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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘couple’

Florida Couple Joins IDF Summer Volunteer Program

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Editors Note: Perri and Ira Plitt are retirees, originally from New York and now living in Boca Raton, Florida. They recently completed their second stint as Sar-El volunteers for Israel. They are also my dear machatunim.

 

My wife, Perri, and I recently returned from a trip to Israel. Although many people travel to Israel, most are not aware of the Sar-El program and the wonderful opportunities it provides to help the Jewish homeland, to get to know individual soldiers, and to meet interesting people from all over the globe.

Sar-El is the Hebrew acronym meaning service for Israel and is part of the organization Volunteers for Israel. The program originated from practical need.

During the summer of 1982, in the midst of the First Lebanon War, the majority of able-bodied men were called up for army reserve duty, leaving entire farms with crops ready for harvest unattended and on the verge of being lost for the season. Dr. Aharon Davidi, a”h, the former head of the IDF. Paratroopers and Infantry Corps was moved by the farmers’ distress and sent a recruitment team to the United States. Within a few weeks, some 650 volunteers arrived in Israel to lend their support through volunteer labor. Inspired by the success of that endeavor, Sar-El, the National Project for Volunteers for Israel, was founded in the spring of 1983 as a non-profit, non-political organization.

The Sar-El program is not a luxury vacation. We were given uniforms upon our arrival at an IDF base. Then men and women move into separate dormitories, four to eight to a room. There are no joint accommodations for married couples. Picture your summers in sleepaway camp with bunks and army cots. If you are lucky enough to be placed on a deluxe base, there may be air conditioning.

Perri and Ira Plitt on an IDF base.

Perri and Ira Plitt on an IDF base.

Meals are taken in the dining room with the soldiers. Breakfast and dinner are usually dairy and salads, while lunch is the main meal of the day, generally chicken. Like summer camp, you will probably make friends with others and form lasting relationships. Unlike summer camp, you will be working with a purpose – for the benefit of Israel.

Uniforms cannot be taken off base. Volunteers are responsible for their own accommodations Thursday evening through Sunday morning. Different programs and cultural events are offered during the week.

Individual jobs include cleaning and restocking medical field packs, cleaning and refurbishing communications equipment, sanding and repainting protective headgear, and repairing tanks. The type of base determines the type of work.

While some tasks seem menial, like filling a huge sack with expired batteries for disposal, all contribute to the “big picture” of helping the Israeli army. In our particular case, the commander and soldiers in our area kept relaying how appreciative they were. The commander wanted the dedication and hard work of the volunteers to serve as role models and provide inspiration.

One of the soldiers we met had been in an elite combat unit. After suffering an injury, he became a Sar-El madrich (leader). He said he had never given a moment’s thought into what went into the packing of the 80 lb. backpack he took into the field. However, watching us clean and check each item gave him a whole new prospective and an appreciation for how each small piece contributes to the success of the whole.

Soldiers expressed confusion as to why we would leave our comfortable American homes to volunteer on a base. Sar-El volunteers choose to volunteer as an expression of unity and support for our brothers and sisters in Israel. We want to serve, albeit in a small – but we hope significant – way. We look forward to volunteering for Israel in the future.

Ira Plitt

Mandy Patinkin Berates Late Couple at Benefit Concert

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

“The Princess Bride,” “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Homeland” star Mandy Patinkin, 63, was half an hour into his Lincoln Center benefit concert for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene Monday night, when a couple arrived to take their seats in the front row, the NY Post reported. To say that Patinkin did not take this with good humor would be like saying the Hindenburg became uncomfortably warm.

“Why are you late?” he barked at the two tardy ones. “You were sending an email? To who?”

The husband, bewildered, said he had been working with a client, which was Patinkin’s cue to go to work on the poor fellow. “This hurts me in my soul,” he said, quickly adding, “You know what would make me feel better? If you donated $25,000 right now.”

Last week, Patinkin told the Wall Street Journal, “I would absolutely say that singing Yiddish music is more powerful than anything else I sing and I can’t explain it because I didn’t grow up hearing it. It’s an unexplained mystery that I’m just thrilled and gratified for.”

Patinkin insisted that he had heard no Yiddish at home, so that loving Yiddish music for him is not nostalgic but a discovery. “I always make a joke that I was raised a Conservative Jew on Chicago’s South Side. If you’re a Conservative Jew in Chicago that makes you a Reform Jew in New York and an Orthodox Jew in California,” he told the WSJ.

