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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fest aims to take sting out of Hanukkah party crash

Fest aims to take sting out of Hanukkah party crash

BY JENNIFER BARRIOS AND MICHAEL FRAZIER

December 30, 2008

At first, Dan Smith wasn't sure he wanted to bring his toddler, Judah, to another Hanukkah party.

Smith, 31, of Far Rockaway, said he, his wife, and their two children had been at Chabad's Chanukah Wonderland party in Woodmere on Thursday when a BMW sport utility vehicle crashed into the building. The SUV drove over the spot where, seconds before, Smith's son had stood.

But Smith and his family decided to venture out to another Hanukkah party yesterday, held just blocks away at the Chabad Center of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst.

"I definitely think it's a good idea," Smith said, as Judah, 2, played happily nearby. "Pick up and carry on - it's a good idea to host an ending party."

The mood was joyous amid the dreidel-making, face-painting and two tables filled with toys reserved for children who had witnessed the accident.

Children molded chanukiot - nine-branched Hanukkah menorahs - out of clay, while others danced to traditional Hanukkah music performed by live musicians.

This celebration was a distinctly different experience for Smith, who said he was among the men who had lifted the BMW after it came to a halt inside the Chanukah Wonderland building. Smith said he pulled two men out from under the car, one able to crawl, but the other limp and bloodied. Fourteen adults and children ended up in the hospital.

Smith remains shaken but said, "You have to be strong for the kids."

Yesterday created happy memories to counteract last week's, said Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, director of the Chabad center. "We decided to hold it so that children should have positive memories of Hanukkah," he said.

Police have determined that Thursday's crash was caused when a floor mat interfered with the gas and brake pedals in Theodore Saretsky's vehicle. Saretsky, 76, of Atlantic Beach, has not responded to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, officials at the Town of Hempstead said that the Chanukah Wonderland gathering violated the town's public assembly law, and that fines could be levied against the owners of the building. Tax records show the owners to be Philip and Norma Baker.

Ray Schwarz, Hempstead inspections supervisor, said the building is zoned for general retail, not public assembly, and a special permit is required for more than 13 seats associated with dining. More than 100 people were at the party at the time of the crash.

A notice of violation was posted on the building Friday. A second notice was posted yesterday, requiring the building's owner to comply with the law.

Schwarz said the building did not have the required amount of parking to safely accommodate the event. The violation could result in a $350 fine against the Bakers, who could not be located last night.

Harvard Chabad Menorah Vandalized

A large menorah set up by the Chabad House at Harvard in Cambridge Common was found brutally vandalized Friday morning—the culminating act in a week of damage inflicted on Chabad's religious display in the Common.

"The entire menorah was basically destroyed. One of the arms was broken off. Six of the bulbs had been destroyed," said Joel B. Pollak, a student at the Harvard Law School. "When I looked more closely, I saw the electrical wires had been cut." Pollak said he discovered the damage while walking by the park on Friday just past noon. He wrote about the incident on his blog later that day.

The menorah was part of a Hanukkah display erected in the Common by The Chabad House at Harvard, a Jewish community organization. The defacement was particularly cutting during the week of celebration for the Jewish community, said HLS Professor Alan M. Dershowitz, one of the faculty advisers to The Chabad House.

"[Hanukkah is] a festival of bringing people together," he said. "Clearly this has all the appearance of a hate crime."

Dershowitz said he believed the attack on a menorah was an attack on Judaism, not related political philosophies such as Zionism.

"This menorah is purely a religious symbol," he said. "It's just a plain-out anti-Semitic act."

The incident, identified as a case of "malicious destruction" by the Cambridge Police Department's public crime log, was the most dramatic event in a serious of attacks on The Chabad House's holiday display in the Common.

According to Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, the director of The Chabad House, "Happy Hanukkah" signs placed near the menorah appeared torn on Wednesday and Thursday. He said he originally dismissed these subtle signs of damage, believing them to be accidental, not malicious.

"For a couple of days throughout the holiday, we saw the sign on the menorah was ripped. We said, 'Let's hope it was the weather.'" But he said the demolition of the menorah proved that the damage was indeed intentional.

The CPD's crime log reports damage on the Cambridge Common's Hanukkah display between Dec. 18 and Dec. 26. There have been no arrests made, and the Police Department declined to comment on the incidents.

Zarchi said the display will not be repaired this year, as the Hanukkah celebration ends Monday. But he said that Harvard Chabad still plans to put up a menorah again next year.

"We will not be deterred by this act," he said. "We will continue this beautiful traditional of bringing light and warmth and illumination."

He did say, however, that next year he plans to have the Cambridge police provide security for the new menorah.

Mumbai's far-reaching impact

Dec. 29, 2008
dovid eliezrie

THE JERUSALEM POST

Jewish tradition tells us the first 30 days of mourning are the most intense. This week we mark end of this period since the terrorist attack against the Chabad Center in Mumbai. It's been a watershed event for world Jewry and Chabad. It will have a long lasting effect in diverse ways.

It has sparked an existential dialogue within Chabad. "Why have we become a target for the unfathomable." A few days after the attack, a group of Jewish security experts told me, "You guys are on the frontlines, it was only a matter of time." That's the practical perspective you would expect from security gurus. At a farbrengen held last week for California shluchim that question was at the core of the evening. Rabbi Ezra Schochet, rosh yeshiva, dissected the issue. The intellectual inquiry did not bring him, or us, solace. At the end he said, "We have a question, a question without any answer."

FOR MILLENNIA Jews have grappled with the same questions, seeking to pierce the mystery of divine providence. Shluchim were promised special blessings. Years ago a Chabad supporter suggested to the Rebbe in a private audience that he give more kudos to his shluchim. While the Rebbe showed appreciation, it was done in his classic understated style. Hassidim felt it an honor to serve the Rebbe's higher purposes. After hearing the question, the Rebbe's face took an austere look. He told the man, "They all have children."

Out of the close to 4,000 couples, you can't count on one hand those who do not have children. It's not uncommon in Chabad to find a childless young couples in business make a career change to become shluchim to benefit from this unique spiritual blessing. So how could we, who have had our lives so enriched with so many blessings, lose two of our best to evil is a question gnawing at our souls.

While we have no answer, most of us have taken consolation and inspiration from the Rebbe's message to Kfar Chabad in 1956 after five children and their teacher were killed by terrorists. "In your rebuilding you will find consolation." Last Thursday night the parents of Rabbi Gavriel and Rebbitzen Rivka Holtzberg returned to Mumbai to light the menora. Their message was clear terror will not deter us, only prompt us to achieve more.

Around the world many of us have undertaken new projects. Our community in Yorba Linda, California is writing a Torah scroll in their memory. Just down the freeway, the Chabad Center is placing a shaliah at University of California at Irvine, a hotbed of radical Arab activism. Across the world similar initiatives are being launched.

This tragedy touched a deep chord in the Jewish world.

FOR SOME 36 hours millions watched the drama unfolding. Jews were hunted down and killed for being Jews. Chabad was not attacked as a symbol of the West, as J. J. Goldberg attempted to claim in the Forward. Clearly there were more prominent Western targets in Mumbai. Islamic terrorists sought out Chabad as an objective. A nondescript six-story building tucked away in one the most demographically dense cities in the world. The terrorists searched and found the only rabbi living in the city. Chabad may have been the specific target, but it was an attack on the Jewish people as a whole. It impacted all aspects of the Jewish world. The six victims rooted in the world of Satmar, secular Jews, Zionists and non Zionists.

Sadly in death we were all united. It reminded us of our vulnerability as Jews. It wasn't too long ago that armies marched across Europe in search of Jews, now a force based on religious fundamentalism reaches out from the mountains of Pakistan with the same goals.

THE ATTACK was personal; for the untold numbers of Jews who know a Chabad shaliah, their friend was in mourning. Gabi's father had been my classmate in yeshiva, my son with Gabi himself. Chabad may have grown but we are all interconnected. Our personal pain of reached deep into every Jewish community in the world. Tens of thousands attended hundreds of memorials.

It accentuated a reality that challenges the status quo of Jewish life. Today Chabad is the largest Jewish organization in the world. It eclipses in size and scope all other Jewish groups. As Andrew Silow-Carroll of the New Jersey Jewish News noted, the event has "repositioned Chabad as the de facto Jewish vanguard, and made other Jewish groups acknowledge it." The attack has sparked and rekindling of the relationship between Chabad and other parts of the haredi world.

The schism has deep roots reaching back to split between hassidim and mitnagdim two centuries ago. In modern times it has been intensified for a variety of reasons. The messiah issue worried many. The haredi world responded to the challenge of modernity by erecting barriers. Chabad chose to engage it, look for the good and offer its contribution to all. While most haredim stepped back into their own world, Chabad reached out to others.

AT THE funeral, standing together with hassidic rabbis were President Shimon Peres and leaders of Israel's key parties. Their participation was reflective of Chabad's willingness to play a role in larger society while decisively maintaining Jewish principles. Mumbai was the catalyst for the haredi community to seek reconciliation. As the editor of Yated Ne'eman (different than its Israeli namesake) in the US, a paper that historically would not acknowledge Chabad, wrote in article lauding the Holtzberg's self sacrifice, "We are tribes of a same nation." Strangely it's the shluchim around the world who have laid the ground for this rapprochement. At the shluchim convention held in New York a week before the attack, leaders of Satmar sat at tables of shluchim they have become friends with during their business travels. In recent years even the most insular Lithuanian yeshivot have discovered the importance of outreach.

A few days after their passing, JEM, Chabad's producer of film and video released a hastily assembled memorial video on their lives. They had discovered a rare clip of Rivka Holtzberg talking about her life in Mumbai. Her warmth, charm and inner beauty radiate on the screen. One moment deeply touched me, when asked how can you have dozens for dinner every night, she responds in the typical Israeli, "Zeh kef - its fun." Her joy in giving to others was palatable. If only if each of us could capture a part of that enthusiasm and infuse it into our lives, how much better the world would be.

