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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Boca Raton’

Florida Chabad Vandalized after Expansion Plan Announcement

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

The Chabad Jewish Center in Boca Raton, Fla., was vandalized a day after an article in a local newspaper announced the center’s expansion plans.

A cement marker with a sign indicating the rabbi’s parking space was torn from its place and thrown through a glass door of the Jewish center sometime Monday night, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Boca Raton police are investigating the incident, which was discovered Tuesday morning, as an act of vandalism and not a hate crime even though surrounding buildings were not subject to such vandalism, however, according to the local CBS affiliate.

“To come to a synagogue and find it having been vandalized, and littered with shattered glass, broken concrete and debris, sends painful shudders down the spine of any Jew,” Chabad Rabbi Ruvi New told the Sun Sentinel. “One can only speculate who the perpetrators were and what their motives may have been.”

Tossing a Jewish Lasso over Wyoming’s Wild West

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

By Carin M. Smilk

Summer is winding down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a short season, weather-wise, but it’s also a season that brings in tourists, lots of them, who come for the mountains and national parks, the outdoor sports and the wide open spaces. They come to make good on the state slogan: “Like No Place on Earth.”

Not long after they leave, winter beckons a slew of other travelers, those lured to the skiing and snow activities. It’s another bustling time; the two seasons bring in about 4 million visitors a year.

And about 1 percent of them—an estimated 40,000 people—are Jewish.

That helps make life busy for Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn, co-director of Chabad Jewish Center of Wyoming with his wife, Raizy. Not that it’s so quiet the rest of the year. The couple, based in the town of Jackson—in western Wyoming near the border of Idaho, almost completely surrounded by mountains and in the well-known valley of Jackson Hole—serves the roughly 500 permanent Jewish residents there, out of a general population of nearly 10,000. It’s an interesting mix, says the rabbi, of singles, couples, families, retirees, tourists and those with second homes in the area.

“We have a very small community,” acknowledges Mendelsohn, “but we offer quality services—substantive services. We’re reaching out to individual Jews in a very personal, warm, inviting way.”

Since their official 2008 move to Jackson, they have started all kinds of programs. There’s the annual Jackson Hole Jewish Music Festival, which brings in bands and performers from all over, coupled with Camp Gan Israel, a Jewish women’s circle, a “Mommy & Me” class, Torah study, lectures, “Coffee & Kabbalah,” and Shabbat and Jewish holiday dinners and services. Currently, they rent space for High Holiday services but are looking for a place to buy.

 

Also on tap are lecture series, including one to take place this weekend, Aug. 16-17. The Shabbaton will include services and a Friday-night dinner, then Saturday-morning services and a three-course lunch, with lectures both days by guest speaker David N. Weiss. A Hollywood film writer with several blockbusters to his credit, Weiss has traversed religiously from being a secular Jew to a Christian youth worker, and now follows a life of observant Judaism.

“His story is very compelling,” says Mendelsohn. “He never really had the opportunity to study Judaism in-depth. It shows that you can always start fresh and new, even if you’re very famous or a celebrity. You can always rediscover your roots.”

The series has attracted 50 to 60 people on average, and the rabbi expects a similar turnout for Weiss.

‘Very Much at Home’

 Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

So how has life changed for a couple raised in completely different living environments? The rabbi, in his early 30s, hails from Miami, Fla., and Raizy, in her late 20s, grew up in Israel. What’s it like to live in the least populated state in the nation?

“We felt very much at home right away,” says the rabbi. “People are warm and welcoming; there’sthe renowned Western hospitality. It’s a cowboy town, it’s the Wild West, but people also have a more spiritual character here. And our goal is to introduce a Yiddishkeit element to it.”

That sense of spirituality could have something to do with the physical backdrop. Jackson is a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton Mountains. The rabbi talks of the everyday appearance of bison, moose, deer, wolves and bears. “There’s wildlife in the streets,” he says, pausing to add that he just saw a herd of elk run up the side of a nearby mountain.

He also notes the atmosphere—both scenically and spiritually—is good for the couple’s four young children. After all, for kids in such a place, aside from their home-schooling time, “life is surrounded by G-d’s great outdoors.”

