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March 30, 2015 / 10 Nisan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Chabad’

And the Only US State Without a Chabad Is…

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

by Gabrielle Birkner / JTA.org

Some 4,200 Chabad rabbis from more than 80 countries are gathering this weekend in New York for the annual conference of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

In the year since they all last got together to attend workshops, listen to keynote lectures from the likes of former Sen. Joseph Lieberman and pose for their “class picture” — a “Where’s Waldo of rabbis,” according to a Chabad release — the Jewish outreach organization they represent has put down roots in five new countries and one new state, Mississippi.

That brings the number of American states with a permanent Chabad presence to 49.

Which had JTA staffers wondering: Which state is the holdout?

West Virginia? Chabad opened in Morgantown back in 2007

Idaho? They’ve been in Boise for more than a decade.

Montana? Wyoming? Alaska? None of the above.

North Dakota? Well, now you’re getting warmer (or, really, colder).

It’s South Dakota.

So why is the home of Mount Rushmore the sole Chabad-less state in America? Simply put: math. One of the least populous states in the nation — some 844,000 people live there — South Dakota has just 345 Jews, according to the 2013 edition of the American Jewish Yearbook.

Time was, there were more Jews in the state — somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,750 at the turn of the 20th century. Many of them had come to make their fortunes amid the Black Hills Gold Rush of the 1870s. And those who stayed on built the kinds of Jewish institutions that made the Great Plains feel like home.

South Dakota, to this day, is home to three historic Jewish congregations.

Synagogue of the Hills in Rapid City, near the “Old West” town of Deadwood, traces its roots back to the gold rush era, though it was established at its current location in 1957. Some 350 miles to the east, in Sioux Falls, is Mount Zion Congregation, founded as a cemetery society in 1903 and as a synagogue 16 years later. Both Synagogue of the Hills and Mount Zion are Reform, with services led by rabbinic students at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.

B’nai Issac in Aberdeen, the state’s sole Conservative synagogue, is closing in on its centennial, said Bea Premack, 81, a longtime congregant. Premack’s husband, Herschel, an 87-year-old South Dakota native, leads Friday night services every week they are in town.

“We rarely have a minyan, but once in while we have a minyan — especially if there are guests in town” said Bea Premack.

B’nai Issac also hosts a weekly Torah study group, which draws several of the congregation’s 12 members as well as some non-Jews in the area. In addition, the Aberdeen Jewish community has also played host in recent years to a group of cyclists who participate in the cross-country bike ride organized by the Jewish environmental group Hazon.

It’s been decades since any of these three South Dakota congregations have been large enough to support a full-time rabbi. Already, by the early 1980s, the state’s lone rabbi made his living selling light bulbs, according to an Associated Press report.

There’s also a tiny Hillel at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., and it draws a mix of Jews and Messianics, as reported earlier this year in New Voices and the Forward. Messianic Jews identify as Jewish and engage in Jewish ritual, but because they accept Jesus as the Messiah, they are not considered Jewish by mainstream denominations.

And just because South Dakota is the only American state without a permanent Chabad emissary doesn’t mean that the Brooklyn-based Hasidic movement doesn’t serve the state. Rabbi Yonah Grossman, Chabad’s Fargo, N.D.- based emissary, visits the state on occasion. So, too, does Chabad’s “Roving Rabbis” corps, which makes periodic trips to South Dakota.

When Rechavam Ze’evi Met the Rebbe

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Friday, the 30th of Tishrei is the Yartzheit of Rechavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi who was murdered by Arab terrorists in Jerusalem.

Ze’evi was an IDF general and a minister in the Israeli government, and who had tremendous love for the Land of Israel.

In this video, Ze’evi visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe and asked him for advice on what more and what else he could do to protect Eretz Yisrael.

The Rebbe advised him to help spread Torah in Israel, and to uncover the Torah that already exists in each one of us, especially to the children. He advised Ze’evi that not only the land of Eretz Yisrael, but also the Torah of Eretz Yisrael should be as natural for us as breathing air.

