Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Home video recovered from Mumbai Chabad

Along with pictures that were on the restored hard drive of the Holtzberg's computer were video clips of the Chabad House activities. Enjoy this 12 minute clip, compiled by Shturem, giving us another glimpse of the kedoshim and their peulos. Some of the footage was taken just days before they were taken from the world so brutally.

Vilnius, Lithuania - Chabad Rabbi in Vilna Banned from Main Shul by the Jewish Kehilla

Vilnius, Lithuania - The Jewish community in Vilna refuses to allow the local Chabad rabbi to enter the main shul, even though the rabbi has to say Kaddish and has no other minyan where he can say it.

Tense, acrid relations have existed between the Jewish community and Rabbi Krinsky since 2004, when the community passed Rav Krinsky by for the rabbinate and chose instead Rabbi Chaim Burstein, a former St. Petersburg refusenik who had studied in Litvish yeshivos in Israel. Despite Rabbi Krinsky living in Vilna and being involved with the community since 1994, the kehilla said they had a tradition of being misnagdim and preferred a rabbi who was a Litvak.

Fisticuffs broke out in the shul between pro-Krinsky and pro-Burshtein factions during Shavuot services in 2004. The fracas was covered extensively by the local and foreign media.

Burshtein was later roughed up by Krinsky supporters during tefillos in the shul. When Krinsky's hooliganism continued, he and his followers were barred from the synagogue. They countered by holding vigils in the courtyard for months while pouting to foreign journalists about their "victimization".

The ensuing embarrassment and seeing no end to the conflict caused the kehilla to close the synagogue for more than a year, while services were held in the kehilla building. The community took Krinsky to court, and an arrangement was finally reached where the rabbi had to retreat to his Chabad center. The shul reopened in August 2005, and morning and evening services have since been held daily - without Krinsky, who presides over his own services in a first-floor room at the Chabad center.

The ban against Rav Krinsky entering the main shul means that he cannot enter the shul to recite Kaddish for his mother who passed away a few days ago. His own synagogue doesn't have a regular minyan of worshippers. Krinsky grumbled, "The doors are closed, and the guards know me and won't let me enter. How can one say 'no' to a Jew who wants to say Kaddish for his mother?"

Rabbi Yosef Aharanov, the head of Israeli shlichim, was shocked. "Banning a Jew, kal v'chomer one who is a rav of a kehilla, is extremely serious. Such a thing is not done except under the most extreme circumstances."

Mr. Alperowitz, the community president, says, "Krinsky should blame himself that he doesn't have a minyan. He distanced people from himself."

Both Krinsky and Alperowitz accuse each other of violence, and being motivated by the long-awaited restitution of Jewish communal property, which in Lithuania eventually will include at least 200 buildings and an estimated $60 million in compensation for property that cannot be returned.

Local observers claim that Krinsky's attempt to grab control of the Vilna kehilla follows a Chabad pattern to usurp power from local rabbis elsewhere in Eastern Europe which in recent years occurred in Kiev, Prague, Russia and Germany.

Lita has today about 4,500 Jews, most of them living in Vilna.

Thursday, February 19, 2009 in financial trouble?

By Jacob Berkman · February 19, 2009

It seems that, the de facto global publicity arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, is having some financial difficulty.

Though is not a chabad outpost, it is run like one, and like all other outposts is responsible for its own fund raising.

I have received the following email twice in the past 24 hours:

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

I value your time and will therefore get straight to the point:

We need your help to keep our virtual doors open!

The economic crisis has hit us crushingly hard and we are in an emergency situation.

Though we always keep our overhead low (-- our editors and writers do their jobs for comparatively little, as theirs is a labor of love), we’ve had to make some painful cuts.

Yet, we are still hundreds of thousands of dollars behind. Some of our largest donations were canceled due to the economic crisis. We simply cannot continue much longer.

So we appeal to you, friends and beneficiaries of

Please help us serve! Please partner with us to nurture Jewish souls, to help people who are hungry for meaning to find their answers.

Your tax deductible donation to may be the deciding factor in the life of a struggling teenager, a down-on-his luck business owner, a forlorn Jew in some forgotten place on the globe, or an educated professional suddenly interested in her Jewish roots.

You see, every single day hundreds of people in need of advice and a listening ear email us -- and each month we serve up a broad and deep array of life-affirming Jewish content to millions of visitors:

College students who are struggling to create their identity as Jewish adults. Singles wondering whether they should marry Jewish. Traveling professionals seeking to affirm their Jewishness in the far-flung regions of the world. New parents learning how to raise a Jewish child. And anyone seeking support, compassion, advice and warmth for their questions, their struggles and their pain. For hundreds of thousands, young and old, IS their Jewish home.

So I appeal to you today: Please reach in deeply to your pockets and partner with us! Help us serve the Jewish People, including many who might be in even greater need than you.

G-d assures us each repeatedly in His Holy Torah that He will repay us many times over for the charity we give. And His currency is far more sustaining than money alone.

You can contribute securely online at:

While there, please consider setting up an automatic donation schedule for the coming year -- at regular intervals, or perhaps to mark special dates in your family.

