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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Chabad’

Student’s Commencement Speech in D.C. Emphasizes Torah Values

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

A popular Jewish student at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.—known for proudly wearing his kippah  around campus—delivered the commencement speech on Sunday afternoon imparting to some 25,000 fellow graduates, faculty, family and friends the importance of utilizing each moment to its fullest.

Gabriel Felder, of Stamford, Conn., was selected for the prestigious honor of representing his graduating class at commencement, marking the second year in a row that a Jewish student leader has done so. Felder reflected on words his departed father, Louis Felder, told him before he went off to college, and cited timeless words of Torah as providing a life path.

Representing the graduating class of 2014 before the throng gathered outdoors at the National Mall, Felder—a political communication major in the Columbian College of Arts & Sciences’ School of Media and Public Affairs—emphasized that at every stage of life, especially during these formative years, a person must “live in the moment, and make the most of each and every opportunity.”

Felder served as president of GW’s Jewish Student Association, held multiple positions at GW Hillel and served on the board of GW’s Chabad Freshmen Jewish Club. He was also a regular at the campus Chabad run by Rabbi Yudi and Rivky Steiner, with whom he worked to improve Jewish life for students. Friends describe him as an inspiring person who created bridges between the Jewish community and the rest of the university, and represented the Jewish people well throughout his four years there.

Gabriel Felder
Gabriel Felder

Felder began his address recalling a conversation he and his father had over ice-cream after returning from freshman orientation. After asking his son whether he was excited to be going to GW—and getting a resoundingly positive reply back—Louis Felder replied: “Good! Just don’t waste it!”

“He passed away just a little over a month after that humid June night,” Felder told the audience, without sharing the fact that his father was killed, along with seven fellow workers, in a murderous rampage at his workplace, breaking the hearts of millions who sat riveted to their television screens.

Displaying some of the tenacity and optimism that carried him through his subsequent years in college, Felder stated that as a newly minted “Colonial,” as GW students are called, “it was in my blood” not to waste any G‑d-given time or opportunities.

Felder explained that he and his fellow students learned well the teaching of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, that “in each journey of our lives we must fully be where we are. We may only be passing through on our way to somewhere else seemingly more important. Nevertheless, there is purpose in where we are right now.”

“I can look today at this crowd and see proud parents beaming at the sight of their children in their caps and gowns,” Felder continued. “And I can look in my mother and my sisters’ faces and I can say wholeheartedly to my father that [I made] the most of my four years.”

The proud graduate went further to proclaim on behalf of all his fellow students “that none of us have wasted the amazing opportunity that it was to be given an education at The George Washington University.”

Grateful for Support

Felder also reminded his classmates that “commencement is a moment to take a step back and really think about all of the people who helped you get to this point,” urging them to “think back and be grateful for every professor who taught you to stand up and be heard; to every mentor that pushed you to lead and to not follow; and to every advisor you had, for his or her endless help in ensuring your education was the best it could be.”

Hundreds at Bangkok Chabad Passover Seder

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

More than 400 people sang their way through the Haggadah on the first night of Passover at the first seder held this year at the Chabad House of Bangkok, Thailand.

Dozens of children ascended special stage set up in the hall where the seder was held in order to sing the traditional “Ma Nishtana” – the Four Questions that launch the story explaining the reason for the celebration of Passover.

For those with slim budgets, the Chabad of Bangkok website stated clearly that everyone was welcome regardless of ability to pay. “Please contact the Rabbi in confidence if the charge is beyond your means,” the statement on Chabad’s “JewishThailand.com” site advised. “‘All who are hungry may come and eat’ is the theme of Passover and it will be our pleasure to host you regardless of financial ability.”

A seder for the second night was made available with the Kantor Family according to the announcement, sponsored by the Jewish Association of Thailand. “No charge but please RSVP,” the notice read.

Hebrew-language Passover seders were conducted in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Phuket.

PM Netanyahu Visits Kfar Chabad Matza Bakery

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the matza bakery in Kfar Chabad on Tuesday, two weeks before the beginning of Passover.

“At home, I have eaten this matza for years.” he said. “Today, for the first time, I am also preparing it myself. I am very excited. I wish the entire Jewish People a Happy Passover.”

Reciting a passage from the Haggadah read on the night of the Seder, (two nights outside Israel), the Prime Minister stated, “In every generation enemies rise up to destroy us, but God saves us from them. The Haggadah mentions four sons – wise, wicked, simple and the one who does not know how to ask – but each one has a Jewish spark and you watch over this Jewish spark.”

Local Chabad leaders and rabbis briefed Prime Minister Netanyahu on the preparations to hold Passover seders at the approximately 250 Chabad houses throughout Israel and the approximately 3,000 Chabad houses around the world.

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.”

Rabbi in Crimea Makes it Out on the Last Train

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Clarification and Update:

Wording in the title of this article has been changed from “Rabbi in Crimea Escapes with Torah Scroll” to “Rabbi in Crimea Makes it Out on the Last Train”, to avoid any potential misunderstanding that Rabbi Yitzchok Meyer Lipszyc may have stolen the Torah from the Crimea war zone, or abandoned his community in its time of need.

The Torah was moved to a safer location in Simferopol, and Rabbi Lipszyc was advised by his superiors at Chabad headquarters to temporarily move his center of operations out of Crimea. The Rabbi is still working with his community via Skype, phone and email.

JewishPress.com apologizes for any misunderstanding the title may have caused if read out of context from the text of the article.

Crimea’s Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Meyer Lipszyc escaped Simferopol with his wife on the last train that left the area before the Russian sealed it off.

