennial celebration of the American Jewish Committee. During a seminar about the Jewish future, scholar Steven Bayme noted that according to the most recent National Jewish Population Survey, the Orthodox are marrying earlier and raising larger families than the more liberal segments of the community.

As the number of Orthodox continues to grow, Bayme had the intellectual courage to ask, will the establishment organizations make room for representatives of the community's fastest-growing population? For all the liberal Jewish groups' talk of pluralism, the answer is far from clear.

Establishment organizations have long been wary of engaging their more Orthodox brethren. When they do, they usually limit that involvement to the most liberal segments of the Orthodox world. Liberal groups love to hear from scholars like Rabbis David Hartman and Irving Greenberg. Their views, however, are outside the mainstream Orthodox consensus and represent a small constituency.

It is telling that while much has been made of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute's failure to sufficiently involve women in a recent meeting, scarcely a word has been heard about the issue of Orthodox and Haredi involvement. Simply put, these organizations are uncomfortable with much of Orthodoxy, in particular the Haredi community, and time and again they have proved themselves to be unwilling to truly engage it.

The very forum in which Bayme participated was indicative of this discomfort. The scholars at the AJCommittee seminar, all of a liberal bent, made repeated reference to "fundamentalism and extremism" in the Jewish world. It seems that if you observe Shabbat, keep kosher and follow the Shulchan Aruch you are automatically labeled a member of a fringe group.

Just imagine if Orthodox scholars had a major seminar and referred to the AJCommittee as "liberal extremists," "ultra liberal" or "being on the fringe." The front-page headlines would scream, "Orthodox attack AJCommittee."

Let's not fool ourselves: Much of the Orthodox community is not too interested in the agendas of the alphabet soup of Jewish groups. They look with angst as the Anti-Defamation League champions gay rights and other positions in total contradiction to Jewish values. They wonder why AJCommittee gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild churches in New Orleans, something that stands — unlike helping non-Jews themselves — in contradiction to Judaism.

Nor can many Orthodox understand how the AJCommittee claims to represent the Jewish world in fighting for restitution by countries in which the organization has never had a presence, such as Lithuania. Haredim shudder when these groups attack any effort to gain government support, such as vouchers for Jewish day schools — a norm in most other Western democracies. And Orthodox wonder what makes the National Council for Jewish Women representative of Judaism when its liberal policies challenge traditional Jewish family values.

There are growing numbers in the religious world who realize that there is much to be gained in broadening the dialogue between the liberal establishment and the growing religious community. In the aftermath of last year's hurricanes in New Orleans and Florida, for example, Chabad and United Jewish Communities worked together on the ground to the benefit of many Jews in need. Around the country, an initiative between Chabad and the UJC, the umbrella body for local Jewish federations, is building better communication and broader cooperation.

If liberal groups want to have a deeper relationship with the Orthodox, they will need to follow the example of intellectual honesty set by Bayme. They will also need the courage to confront their own insecurities and prejudices.

We believe that Jews need to connect more with Jewish learning and experience, and not just with Israel and the Holocaust. This view of Jewish identity makes a lot of people in the communal establishment uncomfortable. Orthodox groups are not going to compromise Halacha — and organizations that recognize and accept this fact will quickly find that the Orthodox can bring to the communal debate a vitality, passion and richness of tradition that at times is sorely missing.

To be fair, it's not just the liberal establishment that needs to confront its prejudices. The Orthodox community tends to think in a narrow parochial fashion. Many Orthodox fail to recognize the achievements of the federations, the defense agencies and other groups. They need to start looking beyond their world and understand the broader Jewish community.

Partnership between the Orthodox community and the liberal establishment is not going to be easy, and both sides need to understand that there will be times when priorities and agendas will differ — which makes dialogue and partnership all the more important. So long as we are talking, we can begin to think collectively about what we can do for the benefit of the Jewish people.

Rabbi David Eliezrie is a Chabad shaliach in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Bring Orthodox to Communal Table

There was a telling moment at the recent centennial celebration of the American Jewish Committee. During a seminar about the Jewish future, scholar Steven Bayme noted that according to the most recent National Jewish Population Survey, the Orthodox are marrying earlier and raising larger families than the more liberal segments of the community.

As the number of Orthodox continues to grow, Bayme had the intellectual courage to ask, will the establishment organizations make room for representatives of the community's fastest-growing population? For all the liberal Jewish groups' talk of pluralism, the answer is far from clear.

Establishment organizations have long been wary of engaging their more Orthodox brethren. When they do, they usually limit that involvement to the most liberal segments of the Orthodox world. Liberal groups love to hear from scholars like Rabbis David Hartman and Irving Greenberg. Their views, however, are outside the mainstream Orthodox consensus and represent a small constituency.

It is telling that while much has been made of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute's failure to sufficiently involve women in a recent meeting, scarcely a word has been heard about the issue of Orthodox and Haredi involvement. Simply put, these organizations are uncomfortable with much of Orthodoxy, in particular the Haredi community, and time and again they have proved themselves to be unwilling to truly engage it.

