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July 1, 2016 / 25 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Chabad’

Chabad Creates Jewish Welcome Centers for Brazil Summer Olympics in Rio

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries have spent months working on preparations for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The Chassidic Jewish group is just about ready to greet the tens of thousands of Jews who are expected to be among the hundreds of thousands of people flocking to Brazil for the competition.

There will be three separate Jewish welcome centers to greet some of the 40,000 Jews expected to arrive for the games. At least 10,000 of those spectators and competitors are believed to be Israeli.

The centers will be staffed by four rabbinical students from New York, according to Chabad.org, among a total of 12 rabbinical students in Rio for the games.

The students speak numerous languages — English, Hebrew, Spanish, French and Russian — to make it easier to communicate with all the Jewish visitors expected to stream into Rio.

Anyone looking for kosher food, a minyan or help with the language can head to one of these three welcome centers to ask for assistance. The storefront on Av. Nossa Sra. de Copacabana.581.Ioja 3 will be manned by Chabad-Lubavitch of Rio, according to Rabbi Ilan Stiefelmann, right in the center of Copacabana. There will also be one at Chabad Rio’s main center in the Leblon neighborhood and a third at the Chabad center led by Rabbi Yosef Simonowits in Barra da Tijuca, in the Rio neighborhood to the newly constructed Olympic stadium, where most of the sporting events will take place.

All three centers will be stocked with kosher food, tefillin, and prayer materials. On Shabbat there will be special food, including wine and challah, as well.

Rabbi Yehoshua Goldman, co-director of Chabad of Rio told Chabad.org that representatives of Israel’s Paralympics team already called his office this past February. As a result, his synagogue — Beit Lubavitch Rio De Janeiro — will host an official Shabbat program for the team, including accommodations for the observant athletes and staff.

Goldman and colleague Rabbi Eliyahu Haber were also appointed by the Brazilian Olympic Committee as two of the three Jewish chaplains to the 2016 Summer Games. They have already ensured the Jewish room at the Olympic Village will be staffed by rabbinical students and stocked as well as the three Chabad welcome centers.

Although the Brazilian Olympics Committee has reportedly supported the rabbis in their application for a kosher food concession stand at the Olympic Stadium, however, permission has not yet been granted by the International Olympic Committee.

Hana Levi Julian

The King Of Jewish YouTube: Daniel Finkelman Is Pursuing His Chabad Shlichut Through Popular Jewish Music Videos

Friday, June 10th, 2016

“My plan is to win an Academy Award by the time I’m 45,” says Daniel Finkelman, the 38-year-old director and producer of a recently shot feature film and countless short films and Jewish music videos, including Gad Elbaz’s Paris-located “Hava Nagila” and Lipa Schmeltzer’s futuristic “Hang Up the Phone.”

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. You’ve heard this before – from people far more famous and with more industry connections than Finkelman. And it’s true: Finkelman tends to make grand pronouncements like that. But spend enough time with the filmmaker and instead of dismissing him as delusional, he’ll make you not only believe it’s possible, he’ll have you rooting for him to succeed. It comes from confidence and ample talent – yes – but also from Finkelman’s striking appetite and sense of purpose.

In the specialized corner of filmmaking that creates Jewish music videos, Finkelman – who also directs and produces Jewish music concerts – has earned a reputation as a visionary. He has been creating YouTube videos full time for the past five years and has already worked with over a dozen major Jewish music including (in addition to Schmeltzer and Elbaz) Mordechai Ben David, Dudu Fisher, and Avraham Fried.

Before taking on filmmaking, Finkelman was a secular studies principal and teacher in a Chabad school. He looks at all of his work from an educator’s point of view. Now, he says, “instead of inspiring a class of 12 or 15 students, I have the ability to inspire millions of people with help from Gad Elbaz, Lipa Schmeltzer, Avraham Fried, and many others. That responsibility gives me tremendous satisfaction.”