The writer is a Chabad shaliah in Yorba Linda, California. rabbi@ocjewish.com

TERROR IN MUMBAI Chabad encounter

LYLA BAVADAM
in Mumbai

Interview with Sharon Galsurkar, who worked with the security forces in the operation to free Nariman House.

SHARON GALSURKAR knew Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka from the time the couple came to live in India six years ago. He is a community programmer with the Organisation for Rehabilitation and Training, a Jewish outreach society. He was closely involved with assisting the Army and the police during the operations to flush out the terrorists from Nariman House, drawing them a sketch of the layout of the interiors, liaising with the security forces and the Israelis, and interacting with local residents who pointed out various approaches to the building. When Sandra Samuel and baby Moshe escaped, he took them home for a while so that the child could be “in a relaxed atmosphere”.

Three days after the carnage, in which 11 people, including two terrorists, died, Galsurkar and a ZAKA team went in to collect the belongings of the dead and to clean up. (ZAKA, an abbreviation for Zihuy Korbanot Ason, which means Identification of Victims of Disaster, is an Israeli voluntary organisation. It works along with law enforcers in response to terrorism, accidents or disasters.) Their task included cleaning the blood on the floor, on clothing and on bedsheets. Galsurkar described this as the “most horrible work I have ever done in my life” .

He spoke to Frontline about these experiences and his concerns as an Indian Jew. Excerpts:
You took Sandra Samuel and baby Moshe home after they escaped. What was her account to you?

Sandra and Zakir [Hussein, the cook] were in the kitchen on the first floor. They were preparing dinner – some beans and chicken. Sandra said that the rabbi and two other men and Rivka were in the synagogue on the second floor, which is also a library. And the child was sleeping on the fifth floor. Two women were on the fourth floor…at least that’s where they were found…. Sandra didn’t say where they were when the gunmen entered. Sandra said she came out when she heard firing. They fired in her direction and she and Zakir ran into the kitchen and shut the door. They both hid in a storeroom behind some fridges. That’s how they survived the grenade too. There was firing all through the night. All the glass was smashed, so they could figure out people’s movements because of their footsteps on the glass. Around 1.30 that morning she heard Rivka crying. She cried very loudly for about 25 minutes or half an hour. And then she stopped and after that they only heard gunfire and explosions.

In the morning Sandra said both she and Zakir decided to take a chance. They came out and she heard Moshe crying on the second floor. She said she could not go without the child… so they both climbed slowly up to the second floor… this was very daring of them… Zakir kept watch on the landing and Sandra picked up the child. He was on the floor with blood splattered all over him. Then they slowly climbed downstairs and came out of the house.
She said the rabbi and his wife were unconscious and needed help.

Yes, that’s what she said, but judging by the amount of blood she described I felt they were gone. I am a trained social worker. I know how people react when they are in trauma and I understand their reactions. My feeling is that Sandra knew that the rabbi and his wife were dead. There was just too much blood around for them to still be alive. I felt that when Sandra said they were unconscious she was hoping they were still alive. Maybe if she had conveyed her fears to the police, it might have helped finish the operation earlier.
You worked with the ZAKA team.

Yes, it was quite by chance. It was Friday evening, about one hour before Sabbath. We have very strict rules during Sabbath, which can be broken only in life-threatening situations. It was great luck that before Sabbath we discovered the ZAKA team. They were about six of them waiting in one of the lanes near the Chabad. We offered our help. By 8.30, the operations were over. Three bodies were taken out – the rabbi, Rivka and Bentzion [Chroman, a kosher food superviser]. One body had already been sent to JJ [Hospital] and one of us went there to stop the post-mortem [forbidden under Jewish religious law]. The other bodies couldn’t be brought out because there were hand grenades around them. The Army finally exploded eight hand grenades that night. The bodies were in terrible shape. It took till 3.30 on Saturday morning to finish the procedures at the JJ mortuary.

The bodies were sent to Pinto’s [mortician who prepared the bodies for travel]. We read psalms, asked for forgiveness from the rabbi – this is a ritual we have. On Sunday, we collected the blood-soaked clothes and bedsheets from the Colaba police station. Then we sorted them out because they had to be buried with the people they belonged to. On Monday we got police permission to enter the Chabad house. That is when I did the most horrible work I have ever done in my life…. picking up blood… it was semi-liquid – it was thick, a terrible stench came from it when we picked it up. There was the smell of decomposition all over and our eyes burnt terribly…maybe the Army had released some gas or something during the operations. We had the right gear but still…. This is on the fourth floor [shows photograph] – this is the room where the two women were tied. They were tied together so that the head of one was at the feet of the other. I don’t know why this was done.

The floor of the synagogue was covered with blood. Even the material with which we cleaned the blood was put in with the bodies. We took away the four Torah scrolls and some religious articles. Nothing was desecrated but one of the scrolls had a spray of bullets over it.
What were your general impressions while you assisted the security forces?

The Army and the police did everything they could. Experts may say that the operation failed, but I saw them working – they took all risks, they worked hard.
ZAKA was unhappy with them.

That’s because they were thinking from the Israeli perspective. They face this sort of situation so regularly. Part of their response is not to waste time. We know our problems. I can’t comment on the details of the operation, but I know our people were working hard. Our commandos and policemen were at a range where they could easily have died. They put their lives on the line – I appreciate that. I salute them.
What is the Jewish community’s thinking on security now?

As Jews, we believe that whatever has happened has happened for a reason but this does not stop me from taking security measures. We have been told to use grills, stronger doors, more fortification, security personnel. We have asked for security from the Mumbai Police and they have given it. One of the things the [Israeli] Consulate pointed out, especially to the Chabad [some months ago], is that the door should have more than one guard and it should be kept closed. A CCTV was also advised. If the Chabad had proper gates and entry rules, it wouldn’t have been easy for the terrorists to get in. They had this idea of open doors and open house – the wrong people took advantage of it.
Maybe it was contradictory to the rabbi’s beliefs? An open house cannot have closed doors.

It was about his trust in God. It was not contradictory because we Jews are supposed to pray and also to make effort. We have to work on our security and ask God for his blessings on this. That’s also Jewish philosophy. We also have a law that says we must not risk our lives. So, if by keeping my door open I risk my life I should keep it closed.
There were people who insisted that they had seen the gunmen before, that they had lived in the Chabad house itself. There was one woman who was evacuated from a neighbouring building at about 1 a.m. on November 27. She had glimpsed the gunmen while the attack was on and said she had definitely seen them before.

I heard they’d stayed in the chawl from where they could see the Chabad house. It was not easy to stay in the Chabad house. If any new person wanted to stay there, the rabbi would check their passports and ensure that they were Jewish because that is not an open guesthouse for anybody. So he was careful about that. These people were aware that they were potential targets. But perhaps the rabbi would not have expected it to happen here and in this way.

I wish the rabbi had done two things. One, that he had interacted more with the Colaba police station. Even they were not aware of the Chabad house. And I wish he had interacted with his neighbours. He didn’t go out of his way to interact with the neighbours… as Indians we are used to having relations with our neighbours. But he came from a different culture.
Why do you wish this?

When we spoke to the neighbours the day after the attack, some of them actually thought that the Chabad was responsible for what was happening. If they knew what Chabad was about they would never have said that. But I can understand the rabbi’s point too – being orthodox…ultra orthodox actually… he lived in his own world. The locals did not even know that this was a Chabad house. The first time I was looking for the place none of them could help me.
Have you been back to talk to the local people?

Not yet, but I will go back. I got the feeling that they did not want the Chabad to come up there again. I want to talk to them, explain what Chabad is all about, tell them that you don’t abandon your neighbours because they were attacked by someone else.
It is interesting you say this because while the operation was on the local residents were very sympathetic and said they would not mind having them as neighbours once this was over. But when the question was put to them again afterwards, they were not so sure because they were shaken by the violence of the operation.

This is why we want to talk to them. We will ask them: “Are you going to say the same things to the Taj, to the Oberoi… will you tell them they should not be here because they were attacked?” They attack, they kill and they have the “success” of the Chabad being thrown out from the neighbourhood.

If local residents are adamant, then maybe the Chabad should not be in the same area. If they are not going to support it, then how will the Chabad house thrive? [Silent for a while.] They were good people… the rabbi had a spiritual aura.

Chabad's Tremendous Response to Terror

Stunned, lamenting, action. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy that struck Mumbai, India on November 26th and 27th, Chabad took action. In tremendous ways, the ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jews redirected their grief into positive action in order to combat the evil that quaked their world.

"This week, no one is celebrating," said Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, editor and publisher of the weekly newspaper, Yated Neeman. "But they are more united than ever before. After the atrocities in India, all of us are more united."

Among the hostages who were killed by terrorists at Mumbai's Nariman House were two Chabad Shluchim [emissaries] of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife, Rivka.

In Chicago, a crowd of 1,300 showed unity and support at the Skokie Hotel on the evening of November 26th, for the Jewish Community's Memorial Evening of Tribute and Solidarity. Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, regional director of Chabad Lubavitch of Illinois, read a letter from President-Elect Barack Obama that offered condolences to the entire Jewish community, acknowledged the "mission of service to the Jewish community" which the Holtzbergs provided, and vowed that the "terrorists with no regard for human life" would be brought to justice. Moscowitz then appealed to the crowd to utilize this moment of inspiration to add light to the world by increasing personal acts of goodness and kindness, a response central to Chabad values. Mitzvah-pledge cards were filled out by participants, which Moscowitz will take to the grieving families in Israel. 250 letters of comfort written by students of the Jewish day schools in Chicago will also be delivered. Hundreds of Friday Light kits were distributed to the participants as part of the Shabbat candle-lighting campaign.

Shluchim of Long Island gathered Sunday, November 30th at Chabad of Mineola for a memorial and prayer service, as reported by www.crownheights.info, a leading Chabad news site. The community, consisting of several Chabad institutions, joined in prayer, song, and inspirational speeches. Rabbi Raify Konikov, representing the neighboring Chabad emissaries, was chosen to travel to Israel for the Holtzberg's funeral.