The very forum in which Bayme participated was indicative of this discomfort. The scholars at the AJCommittee seminar, all of a liberal bent, made repeated reference to "fundamentalism and extremism" in the Jewish world. It seems that if you observe Shabbat, keep kosher and follow the Shulchan Aruch you are automatically labeled a member of a fringe group.

Just imagine if Orthodox scholars had a major seminar and referred to the AJCommittee as "liberal extremists," "ultra liberal" or "being on the fringe." The front-page headlines would scream, "Orthodox attack AJCommittee."

Let's not fool ourselves: Much of the Orthodox community is not too interested in the agendas of the alphabet soup of Jewish groups. They look with angst as the Anti-Defamation League champions gay rights and other positions in total contradiction to Jewish values. They wonder why AJCommittee gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild churches in New Orleans, something that stands — unlike helping non-Jews themselves — in contradiction to Judaism.

Nor can many Orthodox understand how the AJCommittee claims to represent the Jewish world in fighting for restitution by countries in which the organization has never had a presence, such as Lithuania. Haredim shudder when these groups attack any effort to gain government support, such as vouchers for Jewish day schools — a norm in most other Western democracies. And Orthodox wonder what makes the National Council for Jewish Women representative of Judaism when its liberal policies challenge traditional Jewish family values.

There are growing numbers in the religious world who realize that there is much to be gained in broadening the dialogue between the liberal establishment and the growing religious community. In the aftermath of last year's hurricanes in New Orleans and Florida, for example, Chabad and United Jewish Communities worked together on the ground to the benefit of many Jews in need. Around the country, an initiative between Chabad and the UJC, the umbrella body for local Jewish federations, is building better communication and broader cooperation.

If liberal groups want to have a deeper relationship with the Orthodox, they will need to follow the example of intellectual honesty set by Bayme. They will also need the courage to confront their own insecurities and prejudices.

We believe that Jews need to connect more with Jewish learning and experience, and not just with Israel and the Holocaust. This view of Jewish identity makes a lot of people in the communal establishment uncomfortable. Orthodox groups are not going to compromise Halacha — and organizations that recognize and accept this fact will quickly find that the Orthodox can bring to the communal debate a vitality, passion and richness of tradition that at times is sorely missing.

To be fair, it's not just the liberal establishment that needs to confront its prejudices. The Orthodox community tends to think in a narrow parochial fashion. Many Orthodox fail to recognize the achievements of the federations, the defense agencies and other groups. They need to start looking beyond their world and understand the broader Jewish community.

Partnership between the Orthodox community and the liberal establishment is not going to be easy, and both sides need to understand that there will be times when priorities and agendas will differ — which makes dialogue and partnership all the more important. So long as we are talking, we can begin to think collectively about what we can do for the benefit of the Jewish people.

Rabbi David Eliezrie is a Chabad shaliach in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Chabad Rabbi Calls for More Orthodox in Jewish Groups

Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, the shliach to Yorba Linda, CA, and sort of an occasional unofficial media representative for Lubavitch, has been working in his area of Southern California towards increasing inclusion with the local Federation. He has an essay in this week’s Forward that could be seen as a call for the national Jewish community to endeavor towards similar cooperation (although, seeing as he doesn’t cite his work there, it could be a nudge to his counterparts at Federation that they’re not meeting their end of the deal, either).
He lays out a set of facts that are largely correct, and portray a stark contrast in how mainstream Jewish organizations deal with the larger Jewish community and how they deal with the Orthodox.

Simply put, these organizations are uncomfortable with much of Orthodoxy, in particular the Haredi community, and time and again they have proved themselves to be unwilling to truly engage it.
The very forum in which Bayme participated was indicative of this discomfort. The scholars at the AJCommittee seminar, all of a liberal bent, made repeated reference to “fundamentalism and extremism” in the Jewish world. It seems that if you observe Shabbat, keep kosher and follow the Shulchan Aruch you are automatically labeled a member of a fringe group.

Quite true, although Eliezrie’s stretching his argument beyond believability with his next graf:

Just imagine if Orthodox scholars had a major seminar and referred to the AJCommittee as “liberal extremists,” “ultra liberal” or “being on the fringe.” The front-page headlines would scream, “Orthodox attack AJCommittee.”

Point me to a gathering of Orthodox scholars that doesn’t do that (other than perhaps the recently defunct Edah), and you get a prize.
But the fact remains that the big centers of Jewish energy and money that aren’t explicitly Orthodox have very little, if any, concern for the Orthodox. This is a reality that’s increasingly changing, as Eliezrie’s own interaction in Southern California reveals. But there’s also something much broader going on: the Orthodox are about to become the by-far-dominant faction in American Judaism, with a demographic dominance, constituency retention, and institutional loyalty that isn’t nearly paralleled by any other movement. And the Orthodox are slowly but persistently beginning to knock at the gates: they want cash for their schools and Jewish money to fund primarily Jewish activities. This doesn’t create a natural match-up with an institutional Judaism that is increasingly unconcerned with religious observances and catering ever more to populations that are essentially not Jewish (as in the case of JCCs, where many have majority non-Jewish populations), but in the end all the Orthodox have to do is vote with their feet, and it’s quite likely that a lot of large non-denominational institutions will soon be run by Orthodox Jews.
With that said, how would Orthodox Jews run institutional life differently? Eliezrie posits:

Much of the Orthodox community is not too interested in the agendas of the alphabet soup of Jewish groups. They look with angst as the Anti-Defamation League champions gay rights and other positions in total contradiction to Jewish values. They wonder why AJCommittee gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild churches in New Orleans, something that stands — unlike helping non-Jews themselves — in contradiction to Judaism.

