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Friday, April 25, 2008

Yosef Samuels: Binding Jews To Judaism

By: Mimi Notik

It all started 40 years ago.

One Monday morning, Yosef Samuels woke abruptly to his father’s announcement that war had broken out in Israel. The year was 1967, and Samuels was a young yeshiva student. He hurriedly made his way to 770 Eastern Parkway, the Brooklyn address of the Lubavitch World Headquarters, to join others in seeking guidance from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

But when he got to the doors, he was halted by Rabbi Dovid Raskin, head of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. Addressing the student’s jumpiness, Rabbi Raskin simply told him, "You have to go put tefillin on people."

Indeed, in his public remarks on the previous Shabbat, the Rebbe addressed the mitzvah of tefillin with a unique vigor. Quoting various Talmudic passages, he spoke about tefillin ensuring the safety of our brothers and sisters in Israel. That Shabbat, the Rebbe gave specific instructions to go out and find other Jewish men to perform the important mitzvah. But his orders took some digesting.

"Nobody knew what the Rebbe wanted," said Samuels, "Who knew how to approach a stranger and tell him to roll up his sleeve? You can’t just do something like that!"

Samuels knew what he had to do. A bank stood across from 770; without delay, Samuels marched right in. With bravery he didn’t know he had, him, the yeshiva student went straight to the president of the bank. "You know there’s a war?" he asked him. The bank president nodded yes and, in an unimaginably ideal response, asked, "What can I do?"

Now, many years later, Samuels tells the rest of the story with wonderment in his voice: "Here was a banker looking at a penniless yeshiva boy. But when I told him about tefillin, he got up and took me upstairs to his private office." It was there in that office that Samuels put tefillin on someone for the very first time.

It was a moment that shaped the rest of his life.

Since that day in the small office atop a Brooklyn bank, Samuels has virtually never put his tefillin bag down, committed to a lifestyle that has by now touched close to a hundred thousand lives.

"Whatever I do is connected to tefillin," said Samuels. "It is the air I breathe."

Wherever he is, there are his tefillin: at community events, hospitals, shopping centers, on planes and anywhere else imaginable. When guests are expected for Shabbat, he phones them to ensure they come before sundown, lest they miss the opportunity to put on tefillin.

When he gives a class, his students often leave with more than new information – they take away a lasting inspiration from a mitzvah that, as he clearly sees it, effectuates a strong connection that rejuvenates their inherent bond with Torah and mitzvot.

"The Six Day War was a very powerful time," he said. "There was a massive spiritual awakening among the people."

He recalled visiting universities on Fridays. With a small group of friends, he would stand for hours putting tefillin on students. One time, at Queens College, they had a line that snaked down countless steps and into the cafeteria. Once, the swarms of people wanting to put on tefillin kept Samuels and his fellow yeshiva students there until they had to rush back home for Shabbat. They were still driving when sundown, and the onset of Shabbat, was moments away. They had no choice but to park, lock everything into the car and continue home by foot.

"Someone who puts on tefillin with others has the opportunity to really see the greatness of people, of their souls," he explained. "This affects the way he interacts with people, friends and family, bringing a renewed respect for everyone. When one rolls up his sleeves, you’re watching the greatness of a Jew."

"People often become serious and very emotional," he added. "No one wraps tefillin without some deep emotion. Nobody walks away from it apathetic."

Plenty of Jews have found their Jewish connection to Judaism through Samuels’s tefillin. One such person, Scott Heifetz, became close to the rabbi while mourning the loss of his father, a college professor who learned with Samuels. After the funeral, the son discovered his father’s tefillin bag and asked Samuels what he should do with them.

The rabbi’s natural response changed Scott’s life: "Well, you have to put them on." Today, Heifetz lives a religious life and testified that "putting on tefillin is certainly a catalyst for doing other mitzvot."

Samuels says he is still looking to inspire others. "There is so much to accomplish, we need more to join."

Miami Chabad House Burned, Arson Suspected

“Fire destroyed our shul please help”

“Fire destroyed our shul please help” was the title of the email I received from my Rabbi in Miami, Rabbi Zeev Katz on Wednesday April 23. The desperate plea in his voice expresses how many of us, congregants of Chabad on Wheels in Miami Beach, feel today. I found out yesterday afternoon that my Jewish home and sanctuary for over two years, a place that had been integral to the development of my Jewish identity, had been devastated and its interior destroyed by an overnight fire. The fire is believed to have started around 2 am and cleared at around 7 am Tuesday morning, and the area is now under complete investigation as a potential arson / act of anti-Semitism. See below article about the incident for more info and a video at the scene.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami_dade/story/506012.html

Below is the Chabad website with images of the destruction and information on how to donate:

http://www.chabadonwheels.com/

I spoke to the Rebbetzin, Rabbi Katz’s wife on the phone today and she told me that when the janitor of the synagogue first called them on Tuesday morning to tell them their synagogue had burned down, they thought it must be a joke. The Rabbi and his wife ran over to the synagogue, which had already been classified by the fire department as an accidental fire set off by lit candles inside the building. The Rabbi and Rebbitzen did not believe that was possible, and upon seeing littered pieces of Torah, prayer books and shawls that appeared intentionally destroyed, the police, CSI, and fire department returned and cordoned off the area as a probable crime scene. Besides some ripped remnants, the Torah is completely missing. The Rebbetzin says that the outpouring of support from community churches, synagogues, and citizens has been overwhelming and that while they hope to discover who and what was behind the fire, they are putting their focus on rebuilding the Chabad on Wheels.

Rabbi Katz originally began his Chabad several years ago using an RV called the “Mitzvah Mobile”, which he would drive to businesses, people’s homes, or park out by the pedestrian Lincoln Road to infuse a little Judaism in people’s lives. He used his RV, or Chabad on Wheels, to engage Miami Beach tourists and locals in putting on Tefillin and handing out holiday necessities such as Chanukah candles, maintaining the practice even upon founding the actual Chabad house. Rabbi Katz has touched the lives of hundreds of Jews worldwide, giving Miami tourists a temporary Jewish home and the Miami community a dedicated Shaliach to help add just a little more Yiddishkite into their lives.