“The main action in Crimea was taking place right across the street from our synagogue,” said Rabbi Lipszyc, who has been a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, for more than two decades. “There were demonstrations with over 30,000 people. The protestors were pro-Ukrainian. But eventually the ones who took over were in the unidentified uniforms—they were obviously Russian military. There was Cossacks there too; for Jews that was a bit scary because of their history in the pogroms.”

Lipszyc spoke told JNS.org, “For the last 22 years under the Ukrainian government, everything has been going very well. When this situation began, it turned things upside down. We were told by Chabad headquarters to get out and we barely made it out. My wife in fact got the last two tickets on a train out of Simferopol on the night before everything got sealed off by the Russians.

He said that despite the referendum that was almost unanimous for annexation by Russia, the thinks “most of the people wanted to stay with Ukraine, because that was what they were familiar with, but then when the Russians took over the media and propaganda switched the other way, within days we saw it swing towards being overwhelmingly pro-Russian.’

The situation is even worse for Americans like the rabbi, he added. “Americans were persona-non-gratis for both Ukrainians and Russians at this time. For Russians it is because of the stance the American government has taken against Russia. While on the Ukraine side they are deeply disappointed that America is not doing enough to help them.

“Oddly enough we had to leave there more because we were Americans and not because we were Jewish.”

Nevertheless, the atmosphere was anything but comfortable for Jews. Rabbi Lipszyc said that the Russian troops cordoned off the synagogue and that he and his wife moved to their house.

At his wife’s suggestion, they decided to move away as far as possible and wrote a note to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ask his help to get them out.

“Believe it or not, when our friend reached the military checkpoint, he explained to them that we needed to retrieve the Torah out of the synagogue, [the Russian soldier] suddenly moved out of the way and removed the barriers to let him,” according to the rabbi. “On his way out, the solider actually even apologized to him for the inconvenience, which was unheard of there! It was a miracle. We were able to move our Torahs to a safer location in Simferopol, where services were held for several weeks.””

Despite anti-Semitism, Jews are able to practice without interference. However, he noted, “We have to prepare for Passover and need to raise a lot of money to help with the extra costs. We not only need extra security, but we have taken loses during the process.

“We were getting our kosher meat from Ukraine; we had ordered and paid for it, but they [Russian forces] didn’t let it through. We also paid for the Matzos, but that didn’t get through either. We need to figure out how to all our supplies through now. We are appealing to everyone to help out the Jewish community there.”

Sam Kliger, the American Jewish Committee’s director of Russian Jewish community affairs, told JNS.org that according to international law and most Western observers, the referendum was illegitimate.

“In 1991, Crimea went to independent Ukraine because, since 1954, it was part of Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic which in turn was an integral part of the Soviet Union,” said Kliger. “That is why nobody really cared. As long as it was a part of the USSR, it did not really matter whether it is formally a part of Russia or Ukraine. Now Russia, using as pretext the instability created by Ukrainian revolution and imaginary ‘discrimination’ against ethnic Russians, just grabbed the opportunity to return Crimea to where, according to Russia, it historically belongs.”

Shabbat Saved a Jew from the Malaysia Airlines Death Flight

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

(JTA) The popular travel discount blog Dan’s Deals is circulating a story that a Jewish passenger who was supposed to be on the missing Malaysia Airlines plane was switched to an alternative flight because his Orthodox Jewish travel agent in Israel refused to book him on an itinerary that would have him traveling on Shabbat.

Under Orthodox Jewish law, facilitating someone else’s Sabbath desecration — boarding an airplane — is as forbidden as desecrating the Sabbath oneself.

Here’s the email exchange on January 13 and 14 between the passenger, identified as Andy, and the travel agent. The emails were posted online by Dan’s Deals with the identifying details removed.

Andy: One amendment, I need the KUL-PEK flight a day later. I need the extra day in Kuala. once that is set you can lock in.
Travel Agent: I wish I can give you a day later, but you know I just don’t like flying Jews on Shabbat. I can take that leg out if you want and you book yourself.

Andy decides to book the flight himself but later changes his mind:

Andy: I reconsidered, you are right I should be more observant, I’ll manage without that day in Kuala. Since I’ll have an extra night in PEK Any recommendations for a good Friday night dinner in Beijing?
Agent: Ok, glad to hear. Try this: http://www.chabadbeijing.com/

Then, on March 8, Andy writes:

Holy God,
You sure heard what happened to MH370
I cannot stop thinking about this.
This is a true miracle for the books. You are a true life saver…
I cannot think anymore! We’ll talk later this week. Don’t know how to thank you enough
(See the full email exchange here.)

When I tried to verify the authenticity of the story with Daniel Eleff of Dan’s Deals, he sent me this message:

At this time the travel agent and the passenger are opting to remain anonymous. There has been a fair amount of negative feedback and they are choosing to wait until the fate of the flight in known to determine if they’ll go public.
I have personally verified the story and can vouch for its authenticity. The emails I posted with time stamps are unaltered except to remove identifiable information.

Haredim Being Drafted – to Ukrainian Army

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

If not in Israel, then in the Ukraine.

Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities received draft notices to report to the Ukrainian army draft center, according to a report in Maariv.

Yeshiva students from multiple yeshivas in Kiev, including Chabad students, were told to report to the draft center, in response to the increasing tensions with Russia.

Unlike in the IDF, Jewish soldiers in the Ukrainian army cannot get kosher food (much less, Glatt Kosher food), cannot have beards, and must work on Shabbat – which is they day they clean the base. They certainly won’t be guaranteed time for daily prayers like they would be in the IDF.

Some of the students are considering running away to Israel.

The only question is, this time, will the Jews in the Ukraine decide to run away before it’s too late, or only after it’s too late.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/haredim-being-drafted-to-ukrainian-army/2014/03/04/

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