Or mail a check to: Campaign c/o CLMC
770 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11213

If you are interested in planned giving, or in underwriting a site section or feature, or would like to discuss a stock transfer, a donation of real estate or a will, please contact us here.

We thank you immensely for your partnership and bless you that your partnership in our work will help beautify and illuminate your own life and the lives of all those around you and stand you in good stead forever.


Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, on behalf of


Conference Counters Notions of Hassidic Women

by Arun Venugopal

NEW YORK, NY February 16, 2009 —2,200 attendees from around the world crowded the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries, in Crown Heights.

Chana Weisberg came from Toronto, where she edits She says outsiders may have their own notions of Hassidic women, but that many of those in attendance are essentially CEO's.

WEISBERG: So they're running large corporations, and inspiring people and helping people and teaching people and educating people. And that's a tremendous part of what these conferences are about.

REPORTER: The conference includes a commemoration of the work of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who were killed during the Mumbai attacks.

Father of slain Chabad rabbi visits Sydney

February 18, 2009

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) -- The father of the Chabad rabbi slain in the Mumbai terror attacks is visiting Australia.

Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, whose son Gavriel and daughter-in-law Rivka were murdered last November, was honored Tuesday night at a gala dinner with 1,500 guests hosted by Chabad-Lubavitch in Sydney.

Holtzberg thanked the Jewish community “for your great love to me and my family in those days filled with darkness and pain.” He also recognized the Australian government's assistance.

“Participation of the government in such a faraway country is special, as it means that the wider Australian community, not just the Jewish community, stands with us in the struggle of good against evil, light over darkness,” he said.

Holtzberg was joined in Sydney by Moscow Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, who has been appointed director of the fund to rebuild the Chabad house in Mumbai and to ensure lifetime support for the couple’s 2-year-old orphaned son, Moshe. More than $3 million will be required to rebuild the Chabad house.

Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, praised Chabad and paid tribute to the young couple killed in the terror attacks.

“The best way we can remember your inspirational son and daughter-in-law is to practice and promote Yiddishkeit with even more vigor,” he said.

Turnbull added that he was still “humbled” that Chabad’s chief rabbi, Pinchus Feldman, presented him in 2007 with a U.S. dollar from the Lubavitcher rebbe.

Governor General Quentic Bryce sent a letter of support, as did Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who commended Chabad of Sydney’s assistance in the aftermath of the Victorian bush fire disaster on Feb. 7 that has killed more than 200 people.

Missing Rivky

by Sharon Udasin
Staff Writer

As Chani Lifshitz stepped on an empty stage to address at least 2,700 of her closest sisters here last Sunday, one woman was noticeably missing from the crowd — her very best friend, Rivky Holtzberg.
Lifshitz spoke to a sea of women gathered at the 21st Annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries — a weeklong convention that concludes with a beautiful banquet after several days of intense learning, training and reconnecting. This was the first mass gathering of Chabad emissaries since the terror attack in Mumbai three months ago, which buried Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg. Addressing the fortitude and leadership of this strong network of Chabad women, speakers led the evening’s proceedings in memory of the slain couple.

“Nothing will ever break us — or so I thought,” said Lifshitz, who is in her ninth year as an emissary to Katmandu, Nepal — just a two-hour flight from Mumbai.

“I lost the very best friend I ever had — I lost my Rivky,” she continued. “Since then I have never stopped searching for her.”

When Holtzberg and Lifshitz met in their Southeast Asian neighborhood four and half years ago, the two women formed a “neighborly connection” that soon grew into a friendship of “twin souls,” as Lifshitz describes.

“I was a relatively veteran shluchos [female emissary] in this neck of the woods,” Lifshitz said, explaining how she helped Holtzberg get adjusted and settle into her new — and very different — neighborhood. But soon, Lifshitz was just as much relying on the newcomer for comfort as Holtzberg looked to her for guidance.

In continued tears of disbelief, Lifshitz recalled how only two weeks before the attack, Gavriel Holtzberg and her own husband had foraged India together in search of a kidney for a fellow Jew. Only 12 hours before the tragedy occurred, Lifshitz said that something began to disturb her, and instinctively, she signed onto instant messenger to tell Rivky Holtzberg “I love you.” And just two hours before the attack, Holtzberg messaged that baby Moshe had finally agreed to go to bed.

Back on the podium, Lifshitz spoke directly to Holtzberg as if she were in the room among the women, rather than an image projected on a cinema-sized screen. Holtzberg’s face was sorely absent from the crowd, but Lifshitz assured the audience that her best friend was in fact there, attending the Women’s Conference with them in spirit.

Three months after tragedy befell in Mumbai, friends and family are still trying to pick up the pieces and prepare a new beginning for the crumbled community. For the time being, Gabi Holtzberg’s parents and brother are temporarily manning the rabbi and rebbetzin positions in Mumbai, but plans are in the works to bring in more permanent pair of shluchim, according to sources at
Despite their loss of Holtzberg, however, Chabad women continue to chug along — saying they are using the Mumbai tragedy and the economic upheaval as a springboard for them to leap forward, to be even more productive.

