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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Chabad House’

The Oldest Story In The World

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

“This is the day of the beginning of your creation,” we read in our Yom Tov prayer books. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the day of the creation of Adam and Eve, and on that very day they proclaim God as King of the Universe.

And yet, as we know from the very first story in the book of Genesis, the glory of that day is short-lived. Within hours, Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Their eyes are opened. They become aware that they are naked and they are ashamed.

In a recent essay in a secular-oriented Jewish weekly, a woman describes a modern re-enactment of this tale. Her faith in God is shattered when she reads the book Cosmos and discovers a “mind-defying universe where distances are so vast that they are measured in light years.”

She is sorry to have read it because now she knows “God’s terrible secret, that this universe is large, and that He pounds out worlds like matzo balls, as many as He pleases, without so much as glancing at Earth.”

Though she had once felt close to God, she no longer knows how to integrate a personal God into her world.

“I tried to understand God,” she writes. “I mean, we humans have always wanted a God that is all-great and all-powerful, but not quite like that. Just enough so we could pretend He is a lot like us and we are enough like Him, and that the universe is not much larger than our minds.”

The god she had created in her own image has been shattered.

The loss of her innocence is not unlike the loss of innocence we all experience as we travel from childhood to adulthood. Once upon a time, we knew that our parents were all knowing and all powerful, that they loved us more than anything, and that we were perfect in their eyes. We knew good people were rewarded and bad people were punished so they would mend their ways. We knew God had created the world and that He listened to our prayers.

And then one day, sudden as a death, we lost our innocence. We learned that our parents were not perfect and neither were we; that truth, if it existed, would not be simple, but convoluted and twisted and complex. We no longer knew if we mattered in this unfathomable world, and how God could really know us or wish to do so.

Like Adam, like Eve, like countless people who have crossed this earth, we taste the fruit and are banished from Eden.

But that is not the end of the story. All of our history is a journey to find redemption and recapture what was lost.

We cannot remain childish in our understanding but we pursue always the wish to be childlike in our knowledge. While a simplistic faith cannot sustain us, we still seek a place where our faith is simple.

There is a chassidic tale of an ignorant shepherd boy who came to the synagogue and, unable to read the prayers, pierced the heaven with his heartfelt cries and whistles. We do not envy his ignorance. And yet no matter how sophisticated and subtle our understanding, we long to be able to utter a prayer as sincere as his shepherd’s call.

The true Jewish “coming of age story” is not about loss, but about search. The search for a teacher, for a mentor, for a deeper and stronger faith – one as sure and unquestioning as the faith of a child, and yet bold enough, brave enough, to heal our fragmented world.

Perhaps that is why the Jewish New Year begins in the fall. As the gold and glitter of summer dims and fades, as the days grow shorter and the leaves crumble, there is a death of innocence. And yet from amidst the death, new life springs forth.

The shofar is simple ram’s horn, an instrument without subtlety or gradation. The sound, say the chassidic masters, is like the call of a child. It is blown on Rosh Hashanah in a rhythmic sequence. First a tekiah – a long, simple cry. Then the shevarim, a broken call, with three shorter blasts. Then the teruah, with nine staccato sounds, like a sob. And finally a longer tekiah, which goes on and on with a slow exhaling of breath.

Chana Silberstein

Chabad House Hosts Joe Kaufman For Lunch & Learn

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

The Chabad House in Miami Beach hosted a lecture and “the best lunch in town” on Wednesday, July 11, at its location, 669 Lincoln Lane North. The congregation’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Zev Katz, started the program with a dvar Torah. The talk was followed by guest speaker Joe Kaufman, who spoke on the direction of political movements in the Middle East and the Maghreb. Kaufman’s presentation was titled “Arab Spring or Nuclear Winter?”

Kaufman is an expert in the fields of counter-terrorism, energy independence and Middle Eastern and Southern affairs. He has been a lecturer for the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and his articles can be found at FrontPageMag.com, the Hudson Institute, Pajamas Media and National Review. Kaufman is also a candidate for United States Congress.

The riveting talk was followed by a delicious lunch sponsored by Scott Abraham in loving memory of his father, Shalom ben Chaim Menachem.

For more information about the Chabad of Miami Beach adult education series or other activities contact Rabbi Katz at 305-CHABAD1 or visit www.chabadonwheels.com.

Shelley Benveniste

Writing A Torah In Memory Of Rabbi Dovid Bryn

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Usher Bryn, brother of Rabbi Dovid Bryn, z”l, fills in a letter together with his son Jonathan.

Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday, April 29, at Chabad Chayil Synagogue in Highland Lakes to pay tribute to South Florida’s Rabbi Dovid Bryn, z”l, and launch a project of writing a new Sefer Torah in honor of the rabbi’s 10th yahrzeit. Community members and local rabbis shared their memories of the legendary leader and his amazingly personality and accomplishments.

All in attendance had a chance to write a letter, filling in the first few pesukim of a Torah that will take a year and a half to complete. Every two weeks or so there will be a siyum completion ceremony of a parshah in another home, enabling the host/parshah sponsor to invite their friends and give them all a chance to write a letter.

The completion of the Sefer Torah will be celebrated together with the completion of the new Chabad House building, scheduled to break ground soon. A documentary of the rabbi is also in the works.

If you have a story you would like to share or if you would like to get a letter or parshah in the Dovid Bryn Sefer Torah, go to www.RabbiDovidBryn.org or call 305-770-1919.

Shelley Benveniste

Israeli Foreign Minister Visits Muslim Azerbaijan, Chabad House

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Israel marked twenty years of diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan on Sunday, with a visit to the 95% Muslim country by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who also visited the capital city’s Chabad house, according to a report by Lubavitch.com.

Azerbaijan, which borders Iran to the south, has pursued increasingly warm relations with the Jewish state, in contradiction to the will of Tehran.  In January, Azeri authorities arrested an Iranian national who allegedly plotted to kill two Israeli Chabad emissaries working at the Chabad Ohr Avner Jewish School in the capital city of Baku, including the Chief Chabad Emissary of Azerbaijan, Rabbi Shneor Segal.  The Chabad complex, “overlooking the scenic Caspian Sea”, according to Lubavitch.com, was established by philanthropist and President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the CIS and Baltic Countries, Lev Leviev, in 2010.

Rabbi Segal played in an integral role in arranging Foreign Minister Lieberman’s visit.  During his two-day stay, Lieberman met with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and other high-ranking officials, as well as Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan,  Michael Lotem and Israeli Consul Ron Schechter.

Malkah Fleisher

Mumbai Doctor, Wife Complete Conversion In Israel On Holtzberg Yahrzeit

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

JERUSALEM – An Indian couple completed their halachic conversion and remarried in a Jewish ceremony at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron last week, on the first anniversary of the murder of their friends and spiritual guides, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg.

Dr. Aharon Abraham left his position as director of the ICU Medical Center at British Kennedy in Mumbai, India, after terrorists killed the Holtzbergs.

Abraham was born Vagirds Frads to a Hindu cleric who worshipped idols, and a mother who prepared food for them. Like the biblical Abraham, young Vagirds could not understand why his father honored a man-made statue, or why his mother would cook for them.

Unlike the patriarch, however, he waited until after graduating high school to confront his father, asking how he could believe “such nonsense.” But when there was no reply, his anger led him to take a hammer and smash the idols, exactly as Abraham had done.

“The gods are angry!” his father shouted at him, he recounted, and recalled his reply: “If they’re angry, let them do something .”

It was while studying medicine at the University of Mumbai that he first read a Bible, given to him by Christian students. “A new world opened before me,” he said.

The woman he married, a nurse, was equally interested in his Bible studies, and after their wedding the couple changed their family name to “Abraham” to honor the patriarch. Vagirds became Aaron, because “the priest was a wonderful person, full of glory,” he explained.

Eventually the couple decided to convert, and began studying Judaism in earnest with the Holtzbergs, Chabad emissaries in Mumbai.

“Our whole life centered around the Chabad House,” said Abraham. “It was the only place where we could get kosher food. Gabi and Rivky were our guides, we did not move without them. We began a process of true conversion and found the extraordinary beauty of the Torah commandments.”

It was the brutal murder of the Holtzbergs and their four guests at the Nariman Chabad House that changed their lives forever, however.

“They took away my Master,” said Abraham. “But what we learned from Gabi and Rivki will accompany us and our children forever.”


Hana Levi Julian

Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg: Two Brief And Shining Lives

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 26, 2008 – the Hebrew date was Cheshvan 29, which this year fell on Monday, Nov. 16 – Islamic terrorists went on a savage killing spree in Mumbai, India, murdering 179 people including Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg. The following tribute to the Holtzbergs was written by Rabbi Holtzberg’s sister.

The lives Gabi and Rivky led were beyond comprehension; there are so many people they touched, so many stories they inspired. I have selected a few personal recollections and touching moments that exemplify just how truly amazing they were.

I thought I knew my brother. I was proven wrong during the week of shiva and the difficult days that followed, as incredible stories kept pouring in about him and his eishes chayil Rivky. I feel so privileged to have been his baby sister and I treasure the special closeness we shared. I will always remember all those heart to heart conversations we shared as teenagers that would last all night.