About 1,000 people thronged to Gayley Avenue on Sunday, November 30th, to attend a memorial at the West Coast headquarters of Chabad in Los Angeles, California. Those in attendance paid tribute to the Holtzbergs and the other victims, vowing to combat the evil with acts of goodness, even in the face of the terrorist attacks.

Thousands of Jews, from every corner of the world, regardless of their prior observance, have pledged to do acts of kindness and good deeds in the wake of the terror attack in India. While some have taken upon themselves to light Shabbat candles or don traditional phylacteries, others have resolved to increase contributions to charity, go to their local Chabad House, show more love for their fellow man, learn from the Bible, or offer prayers to G-d. According to Chabad teachings, such deeds serve as the light that dispels darkness. "We must honor the souls of those torn away from us, by immortalizing their lives through our positive deeds," said Rabbi Simon Jacobson, scholar of mysticism and author of the best selling book Toward a Meaningful Life.

Donations have been steadily pouring into funds set up for the rebuilding of the Mumbai Chabad Center and to support the two orphaned Holtzberg children. "I attended a memorial for the victims of Chabad Mumbai at my synagogue on Saturday," said Lucette Lagnado, author and reporter for the Wall Street Journal. "It was very crowded - filled with people I had never seen before. Worshippers went up to the pulpit and pledged thousands of dollars."

Arising from India's 9/11, as the media has termed the attacks, is peace and unity among Jews and even among the media; Jewish communities gathered together to pay tribute to the victims of terror in India, while media exchanged minute-to-minute updates.

In addition to the sorrow Jews are experiencing upon the loss of their own in India, the latest acts of terrorism have had a far-reaching, enabling effect on the entire Jewish community.

"This Shabbat you'll find me at a place I haven't been for years -- my local Chabad," proclaimed Rob Eshman, Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Journal, on Friday, November 28th. "I hope you do the same. I hope rabbis of all stripes march down with their congregants to do the same."

Mel Konner, author and professor at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, told CNN, "The extremists, the terrorists, the Islamist radicals… hate the prospect of peace among these nations and the possibility of progress and getting away from this violence… Unfortunately in these situations, it's always possible for a small number of people to have an exaggerated effect on everything."

"As we mourn [the Holtzberg] untimely and incomprehensible deaths," said Rabbi Pinchas Allouche, Chabad shliach to Scottsdale, AZ, "it is high time for each of us to continue their work with renewed vigor and conviction." Allouche encouraged Jews to continue to perpetuate Judaism, in their own lives as well as in the lives of every Jew encountered, which is in essence the very mission for which the Holtzbergs sacrificed themselves. "There could not be a sweeter revenge for the barbaric terrorists, may their names be erased, who murdered them so cold-bloodedly," he added.

Naftali Salomon, a friend of the Holtzbergs', related, "Gabi and Rivka's entire goal in life was nothing other than to help a fellow human being in need, bring a fellow Jew closer to Judaism, or to simply put a smile on the face of someone who was feeling down. And they did so with the utmost sacrifice, selflessness and humility; never taking credit for their accomplishments or patting themselves on the back."

"What else can one do but look for the glimmers of light and hope amid the darkness and bitterness?" Salomon said, going on to describe the lasting impact the Holtzbergs had had on those whom they encountered, whether it be through the Jewish ritual bath they established, the prayer services they conducted, the Jewish weddings they presided over, and their son Moshe who "miraculously survived thanks to the heroic nanny."

Perusing the headlines of articles posted on Chabad websites, one would surely notice the influx of news announcements of Chabad-initiated memorials in cities across America as well as internationally, in which entire Jewish communities have joined in mourning. Unity, support, solidarity; Jews have shown their fundamental ties, many disregarding their differences in denomination, by joining together in memorial and action to honor the Holtzbergs and others killed in Mumbai.

"You know, this is the Chabad spirit: turn tears into action and into energy," said Rabbi Shalom Paltiel, a close friend of the Holtzbergs, during his interview on NBC's Today Show.

"In order to succeed in this battle," wrote Uri Orbach in his article titled "Light versus Darkness" published in Ynet News, "we must realize that this is yet another struggle between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. And light shall win."

Today, after the global media coverage of the horrific Anti-Semitic events in Mumbai, the world has more exposure to Judaism and Jews: a people steadfast in their beliefs and selfless acts to bring the world to a better place - one not of darkness, but of light.

It begs the ironic question: was this the terrorists' intent?

Lights for joy and freedom

People celebrate Hanukkah, watch lighting of menorah candles at Esther Short Park

By Craig Brown
Columbian staff writer

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of the Lights, began a week ago today. But with a foot of snow in Esther Short Park, the annual community Hanukkah celebration had to be canceled.

So that’s why on Sunday evening, when the crowd finally gathered, Rabbi Shmulik Greenberg lit all of the candles in the menorah. “Finally the weather let us do it,” Greenberg said shortly before the rescheduled event, which drew about 60 people to a pleasantly dry, snow-free Propstra Square.

With Hanukkah ending tonight, there is still plenty of time to light the menorah and say the blessings, said Greenberg.

Hanukkah commemorates events that occurred 2,000 years ago. But the context of those events — freedom of worship, and freedom from terror — resonates in today’s world, noted Greenberg and Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who also spoke.

Even as we celebrate the holidays, we must not forget the dangers and evil in the world, the mayor said, and we must act to protect our freedoms and liberties.

Parallel between then, now
Greenberg drew a parallel between the ancient conflict that sparked Hanukkah and last month’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Authorities there have blamed the attacks on Islamic fundamentalists.

“India became more and more a part of the Western world, a place where there is freedom of religion,” Greenberg said. That spawned a violent response from those who regard such freedoms as evil. Among other targets, the terrorists attacked Nariman House, Mumbai headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. Sunday’s event was sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch of Clark County.

The menorah lighting took about 20 minutes. After Greenberg and Pollard spoke briefly, state Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, was asked to light the center candle. “God is the same today as he was yesterday,” Zarelli said.

From left to right, the rabbi then lit the other eight candles — actually, in this case, the sort of torches people use on their patios in the summer — one for each day of the celebration.

A group of a dozen or so children sang a traditional song, hesitant at first as their tongues tripped over the foreign words. As they switched to a song with more familiar English lyrics, they warmed to their task.

Then the group adjourned to the nearby Hilton Vancouver Washington for a party featuring latkes (potato pancakes) and a “Grand Dreidel Tournament,” a game played with a four-sided spinning top.

Hanukkah service dedicated to Mumbai victims

Hanukkah drew to a close yesterday and a final lighting of the menorah was held Sunday evening at Kukui Grove Shopping Center in commemoration of the lives lost at the Mumbai Chabad house 30 days ago.

“The terrorists came with guns, grenades and missiles, and the only thing we could come back with is to respond with kindness, love and light,” Rabbi Shmulik Schneerson said before lighting the giant island-style candelabra which stood before the mall’s center stage.

Alan and Claudia Jaffe of Long Island, N.Y., along with their family members, were a part of those who gathered Sunday to remember the lives tragically lost during the terrorist attacks in India.

When asked how they felt about the current crisis occurring in the Gaza Strip, Alan Jaffe said, “It’s troubling and we’re not quite sure what to make of it.”

The tragedy in Mumbai and the ongoing violence in Gaza are just recent examples of a long history of strife involving the Jewish people. The faith has often encountered attack, and the celebration of Hanukkah is one that honors the triumph of their religion over the Seleucids almost 2,500 years ago.

The tyrant emperor, Antiochus Epiphanes dramatically tried to suppress Jewish customs and a small band of Jewish rebels, the Maccabees, rose up against his mighty army and were victorious.

Following the rededication of the Jewish Holy Temple, the story goes that there was only enough oil to light the candle for one day, but, instead it miraculously burned for eight. Thus, the reason for celebrating eight days of Hanukkah.

“If you could put the meaning of Hanukkah into two words, it would mean ‘increasing light,’” Schneerson said. “The story happened many years ago but is just as relevant today.”

Rabbi Michoel Goldman, who organized the event, said the evening was special because it was not only the last night of Hanukkah, but it was a memorial service as well.

“When people open their eyes and their hearts, they will see we all deserve to live in peace,” said Ahmos Netanel of Anahola.

Four of the candles were dedicated in memory of his father, Yehosua Netanel.

Schneerson and Goldman are currently working on establishing a Chabad house on Kaua‘i.

“It’s a place where everybody can walk in and feel Jewish and connect to their roots no matter what their religious affiliations are, if any at all,” said Schneerson when describing what the purpose of a Chabad house is.

Schneerson, an insurance agent in Los Angeles, travels to Hawai‘i to help participate in Jewish festivities and is the seventh generation of Jews who established the concept of public menorah lighting and Chabad houses.

For more information, visit www.jewishkauai.org

Chanukah typo

The big sign on the big National Chanukah Menorah, right near the National Christmas Tree just south of the White House, includes a misspelling of the name of the late rabbi to whom the menorah is dedicated.

It should be Menachem M. Schneerson, not Menachem M. Scheerson, as shown above.

A spokeswoman for the American Friends of Lubavitch, which sponsors the national menorah, said she was unaware of the error and did not know how it happened.

Hanukkah celebrated

Rabbi Mendy Zwiebel of Chabad of Chico replaces a light bulb with a candle as he prepares a giant menorah for lighting Sunday at the Chico Mall. The rabbi led a public Hanukkah celebration there on the last night of the eight-day Jewish festival of lights. On Tuesday evening, Zwiebel also led a Hanukkah celebration at City Plaza. And on Dec. 21, the first night of the holiday, Congregation Beth Israel hosted a party at ARC of Butte County. Another Jewish group, Chico Havurah, had a party as well.

Son of slain Chabad couple dies of severe illness

The funeral of Dov Holtzberg, whose two-year-old brother Moshe survived the attack on the Chabad house, was be held at 10 am in Jerusalem.