Joseph Papp, founder of the Public Theater, introduced Patinkin to Yiddish songs. “He said, ‘You need to learn this music, it’s your job,’” Patinkin recalled. “I sing songs and he felt I needed to carry on this tradition.”

Despite his rage, the late couple did not reach for their checkbook, so, according to the Post, Patinkin ended up bargaining them down to a lighter sum (we dare not use the J word here). When someone in the cheap seats yelled at him to “let it go,” Patinkin responded, “I’m not letting it go! The Yiddish culture means too much to me. Every character I’ve ever played, I’ve played Jewish: Inigo Montoya? Jewish. Che Guevara? Jewish.”

“Except [Homeland’s tortured CIA operative] Saul Berenson,” he confessed, revealing “He’s Roman Catholic.”

He is not, of course.

Then another audience member pledged $5,000, and Patinkin said he would match it, and the show continued.

The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF — the last word in the title means “People’s Stage”), America’s preeminent Yiddish theatre, is the longest continuously-producing Yiddish theatre company in the world and the oldest consecutively-producing performing arts institution in the US.

Founded in 1915, NYTF continues its mission to preserve, promote and develop Yiddish theatre for current and future generations and to enhance the understanding of Yiddish culture as a vital component of Jewish Life. In fact, it is the sole survivor of fifteen Yiddish companies that played to enthusiastic audiences on the Lower East Side in the Golden Age of Yiddish Theatre in the early 20th century. Founded under the aegis of the Workmen’s Circle, the NYTF became an independent nonprofit in 1998.

David Israel

RASG Hebrew Academy Present ‘The Odd Couple’

Monday, April 25th, 2016

The RASG Hebrew Academy of Miami Beach presented its annual spring production on April 3 in the school’s west-campus auditorium. This year’s play was directed by Sarah Berman, a faculty member with a degree in theatre. She has worked as a casting assistant for TV and film on projects including “Burn Notice,” “Magic City,” “Graceland,” “The Glades,” and “Iron Man.”

Mrs. Berman gives all the credit for the success of the play to her dedicated students. They not only were called on to act but also to paint the sets and supply costumes and props. Their hard work paid off. The enjoyable comedy was a resounding hit.

RASG Hebrew Academy's production of Neil Simon's ‘The Odd Couple.’

RASG Hebrew Academy’s production of Neil Simon’s ‘The Odd Couple.’

Beman says, “I chose ‘The Odd Couple’ for this year because it is a fun, lighthearted, and iconic tale. The audience gets to witness two conflicting personalities at their best and worst. Though the play was written and is set in the 1960s, it transcends time. Everyone knows a Felix and an Oscar. Most of the cast members are seniors, and college dorm life is eminent. I think there is much to learn from the situation the play presented.”

Cast members were Danny Bister as Felix, Daniel Ben Avner as Oscar, Tehila Moore as Gwendolyn, Rena Kahn as Cecily, Jack Benveniste-Plitt as Murray, Brian Garcia as Vinnie, Sara Fuchs as Roxy, and Jacob Mitrani as Speed.

The RASG Hebrew Academy is a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school that has proudly served the South Florida community for nearly seventy years. The school strives to inspire students through the light of the Torah and academic excellence. For more information call 305-532-6421.

Shelley Benveniste

Alleged Killers Confess to Murdering Turkish Jewish Couple

Monday, August 25th, 2014

An Uzbek couple has confessed to the murders of Jak Karako and his wife, Georgia Karako, owners of Turkey’s upscale yarn manufacturing firm Ören Bayan.

The bodies of the Turkish Jewish couple were found by Istanbul police in their apartment in the Ortaköy neighborhood on Friday.

The suspects, ages 28 and 26, were identified only by their initials in the Todays Zaman newspaper due to legal restraints. The suspects, who were caregivers working for the family, allegedly confessed to the murders under interrogation that they killed their employers in a fit of temper.

Police arrested them at their own apartment, according to the report. Both allegedly confessed that they killed the Karakos because the victims withheld wages in compensation for items the caregivers had broken in the home, and they were angry they had received no money for two months.

A judge at the Istanbul Courthouse handed down a decision to arrest them following their confession.

Jewish Press Staff

Military Engagements Can Be Good…

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Israeli ‘Stand With Us’ Fellowship alumni Ilana and Itai are both currently serving as IDF reservists, and no one denies it’s been a tough tour.