“Are Gabi and Rivky now a symbol of heroism? I think that is so,” life strategist Rabbi Shea Hecht told the Jewish Week, mentioning just how many babies in the community have been named Gavriel and Rivkah since. “People are somehow identifying with them.”

“This is the time to initiate new programs,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who oversees the Chabad emissaries and was a speaker that evening. “This is not the time to cut back.”

Dini Freundlich, emissary to Beijing, agrees with this sentiment, yet she and her family continue to feel the aftershock of the terror, as it reverberates through Asia.

“It felt extremely close to home because we live in a very similar setting,” Freundlich said, noting that most of the Asian Chabad houses harbor backpackers, students and tourists in transit. “I can just imagine that she was doing what I was doing.”

After hearing about the tragedy and viewing the horrific images, her five children — who range from 18 months to 13 years — expressed fear that a similar attack could threaten them too.
“They asked a lot of questions, had a lot of concerns: ‘It could’ve happened to us,’ ‘Is the front door locked?’ They felt like it almost happened to them,” Freundlich said, noting that for the first 10 days or so, all five of her children slept in her bedroom.

“Suddenly they were thrown into an R-rated movie in their living room,” she added.
Freundlich and her husband are working to safeguard their own home, and they are currently receiving help from the Israel Embassy’s security force, as well as El Al Airlines security team and the local Beijing police.
“We have taken on different measures to put better security measures at the school and the Chabad house,” she said. They are improving video surveillance in both buildings, and on Friday nights, Beijing police officers will patrol the area. Freundlich herself is equipped to do anything from directing a taxi driver to handling a problematic situation — because she decided to learn the local language, Mandarin.
“You have to learn the language,” she said. “I had to go to the grocery store and shop; I had to tell a taxi driver to turn right or left.”

But at the same time, like all of the resilient women at the Women’s Conference, Freundlich pressed on with her programs, where she said she has 50 children attending her secular studies school. In the evening she guides her two oldest children through their Webcam Judaic studies class, where they learn with an instructor alongside three girls from Europe.
“They go on early — an hour before — and stay an hour after for the social opportunity,” she said.
Much closer to the tragedy in distance and in friendship, the Lifshitzes made sure to visit the devastated community for a Chanukah menorah lighting, just one month after the attack. But as they grieve, Lifshitz and her family also move forward, and they continue to serve Shabbat dinners to backpackers each week and to prepare for their huge Passover seders.

“When you are part of a unique army such as ours, you can never wallow in mud,” she told the nearly 3,000 women. “We are the path.”

Peltz Center to honor Samuels couple on 30 years

By Leon Cohen
of The Chronicle staff

At the very beginning of the Six Day War in 1967, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, decreed that Lubavitch Chasidim could help Israel by encouraging Jewish men to perform the commandment of putting on tefillin.

A student named Yoseph Samuels decided to begin at once. Across the street from his Brooklyn yeshiva was a bank that had a high level official who was Jewish. So there Samuels went, visited the man in his office and helped him lay tefillin.

Decades later, Rabbi Yoseph Samuels, now director of Chabad of Downtown in Milwaukee, still remembers that “great experience.”

It showed how the Rebbe’s directives “help us discover how wonderful a Jewish soul is; how if you approach them with love, they will open up,” Samuels said in an interview at The Chronicle office.

This March, Samuels will begin his 30th year of work in Milwaukee with his wife and partner, Chashy, to reach and teach the “wonderful Jewish souls” they have found in the Milwaukee area.

The Joseph and Rebecca Peltz Center for Jewish Life in Mequon will mark the occasion by honoring the couple at a “Celebration Dinner” on Wednesday, March 4, beginning at 5 p.m., at the center, 2233 W. Mequon Rd.

Other honorees are Pamela and Ron Kohlenberg, who will receive the Community Service Award, and Jan and Aaron Katz, who will receive the Pillar of Chesed Award.

Until Moshiach comes

Rabbi Menachem Rapoport, executive director of the Peltz Center, said he wonders “why hasn’t [Samuels] been honored” previously in the community.

“He’s one of the greatest scholars Milwaukee has today,” Rapoport said, but “what’s most phenomenal about him is his love for people and his dedication to people as individuals.… His connection is not via any medium, but is person-to-person.”

One reason may be Samuels’ own reluctance. The center had approached Samuels “several times” for honors, but “we couldn’t get him to agree.” Even for this 30th year milestone, “it took a lot of arm twisting,” Rapoport said.

Indeed, Samuels himself said that the Peltz Center actually is “honoring all these wonderful people who put on tefillin and study Torah and permit me to do the things I do. That’s whom they’re honoring.”

As for his wife, the rabbi said she “is my complete partner.” Moreover, “there are a lot of people she teaches and who consult with her and confide in her.”

Karen Forman, co-chair of the dinner with her husband Marty, said she has known Chashy Samuels for more than 20 years, when the Formans moved to the Milwaukee area from Chicago.