Finkelman, who lives in Brooklyn, says he pursues his shlichut like all Chabad individuals do. But Finkelman’s shlichut is fulfilled not by by traveling via rickshaw in New Delhi, camel in Beirut, or elephant in Johannesburg. Instead he does so through his videos, which, though they display a broad range, have a core set of messages in common: of faith, simcha, and Jewish pride.

During the filming of one of these videos, the phosphorescent glow of the stage lights were dim as buzzing chatter came from dozens of costumed men, women, and children. The Soho Lounge in Brooklyn was as ethereal as it has ever been. The lounge’s brick walls and swooning musical vibes were emitting a Roaring Twenties aura. Soon, a hush blanketed the crowd. Bartenders stopped tending, DJs stopped mixing, and customers stopped mingling.

All eyes focused on the far end of the quaint room, which was brilliantly illuminated by violet, turquoise, and scarlet spotlights. A man appeared dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt and introduced himself: “I’m Daniel Finkelman, and welcome to Lipa Schmeltzer’s music video shoot. I hope you’re all having a great time. Sit back and enjoy.” The crowd applauded then stopped as Finkelman raised his hand. Finkelman took his place behind the camera with the rest of his crew and shouted, “Action.”

Schmeltzer moved onto center stage and commanded everyone’s attention with his red sparkly vest and fashionable glasses. He belted out his newest tune, while members of the Holocaust Survivor Band accompanied him on their string instruments. Schmeltzer has become one of the top two or three performers in Jewish music, those who can manufacture a sure bet every time they step on a stage or cut a new album, and it’s no oversimplification to say that a significant chunk of his renown and reach is thanks to Finkelman. Schmelzter – and, for that matter, Gad Elbaz and others – are the talent; Finkelman is their impresario.

* * * * *

Before I met Daniel Finkelman, we had arranged for an interview at Chocolatte, a 24-hour kosher coffee shop in Crown Heights. As I wait for him, the favorite hymns of the Lubavitcher Rebbe play softly in the background and the heavenly aroma of cinnamon lattes and chocolate croissants fill the air. Soon, Finkelman saunters in, uber-confident, wearing a denim suit jacket, gray slacks, and spiffy gray lace-ups. The only thought crossing my mind is, “Never in my life have I seen a Lubavitcher with this much style.” Finkelman introduces himself – as if I didn’t know it was him – and invites me to take a seat. He is so excited to begin the interview, and acts as if a reporter has never interviewed him before. He is courteous, calm, and collected. And he’s very eager for whatever happens next.

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Daniel Finkelman (left) on the set of the black-and-white music video “The Reveal.”

Finkelman was born in Israel and moved to New York when he was 11. Unlike the case with most children, watching a film at home was no simple task for the young Daniel Finkelman. Every couple of minutes, he’d make his younger brother pause the video so that he could absorb the film quality and directorial techniques of each scene – whether he was watching in French, Russian, Hebrew, or English.

“I had bought VHS tapes through Columbia House’s mail order club,” he says. “We also went to the movie theater, but those I couldn’t pause. Right away, I was attracted to directors such as Spielberg, Scorsese, Louis Malle, and others. My parents were hard-working immigrants who didn’t have much time for films, but at least they didn’t kill my passion toward them. I watched a lot. I sometimes went into a marathon of watching four films one after the other – very geeky, but yeah, that was me.”

Finkelman’s family was not associated with Chabad at the time but they spent a Shabbat at 770 Eastern Parkway soon after their arrival. Finkelman cites the Rebbe as his muse and says the Rebbe granted him a modern day miracle.

“As a child I was extremely allergic to the sun – the pain in my eyes when in contact with the sun was excruciating,” Finkelman relates. “None of the doctors could cure me. After my Shabbat at 770 I waited on line the following Sunday to shake hands with the Rebbe in the boiling sun. When I finally met the Rebbe, I asked him for a blessing, and then in the only Yiddish I knew I told the Rebbe, ‘Zei gezint,to which he answered ‘Amen’ followed by ‘You should have hatzlacha with everything in your life,’ and a few weeks later my eyesight was completely restored and my allergy was gone; it was a miracle.”