I will never forget the time I was in high school and Gabi was studying in yeshiva in Jerusalem and he agreed to do my 40-page research paper on the topic of ahavas Yisrael, love of a fellow Jew. How he exemplified this great deed!

We believed it before, but to hear from so many complete strangers whom he helped not only reaffirmed and strengthened our love and

appreciation for him, it empowered us to be better ourselves.

The mitzvah of mikveh exemplifies the self-sacrifice of Gabi and Rivky. Before they eventually constructed the beautiful Mei Menachem in Mumbai, Rivky would fly six hours each way to use the mikveh in Thailand. I remember how proud they were at their own mikveh dedication. Until their last day they dedicated all their energies to ensure the mikveh in Mumbai was in tip-top shape. In fact, Gabi and Rivky both stayed up until 3 in the morning on November 26 cleaning and preparing their mikveh.

Gabi had such strength of character. He was utterly selfless, never putting his feelings in front of anyone else’s. There are two incidents that stand out as I think about his childhood years.

When my brother was 14, fresh off his bar mitzvah, he was sent to yeshiva in Argentina. One morning he went into the shul and was shocked to discover his precious new tefillin were gone. Stolen.

Gabi never informed our parents of this until much later. He taught himself how to read from the Torah and found a local shul in need of a weekly reader. Every week he would save the $50 he earned until he was able to purchase a new pair of tefillin for himself. He didn’t have the heart to ask my parents to buy a new pair again.

The other incident occurred when the Jewish center (also known as the Amia), right next to the yeshiva, was bombed by terrorists.

Understandably, my parents were frantic to hear from Gabi. My mother immediately called the yeshiva and asked to speak with him. We were shocked to hear that Gabi – a boy of 14 – had volunteered to participate in the rescue and recovery efforts, helping to locate bodies among the rubble of the collapsed building. His noble character was evident even as a young child.

Gabi and Rivky chose to live in Mumbai because that was where they were needed. They went there knowing the difficulty of being so far away from family and friends and the comforts of the community.

Rivky would bake bread every day from scratch. Gabi would shecht and kasher hundreds of chickens every week. They chose this way of life because Mumbai needed a rabbi. Mumbai needed a rebbetzin. There were Jews in need and Gabi and Rivky heeded their call.

Gabi and Rivky’s Chabad House was a beacon of light, the home away from home for so many. There was not a Jew who went to Mumbai who was not welcomed. Gabi, like Avraham Avinu, literally went out into the streets to bring people into his home.

Two years ago, my parents were fortunate to spend Pesach with Gabi and Rivky. Looking at their worn-out couches, my mother asked Rivky, “What happened to your couches? They were brand new!” To which Rivky responded: “They are not our couches; they belong to everyone here!”

To Gabi and Rivky, nothing was impossible; the word was not even in their vocabulary.

They were so excited when their offer of $700,000 for the purchase of the six-story Chabad House was accepted. They would finally have the necessary space to expand and to offer more programs to the Jews of Mumbai. It was a dream come true for them.

They were still overjoyed when told they would have to pay for it all in cash. Even when the owner wanted a million dollars more and everyone thought Gabi would drop the idea and move on, he did not. He became even more determined to make this dream a reality. The additional million was raised in an astonishingly short period of time and the building was paid for, in cash.

Nothing – nothing – was too hard or overwhelming for them. Their love of and dedication to their work knew no bounds.

Gabi paid out of his own pocket for coupons enabling incarcerated Jews to buy necessary items in prison. And he spent much of his money bribing prison guards to let him enter so that he could visit around Jewish holidays.

He ignited the spark in so many Jewish souls – even those who might have thought they had been forgotten. Gabi was there for them. He was there for everyone.

My mother recalls how, when she was there for Pesach, a female prisoner was released after years of incarceration. Rivky threw a party the way only she knew how to. She cooked a gourmet meal and greeted the woman as happily and warmly as if she were her own sister.

During shiva week, someone sat down and told us that when he was in India, he, like all too many Israeli youths backpacking through the country, became addicted to drugs. His emotional health deteriorated to the point where his father had to come to India to bring him back home to Israel. His condition was so bad that when he arrived at the airport he was not allowed to board the flight for fear of endangering passengers and crew. The father didn’t know what to do. No hotel was ready to admit them either.

Realizing he had no other choice, he turned for help to the Israeli ambassador in India. The ambassador sent them to the Chabad House where they were welcomed with open arms. My brother spent days and nights with the young man and helped him through rehabilitation. All this simply because he was a Jew who needed his help.

