Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chavez denied visit to Caracas synagogue

Chabad rabbi argues that visit intended to garner political gains

Chaim Levinson

A recent request by socialist Venezuelean President Hugo Chávez to pay an official visit to a Chabad synagogue in Caracas was rejected.

The Chabad official news site posted an article saying that Rabbi Moshe Ferman, the chief Chabad envoy to Venezuela, had rejected the president's request arguing that it was aimed at garnering political gains in light of the West's revulsion of him.

Chavez who has been in office since 1999, allied with Saddam Hussein at the time, befriended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad , and has even paid them personal visits.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has accused him of anti-Semitism after in one of his speeches he accused the Jews of crucifying Jesus and of holding the entire world's capital.

Since 2002, when he accused the Israeli Mossad of an attempted coup in his country, the Jewish community is fearful of his conduct.

The Jewish community in Venezuela, one of the oldest in Latin America, comprises a population of 25,300 (some 60 percent are from Ashkenazi descent, and the remainder is Sephardic.) The large Jewish communities reside in the cities of Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia and Maracay.

Good for Chabad of Venezuela.

Good for Chabad of Venezuela. Chavez is a nut-case, and has found a friend in Ahmadinejad. He openly opposes Israel and America as evil nations. Chavez denied visit to Caracas synagogue

A recent request by socialist Venezuelean President Hugo Chávez to pay an official visit to a Chabad synagogue in Caracas was rejected.

The Chabad official news site posted an article saying that Rabbi Moshe Ferman, the chief Chabad envoy to Venezuela, had rejected the president’s request arguing that it was aimed at garnering political gains in light of the West’s revulsion of him.

I picture Haman Harasha to look much like Chavez. There’s a little Purim feeling to this: a Jew refuses to bow to an evil man’s wishes. Layihudim Hayisah Orah Vesimchah Vesasson Veeyikar, KAIN TIHYEH LAUNU !

At 47, a Son of the Commandments

Russian emigre celebrates his Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Toras Emes

Friday, February 23, 2007

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Vitaly Benzion remembers eating matzoh for Passover as a child in the Ukraine and later in Leningrad. But that was about it for Jewish practice.

"In Russia, it was killed there," he said of religion. "Nobody really believed in God there. Those who believed were in jail."

When Benzion came to the United States in 1981, he met some people from Chabad Lubavitch, the Brooklyn-based Jewish outreach organization, and became interested in connecting with his Jewish roots.

He wrote a letter to the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, and received a letter back from a representative telling him the rebbe had given him a blessing.

For $5 a month, the organization provided him with tefillin for morning prayers and he sometimes attended Shabbos services at a Lubavitcher yeshiva in Morristown, N.J.

"I had some questions still," said the New Dorp resident. "The religion was new to me."

His religious journey took a giant step this week when, at the age of 47, he became Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Toras Emes, an Oakwood synagogue he has sometimes attended since moving to Staten Island from Brooklyn five years ago.

"I had some kind of inner feeling that it would support my future in Judaism," he said of the rite of passage usually celebrated at 13.

The ceremony took place Sunday, with cousins, his aunt, and friends in attendance. Morris Shuster, president of the United Association of Eastern European Jewry, spoke about the challenges the Russian immigrant community has in reconnecting with their Jewish heritage.

Fluent in Russian and English, Benzion admitted to some difficulty with the Hebrew.

While reading from the Torah, "I had to repeat after Rabbi Ivry," he said. "Hebrew I don't know very good."

When he became a U.S. citizen in 1986 he changed his name from Benzianov to Benzion because it sounds more Jewish. This week he chose Yeshaya for his Hebrew name.

"In Yiddish it means help," he said. "I try to help people as much as I can."

Rabbi Ivry said this was his first adult bar mitzvah.

"We were very excited and glad he chose our synagogue," said the rabbi, a Lubavitcher. "We feel it's a milestone."

Benzion said the ceremony was an emotional one for him.

"I feel kind of uplifted, energized," he said. "I feel quite different."

As he continues his journey of return to Judaism, the still-single Benzion said he would like to find a wife to accompany him.

"I certainly would like to have a companion."

Leslie Palma-Simoncek is the religion editor for the Advance. She may be reached at

© 2007 Staten Island Advance

Leaders Try To Revive Judaism

Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz, the director of Howard Beach’s Rockwood Park Jewish Center, rocked to the cadence of the Exodus verses that opened last Saturday morning’s Shabbat service. At the synagogue’s lectern, he then, like hundreds of other clergy people conducting weekend services throughout the borough, referenced scripture in his exaltation of virtues such as tolerance, charity and honesty. And though the 25 worshippers present listened with rapt attention, Berkowitz — like these other clergy people — still found himself addressing a congregation significantly smaller than those his predecessors did.
But Howard Beach’s legacy as South Queens’ incubator of Judaism makes this membership decline — a 40 percent drop in congregation size in the last 15 years, by some estimates — all the more alarming. The responding leaders of Howard Beach’s Orthodox Jewish communities have looked both inside and outside their neighborhoods to find out where the Jewish community has gone and how to get it back. As recently as the early 1970s, both Lindenwood and Rockwood Park were roughly 50 percent Jewish, according to current residents of both communities. Many now estimate that Jews comprise roughly 10 percent of Rockwood Park’s population and that Lindenwood’s Jewish population has shrunk considerably as well.
Most Howard Beach Jews today cite the separate draws of the Florida sun for retirees and Long Island suburbia for young families when asked about their population’s decline. Brian Roffel, a 155th Street resident, said simply: “There are no Jews moving back into the community when people die.”
Berkowitz, an 85th Street resident, said that it is the “astronomical” price of Howard Beach homes that makes moving back into the community difficult.
Now in his 10th year at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center, he has begun counseling prospective Jewish homeowners about the different options available in the neighborhood. Keeping abreast of changes in the garden co op, co op, condominium and residential real estate markets, he steers potential congregants toward different area lenders and mortgage brokers. He said that he typically assists three new Jewish couples or families a week in their searches.
“This is a beautiful community. Most people take the Belt Parkway and just pass us by,” he said. Berkowitz tries to sell prospective congregants on this relative isolation, the accessibility of public transportation and significantly lower city taxes, compared with what Long Island homeowners pay. For the couple he met on Monday afternoon whose Crown Heights, Brooklyn neighborhood has become too congested, Howard Beach offers “a bit of suburbia in the city,” according to the Rockwood Park Jewish Center’s Web site.
Others have traveled from farther than Brooklyn to consider making the Rockwood Park Jewish Center their synagogue. Only a year old, the center’s Yeshiva teaches approximately 20 young men, many recruited by Berkowitz when he was on different out of state trips. They have come from Los Angeles, Chicago and Connecticut, among other places. All are between the ages of 19 and 23 and roughly half dorm together in a Lindenwood home.
The center’s 33 year old cantor, Yehoshua Samuels, himself a Milwaukee native, said that these men and their families may represent the center’s base for years to come. Samuels envisions re establishing the center’s preschool, closed now for roughly 10 years, to complement its Hebrew school.
But the religiosity of Howard Beach’s Jewish population, not just its size, concerns Orthodox leaders. Of Howard Beach’s roughly 3,000 Jews, Berkowitz estimates that 200 are Rockwood Park Jewish Center congregants. Some say the fact that no strictly kosher store exists in the community both reflects this low number and keeps it from growing. Though no reform synagogue which would ask significantly less adherence of its members exists in Howard Beach, Howard Beach Judea, a Conservative synagogue, has a congregation of only 140, according to President Barry Rachnowitz.
Rabbi Avrohom Richter, the director of Chabad of Howard Beach, has targeted non Sabbath observing Jews in the area. His fliers, advertisements and home visits have fueled the word of mouth spread of the mission of his Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish community center under its own auspices now in its third year.
Richter, the 29 year old former youth and activities director at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center, runs the Chabad of Howard Beach out of his 87th Street home. He said that the underlying philosophy of Chabad, a movement within Orthodox Judaism that emphasizes the inclusion of all Jews, has allowed him to draw roughly 40 worshippers for Sabbath services each weekend and over 200 people for holiday services. He estimates that 90 percent of his following was never affiliated with any other synagogue.
“Our objective is to make the new, the next generation that has gone away from the synagogues to come back to the synagogues,” he said. “I believe that every single Jew has the capability of being a Torah abiding Jew, a religious Jew,” added Richter, who also serves as a prison chaplain at the Queens Private Correctional Facility in Jamaica.
Many Chabad prayer services are conducted in English, whereas most Orthodox prayer services are held only in Hebrew. During Purim celebrations last year, the Chabad’s worshippers read scripture passages that scrolled in English across the bottom of a 6 foot by 6 foot screen. Richter’s wife, Zeldi Richter, the center’s co director, runs a Jewish women’s club that has drawn as many as 40 women to meetings.
Shia Tauber, a Chabad of Howard Beach member, said that the “tremendous amount of energy” that Avrohom and Zeldi Richter possess accounts for their success.
But despite their efforts to grow their congregations, both Chabad of Howard Beach and the Rockwood Park Jewish Center remain fiercely loyal to Orthodox Judaism. While recognizing that “a Jew is a Jew,” Samuels said that orthodoxy, as opposed to Reform and Conservative Judaism, remains “the real truth, the real religion.”
The Rockwood Park Jewish Center’s mechitzah displays this commitment to orthodoxy. The wooden, 6 foot high latticework partition completely encloses an eighth of the synagogue, separating women from men during services. When Samuels paraded the Torah throughout the synagogue for congregants to kiss on Saturday, the seven women in attendance waited patiently at the enclosure’s swinging doors for him to make his way in their direction.
Some women who attend services less regularly call the current mechitzah, double the size of the one used before Berkowitz’s arrival, troubling. Tauber, a former Rockwood Park Jewish Center congregant, said that both vocal support and hushed opposition surrounded the new mechitzah’s construction. Many favored the lower, more symbolic mechitzah built by the center’s previous director, a modern Orthodox rabbi.
Howard Beach Judea does not have a mechitzah. Men and women sit separately during services at the Ozone Park Jewish Center, a modern Orthodox synagogue, but no barrier exists between them.
The Chabad of Howard Beach uses a folding partition to separate men and women during prayer. “This is the hardest thing that a Chabad has to deal with. Many people are very intimidated by a mechitzah,” Richter said. But he added that many misunderstand the segregation. He said that a woman is the “pillar of a Jewish home” and that mechitzahs address male desires, not female fallibility.
Though Richter said that some women have not attended services after showing interest in the Chabad because of the mechitzah’s presence, he added: “There’s no concession here. This is God’s house and I’ve got to follow God’s rules.”

Ritual bath to be adapted for disabled

A Hallandale Beach synangogue plans to open a 'mikvah' accessible to women with physical disabilities. It will be the first of its kind in Florida.

For years, Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus has wanted to bring an ancient Jewish cleansing tradition to his Hallandale Beach synagogue.

Now, his dream is coming true.

Plans to build three mikvahs -- or ritual baths -- at Chabad of South Broward are in the pipeline.

But one of the baths, which are used by some married Orthdox Jewish women after each menstrual period, is a little different from most.

It will be one of only a few mikvahs worldwide equipped with a hydraulic lift for use by women with physical disabilities, said Rivkah Slonim, a New York-based bestselling author of Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology.

''Every mikvah is extremely important -- the single most important institution a Jewish community needs to have access to,'' she said. ``Since Miami has such a huge Jewish population, I can only imagine what a tremendous asset this will be.''

Other synagogues in Broward and Miami-Dade are equipped with mikvahs, including ones in Hollywood, Aventura, Weston and Miami Beach.

No existing mikvahs in Florida are handicapped-accessible, Tennenhaus said.

Under Orthodox Jewish law and tradition, the baths are primarily used by married women after the end of their menstrual cycle.

Some men also choose to take part in the ritual -- some every day, others once a year before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Tennenhaus said.

For a woman to take part in the tradition, she must be clean. No makeup, nail polish or perfume is allowed. Teeth must be flossed and brushed, and her hair must be down in its natural state, Tennenhaus said.

The women enter a back room of the synagogue and undress in a private dressing room.