Yael Levy

'It is hard to imagine what this family has been through recently,' grandfather says following death of Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg's four-year-old son from long-term disease

The four-year-old son of Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who were killed in the terror attack on the Chabad house in Mumbai in late November, died of a severe genetic disease overnight Tuesday.The couple's eldest son died of the same disease two years ago at the tender age of three.


"It is hard to imagine what this family has been through recently," said Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, Rivka Holzberg's father.


Rivka's sister, Haikeh, told Ynet that "there is no one to sit Shiva (seven days of mourning) for Dov."


This Thursday will mark a month since the Holtzberg couple was laid to rest. A ceremony in which their tombstones were revealed (unveiled) was be held at 11 am at Jerusalem's Mount of Olives cemeter

Monday, December 29, 2008

Yes, thank G-d, they can

Hanukkah ended last night, and I hope our Jewish readers and friends passed a good one. On Jeffrey Goldberg's blog I found this pretty great Chabad Lubavitch video. Seems to me to be a sentiment that Jews and all friends of the Jewish people, and of Israel, should keep in their hearts and in their prayers these difficult days:

Because Israel exists, and because America exists, there will always be at least two places in the world in which Jews can light the menorah in freedom.

Terrorists' demands were rejected: Digvijay

BHOPAL/MUMBAI: In what seems a political ploy aimed at arguing that unlike NDA, Congress did not succumb to a hostage situation, former CM Digvijay Singh has claimed - contrary to the government's position - that the Centre did not accept demands of terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

The Congress general secretary on Monday reiterated that government had not bowed to demands made by the Lashkar squad, a claim that security sources have dismissed. There were inquiries from Israelis over the claims but these were more to do with the possibility of securing the release of those trapped inside Chabad House.

Throughout the siege of Trident and Taj hotels, apart from Chabad House itself, security forces did not hold any negotiations with the terrorists. In fact, after the terrorists were shot, it was argued that an attempt could have been made to engage them - not to concede any demands but to buy time and possibly negotiate safe release of those trapped in the attack.

Yet, while the Congress spokesperson sought to wriggle out of the situation by claiming that Digvijay Singh had "clarified" the situation, this is not the first time that the former CM has courted controversy. He had previously said that it was "surprising" that when BJP was "in trouble (politically)" bomb blasts happened.

Digvijay Singh on Monday said he stood by his statement that the government had not accepted the demands of terrorists responsible for the Mumbai attacks. Singh sought to place his comments in context of media reports. He said that whatever he had said in Indore was based on these reports and there was no question of retracting his statement.

"I stand by what I said yesterday in Indore," he said. Singh's remark, which came a little over a month after the terror attacks on Mumbai, has created a furore.

He had said that unlike the BJP which gave into the demands of terrorists at Kandahar, the Congress-led government had not negotiated with the militants but had eliminated them.

Again, seeking to make a partisan point, he said there was a big difference between Congress and BJP and added that former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh of BJP had told a TV channel that he would again accept the demands of terrorists if a similar situation arose.

Yet, no just the Centre but Digvijay Singh's own fellow Congressman and Maharashtra home minister Jayant Patil said no demands were made by terrorists during the terror strikes. "From the information made available by Mumbai police, I can say that there were no demands made by the terrorists," Patil said.

"I am not aware on what basis Digvijay Singh has made the statement," the minister added.

Patil's colleague in Nationalist Congress Party R R Patil, who held the home portfolio, resigned on December 1 following criticism of his handling of the home department in the wake of the November 26 attacks.

Family donates Torah to Chabad

When Greenwich resident Leon Gandelman grew up in Lvov in the Soviet Union in the 1940s and '50s, he was not allowed to practice his religion in public.

His parents gave him as traditional a Jewish upbringing as they could, but it was not until after 1991 that he could openly worship, said his daughter Anya Gandelman.

So yesterday, when he donated a historic torah scroll, the holiest book in Judaism, to the Chabad of Greenwich during a ceremony, it had a special significance to him, she said,

"It's really heartwarming for my father," she said.

More than 30 family and friends gathered as Gandelman, along with Rabbi Yossi Deren, dedicated the scroll to his parents.

"This is a very special and important occasion," said Deren.

A new torah scroll is a big celebration within the Jewish community. It takes an expert scribe more than a year to complete since it is done just as Moses had done more than 3,000 years ago - handwritten in a calligraphy on parchment paper, sewn together with sinews to form one long scroll, according to Deren.

It is approximately 52 pages and has 600,000 words, and if even one word is misshapen or a letter missing, the document is not considered kosher and is not used, according to Deren.

"This is a very important thing for the Jewish people," said Gandelman, a businessman.

Anya Gandelman brought the document from Tel Aviv to Greenwich for the dedication. A new torah scroll can cost approximately $30,000.

Gandelman wanted to donate the scroll, after learning that the Chabad of Greenwich only had two scrolls. It is customary to have three at every synagogue, according to Deren.

"It's a big occasion not just for his family, but for the community," said his friend Michael Chernomordin, who attended the festivities.

Following the dedication, friends and each member of the family, which included Gandelman's brothers and wife, Olivia, gathered around the table to fill in the last few lines of the text with the help of the scribe, Rabbi Moshe Klein.

Klein, a fourth-generation scribe, held the feathered quill as each person filled the letter that his or her first name started with. Then the document, which weighed more than 15 pounds, was rolled up and placed in a special protective cover.

At the end of the ceremony, attendees danced, sang and feasted on a four-course meal.

"It's a been a wonderful celebration," said Valentine Tropp, Greenwich resident and member of Temple Sholom, "It's an honor for us to be here."

Every Shabbat, the synagogue will read a portion of torah scroll, Deren said.

Making money at any price

Our community idolizes people with money. Their names are on our buildings; they get the most aliyas in shul; they are feted at large communal banquets. Our kids are watching. They see that rabbis, social workers and teachers struggling to get by while Wall Street traders have their names in bright lights.

It took Gavi and Rivka Holtzberg being murdered by terrorists in Mumbai for Chabad emissaries to finally get the recognition they deserve as heroes of the Jewish people. The same is true of Israeli soldiers, who seem to come back into the American Jewish consciousness only when Israel is at war with Hamas in Gaza. The rest of the time we go back to what truly matters - that our kids get into Harvard.

IF WE have learned one thing from the Bernard Madoff scandal, it's that the Jewish community is in need of new heroes. No longer can we look up only to those who are billionaires, even if they are significant philanthropists. If we continue to highlight money men as Jewish role models, then we create the conditions for more Jews to cut corners to make a buck at any cost so that they receive the recognition of their peers.

Our community must stand first and foremost for godly values. Everything else is secondary.

From the age of 16 I wanted to be a rabbi, and shortly after my 22nd birthday, I had the honor of becoming the Rebbe's emissary at Oxford University. My wife and I worked our guts out to build Jewish life at the university, which meant spending about half my time fund-raising, about the norm for the average Chabad emissary. After a few years, my students graduated and went on to lucrative careers. They had none of the money problems I did. Some of them may have worked a quarter as hard but got paid 10 times as much, especially if they went to work on Wall Street.

IT DIDN'T seem fair. As Chabad emissaries, where was our security? I watched many of my rabbinic colleagues borrowing money just to pay for their childrens' weddings, and this after a lifetime of hard work. Where was the justice?

But what sustained me in communal work was the fact that in Chabad the models at the top of the communal ladder were not the money men but the shluchim. To be an emissary of the Rebbe is seen as life's highest honor (although even in Chabad these days the money men are beginning to assume a preeminence that they didn't enjoy before).

We see the same model in the settler movement in Israel. The heroes are those who sacrifice by living in dangerous areas where they face incessant terror attack. Yes, settler yeshivot and institutions are assisted by millionaire philanthropists, but it is still the settlers themselves who are the role models of the movement. This is why both Chabad and the settler groups continue to attract strong pools of talent rather than losing their most gifted souls to technology startups or making yerida to make more money in America. It all comes down to whom you hold up as heroes.

LOOK, I'M not naïve. I understand that money makes the world go round. Without cash, the shuls can't open, the schools would close and Jews would be returned to the impoverished life we suffered for centuries.

But there has to be a balance. Surely we can elevate those who work for the communal good for little financial reward to positions of glory in our community so our children get the message that righteousness rather than wealth is what Jews most respect. Can anyone reading this article name five famous contemporary Jewish thinkers? Can you name any lawyers celebrated for defending Israel other than Alan Dershowitz? Can you name 10 famous Jewish educators?

When the Lubavitcher Rebbe died, I wrote an article about his life on the plane back from his funeral. I called it "The colossus and me" and began by mentioning that what I first noticed about the Rebbe were the holes in his shoes. Here was a man utterly divorced from materialism, even though he was one of the most influential Jews of the 20th century. The same would be said of people like the Dalai Lama. Wouldn't you be surprised if you heard that the robe he was wearing was Dolce and Gabbana? The fact is, saintly individuals don't care much for things. Those who do are possessed of an inner emptiness. They stuff every Rolex watch and Chanel suit into the black hole of their existence in the hope of filling up the chasm in their lives. But since these things are ultimately valueless, it can only create a shopaholic addiction that is neither satisfying nor fulfilling.

WHAT I am saying is that our community's obsession with material wealth bespeaks a spiritual crisis that can only be resolved by returning to our core spiritual commitments of family, community and tradition. We need to attend more classes and fewer shopping malls. We need to tell our kids that it's more important to us that they act righteously than succeed professionally. And we need to recommit ourselves to our families, putting the bedroom before the boardroom and the family dining table before the office desk.

After the Holocaust, many in the Jewish community concluded that money is the best guarantor of continuity and security. If we were wealthy, we could lobby for Israel and build vital communal institutions that would lead to a rebirth.

This notion was only partially correct, because without emphasizing to our children that the Jewish people stand for tradition, ethics and a holy way of life, we stood the risk of being corrupted by wealth and coming to see money as the end rather than the means.

Once you remove morality from the picture, everything is lost. Once we produce billionaires without values, there is no telling where their greed will stop. So you can wake up one morning and discover that everything you lived for - membership in the most expensive country club, access to the most exclusive investment vehicle - has vanished in a puff of hot air. Both figuratively and literally.