I am completely shocked and saddened by this horrible event. Before moving to San Francisco in October, I had spent two years living a short walk from Chabad on Wheels in Miami Beach, and Rabbi Katz’s community was a large foundation of my Miami experience. I first went to Chabad for Yom Kippur services in October 2005 and was attracted to the humble sense of community and openness that I found. By January 2006, I was a regular at Shabbat services, which ranged from 15 people, just barely enough for a minyan on some evenings, to 70 – 80 for a big well-advertised Shabbat. I grew with Chabad, seeing the synagogue develop from only having Friday night services every other week to a full Friday and Saturday morning service offering.

A random assortment of recent transplants in their early 20s, along with occasional families, black hatters, non-religious senior citizens, and interested tourists made up the regular diverse mix of Chabad. Within the oddball assortment of Chabadniks, I made some of my best friends in the world, and in a place far from our own families; we became brothers and sisters to each other. Chabad on Wheels was a real community; we would all help out in the kitchen, preparing Shabbat lunches, decorate our synagogue together on holidays, have Shabbat dinner at our own homes and at the Rabbi’s home, celebrate birthdays together at Chabad, and talk to the Rabbi or the Rebbetzin about our every day life and challenges. Rabbi Katz put up the mezuzot in my apartment for me, guided my roommate and me in cleaning our house for Pesach, and just a year ago, I celebrated Pesach with Chabad. We had barbeques on Yom Tov, ate together in our Chabad sukkah and my close-knit Chabad “posse” of friends took road trips, went out on Saturday nights, and put on meals and parties together for every Jewish and secular occasion. My friends Joe and Ilana met a Chabad, announced their engagement on Shabbat, and we all went up to their Rabbi-Katz led wedding in New York. The posse Chabad girls again reunited in Israel this January for our friend Rachael’s wedding, and we held up a sign to make the bride laugh: “The posse formed at Chabad on Wheels.” These girls were the ones who inspired me to consistently push my spirituality and grow as a Jew, supported me in starting to keep kosher, and formed my Jewish home and family in Miami.

One of the most important days at Chabad was when we dedicated our Torah, which was a huge festivity symbolizing how important it was for our community to finally have its own sacred scroll. This Torah is now missing, with some parts desecrated by the fire. For someone who was intimately involve with Chabad on Wheels, what happened on April 22 causes real pain – that our synagogue was destroyed along with the objects most familiar and sacred to us.

Being 3,000 miles away now, I feel very removed from what is happening on the ground, and only through conversations with community members and the online images, can I try to understand. When I first saw the pictures, I had a horrible feeling in my stomach, like I was seeing destruction from Crystalnacht, and it is surreal to think that this is not 70 years ago in Germany – this is now and this is my synagogue. We do not know what happened and maybe never will, but this incident should serve as a reminder that we cannot take Judaism and our religious freedom for granted. I hope that Chabad on Wheels rebuilds with strength and dignity and continues its mission of making Judaism accessible and beautiful to the Miami community. I thank Rabbi Katz and the Chabad community for everything they do, and my heart is with them in this painful experience.

Please help to assist Chabad on Wheels in rebuilding:

You can send checks to:

Chabad Fire Fund Att Rabbi Zev Katz
PO Box 2591
Miami Beach, FL 33140

Or go to: http://www.chabadonwheels.com/ and click on the link to donate.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Boys (of Chabad) are Back in Town

I was totally bummed when an e-mail arrived from Chabad's Africa headquarters announcing that two more rabbis would be coming to Tanzania for Pesach if only because I would miss a prime blogging opportunity. So while the kids and I continue to enjoy a bit of vacation in the US, my friend Ruth has gratefully agreed to guest blog for me about the latest rabbinical mission to Tanzania for Passover. Thank you, Ruth!

Finding a vibrant – if small – Jewish community in Tanzania has been one of the many pleasant surprises that has marked my time here. As has been recounted on this blog, the focal person of this community is incomparable Penina, Israeli matriarch and owner of the atmospheric Middle Eastern restaurant Nargila on the peninsula.

Penina most recently gathered the tribe at Yom Kippur, but sadly I was out of town so did not get to take part in Shmuli's Big Yom Kippur Adventure. So, I was happy last week when Hally forwarded me an email from the "boys of Chabad" (as they called themselves) informing her that they were coming for Passover and asking her to tell all the Jews of Dar.

For the uninitiated, Chabad is a Hasidic movement of Orthodox Judaism. As far as I can tell, Chabad is the closest Jews get to missionaries. While they don't proselytize, they try to gather "lost" Jews and help get them on track to be more observant. The rabbis that Chabad dispatches to far-flung places such as Tanzania tend to be young and still in rabbinical training. As I joked to my housemate Michelle, Chabad is a bit like Peace Corps for Orthodox Jews. She informed me that Chabad actually does have a program called "Mitzvah Corps."

Two years ago, I attended my first Passover Seder at Nargila with the Jews of Dar. This Seder was officiated by two timid Chabad rabbis from Brooklyn who were no match for Penina. It did not help when one of them clearly began showing symptoms of malaria as he was supposed to be leading us in prayer. The official business was cut short after the rabbis finally gave into complaints from hungry Israelis that the food was burning and would they just get on with it.

Last year, there were no Chabadniks, and so the Israelis ran the show, almost all in Hebrew, which made things less fun for those of us who only vaguely know the Passover story in English.

But this year, Chabad gave us Meyer. Big, friendly, joke-cracking Meyer, with the beautiful singing voice. I was particularly fond of Meyer after it was revealed within the first five minutes of our meeting that we had both grown up in the same neighborhood (Squirrel Hill) of the same city (Pittsburgh). And indeed he looked just like the guys I used to see going to Kosher Mart on Murray Avenue in big beat-up station wagons with "MOSHIACH NOW!" bumper stickers.

(Meyer came with another smaller, quieter rabbi, but so overshadowed was he that none of us can even remember his name.)

This year's Seder was particularly impressive in that there were nearly 60 people in attendance. I asked Penina's eldest daughter how they found all these Jews and she just shook her head and said, "They found us!"

The small American contingent included three 19-year-olds traveling the world on a "gap year" before starting college in the Fall. They seemed rather exhausted from their travels, but maybe it was just from the 8-hour bus ride they had taken from Moshi that day to get to Dar in time for Seder.