An attendant is present during the spiritual cleansing, which takes place in a small pool filled with about 200 gallons of tap water and rain water.

During the short ritual, the woman enters the mikvah nude, says a blessing and then completely submerges the body under the water.

But doing so is often difficult for women with physical disabilities because they need assistance from someone, which makes the intimate moment much less private, Tennenhaus said.

''Mikvahs are a very symbolic part of Jewish history,'' Tennenhaus said. ``There are a lot of women who have some sort of paralysis who want to take part in the tradition but can't.''

''We're meeting a need that is out there,'' he said.

Hallandale Beach zoning officials have given preliminary approval for the addition of the mikvahs -- one with the hydraulic lift for women, one for men and a smaller one for new dishes -- at the Chabad center.

A room now used as a dining hall will be converted into the spa-like mikvah facility, which will include marble and granite tile and private dressing rooms.

Hollywood architect Joseph Kaller hopes work on the $500,000 project will start within the next few months and be complete by year's end.

Margie Szerer, a member of the Chabad of South Broward, is looking forward to the opening of the mikvahs.

Once a month for the past five years, Szerer has traveled from her home in Hollywood to Aventura to take part in the ancient tradition.

Having a new, luxurious facility so close to home will be nice, she says.

''It's a beautiful thing that makes a woman feel like she is in control of her body,'' Szerer said.

``I think it's wonderful that they are giving the opportunity to other women who would normally be unable to go because they are in a wheelchair.''

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Judaism on the slopes of Hunter Mt.

As 30 Jewish teens, all first and second generation Russian immigrants, snapped their boot bindings into their skis and leapt aboard Hunter Mountain’s lift, they were continuing a tradition of Jewish education begun by Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe ( F.R.E.E.) in 1969.

Back in the 70s and early 80s, when Soviet Jews arrived with few or no possessions but a passion for religious freedom, F.R.E.E. served as benefactor, offering practical necessities – dishes and clothing – and spiritual growth opportunities with a yeshiva, Jewish camp, and brit milah services. All still exist: F.R.E.E. recently performed its 13,200th circumcision; its Brooklyn day camp attracted 150 kids last summer; the F.R.E.E. high school is still open on Ocean Parkway. But the organization’s focus has evolved with the changing needs of the Russian-Jewish community. Overall, the first generation of Russians that came as children and now have kids of their own do not value what their parents felt was important,” said Rabbi David Okunov, associate program director of F.R.E.E. “Those who can afford it go to private schools out on Long Island How can a Jewish organization compete with the American dream? The answer may be found on the snowy peaks of Hunter Mountain Resort, where F.R.E.E . campers have been welcomed by the owners, the Slutzky family, for years. Skiing, rope courses, tubing, ice skating, bowling and swimming in an indoor pool at the winter camp’s site on the premises of the Landfield Avenue Synagogue’s inn took up most of eight-day experience. Torah classes were offered once a day. Directors Rabbi Dan Dashevsky and Rabbi Mendel Okunov counted more upon the camp’s Jewish atmosphere and the counselors to convey the compatibility of Judaism and fun. The idea is they should have a great time while gaining a sense of Yiddishkeit,” said Rabbi Okunov. Sam Trost, a star student at P.S. 234, recently celebrated his bar mitzvah enjoyed camp.” What I love most about camp is that I had the opportunity to learn what being Jewish really means,” he said. Parents reluctant to enroll their sons in yeshiva favor the Jewish cultural experience offered by the F.R.E.E., especially since it is combined with winter sports. Sam’s mother, Marina, harried and still trying to get her baby daughter into a bath at 8:30 p.m. on Monday night, was grateful for the opportunity Winter Camp afforded her son. “I was very happy to have him go,” said Mrs. Trost. “He really liked it. The winter activities were very good for him, because otherwise he doesn’t get out much.”

Rabbis Meir and Hirshel Okunov, originally from Russia, were just settling into rabbinical studies at the central Lubavitch yeshiva when the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s chief of staff Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov, received word that two fatherless young men had arrived in New York from the Soviet Union. The Okunov brothers took Rabbi Hodakov’s request to make the Rosenberg boys feel at home very seriously. They repainted their dorm room and gave the newcomers their beds. As more Russians followed, the Rebbe encouraged the Okunovs to go door to door at New York City hotels where Soviet Jews took shelter.

Graduates of F.R.E.E. activities have found their way into leadership positions throughout the Jewish world. Alumnus Rabbi Eli Blokh leads Chabad of Rego Park in Queens, NY. Zelig Krymko, who received a brit funded by F.R.E.E. at age two and is now the national director of, a pro-Israel think tank, recalled his summer in F.R.E.E.’s camp as “the first really positive, fun-filled Jewish experience I had.” More than three decades since its founding, times have changed but its core remains unchanged. F.R.E.E. brings Judaism to Russian Jews by building personal relationships family by family, child by child.

If you know of any children who might benefit from FREE’s youth programs or to get more information, please contact FREE at 718-467-0860 Ext.123, or email

Torah scrolls confiscated from Ukrainian community

KIEV — As their Torah scrolls were packed into black plastic garbage bags and carried out of the Jewish school, the students and adults continued to pray, many with tears in their eyes.

The scrolls originally belonged to the Jewish community of Zhitomir in central Ukraine, but were acquired by the local state archives through communist and Nazi looting.

Since then, in the absence of a restitution law, the archives had lent the scrolls to the community — but on shaky terms.

On February 14, the community was forced to return 10 scrolls it had received more than two years ago.

Representatives of the archives carried them out of the Ohr Avner Jewish Day School, leaving the community without any scrolls.

“This was like the medieval times, this was like a nightmare,” said Oleg Rostovtsev, a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, the country’s leading Jewish umbrella group.

The seizure was the result of a controversy that was triggered a few months ago when the officials at the Zhitomir Regional State Archives demanded the return of the scrolls, citing concern over their safety.

In 2004, the archives handed over 17 out of 290 Torah scrolls in its possession to be used by the local Jewish community run by Chabad.

The scrolls had been the property of the many synagogues and private Jewish households in Zhitomir, and were confiscated by communist authorities during anti-religious campaigns or seized by the Nazis during the occupation of Ukraine in World War II.

For two-and-a-half years, the scrolls were kept in a specially designated room at the Ohr Avner school.

Without a restitution law, many Jewish communities in the post-Soviet Ukraine were allowed to temporarily use Torah scrolls confiscated by the Bolsheviks, while most of the scrolls remain the property of state-run museums and archives.

Such loans do not always satisfy the Jewish community.

The Zhitomir community had previously expressed its concern that in the absence of a proper restitution act, they could not repair the borrowed scrolls in accordance with Jewish law.

In addition, representatives of the community had to submit a petition every three months that would allow them to keep the scrolls.

In October, representatives of the archives checked the scrolls kept in the Zhitomir school and demanded their return, claiming that at least seven of the scrolls may have been damaged while in the community’s possession.

Archive Deputy Director Natalia Shimchenko said that the archive’s curators had established that the “number of units” registered with the archives “did not correspond with those in the community safe.”

Local Jewish leaders deny the accusations of improper care or alterations and said the scrolls — some of them fragmented — were improperly catalogued in the archives.

But the community chose not to argue, and last month returned the seven scrolls in question to the archives.

The archives then refused to prolong the loan agreement on the remaining 10 scrolls and confiscated them Wednesday despite protests from the Jewish community and the local governor.

“We are law-abiding citizens of Ukraine and we have not violated any laws,” community leader Vladimir Rozengurten said, adding that allegations of improper care and damage were “slander.”

“The statements that we have damaged the scrolls are outrageous,” Zhitomir Chief Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm said. “This is a groundless accusation, and we still have no results of the examination” of the scrolls.

But community leaders said they had to back off, apprehensive of possible use of force by representatives of the archives.

“I’m sure we are not saying goodbye for a long time to the Torah scrolls,” Rozengurten said.

He and other community leaders are hoping that legislation will be adopted in Ukraine dictating the return of the scrolls that were confiscated by the Bolsheviks and the Nazis.


Rabbi reaches out with YouTube videos

WESTMINSTER - Rabbi Benjy Brackman is preparing for the Jewish holiday of Purim.

This week, he will don a traditional costume and recite the religious message he has written and memorized before a video recorder.

You won't hear this message at any synagogue. But you can find it on

Brackman, who leads the Chabad of Northwest Denver, has turned to a novel use of the Internet to get his message across.

So, mixed in with the videos of rock bands, people playing air guitar, stupid human tricks and the vast array of self-posted videos on the site, there are two short messages from Brackman to his followers so far.

The 34-year-old London native is the first to admit they are not exactly polished performances. But for his modest purpose, they appear to be working. He's embedded them on his Web site at

"At this point, it's just me and the camera. I do as many takes as necessary," Brackman said Monday. "You know, us rabbis, we're not trained for this."

For Brackman, his modest venture into self-broadcasting is a natural extension of his efforts to do outreach.

When he was studying to become a rabbi in Brooklyn N.Y., his religious leader used to broadcast messages worldwide via a set of satellite dishes.

Brackman's efforts are far more modest. But he likes to add a personal touch.

So, in one message aimed at inviting people to a summer camp, he is seen wearing a T-shirt on a cold day standing next to a snow- covered field.

He is also not above a bit of stage play. In his other video, in which he announces a Shabbat program, his talk to the camera is "interrupted" by a staged phone call from a congregant to whom he explains all the details of the program.

Brackman said he even finds himself now studying the body language of television reporters as they deliver the news.

"There's a real skill to this," he observed. "You've got to find that fine line between real comfortable but upfront with what you have to say."

Chabad opens Vienna center

By Dinah A. Spritzer

VIENNA (JTA) -- As a slender violinist with flowing black hair played ``Oseh Shalom" to an audience peppered with at least a dozen long-bearded rabbis, Bukharian Jews in this capital city ushered in a new era.

Their cause for celebration: Unlike many of those from Central Asia who came to Austria more than 25 years ago, immigrants to the country now have a new center to help them find their way.

On Feb. 18, Chabad opened a $6.05 million facility in Vienna aimed at serving their needs.

``The House of the Future," as the center has been dubbed, is expected to cater mainly to Bukharian Jews from Central Asia with whom Chabad is already deeply involved.

``The main purpose of the center is to provide help with integration," said Rabbi Jacob Biderman, chairman of the extensive Chabad organization in Austria. ``Yes, this is initiated by Chabad and there will be a chance for Jewish classes, but job skills, language skills and adult education are the focus."

The five-story building, which features a polished, 19th century facade, is across the street from the Lauder Chabad School for kindergarten through 12th grade.

It represents a natural extension of ties with Chabad for a large portion of the community, and also the general vitality of the Bukharians, who have managed to retain their traditions and a high level of observance as immigrants.

Shlomo Ustoniazov, a businessman in his 50s and artist from Uzbekistan who has lived in Vienna for several decades, said the center ``is an expression of unity of the Bukharian community."

``We are developing, we have our own identity, but we are also part of the Kultusgemeinde," he said, referring in German to the Jewish Community of Vienna, an umbrella organization.

Estimates put the Bukharian population at 3,000 to 4,000 of the approximate 10,000 Jews in Vienna.

The center will offer activities for seniors, job training, women's programs and a youth club. It also will be available to other immigrant groups such as Turks, according to Biderman.

Many Jews who came to Vienna from the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s and early 1980s on their way to Israel said they felt unwelcome in Austria. Bukharians in particular, with their large families and mostly lacking higher education, seemed backward to the integrated Ashkenazim.

Tamar Yusupov, a Bukharian Jew who hosted the center's opening ceremony and an active member of Chabad, said she didn't want future immigrants to feel the way she did when she arrived, ``not speaking the language, not having any friends, not having a home."

Bukharians over the decades have become successful businesspeople. Although they have become more integrated within the Jewish community and Vienna at large, many continue to feel comfortable with Chabad's Chasidic approach to Judaism.

Integration has slowed, and Biderman said that some 20 to 60 new families from the former Soviet Union each year seek out education for their children at the Lauder Chabad School. He estimated that of the school's some 410 students, 60 percent are Bukharian.