“She was the first person to welcome me at her home with a Shabbat dinner,” said Forman. “Every conversation I’ve ever had with her has really reflected her gentleness and sincerity and great faith.… She is the most understated and humble person with so much wisdom and spirituality.”

Rabbi Samuels has always regarded himself as primarily a teacher, ever since the Rebbe told him, “You should be involved in Jewish education” shortly after his marriage to Chashy in 1969.

He served as a teacher in a Lubavitch day school in Miami, Fla., and worked at the Chabad in Seattle, Wash. He had known Rabbi Yisroel Shmotkin, director of Chabad of Wisconsin, earlier, and when Shmotkin asked Samuels to come to Milwaukee in 1980, the Rebbe gave his blessing.

At first, Samuels was education director and taught at a community high school that didn’t last. In 1990, he opened Chabad of Downtown, creating an operation that is funded independently from the general Milwaukee Chabad operation, but that still coordinates with it, Samuels said.

In that operation, Samuels teaches classes and individuals, and is open for downtown workers who want to study or pray during their lunch hours. He also officiates at life cycle events; and he travels to Richland Center, about a hour’s drive northwest of Madison, “a few times a year” to meet with the small Jewish community there.

Yoseph and Chashy have seven children, of whom the youngest is still in high school and the oldest son directs a Chabad operation in Simsbury, Conn.

As for the future, Samuels said he plans to “welcome the Moshiach [Messiah] whenever he should appear, which hopefully will be very, very soon.” Until then, “there are always more Jews to reach, learn with and interact with.”

The celebration dinner costs $50 per person. For more information, contact the Peltz Center for Jewish Life, 262-242-2235

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moshe's grandfather wants him to be India's Rabbi

Rabbi Gavriel's parents are in India on a two-week trip to collect funds
for rebuilding Nariman House, the place where the terrorists killed his son and daughter-in-law Rivka.

His father says Baby Moshe, who was saved by his Indian nanny is doing much better now. And he hopes that one day he will become the Rabbi for India.

"Chabad House will be just like before. I hope a lot more stronger, bigger and that would be a victory against the terrorists. They think it is a victory to kill innocent people, women and children. Our answer to them is just more stronger: to come back and to help more people," said Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, father of killed Rabbi Gavriel.

On being asked how is Baby Moshe doing now, Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg said, "Thank God a lot better from what he was before. Sometimes he calls out for his parents because he sees something and remembers what happened in Bombay."

Rabbi Holtzberg emphasised that one day Baby Moshe will be the Rabbi of India.

Slain rabbi's kin want to rebuild Jewish centre

MUMBAI: A nauseating smell emanates from the rubble and strewn furniture as Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg and his wife Frieda rummage through the belongings of their dead son Gavriel who ran Chabad House in south Mumbai. The house was the city headquarters of the ultra orthodox Hasidic Jews.

The couple and their sons Moshe and Avraham have come to Mumbai from Brooklyn on a two-week sojourn. On Friday morning, the rabbi and his wife visited the deserted Chabad House building, which is more popularly known as Nariman House. During his stay here, the rabbi plans to connect with the local Jewish community, and perform religious ceremonies and duties related to the traditional Friday night meals that his son once performed.

A lone, unarmed security guard lets us in. The tragedy that occurred here a little over two months ago slowly seeps in. On November 26 last year, two Pakistani terrorists targeted the building and killed 29-year-old Gavriel and his wife Rivka, who was five months pregnant.

Accompanied by their hefty Israeli escort, security expert Avi Cohen, the couple inspect the damage to the structure and stare at stains on the walls that appear to be blood. Rabbi Holtzberg picks up stacks of Hebrew books from the floor. His wife Frieda points to a corner and says, "This is where he died." referring to Gavriel.

Earlier, talking to TOI at a south Mumbai hotel, Rabbi Holtzberg said his family's mission now was to seek donations from Indians to rebuild Chabad House. "In our estimate, we'll require at least $ 2 million (approx Rs 10 crore) to get it up and running with enhanced security," he said. "This was a home not only for Jews, but every person, from every other community. Now we need support from the Indian community to come forward and help it start again," he added. The Holtzbergs have already collected some funds from the US and Europe.

Frieda Holtzberg is worried about her two-year-old grandson Moshe, who became a symbol of hope and survival during the terrorist carnage. The boy was miraculously rescued by his nanny Sandra Samuel. They have since moved to Israel. "He is not only a son of Israel, but now of the entire world," his grandparents said. But mundane worries persist, and the couple plan to start a fund to secure his future. "He's happy in Israel, but sometimes still calls out for his parents," says his grandmother.

The rabbi's two sons are however upset that there has been no word of apology from the Indian authorities. "So far we haven't heard from anyone. There is no apology, no support, no statement, no phone calls from the Indian government," said Moshe, adding that both the past and present US presidents had expressed concern.

26/11: Rabbi's parents want to rebuild Chabad House

Mumbai terror attack

Mumbai: The parents of the late Rabbi Gavriel, who was killed during the November 26 terror attacks here last year, have announced plans to raise Rs100 million to reconstruct the ravaged Jewish centre in south Mumbai.

Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg, accompanied by his wife Frieda, and their sons Avraham and Moshe, visited the Chabad House, the Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews, situated inside the better-known Nariman House, near the southern tip of the city.

They examined the belongings of Gavriel and his wife Rivka, who was five months pregnant at the time of the attacks. Their two-year-old son Moshe was miraculously saved from the attacks by his nanny, Sandra Samuel.

Soon after the attacks, they were taken to Israel and now Moshe has become a darling of that country and Jews worldwide. His grandparents and other relatives who look after him say that every now and then, he cries for his dead parents.

The Holtzbergs walked through the mounds of rubble, damaged or broken furniture lying around, books and other household articles gathering dust.

The signs of the November 26, 2008 attacks, and its tragic consequences, are still visible inside and outside the building, guarded now by a single unarmed guard.

Rabbi Holtzberg is hoping for the help of even local Indians for the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts since the place was not just for the Jews, but members of other communities too.

So far, they have raised some funds - for the rebuilding of the Chabad House - from Europe and the US, but will need much more, an estimated Rs100 million, to make it rise again with enhanced facilities and security systems.

The All India Jews Federation president Jonathan Solomon confirmed he had heard about the proposed plans to reconstruct Chabad House. "However, even I have no details and probably, the Israeli consular authorities may be aware of this," he said.

Rabbi Yosef Lipsker

Rabbi Yosef Lipsker
Born: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rabinnical ordination: Central Lubavitch Yeshiva, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Position: Rabbi at Congregation Shomrei Habrith since 1997.

Experience: Served two years in Sydney, Australia, as a student rabbi.

Other activities: host of a weekly radio show Thursday mornings at 10:30 on Philadelphia's WNWR, 1540-AM; consultant and spiritual counselor to patients and families at Caron Foundation near Wernersville; visiting chaplain at Reading Hospital and Berks County Prison; member of board of directors of Reading Jewish Federation.

Family: Wife, Chana, and eight children.

Shomrei Habrith reborn as Chabad Center

By Carol Balinski
Religion Editor


- Faced with dwindling membership and financial challenges, Congregation Shomrei Habrith, Berks County's only Orthodox Jewish synagogue, has been transformed into Chabad Lubavitch of Berks County.

Chabad Lubavitch is a Jewish outreach organization that is known worldwide. The Brooklyn-based movement sends emissaries to Jewish communities large and small around the world as a means of strengthening Jewish identity

Rabbi Yosef Lipsker, who has been the congregation's rabbi since 1997, will stay on as Chabad rabbi.

Lipsker said Shomrei Habrith's declining membership made the synagogue's continued operation at 2310 Hampden Blvd. no longer viable. The congregation voted unanimously in November to make the change.

In describing what the change means, Lipsker said Shomrei Habrith was membership based, while Chabad Lubavitch has an open-door policy. No dues will be collected, as was the policy under Shomrei Habrith, but donations will be welcomed and there will be some fundraising. Lipsker hopes to reach out to attract people from all walks of Jewish life and those who want to learn more about Jewish tradition.

"I think people (in the congregation) are happy," Lipsker said. "They felt it was a blessing."

The Chabad Center will continue to offer services Friday nights at 5:30 and Saturday mornings at 9:30. Lipsker said the Chabad services use a prayer book that is slightly different than the Orthodox congregation had been using.

Lipsker said members of the congregation did not want to sell the building and decided to lease it to Chabad Lubavitch, with an option to buy it. The lease, finalized in December, stipulates that the organization provide funds for upkeep of the congregation's cemetery in Cumru Township.

Before coming to Reading, Lipsker worked for Chabad in Connecticut, England and Florida establishing youth clubs, adult education classes and running a boys high school.

He said some events will be held in sites away from the Chabad Center to reinforce the message of inclusiveness.

Lipsker said he views the Chabad Center's activities as a supplement to the work of other Jewish institutions in the area. He said he has good relationships with the Conservative and Reform rabbis in the community

"We (Chabad centers) are very traditional, but we're known as welcoming," he said.

Paul Safir, a longtime member who served on the board for Shomrei Habrith, said, "As long as the services are conducted the same way, it should remain the same as far as the religious end of it goes."

Regarding Chabad Lubavitch, Safir termed it a fine thing which does excellent work to help people.

Safir said the congregation lives on even though it no longer has its own building.

• Contact Religion Editor Carol Balinski at 610-371-5007 or

Chabad Center welcome addition

The Chabad movement is a great addition to Berks County ("Shomrei Habrith reborn as Chabad Center," Reading Eagle, Feb. 7).

Having lived throughout the United States, I have had the great pleasure of meeting many Chabad emissaries. The one quality they all share is that they are selfless in their giving to accommodate a passing traveler or a member of the community.

Although it is an Orthodox Jewish movement, it accepts all without passing judgment. Rabbi Yosef Lipsker has been a welcomed part of this community since 1997 and has many supporters and fans. I am hopeful that the community helps in making the Chabad Center of Berks County flourish. I offer my support.