The ADL is one organization in no danger of a takeover, and it will likely always advocate for gay marriage (about which there’s very little consensus even amongst the Orthodox that its “in total contradiction to Jewish values”). Eliezrie’s likely right about rebuilding churches; that wouldn’t happen if the Orthodox were allocating funds, and it’s further unclear whether the Orthodox in charge would spend much money at all on non-Jews facing crises. After all, the perpetual claim of all of institutional Judaism is that Judaism’s in constant crisis; the difference that the Orthodox bring to the table is that they’ve got lots of things to spend the money on.

Nor can many Orthodox understand how the AJCommittee claims to represent the Jewish world in fighting for restitution by countries in which the organization has never had a presence, such as Lithuania.

Pretty hilarious side-point that most readers assuredly don’t understand, as Chabad rabbis fight with other rabbis and Jewish organiations in Europe for control of restitution funds, in which Lithuania’s been particularly contentious [1, 2, 3, 4].

Haredim shudder when these groups attack any effort to gain government support, such as vouchers for Jewish day schools — a norm in most other Western democracies.

Quite right, and especially when that attack stems from a specific First Amendment reading that a lot of Jews take as a given.

And Orthodox wonder what makes the National Council for Jewish Women representative of Judaism when its liberal policies challenge traditional Jewish family values.

When did the NCJW become a big deal on the Jewish scene? Also, taking a look at its platform, it’s hard to say how it can be read to “challenge traditional Jewish family values” in any specific or objective sense.

We believe that Jews need to connect more with Jewish learning and experience, and not just with Israel and the Holocaust. This view of Jewish identity makes a lot of people in the communal establishment uncomfortable. Orthodox groups are not going to compromise Halacha — and organizations that recognize and accept this fact will quickly find that the Orthodox can bring to the communal debate a vitality, passion and richness of tradition that at times is sorely missing.
To be fair, it’s not just the liberal establishment that needs to confront its prejudices. The Orthodox community tends to think in a narrow parochial fashion. Many Orthodox fail to recognize the achievements of the federations, the defense agencies and other groups. They need to start looking beyond their world and understand the broader Jewish community.

Reading between the lines of Eliezrie’s essay, what appears is not so much an agenda for the Orthodox community as it’s traditionally rendered, but a vision for how the Jewish organizational world can embrace Chabad. After all, Chabad, as an Orthodox organization with a largely non-Orthodox constituency, is the best-equipped to serve the role as ambassadors of Orthodoxy to Jewish institutions. They’ve already got one foot in the door.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 29th, 2006 at 12:21 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
4 Responses to “Chabad Rabbi Calls for More Orthodox in Jewish Groups”

1. Ari Kinsberg Says:
June 29th, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Steven,

The most realistic way to alleviate (but probably not to solve) the “tuition crisis” is to demand that federations fund day schools. This should be not be a hard sell, as it is the day schools that best guarantee Jewish continuity. (I completely disagree with Gary Rosenblatt’s recent editorial stating that camps might be even better at transmitting Yiddishkeit.) But I would feel a bit uncomfortable demanding that federations support Orthodox day schools, as many Orthodox Jews would on principle never give a penny to a federation. Do you have any stats on the federations’ donor base?

Kol tuv
2. Thanbo Says:
June 29th, 2006 at 3:22 pm

1) NCJW, looking at their platform, supports gay marriage and abortion on demand. For most Orthodox, these are family-values issues. Further, they oppose Pres. Bush’s “faith-based initiative” on the grounds that faith-based social service agencies would be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion. Maybe Jewish agencies should give preference to Jews?

2) How many Orthodox support gay marriage? Civil unions or domestic partnership, perhaps, why shouldn’t they have spousal rights to health insurance, but gay marriage? It’s an explicit midrash brought down lehalacha in Rambam Hilchot Issurei Biah 21:18 (or is that 18:21?) - “you shall not do like the ways of Egypt - where men married men, women married women, etc.”

3) Orthodox spending money on non-Jews in crisis: there are always earmark funds. Now that the IRC has deigned to allow Israel to join, maybe those who want to give to Katrina relief or tsunami relief will be able to give through them, rather than American Jewish World Service or other vaguely-liberal Jeiwsh-organized charities.
3. Michelle Says:
June 29th, 2006 at 5:43 pm

B”H

This is a stretch. Why would orthodox belong to a JCC that only gives two hours a week to single-gender swimming, is overrun by children who have come in “So-and-so Baptist” Church busses, and perform plays on Saturday?
4. Itzik_s Says:
June 29th, 2006 at 8:17 pm

There is no point in bothering to cooperate with these federations. They are dying. The goal of Chabad is to keep the Jews who are involved with these federations from dying as Jews - not to bother cooperating with them, but rather to reach out to their members.