Many Bukharians say Chabad was the first to recognize that preserving their mostly Sephardi identity, and not looking askance at traditions such as marriage in the late teens, was vital to having them feel comfortable in their new home.

``It is true that when they first began arriving, the Jewish community of Vienna did not understand their need for separate traditions, but that is all in the past," Austria's chief rabbi, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, said in an interview last December.

Chabad has been particularly successful at attracting financing for its projects in Vienna that cater to Jews from the former Soviet Union. ``The House of the Future," for instance, received city and state funding.

The center features a Hebrew inscription, Beit haLevy Chabad, in honor of a key donor for the project, Lev Leviev, who was on hand for the opening ceremonies. Leviev, a Bukharian billionaire from Uzbekistan now living in Israel, is a major funder of Chabad in Austria and the former Soviet Union.

He was among 300 people at the center's opening, along with city and state officials. The crowd was mostly Bukharian, but there were also large numbers of Georgian and Caucasus Jews.

Oleg Sivan, 31, from the Republic of Dagestan, said, ``It is great what Chabad does; it brings us all together. There are some minor differences between us, but that is normal."

Not everyone was happy with the new center.

The president of the Vienna Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, said at the center's opening that it would duplicate existing community programs, detract from an existing Sephardi center that receives community funding and siphon potential government money from the community.

His criticism reflects a history of tense competition between the community and Chabad, although they have cooperated often as well.

``It's the same story over and over with Chabad," he said. ``They sell it to the Austrian government officials as an open center for integration to get funding, but it's all about Chabad."

Biderman strongly denied the accusations, saying he had worked with all elements of the Jewish community to gain support and approval for the project.

``The people on our board are also on the board of the Sephardi center, so there is no competition," he said, adding that the center was open to all immigrants.

Ustoniazov, one of the board members to whom Biderman referred, said the suggestion of competition was outrageous.

``It is absurd to even think that we would duplicate activities or do anything to split the community," he said.

The Sephardi center, which opened in 1989, also was a Chabad-led effort but under the auspices of the Jewish Community of Vienna. The center, in the historically Jewish Second District, caters to the Georgian and Bukharian Jewish congregations. It has two synagogues and facilities for gatherings and study.

More recently the Bukharians have split into three congregations -- one oriented toward Chabad and two non-Chabad.

Two organizations represent the Bukharians: the Bukharian World Congress, with links to Chabad, and the non-Chabad Association of Bukharian Jews in Austria. Biderman said they were working together to set aside their differences and form one group.

Signaling that unity approach, the head of the Association of Bukharians Jews in Austria, Uri Gilkarov, attended the center's opening, and Biderman said he was seeking his input on programming.

Natalia Usopov, 29, and Marina Aminov, 31, who were celebrating the opening of ``The House of the Future," seemed to embody the mood among some of the Bukharian guests.

Aminov, an Uzbek native asked about the differences between the Bukharian groups, said: ``That's for the husbands to worry about. We just say 'Shalom.' ''

Posted: 2/20/2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Female Chabad emissaries share experiences at NY gathering

When Dina Freundlich came to Beijing with her husband and two young daughters six years ago, there was no significant Jewish infrastructure. The community had never had a rabbi, there was no Jewish school, no kosher meat and only a very limited number of kosher food items were available.

Six years later, the community has grown tremendously. The Freundlich family, sent as Chabad emissaries, established a Sunday school and a Montessori school, and they brought over a butcher who enables them to supply kosher meat to four cities in China. They also spearheaded the building of a mikve (ritual bath), the first in China since World War II, which includes Chinese touches such as a pagoda and a carved dome ceiling, as well as a jacuzzi, multi-jet shower and massage services.

Approximately 1,200 to 1,400 Jews live in Beijing - employees of embassies, academics, students and foreign businessmen. About 3,000 Jews visit each year.

Freundlich is one of 2,000 female Chabad emissaries who came to New York from as far away as Singapore and Uzbekistan last week to learn from each other's experiences and to discuss the future of the movement. Topics addressed included the "revival" of world Jewry, contending with terrorism, leveraging the latest technology for spiritual outreach, and "breaking the ice" in new communities.

"Sometimes I go to bed thinking I've been pulled in a million directions, but I feel I've done something to make the world a better place," said Freundlich, who grew up as an emissary child in South Africa.

Chabad's emissary movement has trained and ordained thousands of rabbis, educators, ritual slaughterers and ritual circumcisers, together with their wives, to establish communities around the world aimed at Jewish outreach. Today there are roughly 4,000 emissary families, with growth of about 100 families each year.

"It makes me proud to fulfill the dream of the Rebbe [the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] to create a home for every Jew in the world, and I am proud to be a part of his team," said Freundlich.

The five day conference ended Sunday night at the Brooklyn Marriott, at a gala dinner that also served as a tribute to Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, widow of the late Rebbe. All the women were dressed in skirts and long sleeves, but it was clear that contemporary fashion had slipped through the cracks. Tight, form-fitting skirts, patent leather belts, and fashionable boots were all part of the evening attire.

Contrary to popular perception Chabad insists that women are not insular, nor are they secondary to men. On top of juggling large families, women run Chabad houses on college campuses, provide substance abuse counseling and share the responsibilities with their spouses.

"It is a perception that comes from judging things that are synagogue based, but Judaism is not a synagogue based religion," said Rivkah Slonim, an emissary at the University of Binghamton, where her and her husband run one of the largest and most successful Chabad houses in the country. "Ninety-nine percent of ritual doesn't take place in the synagogue."

Women and men are equally obligated to study the Torah required to observe mitzvoth, but women, unlike men, are not required to study above and beyond that because of their household obligations, Slonim said.

"The Rebbe going back all the way to the first, greatly encouraged women to develop every aspect of their personality including their intellect."
The late Rebbe recognized that in contemporary times, where women have more time, and are not just engaged in day to day household activities, they need to use their time to study Torah, according to Slonim.

"Certainly the contemporary Chabad woman does not see herself as disconnected from Torah study."

The rift between motherhood and professional life is less of an issue in the Chabad world, according to Sara Esther Crispe, editor of, a Chabad website launched a year ago that offers intellectual, emotional and spiritual writings on a range of women's issues including motherhood, and marriage.

On top of juggling large families, the women run Chabad houses on college campuses, provide substance abuse counseling, and share in their husbands' responsibilities.

Chabad women and men are equally obligated to study the Torah, but the women are not required to study beyond that because of their household obligations, said Rivkah Slonim, an emissary at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she and her husband run one of the largest Chabad houses in the US.

"The rebbes, going back all the way to the first, greatly encouraged women to develop every aspect of their personality, including their intellect," she said.

Sara Esther Crispe, editor of, a year old Chabad Web site that offers intellectual, emotional and spiritual writings on a range of women's issues including motherhood and marriage, said, "In the modern world, there is always a big rift, either you are a good mother, or you have a career. There is major pressure to choose, but these women [the emissaries] have shown that you can simultaneously do both."

Many of their daughters, "little emissaries," also came to New York for the conference, a rare chance to socialize with others like themselves. The kids participated in seminars on how to deal with cultural isolation.

At one point, they were asked to compare where they were from and where they get their kosher nosh (snacks). The girls were thrilled to be in New York, where they had all the kosher snacks they desired.

The night ended with a roll call by country, and then the emissaries were asked to rise by their decades of service. It began with just a few, and as the decades passed more and more women stood until the whole room was standing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Jerusalem 2 Jersey

...New Jersey’s Israeli immigrant experience


The Jewish connection

Hebrew school can affect more than just the children, though. Parents want to see their children become part of American life, said Hyman, but after a few years, they realize it is not just the children who are forgetting their Israeli and Jewish heritage.

"That’s when they join the shuls, send [the children] to Hebrew schools to learn traditions, and then after a while, [the parents] feel they miss Jewish life," Hyman said. "In Israel, it’s part of daily life. Here, you have to be a member."

Because of synagogues’ emphasis on membership, Hyman said, many Israelis are drawn to Chabad, which offers an open-door policy and no membership fees. "They welcome everyone," Hyman said. "You can come in your jeans, drive your car."

While Americans typically wear suits and ties to shul, Israelis will show up in jeans, said Rabbi Mordechai Shain, director of Lubavitch on the Palisades in Tenafly. "We don’t look at that," he said, explaining the attraction of Israelis to Chabad. "They get the same royal treatment, making them feel they’re still part of us."

A lot of Israelis, he said, are looking for Judaism when they come to America because they want to connect to something that’s still Jewish. "In Israel, they’re living in a Jewish country. Here, they’re not living in a holy, sanctified land and environment. They look for more Yiddishkeit, so they tend to come to [Jewish] programs much more than they would in Israel," he said.

On average, Friday night is the big draw for Israelis, Shain said. While some 120 out 170 people who come to Chabad on Saturday are American, about 50 out of 70 people on Friday nights are Israeli. Of the approximately 700 people who attended High Holy Day services this year, about half were Israeli, he said. Shain credits Chabad’s services, in part, for this influx of Israelis, describing them as like typical services in Israel.

"They feel like they’re in a shul in Israel," he said. "They don’t feel like they’re in some Americanized setting. They feel at home."

Although the service is Orthodox, Shain said the vast majority of Israelis who attend are not. In fact, many Israelis tell him that they are Israeli first and Jewish second, a perception that Shain tries to reverse. Secular Israelis, though, put their Israeli identities first, Sarna said.

"It’s so important to give a Jewish education to the children because in Israel you don’t have to be traditional; you know you’re Jewish," she said. "But here, if you’re not observant, then you really don’t have anything. Parents feel they are almost losing the kids."

The welcoming atmosphere at Chabad definitely helps counter that, Sarna added. "There are no preconditions. It’s open to all and [Israelis] feel very fortunate they have this home," she said.

Book tells of Lubavitcher Rebbe’s deliverance

by morton i. teicher

Adding to the sparse list of stories about Jews being saved from the Nazis, historian Bryan Mark Rigg has written “Rescued From the Reich,” a remarkable saga about the rescue of Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Schneerson arrived in New York on March 19, 1940, a little more than six months after the German army invaded Poland. The Rebbe had been trapped in Warsaw and the chances of his being saved were slim.

Using a variety of sources, Rigg has pieced together the unusual tale of how American influence joined with a few Nazi soldiers and officials to transport the Rebbe and his entourage out of Warsaw, through Germany and on to Riga in Latvia.

After a lengthy delay because of the Rebbe’s health problems and the difficulty in obtaining American visas, the group finally reached Sweden, where they boarded a ship bound for New York. The trans-Atlantic voyage was hazardous because of U-boats, but the Rebbe reached New York.

Rigg tells how the Rebbe’s escape had been facilitated by pressure from American Lubavitchers, which had reached the three branches of the American government. Senators, congressmen, cabinet officials and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis all became involved.

Robert T. Pell, assistant chief of the State Department’s European Affairs Division, was asked to help save the Rebbe by using his contacts with German officials. He appealed to Helmut Wohlthat, a Nazi party member who had studied at Columbia University from 1929 to 1933. Wohlthat apparently thought that freedom for the Rebbe would be in Germany’s best interest and succeeded in involving Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of Nazi military intelligence, who had helped Jews and who opposed some of Hitler’s policies.

They enlisted Major Ernst Bloch, a half-Jewish army officer who had fought in World War I and was declared to be an Aryan by Hitler despite Bloch’s Jewish father. Three other German soldiers who also had Jewish ancestry joined Bloch in the mission to rescue the Rebbe.

The efforts of these four German soldiers to find the Rebbe in Warsaw almost failed because the Jews to whom they talked understandably refused to give information about where the Rebbe was hiding. When the Germans found the Rebbe they swiftly spirited him, his family and his followers out of Poland.

Once in America, the Rebbe worked to bring his followers to the United States, but ran into the same kind of visa problems that he had experienced in Riga. Rigg clearly identifies Breckinridge Long and Avra Warren as anti-Semitic State Department officers who blocked Jewish refugees from entering the United States.