The writer is the founder of This World: The Jewish Values Network. In January he will publish his new book The Kosher Sutra: Eight Sacred Secrets to Rediscovering Desire and Reigniting Passion for Life (HarperOne). www.shmuley.com

From the Archives: Australia To Dow Jones: Stay Awhile

There's no disputing that the Internet is the first freely accessible and truly global medium. Now, following an Australian High Court ruling on Tuesday, it appears that all Web vendors--publishers, retailers and the like--should prepare to realize those global consequences.

In a case pitting an Australian businessman against U.S.-based publisher Dow Jones (nyse: DJ - news - people ), the High Court of Australia ruled that the company must stay in the land Down Under to defend itself against a two-year-old defamation suit in the Australian state of Victoria.

In denying a Dow Jones appeal to dismiss the case based on jurisdiction, the opinion is the latest in a growing list of cases and judgments establishing the global legal ramifications of Internet commerce and content. The Australian High Court decision deems that widely disseminated Web content is bound by the same laws that govern print. That means Web information is liable at the point of download, not the location of the server. In its ruling, the Court admits the difficulties in coming to such a conclusion but insists that "the human right to protection by law for the reputation and honor of individuals must also be defended to the extent that the law provides." That means the case stays at home, where the defamation is said to have occurred.

According to Joel Reidenberg, who specializes in international law at Fordham University's Law School in New York City, the case reinforces that there is little difference between a physical border to a country and an electronic one. Reidenberg says that a firm that knowingly does or could potentially do business in a jurisdiction must be willing to comply with that jurisdiction's law.

The suit, brought in November 2000, concerns an article that appeared in the print and online versions of Barron's, a weekly financial newspaper published by Dow Jones. The story questioned the dealings of Australian businessman Joseph Gutnick. After Gutnick told an Australian paper that he was planning to gain more business in the U.S., Barron's wrote a cautionary piece about Gutnick's work as a stock promoter to religious charities. In the article, Barron's drew conclusions that Gutnick found defamatory.

Though Gutnick declined comment for that story, he sued Dow Jones in the Australian state of Victoria shortly after the piece was published. The first thing Gutnick's lawyers had to establish in the suit was why it should be tried there. Dow Jones claimed that the correct jurisdiction was in New Jersey, the location of the Internet file servers that dish out Barron's online content.

Gutnick claimed that, though Barron's is not widely distributed in print in Victoria, its content was available through Barron's Online and WSJ.com, the Web site of The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones' lawyer conceded that there are at least 1,700 WSJ.com subscribers with Australian credit cards. Additionally, Gutnick claimed the damage to his reputation occurred in Australia and not in New Jersey, where Dow Jones wanted to move the trial. Following this decision, the case will proceed in Australia.

In a statement, Dow Jones said it will continue its defense and was encouraged by the High Court's admission of challenges brought by Internet publishing. Dow Jones' position was supported by the likes of Amazon.com (nasdaq: AMZN - news - people ), The New York Times, and the Time and CNN units of AOL Time Warner (nyse: AOL - news - people ).

Web portal Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO - news - people ), which also backed Dow Jones, recently encountered jurisdictional issues as well. A French court ruled that its Yahoo.com site should not be accessible to French citizens, due to Nazi memorabilia available on its auction service. The French version of Yahoo! was already in compliance. That judgment, however, has yet to be enforced. The company is currently seeking a declaratory relief action in U.S. federal court in California. That action, which seeks to say that the French court lacked jurisdiction, would run counter to today's Australian opinion.

Other jurisdictional issues related to the Internet include commerce and taxation. Internationally, such issues are being debated under the Hague Convention. In the U.S., there has been some advancement on how to tax interstate e-commerce. Last month, representatives from 33 states and the District of Columbia reached a tentative agreement on tax and use issues--but its implementation would require states to enact new business legislation.

Record companies chasing music-sharing services like Kazaa are also running into jurisdictional issues. Because attempts to bring down such services have hit legal snags, the recording industry's new tactic is to pursue companies and individuals that facilitate the illegal trade of copyrighted materials.

Reflecting on these and similar cases, Fordham's Reidenberg says, "The technology has to evolve in a way that will allow and empower states to enforce their domestic laws within their own borders."

"The Internet isn't changing this basic legal principle," he add

This Chanukah, Bernard Madoff makes the menorah candles flicker

By Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein

Sunday, December 28th 2008, 4:00 AM

December is always tough on Jewish parents. Like their Christian counterparts preparing for Christmas, many can only shake their heads as they watch the spiritual component of the Chanukah holiday eroded by waves of crass commercialism. Religiously observant or not, Chanukah is a time that Jews work to affirm their ties to their history, their common future and each other. But the Chanukah candles glow dimmer this year with the realization that one of our own seems to have pulled off the greatest heist in history.

This year, the trust Jews have for each other, the sense of belonging to a larger family, has been violated. Bernie Madoff preyed on fellow Jews, parlaying the religious and cultural bond into a license to operate without controls or accountability. Fortunes were wiped out, charitable institutions shuttered or imperiled, with the worst suffering yet to hit our poor, as the beneficiaries of the social service agencies funded by large charities will be turned away at the door. As a result, this Chanukah our fears aren't focused on ancient hatred but on contemporary scapegoating - on bigots from the extreme right and far-left who are gleefully using the Madoff debacle to stoke increasingly toxic anti-Semitism.

Jews are hardly the only, or even the best, targets of in-group scams. As reported in The Wall Street Journal in September 2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission warned of "affinity fraud," the ability of charlatans to get people who naturally trust their own kind to open their pocketbooks and accounts. It pointed to campaigns within ethnic communities like Korean-Americans and Armenian-Americans, and religious ones, like black and Baptist churches.

But the Madoff scandal hits the Jewish community where it hurts in two ways: First we will have to deal with astronomical losses in the midst of a severe economic meltdown. Beyond that is the real sense of guilt. For a strong component of Jewish communal DNA is not only to take care of our own, but to both take pride in an individual's achievement and feel the shame when a leader violates our core values.

And to that end, we are lucky this holiday to be able to appeal to the example of generous, loving Jewish lives alongside that of the greedy, scheming Madoff.

The paths chosen by Bernie Madoff and Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, the beloved martyred directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, couldn't have been more different. Madoff allegedly cheated his own to enhance his own reputation and to line his pockets. The Holtzbergs gave to strangers and expected nothing in return. Both made large promises and commitments. Madoff delivered treachery; the Holtzbergs delivered support that others thought impossible. Both achieved recognition. Madoff will be reviled; the Holtzbergs remembered with awe.

Moshe Holtzberg, the orphaned child of Gavriel and Rivkah, will never again meet his parents in this world. But he will have the benefit of unending pride in what they gave him. Madoff's children, who turned him in to the authorities, will have to go to great lengths to distance themselves from him and his legacy.

For every disappointment in the value of the Jewish global family, there are many counterexamples of the good it can achieve - the airlifting of 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel; her absorption of 2 million refugees from Russia; the dramatic rescue of hijacked travelers in Entebbe. For every Madoff, there are a thousand people who donated to the charities he denuded.

The challenge this Chanukah is to update the markers on the opposite paths of greed and compassion and take solace in the lesson of the holiday: Remember the good when things are bleakest. The candles we kindle will continue to shed light and bring hope beyond expectation.

Rabbi Cooper is the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Adlerstein is the center's director of interfaith affairs.

Errol Louis returns on Thursday.

The Growth of Chabad

Click on the title to watch the video on PBS.

KIM LAWTON: Rabbi Shea Harlig is on a mission to get Jews to embrace a more traditional practice of their faith. As an emissary of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he works nearly nonstop. He leads prayer services and Torah studies.

DINA HARLIG (Chabad of Southern Nevada, speaking to students): OK, now. When I come in you’re going to be sitting in a circle.

LAWTON: He and his wife, Dina, sponsor a Jewish school for children, and they promote keeping a kosher diet. The rabbi is waging his campaign in what may seem an unlikely mission field — Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rabbi HARLIG: Once you get away from the strip, it’s like any other city, except that you have slot machines in every grocery store.

LAWTON: The Harligs are part of a vast and sometimes controversial effort aimed at Jews in every corner of the globe. It was the vision of the late Chief Lubavitch rabbi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who led the Lubavitch movement for more than 40 years. Lubavitchers simply call him “the Rebbe.”

Rabbi YEHUDA KRINSKY (Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters): The Rebbe established what you might call an outreach program decades ago with the intention to reach out to the Jewish people wherever they are, whoever they are regardless of background, to teach them about their faith.

LAWTON: Schneerson emphasized traditional Hasidic teachings, strict religious observance, and deep mysticism. He also preached that the coming of the Messiah, “the Moshiach,” was near.

Rabbi HARLIG: The Rebbe has established that we should usher this age when godliness will be revered to all, and the struggle between good and evil will cease, and there’ll be true peace in the world. So we look at our goal of bringing Jewish people closer is that they should fulfill their mission. This is one of the ways we could hasten, to speed up the coming of the Messiah.

LAWTON: Like other Hasidic groups, Lubavitchers fled persecution and political upheaval in Europe, bringing their 18th-century way of life to 20th-century America. They established a flourishing community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which has become the movement’s international headquarters. While other Hasidic groups maintained a strict focus inward, the Rebbe instructed his followers to spread the Chabad-Lubavitch vision outward.

Rabbi KRINSKY: He often said he could not rest until every Jewish child, every Jewish person was afforded a proper Jewish education to know how to live as a Jew and as a human being.

LAWTON: Married men and women called “shluchim”— emissaries — were dispatched around the world to establish Chabad centers, even in places where there were only a few Jews. They call themselves the Rebbe’s Army, and they’ve enlisted for life.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (speaking at event): … to gather together all of us together to gain this friend, to be true soldiers in the Rebbe’s Army.

LAWTON: There are more than 4,000 emissary couples in 47 U.S. states and 73 foreign countries.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (speaking at event): Romania!