Boynton synagogue to open modern mikvah

By Jennifer Shapiro
Special Correspondent

June 30, 2006

Suzanne Goldberg drives to Boca Raton from her home west of Boynton Beach each month to use a mikvah, or ritual bath.

Goldberg's three-year commute to Boca Raton Synagogue will be over soon. A $400,000 mikvah is expected to be ready by the beginning of July at her synagogue, Chabad-Lubavitch of Greater Boynton Beach, at 10655 El Clair Ranch Road.

"The Jewish community in Boynton Beach has been steadily growing over the last decade," said Goldberg, 31. "In recent years, we have seen a large influx of young families. Having our own mikvah will not only serve the needs of all these new families, but it will help to sustain our growth as a community."

The mikvah will be open to local and visiting Jewish women. "Hundreds upon hundreds of women, women who consider it a need in their spiritual life and women out of curiosity" will use it, said Rabbi Sholom Ciment, Chabad's leader.

The mikvah will feature "every amenity known to a woman in the most exquisite spa," he said.

The mikvah is used by mostly Orthodox married women after their menstrual cycle, before their wedding day and on occasion for conversions, Ciment said.

"When a woman descends into the mikvah, she is not allowed to be with her husband. But when she ascends, she is a revived, new woman. After a hiatus of 12 days of not being intimate [with her husband], she rejoins him," Ciment said about the monthly ritual.

The perception of mikvahs has changed over the years, partly because of the ability to build ones with amenities and luxuries, Ciment said.

"Back in the oppression, they had cellars and holes in the kitchen floor they dipped for the ritual once a month," Ciment said. "There are hundreds, if not thousands of stories of women who used to break ice in communist Russia; they literally risked their life. We've come a long way."

The Chabad also will have a dish mikvah used to sanctify dishes and utensils before eating, Ciment said. The dish mikvah will be ready the same time as the women's mikvah and will be the first drive-through mikvah that he is aware of.

Boca Raton Synagogue also has a dish mikvah, he said.

"Traditionally, when a Jew buys a new dish, specifically glass or chinaware, anything one eats from, anything used for cooking or eating, we sanctify it before we use it," Ciment said about kosher dietary laws.

The new mikvah will be named "Mei Menachem" for the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, Ciment said.

Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In a small college town.. You Tube edition

We all know that G-D SQUAD loves to mine the internet for digital gold (read: videos, pictures, and other media concerning UCSC Jews). Well, he struck a nice little nugget today. Here's the 2004/5 Chabad Student Center video. I assume most Jewish sluggies out there have seen it already, but I'm posting it for those who want to see it again and for those who haven't yet seen it.

These are definitely images from a different era; Zalman was still a bochur (mazal tov again! Details to follow...); Ze'ev and Mendel hadn't had their upshernishes yet; Devorah Leah's cooking was great (well, some things never change); the Russian Mafia was still in town. G-D SQUAD even makes an appearance (fat bowl of hash to the first person who can find me). Jay kay about the "fat bowl of hash" part... for those that aren't obsessive bloggers, that was a reference to one of Yoseph Leib's posts on Cannabis Chassidis. But I really do make an appearance.

Anyway, enjoy.

The Nine Lives of Chabad

From the archives via Aussie Echo

Gabby Wenig
07/02/04

The Chabad movement found many ways to commemorate Gimmel Tammuz, the 10th anniversary of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (aka the Rebbe)’s death last Tuesday.

Some Chabadniks made the trek to New York, where they stood in line for two hours with 30,000 others to be allowed two minutes at the Ohel, the Rebbe’s final resting place in Queens. The scholars who answer questions on Askmoses.com, Chabad’s interactive Web site, convened in New York for a meeting on how to improve the site. Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, the Director of West Coast Chabad Lubavitch attended a fundraising meeting where he secured $8 million in pledges for new projects. Chabad of California and Kehos, Chabad’s official publishing company, published a new Chumash with English translation and the Rebbe’s commentaries. And all over California and the world, Chabadniks got together for farbrengens, Hassidic gatherings that are meant to stir the soul through words of Torah and song. At these gatherings, the main topic discussed was how to commemorate the Rebbe’s legacy and ensure that it lives on, and determine the spiritual significance of his passing.

But the one thing Chabad did not do on Gimmel Tammuz was mourn.

"[After Gimmel Tammuz in 1994] I was sitting with my son Levi in the office, and we looked at each other and he started to cry," said Cunin. "I said ‘the Rebbe wouldn’t want you crying. The Rebbe wants action. Let’s open a new Chabad institution’. And we opened Chabad of Malibu, right then. And many of our projects since then- the new girl’s school (Bais Chaya Mushka on Pico Boulevard), the Chumash, - the funding has come from Malibu. Everything flowed back to that first institution that was opened during shiva."

Cunin’s full-steam-ahead attitude is indicative of the way that Chabad has bloomed since Gimmel Tammuz. While Cunin and others admit that Gimmel Tammuz was the most difficult challenge the movement ever faced — far more difficult than say, surviving the czarist and communist prisons that incarcerated its previous leaders in the 19th and early 20th centuries in Russia- after Gimmel Tammuz Chabad did not disintegrate, as many predicted it would. Instead, it flourished.