Rigg also describes the strenuous efforts of Max Rhoade, a lawyer hired by the American Lubavitchers, to cope with visa and other legal issues. He spent endless hours on these matters with little or no compensation and is one of the unsung heroes in the rescue.

“Rescued From The Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe” By Bryan Mark Rigg. Yale University Press, 2006. 304 Pages. $17

Jewish Superbowler speaks on NFL



What does it take for a "nice Jewish boy" to have a successful career in the rough-and-tumble of the National Football League? For Alan Veingrad, former NFL offensive lineman and Super Bowl champ, it helps being six-foot-five, 240 pounds, having a very "thick skin" and a sense of humor. All of those qualities were on full display last Saturday evening after Shabbas, when Veingrad, who now sports a full beard in addition to his Super Bowl ring from the 1992 Dallas Cowboys championship, and who also answers to the name Shlomo, spoke to 126 enthusiastic fans at the Sheraton Clayton Plaza, at an event sponsored by Chabad of St. Louis.

The self-described "skinny Jewish kid from Brooklyn" who remembers "often skipping Hebrew school which I really hated," regaled his appreciative audience with the story of his remarkable football career, which evolved from attaining athletic prowess in high school, and accepting a football scholarship at East Texas University, where he recalls "being the only Jew at the school and within a 75-mile radius," to a successful NFL career with the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, where he helped his teammates win the Super Bowl in 1992. He also described his journey from Jewish pro football player to fully observant supporter and follower of the Chabad Hasidic movement.

"When I was first talked into coming to a discussion of the Torah Portion of the week, I had no idea what a "parsha" or portion was, and was surprised at the second discussion that there was a different Torah portion each week. Now I really look forward to studying the Torah seriously, and at home, my daughters and I have come to look forward to our new weekends of observing and celebrating Shabbat together. I had been nervous about telling them we would have to give up our weekend camping trips, but the next morning they were all dresssed up and ready for shul," Veingrad said.

Veingrad's wide-ranging talk and the discussion that followed, alternated and blended his colorful football anecdotes with his spiritual journey. Drawing a comparison to the hard training of "bench-pressing 400 pounds, getting eight hours of sleep and maintaining a healthy diet" to his "spiritual journey," Veingrad said, "The key word to both is preparation. There is no way you can be a serious foootball player, especially at the NFL level without serious preparation, and there is no way you can be a serious Jew without preparation. After while, what seems hard and challenging at first becomes a joyful experience," he said.

"I had to take some giant steps to make it in college and pro football," Veinegrad said. "We all have to take a giant step spiritually as well as physically. I had heard all of the great motivational speakers, including Zig Zigler, but nothing can compare to the power of the Chabad rabbis I have met who have helped me become a baal teshuvah, a Jew who has returned to his spiritual roots."

Veingrad said that during his college football career at East Texas University under Coach Ernest Hawkins, "I really did not experience any anti-Semitism at all. I guess it helped being the biggest guy on the team at 6-foot-5 and then 200 pounds, but my Christian teammates were very positive about Judaism and the Jewish people."

Only once in the NFL, while training for the Green Bay Packers, did a teammate say, "Okay, Jewboy, show me what you've got," Veingrad recalls. "Well, I used full force in blocking him as hard as I could, and I guess that showed him what I've got. I asked how he figured out I was Jewish since my name is not for sure a Jewish name. He said it was the name on my helmet and he really didn't mean anything by it, and I chose to let it go."

Veingrad said that Jewish newspapers have kept track of the few Jewish football players in the NFL. Reminded that comedian Jerry Lewis once said that the "Jewish Pro Football Hall of Fame could be listed on the edge of a Super Bowl score card," Veingrad laughed and said, "It was the Jewish Press in Brooklyn, where I was born, which first interviewed me about being Jewish. In my seven years as an NFL player, I counted five other Jewish NFL players in all. They were all great guys, including Bret Novostelsky on our team, Harris Barton of the 49ers and Ariel Solomon of the Steelers. After the games, we would usually seek each other out and shake hands as fellow Jews who were proud to have made it in the violent sport of pro football." Asked jokingly if it was a problem for an observant Jewish player to "handle a pigskin," Veingrad smiled broadly and said, "As an offesive linebacker, I did not have to come in contact with the ball that often, but I would not hesitate to pounce on it as needed. Now I'm proud to go into the record books as the first Sabbath-observant, Shomer Shabbas NFL player to wear a Super Bowl ring, who looks forward to coming to shul early in order to be as prepared for Judaism as I tried to be for pro football."

Lubavitch Debuts Its Hub With a Flourish

February 08, 2007 - Rachel Silverman

It's been seven years of real estate shopping, zoning-board hearings, fundraising and construction, but Lubavitch of the Main Line finally has a new home -- at one of the oldest spots in town.

The General Wayne Inn, which once served as a pub for British redcoats and later as a post office founded by Benjamin Franklin, will now play host to a bevy of Jewish activities.

Speaking at a lavish opening ceremony on Jan. 31, Rabbi Shraga Sherman, director of Lubavitch of the Main Line, called the refurbished space "a tremendous nexus of this three-millennia-history of the Jews and the 300-year-history of the building."

An old stone fireplace, for example, now houses an ark and two Torah scrolls, and portraits of Franklin flank the entrance to the property's on-site kosher restaurant.

Other additions to the building, which dates back to 1704, include a large multipurpose room for services and B'nai Mitzvah, Hebrew and preschool classes, administrative offices, as well as up-to-date electrical, sprinkler and fire-safety systems.

Sherman said that the inn gives Lubavitch much more visibility -- and physical space -- than its old Bala Cynwyd hub.

"We used to have to rent off-site locations for holiday celebrations and services," Sherman said of that office, known as the Mitzvah Factory. "As more and more people attended, and the array of programming expanded, we knew we needed more space."

However, the search for a vacancy in the primarily residential and heavily developed Main Line proved challenging. That's why when the storied General Wayne Inn went on the market in 2003, three individuals involved with Lubavitch -- Morris Willner, Gary Erlbaum and Steven Erlbaum -- immediately placed a bid on it.

After obtaining the property, Lubavitch spent two years getting the necessary zoning, and working out parking and traffic arrangements with Lower Merion Township. Construction, under the leadership of general contractor Core Management, took another year -- and $1 million -- to complete, said Sherman.

Though some elements of the building remain unfinished -- Sherman said that they are still searching for a vender for the kosher restaurant and to stock the gift shop with Judaica -- most Lubavitch programs have been up and running at the inn since the summer.

The grand-opening event -- which was attended by nearly 400 guests, and included abundant food trays and a musical performance -- was a public celebration. Sherman noted that the occasion allowed Lubavitch to thank various supporters and to announce its presence in the neighborhood.

Many who attended, like Lubavitch of Main Line education director Tsipy Weiss, practically gushed about the new building.

"It validates us a little bit," said the 29-year-old, who heads the preschool and Hebrew-school programs. "When you're in a [dumpy] little building, people are going to take you like that. Now, we're bigger; we're able to offer a lot more classes. We already have more people enrolled."

More importantly, perhaps, the facility provides a new home for the organization's message.

Rabbi Moshe Brennan, who also acts as programming director of the Lubavitch chapter, said that message is about "exposing Jewish people to their Judaism," regardless of their synagogue and denominational affiliations.

He said that the center will continue to offer classes on the Torah and Kabbalah, but that it's expanded to include topics like mystical ethics and the Hebrew language. He stressed that Lubavitch is making a concerted effort to reach all demographics -- children, women, families -- with classes like the new "Mommy & Me," women's fitness and challah-baking.

The Lubavitch approach to outreach resonated with Wynnewood resident Eunice Miller, who said that she recently signed up for a seminar on growth and development.

"You feel comfortable walking through this door," said Miller, a member of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh in Overbrook Park. "It doesn't require any religious commitment; it's not threatening in any way."

'Jewish Jordan' speaks on balancing basketball with Orthodox faith

By Nathan Edgerton
Princetonian Staff Writer

A six-foot, three-inch point guard took Dillon Gym by storm Wednesday night, effortlessly sinking 19 of 20 shots from just inside the three-point arc. As he spun, dribbled and launched the ball high into the air, the lanky player would have caught the eye of many college coaches.

But he wasn't a high school prospect aiming for a spot in the Princeton men's basketball program. He was Tamir Goodman, a player for an Israeli semiprofessional basketball team, and he was shooting some hoops with rabbi Eitan Webb, director of Princeton Chabad, and two reporters.

Earlier in the evening, over garlic bread and soup at Webb's Nassau Street apartment, Goodman discussed balancing his talent and passion for basketball with his determination to observe the rules of Orthodox Judaism.

Now 25, Goodman first garnered national attention as a junior in high school, averaging 35.4 points per game for the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore. He earned recognition in Sports Illustrated and was interviewed by ESPN, 60 Minutes and Fox Sports. In 11th grade, he was ranked the 25th-best high school player in the country. He was dubbed the "Jewish Jordan," a title he said he has been trying to downplay ever since.

Goodman received a scholarship to the University of Maryland, which has one of the top-ranked basketball teams in the country. The news of his plans to go to Maryland attracted over 700 media requests that week, he said.

But the team's schedule of practices and games would have meant playing on Friday nights and Saturdays, against the rules of Orthodox Judaism.

"They said I'd have to play on Shabbat," he said. "I refused."

Goodman's talent was evident at a young age. As an eighth-grader, he held the starting point-guard position on the varsity high school team of Yeshiva High of Greater Washington. Many rabbis and members of his local Jewish community frowned upon his dedication to basketball, encouraging him to spend more time on religious study.

He enrolled in high school at the Yeshiva of Pittsburgh, which lacked a basketball team. His religious training there convinced him that it was proper to continue playing basketball.

"I learned that I needed to use my talent for Hashem," Goodman said, using the Hebrew term for God.

He enrolled at the Talmudical Academy for his sophomore and junior years, but the school became unhappy with him for allegedly drawing heightened attention to sports and distracting other students from focusing on the Torah. He transferred to Takoma Academy, a Seventh-Day Adventist school that allowed him to study with a rabbi while the other students studied Christian materials.

Following a senior season in which he averaged 25 points per game, he practiced with the Maryland basketball team for the summer.

When he decided not to play for Maryland, Towson University offered him a spot on its men's basketball team.

In December 2001, during his sophomore year at Towson, an incident with his coach led to the end of his season. Irate after a game, Goodman said, his coach "held up a chair like he was going to hit me, then kicked another chair into my leg." Goodman alleges that the coach was anti-Semitic.

Goodman refused to play unless the coach was fired, but Towson did not reprimand the coach.

Two weeks later, he got an offer to train with the Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv. After passing the team's skills tests, he signed a three-year contract.

Goodman said he's happy to be playing in Israel but that the atmosphere is different from playing in the U.S.

"I think 100 Israeli fans are louder than 3,000 American fans," he said. "If you don't play well, people start throwing things at you."

Preschool teaches values

TWO seemingly unconnected events inspire me to write this week's column.

Firstly, one week ago we announced the opening of a new Jewish preschool in Pleasanton. Secondly, this past week marked the date on the Jewish calendar known as the Birthday for Trees — a day on which we contemplate our affinity for the botanical kingdom and thank God for its creation.

What is the connection between these two events — a preschool's opening and the trees' birthday? And why would they inspire a rabbi to write a column?

The Bible states, "For man is a tree of the field" (Deuteronomy 20:19).

This verse teaches us that our lives are analogous to that of a tree.

A tree's primary components are (1) its roots, which anchor it to the ground and supply it with water and other nutrients; (2) its trunk, branches and leaves, which comprise its body; and (3) its fruit, which contains the seeds by which the tree reproduces itself.

Of the three, the roots are a tree's least glamorous but the most crucial component. Buried underground, virtually invisible, they do not possess the majesty of the tree's trunk, the colorfulness of its leaves or the tastiness of its fruit. Yet without firmly grounded roots, the tree cannot survive.

Let us now look at the botanical analogue —the human being. We too have the same three components or stages in our lives: (1) Our roots, the formative years during which we strive to develop a healthy foundation, amassing the
nutrients — skills — that will take us through life; (2) our body, the "adult life" during which we build our own careers and attain personal fulfillment and achievement; and (3) our fruits, our ultimate ability to procreate both physically and spiritually to influence, to affect change upon our surroundings and to plant new ideas within other minds and hearts.