But on Tuesday – the day on which the Creator said twice that ‘it was good,’ – an ersatz red carpet was rolled out upon the sands of a beach.

Ilana was led down that carpet and Itai presented his love with a diamond ring. (She accepted.)

Sometimes a military engagement can be a positive experience. Mazel tov!

Jewish Press News Briefs

Tossing a Jewish Lasso over Wyoming’s Wild West

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

By Carin M. Smilk

Summer is winding down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a short season, weather-wise, but it’s also a season that brings in tourists, lots of them, who come for the mountains and national parks, the outdoor sports and the wide open spaces. They come to make good on the state slogan: “Like No Place on Earth.”

Not long after they leave, winter beckons a slew of other travelers, those lured to the skiing and snow activities. It’s another bustling time; the two seasons bring in about 4 million visitors a year.

And about 1 percent of them—an estimated 40,000 people—are Jewish.

That helps make life busy for Rabbi Zalman Mendelsohn, co-director of Chabad Jewish Center of Wyoming with his wife, Raizy. Not that it’s so quiet the rest of the year. The couple, based in the town of Jackson—in western Wyoming near the border of Idaho, almost completely surrounded by mountains and in the well-known valley of Jackson Hole—serves the roughly 500 permanent Jewish residents there, out of a general population of nearly 10,000. It’s an interesting mix, says the rabbi, of singles, couples, families, retirees, tourists and those with second homes in the area.

“We have a very small community,” acknowledges Mendelsohn, “but we offer quality services—substantive services. We’re reaching out to individual Jews in a very personal, warm, inviting way.”

Since their official 2008 move to Jackson, they have started all kinds of programs. There’s the annual Jackson Hole Jewish Music Festival, which brings in bands and performers from all over, coupled with Camp Gan Israel, a Jewish women’s circle, a “Mommy & Me” class, Torah study, lectures, “Coffee & Kabbalah,” and Shabbat and Jewish holiday dinners and services. Currently, they rent space for High Holiday services but are looking for a place to buy.

 

Also on tap are lecture series, including one to take place this weekend, Aug. 16-17. The Shabbaton will include services and a Friday-night dinner, then Saturday-morning services and a three-course lunch, with lectures both days by guest speaker David N. Weiss. A Hollywood film writer with several blockbusters to his credit, Weiss has traversed religiously from being a secular Jew to a Christian youth worker, and now follows a life of observant Judaism.

“His story is very compelling,” says Mendelsohn. “He never really had the opportunity to study Judaism in-depth. It shows that you can always start fresh and new, even if you’re very famous or a celebrity. You can always rediscover your roots.”

The series has attracted 50 to 60 people on average, and the rabbi expects a similar turnout for Weiss.

‘Very Much at Home’

 Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

Ben from San Francisco put on tefillin for the first time in his life. Photo credit: Chabad.org

So how has life changed for a couple raised in completely different living environments? The rabbi, in his early 30s, hails from Miami, Fla., and Raizy, in her late 20s, grew up in Israel. What’s it like to live in the least populated state in the nation?

“We felt very much at home right away,” says the rabbi. “People are warm and welcoming; there’sthe renowned Western hospitality. It’s a cowboy town, it’s the Wild West, but people also have a more spiritual character here. And our goal is to introduce a Yiddishkeit element to it.”

That sense of spirituality could have something to do with the physical backdrop. Jackson is a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton Mountains. The rabbi talks of the everyday appearance of bison, moose, deer, wolves and bears. “There’s wildlife in the streets,” he says, pausing to add that he just saw a herd of elk run up the side of a nearby mountain.

He also notes the atmosphere—both scenically and spiritually—is good for the couple’s four young children. After all, for kids in such a place, aside from their home-schooling time, “life is surrounded by G-d’s great outdoors.”

Of course, it’s not all vales and wild flowers. There’s no kosher food, no Jewish schools, no other Orthodox presence and no mikvah. The closest mikvahs are in Bozeman, Mont., and Salt Lake City, Utah—both a five-hour drive or one-hour flight away.

“Still,” says Mendelsohn, “we have a wonderful community, and we are honored to also accommodate visitors who come through. I travel around the state quarterly visiting Jewish people. We’ve put up about 60 mezuzahs in the last three years all over the state. One by one, we’re connecting Jews with their heritage.”

“That’s the story of Wyoming. We may be one of the most remote Jewish communities in the country, but I want people to know that Yiddishkeit is alive and well and thriving in Jackson Hole.”