Gabi was not a social worker or a psychologist, but the nature of his job required that he be one to so many lost souls searching and yearning for some sort of connection.

This young man then told us, “Gabi introduced me to my wife, with whom I live so happily today. I owe my life to him.” At that point he began to weep.

During the tsunami that ravaged the region in 2004, Gabi risked his life by traveling five days across the country just to locate a missing American girl. He took a satellite phone with him so the girl would be able to call home and comfort her worried parents, who had contacted Gabi directly when they saw the news.

So many people owe their lives to my brother and sister-in-law. A cousin who spent six months at the Chabad House was a witness to the following story.

There was a man who resided in the Chabad House for two years while waiting for his son to be released from prison. While there, he became very ill and had to undergo a heart procedure. He begged my brother to take him to the local hospital. My brother refused.

Instead, he took him to a fully modernized medical center and hired a private surgeon to provide the man the help he needed. He did all this happily and without a second thought, though it cost him thousands of dollars. There was no dollar amount in the world that would impede Gabi from fulfilling his mission, that would prevent him from assisting others.

Another woman who came during shiva week told us how a friend of her daughter had come to the Chabad House and mentioned to my sister-in-law that she would be leaving the next day on a long trip up north.

“Don’t forget to stop by and say goodbye before you go,” Rivky said to her. When the girl returned the next day to bid farewell, she was shocked to find no less than thirty sandwiches waiting for her to take along on the trip. Each sandwich was carefully wrapped so that it would last a long period of time. Each roll was hand baked with so much love. The flour was sifted so carefully and the spreads were all prepared from scratch.

“My daughter’s friend,” our visitor related, “was so touched that she promised she would always keep kosher. She said if you could do it in India, you could do it anywhere.”

When we were walking away from the burial at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem, a diamond merchant by the name of Naava came over and told us how Gabi would come to her hotel room and personally deliver Rivky’s warm, delicious food. Once when he came she noticed he had butterfly stitches on his forehead. When he told her a board fell on his head, she said, “Oh my! That’s terrible!” Gabi responded with his signature smile, “Don’t feel bad! I am so happy that it fell on me. Just imagine – it could’ve fallen on another Jew, God forbid.”

That was my brother.

i would like to share a few words about my nephew Moishele. It is known that before Hashem sends a makah, an illness or tragedy, he first creates the refuah, the cure. Moishele is our refuah – the miracle the world witnessed as his brave nanny Sandra rushed out from the Chabad House clutching him tightly in her arms.

Moishele gave us reason to hope. He continues to give us the strength to endure.

He was Gabi and Rivky’s miracle child even before this episode. He was the light of their lives. He shared and continues to share such an amazing connection with his parents. He feels their presence constantly. Recently, in preparation for his third birthday, Moishele, as is customary, began wearing tzitzis. He was so excited, running around the house kissing them right and left. He stopped in front of a picture of his parents and put his tzitzis to their lips so that they too could partake in his mitzvah.

My parents recently spent a month with Moishele over the summer in Israel. My father sang niggunim, chassidic chants, with him for hours. There was one particular niggun Gabi loved. It was the niggun of my ancestor, Reb Michele Zlotchever. This niggun also happened to have been chanted by the thousands of mourners at the burial on the Mount of Olives.

After completing the song, my father noticed a change in Moishele’s demeanor. He was in another world, a sad expression clearly visible. And so my father prepared to sing a more upbeat niggun. But before he could begin, Moishele asked that they sing Reb Zlotchever’s niggun gain. Upon finishing it, Moishele wanted to repeat the niggun yet again. They continued singing the niggun together over and over.

That Shabbos, while sitting at the table, Moishele began singing. He was singing his father’s beloved niggun.

Baruch Hashem, every day provides us with renewed strength. Life must go on and it is up to Gabi and Rivky’s family to go forward with their special work. We therefore must take it upon ourselves to continue where they left off. Thankfully, they provided us with a great blueprint.

Gabi and Rivky, you gave so much to the world and accomplished so many great things during your relatively brief lives. We promise to avenge your blood. We will do so by continuing your mission: making the world a better place. We will wake up each morning and realize that every second we have on this earth is not just a gift, but a special opportunity for us to make a difference.

I would like to close by asking everyone reading this to take upon yourself one more mitzvah, one more deed, in Gabi and Rivky’s memory. May we merit from this to see the ultimate revelation of goodness in the world with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.

Rikal Kaler lives in Baltimore with her husband and their daughter Rivky, born nine months after the tragic events in Mumbai.