As in our botanical counterpart, our roots, while not always visible throughout our lives, are the most crucial and essential component for our well-being.

How so? What anchors do the first years of our life provide?

Interestingly, studies that analyze the long-term effects of an early childhood education show little academic long-term effects. (After all, whether you started learning your ABCs or numbers at age 3 or age 5 will probably not have a dramatic effect upon your ability to read Chaucer or compute quadratic equations in high school.)

The roots we refer to, then, lie much deeper than mere academic information. They are values, morals and a sense of right and wrong. How many times do we fall back upon, or find strength, solace and comfort, in words spoken to us decades ago by a loving parent or wise teacher? Interestingly, the same studies that show few long-term academic results from an early childhood education indicate that the rate of violence and teen-pregnancy were greatly reduced by a wholesome preschool or early childhood education.

I write these words just days after the Birthday of the Trees in the middle of the winter, a season during which all of vegetation begins to take root and readies itself for growth and maturity in the spring. Could there be a better time to resolve and commit ourselves to refocus upon cultivating and developing proper values and morals within our families and children? These roots will, God willing, ensure that our children develop healthily.

Rabbi Raleigh Resnick is director of the Chabad of the Tri-Valley in Pleasanton. For more information, call (925) 846-0700 or visit

Shanghai restores historic synagogue


Associated Press Writer

SHANGHAI, China (AP) - Shanghai has started restoration work on one of its two remaining synagogues as part of China's effort to revive Jewish heritage in a city that provided refuge to tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.

In another sign of the new interest, a rabbi ministering to the city's Jewish community said Thursday he believes officials will eventually turn over the other synagogue for regular worship services.

The restoration of the Ohel Moishe synagogue, now a Jewish history museum, is due to take five months. The budget hasn't been revealed, although reports said the government has already spent $1.3 million on fixing up the surrounding area and promoting it as a tourist site.

``Shanghai is a great memory for the Jewish people and it's so much better to have this history in the shape of a building than to simply read about it in a book,'' said Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, who moved to Shanghai in 1998. He is a representative of the Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters, an Orthodox Jewish organization based in New York.

Efforts to salvage Shanghai's Jewish history have been driven by both domestic and overseas scholarly interest, as well as by the growing numbers of Jewish expatriates in the booming city.

That trend in turn has been embraced by city leaders, who are eager to cast Shanghai as cosmopolitan and welcoming to foreigners.

China's largest city with a population of 20 million, including more than 100,000 foreigners, Shanghai is also a major industrial and commercial center, home to China's largest stock exchange and other financial markets.

Before World War II, the city boasted a large and influential Jewish community with its own schools, newspapers and at least seven synagogues. Most Jews left after World War II and their synagogues were turned to secular uses or torn down.

After several decades of dormancy, the community is growing again, with about 2,000 Jewish foreign residents in the city. Most worship in private homes due to a lack of access to synagogues. China's communist government, which strictly controls religious activities, does not list Judaism among its five officially recognized religions.

Work began last month on Ohel Moishe, which housed offices and a bookshop before it was converted into a museum of Jewish history in 1996. The project aims to expand its exhibits and restore the brick collonaded building to its original appearance, removing added structures and repainting its white masonry.

While Ohel Moishe will remain a museum, city officials appear to be moving toward allowing regular services at Shanghai's other surviving synagogue, the Ohel Rachel, Greenberg said. Its current owners, the city education bureau, now open it for Jewish services only a few times a year.

``The government understands and I'm sure, hopefully sooner than later, that it will allow it to be used for its original purpose,'' Greenberg said.

Shanghai's Jewish community got its start when the city, one of the world's great seaports, was opened to foreign trade in 1842. Concessions were granted to Britain, the United States and France, leaving the city carved up between Western powers.

The Jewish community, whose leading members were Iraqi immigrants and their descendants, was thriving by the time Jews fleeing the Nazis began arriving a century later. Typical of its success was the real estate tycoon Jacob Elias Sassoon, who built the grander, neoclassical Ohel Rachel in 1920.

Constructed in 1928 by Russian immigrants, Ohel Moishe was the center of a less wealthy but equally cosmopolitan community in the Tilanqiao neighborhood north of the center. The area became even more heavily Jewish during World War II when Shanghai's Japanese overlords, under pressure from their German allies, forced German and Austrian Jews to live there exclusively.

About 30,000 European Jews sought refuge in Shanghai from the Nazi genocide.

The city was restored to China at the end of the war, with Western powers renouncing their claims.

Along with synagogues, Shanghai also boasts scores of Protestant and Catholic churches, most of which were closed for decades after the 1949 communist takeover but have since been reopened. However, while missionaries converted millions of Chinese to Christianity, the Jewish community was almost exclusively foreign.

Officially China is atheistic. Christians, Buddhists, Taoists and Muslims are allowed to worship but only in churches, temples and mosques run by state-monitored groups. Christians who attend underground churches - and most do in China - are often jailed and harassed.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shabbat 1000

The smell of traditional Jewish foods will fill Carnegie Mellon’s Wiegand Gymnasium in the University Center on Friday as students, faculty, and other members of the Pittsburgh community gather for Shabbat 1000, an annual campus event held to celebrate the traditional Jewish day of rest. The program will provide a filling three-course meal for, organizers hope, 1000 participants. Attendees will be served traditional Shabbat foods such as gefilte fish, a variety of kugels, challah rolls, salads, desserts, and several vegetarian options.

“The atmosphere will be one of celebration, joy, and unity,” said Chani Weinstein, Pittsburgh’s Shabbat 1000 administrator. Several student groups from Carnegie Mellon, including Alpha Epsilon Pi, Zeta Beta Tau, Israel on Campus, and Tartans for Israel, have joined other groups in the Pittsburgh area to help in the planning, promotion, and implementation of the event.

Shabbat 1000 is a national event started 12 years ago by Rivka Slonim, co-director of the Chabad House at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Cornell University, Harvard University, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Texas are just a few of the universities that have brought the Shabbat 1000 tradition to their own campuses.

“This unique campus event offers students an opportunity to meet and connect with others and to share in the traditional celebration of Shabbat — something special beyond their weekly routine,” Weinstein said. “The actual event is very inspiring to see so many students celebrating Shabbat and eating a delicious meal all together.”

Pittsburgh’s Shabbat 1000 is coordinated by Chabad House on Campus and the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh. This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of the late mayor of Pittsburgh, Bob O’Connor.

Dinner is free and open to everyone, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

Today is the last day for students to sign up on the event’s website, ( Participants can either sign up to host a table of 10 people, or sign up as an individual to be placed at a table of 10 by the event’s organizers.

Shabbat 1000 will take place Friday, February 9 at 5 p.m. in the Wiegand Gymnasium.

Israeli added to Forbes billionaires list

Magazine publishes its 2005 list of billionaires; Israel represented by 11 entries, including newly listed businessman Yitzhak Tshuva
Eitan Amit

The 2005 Forbes magazine list of billionaires includes, among its 793 members, 11 Israelis, Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday.

Every person on the list has an estimated worth of at least USD 1 billion.

Israeli businessman Yitzhak Tshuva made the list for the first time. His success is described at Forbes as a "Cinderella story", and he is placed in the 382nd place, with a fortune of USD 2 billion.

Tshuva (58) was born in Libya and came to Israel when he was six months old. He made his fortune in real estate, and lately made headlines for purchasing the Plaza hotel in New York for USD 675 million. In 1998 he made his big jump after a hostile takeover on Delek, the Israeli fuel corporation

Leading the list of Israeli billionaires is Sheri Arison who owns, among other things, Bank Hapoalim and is placed on the 109th place with a fortune of 5.2 USD billion.

Bill Gates tops list

Other Israelis on the list are Arnon Milchan, a movie producer who tripled his fortune in the past year (2.9 USD billion) and made the 240th place, Lev Leviev, who owns 80 percent of Africa-Israel company (2.6 USD billion) is in the 278th place, and closing the Israeli list is Morris Kahn, founder of Amdocs, who with USD 1 billion is placed in the 746th place.

The wealthiest Jew on the list is Roman Abramovitch, the 39 year-old oil tycoon and the owner of the popular English soccer team Chelsea. With a fortune of USD 18.2 billion he is placed at the 11th place.

The youngest billionaire on the list is the 22 year-old Hind Hariri, the daughter of late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who with a fortune of USD 1.4 billion is placed in the 562nd place.

Again, the top of list is crowned by Bill Gates (Microsoft) for the 12th time with USD 50 billion, followed by investor Warren Buffet (USD 42 billion) and the Mexican communication tycoon, Carlos Salim, third on the list with USD 30 billion.

Readers Comments on Shulamit Aloni's Opinion


The author of this article knows very little about education and the importance of giving children a national identity. He still thinks in terms of religion which is mentioned nowhere in our Scriptures and Laws.

We are the children of Israel who need to be taught who we are, what we were, and who we will be. As I have written in past talkbacks, the nations of the world are always reminding us of our identity. Have we learned that no matter how hard we try to assimilate in the ways of the nations of the world, as was done in Germany, they will find us out. No matter whether we wear a skullcap or not, they will know who we are. Let us learn from history. Let's teach history not only as dates, events, and specific personalities. The importance is to teach national history, the national constitution, and to remember the importance of the children of Israel in the world.

No one will get away with hiding, or showing ignorance about those items which make us citizens of this great nation. Disguising will not help.

Everyone must learn who we are, no matter the sex or age of the individual..

al mann , Jerusalem, Israel (01.31.07)

2. A Simple Dictum

There is a simple dictum of our sages that boils down to this: if someone starts speaking about someone in a good way, but then moves on to speak about them in a bad way, we don't believe they meant the good things they said. In other words: its empty rhetoric, and is a pretty good indicator that you've just been accosted with a heady dose of lashon hara - the evil tongue. Such spite. It must be the result of being outclassed.

David , Israel (01.31.07)

3. Way to Go

Kol Ha'Kavod Mrs. Aloni. It is about time someone stand up and put an end to religious coercion in Israel. By cramming religion down peoples throats is NOT a way for secular Jews to become more Jewish. A liberal democracy is about choice. End of story. Sof ha'sipur.

Benjamin , Denver, CO (01.31.07)

4. Shulamit is at it again

OK, let me get this straight: freedom of expression is ok, political or anti-religious indoctrination is ok, as long as it is done by secular teachers or politicians. But oy vey, if somebody religious were to dare to voice an opinion outside of Bne Braq, Shulamit gets afraid for the poor souls of innocent little children? Considering the lack of knowledge of jewish history, jewish thought, jewish religion, jewish anything in the secular school system, with the predictable result of a lack of commitment to the jewish state or nation in those kids when they become adults ..... wouldn't it be far smarter (and probably more cost-efficient) to hand the keys of the entire school system to Mr. Leviev, and send all those apparatschiks from the Education Ministry on a really long vacation?

Sal G. , Passaic, NJ (USA) (01.31.07)

5. Lubavitch is mainstream Judiasm


To teach Judiasm is not missionary work at all. It is Jewish education.

Now in terms of science and so forth, I have no problem promoting a full understanding of scientific pricniples which are very akin to torah principles.

There is always proposed this huge divide between the two, but as I have aged and advanced in both fields, I realize there is much less dispute than most people realize between the two concepts.

In short, I understand his influence to be a positive one that should be welcomed rather than shunned.

As for Israeli science, who is Israel choosing as the Science Minister, and what scientific background does the Education Minsiter have?

Oh one more question: why are the heads of the Israeli state called ministers even if they are women?

These are more serious questions that need to be addressed than Lev Leviv's positive influence towards restoring genuine Jewish influence in children's lives. He is not a missionary, but rather a Jewish educator and contributor, and I think it is high time that his positive influence receive some appreciation.

Steve , USA (01.31.07)

6. Reason for levievs Success ???

People are slowly realizing that the whole Zionist Ideology is bankrupt.