Of course, it’s not all vales and wild flowers. There’s no kosher food, no Jewish schools, no other Orthodox presence and no mikvah. The closest mikvahs are in Bozeman, Mont., and Salt Lake City, Utah—both a five-hour drive or one-hour flight away.

“Still,” says Mendelsohn, “we have a wonderful community, and we are honored to also accommodate visitors who come through. I travel around the state quarterly visiting Jewish people. We’ve put up about 60 mezuzahs in the last three years all over the state. One by one, we’re connecting Jews with their heritage.”

“That’s the story of Wyoming. We may be one of the most remote Jewish communities in the country, but I want people to know that Yiddishkeit is alive and well and thriving in Jackson Hole.”

Laura Goldstein, 34, can attest to that. Originally from New Jersey, she now lives in Victor, Idaho, which borders Wyoming and is about a 45-minute drive from Jackson. She and her husband Howard, a wildlife biologist, came to live out West in 2009, and she says the rabbi was one of the first people they met.

“We were looking for a way to connect with other Jewish people, and we knew Chabad would be a good way to do that,” says Goldstein, an administrative assistant. “They invited us over for Shabbat dinner, and it was lovely. They were so gracious. They make you want to be part of the community.

“And every opportunity they have of doing a mitzvah, they do. It’s incredible.”

She’s also seen Chabad grow as an organization. At Rosh Hashanah, there used to be three men, not even a minyan; now there may be 14. And Shabbat dinners in the summer can draw 40 to 50 people. She even mentions that just this year, she met a Jewish woman from New York who runs a clothing store/jewelry shop in Victor.

Learning by Example

Most of all, Goldstein says she and her husband have modeled their Shabbat observance at home on the Mendelsohns’ example. “Knowing them has been a huge part in that direction. We feel that we’re better Jewish people out here. It probably wouldn’t have been as big a part of our identity” back East.

She adds that Raizy has shown her how to make challah, light Shabbat candles and recite the Havdalah prayers.

“It’s great to see how they bring in what they need,” says Goldstein. “These people are making it work; they’re doing it.” So she figures she can, too.

“Rabbi Zalman,” as Josh Beck and other local residents call him, “is involved in everything. He’s an amazing man.”

“And he’s one of my closest friends here.”

Beck, 41, an orthopedic surgeon from New Jersey, has been living in Wyoming for seven years. He says he considers himself a very big supporter and very active with Chabad there.

He attends Shabbat dinners (the true reason, he says, is because of “Raizy’s fantastic cooking”) and various programs, but admits to preferring “the off-season, when there’s a handful of locals.”

He says that he, his wife and 3-year-old daughter “love living out here.” Beck hunts and fishes and skis; in fact, he notes, he found his job there while on a ski vacation.

A Spiritual Change of Scenery

Cross-country skiing also appeals to Stephen and Linda Melcer from Boca Raton, Fla., who have rented a house in Jackson the last two winters and intend to come again this year.

“It’s a nice change of scenery, of climate,” says Stephen Melcer, a 61-year-old lawyer. “It’s also a nice change religiously and a change in diversity.”

The couple belongs to Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox shul. “Whenever we travel, we look for a place to be for Shabbos, and a good place to start looking is Chabad. We’ve noticed here that a lot of people attending are travelers, and a larger percentage of people are not observant.”

Melcer says he appreciates “going into an environment where a rabbi is focused on the less observant.”

“They are very warm,” he says of the Mendelsohns. “I think they enjoy the challenge of it. And they certainly have a lot of challenges. The incredible thing is that challenges never cross their minds.”

Ken Begelman is glad that’s the case. He and his wife, Helen, helped the Mendelsohns come to town.

Twelve years ago, the Begelmans moved to Teton County, about 8 miles outside Jackson, from Palm Beach County, Fla. When they arrived, they wanted a shul—a congregation of some type. Begelman says he was familiar with Chabad rabbinical students coming to Wyoming temporarily (they have for decades, as part of the “Roving Rabbis” program), and got in touch with people in Brooklyn to work to make it happen permanently.