Rikal Kaler

How Do We Understand That Which Is Unfolding? (Part One)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

As I write these words I am on my way to Toronto for a commemoration of the martyrs of Mumbai. Rabbi Moshe Steiner, the local Chabad Rabbi who organized the program, informed me that Rabbi Holtzberg, the father of Gaby and father-in-law of Rivkah Holtzberg, martyrs of Mumbai, would also be there for the occasion.

Every tragedy evokes its own unique memory… that which comes to my mind when I think of Mumbai is the heart-rending cry of little Moishele: “Eifoh Ima? Where is Mommy? – Eifoh Ima? Where is Mommy?” Perhaps the reason why those piercing words resonate in my heart is because, as a survivor of the Holocaust, they are all too familiar. I heard that cry in the ghettos…I heard it in the cattle cars… I heard it on the long forced marches…. I heard it in Bergen Belsen. And I even heard it when, we crossed the border into Switzerland on our way to the DP camps.

The first act of the Swiss was to delouse us, and in doing so, they separated children from their parents. Terrified that our Holocaust nightmare was once again being re-enacted, my younger brother panicked and cried out in Yiddish, “Mameh, Mameh, Luz zey nisht – Ich vel zein a gitte yingele! Mommy, please don’t let them – I will be a good boy!” I can still hear my brother’s cry.

But more significantly, I hear my mother’s weeping. To her dying day, she tearfully recalled that incident: “Ich vil es kein mohl nisht fargessen – I will never forget it,” she would say again and again. And as she spoke, she would describe my brother’s outstretched hands, piteously pleading. Those years left deep and painful scars on our minds, hearts and souls. Who would have believed that we would be destined to hear that cry again, from of all places, Mumbai, India.

During the past years, I have spoken to Jewish communities on every continent and sadly, I have discovered that anti-Semitism is escalating throughout the world. I see pre-Holocaust Europe all over again, and even as we were caught napping in those ominous days, so too today, we are asleep. We delude ourselves with rationalizations:

“It’s all politics. It’s all about Israel. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”

And we choose to forget that those who would demonize Israel demonize the Jewish people as well. Mumbai is a case in point. What did a Moslem/Hindu conflict have to do with Israel, or for that matter, a Chabad House in faraway India?

If you recall, at the time of the Mumbai massacre, the major world media, CNN, BBC, The New Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, etc. all spoke in euphemisms when referring to the Islamic terrorists and resorted to generic terms such as “militants” and “freedom fighters” so that they might sanitize Islamic terror. Moreover, they refused to acknowledge the components of Jew hatred that led to the slaughter at the Chabad House.

The apologists, including many of our own people, refused to face reality. They rationalized that the Chabad House was caught in crossfire. They insisted that there was never intent to attack Jews, yet all the evidence proved the contrary. Mumbai was nothing short of a calculated attack on our Jewish people.

Prior to that onslaught, the Chabad House in Mumbai was cased by Islamic terrorists pretending to be Malaysian students who wanted to learn more about Judaism. They were warmly welcomed by Rabbi Gavriel and his wife Rivkah. These terrorists took detailed photographs and made diagrams of every part of the building, indicating that they were there for only one reason – to kill Jews because they were Jews. The lone terrorist who was captured alive openly admitted that they had specific orders to torture and kill Jews.

Indeed, the Indian physician who examined the murdered victims, in a voice wracked with emotion, stated that of all those who were slaughtered, the Jews were subjected to the most barbaric treatment. The Israeli forensic team could not even identify the victims by their faces, but had to rely on DNA tests and dental records. Despite all this however, the international media refused to recognize the Jewish component in this barbaric attack.

Now, it’s one thing if the international community is in denial, but how could Americans fall into this trap? Americans, who experienced first-hand the savage barbarism of 9/11…and more significantly, how could our own Jewish people, who suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of Moslem terrorists, be in such denial?

Who are these Moslem terrorists who, to all intents and purposes, wreak fear and appear to dominate the world?

Time and again, I have emphasized that I never express my own opinions on any subject, for I may be wrong, and I wouldn’t, chas v’shalom, want to mislead anyone. That which I say, that which I write, I always substantiate with a passage from our Torah – “Hafoch bah, hafoch bah, d’kulah bah – Turn the pages, turn the pages, everything is in it.” But to which page should we turn?

Our sages advised that we try to look for the first place the subject is mentioned in the Torah, for the first is always definitive. So let us examine when and where is the first time that we encounter Yishmael, the father of all Arabs?

(To be continued)

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/how-do-we-understand-that-which-is-unfolding-part-one/2009/07/01/

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