Many of the so called free thinking youth are ending up with drugs failed marriages that is reality.

Is there any question why so many of our youth are returning to Torah true Judaism whether thru Chabad or Or someach etc....

Aloni another encouraging sign that the orthodox will number more than the Aloni type is the population growth. The non- orthodox get married late and have 1 or 2 children. while the orthodox have many more children.

Leviev is a great man and many should learn from the chesed that he does.

Nachman (01.31.07)

7. Ridiculous

I'm interested in how this ccompared to the Jewish concept of of "soul-stealing" when he is in fact proselytizing the same religious and cultural affiliation to which you already identify with. If anything, he is trying to strengthen the Jewish soul.

And I highly doubt Mr. Leilav is preaching no curiosity, no scientific thought etc. Chabad is known for accepting all Jews, despite their level of observance, and I know prominent scientists who are religious jews or Lubavithcers (Yimiyohu Branover, Chaim Grober, and the entire Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists),

Jews are not a race any more than Christians or Muslims are a race. The fact that we have cultural and ethnic identifiers associated with Judaism is, in the end, irrelevant. Without spirituality, secular Jews in Israel are better classified as atheist Israelis, despite the fact that the Torah will always designate them as Jews.

A little Torah/Talmud study won't hurt the kiddies, Shulamit. Give me a break.

Aviel , San Diego, CA (01.31.07)

8. Jealous?

do i detect some jealousy here?

Yosef , Jerusalem (01.31.07)

9. I must disagree.

I am Israeli (and plan to come back as soon as possible), and I have many friends who are Israeli immigrants to the US. I was brought up a secular Israeli Jew, yet I believe in g-d, I light candles for Shabbat, I fast for Yom Kippur, etc. Meanwhile, I study biology and chemistry, philosophy, mathematics, you name it. Niether negated the other. Some of my friends are not so lucky, and they tell me once and again how they resented religion in Israel, and how they want to start keeping Kosher for example now. Is it brainwashing? Or is it just a pull for some sense of identity? While in Israel, you never question who you are, it never occurs to you you're anything but an Israeli. The moment you step outside Israel, you instantly feel who you are; you are a Jew. If you resent it, and you avoid it or you learn nothing about it, slowly the culture dies you; you assimilate and you lose your Judaism completely somewhere in intermarriage. You say that this is not to point in Israel, but resenting religion is resenting the essence of why we are there. To be a Jew is to have a history and a culture - all of which is propensed in the Torah. I won't preach about g-d to an aethist, so I won't go into our relationship with him, but denying Israeli children education about the Torah is denying them their identity as Jews. I'm not saying turn everyone into a Lubavitcher - that's not my point at all. Nevertheless, it is correct that every Israeli child should have a fundemental base of knowledge of what it means to be a Jew outside the context of Israel. This needs not to have any interference with secular studies - which are obviously imperative and vastly important. Israel was created as a home for Jews. The more we try to push that out, the further away from the point we get.

Shoshana , NYC, US (01.31.07)

10. teaching

To know , yes . to pray NO , NO and NO . Did those prayers help our grand parents when send to their death ? NO . And they were mostly , the East european certainly , praying people . So no need to pray , not every day , nor in all your life .

charles , petach tikva (01.31.07)

11. the author claims to know an aweful lot

Fearing God, loving God, thanking God: No scientific thought, no curiosity, nothing about the value of the human being and human equality – and many more"NO's," as is common in Chabad-Lubavitch schools

does this mean that she conducted some research before writing this article?

instilling fear of God, and inspiring children to love for every Jew (even if he is a scoundrel,) which means arrogance and haughtiness and a broad platform for cultivating hatred for others. We already have legitimate racist parties around here. Is this desired?

loving the good within a fellow jew is bad?

this haughty journalist should be fired


adam , NY (01.31.07)




andrew , miami,fl (01.31.07)

13. Is she still alive...I quess she is like so many coakroaches

Al (01.31.07)



bill handel , brooklyn, usa (01.31.07)

15. Shulamit: Anti-Jewish secular missionary

Shulamit is vomiting the propaganda of the secularists who are trying to destroy Israel as a Jewish nation and convert our country into just another generic Gentilistan. Their goal is to brain-wash our children in the schools so they grow up alienated from mainstream Orthodox Judaism. We already see the degradation in Israel with the epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse, increasing domestic violence, flourishing sex and human slave trade, vast numbers of our women parading in the streets dressing cheap and sleazy. We are commanded to be "a light unto the nations", not just another moral cesspool among the rest of the world's Gentilistans.

Yacov , Ashkelon (01.31.07)

16. I object

as a religious and scientific man with a college degree and years of work experience plus years of yeshiva learning, I must object to the concept that religious reject scientific learning.

I agree that there are those in the religious world who do not want scientific thought in their areas, but I feel that as a person who attended both college and yeshiva, I am two the person of those who only learn secular and not religious thought.

eliezer , jerusalem, israel (01.31.07)

17. Who will keep SECULARISM out?

Please don't let what happened to my country happen to yours.

When Christians founded and moved to America to escape religious persecution (sound familiar?) they had some wolves hiding in the flock. Those wolves brought false and even outright satanic doctrine. See the satanic all-seeing eye on our one dollar bills.

Charles Darwin himself abandoned evolution theory some twenty years before he died.

On every American coin are the words "In God We Trust".

It doesn't say "GOLD". It says "God". But WHICH God?

Now that my country has been influxed with a mass of starving pagans moving here to find a better way of life because their gods have failed them, yet reluctant to release the failure that drove them here, their children are confusing ours with the answer to the above question: "which God?"

The secularists are your biggest threat... for THEY are the enablers.

By pretending to be "moderate" or "liberal" they in fact, secretly display only the most vehement hatred for any matter of intimate faith. They hate your faith as well.

Once they got control over virtually everything in my country, they made it Politically Incorrect to mention God. Now, God has been removed from public life and if you try to put Him back in to curtail the rampant sin/crime, someone ELSE will get to pick which god it will be.

Why does someone want to call themself a Jew if they don't want to do all the Jew-necessary stuff? Why call yourself a Christian if you're not? Secular does not equal Jew. Secular does not equal Christian. Secular = atheist.

An agnostic is just a cowardly atheist who doesn't have the backbone to admit it.

God will give bonus points for you surmising that MAYBE He exists.

PLEASE, OH PLEASE, OH PLEASE, do not let this happen to your country!!!!!!

Maybe then, you can help mine.

May the God of Joshua who founded your country, guide your decisions.

Ima Bleever , Anytown USA (01.31.07)

18. Not sure what the author is offering that is actually Jewish

Shulamit Aloni says: "Jewish identity in the sovereign State of Israel means good citizenship, taking responsibility for one's society, human solidarity, recogniton of human rights, and the development of curiosity and criticism, as well as an urge to investigate, ask questions, and gain knowledge in science and the arts. Jewish identity also means cooperating with other peoples in the country, region, and the entire world."

And exactly how would this be different from American identity, or any other identity in the developed Western world for that matter? You can do all this AND still have something that's substantively Jewish. But if what secular Israelis are offering is nothing more than what would be offered anywhere else, then no wonder so many of them have moved abroad. Too bad she sees it as an either/or. It's not.

Chanya , USA (01.31.07)

19. Yaacov

You are truly obsessed with nice women . In every talk back you talk about women's dresses . Are you not such an ugly female scarecrow jealous of young girls ?

You want to brainwash the secular youth with your prayers . look at my other tb on this subject . And why do you still live in Ashkelon , move to Bne berak , mea shearim or ramat Beth Shemesh . There you will see only nice black coats . Or do even they don't accept you in their midst ?

Alcohol and drug abuse is also a problem in the charidi sector , a special center has been opened for charidi addicts , not without reason . And violence ? what about this women attacked in a bus ? And your fine friends also visit many of those victims of women trade .

So look first what is happening in your community before attacking the builders of this nation .

charles , petach tikva (01.31.07)

20. Democracy teaches us: no one cares about Shulamit Aloni

This clown has been run out of public office and has been rejected by an overwhelming majority of Israelis who disagree with her outlook on life.

The damage that she inflicted on the Meretz party is so destructive that Meretz continues to suffer from her association.

She now is just a bitter old woman that no one cares about. Her thoughts and opinions matter to nobody (except for Charles in PT, maybe). And she has a home here on Ynet.

Besalel , Kew Gardens, NY (01.31.07)

21. Communists at our schools

Moral, spiritual and intellectual retards like Joe Stalin groupie Shulamit should be kept away from classrooms.

Kyle , Southpark, CO, USA (01.31.07)

22. This woman is an antisemitic witch

amir , Jerusalem (01.31.07)

23. Stalin with a dress strikes again

Ron (01.31.07)

24. #19

The last time I checked, the builders of this nation were the kind of people who, when stating their claim to the land, held up the Tanakh (Ben Gurion), and who held bible study classes in the PM's office (Beigin). Shulamit isn't in their league, and would call any PM who did the same today a religious fanatic. She does not, in any way, represent the secular zionists who founded this nation. They're generation was a unique breed who I, as a religious man, can respect even as I disagree with them. Shulamit is a fanatical secularist who wouldn't know the zionism of Israel's founders if it came up and kicked her on her leathery backside.

David , Israel (01.31.07)

25. shulamit you're wrong here

I have been going to a Chabad shul for 10 yeaers, have visited Chabad houses for 30 years--and the "worst" that I've become during these 30 years is a liberal modern orthodox Jew--a far cry from Chabad--and certainly not a missionary --and certainly not a beliver in the messianic claims that some of thsese guyss put on the late Rebbe--as far as I know, the goals of Chabad in Israeli schools would be to instill some ruach, some mitvot, some enthusiasm for being Jewish , some respect for Jewihs religon and tradtions--Shulamit--you were an excellent Minister of Education--but don't be the flip side of the Shas coin--

bob , potomac md (01.31.07)

26. "Missionaries at our schools" - Shulamit Aloni

In Ms. Aloni Op-Ed regarding Mr. Leviev's involvment in the Israeli school system she fails to identify any specifics of Leviev's actual involvement and/or idea's regarding the Israeli public school system. It seems as though Ms. Aloni has a bias toward the fact that Mr. Leviev is A. a millionaire, (billionaire i presume?)and B. Is a religious jew. Using those two characteristics and the fact Mr. Leviev may have spoken with several different city officials, does not mean that Mr. Leviev is attempting to become school's chancellor and or indoctrinate anyone. Please be specific in your veiled criticisms.

Yates , new York, NY (01.31.07)

27. Education does not mean having to observe!

When religion teaches you derech eretz, discipline, good manners, respect, compassion, the difference between right and wrong etc. etc., all the good traits in a human being; I am all for it. That is what our religion teaches us.

I am all for people who are educated in these good traits even if they choose a secular way of living.

I do not and will never appreciate nor understand the likes of Aloni who for illogical reasons fight with all their might to avoid instilling these positive traits in the children of Israel.

Just look at some of the Israeli youth of today that have missed out on such an education.

Yes, there should be freedom of choice when it comes to observing the mitzvot but learning about them can only enhance the quality of a human being.

Ram , London (01.31.07)

28. Anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic scum like Shulamit Alony

should be kept out of classrooms, and out of public eye.

Antonio , Haifa (01.31.07)

29. Lubavitch is Not Mainstream Judaism.

Lubavitch is museum Judaism. But this is beside the point.

Missionaries belong out in the world, in other countries, making Jewish converts and building Jewish peoplehood. The Chief Rabbinate should take a lesson from the Xtians and Buddhists and send rabbis out into the larger world and actively make more Jews. At the same time, Conservative , Reform and Reconstructionist Jews from the Diaspora should be given parity to build their movements in Israel, which is the true mainstream of Judaism in the modern world according to the numbers. All should be invited to compete for the free choice of Jews and goyim everywhere , on a level playing field, especially in Israel, where Jews have been held captive by an orthodoxy that controls and distorts information regarding the other movements. All should also be aware that The Tanach further unfolds in the light of high biblical criticism, which is eschewed in orthodoxy.