In the 10 years since the Rebbe’s passing, the number of shluchim (emissaries) sent around the world to help Jews find Judaism has almost doubled, from 2200 to over 4000; there is now a Chabad campus initiative funded by philanthropist George Rohr that has put Chabad houses on more than 70 different college campuses in America; there are websites- chabad.org, chabad.com, askmoses.com that receive hundreds of thousands of clicks a day. In California, in terms of numbers of new buildings (42), institutions (84), shluchim (112), and dollars raised ($125 million), Chabad has grown more in the past ten years than it has in any other decade of its history. And though he is not physically present, the Rebbe remains a vital and iconic figure in Chabad.

Members of Chabad attribute the growth to the strength of the Rebbe’s message, the mainstream acceptance of Chabad ideas, and to individuals in Chabad feeling an acute sense of responsibility to carry on the Rebbe’s mission of bringing every Jew closer to Torah and hastening the Messiah.

"Whatever each of our individual and collective shlichus (mission) meant before Gimmel Tammuz they mean so much more after Gimmel Tammuz," said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, PR director for West Coast Chabad Lubavitch. "Now we are quite literally the hands and feet of the Rebbe, and he relies on us to fulfill his shlichus even more. The goals that the Rebbe set out to accomplish clearly lie on our shoulders."

Schneersohn assumed the leadership of Chabad in 1951 after the death of his father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn. The Rebbe saw the great challenge of Jewish life in America as resisting the allure of assimilation. While leaders of the Conservative and Reform denominations were peddling a Judaism that made concessions to modern life, and the leaders of the ultra Orthodox movements sheltered their followers from the outside world, the Rebbe taught that Judaism didn’t have to be watered down to be attractive, and that religious people didn’t have to resist interaction with the outside world to remain committed. Instead of keeping themselves holy, he taught, they should elevate the world around them and make that holy. He also taught that every Jew, religious or not, had infinite potential and a divine mission in this world. He encouraged traditional, Orthodox observance and sent emissaries out all over the world on lifelong missions to teach Jews Torah and thus hasten the coming of the Messiah.

While Schneersohn was alive, many in Chabad assumed that he was fit to be the Messiah. After he passed away in 1994 leaving no heir, there was some confusion in the movement about the Messiah issue that hasn’t entirely dissipated. While many thought that Gimmel Tammuz put an end to speculation that the Rebbe was the Messiah, because traditional Judaism teaches that the Messiah needs to be a living person, others thought that the Rebbe could still be the Messiah because traditional Judaism also teaches that a resurrection of the dead is one of the signifiers of the Messianic era. There is even a third, more radical group, who believe the Rebbe is the Messiah and the events of Gimmel Tammuz did not actually occur.

This issue not only caused a lot of division within Chabad, but it also lead many others from different denominations to criticize Chabad over these beliefs, claiming them akin to Christianity. The most vocal critic was David Berger, a Brooklyn College history professor who in 2001 published his anti-Chabad screed,

"The Rebbe, The Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference," (Littman, 2001) in which he argued that the Orthodox community needs to disenfranchise Messianists from institutionalized religious life.

Perhaps because the Messiah has not yet arrived to settle the question of who he or she is, Chabad has not managed to find a monolithic approach to solve the issue of Messianism, which did not help when it was trying to defend itself against the critics.

"The community is made up of individuals, we have always said that we are one community with differences of opinion and God bless America," said Shlomo Cunin. "Here we have diversity of opinion. There is no such thing as an official line."

In California, Messianism never caused the internal divisions that it did in other Chabad communities such as Crown Heights and Chicago.

"We live near the beach so we are much more relaxed than they are in New York," said Doonie Mishulovin, a third generation Chabadnik who teaches at Chabad’s Bais Chana High School. "The division between the opinions [about Messianism] is not so important here. No one takes it personally."

But even with the brouhaha over Messianism, which has dogged and probably will dog all discussions of Chabad in the wider community, the accusations of heresy, which Chabad utterly rejects, never stuck. If anything, Chabad is a more mainstream part of the Jewish community than it was ever before.

"Chabad went from being a group of Hasidim to a synagogue movement in this country," said Lawrence Schiffman, a Jewish studies professor at NYU who is convening the first academic conference on the Rebbe in November 2005. "Instead of being a core group of followers under a teacher, they have become teachers. That brings further integration into the society as a whole."

At the Gimmel Tammuz functions in California, the issue was not so much "who is the Messiah?" but rather "How can we bring it?"

At Bais Bezalel, one of the Chabad congregations on Pico Boulevard on the Shabbat before Gimmel Tammuz, special guest speaker Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum, the principal of Cheder Menachem, told the congregation that the Rebbe saw it as his job to elevate everyone and everything, and through doing the same the Messiah will come.

At the N’shei Chabad function the following Monday night, ten women lit tapered candles and placed a placard of an alphabet letter against a podium.

The letters spelled out the word "hiskashrus" which is a transliteration of a Hebrew word describing the closeness and connection that Hasidim have with the Rebbe. The message of the ceremony, and the speeches that preceded and followed it, was that hiskashrus did not die with the Rebbe, but is alive and well today.

"The connection between a Hasid and a Rebbe is not a physical bond, but a spiritual bond," said Rabbi Shimon Raichik of Chabad of Hancock Park. "And that is why there are people who are now connecting with to the Rebbe even more than when the Rebbe was with us physically."