There were also two very sweet British couples, a Scandinavian woman, and a whole lot of Israelis. It was very amusing to observe the contrast between the rabbis and the Israelis, most of whom are very secular – at least in outward appearance. Whereas Michelle and I had taken care to dress "appropriately" in long skirts and conservative tops, many of the Israeli women sported tight pants, low-cut, sequined tops, and dark lipstick.

One particularly amusing tableau was at the end of the Seder, when Meyer was trying valiantly to finish the prayers. As he swayed and chanted in Hebrew, an Israeli woman who had left the table looked on from the bar with a bemused expression, cigarette in hand.

In addition to Rabbi Meyer, one of the more memorable characters was the guy sitting across from me, who I'll call "Jacques Cousteau." Jacques is a 40-ish freelance Scuba diving instructor, currently based on Mafia Island. He exhibited the classic Israeli trait of frankness, explaining that, "when most people think of Tanzania, they think it is going to be so exotic, but let me tell you, Mafia is a really shitty place."

When he was done complaining, Jacques showed off his party trick, which was to tell people what their "Jewish birthday" is. For instance, after I told him I was born on June 30, 1982, he screwed up his face for about two minutes and then pronounced, "Wednesday, Tammuz 9!"

And thus, I learned something new at the Seder, which is fitting with the spirit of Passover, and of Judaism, which encourages us to always continue learning and questioning.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bush cites Chabad education project

A U.S. president for the 30th consecutive year has proclaimed Education and Sharing Day USA, a project of Chabad-Lubavitch.

Ten Chabad emissaries from around the world visited President Bush in the Oval Office Tuesday. Bush signed a proclamation making Wednesday Education and Sharing Day USA.

Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the chairman of the executive committee of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, said the annual event was instituted by the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, in 1978 when Jimmy Carter occupied the White House.

It is repeated annually on Schneerson’s Hebrew birthday, which began Tuesday night, in honor of his interest in teaching moral values in school. Schneerson was an early advocate of a Department of Education separate from the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

“It’s symbolic but an important component of calling attention to education, which the rebbe said was far more than teaching tools” such as math and reading skills, “but involve the development of character,” said Shemtov, who also is the national director of Friends of Lubavitch. “Education is the root of civilization, and the lack of it, or its distortion, is the reason for all the evils in the world.”

Some presidents receive the annual delegation more warmly than others, Shemtov said, adding that "today we came away with the feeling it was more than symbolic.”

The emissaries presented Bush with a Passover Haggadah. Bush signed a second Haggadah that will be sent to Jewish troops overseas.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Living with Moshiach

...Some day, he says, there may be no need for such symbols at seder tables. “When that happens, we’ll have an apolitical seder. We’ll also be living with Moshiach.”

Friday, April 11, 2008

Blog post: What a Chabad principal can acheive

The Last Amazon blogs:

(click through to his blog for live links)

Long time readers of this blog know that I am in midst of writing a book. It should have been done by now but my hard drive fried about a year and a bit ago and the book went up in a puff of cyber smoke. Of course, I hadn’t done anything practical like back up my hard drive or print out hard copies (of even my notes) - so I have had to start from scratch. The pace has been more ebb then flows as I keeping getting bogged down in researching background material for my story. The background material has lead to some truly fascinating reading and I have had a tendency to get a mite carried away with one idea after another.

What many of you don’t know is that my story centers around one of Mal’akh Ha’maret or Angels of Death. I got the idea for the story in a bookstore after a chance encounter with an obviously mentally ill homeless woman who was presumably begging outside the bookstore the children and I were entering.

I say presumably because she didn’t ask me for money although she did ask everyone before me. What she did ask me was whether I knew I was walking with Angels. She appeared to be quite taken back by the idea. At the time, I answered quite smugly that I did know - as I had one of my children on either side of me. Thinking about her comment in the bookstore brought back a slight remembrance of a Talmudic story my grandfather once told me. The memory of it is somewhat elusive even now. It had something to do with two of Mal’akh being sent to follow you home after davening in a shul. One was to strength your good intentions while the other sought to encourage your bad intentions. I only remember it because I remember thinking it hardly seemed fair or just. Anyway, the woman’s comment triggered this vague memory which got me thinking about guardian angels and wondering if they ever get distracted. Don’t ask how logically walking with angels lead to a distracted guardian angel which leads to an angel of death but just know one idea inevitably flows into another in my mind.

My grandfather had an early association with Breslovers, and then with Chabad at the end of his life. Until recently, I never really did much reading concerning the Chassidic movement in general, but researching this book has lead me down some strange paths. Currently, I am in the midst of reading Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson’s discourses on Heaven on Earth and Forces of Creation. It is a little hard to avoid learning anything about the Chabad movement without learning a great deal about the last Lubavitch Rebbe as well. Now I am not ready to name him the Moshiach but I am beginning to think of him as one of the truly inspired of our time.

Normally, a Chassidic Jew would live very separate and apart from the secular community surrounding his religious community - as in - not even in death shall the twain shall meet. Rabbi Schneerson changed all that with his Chabad movement or his own particular brand of Jewish outreach. Rebbe Schneerson sent out specially trained rabbis to act as Shulichim (his personal embassaries) with the goal of establishing Chabad Houses literally all over the world with the express purpose of bringing back secular Jews to a more religious life one mitzvah at a time.

In the Lubavitch tradition a ‘tish’ (or table meal) with a Rebbe or Chabad Shaliach is often referred to a farbrengen. I found this video courtesy of a commenter at Joe Settler’s blog and decided maybe the next time Toronto School Board Trustees need to go recruiting for principals for secondary schools in Toronto - they start by wangling an invitation for the next Chabad farbrengen.

Jews rally to help in search

The Jewish community from throughout the world has rallied behind the mounting search for missing Israeli backpacker Liat Okin, last seen on the Routeburn Track more than two weeks ago.

Two Christchurch-based New York rabbis from the international Jewish outreach group Chabad-Lubavitch were contacted by the parents of the missing 35-year-old Israeli social worker on Tuesday, just as the pair were about to fly to Queenstown after hearing of her disappearance.

Chabad New Zealand director Rabbi Mendel Goldstein said offers had flooded in from Israeli backpackers who have served in the infantry, and the New Zealand Jewish community, to help in the search.