LAWTON: Roll calls at Lubavitch meetings, such as this women’s conference, show their massive reach. There’s a special emphasis on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, where the Lubavitch movement has its roots.

LEAH MINDLE LIPSZIC (Emissary to Crimea): Most of the people in the country through 75 years of Communism were totally, totally deprived of any knowledge of Judaism.

LAWTON: But emissaries are also in other challenging places. They’ve led special services in Nepal, and they’ve lit a Hanukkah menorah in Las Vegas. Such a mission field was just what Shea and Dina Harlig were looking for when they arrived more than a decade ago, shortly after their marriage. There was no kosher food, no ritual bath, little Jewish education. So the Harligs set to work. Today, they’ve opened a new $1.5 million Chabad center with regular prayer services in a “shul” or synagogue and a “mikveh” — a bath for women’s monthly purification rituals.

Rabbi HARLIG (speaking to customer): Keep kosher? Are you keeping — are you learning about kosher?

LAWTON: Rabbi Harlig is now the local kosher foods supervisor. Several grocery stores sponsor entire kosher foods sections, and there are several kosher restaurants, including a Chinese restaurant, Shalom Hunan. They established the Torah Tots preschool, and a Desert Torah academy with grades K through 4. The instruction is both secular and religious. Most of the parents are non-Chabad Jews.

Ms. HARLIG: We have the parents really involved as much as we can, and we explain a lot what we do — whatever program we do — we always have them understand what’s going on.

LAWTON: Rabbi Harlig teaches Jews that observance and good deeds are a way to enhance spirituality and connect with God. Lynn and Arne Rosencrantz are members of the Conservative congregation who’ve participated in Rabbi Harlig’s classes and donated to Chabad projects.

LYNN ROSENCRANTZ (Chabad Supporter): They make me hungry to learn more. They encourage me and motivate me to learn more about Judaism, to be a better Jew, to aspire to be the best kind of Jew that I can.

LAWTON: But Lubavitchers also generate especially because of their Messianic beliefs. Schneerson died in 1994. He had not designated a successor. Lubavitchers believe he is still guiding them. Every year, people flock to his gravesite in Queens where they seek his intervention for miracles. Chabad leaders say every “shaliach” or emissary continues to be inspired by the Rebbe.

Rabbi KRINSKY: I would say that there’s not a shaliach in the world who — and all the members of his or her family — that don’t feel the Rebbe constantly looking over their shoulder. His blessing is almost palpable. The success is so phenomenal.

Rabbi DAVID BERGER (Professor of History, Brooklyn College): The belief that the messianic mission of the true Messiah would be interrupted by his death and burial in an unredeemed world is a position which Jews rejected, and rejected vigorously, vehemently. I believe that the belief itself is a betrayal of Judaism.

LAWTON: Chabad leaders are very reluctant to publicly discuss the extent to which Lubavitchers believe Schneerson was the Messiah.

Rabbi KRINSKY: We live in a free country. People can believe what they — whatever they want. But it is certainly not an obligation upon anyone to campaign or to point fingers at anybody, saying that this is Moshiach, this is potential Moshiach or whatever. I think it’s dangerous, actually. People don’t understand what the whole concept of a Moshiach is really about. It’s a delicate subject, and they can get lost in the quagmire.

Rabbi HARLIG: It’s possible. Who is it going to be for sure? I don’t know. Most important thing is let’s do our work, let’s bring as many Jews as possible back to our sacred tradition, and the Messiah will show up, and whoever it’s going to be it’s going to be, as long as he finally comes.

LAWTON: And Rabbi Harlig says he’s doing what he can to see Las Vegas get ready for the Messiah’s arrival.

Rabbi HARLIG: My hope is that Moshiach should be here and the strip will be turned into big yeshivas — rabbinical schools. And I envision all the big hotels with the thousands of rooms is going to be rabbinical students studying. That’s my visio

Saturday, December 27, 2008

If It Involves Jews, Chabad’s Tiny but Far-Flung News Organization Is on It

When the news broke on Thursday of a freakish traffic accident that injured several people at the Chanukah Wonderland workshop run by the Lubavitch community of Woodmere, on Long Island, the story was picked up by the usual suspects: Newsday, The Daily News, The New York Post and The Associated Press. It also happened to be that day’s top North American offering of a much smaller — and somewhat more specialized — journalistic venture: Chabad.org News.

Written and produced from a small home office in Israel by a husband-and-wife team, Chabad.org News is a nonprofit international reporting operation that focuses on stories of interest to Jews — and more specifically the Lubavitch community — around the globe. On any given day, it might cover the opening of a new kosher cafeteria at the University of Miami or a fatal bus crash in Eilat, Israel. Its headlines reflect the tenets of the movement and the interests of its readers: “Light Again Issues Forth from Mumbai Chabad House” or “Mountaintop Circumcision a First for Southeastern Peru.”

“It really runs the gamut, from identifying new trends in Jewish outreach being trailblazed by Lubavitch emissaries worldwide, to exploring what’s going on in far-flung Jewish communities,” said Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a spokesman for the Lubavitch movement and a key player in the news team’s Brooklyn office.

While Rabbi Shmotkin oversees logistics in New York, the editor and tireless chief writer of Chabad.org News is a journalist, Rabbi Joshua Runyan, formerly of The Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, whose byline runs on perhaps 90 percent of the Web site’s stories.

Rabbi Runyan is a busy man. On a Tuesday morning, for example, he could easily find himself composing a story on the first Torah scroll ever to be written in the state of Arkansas and the following afternoon be editing a dispatch on a menorah-lighting ceremony in Calgary, Alberta, filed by his wife, Tamar. (The Runyans could not be reached for comment as, by Friday morning in New York, the Jewish Sabbath had begun in Israel.)

With 10 to 12 stringers throughout the world from New York to Australia, Chabad.org News is truly global in its reach. It relies on tips and information passed on by the movement’s many emissaries as well as leg and phone work conducted by members of the Media Center based in the Lubavitch world headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The movement, which has an extensive public relations operation, has cultivated useful relationships with newspaper and television reporters who are often happy to pass on information about breaking news in exchange for, say, a good tip on a feature story, Rabbi Shmotkin said.

The Woodmere crash was an example of that. A local television reporter tipped off the Lubavitch office so that Rabbi Runyan, working from Israel, knew to call officials on Long Island in time to bang out a dispatch posted online not quite two hours after the crash occurred.

Chabad.org News sprang into action last month during the terrorist siege of two hotels and the Lubavitch community center in Mumbai. Feeds were collected from a Lubavitch emissary arriving from Goa; tips were received from a friendly CNN reporter on the scene; phone calls were made from Brooklyn to various government officials; and the whole package was sent to Rabbi Runyan, who is still writing updates on the story (“Menorah Shines from Scene of Mumbai’s Prior Devastation”) weeks later.

With such diverse sources of information, Chabad.org News stands at the intersection of professional reporting, citizen journalism and movement boosterism, apparently pleased to have its feet in all three worlds. The stickiest question may be how to cover the institution that spawned it. While the outfit’s stories are broad in scope (“Jewish Community in Iowa City Joins Sandbagging Effort”), they are rarely, if ever, critical of the Lubavitch movement itself.

“Obviously, it’s a house organ to some extent,” said Ari Goldman, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a self-described fan who receives regular RSS feeds of stories from Chabad.org News. “But I also think it’s a reliable source of information.”

So, apparently, do numerous others. Beyond the stories it publishes online, the outfit offers a twice-weekly e-mail newsletter to 85,000 subscribers and automatically “streamlines content” to the Web sites of more than 1,000 local Chabad affiliates from Paris to Pittsburgh.

“It’s similar to the A.P.,” Rabbi Shmotkin said. “But much more integrated.”

Friday, December 26, 2008

Celebrating Rabbi Feldman

A tribute to the late Rabbi Mendel Feldman.


Kenneth Lasson
Special to the Jewish Times

By almost any measure that truly counts, Rabbi Mendel Feldman — who died on Dec. 13 in Sydney, Australia, at the age of 93 — was a remarkable man.

The details of his upbringing do not presage what he meant to those of us who knew him well. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., studied at Yeshivat Tomchei Temimim under the previous Lubavitcher rebbe, went to Mesivta Torah Vodaas, and assumed his first pulpit in Jacksonville, Fla.

In 1958, when the revered Rabbi Simon Schwab left Baltimore’s Shearith Israel Congregation (locally known as “the Glen Avenue Shul”) for a similarly prestigious post in the German-Jewish community of Washington Heights, N.Y., Rabbi Feldman was chosen to succeed him.

On paper, the two rabbis could hardly have stood in starker contrast. Rabbi Schwab, classically trained and erudite but speaking barely a word of English, had fled Frankfurt, Germany, at the beginning of the Holocaust; Rabbi Feldman, a staunch Lubavitcher and American, a handball player and New York Giants fan, a talmudic scholar, was ebullient and plain-spoken.

But both were exceptionally charismatic, each able to establish a lasting and loving rapport with most of their congregants.

Rabbi Feldman enjoyed an even longer tenure at Shearith Israel, almost a quarter-century, before establishing a new shul, Ahavas Yisroel Tzemach Tzedek (aka “Rabbi Feldman’s Shul”), farther up Park Heights Avenue. He retired after his wife, Rochel, passed away, and immigrated to Australia to be near his son, now Rav Pinchas Feldman, chief Chabad rabbi of New South Wales.

But none of those facts reflect the essential character and humanity of Rabbi Mendel Feldman.

An Abiding Faith

Rabbi Feldman cultivated friendships like flowers, with a quiet sensitivity, and they became permanent by mutual affection.

My friendship with Rabbi Feldman began when I was a teenager, with private classes for me and my friend, Jerry Zuriff, held in the small room behind the main sanctuary at Shearith Israel. Those sessions, punctuated by college and graduate school, continued in different permutations for many years.

Most recently, they were in my home, where every Thursday afternoon, Steve Grossman and I would meet with Rabbi Feldman to learn for an hour.