A Jew Dreams on Gimel Tammuz..

My dream last night

Note: I am not Chabad. I am 100% "Litvish" in philosophy and nusach. That being said, here was my dream last night--

I dreamed that I was driving to a meeting at a Hollywood studio. I was afraid that I might be late so I decided to sleep over in one of their offices. I didn't have a blanket so I wrapped myself from head to toe in a tallis (like you would do for a dead person).

When I returned home, I was told that over one million dollars in jewels was stolen. I was confused. Then I looked over and The Rebbe was next to me. We were sitting on the floor near a bed. He gave me comforting words and spoke of the jewels. I had an idea in my dream that the jewels were Jews. On the tip of his nose was a tiny brown spot not even a millimeter long. It was symbolic of his tiny aveiros he did in this world (I had learned that when one stands before the Heavenly Tribunal they are clothed in dirty garments, the dirt of their sins).

I looked over and saw a relative of my wife's (who's last name is actually a form of "Lubavitch" namely Lebovics). He was sitting at a table. He took a large jar of honey and took out a big scoop. He placed it on a sour grapefruit half. He then looked at me. I knew the symbolism: The sweetness of Geulah is near and will temper the sourness of Galus.

I then awoke.

Amid rivalries and haggling, stunted Moscow JCC gets boost

MOSCOW, June 27 (JTA) —

A long-planned Jewish community center slated for Moscow has received a boost.

On Monday, Arkady Gaydamak signed an agreement with the religious Jewish community of Moscow, which has long sought partners to help build a multimillion-dollar community center across the street from the city’s Choral Synagogue.

The JCC, Moscow’s second, would be an attempt to attract the large number of Moscow Jews who are secular.

Gaydamak, a business tycoon and philanthropist who made a name for himself in Israel and Russia by buying sports teams and media outlets, told JTA that construction of the 130,000 square-foot center, to be completed by the end of 2008, may top $30 million.

This week’s signing, attended by philanthropist Ronald Lauder, may jump-start the project, which for years remained mired in negotiations among international Jewish groups, leading Russian Jewish philanthropists and the Moscow Jewish community.

Almost six years ago, the city of Moscow gave the Moscow Jewish Religious Community, the group that operates the synagogue, a free lease of a nearby plot. The community group, which at the time had strong ties to the Russian Jewish Congress umbrella organization, intended to rely on the RJC’s financing in order to build the center.

Community leaders received the land — a prized spot a short distance away from the Kremlin — but the plot is untouched. It still contains a dilapidated Soviet-era red-brick school later turned into a hospital, which has not been in use for more than a decade.

The project was originally designed to bring together the Moscow community, the RJC, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and private donors, and at some point the coalition also included the Jewish Agency for Israel. But constant upheaval within the RJC and rising building costs have delayed construction.

Some six months ago, the JDC and some other donors withdrew from the project, mainly due to disagreement about the ownership rights to the new center.

A senior JDC official told JTA that the group is looking for a space to build its own community center in Moscow.

Then Gaydamak, 53, stepped in.

Since last year, he has served as president of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations of Russia, an umbrella for Jewish religious groups.

Until last year, he was among the leading donors of the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities, the region’s largest Jewish group.

Observers said Gaydamak joined the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities, which includes Orthodox and Reform congregations, because he no longer was satisfied with his secondary role in the federation.

Gaydamak denies this assessment, saying he joined the congress because he saw great potential in the organization.

In 2001, his funds were used to build the federation’s Marina Roscha JCC, also in Moscow.

“I’m not new to this,” he told JTA of his decision to build a new center. “Why am I doing this alone? Because no one else wants to do it,” he said.

For his contribution, Gaydamak will receive one-third of the new building for commercial purposes.

Leopold Kaimovsky, the executive director of Moscow’s religious community, said the center will include facilities for educational, social, welfare, cultural and athletic programs and a kosher restaurant.

The eagerness of the synagogue to have its own community center — that will inevitably compete with the Chabad-run center — stems not only from the groups’ rivalry.

Many Jewish leaders agree that without a modern community center separate from the synagogue, the community has little chance to attract secular Jews.

“To our Jews, a synagogue is associated only with religion, and many Jews could not find a place for themselves here,” said Adolph Shayevich, the synagogue leader and one of Russia’s two chief rabbis. “In the new center, I hope, all Jews of Moscow will find a place for themselves.”

Arkady Gaydamak’s daughter Katya agreed.

“Such a stunning synagogue should have a place like that,” Katya Gaydamak said.

Like all three of Gaydamak’s children, she was born and raised in Paris after Gaydamak left the Soviet Union in the early 1970s.

Katya, a jewelry designer who divides her time between Paris and London, said the new center has special meaning to Moscow Jews who grew up here, such as her father.

Gaydamak would tell his children what the neighborhood of the Choral Synagogue meant to local Jews during Soviet times, she recalled. “Dad told us how it was to be Jewish in Moscow back then. Now younger Jews here are taking too much for granted.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, the street next to the synagogue was the site of mass gatherings of Jews.