Rabbi Goldstein and his assistant Oren Raz flew over the search area on Thursday witnessing first-hand the rugged terrain confronting searchers.

A copy of a Southland Times story given to them yesterday, recounting the miracle survival and rescue of two Israeli tourists off the Routeburn Track in 1987, was like an answered prayer to Rabbi Goldstein.

Udi and Nitzan Milo survived on a 2m by 3m ledge for five freezing nights below Emily Pass, where searchers have been looking for Ms Okin.

The Milos had fallen and fortuitously landed on the tiny ledge above an 80m waterfall. In desperation they flashed a mirror and Invercargill man Stuart Ryder noticed a flickering light from the Routeburn Falls Hut, raising the alarm.

In 1997 the pair flew back to Queenstown to thank their hero, rescue pilot the late Dennis Egerton.

"This story is just so inspiring — this is exactly what we've been envisioning," Rabbi Goldstein said.

"We keep telling her (Ms Okin's) parents what Grand Rabbi Menachem Schneerson has always urged us in such times as this, to think good and it will be good, remain positive and keep believing," Rabbi Goldstein said.

"She has been missing longer but not necessarily lost longer in her mind. She was very adventurous and fluid in terms of her plans," he said.

Ms Okin was renowned for her enormous willpower.

"Family and friends say she would never, absolutely never, give up," Rabbi Goldstein said.

Rabbi Goldstein said funding had been approved by the Sydney base of Chabad for extra search helicopters if required.

Uzbek authorities revoke accreditation of the head of Jewish Chabad Lubavitch movement

The Associated Press
Friday, April 11, 2008

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan: Uzbek authorities have revoked the accreditation of the local head of the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish movement, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

Ministry spokesman Zhalolbek Abdusattarov said Tashkent-based Rabbi Abe David Gurevich breached local registration rules and that his organization failed to submit correct financial and accounting reports.

Gurevich also designated himself chief rabbi in the ex-Soviet republic without seeking authorization from the relevant government agencies, the ministry said.

The Chabad Lubavitch movement will, however, continue to operate in Uzbekistan, Abdusattarov said. The movement, a New York-based organization of Hasidic Jews, enjoys strong support in the Baltics, Russia and other former republics of the Soviet Union.

Gurevich declined to comment on the announcement.

There are few reported cases of state pressure against Jewish groups in the Central Asian nation, but the denial of registration to religious groups is common.

Gurevich's secretary, Karina Loifer, and her mother, Svetlana, were murdered in June 2006. Authorities said after investigations the killing was not motivated by anti-Semitism.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Making an Impact

Chabad is a specific Jewish movement trying to generally impact Jews.

Chabad - Chabad-Lubavitch

What: Chabad-Lubavitch is a sect of the Hasidic movement in Judaism. Hasidism started with the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name) in 18th-century Poland and emphasizes giving full meaning to ritual observances in Judaism in the hope of bringing messiah’s arrival closer. The Lubavitch sect which formed Chabad was started 250 years ago in Russia. The Chabad movement itself is an outreach effort to fellow Jews that was started in the 1940s.

From the Archives: The Front line of the Rebbe’s Army

Chabad Lubavitch

Emissary couple establishes a beachhead of Hasidic Judaism in Peoria

Rabbi Eli Langsam sits down, removes his black felt hat - part of the Hasidic tradition of dressing like their European ancestors - and places it next to a stack of books and notes on his table.

His head is still covered by a black yarmulke as he prepares to teach Torah to people sitting at other tables arranged in a U- shape. The two dozen or so attendees of the monthly Lunch and Learn session held in a conference room of a local business munch on vegetables and bagels as Langsam begins expounding on a topic from an ultraorthodox Jewish point of view.

Two years after arriving in Peoria, Langsam and his wife, Sarah, two members of what has become known as “the Rebbe’s Army,” have firmly established a Lubavitch Chabad beach head in downstate Illinois.

They have started a preschool, a summer camp, and monthly classes for both mixed audiences and women only. They hold special seasonal events, such as the recent “Shofar Factory,” at which participants learned how to fashion their own shofars from a goat’s horn for use during the Jewish High Holidays, which start at sundown Friday with Rosh Hashanah.

They invite Jews to their house for Sabbath meals on Fridays and go to their homes for private lessons. They meet with students at area colleges. They help Jews clean and prepare their homes so they fit with orthodox understanding of being kosher.

Langsam has affixed mezuzahs, small cases containing Scripture passages, on doorposts of about 50 Jewish homes in central Illinois. He frequently carries a set of tefillin, leather boxes containing Scripture passages, so he can don it on Jewish men at a second’s notice.

He and his wife visit Jews in nursing homes, hospitals and prisons on a weekly basis.

The Langsams are most proud of the mikveh, or ritual bath, that they have built, providing downstate Jewish women a more convenient location in which to become ritually clean after their menstrual period or after giving birth.

“We are the first Chabad center in central Illinois,” he said. A new one is being opened in Champaign.

Eli and Sarah Langsam are among thousands of other Hasidic Jews who are members of the Lubavitch sect continuing the effort of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson to spread orthodox Jewish observance around the world in an attempt to bring the messiah’s arrival closer.

“They try to get one more Jewish person to do one more Jewish thing,” said Peorian Laura Kessler, who attends Chabad functions.

Emissaries, or schlichim, of Chabad head out to areas with isolated Jewish populations, like Peoria, and start programs and relationships aimed at increasing traditional Jewish practice. There are currently more than 4,000 families serving 2,700 Chabad centers around the world. Rather than waning after the 1994 death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the fundamental inspiration behind Chabad, the movement has actually picked up speed.

The Langsams, both of whom had the desire to be schlichim long before they met, themselves chose Peoria and downstate Illinois. They did so knowing it was for the long haul. They’re planning to stay here for life.

“We’re here until moshiach comes,” Langsam said, using the Hebrew word for messiah.

“Peoria’s a beautiful place. People are very welcoming. It’s so small, you can get to know everyone on a personal level,” he said.

One of the things Chabad has given the Peoria area, and downstate Illinois, is an orthodox Jewish presence. Reform Jewish temples are scattered among cities like Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield, Galesburg and Danville. There have been only a couple Conservative synagogues and no Orthodox synagogues downstate, though Peoria’s Agudas Achim is very traditional in its practice.