We had our own rituals of choice. Rabbi Feldman would hold forth over his favorite scotch and a bowlful of nuts. Steve drank beer, I had iced tea, and the three of us analyzed and debated a variety of texts and commentaries, including Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs), Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) and Mishlei (Proverbs).

More often than not, the conversations devolved into a passionate discussion of faith and the existence of God.

Rabbi Feldman’s faith was abiding, but intellectual as well. He had no explanation for the Holocaust, but he could not bring himself to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In this regard, too, he was simple but profound: You can’t be a true believer, he said, unless you have doubts.

His knowledge of Talmud was encyclopedic. The rabbi respected all points of view, but defended both Orthodoxy and minhagim (customs) with equal fervor, meticulous in his own observance but unusually tolerant of those less so. He constantly preached achdus (togetherness), disdaining communal divisions of all kinds. But he disliked hypocrisy, especially when it came to kashrut.

He loved nature, coming every spring to my backyard to recite the blessing over new fruit blossoms, and once laughing with delight as he planted seeds in the garden himself. He liked to read National Geographic, which nurtured his belief that all creatures and human beings are made by God.

Thus, he had a kind word for everyone, making a point of saying hello to all who passed in the street on his daily walks to and from shul, including — if not especially — postal workers and other non-Jews.

He celebrated the yomin tovim with the gusto one might expect from a Lubavitcher Chasid. On Chanukah, he handed out silver dollars to children in shul. On Purim, he held court at his dining room table. With the steady parade of friends and disciples, there was really no difference between them for him, as they stopped by for a drink and words of wisdom.

Every fall, he made the long walk to our sukkah so he could make Kiddush from a large wine cup reserved exclusively for him.

Through it all, over a half-century in Baltimore, his over-arching qualities were genuine humility and essential kindness.

In all those years, I never heard him speak ill of anyone. I doubt others did either.

May his memory be a blessing.

Kenneth Lasson is a law professor at the University of Baltimore and an occasional writer for the BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES

From the Archives: NYPD CHOSEN GUNS

Didja hear the one about the cop who walked into a doughnut shop and asked for a bagel and a shmear?

You will soon. The NYPD is adding 10 Orthodox Jews, including one woman, to their ranks. That's the largest Orthodox contingent ever in the department's latest cadet class.

When Ari Husarsky told his parents he wanted to be a cop, they were all verklempt.

"My mom flipped," the 24-year-old recalled as he stood outside the Police Academy on East 20th Street near Gramercy Park.

When the shock wore off and he had promised he would still keep kosher on meal breaks and, yes, in doughnut shops, his parents gave him their blessing.

"My mother was also against it for the obvious reasons," added Brighton Beach resident Max Silva, 28, a former caterer at Meisner's in Brooklyn. He said they thought it was just too dangerous.

"It was just one of those childhood dreams I never grew out of. Everybody was against it because nobody thinks of Jewish people as police officers," he said.

"I always wanted to be a cop, but my wife, Sharona, was against it," Silva added. "But I convinced her. It took her two years. She thinks it's a dangerous job. I was sick of my other job because there was no room to grow. I wanted a future."

The Police Department has welcomed the new recruits, who are excused from working after dusk on Fridays and on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

"This class is going to be the ice breaker," cadet Shmuel Tenenbaum said proudly. "The next class is going to have 30 or 40."

He said he'd prefer not to work in an Orthodox area, especially his own Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, where his dad owns a matzo factory.

"If you give a Jewish guy a ticket, it's very hard," he said, noting that he might be pressured to give preferential treatment. "And then people talk. They could make your life miserable."

Tenenbaum is fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming one of New York's Finest. He finally took the plunge after serving as an auxiliary cop for the Highway 2 unit.

And he doesn't think that wearing a yarmulke under his police cap will mean he's different from the others. "I just feel like a regular person. I don't stop and think my yarmulke is on."

Luckily, he's now got plenty of support from the Jewish community, especially his rabbi.

Single and 25, David Attali is hoping that being a cop will make him a babe magnet, or at least help him find a wife. "I think girls actually like it. Because how many Jewish cops are there?" he said.

But he worries that the low starting salary will make it tough keeping kosher.

"A burger at McDonald's costs two or three bucks, but at a kosher place it's $8," he lamented.

The Orthodox recruits graduate from the Police Academy in December along with 1,218 classmates.

Police recruit Jesse Cohen, 34, said his parents were convinced he was meshugana, but eventually they relented. "It's what's in your heart," he said.

Born in Uzbekistan, Amnum Pirov, 32, was a barber in Queens. He believes he's the first Bukharian Jewish officer. He's married, has three kids, attends yeshiva, and despite the dangers intrinsic to being a cop, wife Elana is proud of his new career.

While working as a manager at a kosher grocery store on Long Island, Chaim Goldgrab, 25, would often daydream about a new career. Since he couldn't decide whether he wanted to be a mortician or a cop, he decided to do both, and is also training as a funeral director.

His preference is saving lives rather than dealing with the dead. "I never fit the mold," he said.

Eleena Zazon, 23, who lives in suburban Monsey, is one of a handful of female Orthodox Jews on the force. She's looking forward to making her mark on the shooting range: "I've always been very adventurous and looking for excitement."

She said her friends "are a bit surprised" by her chutzpah and she's bucking strict tradition by wearing pants instead of long dresses, an Orthodox symbol of modesty. But her gear is manufactured specifically for women - so it's not in violation of Orthodox law.

The kosher cops have had to deal with a few wardrobe issues during training.

"Even today in the gym my yarmulke fell off when I was doing push-ups," said Eliezer Zinstein, 24, who signed up after working as a Talmud teacher for five years in Canarsie, Brooklyn.


The by-the-book cadet said that only once he had to seek a rabbinical resolution.

"I used to wear wool tzizit," he said, referring to the tassels worn by observant Jews at the corners of an undershirt-like garment.

His wise rabbi told him that he could wear lighter cotton during strenuous workouts. The tassels also are tucked into his pants.


Kalman Witriol, 23, was destined for the job. He's following in the footsteps of his brother, Joel Witriol, who was featured on The Post's front page in 2006 when he became the NYPD's first Hasidic cop.

"The NYPD is the most diverse city agency and the most diverse police department in America," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "It's one of our great strengths."


rblau@nypost.com

From the Archives: For them, it's wholly unholy

For them, it's wholly unholy
Christmas Eve is one of the few occasions when Hasidim refrain from Torah study, do not conduct weddings or go to the mikveh. But they do play chess and work on their bills
By Shahar Ilan

On Christmas Eve, known in Jewish circles as Nitel Night, the klipot (shells) are in total control. The klipot are parasitical evil forces that attach themselves to the forces of good. According to kabbala (Jewish mysticism), on the night on which "that man" - a Jewish euphemism for Jesus - was born, not even a trace of holiness is present and the klipot exploit every act of holiness for their own purposes.

For this reason, Nitel Night, from nightfall to midnight, is one of the few occasions when Hasidim refrain from Torah study. On this horrific night, they neither conduct weddings nor do they go to the mikveh (ritual bath). An entire folkloric literature has developed around the unusual recreational activities of Nitel Night. The customs, it should be emphasized, are practiced only by Hasidim. Lithuanian and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews do not suspend their regular Torah study on Christmas Eve.

Chess and cards

The classic pastime on Nitel Night is chess. There is the famous photograph of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, apparently playing chess with his father on Nitel Night, although calendar calculations by Lubavitcher Hasidim rule out the idea that the photograph was taken on Nitel. Some prefer cards, such as Uka, a Galician Jewish version of poker, or 21. Some argue that each card has its own klipa (shell) and thus card-playing on Nitel Night is a particularly serious sin.

Kabbalistic toilet paper

The Knesset correspondent of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, Zvi Rosen, relates that celebrated Hasidic admorim (sect leaders) would cut a year's supply of toilet paper for Sabbath use (to avoid tearing toilet paper on Sabbath) on this night. Actually, this disrespectful act has profound kabbalistic significance, because kabbalistic literature extensively discusses Christianity as waste material excreted from the body of the Jewish people. Today, precut toilet paper for Sabbath use is available on the market; thus, the custom's relevance has diminished.

Another custom of Hasidic admorim is to make calculations on Nitel for the entire year, such as the amount they must set aside to observe the commandment of tithe-giving. Rabbi Hannah of Kalschitz reportedly would study geography on Nitel. The journalist Rosen spends Nitel night arranging his archive, peeling oranges and making marmalade. The Lubavitcher (Chabad) movement's spokesman, Menachem Brod, arranges his pile of bills.

Abstaining from procreation

As was the case in 2000, Christmas Eve or Nitel Night this year falls on Friday night, and this fact has several significant ramifications. Because of this, certain acts that are desecrations of the Sabbath cannot be performed, such as cutting toilet paper or straightening out paperwork. Nor can one sleep throughout the entire Christmas Eve because of the obligation of eating the Friday night meal, although it is customary not to talk about sacred matters at the table when Christmas Eve falls on Friday night.

However, the biggest paradox concerns the procreation mitzvah (commandment). It is recommended that the commandment be observed on Friday night, which is a holy time. Yet on Nitel Night, which has no holiness, it is customary to refrain from observing the commandment, because of the fear that a Jewish child conceived on Jesus' birthday could become an apostate.

A whispered prayer

Abraham Isaac Sperling's "Reasons for Jewish Customs and Traditions (Bloch Publishing Company, 1968) explains that one chief reason for the development of Nitel customs was practical: Anti-Semites would ambush Jews and savagely beat them, sometimes even killing them, in the streets on Christmas Eve. Thus, the rabbis decreed that Jews should remain at home that night and not wander in the streets.

Over the years, abstention from Torah study on Christmas Eve became a custom that, of course, was observed clandestinely. There are tales, however, that describe cases where gentiles, discovering that Jews were playing games instead of studying Torah that night, would burst into Jewish homes, only to discover the young students engaged in the discussion of Jewish law over open books.