“He’s a very outgoing guy, very inclusive; he gets along with everybody,” says Begelman, a 66-year-old retired cardiac surgeon, of Mendelsohn.

He notes that there’s a large number of 20-year-olds who come to work during ski season or in the summer who have never had any religious affiliation or education, and “the rabbi has turned a lot of these kids around.”

As for Wyoming, the former Floridian insists that “it’s wonderful here. It’s what America should be. Everybody respects everybody else. You don’t have to lock your house or your car. There’s no crime.”

Sure, the winter temperatures can fall to 20 below and the snow can average 38 feet a year in the mountainous regions, but residents insist that it’s an invigorating experience.

In regards to future expansion, Begelman says that if “one new Jewish family a year comes permanently, that would be a lot.” Population growth is indeed slow; Begelman has seen signs in the state that note there are 10 horses for every one person residing there.

As far as the rabbi and his family go, “I’m very happy that they’ve fit in well in the community and that they like it here. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

Chabad Of East Boca’s Chanukah Festivities

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

A hundred cars with menorahs on top of their roofs are expected to participate in Chabad of Boca Raton’s annual car menorah parade on Monday December 10th. The fleet will depart from the Central Boca Chabad on Military Trail at 5:30 p.m. and then head across town for a Chanukah concert and menorah lighting hosted by Chabad of East Boca.

The concert will feature local Boca band Chazak. Band members include former and current students of Weinbaum Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton. Chazak plays a blend of contemporary and traditional Jewish music and has been thrilling enthusiastic audiences throughout the Southeastern United States.

According to event organizer Rabbi Ruvi New, “After the amazing success of last year’s concert that drew close to three thousand people, we look forward to bringing the community together again this year, to celebrate the great miracle of Chanukah – the miracle of light over might.”

The concert and menorah lighting ceremony will feature local dignitaries, children’s activities and a BBQ dinner, including steaks, hot dogs, burgers and fries, all at a nominal price. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs for the concert.

For more information call 561-417-7797 or go to www.ChabadBocaBeaches.com.

Writer’s Profile: An Interview With Erica Lyons

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Erica, where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Edison, New Jersey and lived in the same house until I left for college. My parent had moved in several years before I was born. I had the same rabbi for my baby naming, my bat mitzvah and my wedding (this was a first for him). My husband and I even brought our daughter back to my old ­synagogue for her naming.

After law school graduation, I got married and my husband and I moved to New York City where I assumed I would live for many years. Who would ever have predicted that shortly after we would move to Hong Kong? We have lived here since 2002.

What do you do for a living?

After a brief stint as a lawyer for a large insurance company, I began to write. In addition to founding and running Asian Jewish Life- a journal of spirit, society and culture, I freelance as a writer (including a column for The Magazine) and edit for a number of publications, usually writing about Jewish Asia but also about culture, identity, travel, history and parenting. I am currently working on my first novel (fiction, middle grade-young adult). I also do consulting work and serve a regional consultant for the JDC.

How did you get started in writing?

I left my law job when we moved to Hong Kong for my husband’s work in 2002. My intention was to return in two years. Since we were moving with a 7 week old and a 19 month old, we decided that it didn’t make sense for me to work while we were there. It would take a long time for me to settle the children and find a place to live. Two years rolled into three and when we started to discuss staying long term, I was eager to work again. I told my husband I would contact my company in New York and ask them to find me a position in their Hong Kong office.

My husband’s response: “You are a NY qualified attorney from a top law school who has a great reputation within the company. If you make that call, you will likely be working by the end of the week. If your greatest passion in life is to be lawyer for a large insurance company, go for it. If not, you have a window of opportunity to figure out what you are most passionate about.”

I had always wanted to be a writer. I had studied English Literature and Judaic Studies in SUNY Albany’s Honors Program. My thesis was a creative piece. I would frustratingly search the New York Times and announce, “Oh surprise. No job adverts for Jewish poets today,” close the paper and put it down. Now I had the chance to do what I always wanted.

What types of readers do you hope to reach?