The Chabad presence in Peoria may be about to become more permanent and visible. The organization is on the verge of purchasing property which would bring most of the group’s functions under one roof, including Sabbath and holiday services.

While some members of the Jewish community see Chabad’s presence as being in competition with existing Jewish congregations, Langsam said he’s not trying to pull anybody away from the other synagogues. But, he said, if they want to attend Chabad, they’re free to come.

“We’re another brand that’s available. We welcome everybody who’s Jewish,” he said, adding that, “We’re not a missionary service. We don’t look for members on our team, we look for members to work with.”

Non-Jews are, though, welcome at Chabad functions, he said.

Langsam said things in Peoria and the surrounding area have been “going better than good.”

“The reception from the Peoria Jewish community has been very welcoming.”

So welcoming that the Langsams are able to raise all the money they need locally. Like other schlichim, though, they had to raise $75,000 to cover their first year’s expenses.

“We get along with everybody,” Langsam said. “We don’t discriminate against any type of affiliation or background. We’re definitely meeting a lot of unaffiliated people. We’re finding out there are more Jews in Peoria than we thought.”

Some of those Jews have had concerns about Chabad’s presence and activities, though.

For instance, Peoria Congregation Anshai Emeth’s board of directors in June passed three “Chabad Policies” which say that, unless the board makes an exception, Chabad notices and announcements will not be published in the congregation’s newsletter and congregation funds won’t be used to directly subsidize or pay for goods or services provided by Chabad. Another policy also made it clear that rules and fees that apply to other groups which frequently use the 5614 N. University St. facility also apply to Chabad.

That action was taken around the time congregation members such as Dr. Glenn Miller began expressing concerns about interaction with Chabad.

Miller said he recognizes Chabad’s freedom to operate as another type of Judaism. His main concern, he said, was any appearance of endorsement or support of Chabad by Anshai Emeth. The congregation is Reform; Chabad doesn’t recognize Reform rabbis or converts. Miller said he thought it wasn’t appropriate for the congregation to be endorsing or supporting a group which doesn’t recognize it as a legitimate branch of Judaism.

Miller said his concerns weren’t personally directed at Langsam.

“He seems like a really nice guy,” the doctor said of the rabbi. “I think he filled a void in our city. Chabad has a lot of well- organized activities.”

Temple president Bonnie Fenton said while the Reform congregation respects many different expressions of Judaism, the board still wanted to “create guidelines so that all non-tenant organizations would be under the same policies regarding building usage and building fees.”

While some members of the Peoria Jewish community are indifferent or concerned about Chabad’s presence, others have embraced the Langsams, turning out regularly for classes and events.

“He’s really made an impact on the Jewish community in terms of spreading Judaism to young and old individuals alike, every person,” said Randy Calisoff, who is studying at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.

Another Haggadah On The Market, But This One Is Special

A Review of the Kol Menachem Haggadah
By: The Commentator

Posted: 4/7/08

With over 3,000 editions on record, the Pesach Haggadah stands as the most printed Jewish text of all time. Practically all the great Rishonim and Akharonim published their own commentary to the Haggadah. And if they didn't, then Artscroll has likely put something together based on other assorted writings within the last twenty years.

Rabbi Soloveitchik has a Haggadah and Shlomo Carlebach has one, too. So, then, why shouldn't the Lubavitcher Rebbe have one, also?

In fact, before he took his place as Grand Rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn printed Likutei Ta'amim u'Minhagim, a commentary of the Haggadah that, aside from serving as a standard running commentary on passages of the text, aims to articulate the halakhic positions and customs of Chabad for the seder night. Although there have been several reprints of the Rebbe's first printed work - including a more esthetically pleasing retyped version in 1991 by Kehot - Rabbi Chaim Miller, author of the popular Kol Menachem/Gutnick Library series featuring the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, felt the need to bring to light a new commentary.

The new book is in English, ensuring that newcomers to Judaism, many of whom are in that position due to Chabad, will be able to appreciate the work. A mixed blessing, the Rebbe's vast writings for the most part remain in Hebrew and Yiddish. While many of us are comfortable with Hebrew, later generations are powerless against Yiddish while many struggle with the Hebrew texts. Moreover, many of the Rebbe's texts are "collections" without much of an order, making it difficult for readers to study the Rebbe's thoughts on subjects that may be found sporadically throughout the Rebbe's printed volumes.

Thankfully, Rabbi Miller's recently published Kol Menachem Haggadah solves these two problems. With great elegance, Rabbi Miller presents a dual commentary below the standard Haggadah text. In one section entitled Classic Questions, the reader will find, as he will in all books within the Kol Menachem series, thoughts and comments of over one hundred rabbinic scholars who lived throughout the ages. Most familiar with the Haggadah will quickly realize that this section offers an interesting selection of commentaries to very standard and often-asked seder night questions. Although this part of the book offers some halakhic insights as well, it serves mostly as a raid of rabbinic commentaries so that those who use the Kol Menachem Haggadah won't feel left out of the conversation.

The novel section of the work is most certainly the Toras Menachem section found at the bottom of every page. In this skillfully edited portion, Rabbi Miller utilizes writings found in Likutei Ta'amim u'Minhagim, the Rebbe's commentary of Rashi, and other writings and testimonies by Chabad's deceased leader and those who were close to him. Moreover, while it is certainly too limited in space to serve as an update for Likutei Ta'amim u-Minhagim, Rabbi Miller takes advantage of including an array of the Rebbe's teachings in lamdus, mysticism, halakhah, and of course, p'shat.

The only criticism one can reasonably hold over the beautifully laid out volume is that it incorporates very little memories and narratives about the Rebbe's seder table. Indeed, while Rabbi Miller writes in his foreword that he used Otzer Minhagei Chabad, a previously published account of the Rebbe's seder customs as observed by his students, and information culled from discussions with others close to the Rebbe, he elected not to be a storyteller. As a major figure of twentieth century American Judaism, it seems critical for the historical record that such narratives are produced. Owing to the breadth of this text's interests, it would seem fitting that stories of the Rebbe's seder be included along with his halakhic and exegetic commentaries.

But it would be unfair to say that we will merely "settle" for this important and monumental Haggadah worthy to be used at any seder table this Pesach.