Simchat Torah and Creativity

Monday, October 13th, 2014

One of the factors that attracted me to the Hasidic movement was the feeling that my ideas and thoughts had merit no matter how many books and texts I mastered. The Ba’al Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic movement, extolled the unadulterated service of the simple ones whose heartfelt pleas reached the loftiest heights. And so I was encouraged by this because while my breadth of knowledge was not like some, at least my contributions would be valued.

But as my time in yeshivah and then Hasidic Crown Heights passed by, I struggled to find my place. These difficulties persisted until I met a beggar outside a pizza restaurant after the fast of the 9th of Av 12 years ago.

Standing on the Outside

I had traveled to the upper west side of Manhattan in search of solace. During my pre-Hasidic years the upper west side was an area that I frequented regularly to watch a movie at the local AMC theaters or partake of a slice at Pizza Cave. But now times were different. I was living in Crown Heights and rarely visited Manhattan anymore.

My first stop that night was the familiar AMC theaters. I tried to convince myself that what I needed was a good movie to wash away the worries. But after perusing title after title, I left.

My next stop was the Barnes & Noble nearby. But after buying a few sci-fi books that I never read and threw out shortly thereafter, I left there as well.

By now the rain was pouring down as I entered my final destination, Pizza Cave, a kosher pizza restaurant that existed at the time. Soaked through-and-through I ordered a slice, ate, and left.

As was leaving, I ran into an elderly beggar. But instead of asking for his needs, likely noticing that I was a Chabad hasid, he began to recount the following…

He said that his tzedakeh collecting days were not always this trying. Over a numbers of years, he would wait outside 770 Eastern Parkway, the headquarters of Chabad, on Sundays to collect tzedakeh. From 1986-1992, thousands of people converged on 770 to receive a dollar and a blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In turn, as was the custom, these “dollar recipients” would then give another dollar in place of the original to tzedakeh. As the original dollar from the Rebbe was intended for tzedakeh, these “exchange dollars” allowed the recipients to keep the ones that were physically handed to them by the Rebbe. It was in order to collect these “exchanged” dollars that this man stood outside 770 every Sunday.

Feeling deeply at ease from his story, I thanked the man for sharing his experience, handed him a $5 bill, and headed to the subway back home.

I later realized why his story brought me such great relief, and why his story so deeply calmed me. Prior to meeting this man I felt that I was missing something. I felt bereft because I hadn’t met the Rebbe face-to-face, and this troubled me greatly. I began to question my place within Chabad and doubted whether my contributions–creative or otherwise–were really worthwhile.

I don’t know if this man ever waited in line to receive an “original” dollar, or if he even saw the Rebbe (since he was standing outside 770 and the Rebbe was inside), but what I do know is that it provided him food to eat and perhaps even new clothing to wear. So too I began to acknowledge that even though I may be standing on the outside, this does not mean that my contributions are worthless. Indeed, as confirmation to this importance of this night, I later found out that on that very same night, my future wife had been writing a long soul-searching letter listing all the things she was looking for in a match.

‘Rickshaw’ Sukkah Makes the Rounds in New York

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

The holiday of Sukkot commands Jews to live in “booths” — commemorating the temporary dwellings their ancestors inhabited while wandering the desert for 40 years. Though many Manhattan apartments measure only slightly larger than those original booths, unless the apartment roof is retrofitted with twigs from Central Park, it doesn’t quite qualify as a sukkah.

Thankfully, one Chabad Lubavitch yeshiva student in Brooklyn has taken it upon himself to ensure that all New Yorkers can experience the holiday.

Levi Duchman, 21, is the inventor of the pedi-sukkah, a rickshaw bicycle with a mobile sukkah attached to the back.

While small, each sukkah meets all the halachic requirements. During the days before Sukkot and during Chol HaMoed, Duchman says he spends 12 hours a day on the pedi-sukkah, pedaling around Brooklyn and Manhattan to let New Yorkers step inside to say a blessing.

“It’s the best thing to see people’s reactions, and to give people in New York the opportunity to get involved with the holiday,” Duchman said. “We get a lot of smiles and pictures, and lot of positivity, even from the police.”

Sometimes people ask to take a ride in the sukkah, and he obliges for short trips.