Laura Goldstein, 34, can attest to that. Originally from New Jersey, she now lives in Victor, Idaho, which borders Wyoming and is about a 45-minute drive from Jackson. She and her husband Howard, a wildlife biologist, came to live out West in 2009, and she says the rabbi was one of the first people they met.

“We were looking for a way to connect with other Jewish people, and we knew Chabad would be a good way to do that,” says Goldstein, an administrative assistant. “They invited us over for Shabbat dinner, and it was lovely. They were so gracious. They make you want to be part of the community.

“And every opportunity they have of doing a mitzvah, they do. It’s incredible.”

She’s also seen Chabad grow as an organization. At Rosh Hashanah, there used to be three men, not even a minyan; now there may be 14. And Shabbat dinners in the summer can draw 40 to 50 people. She even mentions that just this year, she met a Jewish woman from New York who runs a clothing store/jewelry shop in Victor.

Learning by Example

Most of all, Goldstein says she and her husband have modeled their Shabbat observance at home on the Mendelsohns’ example. “Knowing them has been a huge part in that direction. We feel that we’re better Jewish people out here. It probably wouldn’t have been as big a part of our identity” back East.

She adds that Raizy has shown her how to make challah, light Shabbat candles and recite the Havdalah prayers.

“It’s great to see how they bring in what they need,” says Goldstein. “These people are making it work; they’re doing it.” So she figures she can, too.

“Rabbi Zalman,” as Josh Beck and other local residents call him, “is involved in everything. He’s an amazing man.”

“And he’s one of my closest friends here.”

Beck, 41, an orthopedic surgeon from New Jersey, has been living in Wyoming for seven years. He says he considers himself a very big supporter and very active with Chabad there.

He attends Shabbat dinners (the true reason, he says, is because of “Raizy’s fantastic cooking”) and various programs, but admits to preferring “the off-season, when there’s a handful of locals.”

He says that he, his wife and 3-year-old daughter “love living out here.” Beck hunts and fishes and skis; in fact, he notes, he found his job there while on a ski vacation.

A Spiritual Change of Scenery

Cross-country skiing also appeals to Stephen and Linda Melcer from Boca Raton, Fla., who have rented a house in Jackson the last two winters and intend to come again this year.

“It’s a nice change of scenery, of climate,” says Stephen Melcer, a 61-year-old lawyer. “It’s also a nice change religiously and a change in diversity.”

The couple belongs to Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox shul. “Whenever we travel, we look for a place to be for Shabbos, and a good place to start looking is Chabad. We’ve noticed here that a lot of people attending are travelers, and a larger percentage of people are not observant.”

Melcer says he appreciates “going into an environment where a rabbi is focused on the less observant.”

“They are very warm,” he says of the Mendelsohns. “I think they enjoy the challenge of it. And they certainly have a lot of challenges. The incredible thing is that challenges never cross their minds.”

Ken Begelman is glad that’s the case. He and his wife, Helen, helped the Mendelsohns come to town.

Twelve years ago, the Begelmans moved to Teton County, about 8 miles outside Jackson, from Palm Beach County, Fla. When they arrived, they wanted a shul—a congregation of some type. Begelman says he was familiar with Chabad rabbinical students coming to Wyoming temporarily (they have for decades, as part of the “Roving Rabbis” program), and got in touch with people in Brooklyn to work to make it happen permanently.

“He’s a very outgoing guy, very inclusive; he gets along with everybody,” says Begelman, a 66-year-old retired cardiac surgeon, of Mendelsohn.

He notes that there’s a large number of 20-year-olds who come to work during ski season or in the summer who have never had any religious affiliation or education, and “the rabbi has turned a lot of these kids around.”

As for Wyoming, the former Floridian insists that “it’s wonderful here. It’s what America should be. Everybody respects everybody else. You don’t have to lock your house or your car. There’s no crime.”

Sure, the winter temperatures can fall to 20 below and the snow can average 38 feet a year in the mountainous regions, but residents insist that it’s an invigorating experience.

In regards to future expansion, Begelman says that if “one new Jewish family a year comes permanently, that would be a lot.” Population growth is indeed slow; Begelman has seen signs in the state that note there are 10 horses for every one person residing there.

As far as the rabbi and his family go, “I’m very happy that they’ve fit in well in the community and that they like it here. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

Chabad.org

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