© Copyright 2008 The Commentator

Rabbi's bakery blends families, bread

By DEAN SHALHOUP, Telegraph Staff
dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com

MANCHESTER – Scott Schaeffer and his family buy their matzo bread at the store, he says, only because "we don't have the (utensils) to make it at home."

But that didn't stop the 11-year-old Brookline youth from diving right into the clouds of flour that rose from several tables at the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire center Sunday, where he and a couple of dozen other kids gathered for Rabbi Levi Krinsky's famous Model Matzah Bakery, a fun-and-learning experience that he holds each year just before Passover.

Model Matzah Bakery, an outreach program that encourages Jewish children and their families to participate in one of the faith's oldest traditions, is a project of Chabad Lubavitch New Hampshire, of which Krinsky is director. Children begin the afternoon by watching an educational video, then get to don plastic aprons and paper hats to follow Krinsky's step-by-step directions to make their own matzo (sometimes spelled "matzah" or "matzoh") bread from scratch.

The activity is held roughly two weeks before the start of Passover, when members of the Jewish faith are encouraged to study the history and laws of the eight-day festival that commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

Passover begins April 20 this year, which is 5768 on the Jewish calendar. Observances can start as early as April 17 with the observance of the Fast of the Firstborn.

"Look at this young lady here . . . not too thin, not too thick, just right – nice job," Krinsky announced, his voice booming throughout the center's auditorium as he peered over the shoulder of tiny matzo-maker Gaia Gilat. Gaia, 5, and her parents moved to Nashua just 10 months ago, said her mom, Hila Gilat.Krinsky, a colorful instructor with boundless energy, floated between speech and traditional chants as he coached his little matzo chefs through the process. Using wooden spindles about 18 inches long and tapered at both ends, the kids worked the ball of dough they'd just mixed into flat, round matzos, the unleavened, cracker-like staple of Passover.

"Yes, like that. Now turn your matzo over and push, push, that's right. Roll the other side out flat . . . OK, these are ready for the oven," he said, grabbing a pizza paddle and quickly adding, "Hey, where's my timekeeper?"

Parental spectators, both amused by Krinsky's style and impressed by his knack for keeping his fledgling students focused and interested, leaned in to watch and offer the occasional guiding hand.

Charlie Schaeffer, Scott's father, said the family has been to Krinsky's "matzo party" before. "It's a good way to learn more about our culture, our religion," he said.

Scott, a student at Captain Douglass Academy in Brookline, is also something of an actor, his mother, Lynda Schaeffer, added – he's appeared in commercials for "Transformers" on cable TV's Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

For Krinsky, his popular program is all about making learning effective by making it enjoyable for the kids.

"This is indeed one of our more fun activities," he said after making sure all matzos had been removed from the oven and placed on a giant foil sheet to cool.

"By doing hands-on things like making matzo," Krinsky said, "children are able to appreciate this age-old Jewish tradition and learn the history of their faith.

"Kids want to learn . . . I feel if I create (an atmosphere of) curiosity, they won't go to sleep," he added with a laugh.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6523 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.

© 2007, Telegraph Publishing Company, Nashua, New Hampshire

First Chabad House opening in South Korea

Published: 04/08/2008

A Lubavitch emissary couple arrived in Seoul recently to establish the first Chabad House in South Korea.

Rabbi Osher and Mussia Litzman spent their first Shabbat in the South Korean capital last weekend. Rabbi Litzman has completed his military service in the Israeli army, and both he and his wife have been learning Korean online.

With no synagogues in the country, local Jews gather at a U.S. Army base for Shabbat meals and holiday services. The base is facing imminent closure, according to the chabad.org news service.

The news service reports that Israel’s ambassador to South Korea asked three visiting Lubavitch yeshiva students last year to arrange for permanent Chabad emissaries.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hillel and Chabad work to increase diversity on campus

Jewish organizations share their views on diversity

By: Katelyn Bell
Posted: 4/7/08

Jewish students on campus are saying they think diversity at CU needs to be emphasized more.

"I think that diversity is lacking, hugely," said sophomore music and sociology major and Hillel board member Phillip Rubinstein. "I grew up in a very diverse city and when coming to CU it was a big change."

Rubinstein added that he noticed for the first time how much race affects people's personalities. In Los Angeles, his hometown, Rubinstein said there was tension between racial groups but they still got along.

"You either hated a race or didn't really care," he said. "When coming to Colorado, these students had no experience with other races. I think that as a generality there are large groups of people here that experience different cultures for the very first time."

Hillel has an open door policy in terms of the events and programs they host outside of the Hillel house, and never limit activities to Jewish participants only.

Rubinstein said the open door policy will help the issue of diversity at CU because they do a lot of community of service with a Jewish attitude.

"When we are out doing something we are doing it as a Jewish organization instead of just as students who happen to be Jewish," he said. "We are representing the Jewish community through our actions. We also have specific multicultural outreach programs such as No Pork, which is a Jewish-Muslim alliance and other various programs."

Rubinstein added that not only do they strive to teach others about their culture but they also take the same initiative to learn about others.

Junior psychology and sociology major Rachel Ptaszek is also a board member of Hillel. She agrees with Rubinstein about the limited diversity on campus.

"I think that it's unfortunate that there is a lack of diversity," she said. "By having a limited pool of individuals we are cutting ourselves short of different viewpoints."

Ptaszek said she thinks collaborating with and supporting other multicultural groups can improve diversity relations on campus because it will bridge the gap between cultures.

Other students agreed with Ptaszek's sentiments.

"I feel like the people that are considered minorities are really trying to make an effort to make people aware of other cultures," said sophomore history major and Hillel member Amy Leszman.

Leszman said a few ways Hillel can improve the lack of diversity is through their programs.

"Hillel always puts on a variety of programs…Israel at 60th Birthday Bash," Leszman explained. "Another is the How To, one of them being How To Change The World. Holocaust Awareness Week promotes knowledge of not only the past but Jews in general and other minority groups."

Rebecca Levin, sophomore political science major and president of Chabad, said she thinks the campus should promote inclusion of all groups of people.

"I think there is a really big lack of (diversity) and the diversity that there is here doesn't have a big enough effort to include everyone," Levin said. "The majority of people don't include the minorities enough."