Finkelman says he was also drawn to the Chabad philosophy of letchatchila ariber: “While some people live life by accomplishing their goals step-by-step, Chabad shoots straight to the top,” he says. “That, in particular, appeals to me. Straight to the top is my motto. Straight to the top in my marriage and straight to the top with career choices. I didn’t want to wake up when I’m 75 and go, ‘Oh, I could’ve done that.’ Now is the time to jump in the waters and be a Nachshon ben Aminadav and just do it. That is why my goal is an Academy Award. I don’t think that it’s a far off dream.”

Finkelman first thought seriously about using his filmmaking for religious ends five years ago. Sholom Rubashkin’s imprisonment had been sitting on his mind and the more he heard about the allegations against Rubashkin, the more he wanted to get involved. He called Mordechai Ben David and set in motion the “Unity for Justice” music video. “The thing that tugs at my heartstrings most,” says Finkelman, “is that Jews from so many communities, from Syrians to Sephardim to Chabad to Modern Orthodox, found a common denominator, and his name is Rubashkin. It’s as if he sits in prison so that the Jewish people can unite.”

Wanting to infuse his projects with a sense of mission has led Finkelman to work alongside Meyer Seewald, founder of the victim advocate group Jewish Community Watch, which helps protect children from sexual abuse and helps victims heal from their traumas. Finkelman calls Seewald “a living saint.” Together they filmed the video “Speak Up” in which seven survivors of sexual abuse shared their stories.

“I respect Daniel and love him like a brother,” says Seewald. “He is an advocate for victims, and in every interview that he has had with them, they feel supported and loved. He speaks to them gently, and supports them even after the video is through. Daniel is never satisfied with just that, he always wants to do more, and has amazing ideas to spread awareness on the subject. With his help we will continue bringing awareness to the community, and help more victims become survivors.”

Working with sexual abuse victims does not come without its share of detractors within the community, but Finkelman generally shrugs off those concerns. For example, the video for the Schmeltzer song “Believe in a Miracle” includes women, which elicited the virtual wrath of many a commenter; they fumed that parading women in an Orthodox music video is both inappropriate and un-Jewish. This made Finkelman livid. “If we’re going to make a revolution,” he tell me, “even a small one, it needs to be heard. I think it’s a disaster that women are not in videos or pictures of Jewish sources. Maybe Lipa’s videos will promote change.”

Finkelman’s sense of mission extends to videos combating anti-Semitism. One of his most popular is “Hava Nagila,” featuring Israeli artist Gad Elbaz. “Hava Nagila” was shot in Paris after the January 2015 massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket but before the November attacks which took the lives of 130 in the city.

Finkelman has worked with Elbaz for many years and has created popular music videos for Elbaz’s songs, like “Esh Shel Mashiach” (over 800,000 YouTube views), “Open Up” (a million YouTube views), and “Hashem Melech 2.0” (nearly 1.3 million YouTube views). A recurring element in these videos is impeccable choreography and, often, jazzed-up dance routines, which Finkelman feels can help attract younger Jewish viewers.

“Who’s our target audience? Not only the unaffiliated, it’s also the affiliated,” he says. “They’re not interested in Jewish music, to see some gray-bearded guy jump and say ‘oyoyoyoyoyoy.’ It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t inspire me. But if you give them something like Gad Elbaz, some good dancing, and it’s like ‘Oh wow; this is good.’ This is almost just as good. It’s good beats, good choreography, and some window of communication with the youth. When I say youth I mean all of us. I’m also youth. I’m also not inspired by the gray-bearded people (except maybe Avraham Fried). I can’t stand going to these concerts where the artist has zero charisma. We’ve changed that.”

Finkelman is especially proud of his Holocaust-related film work. He started exploring Holocaust cinematography when he began working with producer and composer Cecelia Margules, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who’s been promoting Holocaust education for decades. He says, “Ever since she came into my life, I’ve been bringing it to YouTube, and to the masses. These videos unite Jews on a global scale and it allows me to combine my love for Judaism with my love for filmmaking.”