Defying the ever-present KGB agents, members of the community celebrated Jewish holidays, sang, danced and exchanged news about the emigration status of their friends.

Back then, the street and synagogue were referred to by some Moscow Jews as Gorka, or the Hill, a reference to the street’s steepness.

Katya Gaydamak said the new center should revive some of the old-time memories associated with the site.

At least, those involved in the project say, those memories will be preserved in the center’s name, Na Gorke, or On the Hill.

Long after his death, rebbe’s words

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON, June 29 (JTA) —

Twelve years after Menachem Mendel Schneerson died, his followers and admirers in Chabad-Lubavitch delivered his message to Washington’s highest echelons.

The timeless themes of education, security for Israel and reaching out to other faiths still resound, organizers said.

Speakers including Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Talmudic scholar Adin Steinsaltz and radio host Dennis Prager interacted with top Bush administration officials at the Tuesday-Wednesday event marking the Lubavitcher rebbe’s yahrzeit.

The theme of the event, which attracted more than 300 Chabad officials from around the world, as well as diplomats and lawmakers, was education.

If that appeared broad, it was because “we’re here to convey a message and not press a particular opinion,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of American Friends of Lubavitch.

In a closed briefing, Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration’s Jewish Homeland Security secretary, told the gathering that education was key in preparing Americans for the battle against terrorism.

“Education creates awareness, and awareness creates defense” was Chertoff’s message, according to those attending.

Wiesel said that shortly before Schneerson died, he had warned Wiesel that it was imperative for the West to engage Islamic religious leaders before Western and Islamic worldviews diverged too far.

The conference culminated in a White House briefing by Joshua Bolten, President Bush’s chief of staff, who also is Jewish. Bolten said Bush would never encourage Israel to give up territory without a Palestinian quid pro quo.

Administration officials attending included Gregg Rickman, the top anti-Semitism official at the State Department, and Edward O’Donnell, who deals with Holocaust restitution.

Other speakers included Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), the Senate majority leader.

“I’m a physician. I’ve dedicated the better part of my life to healing human bodies,” Frist told the assembled Chabad emissaries. “You dedicate the better part of your lives to healing the human soul.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) was scheduled to speak, but was caught in traffic generated by flooding. Also appearing was the Australian defense minister, Brendan Nelson.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hollywood commissioners reject proposed $2 million deal with Chabad synagogue

By Ihosvani Rodriguez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

June 29, 2006

HOLLYWOOD · After rejecting a proposal that would've ended a federal lawsuit accusing them of discriminating against a synagogue, city commissioners Wednesday night said they planned to keep negotiating to avoid a trial that could come next week.

The settlement rejection came after more than a dozen Hollywood Hills residents took turns urging city leaders to continue their efforts to oust the Hollywood Community Synagogue Chabad Lubavitch from a residential neighborhood.

Commissioners then announced they would reconvene today at 1 p.m. for negotiations with Chabad officials.

The Chabad sued in 2004 when it lost its special zoning permit to operate. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the suit last year.

The proposed agreement would have allowed the Chabad to stay permanently at its Hollywood Hills location and receive a $2 million payment from the city's insurance company for damages. The city would also have had to rewrite a series of zoning laws that a federal judge has already ruled unconstitutional.

In return, the Chabad would drop its suit against the city and Commissioner Sal Oliveri, who is accused of leading the charge against the synagogue.

Attorneys representing the city and the Chabad drew up the deal over the weekend and announced it before a federal judge on Monday while a jury waited nearby.

Commissioners now say they were left out of the loop. They spent Wednesday night bashing the attorneys in the case, including the lawyer hired to represent the city.

"I am tired of being backed against a corner by attorneys taking charge," said Mayor Mara Guilianti. "I still think that if we were to sit with the Chabad without attorneys and their egos, we could've come up with something better a long time ago."

Guilianti at one point held back tears, saying the issue and allegations of anti-Semitism made against the city have offended her personally as a Jewish woman.

The lawsuit revolves around the city's attempts to oust the Chabad from the single-family home it converted into a synagogue in 1999. The suit claimed the city showed bias when it yanked a special permit allowing the Chabad to operate in a residential neighborhood while allowing other religious groups to do so.

Oliveri is accused of personally commissioning police and code enforcement officers to crack down on the Chabad. The synagogue's leaders have complained that officials visited the Chabad almost on a daily basis.

Oliveri maintains he was responding to his constituents' concerns and only asked for written updates on the Chabad.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard hampered the city's case last week by ruling the current ordinances governing the special permits are too vague and are unconstitutional. Lenard also said Oliveri can't receive immunity as a public official.

By going to court, the city risks losing the discrimination case and having to pay for damages with taxpayer money instead of through its insurance.

The Chabad, for its part, will have to prove the city's efforts were discriminatory and caused the synagogue millions in damages.

Unless a settlement is reached, a federal jury trial could start in Miami as early as next week.

Before Wednesday's meeting began, Oliveri excused himself and left. He said he did not want to debate and vote on an issue that would affect him legally.

Other commissioners reminded him that he had voted repeatedly on the issue, including last week when he urged for a settlement.

"I feel very frustrated and exasperated to sit here and watch," Oliveri said.

Residents complained about parking violations, noise and trash from the Chabad.

