In the early years of Hineni, I spoke to a standing room only audience at Binyanei Haouma in Yerushalayim. As I looked out from the stage, I noticed there was a large contingent of frum people present, and on the spot I created a story to share with them.
It was an exceptionally hot and humid day in Toronto. I was driving the car with my bubbie sitting next to me, and baby Shmueli in the back. I suddenly remembered that I needed a small item at the local supermarket. I gently asked my bubbie if she would stay in the car with the baby while I ran into the store. My bubbie warmly replied, "Go, my shefele [sweetheart]."
Nowadays, Jewish parents and educators must ask themselves how they can present Torah and mitzvot in a way that speaks to this generation. To many youth today, Judaism’s rich heritage seems outdated, irrelevant and boring.
Yom Kippur approaches and memories crowd my mind. I see my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt"l. I see his holy countenance; I see his beautiful face, upon which the Shechinah rested. I hear his voice - a voice that penetrated the heart. Those who heard it never forgot it.
Rav Yosef, shlita, born in Krakow in 1919, was 18 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. He came from an illustrious Belzer family of talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars), dayanim (judges), and people renowned for their charity and kindness. He had the privilege of meeting the Belzer Rebbe, zt"l, a number of times, as well as spending yamim tovim in Belz. All this left a deep and holy impression on him.
Many moons ago, when I established Hineni, kiruv - outreach - was a foreign concept. The Orthodox world looked askance at the idea. "You're wasting your time," I was told. "Maybe they will become observant for a day, or even a few weeks, but then they will go back to their former life style."
It was a hot day in June 1997, the first day of summer vacation for many high school students. The Tel Aviv beach was packed with people. It was a perfect day for Motti Ashkenazi.
Are there any coincidences? I don't believe so. Everything that happens is preordained by Hashem.
In my last column I wrote of that which we must do in response to the wake-up calls that have been knocking incessantly at our doors these past few months.
It was a beautiful morning in May 1985 when I decided to take my tzedakah box to Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. I did not know much about Chabad, and had to ask for directions.
That which transpired during these past few weeks should have shaken us all. To be sure, traumatic events have been pounding away at American Jewry for years now - as a matter of fact, from 9/11 on. But few of us have taken them to heart. Something was happening and is happening in the world, but we choose not to see or hear. It's easier to attribute everything to natural causes because then we can go on our merry way and indulge in business as usual.
In 2001, the year of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my husband and I were both in mourning for close relatives. As a woman, I did not have the responsibility of attending a minyan to recite Kaddish. So I never realized how complicated it could get.
Last week I concluded my column with the story of a Jew who wanted to make changes in the world and inspire people to do teshuvah - to return to their roots, their Divine heritage.
I have been living in Israel for many years, yet there are still special moments that catch me by surprise. A series of such moments occurred recently, reminding me of how very lucky I am to call Yerushalayim my home.
Last week I wrote that we are now at a very critical juncture in our long history. We have entered the period of ikvesie d'Mashiach - a time of travail when the footsteps of the Messiah can be discerned. We are receiving wake-up call after wake-up call, and they come in many shapes and forms. Hashemis sounding the alarm, but we remain deaf to its implications.
Note to readers: When I heard the words, "You give us seven minutes and we'll give you the world" on the radio at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, July 13, I never thought that what I was about to hear would shake me to the core and change my world forever. I could not come to myself - and I'm sure most of klal Yisraelcouldn't either. So I sat down and the following poem spilled forth. Because it is written in a simple style, simple enough for any child to understand, I hope it does not seem to trivialize what happened; it is just my humble reaction to an earth-shattering event.
"Not again!" you may say. To which I respond, "Yes, again!" I say this as I write once again about the most heinous tragedy that could have befallen us, so even though it may not be popular - even though your reaction may be, "We heard it already" - I am nevertheless writing because I fear we have returned to business as usual.
In my last column I wrote about Leiby Kletzky and what I experienced when I made a shiva call to his family. My plan was to continue writing about this tragedy and focus on what we must learn from it and do. In the interim, I received a letter from a non-Jewish reader and felt I should share it.
I am just a small-town girl whose aspirations never included the notion of traveling to exotic places. I dreamed of getting married, raising a family, and living near my parents and in-laws.
Our Jewish world has been shocked, shaken to the core. We are all speechless in face of the tragic, monstrous, inhuman act perpetrated against a sweet, precious, innocent, holy little boy lovingly called Leiby.
Dear Rebbetzin: I am a 62-year-old Conservative Jew, recently retired from teaching and planning to relocate to Florida. My three children are all married and living in different parts of the world: a daughter in Jerusalem, one son in Toronto, another son in California. Those living in Jerusalem and Toronto have become very Orthodox, while the son living in California is totally uninterested in religion. As a matter of fact, he is married to a non-Jewish woman. As you can see, there is no happy medium in my family, but I cannot interfere in the lifestyle choices of my children.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: My mother lives with me and needs a great deal of attention, as do my four children. It seems as if everyone is pulling at me at once, and I don't know in which direction to turn first. All this stress has definitely affected my mental and physical health. I suffer from backaches and stomach trouble and lack the patience necessary to be a good wife and mother.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis: I am writing you regarding a situation I have come to realize is much more common among couples than people realize. The subject is infertility. My husband and I have been married fifteen years and have had serious medical problems having children from the start of our marriage.
Some years ago, I came across a Polish-Jewish newspaper published in the early thirties. It was a time when the winds of anti-Semitism were blowing throughout Europe, with particular force in Poland. I searched through every page of the paper and was appalled to find not even a hint of the tragedy that was looming for the Jewish people.
The world has again become a barbaric jungle. Ferocious beasts are ready to pounce on Israel. As a survivor of the Holocaust, I have for a long time now smelled the same noxious fumes that engulfed pre-Holocaust Europe, but no one wants to pay heed. It is always easier to dismiss such warnings as unfounded paranoia or products of the scarred minds of those who survived that hell on earth.