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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chabad Lubavitch’

Chabad Rabbi Remains with Trapped Jews as Ukraine Troops, Rebels, and Russians Fight for Mariupol

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Jews in Mariupol, Ukraine are caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’ with nowhere to run as the winds of war whirl into their community. Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and rabbi of the city, Rabbi Mendel Cohen, has remained to serve his brethren in what has become one of the greatest challenges of his life.

Pro-Russian separatists, Russian tanks and Ukraine forces are all rapidly converging on the key southeastern port city to fight for control.

The nearby town of Novoazovsk reportedly has fallen to the rebels over the past 24 hours, according to a report by the BBC which quoted Russian TV. The Ukraine government told media that Russian forces have crossed the border in support of the rebel advance — a charge denied by Moscow.

The besieged cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, further north, have been embattled for months. The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), where the city of the same name is located, has attempted to secede from Ukraine. DPR Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko told Russian TV there were up to 4,000 Russian citizens within the ranks of the separatist rebel army, “former high-ranking military officers who have volunteered to join us. They are fighting with us, considering that to be their duty.

“There are also many in the current Russian military that prefer to spend their leave among us, brothers who are fighting for their freedom, rather than on a beach.”

“People are very worried right now,” Rabbi Cohen told Chabad.org. “There are lines at all of the gas stations and ATMs and people are stocking up on food, so there is nothing left in the stores. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Mariupol, the second-largest city in Donetsk, is only 35 miles from the Russian border and Russian is the primary language. In February, pro-Russian separatists seized the city’s administrative buildings and maintained control over the city for months.

Kiev sent troops and battled for control over the city in a fierce fight that ended at the city’s police station. At least six were killed in the offensive and it took until June 13 before the Ukraine government forces managed to secure total control over the city.

Rabbi Cohen described “armed men with masks right next to the shul,” saying it was “dangerous to walk around in the street” until June. Since then, however, “thank God it has become more stable.”

The sense of unease has returned, however.

Over the past month, more than 330,000 people have been displaced by combat in Donetsk to the north, and Lugansk to the east. Some 2,000 people have been killed so far, according to some estimates.

Many refugees have ended up in Mariupol. This week the sounds of shelling are much closer. Mariupol’s Jews so far insist on staying, fearing the dangers on the road to freedom more than the uncertainties facing them in their own homes. The Chabad emissary says he will stay as long as he can to aid the community.

“We have a minyan three times a day and Torah classes. Our day camp just ended, and we are now preparing for the school year,” Cohen said. The Jewish community has also worked to supply food packages to a growing number of people who need them.

Out of four emissaries serving southeastern Ukraine, Rabbi Cohen is the only one left. Three others were forced to re-evaluate their situations, along with the Jews of Donetsk, Lugansk and Maakeevka.

‘I hope and pray they will be able to return to their work very soon,” Rabbi Cohen said.

NYC Lawmaker Laurie Cumbo Presses Miami to Find Rabbi Raksin’s Murderer

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

On the 23rd anniversary of a race riot that saw mobs calling for ‘Death to the Jews!’ a gentile Crown Heights NYC Council Member stepped up pressuring Florida authorities to hunt down the murderer of a Chassidic Jewish resident attacked Aug. 9 while visiting the state.

City Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo sent a letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez on Aug. 19, urging him step up his efforts to find the murderer of Rabbi Joseph Raksin.

“This tragedy has left New Yorkers devastated and in disbelief that such a senseless crime could be committed on the Sabbath,” Cumbo wrote.

“While the circumstances surrounding his final hours remain unclear, elected officials and interfaith leaders throughout New York City have joined together to send a message that we will not stand nor tolerate the targeting of individuals because of their religious beliefs or faith. Individuals who engage in such acts must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law…

“On behalf of the Crown Heights community, the Jewish Caucus, and the Raksin family, we urge you and the Miami-Dade Police Department to continue to prioritize this investigation and to utilize all available resources to resolve this case. We hope that you will look upon our offices and New York City as a partner in this effort.”

The rabbi was a well-known member of the Crown Heights Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish community, was murdered while walking to synagogue in North Miami Beach.

No arrests have been made in the case. Police have yet to label the determine the murder a ‘hate crime,’ though the area is heavily Jewish and locals know that Jews carry no money or valuables during the Sabbath.

Local members of the American Jewish Committee told the Miami Herald that just two weeks before the murder, on July 28, a swastika and ‘Hamas’ were scrawled on the synagogue towards which Raksin was walking.