Jamie Mardis told officials he moved out of the neighborhood because of the Chabad.

"I want to hire the Chabad's attorney because he's got you guys running scared," he said. "Sometimes, you have to fight for what is right. We've come very close to throw away this five-year fight."

Staff Writer Ihosvani Rodriguez can be reached at ijrodriguez@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7908.

Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jewish show launched on Ukranian TV

The first episode of the program will be dedicated to the Lubavitcher Rebbe
FJC


The first episode of a new Jewish program entitled “613” will be broadcast on the First National TV Channel of Ukraine Thursday.


It is no coincidence that the launch of this TV project falls on the third of Tamuz, observed among Jews across the world as the Rebbe’s Day .


The first episode of the program will be dedicated to the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The program will profile the Rebbe’s life and the basic concepts of his study.


The program will feature President of FJC CIS Lev Leviev, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine Azriel Chaikin and Head of the Board of FJC Ukraine Rabbi
Meir Stambler, Chief Rabbis of Nikolayev and Dnepropetrovsk and specialists in Jewish philosophy.


According to programming director Oleg Rostovtsev, it was the matter of a significant importance for the Jewish community to begin this series TV broadcasts aimed at an average Ukrainian viewer profiling the history, culture and traditions of the Jewish people with a narration about the Lubavitcher Rebbe.


The next program will broadcast July 20th, and then the “613” program will be on TV every two weeks.


Every resident of Ukraine will be able to watch this program, since the First National Channel has the largest coverage on the territory of the country.

Lubavitch Chabad tells temple plan

BY IRV LEAVITT | STAFF WRITER
ileavitt@pioneerlocal.com

A Wilmette storefront Jewish congregation has plans to build its own temple on the northwest edge of town.

The Lubavitch Chabad of Wilmette, now operating in 1,800 square feet of a small strip mall at 2906 Old Glenview Road, recently bought the entire center. The intention is to raze the mall and build a 5,800-square-foot temple in its place, Rabbi Dovid Flinkenstein said in an interview June 22.

The chabad has several hurdles to clear, however, before a temple is built, Flinkenstein said. The temple needs to complete a fund-raising campaign, and also win village approval to permit the expansion, including an amendment to its current special use permit.

The permit standards require that the project be deemed unlikely to reduce neighborhood safety or values of nearby properties.

Parking a likely issue

The chabad has not yet contacted the village of Wilmette about the project, the rabbi said. Parking, however, is likely to be an issue, considering that he expects the building to have only about 20 spaces on site, with the likely ability to continue to use the lot at nearby Weinstein Family Services funeral home for overflow.

The temple also needs to clear the mall of one last tenant. OK Cleaners recently moved out of the mall, but talks continue with Hair Chasers, a beauty salon holding a long lease, Flinkenstein said. The owner of the salon declined comment Friday.

Flinkenstein said that the chabad, with village approval, may soon use the space it has for awhile without major renovation, even if that means running a religious operation divided by a beauty shop.

A growing congregation

The rabbi said the chabad, founded in 1992 in his Wilmette home, has grown since it moved to the storefront two years later. Like many other rabbis of the burgeoning Hasidic sect, he refuses to comment on how many families or individuals are members, only saying, "All Jews are members here."

But he said about 100 people study weekly during nonsummer months for the chabad's Jewish Learning Institute, about 25 children study at the chabad's Hebrew school, and 300 to 400 pray at High Holy Day services each fall in the Wilmette Park District's Recreation Center.

The Lubavitch sect in America is among the most active in attracting Jews -- from the most orthodox to those who rarely see the inside of a temple -- to programs of Jewish learning.

"The Rebbe's legacy is a vision and that vision is that every Jew should be served, and more in touch with their Judaism, and more in touch with mitzvah (good deeds), making the world a better place," Flinkenstein said.

The "Rebbe," or learned man, was Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the late leader of the sect.

The word "chabad" refers to an acronym of three Hebrew words meaning wisdom, understanding and knowledge. It also refers to a movement started about 200 years ago that relies on Jewish study, meditation and mysticism, confined mostly to the Belarus city of Lubavitch until the early 20th century.

Kabbalah classes

In many area chabads, some of the most popular programs of the Jewish Learning Institutes have taught Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism.

In Wilmette, Kabbalah classes have at times been offered twice daily.

Schneerson, father of the modern Lubavitch chabad movement, ran the sect from his Brooklyn, N.Y., headquarters. It was on the way to becoming what adherents now claim to be the nation's biggest Jewish outreach organization at the time of his death 12 years ago today.

The movement has grown spectacularly in recent years, especially in the Chicago area. Chabads have expanded or built anew in Chicago, Highland Park, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Glenview and several other municipalities.

Last year, Skokie's chabad, at 4059 Dempster St., underwent a major expansion. Rabbi Yocanan Posner says that's partly because in general, Americans are more open to religion now.

"Thirty years ago, if you were religious, people would say, 'What, are you crazy?'" Posner said Friday, "and in the Jewish world, I think people like the sincerity and the open approach from chabad.

"We don't beat around the bush. We say it like it is," he said.

"Our new building is much bigger than the old facility, but it's filling up already," he added. "If I had the means, I'd build again.