Similar to Hillel, Chabad has an open door policy in that they are open to people who are non-Jewish.

"We encourage our members to invite non-Jewish friends to our Friday night Shabbat, just so that they can see that we all have a lot of similarities to each other," Levin explained. "By doing this people can see that Jewish people are similar to everyone so we can all still relate."

Levin said members of Chabad try to improve diversity by making themselves a noticeable presence on campus.

"It disappoints me that such an academically successful school cannot be successful in diversity," Levin said.

Rick Gaines, a junior MCD biology major and member of Chabad, said he doesn't find CU extremely diverse ethnically but more diverse in the interest and activities on campus.

"Pretty much anything you can think of is a student group," Gaines said. "We have a lot of congregations, sports and political groups which has a lot of diversity."

He added that he thinks President Benson will be directed towards funding which will indirectly lead to more diversity by lowering tuition and increasing financial aid.

Gaines said since Jewish holidays are typically family and community oriented, students will feel welcome in the Jewish organizations on campus. By having a strong sense of community, Gaines said he thinks students will be more willing to come to CU, which will in turn increase diversity.

"We are open to more students in that sense," he said. "When I was a freshman I came down with a bad cold and the rabbi and his wife made me Matzah ball soup and brought it to my dorm. This made me feel very at home. This shows how strong the Jewish community is here."

Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Katelyn Bell at Katelyn.bell@colorado.edu. © Copyright 2008 Campus Press

Rebuilding Jewish Life In Germany

Overcoming financial difficulties and personal fears, twenty-five Jewish college students took part in a historic trip to Berlin during spring break. According to organizers, the city’s Jewish community is better off for it.

"This trip demonstrated that, yes, there is a future for Jewish life in Germany," proclaimed Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, the delegation’s coordinator and co-director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The university-based rabbi derived the idea for the trip after returning from last year’s dedication ceremony of the new Rohr Chabad Center, which serves as the headquarters for Chabad-Lubavitch of Berlin – co-directed by Tiechtel’s brother and sister-in-law, Rabbi Yehuda and Leah Tiechtel.

During their weeklong trip the students cleaned up a Jewish cemetery, visited with residents of a Jewish home for the elderly, celebrated the dedication of a Torah scroll in Frankfurt, helped with Purim preparations, and toured the remains of the Saschenhausen concentration camp. They also met with local political leaders, including Berlin’s Senator of Interior Erhart Koerting and Monika Thiemen, mayor of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.

Harrison Leibow, a student, said that spending Shabbat in a capital that once was the seat of Nazi power was a forceful experience. The Americans’ German counterparts turned out for the occasion, and the two student delegations stayed at the Rohr Chabad Center’s central synagogue for hours after the conclusion of Friday night services.

"Going into the trip, no one really could anticipate the impact that we were going to make on the Jewish community in Germany," said Leibow. "But every day we were in Germany, we saw another man smile in pride.

"The weird thing is, none of us realized how big of an impact the trip would make on us either," he continued. "It was a great trip, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other."

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel stressed that the students not only gave up travel opportunities to such spring break resorts as Acapulco, but that they themselves fund-raised for the Germany mission.
"The financial undertaking was daunting," he explained, "and the parents of the students, as well as many of the students themselves, were apprehensive about a trip to the birthplace of Nazism.


Ryan Scott does some Purim face painting.


"Nevertheless, beginning in September," added the rabbi, "the students took up the project, planned fundraisers and helped set the itinerary."

Funding for part of the trip was made possible by philanthropist George Rohr and his family. Additional support came from Michael and Janet LeRoy and their family. The Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation also awarded a grant to the project.

Following Shabbat in Berlin the students went to Frankfurt Oder, a city on the German-Poland border, where they participated in the dedication of a Torah scroll donated by Chabad-Lubavitch of Berlin in honor of the Americans’ visit. The city was once home to one of Germany’s largest Jewish communities before the Holocaust. After many years of neglect, it is currently experiencing a Jewish revival.

"This was the first Torah dedicated to this community since the Holocaust," said Goldie Tiechtel, the rabbi’s wife and fellow co-director of the Chabad Jewish Student Center. "Even more powerful, three of the students who had never had a bar mitzvah decided to use the opportunity to celebrate that milestone in their lives."

The next day, they went to a Jewish section of the oldest cemetery in Europe to clear overgrown weeds and return headstones – some from the 19th century – to their places. Later, they arranged a Purim event for a Jewish day school in Berlin.

At Berlin’s Jewish home for the elderly they sang songs with the residents, many of whom are Holocaust survivors.

"I went to Germany not knowing what I was going to get out of it," said university student Sabrina Snowsky. "When the trip came to an end, I realized how much I learned about Judaism, Germany, Berlin and the Holocaust. But most important, I learned about myself. I took so much back from every activity, and I think this trip changed me for the best."

Boruch Wolf contributed to this article.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Aspen awaiting first synagogue

$16 million structure on Main Street slated for completion in 2010
By By Julie Hutchinson, Special to the Rocky

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jews have been a part of life in Aspen since miners first staked claims in 1879.

There has been a Jewish congregation in the resort town for 30 years, meeting in a church. Now a second congregation is about to give Aspen its first synagogue.

The $16 million, 34,000-square-foot structure will occupy half a city block at 435 W. Main St. alongside exclusive boutiques, restaurants and high-priced hotels.

The Jewish Community Center Chabad of Aspen, which will incorporate six existing structures declared as historic, will include a sanctuary and lecture hall, ballroom, classrooms, library, gym, mikvah (ritual bath), kosher cafe and retail shop.

The Jewish Community Center bought the land in 2003 for $6.3 million and construction will begin this summer, with completion slated for 2010.

New York-based Chabon Architects worked for more than a year with the city's preservation commission on the design. Aspen-based John Olson Builders will be the general contractor.

Chabad of Aspen will be the first synagogue in the Roaring Fork Valley, according to Executive Director Rabbi Mendel Mintz, 32, who was sent to Aspen eight years ago with his wife, Leiba, after teaching in California and Georgia.

"This is important for many reasons, first and primarily that none of those things that we are building exist now," Mintz said. "Secondly, there is no Jewish home in Aspen. It's a place that has a strong Jewish presence and people who are very proud to be Jewish, not to mention visitors."