Ever mindful of looking forward toward future Jewish generations, Finkelman says he plans to create online platforms catering to Jewish youth. “We want people to answer the commonly asked question ‘What makes you Jewish?’ Thousands of Jewish individuals worldwide will take minute-long video clips of what makes them feel connected to Judaism. For some, being Jewish is through feeling connected. For others, it’s eating lox. For still others, it’s watching Woody Allen movies. Everyone has their own concept.”

Once he’s gathered enough videos, he plans to showcase them online, hoping they can represent a kind of cumulative snapshot of what Judaism means to Jews worldwide. He’s dubbed the project “We R 1.”

Molly Meisels

Chabad Chayil Hosts Post-Pesach Challah Bake

Thursday, May 19th, 2016
Women participating in Chabad Chayil’s challah bake.

Women participating in Chabad Chayil’s challah bake.

More than 75 women and girls from the North Miami Dade community of Highland Lakes gathered to bake challah at Chabad Chayil for the Shabbos after Pesach. They learned the art of baking with master challah bakers Perla Attia and Nili Segal and the heart of challah baking from master teacher Morah Layah Kievman.

Chabad Chayil – Highland Lakes Jewish Center, located at 2601 NE 211 Terrace in North Miami Beach, offers challah baking classes several times each year. To join the next class or learn about the many projects and programs call 305-770-1919 or visit www.ChabadChayil.org.

Shelley Benveniste

Hundreds Celebrate Passover with Chabad in Kathmandu, Nepal

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Hundreds of Jews gathered this weekend to celebrate their exodus from Egyptian slavery at the annual seder in the highest point on earth – the Himalayas.

The media was left clueless as to where the famous Kathmandu Chabad House of Nepal seder was being held, however, due to the tight security surrounding the event this year.

Rabbi Chezki and Chani Lifshitz, co-directors of Chabad of Nepal, announced they would not release information about the location of the festive meal until 24 hours ahead of the event. “But don’t worry, the Israeli grapevine is alive and active,” people were told. “Folks will know where to go and how to get there.”

And so they did, indeed. A gym “who knows where” was packed to the rafters with at least 200 Israeli and other celebrants, right on schedule, for the start of the Passover seder.

The couple have spent the past 20 years orchestrating the most famous seder in the world.

This year numerous roads were reduced to rubble due to last year’s deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks, a massive avalanche, and subsequent blizzards. Thousands of locals were left homeless.

But the couple has a finely developed resourcefulness and creativity – for months they’d been making Passover wine in preparation for the holiday – and organizing strategies for transport of supplies.

Each year, the challenge of bringing needed supplies for the Passover holiday has required a different strategy. From using horses to a helicopter, with the help of the Israeli and Nepalese governments, the couple has always found a way to bring the goods to the Chabad House nestled high in the Himalayas.

Israeli hikers trekking through the area on their ritual post-army exploration of the world mark the event as a seminal stop on their journey to global maturity.

Hana Levi Julian

Anti-Semitic Protesters Demand Kremlin Outlaw Chabad in Russia

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

In the city Perm, about 870 miles east of Moscow, a crowd of 100 people gathered last weekend to demand that Moscow outlaw the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Russia. It’s not the first time anti-Semites in Perm have tried to rid the city of Chabad, and Jews.

The event that ignited this particular protest was the grant of a plot of land to the local Jewish community, headed by a Chabad emissary, by the government. No fees were charged for the transfer of land.

Last Saturday, the protesters appeared with picket signs that read, “Liberate Us Russians from Chabad” and “Chabad Out!” Another protester held a sign that showed just how deeply ingrained his anti-Semitism really is: “Chabad Settlement Is Over The Line: 1547.”

The reference is to the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan the Terrible, who rendered a decision in 1547 to ban all Jews from living and/or even entering his kingdom, because they “bring about great evil.”