Alan Tootman
Alsace Township

New Torah Scroll commissioned by Chabad Jewish Center in Glastonbury

The time-honored ritual of the writing of a Torah scroll involves many detailed customs and rites.

It’s not often that you get to see history being written before your very eyes. But that is exactly what is happening right now. The Chabad Jewish Center in Glastonbury has undertaken the writing of a brand new Torah scroll.

This new Torah has been commissioned in memory of Mark Tsvok, who passed away tragically at the age of 15. Its primary sponsor is Mark’s father, Ilya.

The writing of a Kosher Torah scroll is a thorough and exhaustive exercise.

The time-honored ritual of the writing of a Torah scroll involves many detailed customs and rites, from the material used – authentic parchment, natural ink and a special quill, to the color and style of the biblical font, to the manner in which a Torah is written – copied word-for-word from a previously written scroll, to the credentials of the Scribe.

As part of the process, the Scribe – a trained and experienced writer of scrolls in the ancient tradition – will present workshops at many area schools.

The Scribe’s Torah-writing workshops are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, Feb. 24: 9 a.m. – Lubavitch Yeshiva Academy, 1148 Converse St., Springfield, MA; 10:30 a.m. – Hebrew High School of New England, 1244 North Main St., West Hartford; 12:30 p.m. – Solomon Schechter Day School, 26 Buena Vista Road, West Hartford; 4 p.m. – Chabad Hebrew School, 141 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

Wednesday, Feb. 25: 9:30 a.m. – Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford, 53 Gabb Road, Bloomfield; 11:45 a.m. – Aleph Bet Preschool, 25 Harris St., Glastonbury; 2:30 p.m. – Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford, 53 Gabb Road, Bloomfield; 4 p.m. – Jewish Enrichment Program, 25 Harris St., Glastonbury

To schedule a visit to one of these workshops, or for more information regarding the writing of this special Torah, please call Rabbi Yosef Wolvovsky at (860) 659-2422. The Rabbi may also be reached by email at

Posted Feb. 16, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

Chabad makes Judaism accessible


WESTBORO — Chabad of Westboro is part of an international Jewish outreach organization.

“We try to make Judaism accessible to everyone. We have a whole different idea about Judaism than your average temple. Sometimes temples are trying to gather funds, and money has to be given. We just want Jews to feel welcome and comfortable wherever they’re at, in a nonjudgmental atmosphere,” said Dvora Green, who, with her husband, Rabbi Michoel Green, started the Westboro Chabad six years ago. The group invites people to come and share a Jewish experience and get involved, she said.

“A lot of the Jews in the last generation have had a negative experience with Judaism or not much of an experience at all, or minimal Hebrew school experience, and what we find is people are kind of looking for something spiritually, and what’s kind of funny is many Jews don’t realize it’s in their own backyard,” she said. “We believe strongly in being proud of who we are and standing up for who we are,” she said.

The word Chabad is the acronym for three Hebrew words chachmah (wisdom), binah (understanding) and da’at (knowledge), which is key to the Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy, Mrs. Green said.

Unlike other Jewish congregations, Chabad does not charge for membership, she said.

“We pride ourselves in that we have friends in the area who come from different temples. With us, we just welcome everyone. We like to enhance the Jewish experience. We are all about unifying Jews, as opposed to segregating them (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, et cetera.) We tell people we are beyond affiliation,” she said.

The Chabad of Westboro offers Hebrew school for children and an abbreviated 45-minute lesson for parents, as well as adult education classes with a focus on pointing out the meaning behind some of the many things observed in the Torah, which the group accepts as their guidebook, a gift from and written by God, Mrs. Green said.

The organization’s Jewish Women’s Circle meets bi-monthly and gives women a chance to learn and try something new. Last month, during the Jewish month of Kislev, the theme of the month was illumination, with a latke (potato pancake) bar, discussion about the significance of Hanukkah and what light means, and even a home decorator who talked about illuminating the home, Mrs. Green said. On Jan. 26, the women met again, with “flower power” as the theme. The women celebrated the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat, which celebrates the trees and fruits from Israel.

Also, through the group, Jewish teens and children with special needs meet weekly. They learn how to give, help other special needs children make friends, and give the parents of special needs children a break, Mrs. Green said. Together, the kids share a craft, play a game or just hang out, she said.

“It’s Jewish kids helping each other,” Mrs. Green said.

“We believe strongly in being proud of who we are and standing up for who we are,” she said.

Each winter, the group sponsors community holiday celebrations, including lighting menorahs at the Westboro Rotary and on Shrewsbury Common. They also host a big Hanukkah celebration at the Solomon Pond Mall.

“That makes (Jewish) kids proud of who they are,” Mrs. Green said.

Saturday worship services are held at 54 South St. Once a month, the group holds a Friday night service, called Turn Friday Night Into Shabbat.

To learn more about Westboro Chabad, visit and its Hebrew school at, or e-mail Dvora Green at, or call her at (508) 366-0499.

House fire in I.V. displaces 6

Flames caused heavy damage to a large two-story home in Isla Vista yesterday, displacing a family of six, fire officials said.