A member of the North Miami Beach ‘Shmira Patrol’ – a local neighborhood watch group – said a woman returned home after Raksin’s funeral in Miami to find a swastika scratched into her car. Miami-Dade police confirmed the report.

Chabad of Mumbai Reopens Nariman House in India

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

In two days, a building that six years ago was soaked in blood and tears will instead be filled with light and joy, as Chabad of Mumbai’s Nariman House reopens its doors.

More than 25 Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries will attend the reopening set for Tuesday, August 26 along with other honored guests led by current co-directors, Rabbi Yisroel Kozlovsky and his wife Chaya.

The couple are continuing the work started by Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg, who together with four of their guests were murdered in cold blood by Pakistani jihadist terrorists in November 2008. Only their two year old son Moishe, saved by his Indian nanny Sandra, survived the bloodbath. Both were brought home to Israel by Rivky’s parents, Rabbi and Mrs. Shimon Rosenfeld.

Despite the devastation that followed the attack — Nariman House was only one of ten sites that were struck in a city-wide mass casualty attack by the 10-man terrorist cell — Chabad’s outreach to Jews in Mumbai continued.

“We remember what happened, but we are working for the future,” Kozlovsky told Chabad.org this week.

All of the activities that took place at Nariman House prior to the attack will continue, he said, and hopefully the program will expand further. Chabad of Mumbai was established by the Holtzbergs in 2003 to serve Israeli backpackers, international Jewish business people and the local Indian Jewish community, he pointed out.

With funding from the Rohr Family Foundation and strong mentoring from Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch — the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch — the Holtzbergs purchased Nariman House and set up their program.

Kotlarsky underlined the importance of never giving in to terror. “We didn’t pause after this great tragedy,” he said. “We regrouped immediately and continued working, never stopping. That was our response to what happened in Mumbai. We build communities… serving the Jews in Mumbai, locals and foreigners, was and continues to be our priority.”

The reopening of the Chabad center is timed to coincide with the regional conference of more than 25 Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Asia, organized by Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, regional director and head of Chabad of Thailand. Kantor has been deeply involved in the renewal of Nariman House, as he was involved in the development of the original Chabad center as well.

‘Turning Judaism Outward’ for Gimmel Tamuz

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

A rabbi known for taking the ‘long, short way’ has written an exhaustive biography of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, in time for Gimmel Tamuz. The Hebrew date of the passing of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the third day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz is marked by Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim around the world with special events; thousands fly to New York to visit the Rebbe’s gravesite.

The Rebbe was one of the most influential Jewish leaders of his generation, establishing a worldwide network of emissaries. To this very day, thousands are sent out with their families to remote places around the globe to reach out and help Jews across the spectrum, drawing many closer to their roots. His impact on history – Jewish or otherwise – has yet to be measured.

Numerous materials are published for the special day as well. This year, ‘Turning Judaism Outward’ written by Rabbi Chaim Miller, has joined them. It is an elegant tome in the Gutnick tradition that chronicles the Rebbe’s entire life from 1902 to 1994 and beyond in 590 pages — in short, a massive work. It is also an incredibly scholarly work, not one of simple slavish praise nor written in the style of compromised language one sometimes finds in texts focused primarily on a specific content area.

Because Rabbi Miller is a Chossid with a secular, academic background — his texts are among those used at New York University and Yeshiva University — he is uniquely qualified to attempt what many would call an impossible task.

This year marks the 20th since the Rebbe passed away, leaving his office in “770″ – the affectionate name and address of the building in which Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters is located — 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

Spiritually it often seems as though the Rebbe never left. The Chassidic-Carribean-African-American neighborhood is still a swarm of Chabad-Lubavitch activity around the clock. The Rebbe’s shluchim (emissaries) and their families are in and out of the neighborhood for various reasons throughout the year and they continue  to carry out their activities around the world. Regional and international conventions are held annually, with the number of attendees and new Chabad Houses growing more with each passing year.

Likewise, new books and materials are churned out each month from headquarters – including new items in all kinds of languages about the Rebbe and his life. So why another one?

“Everyone who has written about the Rebbe’s life picks and chooses the bits they personally feel are impressive. That’s the ‘short, long way,’” explains Rabbi Miller, compiler of the Gutnick Chumash (Pentateuch). “You get some nice information but in the end you lack a really substantial picture. It’s a bit like eating the dessert before the main course – it tastes good to start with, but then you don’t feel satisfied.”