In 2013, unidentified vandals hurled a firebomb at the synagogue in Perm in attempt to torch the Chabad-affiliated Jewish house of worship.

That attack came just a day after a popular Russian blogger had written a vicious post slamming a ceremony bringing a new Torah scroll to the local Perm synagogue. “Lubavitcher Chassidim will host a torch parade in Perm and demand to close the streets to traffic,” the blogger wrote, as translated and related by the Shturem website.

“Three hundred guests are expected to attend, including guests from the U.S., Israel and Russia. Economist Mikhail Doliagin stressed that these are Lubavitcher Chassidim who sued Russia in the United States, and managed that the verdict with a monetary fine for holding the Schneerson Library in Russia. Instead of giving Chabad privileges, all Lubavitch activities should be banned throughout Russia.”

The talkbacks on that article reflected the virulent anti-Semitism that is usually masked by politically-correct public diplomacy.

“All pro-Russians must band together. They all the intellectuals out, now they want the books as well.”

“Chassidim are a religio-political sect that worships the dollar, meaning the USA. Their agenda is to destroy Russia, through lies and deceit that they propagate in the media.”

During a meeting in Moscow with World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder this past Tuesday (April 19, 2016) President Vladimir Putin said,“Russian Jewish organizations are making a substantial contribution in the cause of domestic political stability in Russia, for which we are very grateful.”

Putin has been directly and indirectly responsible for the allocation of land grants – free of charge – to numerous Jewish, Christian and Muslim community and faith groups. Some of those grants came as restitution for property stolen during the Soviet era.

Hana Levi Julian

Mezuzahs Broken and Stolen at Chabad of East Boca Raton

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Someone broke and stole two mezuzahs from the Chabad Center of East Boca Raton in Florida. But it’s not yet clear whether the perpetrator was thief or an anti-Semitic vandal.

“It’s very shocking and disturbing,” Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Ruvi New told WPTV said. “Jarring.”

The vandals stole and broke two mezuzahs from the center last weekend. This past Friday the rabbi replaced a mezuzah at the main entrance to the Chabad House, the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism (CFCA) reported.

The rabbi described the purpose of the mezuzah as “an ancient security system.” He said Jewish tradition notes that mezuzahs are to be placed on doorways to provide protection to those entering and leaving.

The two outside the rabbi’s Chabad center together were worth approximately $500.

A spokesperson for Boca Raton police has said the case has not been classified as a hate crime thus far. An investigation has been launched.

Hana Levi Julian

Colel Chabad ‘Charging’ Ahead on Passover Preparations

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

The nationwide Colel Chabad social services organization is already moving full speed ahead on its pre-Passover preparations. The organization, which has been running programs in Israel since 1788, is working with the government to implement a food security project for the holiday.

“The organization is working to help thousands of Israelis who are struggling with poverty,” said a spokesperson. “To prepare for the holiday, food and staples for Passover will be delivered to the homes of more than 20,500 families around the country,” she said.

An additional 20,000 people will be provided with full seder meals at Chabad houses around the country, the spokesperson added.

In addition, the organization has launched a debit card program that enables its clients to go to designated supermarkets and purchase their own chosen holiday necessities.

“They can do so with dignity and self-respect, without having to feel embarrassed that they cannot afford what they want or require,” Colel Chabad director Rabbi Mendy Blau told Chabad.org.

The program began at Purim time and is now in full force as Passover arrives. Blau noted that “a debit card program such as this also enables us to channel and monitor funds so that they are being used in ways that will truly help the beneficiary.”

Colel Chabad has partnered with local supermarket chains, as well as with IsraCard (the local operator of MasterCard) to create the smart card. Purchases can be made for any items at the designated markets, other than hard liquor or tobacco products.

The cards are funded by charitable donations. Donors can designate beneficiaries who fall within a specific category, such as widows, Holocaust survivors, lone soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, victims of terror, etc. Anonymity is maintained to prevent undue embarrassment to the recipient.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/colel-chabad-charging-ahead-on-passover-preparations/2016/04/14/

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