One Nitel custom in the Diaspora was to recite the entire "Aleinu Leshabe'ah" prayer out loud. The prayer includes the phrase "those who bow down before vapor and emptiness," customarily uttered in a whisper throughout the year, so that gentiles would not hear the words. On Nitel Night, it was customary, after it had been ascertained that no non-Jews were around, to loudly utter the forbidden phrase.

Ban on Torah study

The source of the name "Nitel" is unknown. The most successful, although perhaps not the most convincing, explanation is that Nitel is an acronym for the Yiddish words "nischt yidden tarren lernen": "It is forbidden for Jews to study." Another explanation is that the term is a corruption of the Latin word for birthday, natalis.

How many Nitels?

Over the years, a collection of Nitel jokes has developed. For example, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was once asked to eulogize Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism and a secular Jew. After a few moments, he came up with three positive traits: Herzl had never spoken while putting on his phylacteries, had never thought about Torah matters in unclean places and had never studied Torah on Nitel. Or, for example, a young Jewish boy was found studying Torah on Nitel. Asked why he was not observing the ban on such study on Nitel, he replied that he observed the ban on the Armenian Christmas Eve.

The second joke points to a real problem. Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas Eve on the night of December 24. Christmas on the Greek and Russian Orthodox calendars falls on January 6. On which day should Torah study be prohibited? The late Lubavitcher Rebbe proposed that Nitel be observed on the Christmas Eve celebrated by the majority of Christians in that particular country. In the United States, he ruled that Torah study should be banned on the night of December 24, when most Christian Americans celebrate Christmas Eve. Some Hasidic sect leaders and members have refrained from Torah study on both Christmas Eves, and the most meticulous of them even suspended Torah study on New Year's Eve as well.

Slumber of the righteous

One of the early Lubavitcher leaders told his disciples that he disliked those scholars who argued that they could not suspend Torah study for even a few hours and that they therefore had to study Torah even on Christmas Eve. The Saintly Genius of Liska reportedly wanted to study Torah on a Nitel night. However, he fell into a deep sleep and his candle went out. When he awoke, he realized that divine intervention had kept him from carrying out his original purpose.

In an article on Nitel published in the Torah monthly, Moriah, Rabbi Yosef Lieberman offers a solution to circumvent the ban on Torah study: go to bed at nightfall and get up at midnight to study Torah, when such study becomes permissible. An expert on Hasidism, Rabbi Benzion Grossman relates that in the yeshivas of the Vishnitz Hasidim, the students would go to sleep in the afternoon prior to Christmas Eve and would get up at night to make up for the study hours they had missed. However, the Saintly Genius Rabbi Shalom of Kaminka would refrain from sleeping on Nitel, arguing that he always dreamed about Torah matters.

The Holy Land's sacredness

Some people maintain that the Nitel customs need not be observed in Israel, because of the Holy Land's sacredness. Rabbi Mordechai of Slonim ruled that, in the Holy Land, the klipot had no power - not even in Jerusalem, the site of many synagogues. Nonetheless, Hasidic sect leaders who came to the Holy Land continued the Nitel custom, and their disciples followed their example. In contrast, Lithuanian and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews do not observe Nitel at all. "The Hasidim will look for any excuse not to study Torah," quipped one Lithuanian Jewish cynic.

What Not to Wear

Some in Crown Heights detect modesty crisis

By Marissa Brostoff

An outsider visiting Crown Heights might be forgiven for thinking that the women in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood represent the height of modesty. But some in the Brooklyn community, where the Chabad-Lubavitch movement is based, are concerned that modesty standards are slipping, and have launched a campaign to counter the trend.

Thus far, the effort—organized by a woman named Sheyna Goldin, with the approval of Chabad’s women’s organization, N’Shei Chabad—has involved putting up 500 posters encouraging adherence to modesty laws. But not everyone in the organization agrees with Goldin’s approach, and a frisson of disagreement has broken out over it—and whether the declining standards are even anything new.

“It’s Not Just a Good Idea, IT’S THE LAW!” proclaim the posters, which appeared recently on Kingston Avenue and other neighborhood thoroughfares. The fliers go on to list the laws of tznius, or modesty (modest dress must begin at age three; shirts must cover collarbones; skirts must cover knees) and their talmudic sources. Fine print at the bottom explains the spiritual rewards for modest dress and the consequences for disregarding it.

Even in Crown Heights, such public pronouncements of religious law are unusual—which was the point, Goldin argued.

“Everything is out in the street now; it’s kind of corresponding to the times,” she said, in an interview with Nextbook. “In the shuls, not everyone would see it. It’s more emphatic, like we really mean business.”

“You have to set the standard, not lower yourself to it,” echoed Esther Rochel Spielman, who coordinates subscriptions for N’Shei Chabad’s newsletter. Spielman said that she was seeing more short or slit skirts and tight clothing on young women in the community.

“There is a decline in the men also, the teenagers,” she added. “A lot of them will think it’s cool to go without tsisis [ritual fringes].”

But even some who agree that modesty standards are slipping find Goldin’s approach too aggressive.

“Modesty standards have been declining for decades,” said Bronya Shaffer, a mother of 10 who teaches and lectures in the community on Jewish family life. Shaffer, who was sitting in her dining room surrounded by hundreds of religious books, picked up a copy of the New York Times Magazine that was lying on the table beside a copy of a Chabad magazine and gestured disapprovingly at a risqué Chanel advertisement on the back cover. But the posters also made her wince.

“The medium itself is antithetical to the very essence of modesty," she said of the posters. "It’s not the Chabad way. I cringe at the specter of kids, young boys and girls, reading in huge letters, in bold technicolor, about uncovered legs and necklines and tight clothing."

Goldin said that the posters are directed toward both Lubavitchers who live in the neighborhood and visitors to the community.

“The darkness in the world is very great and influences everybody,” Goldin said. “The posters are a fortification and a reminder that this is really not just a nice thing, but a total law from the Torah.”

Sara Labkowski, the dean of a school for young women in the process of becoming more religious, said that because Crown Heights, unlike more isolated ultra-Orthodox enclaves, is “a very open community” located in the heart of Brooklyn, the posters would help to remind young Lubavitchers in the neighborhood of the modesty laws. She helped to distribute flyer-sized versions of the poster at a vigil for the Chabad emissaries killed in the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai.

For Spielman, the decline in modesty is just another sign of what she believes is directly on the horizon.

“I guess we’re getting very close to the moshiach,” she said, using the Hebrew word for messiah. “The satan [devil] tries to attack in any ways he could.”

8th Day Chanukah Finale to Honor 2 Slain in Chabad Mumbai at the 9/11 'Twin Tower' Memorial in East Meadow

G-d Bless America. Happy New Year! Program Includes Special Blessings for America During These Tough Times

MarketWire


MINEOLA, NY - On Monday Dec 29th at 12:30 pm, the last day of Chanukah, all 8 Chanukah candles will be lit in a special ceremony to be held at the Nassau County's own 9/11 memorial in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow NY.

"We chose this significant location," explained Rabbi Anchelle Perl, director of Chabad in Mineola, "to link the 9/11 in the USA with the 9/11 in India."

In both events we have terrorists who spent long hours, days, months, resources and strategy to fulfill a mission of hate, destruction, chaos and murder.

But in contrast to this, all 8 candles of the Menorah will highlight the illuminating life of the couple [Rabbi Gavriel & Gabe Holtzberg, the Chabad emissaries murdered in Mumbai India] who devoted their life on a mission to help others by establishing a center which served as a home to inspire those who need inspiration, give warm meals to those who are hungry and create a place where people can feel comfortable connecting to their Jewish Heritage.

"To stand together at this hallowed location surrounded by the memory of the 344 Nassau County residents who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 will be inspirational and uplifting," said Rabbi Perl. "The Holtzberg couple will always remain shining examples of 'twin towers' of strength and kindness."

For we are letting the world know that we will not be deterred by acts of terror, we will move forward and increase in acts of goodness and kindness which will bring light to the world.

What is true of the individual is true of a nation, especially this great United States, united under G-d. All of us share the duty and privilege of this great Nation to promote all the forces of light both at home and abroad.

The program will include special remarks from the Holtzberg family and will feature an eye witness report of the Menorah lightings in Mumbai this week. At the end of the celebration, donated toys will be distributed to the guests, who will be encouraged to give them to needy children to uplift their spirits during the holidays.

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Contact Person: Rabbi Anchelle Perl For directions and more information: 516-739-3636

Chabad centre to stay

MUMBAI: Four weeks after the terror attack on Nariman House in which Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka and seven others were murdered by gunmen, emissaries of the Chabad Lubavitch movement arrived here to reaffirm their commitment to continuing their work in the city.

At a ceremony at the Gateway of India Rabbi Kotlarsky who is Vice Chairman of the International Conference of Chabad Lubavitch Emissaries said, “We are committed to coming back actually, we are not leaving. We are here and we are not leaving.”

With these words he invited Rabbi Rosenberg, the father of Rivka, to light the menorah. Seated in a manually operated crane, the Rabbi lit five of the oil lamps on the towering 15-foot high menorah. The number signified the fifth day of the Jewish festival, Chanukah.

At an earlier ceremony Rabbi Holtzberg, the father of Rabbi Gavriel, had lit a similar menorah installed at the Chabad centre at Nariman House.

Rabbi Kotlarsky described the Chabad centre as a “beacon of light to the whole world. It has been physically destroyed but the spirit lives on and the activities of Gavriel and Rivka will continue. We will not fight terrorism with AK-47s, grenades or guns. We will fight with beacons of light and goodness.” The Rabbi said it was too early to tell if the centre would continue to operate from Nariman house or elsewhere.

Speaking of the spirit of Chanukah the Rabbi said it was the victory of “few over many, weak over strong.” Chanukah, the festival of lights, spans eight days. On the fourth day of Chanukah two-year-old Moshe, the orphaned child of the Holtzbergs, lit a menorah at his maternal grandparents’ home in Afula, Israel. It had been a tradition with his parents to light a menorah during Chanukah at the Gateway of India ever since they came to Mumbai.