The Aspen Jewish Congregation, which is not affiliated with any denomination of Judaism, never built its own facility. Though separate from Mintz's group, the two congregations are friendly.

"We have a good working relationship with them," Mintz said.

Chabad Aspen currently holds classes for about 65 children in a small building on the West Main Street site and counts as many as 1,000 participants during major religious holidays, when services are held at a hotel to accommodate crowds.

Chabad, one of the fastest-growing branches of Orthodox Judaism with centers around the globe, reaches out to all Jews regardless of their level of observance. Mintz said his aim is not to build an Orthodox community but a place where all Jews feel welcome.

He estimates that about 1,000 Jews consider Aspen their primary residence. "If you asked me to prove it, I couldn't - it's based on people you meet on the street," he said.

Aspen isn't the only high-end skiing mecca where new centers of Jewish worship and culture are opening. Mintz's brother, Dovid Mintz, founded the Chabad Center of the Vail Valley in 2006. In May, Jackson Hole, Wyo., will welcome Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn, who visited Aspen for a weekend "to see how we did it," Mintz said.

Certainly one reason Aspen's Jewish population is growing so fast is the rabbi's family. Mintz and his wife have welcomed four children since they arrived in 2000.

"And they're all Aspen natives," Mintz said. "Two of them were on the mountain yesterday."



Major synagogue donors

Chabad Aspen's fundraising goal is $22 million. As of December, $10.2 million had been raised. Some of the million-dollar-plus donors include:

* Steel Partners Foundation. This Aspen-based nonprofit is funded by Steel Partners, a hedge fund operated by entrepreneur Warren Lichtenstein, an ally of billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn.

* Roland and Dawn Arnall. Roland Arnall, who died in Los Angeles on March 17, was ranked No. 85 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans in 2006. He founded Ameriquest Mortgage Co., which ceased doing business last year. Arnall helped found the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

* Gerald and Barbara Hines. Gerald Hines is founder and chairman of Hines Interests, an international real estate development firm based in Houston. Hines owns the 460,438-square-foot Mountain View Corporate Center in the Interlocken Office Park. Hines developed the 52-story Wells Fargo Center in downtown Denver, better known as the cash register building, completed in 1983, and the 180-acre Five Trees ski-in/ski-out residential community in Aspen.


© Rocky Mountain News

Birthright opens circle to include special needs

by Johanna Ginsberg
NJJN Staff Writer

March 27, 2008

Avi Saunders 18, of Livingston and Eric Kaye, 20, of Parsippany just returned from their once-in-a-lifetime Taglit-Birthright Israel trip.

Just thinking about being at the Western Wall made Avi clap his hands and sigh in contentment. Eric recalled how happy he was when they landed in Israel and emerged into the warm weather.

Those were highlights of a trip their parents never thought their children would be able to take. Avi and Eric both have autism.

Hosting youngsters with special needs was a first-time experience for Mayanot, a trip provider for Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program that provides free or heavily subsidized Israel tours for young travelers to Israel.

“There’s no reason people should miss Birthright Israel just because they have a disability. Every young Jew should be able to go,” said Avi Weinstein, director of Mayanot’s Birthright programming.

“I first thought, ‘no way,’” said Avi’s mother, Lori, when she found out about the trip last August. “I’m not letting him go 6,000 miles away without me. I couldn’t do it; he couldn’t do it.”

But as she heard more about the trip, she said, she warmed to the idea. “What better place for him to spread his wings and become a little more independent?” she said.

Linda Kaye was excited about the trip from the beginning.

“On the day he left, I burst into tears of joy that he could have this opportunity,” she said.

The trip was far more complicated to arrange than regular trips, Weinstein acknowledged. It included a thorough interview process, conducted with the help of two doctors who would also accompany the group. The staff-to-participant ratio was kept low, and the trip was conducted at a slower-than-usual pace.

“Birthright is famous for fast-paced, lack of sleep, zipping through Israel. We slowed it down for this trip, but they’ll still get to see many of the same attractions,” he said, interviewed by phone from his office in New York before the end of the trip.

“We’ve always had people asking if we do trips for people with special needs,” said Weinstein. “But this year we had way more than the normal amount of people asking.”

Avi, the oldest of three siblings, attends the Children’s Institute in Verona, where he takes senior-level classes. With his family, he is a member of the Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center in Livingston. Eric attends ECLC, a special education school in Chatham for students ages six through 21. In addition to his classes, he receives vocational training there. He is the third of four siblings and with his family is a member of Temple Beth Am in Parsippany.

Avi and Eric, like about half of the trip’s 25 participants, participate in the Friendship Circle, a program for special-needs youngsters run by the Chabad-Lubavitch hasidic movement in communities throughout the country.

Friendship Circle made a concerted effort this year to work with Birthright Israel to organize such a trip, according to Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, executive director of the Friendship Circle of MetroWest NJ.

On this first go, Mayanot limited the trip to individuals with no physical disabilities and chose applicants who were very high-functioning.

“Most were independent in terms of eating and getting dressed,” Weinstein said.

They plan to continue the trips. “It’s been a beautiful, beautiful trip. There’s definitely a big motivation for us to do it again,” he said.

Avi and Eric, longtime friends, departed from JFK on March 12 and returned March 24 in the early morning hours.


Avi Saunders, far right, with friends on day five of their trip to Israel.
Later that same day, they gathered around the Saunders’ kitchen table, munching leftover hamantaschen, chocolates, and popcorn and reliving the high points of their visit to Israel.

Exhausted and jet-lagged from their overnight flight, the two friends were nonetheless exuberant about all they had seen. They talked about milking goats in Caesarea, taking cable cars to the top of Masada, swimming in the Dead Sea, seeing candles being made in Tzfat, and taking a boat cruise on the Kineret. They watched goat cheese being made, celebrated Purim, rode on camels, and slept in a Bedouin tent in the desert.

“We had to walk a long way to get to the bathroom!” said Avi.

“I liked looking at the buildings in Tel Aviv,” said Eric, who was also surprised at the farmland he saw in Caesarea. “I was expecting it to be more city-like,” he said.

Asked how he felt when the time came to board the plane and head back to the states, Eric said, “I was sad and happy at the same time.”

Upon seeing Avi return from Israel “so happy,” Lori said, “It just elevated me.”