Emergency calls came in at approximately 11:58 a.m. and fire crews arrived on the scene four minutes later, County Fire Capt. Eli Iskow said. Smoke and flames were pouring from the windows and deck of the single-family home at 779 Camino Pescadero.

“Firefighters advanced hoselines inside the structure and knocked down the fires on both floors while searching for any trapped victims,” Iskow said in a news release. “Six occupants had gotten out of the house before firefighters arrived.”

Fire crews had the fire under control within 21 minutes, containing it to two bedrooms and an outside deck. However, smoke caused extensive damage throughout the 5,000-plus square-foot building, Iskow said.

Total damage is estimated at $100,000. A firefighter also suffered minor steam burns to his hand while fighting the blaze, Iskow said.

He said the mother of the family staying in the home heard a smoke alarm go off just as she began to smell smoke. After removing their four children from the home, the parents called 911.

“Because of information from the person reporting the fire to 911, during the initial dispatch of County Fire equipment there was mention that possibly a candle was involved in the start of the fire,” Iskow said. “That has not yet been confirmed and the cause and origin of the fire is currently under investigation.”

The family displaced by the blaze will be staying with family, authorities said. Iskow noted that a smoke alarm alerted the residents and urged all community members to frequently check that their alarms are functioning properly.

Fire Scorches I.V. Jewish Center

A fire torched parts of the UCSB Chabad House yesterday, leaving the rabbi’s residence with extensive damage.

According to Capt. Eli Iskow of the Santa Barbara Fire Dept., the fire began at noon in a bedroom at 779 Camino Pescadero - the new UCSB Chabad House, a local Orthodox Jewish religious center. Parts of the first and second floors were completely scorched by the flames.

“The mother started screaming, ‘the house is on fire!’ and everyone got out in a hurry,” Iskow said. “Smoke alarms had a great deal to do with them getting out in time.”

Iskow said the blaze caused major damage to the structure - one room was entirely charred and most of the possessions throughout the house were ruined by smoke.

Initial reports linked the blaze to a candle, Iskow said

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 isn't a direct line to God, but it's quicker than climbing Mount Sinai

By Duke Helfand and Joanna Lin
February 2, 2009

Have you ever tried to define God? Or wondered whether it is ethical to eat meat? Or debated if pornography is a sin?

For a decade, has been answering questions like these to a growing worldwide audience.

Rabbinic scholars from the Orthodox Jewish Chabad movement dispense the free advice online 24 hours a day, six days a week (they don't work on the Sabbath).

Last month, they announced a milestone: AskMoses has surpassed 1 million online chat sessions since it was launched by Chabad of California. The queries are fielded by rabbis and knowledgeable women in the United States, Argentina, Israel, Russia and elsewhere.

"The average person on the street does not have access to a rabbi," said Rabbi Yosef Loschak, AskMoses' "chief scholar," who is based in Santa Barbara. "Here is a way they can do that. If they have a question about Judaism, Moses is a pretty good source."

People of all stripes turn to the website, accounting for 350 to 400 live chats a day, Loschak said. A voluntary online survey has shown that 30% of AskMoses users are not Jewish. Among their questions: Why don't Jews believe in Jesus as the messiah? Answer: Jesus did not fulfill the promises of the messiah, as described by the prophets, of bringing world peace and global monotheism.

The website's library has cataloged answers to numerous questions about Jewish identity, philosophy, holidays, history and the Torah.

Loschak said the questions often reflect modern life. Questions popped up about the final scene of "Schindler's List," for example, in which Jews who were saved by Oskar Schindler place rocks on his grave in Israel. Why? Stones are a mark of respect to show that the grave was visited.

Questions often come from people facing crises. On one occasion, a pregnant teen wrote to ask whether she should get an abortion or tell her parents about her condition. The rabbi urged her to speak with her parents. Because the question was posed anonymously, though, he couldn't follow up.

As to the question about defining God, the answer, according to AskMoses: God cannot be defined. He is only known by the things he does.

And is pornography a sin? According to AskMoses, the answer is yes: It is "a corruption of the mind, as it forces us to think lustful and sinful thoughts."

Got Rabbi?

Is pornography a sin? Is it okay to eat meat? You can search Scripture, climb Mt. Sinai or….visit (You’ve got to go there just to see the fun, modern Moses logo.)

For a decade, has been answering questions like these to a growing worldwide audience. Rabbinic scholars from the Orthodox Jewish Chabad movement dispense the free advice online 24 hours a day, six days a week (they don’t work on the Sabbath).

Last month, they announced a milestone: AskMoses has surpassed 1 million online chat sessions since it was launched by Chabad of California. The queries are fielded by rabbis and knowledgeable women in the United States, Argentina, Israel, Russia and elsewhere…

People of all stripes turn to the website, accounting for 350 to 400 live chats a day, Loschak said. A voluntary online survey has shown that 30% of AskMoses users are not Jewish. Among their questions: Why don’t Jews believe in Jesus as the messiah? Answer: Jesus did not fulfill the promises of the messiah, as described by the prophets, of bringing world peace and global monotheism.