Jewish missionaries is an idea whose time has come. No longer should Jews be timid and shy away from this rejuvenating and strengthening activity. Judaism is G-DS gift to the world. It should not be kept in a box only for those born into one form of it, who run the chance of making it stale, unappealing, discriminatory and misconstrued. Judaism needs to be free to breathe, circulate and percolate through the world, like a beautiful fragrance enveloping the world. Remember Tikkun Ha' Olam ?

What good is having missionaries who go nowhere, remaining in the most Jewish country in the world, where everyone is already a Jew in some form ?

We are looking for progress here not regression !

The world may not become Jewish, but there is no reason for it to remain ignorant of civilizing Jewish values. JUDAIZE !!!

RCA , USA (02.01.07)

30. Secularism

Previous talkbacks in favor of Jewish religious education have said it better than I could ever do, so I'll skip that part.

Behind secularists' nice words such as Aloni's, there is an agenda of moral relativism.

Secular education has been a complete failure in North America.

Even though there are cases of inmoral behavior within the religious communities, the fact is that secular education has produced generations of people who have no values, no morals.

Secular education in N. America has been tried and has failed. There is a totally out-of-control epidemic of drug use, alcohol and promiscuity. Children are not learning. They leave school semi-literate.

Israel must not follow that path.

There's an increasing trend for home-schooling or religious schooling, to protect children from secular indoctrination and physical violence.

Nobody is brainwashed by religious education. Children question everything, particularly during adolescence. Religious education and critical thinking are not mutually exclusive.

Michelle T , USA (02.01.07)

31. Jews must uphold Torah law in Israel

I support the religious in Israel and find it offensive that the Israeli school system is so biased against Hashem that they teach apostacy. G-d gave us the Torah and the Jewish people heard and did as commanded. Today there are Jews who have fallen to levels lower than the Israelites in Egyptian bondage, sinning like the goyim and thinking they are cool. When redemption comes their little world will come crumbling down and they realize that they missed the boat. There is still time to do your Teshuva and I recommend you do it soon.

Michael U , SF,CA (02.01.07)

32. shulamit

If anyones children ask them why didn't Palestinian and American Jews do more during the Holocaust to save Jews, just have them read this article and many from Ynet. Yes Charlie and secular sabra, many seculars weren't unhappy to see Hareidim go.

avi , ny (02.01.07)

33. RCA, you're wrong

One of the most prominent Judaic principles is NOT to proselytize Judaism to non-Jews, but to strengthen the level of commitment and observance amongst those who are already Jewish. This is why Rabbis generally try to dissuade candidates from converting at least three times to test their sincerity.

Judaism teaches that all men of all (monotheistic) faiths can pursue a relationship with God, despite whether or not they are Jews. What we need to do is continue to ensure that Jews do not further assimilate or lose touch with their spiritual and cultural identities, and that is one of the main goals of Chabad.

Aviel (02.01.07)

34. #29 Chabad is the only Jewish organization JUDAIZING

RCA, Chabad is the only Jewish organization "out in the world, in other countries, building Jewish peoplehood."

There are Chabad Houses all over the world wherever a Jew can be found. Where are all the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative "Jewish missionaries" in Israel and throughout the world? Performing gay marriages, promoting abortion rights, protecting Palestinians from "eeville settlers" and crying about competition from the Orthodox.

Kyle , Southpark, CO, USA (02.01.07)

35. #33- Aviel. Your point is well taken.

RCA , USA (02.01.07)

36. #12- Andrew. Inspiring article. Thanks for the info!

RCA , USA (02.01.07)

37. Brainwashing

It is sad that few of these so called men of G-d know anything about context. Most of the "identity" given to these children have little or no connection to the true words of Torah. Most dati (religious) don't even know the stories of Torah.

If Israel learned Torah in context rather than accepting "blindly" the butchered tidbits cut from Torah text and explained in elaborate off point stories, the world would be a better place and ISrael would be stronger.

Did anyone learn from the Garden of Eden story about how the snake devided words from words to generate evil actions against G-d and truth?

We would be wise to get back to the Pashoot already. Mosses was to do a job of communicating to the people and he did just that. Children should read his words not those of power hungry religions. As it is said You don't need someone to get it for your.

Certainly not someone to brainwash your children and your societies.

One G-d one love.

Give Him an orginal prayer.

Josh (02.01.07)

38. to # 27

We have seen the results of this "education" : charidi faces full hatred , throwing stones , attacking a woman in a bus , and so on . Is this the "good" education ? I prefer another one , and repeat it , to know is good and necessary , but those lessons have not to be brainwashings made by a charidi women .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

39. #38. Consider the education not the action of the exceptions

Ram , London (02.01.07)

40. #19 Charles: Why don't you move to Las Vegas

Prostitution is legal there. The women are encouraged to dress cheap and sleazy as walking billboards for the local pimps. Alcohol and drugs abound and everyone is encouraged to used. The mafia is well-entrenched in the casinos, trucking firms, unions,

drug and sex trades. Kids are dropping out of school daily. Divorce is as easy as getting married in a casino chapel. In summary, you can already enjoy everything the secularists are trying to bring to Israel. You move there.

Those who can't destroy Israel from without are trying to destroy us from within. Your attitude helps them.

Yacov , Ashkelon (02.01.07)

41. education

If someone wants to give his children a religious education , he can do it , there is enough choice , from the mamlachti dati , to the whole range of charidi networks .

If i don't want to act so , i send my children to a non religious school . Rambam , i think he was it , said that one of the greatest mitzwoth is to go to live in Israel . So before you criticise the secular Israelis , make Alyah .

In Galut , were so many of the critics of Shulamit Aloni live , the problem is different . You have to send your children to Jewish day schools , that's the only thing that gives them a better relation to Judaism . Here our History is living , not only written in the tora .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

42. David

I'm not one of those stupids who deny our History , written in the tanach . The interpretation of how some facts occured is the only difference between seculars as i am , and religious people .

I will only add that our grand parents were holding the holy books in their hands when send to their death .This did , very sad to say not help them .

That David Ben Gurion claims on the country were based on the tanach as you write , is possible , but he had my interpretation of history . And most of the 6000 who fell for our independance were seculars , if not anti religious , People . Many of them belonging to the Mapam Kibbutz mouvement , forerunner of Shulamit Aloni's Meretz party .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

43. # 19

actually david, the founders of israel would love shulamit, not kick her out on her back side. the founders of israel only wanted rich, intelligent, enlightened (secular) jews, they kept out the poor, religious, shtetl jews. hungary lost many jews thanks to that outlook. so shulamit and her ilk are just what the founders wanted.

Elisheva B.A. , s. pete fl usa (02.01.07)

44. for #24 not #19, my mistake

that was for david # 24 not 19

Elisheva B.A. , s. pete fl usa (02.01.07)

45. Being religious

The author said:

Jewish identity in the sovereign State of Israel means good citizenship, taking responsibility for one's society, human solidarity, recognition of human rights, and the development of curiosity and criticism, a well as an urge to investigate, ask questions, and gain knowledge in science and the arts. Jewish identity also means cooperating with other peoples in the country, region, and the entire world


All this can be learned from a proper jewish education. Ideally, ti should be "non-politicised", but so long as the child is connected to traditional Judaism and connects her/his own ofspring to traditional Judiasm, then the child or her/his ofspring will eventaully attain those values as tradional observant Jews. Its all in traditional Judaism.

Abdullah (02.01.07)

46. excuse me??!

and i quote, "this isn't done through missionary activity at elementary schools in a bid to steal souls for the sake of religious belief, instilling fear of God, and inspiring children to love for every Jew (even if he is a scoundrel,) which means arrogance and haughtiness and a broad platform for cultivating hatred for others." teaching fear of Gd and love for every Jew, that's horrible! what's israel coming to? OY VEY!

(all said with a heaping dose of sarcasm). what's the matter with this woman? oh yeah, she was raised by and in a secular israeli society which teaches their children from the get go to hate Judaism, to insist that Israel be like everyone else, and to worship traitors to the jewish people on yom hatzma'ut(don't know what i'm talking about? read perfidy). we don't need enemies with friends like her.

Elisheva B.A. , s. pete FL USA (02.01.07)

47. yacov

I did'nt make Alyah to move some years later to a country that is not my HISTORICAL home .

In every country , as one answer , divorce rate is rising . Women are earning their living , and do not need a husband to feed them . If they feel the big love is finished , over , they simply divorce . And don't forget , the rabbanut has to OKay those divorces . In your community this does not happen so much ? those poor women don't dare to talk about the misery they endure . And here i know about what i'm talking .

Women's dresses : again your obsession . I prefer women dressed in a modern way than to see some of those scarecrows living amongst your beloved society .

It's the people as you who try to send us back in the 18th century , in your polish or other east European poor shtetl . Go back to there if you want to live so . Here it's the 21st century .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

48. Biased

Amazing that I am always censured and Charles of israeli occupied petah tikva has the run of the way...... meanwhile charlie all atheists pray when their in a foxhole and bullets are flying

Aloni............. hahahahaha

Israeli Racist , Judea (02.01.07)

49. Ram #27

I agree 100 per cent with you!

Keren , SP-now in Israel (02.01.07)

50. To understand Chabad-Lubavitch thought

gp here:

Don't worry. Their ways are ways of pleasantness. Don't let this author instill false fear in you. The intellegent mind shouldn't have the fear of "brainwashing". and should have the self-confidenve to analyze between that which is True and that which is false.

LEE , NY, USA (02.01.07)

51. I'm sick of secular coercion!!!

Stop proselitizing your secular beliefs in our schools!!

yoni (02.01.07)

52. #48-i m always censored as well,

thats basicly why i stoped reading ynet and switched to jpost -i now open it only when i have less then 3min. to eat a sandwich.

Ynet prefer to publish outrageous hateful talkbacks by terrorists,jew-haters and nazis. Secular sabra is a good example of a hateful talkbacker. They prefer to publish talkbacks that use foul language just to prove themselves as being "objective" and "liberal".

I dont think they actually read talkbacks-they just see the familiar name that has been blacklisted by them and do not publish it-pretty automaticly.I was silly enough to actually write to them...

ive been censored almost all the time on here-and i have never used foul language or called for violence. but as u can see-i do sign that i m from shomron-so that's a red flag:):):):)

ora , eli,shomron (02.01.07)

53. This article is leftest liberal propaganda

It's typical that you would accuse Catholics of brainwashing children. Every one apparently hates Catholics.


54. Charles #41

Are you quoting from the Rambam? Are my eyes seeing right? It's so wonderful to see a secular Jew as yourself state a Torah lesson. Now that you got one Mitzvah right from the Rambam whom you love so much. Let's try another one. He has 14 books on Halachah which covers everything and anything on Midot, Medicine, Repentance, Belief in G-d, Holidays, Shabbat. Marriage, Divorce, Business Relationships, Real Estate, Damage, Kosher, Judicial court system, and the future.

BTW everything he wrote was not his own it was taken from Talmud that was taken from our own special Torah.

Now, what were you saying about who founded Israel and the wonderful not biased courts. Our heritage goes back way before Ben gurion was potty trained. You said it from the Rambam.

If it is a mitzvah and you believe you will be rewarded for it then so be it but that Mitzvah has nothing to do with ben gurion who lived almost 1000 yrs after the Rambam.

Sometimes being in Galut one becomes more religious than being in Israel. NY has so many Israeli communities. Wherever I go in the past 10 years I hear Hebrew. They all are part of different shuls and synagogues that they would never do or be in Israel. So if its a choice of one Mitzvah of living in Israel or 100 in America, I think we will both agree what is better.

BUSH , USA (02.01.07)

55. Lee # 50

Here we talk about children , easy to brainwash them . Remember how children in nazi germany were misused [ lehavdil of course ]. At the end some even denounced their parents . Children are easy to manipulate , and that's the danger .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

56. To # 48 of Judea

You only deserve the second part of the name you have taken . Racist , YES , Israeli , NO , NO and NO . If Petach tikva is occupied territory , since more than 125 years , what about your illegal , for Israel , settlement ?