Meyer Gutnick, director of Kol Menachem, which published the biography, added the organization felt it was important to “address the Rebbe’s life in its entirety, with all of its paradoxes and mysteries,” impossible a task though it might be.

Rabbi Miller candidly discusses in the foreword the difficulty he faced in gathering primary sources for his work: “By the time interest in the field began to gain momentum around a decade ago, there was almost no one alive who personally remembered the Rebbe from this period, except for a few individuals who were small children at the time.” Instead, he was forced to track down the Rebbe’s movements and activities much as would any other historian, or ‘private eye’ – using the Rebbe’s personal notebooks, his personal correspondence, academic records, his mother’s diaries, memoirs from Chassidim with whom he was closely associated and his Russian passport, among other items.

In meticulous language similar to that of a post-doctoral researcher, Rabbi Miller notes that he “sought to render the narrative with as much scrupulous objectivity as possible. While it is almost inevitable that personal bias will influence an author in some way or another, my goal has been to offer a detached and dispassionate account of events as they transpired…

Kharkov Moving Towards Secession?

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Less than a month after the eastern Ukrainian capital city’s Jewish mayor was shot in the back, the Kharkov region is set to hold a referendum on independence within the next week.

Kharkov residents were urged to go to the polls to vote on whether to join the secession of the southeastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, the Itar-Tass news site reported.

“Southeast” Coordinating Council of Movement spokesman Yuri Apukhtin made the announcement Sunday at a rally in the city’s Freedom Square. A number of demonstrators waved Russian national flags at the rally, including those from the Ukrainian Communist party and from “Borba” (Struggle).

“Our task is not to participate in Ukrainian presidential elections in any case,” the activist said from the podium. “We should meet on this square on May 25. We do not recognize these elections.”

Presidential elections are scheduled in Ukraine for May 25 although the original election date was to be held on March 29, 2015. The date was changed following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. A second and final runoff election will be held on June 15 if the first election is inconclusive, according to media reports. The elected candidate will serve a five-year term in office.

Apukhtin said that although he had been invited to attend a second all-Ukraine national unity roundtable meeting held in Kharkov on Saturday, he “refused to participate.”

Jewish communities around Ukraine are watching the secessionist movements closely, and contingency plans are being made in each area. For the most part, however, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries say they are not leaving. All programs are continuing as planned thus far.

Meanwhile, Kharkov Mayor Gennady Kernes, 54, has been recovering in Israel since the beginning of the month from the critical wounds that nearly ended his life. Kernes suffered gunshot wounds to several vital organs, including the lungs and liver, during an assassination attempt in the wee hours of the morning several weeks ago.

Opposing his former Russian patrons, Kernes began to support Ukrainian nationalists in February following a coup in Kiev. He was shot while jogging prior to starting his work day.

Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, Kharkov chief rabbi and Chabad-Lubavitch emissary, visits him regularly at the hospital where he is being treated in Haifa. The mayor has reportedly continued to carry out his duties with his staff in Kharkov to the best of his ability via telephone. However, due to his medical condition, doctors say it is unclear when he will be able to return to his office, although they are sure his condition will improve.

Critically Wounded Jewish Mayor Airlifted from Ukraine to Israeli Hospital

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Unidentified gunmen who tried to murder the Jewish mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov failed in their mission – and Mayor Gennady Kernes is now in Israel, having been airlifted for advanced treatment to the Holy Land overnight.

The critically wounded mayor was shot in the back on Monday by masked gunmen in the pro-Russian separatist province of Donetsk. It is still not clear who carried out the assassination attempt, or why. A number of cities have fallen to separatist efforts to take control.

“The plane departed from the Kharkov airport at 3:20 a.m. local time,” said a spokesperson for the Kharkov city council. Valery Boiko, director of surgery at the Kharkov Institute for General and Emergency Surgery, told Chabad.org the Jewish mayor had suffered severe damage to his thoracic organs and abdominal cavity.

“All we can do now is pray,” said Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and chief rabbi to Kharkov. He asked the public to pray for Moshe ben Chana, the Hebrew name of Mayor Kernes.

“He’s a good friend of the Jewish community, and has helped us in many ways,” the rabbi noted. “He’s very proud of his Jewish heritage; he received a Jewish name six years ago when he had a bris (circumcision) through us,” he told Chabad.org. “He puts on tefillin regularly, shakes lulav and esrog. We are all praying for him.”

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hundreds-at-bangkok-chabad-passover-seder/2014/04/16/

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