I hope that Asian Jewish Life will reach the broadest set of readers possible. The Jewish communities of the Far East (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, India, Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand) are unbelievably diverse in terms of background, nationality, denomination, Jewish learning, etc. We try to provide something for everyone. Additionally, our online readers tend to live outside the Far East (the majority are in the US and Israel but with growing readership in Australia, the UK and France), this also requires us to broaden the scope of the magazine.

What about your column in The Magazine?

For The Jewish Press, I tend to write memoir-type pieces that offer a glimpse of Jewish life in the region and what it is like to raise a Jewish family off the major arteries and in a third culture. My pieces are usually personal and weave in stories about my children, with quotes from them as well. Memoir, like biography and autobiography, has always appealed to me. I thrive on personal narratives. Everyone has a story to share.

Since I was a child, I was a natural storyteller, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I had a writer friend tell me to start putting down on paper (or computer) any story I find myself repeating three times. This was invaluable advice.

It’s My Opinion: Golf And The Game Of Life

Friday, February 10th, 2012

This week, Allianz Insurance is slated to sponsor the PGA pro golf tournament in Boca Raton. Allianz, a major German company, is charged with failure to pay billions of dollars in Holocaust-related life insurance claims. The company has enraged survivors by refusing to pay on policies while at the same time spending money to advertise their business in events like the PGA.

Allianz has admitted association with the Nazis. Published disclosures indicate that during World War II the company sold life policies to hundreds of thousand of Jews while at the same time insuring the German concentration camps. Later, money was kept from the beneficiaries and given to Nazis.

Miami congresswoman Ileana Ros-Leighten confronted tournament officials and accused them of compliance with Allianz. Ros-Leighten has initiated a letter-writing campaign to embarrass not only the insurance company but those who associate with it. However, the PGA has said it will keep Allianz as a sponsor and the tournament seems to be going along on schedule.

There are those who say the Holocaust ended 67 years ago and it’s time to forget. There are those who say almost all the people who took part in the unspeakable atrocities of the Shoah are gone and there is no point to hold those who came after them responsible. There are those who say it is better to just move on.

They are wrong.

Halacha admonishes against keeping a grudge and against taking revenge when dealing with personal affronts. However, when a person is attacked solely because he is Jewish the dynamics dramatically change. He is obligated to react. Failure to retaliate is a chillul Hashem. The idea that Jews are weak and defenseless creates an environment where more abuse is likely to follow. It emboldens the enemy. It leads to more bloodshed.

The survivors themselves are an aging and fragile population. Their time winds down. They have again been victimized.

Where is the moral outrage? Where is the collective outcry? Where is the “world” that for the most part still stands silently by? When will it finally be time to say, and mean, “never again”?

Torah Academy Of Boca Raton To Purchase New Campus

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Last week, Torah Academy of Boca Raton announced its intent to purchase a 2.5 acre campus just 300 yards from the current facility. Three years ago, the enrollment stood at 124 students, including early childhood through fifth grade. Today, that same campus is being stretched to the maximum in order to accommodate the current enrollment of 204 students.

Due to the explosive growth of the Boca Raton community, the school is expanding its program incrementally to include a middle school. By 2014, the program will be servicing children from early childhood through eighth grade. Rabbi Reuven Feinberg, rosh yeshiva and dean of Torah Academy explained, “This expansion will help the yeshiva educate a greater number of Jewish students thirsting for Torah.”

The new property consists of over 17,000 sq. ft. of classroom and office space. It is comprised of two buildings, three large, well-equipped playgrounds, some of which have sun shades, a pool with a pool house, and ample parking.

“This is indeed an exciting time at Torah Academy,” said Rabbi Feinberg. “We look forward to purchasing this property and occupying it in time for the 2012-13 school year.”

An American Odyssey (Part 2)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

After arriving in Boca Raton, Florida, and spending a lovely Shabbat with the Century Village friends of my brother and sister-in-law, we started our American Odyssey of 10,000 miles across America. We spent our first days in the Deep South going through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. In each state we visited one or two attractions that the AAA website listed as the best.