Duchman built his first pedi-sukkah five years ago. He rented a pedicab and worked overnight with his younger brother to create something that hopefully wouldn’t fall off and block Manhattan traffic. The sukkah stayed put, and today there are over 50 of his bikes spread across 15 states and over five countries.

The bikes have come a long way. Duchman now works with a manufacturer to create an easy-to-assemble pedi-sukkah. He even created a “menorah cycle” for Chanukah, and a “mitzvah cycle” affixed with a banner that encourages others to lay tefillin and light Shabbat candles (because it’s never a bad time to ride a bike and do good deeds).

Between the cost of the materials and the pedicab itself, one bike goes for nearly $2,000. But Duchman charges exactly what it costs him.

“It’s not a business,” he said. “It’s a way to spread awareness. Baruch HaShem.”

Israeli Girl Molested at Chabad 770, Arrest Made

Friday, October 10th, 2014

New York police have arrested and charged a non-Jewish janitor at the Chabad 770 headquarters with molesting a young Israeli girl who was sleeping in a stairwell.

The incident provoked complaints of the lack of sleeping facilities for Jewish tourists who are essentially homeless.

The girl who fended off her attacker with screams is visiting from Israel for the month. She was sleeping in a stairwell leading to the women’s section of “770” when the attacker, of Hispanic descent, began to molest her.

Shomrim security officials tracked down the suspect, and the young woman was able to identify him in lineup.

Crown Heights Info reported that many women pay an organization that is supposed to provide housing and eating facilities for visitors, but young Jewish women have been seen roaming the streets with their luggage but without a place to stay for the night. Some of them sleep on benches in synagogues.

Crown Heights Father, 5 Yr Old Son Attacked in ‘Knock-Out’ Game

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

A Jewish father and his five year old son were attacked Tuesday in another round of the ‘knockout game’ as they walked to the little boy’s first day at school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that an alert bystander saw the attack and chased the assailant. He raced after him down President Street, according to the Crown Heights.info website, flagging down a police patrol cruiser along the way. Police officers joined the chase.

The perpetrator was cornered in an apartment building – but that didn’t mean he was ready to give up when police tried to place him under arrest. Instead he resisted violently and police were forced to add a spritz of mace to their efforts to subdue the suspect.

First responders treated the perpetrator on the scene, and the father and son also arrived to identify their attacker and formally press charges.

The neighborhood, home to “770″ – World Headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic movement, is a racially mixed area which also hosts the city’s West Indian Day Parade each year.

California Earthquake Wreaks Havoc at Chabad House

Monday, August 25th, 2014

The 6.1 earthquake that jolted northern California in the middle of the night Sunday upended furniture and scattered broken glass at the Napa Valley Chabad Jewish Center.

“It was very violent—not a gentle rolling quake, but more of a jolting traumatic experience that shocked us out of sleep at 3:20 a.m. and lasted for about half a minute, Rabbi Elchonon Tenenbaum told the Chabad website.

The rabbi, his wife and five children were not injured.

Tenenbaum said he waited outside with his neighbors until daybreak before going back into his home and Chabad center, where power had been lost, to survey the damage. Upended furniture and broken glass prevented him from accessing some rooms, including his office. A disaster recovery fund was quickly established for those wanting to help out.

“I went to check up on people in the area and found that they were in a similar situation,” he added. “Their houses are standing, but everything inside has been ruined. Thank God, this happened in the middle of the night when we were in our beds and not in other parts of our homes, where heavy bookcases fell over.”

The Chabad website reported, “Tenenbaum says that waking up in the middle of the night with his children screaming amid violent banging and shaking helped him picture what life must be like on a regular basis for people living in Israel, where Hamas has been firing rockets from Gaza for much of the summer.”

“It is really surreal,” he said. “There are some stores that are functioning as usual, and others have been completely destroyed for now. Some streets are buckled, and others are just fine. Some people have broken water mains or leaking gas pipes, and others do not.”

Many residents in the area, famous for its wineries, are crying over wine spilled from barrels that were broken from the earthquake.

The largest quake to hit the San Francisco area in 25 years, it caused several injuries, including three who are in critical condition, set off fires and knocked out power.

Napa’s downtown historical areas sustained irreparable damage.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/california-earthquake-wreaks-havoc-at-chabad-house/2014/08/25/

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