Sometimes, people in crisis turn to AskMoses, like the pregnant teenager who asked the rabbis whether she should tell her parents. Find out what they said here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Model 770 from your Internet Hobby Shop


"A Versatile HO Scale Structure Kit From Heljan

Raised brick detailing, simulated beveled-glass windows, decorative window frames, a varied roofline and a rooftop balcony are just some of the exquisite details on this new HO kit from Heljan.

Based on a historic building still in use in New York, this early-1900s structure also makes a great mansion, apartment, private school or upscale office. The kit features easy construction with only a small amount of gluing necessary, making it suitable for modelers of any skill level."

Wonder who got them the idea to pick 770, there are many more historic shuls out there.

Another view at The View

To her credit, Whoopie Goldberg simply sits through the anti-Lubavitch crap looking rather pissed off. And Joy Behar makes a vague attempt to come to the Lubavitcher defense.

To her DIScredit, Baba Wawa lets the guest go on... I mean really Barb.. you've been conducting hard-hitting interviews since before I was born. You could have taken control of the situation much earlier.

And I gotta ask... what is WITH self-hating Jews and their need to write ridiculous screenplays and directors who are willing to produce these things without any research whatsoever... I wonder if the BBC gets scripts across their desk about how the Anglican Church is burning heretics at the stake in modern-day London... "Smashing idea! Wonder if we can get Hugh Laurie back on this side of the pond if we offer him the role of Bishop... it'll be a step up from playing that annoying Yank he's become popular with...

My Elter Zeide and Lubavitch

By Jonathan Baker

As told by R’ Aaron Rakeffet, 4 Jan 2009.

Please follow title link for the full entry.

An example of transplanting the Alter Heim to the USA, rather than the translation of European Jewry for America which was the method of YU

The Rebbe was running away, the State Dept pulled him out of Poland, in 1940. Ads went out in the four Jewish dailies at the time, religious, secular, socialist, communist - “those of you that remember Lubavitch, the Rebbe is coming to America on this boat on this day, please greet him.” R’ Rakeffet’s cousin was there. A crowd came out about this. There’s video of this from Lubavitch. Maybe 5000 people came out, mostly not religious, they still knew what Lubavitch was, they had been raised Lubavitch, they remembered the cholent from Lubavitch.

The Rebbe came down, he couldn’t speak, he had had a stroke, his wife spoke for him in Yiddish, her translator was Rose Lieberman, Sharon Mintz’s (Mrs. R’ Adam) grandmother. As they wheeled the Rebbe in, someone strikes up a niggun from the Alter Heim. The Rebbe joins in. People started to cry, even distant from Yiddishkeit. And people swore they wouldn’t be mechallel shabbos then. The women would go to the beauty parlor on Saturday to do their hair for the movie palace Saturday night, the women became shomer shabbos when their kids went to yeshiva. Big thing, suddenly the husbands are going to be home on Saturday!

They brought him to the Greystone Hotel on the Upper West Side. Some of the older Chasidim came in to the Rebbe, told him “we have good news for you, in Lakewood there’s a nice community, warmer than NY, some wealthy Chasidim there, you can retire there, they’ll set you up nicely, and we’ll come farbreng with you once a month. At least you’re away from the Nazis, but New York is a waste of time.” I heard the Seventh Rebbe tell this story with my own ears (says R’ARR). This was shocking! Chasidim daring to tell the Rebbe to retire?

The next morning, they all come in to have breakfast with him, everyone is up & happy. The Rebbe tells them, “Chasidim don’t tell a rebbe what to do, the Rebbe tells the Chasidim what to do. “This is what I’m going to do. I’ll go to Lakewood, rest up for a month, and then we’re starting all over, and we’re going to prove that America can be exactly like the Alter Heim!” They thought he was nuts, but a Rebbe redt, speaks, you don’t say a word.

At the end of the month, he calls in the Chasidim, including Rose Lieberman, and her father R’ Cunin, the grandfather of the head shaliach in California today, and says to them, I want to open a shtibl in the finest neighborhood in New York City. So the Chasidim ask each other – how do we know what the finest neighborhood is? Where the biggest Conservative temple is! So that’s how Lubavitch came to Eastern Parkway, because the Brooklyn Jewish Center was right across the street, the biggest Conservative synagogue in the world.


Please follow title link for the full entry.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Orthodox Jewish cop settles with Las Vegas department

An Orthodox Jewish police detective will get $350,000 from the Las Vegas police department to settle a lawsuit after he was prohibited from having a beard and wearing a yarmulke.

Liesl Freedman, the department's attorney, said Jan 26 that plainclothes Detective Steve Riback would be allowed to have a neatly trimmed beard no longer than a quarter inch.

Freedman said Riback also would be allowed to wear a baseball hat without a logo or with the department's logo.

Under the settlement in the religious-accommodation case, Riback has agreed to not to seek a promotion or transfer for at least two years.

Freedman said that if Riback transferred in the future to a section that doesn't allow hats or beards, he would have to file a new religious-accommodation request.