We visited the National Civil War Naval Museum, the Coca Cola Space Science Center and the George Washington Carver Institute. We did not find much Jewish life in these areas, but as we passed the Civil Rights Memorial and drove along though Selma, Alabama, we did notice a Jewish Star on a building and stopped to investigate. It was the Mishkan Israel Synagogue, but it was closed.

At Vicksburg we toured the military park and the recently flooded areas off the Mississippi River. The first Jewish community we visited was Temple Bnei Israel in Monroe, Louisiana. It was not an Orthodox congregation, but they welcomed us and we had an interesting discussion with those who gathered that evening about life on a settlement in Israel.

The Omnisphere Theater at the Coca Cola Space Science Center.

As I mentioned in my previous article, we usually requested home hospitality in return for the evening program. Monroe turned out to be very special. Our contact person explained that the homes in Monroe were small and that she could not find accommodations for the four of us in a home. One member of the congregation, however, owned a “small motel” and he would be happy to invite us as his guests for the evening and give each couple a room. One of our purposes in requesting home hospitality was to be able to spend the evening with a local family, learn about the Jewish community, and to also tell them about our community. Since they could not find a host, we reluctantly agreed.

Our first clue about the surprise that awaited us was the beautiful white stretch limousine parked in front of the Atrium Hotel. This “small motel” turned out to be a boutique hotel where each of us received a 2.5 room luxury suite for the night. We greatly enjoyed the health club, swimming pool and Jacuzzi, provided by Mr. Hadad. Now if only we could spend each night of the trip in such luxury…

From Louisiana we headed for Texas and the East Texas Oil Museum. The very interesting exhibits told us how oil was discovered in the 1930′s and how oil fueled the American victory in WWII. We drove on to Dallas where we would spend Wednesday evening and we were dreaming about finding a kosher restaurant for our first splurge of the trip. When I called one of our hosts for the evening, Sandra and Stanley Cohen, to tell them our plans, they insisted that they had already prepared dinner for us and we must come to them. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked dinner and spent the evening schmoozing about the Dallas Orthodox community.

The Kennedy Memorial in Dallas.

Later that evening we drove to the Kennedy Memorial and the “Grassy Knoll” and toured downtown Dallas, before Avi and Martha dropped us off at our other host family, Linda and Steve Blasnik. The next day we headed for Ft. Worth, the Cowgirl Museum, with its beautiful costumes, and the Texas Stockyards, where we watched the cattle drive and toured the exhibits. We then headed to Houston for Friday and Shabbat and for our first restaurant meal at Susie’s Grill.

(To be continued)

Torah Academy Of Boca Raton Dedicates New Computer Lab

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Torah Academy of Boca Raton recently dedicated its new computer lab. The lab and software were made possible by a generous donation by CIJE, the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education. Jason Curry and Joel Beritz, president and vice-president of the Gruss Life Monument Fund, Torah Academy faculty, staff and upper grade students all attended the dedication.

The centerpiece of the yeshiva’s new computer lab is the Pearson Education SuccessMaker software. This software assesses each student’s level of instruction and then engages the student in an immersive, multimedia lesson tailored specifically to individual abilities and level of mastery of math and language arts.

Computer lab dedication ceremony at Torah Academy.

Rabbi Reuven Feinberg, dean of Torah Academy, remarked, “We are privileged to host Mr. Curry and Mr. Beritz. The Gruss Life Monument Fund and CIJE have changed the face of Jewish Education. The programs and initiatives that that have been implemented with their help, guidance and support have touched the lives of tens of thousands of young people throughout the world and particularly here at Torah Academy in Boca Raton.”

The Torah Academy of Boca Raton is located at 447 NE Spanish River Blvd, Boca Raton, Florida. The school includes early childhood through sixth grade. Seventh grade will be added next year eighth grade the following year.

The school’s goals include promoting a lifelong commitment to and passion for Torah study and ethical growth, providing an outstanding Judaic and secular studies curriculum, and inspiring a love and commitment of the land of Israel.  For more information, call 561-347-1821.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/torah-academy-of-boca-raton-dedicates-new-computer-lab/2011/12/15/

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