And don't worry , i will not pray , unnecessary . Our grandparents were praying , to no avail . They were all send to their death .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

57. to # 48

You only deserve the second part of the name you have taken . Racist . Israeli ? i doubt .

If i live in the occupied territory in Petach Tikva , where do you live , in a illegal outpost ?

Praying is absolutely not necessary and even worhtless . Our grand parents were praying , but to no avail . they were send to their death while praying


58. Not like her son Uday

Only a coincidence that she and Saddam have a son with the same name. Don't think so.

Ilan , Ariel (02.01.07)


levi Krol , ramat bet shemesh (02.01.07)

60. #42

I don't deny they were secular, but being secular in Israel in 1948 was a dramatically different thing than being secular in 2006. Their generation had a very different concept of national identity, tradition, and culture than modern Israeli's do. Indeed, if you look at Herzl and Ben Gurion (and others) they were clear they wanted Israeli society and law to be rooted in ancient Jewish values and traditions as opposed to Western ones, though they certainly did not want a halachic state. Any politician today who advocated the same thing - a supreme court who cited Jewish texts and thought as opposed to the US Supreme Court or Euro-humanism, for instance - would be labeled religious fanatics (even if they were definably secular, or merely traditional). And I note you responded to my comment on ben gurion while completely ignoring my comment on beigin. I suspect there's a reason for that. Secular Israelis today want to appeal to the authority of a generation who would fight them to the bitter end on a vast array of ideological and cultural issues. You'll just have to get over the fact that most of those secular boys who died in 1948 (a straw man on your part, incidentally) didn't die for the values modern secular Israelis are all hot and bothered about. They died for a very different vision. One that I, a religious man, might disagree with on some (but not all) levels, but that I understand and respect nonetheless. I do not, however, respect moder secular israeli values and visions. They're a different thing entirely.

David , Israel (02.01.07)

61. brainwashing

all education is a form of brainwashing - we all choose to educate our children to the values we find important to us - this is how we pass on what we feel is the "correct" way to live. to call one form of education or another brainwashing denies the fact that we are all, all of us, biased in what we teach our children, bring into our homes, and allow as "normative" behavior. there are always those who maintain that brainwashing is what the "other side" does to the kids - take a look at what you consider important to allow into the schools!

leiba , israel (02.01.07)

62. David # 60

are you kidding me

i even heard that the knesset used to say a perek of Tehillim before they started their sessions. That is ben gurion and all the zionist fighters. Today it could and would never happen. So do they really look up to their ancestors or founders of Israel. I don't think so. Only Charles looks up to the Rambam.

BUSH , USA (02.01.07)

63. Bush

You see , i know some , small , things about religion . I was wondering why you did not ask me if i'm doing also other mitzwoth . In my eyes maybe , in your , probably not many . But that's not important for me , your opinion .

Regarding Alyah , i think the place for a Jew is HERE , not in NY , even you have many places to pray there . I , a secular MADE ALYAH , and you ? Don't tell me Terutsim , there are no excuses for a Jew , certainly a religious one , not to live in this country . But maybe it's better you stay there , we have already enough religious fanatics .

Ben Gurion lived 750 years after the Rambam [ 1138-1204 ]

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

64. Bush

I'm not waiting for a reward for making Alyah , i did not even think it's a mitzwa .The pleasure to live in a country that is HISTORICALLY mine , that's it .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

65. David

Regarding Menahem Begin . I said already that knowing our history is necessary . No special reason for not commenting on what you wrote .

The founders of the state had not such fanatic charidi people against them . The religious where orthodox , but not charidi extremists [ certainly not much ] And you know , one extremist brings an opposite one . If there were not such right wing fanatics , or religious fanatics , there would be less secular and left fanatics .

It's only by seeing how some charidi behave , that i became more and more opposed to them . If you want to be tolerated , be tolerant . If you want to be respected , respect others . If you want to exercise your rights freely , let the others have the same rights .

I do not remember who said : i'm opposed to your ideas , but i will fight for your freedom to express them . [ not all ideas of course , there are limits , in every democratic country too ]

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

66. Charles

you just said in tb #41 from the Rambam that it is a Mitzvah and now you did not think it's a mitzvah. It seems to me you are a very big anav. That when you do good deeds you are not doing it for reward. Hey you might get double for being so good.

Regarding living in Israel I wish I can brag about how much I love it but i only lived there for 2 years, so while you have a bigger zechut for living there longer, there would not be much for me to say except that i miss it very much and the most I get out of it are keeping up with the news and talking to people from there.

Now let me teach you a Torah lesson I once read up. One who walks 4 amot (about 2.5 meters) in Israel, his sins are forgiven.

BUSH , USA (02.01.07)

67. David

If i forgot to mention Begin , in my first answer , what's about you not reacting to what i wrote regarding our grand parents ? this is not an accidentally omission , you can not answer , there is no acceptable one for a secular .

charles , petach tikva (02.01.07)

68. Keep chabad out of schools!

They should be banned from schools and from bothering people in public with their nonsense.

The left should be banned from schools with their anti-zionist nonsense.We do not need our children to be taught to love their enemies.

jason white , afula,israel (02.01.07)

69. Charles

I forgot to mention I am not such a fanatic, you see I don't throw stones at on coming cars, I throw soccer balls.Also I don't beat up my wife unless she starts. And I don't attack anyone on a bus unless they are sitting in my favorite seat. Now am I invited to Israel.

Relax Charles as long as the religious ashkenaz and sephardim are not doing to eachother what Hamas and fatah are doing then you know there is something right about the Jewish religion and there is no reason to generalize all Haredim because of LITERALLY a handful of wackos.

BUSH , USA (02.01.07)

70. Charles #65

Interesting statement. Somewhat true but although 2 wrongs don't make a right I want you to prove to me that the ones who came extreme first were the religious. You see extreme works 2 ways.

It is much easier to prove that in the early years of the state the govt who have the upperhand over Haredim then and now became more extreme in their secular views tearing families away from tradition like they did with Yemenites than to believe that the Haredim in the early yrs who were really a tiny minority compared to now had the power to force their ideology on the seculars to become more religious.

Did they stop reading Tehillim in the knesset because the Haredim asked for a lengthy Torah class. Did they start gay parades because the Haredim were murdering gays like they do in arab lands.

Prove to me that all the seculars then were fair and democratic for one to practice their religion, like they let us openly in America and then I will stand on your side and fight against the Haredim. I am so confident you cannot prove it because whatever you say I will bring up the yemenites. It is one wrong thing to teach yemenites in school to become more secular but why did they kidnap them and tell the parents in cold blood they died to drop them off in a secular home.

Charles would you not become an extreme haredi if your relative was kidnapped from you and put up for adoption because you were too religious.

BUSH , USA (02.01.07)

71. to #34 Chabad is not kosher!

I worked for a year and a half at two chabad schools.They teach the children to not serve in the I.D.F.

The principal announced on Holocaust Memorial Day and Heroes and Martyrs Day not to stand for the siren! Independence Day is a regular day for them.And like arab schools they do not fly the Israeli flag,just the chabad rag.

I saw and heard them calling females soldiers filthy names.Names that belong to their mothers and sisters.

jason white , afula,israel (02.01.07)

72. To Steve (#5)

Why shouldn't women be "ministers," in your view? Is " to minister," which means "to serve" or "attend to the needs and wants of others," a strictly male activity?

Jasmin , Haifa (02.02.07)

73. Other sort of missionairies!

When I saw the title of this article, I thought, Oh no, not those disgusting `Jews for gsus`-types! Bleghh! If you ask me, this kind of "missionairy" is GREAT! Peepz, when you comment about this kind of missionairy, you should focus on non-Jewish missionairies!!!! This kind of missionairy, could better be called, the strenghtening of Jewish lives.

John , Amsterdam, Holland (02.02.07)

74. Charles, not all Haredim are fanatic

Let's not forget that many of them serve in hospitals that have gone on strike, they are the first to arrive at the bloody scene of suicide bombers to help the wounded and to collect body parts.

You also cannot take away the fact that they preserved the Jewish heritage during 2000 years of exile.

Many are now actually beginning to serve in the IDF and are undergoing significant change and will be indistinguishable from other Jews in the near future. Even now a large percentage of our physicists, biologists, mathematicians and doctors are observant Jews. So to classify ALL Orthodox Jews as useless fanatics seems totally uncalled for.

Beth Landau , Tel Aviv, Israel (02.02.07)

75. insanity personified

this womans face should be put in the dictionary under the definition of dumb.

standash , calgary canada (02.02.07)

76. Beth Landau # 74

You are right , and i never denied it .

In the Charidi community there are fonderfull people . Sad to say , and that's always so , with every topic , the good sides of people do not make headlines . Only the bad . But are they more tolerant towards seculars ? Do they respect their ideas ? Or simply , do they respect them ?

An example of no information :

On 18 th January there was a splendid commemoration in Paris to honour the French Righteous . President Chirac made a fantastic speech , condemning antisemitism . Did you hear this ? Only one line in an article talking about the condemnation of a racist . Nothing on the radio , exept in the French language news bulletin of Kol Israel .

charles , petach tikva (02.02.07)

77. Bush and New york

It seems to me that you are proud to live in New York , because you hear much Hebrew speaking people , and you have a vast choice of Synagogues . Are you also proud of the high % of mixed couples ? As you have lived two years here , you probably speak Hebrew . Your children too ? And the other religious ? are they speaking Hebrew ? No , they don't . Lashon Kodesh .

In the town where i lived , in galut , more than 90 % , maybe 95 , of ALL jewish children receive a full time Jewish education , the seculars also ! My children went to such a school from kindergarten , till age 18

When my youngest was 11 , she had already been here 3 times , and then made a 3 weeks long school trip to Israel . And both of my children spoke a good Hebrew [ not as the Sabras of course ] And this brings also that there are not so much mixed couples as in the town you like so .

I'll tell you , in Galut where you live , and i lived , you have to give your children a Jewish education . Here we are in the midst of Jewish History . Every street corner in Jerusalem and other places are the evidence of this . You can be Jewish without praying or your secular children beeing brainwashed by Chabad teachers .

charles , petach tikva (02.02.07)

78. Bush , and the Temanim

This was a sad , very sad story , i knew it .

Let me tell you that this was NOT on the agenda of the political parties . Not of the secular , nor of the religious . They , being members of the government shared also the responsability for this . And so nobody was talking about . The Temanim were considered as second class citizens , and not taken in account . So giving this fact as argument for extremism is wrong . I have lived some months in Rosh Haayin . As you maybe know , a vast quantity of Temanim live there . I have not seen many of those black suits there . They are religious , yes , but not those charidi extremists [ not all charidi behave badly ]

The Shas party was created in 1984 , they founded this party because the other charidi did not give them enough places . Again this disrespect for the Mizrachim by the Ashkenazim .

So telling that the case with the Temanim was the base of charidi extremism is , at least , wrong .

I'm of Ashkenazi origin , so not biaised in my opinions .

Have a fine Shabbat

charles , petach tikva (02.02.07)

79. Bush abiding the Law

I believe you . Since your precedent mair of New york issued a "zero tolerance" towards crime you certainly will not dare to do what your friends are doing here . And here they stay , mostly , not punished . Even when they injure passers by or police officers !

charles , petach tikva (02.02.07)

80. Keep CULTS out of schools!!

These are NOT mainstream Jews.My God just look at them!!WHO in 2007 dresses like an 18th century Polish peasant??What Jew believes their "rebbe" is the messiah??Please keep these strange and dangerous fanatics away from your children.

Jewish CANADIAN , Toronto Canada (02.02.07)

81. # 80 keep cults out of schools????


82. Millionaire try Billionarie


83. Brainwashing?

FYI the actual Jesuit motto is "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man," a sentiment first stated by Francis Xavier.

The author of this piece twists the meaning of this considerably.

Izzy Bee , Jerusalem (02.04.07)

84. Go Lev, Go!!

That's the spirit.

David , London (02.05.07)

85. Billionaire

Gveret Aloni:

Mr. Leviev is more 'precious' (as you like to call him) than you make him.

He's a billionaire not a millionaire.

Reader , Jerusalem, Israel (02.06.07)