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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘East Flatbush’

Kosher Sushi Distributor Goes Up in Flames in East Flatbush

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

DNAinfo reports that firefighters were battling a four-alarm blaze in a one-story commercial building that houses Natural Earth Products, a kosher sushi distributor in East Flatbush, Monday morning.

FDNY officials said the fire broke out at 561 Utica Ave. at about 10:30 a.m. At least 35 units responded to the blaze with roughly 150 firefighters on the scene. A fourth alarm was issued just before 1 p.m. for relief purposes, fire officials said.

Firefighters had rushed into the building with a hose, but were forced out when the roof, ceiling and part of a wall collapsed.

“It’s too dangerous to send people in,” Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Marrone said at the scene. There was also a lot of debris inside the store, he said.

Natural Earth Products is the distributor of nori, wasabi and other sushi products.

A Visit To My Father’s Kever

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I recently returned from a visit to Eretz Yisrael, where I go yearly for my father’s yahrzeit. As always, my husband, and my sister and her family accompanied me.

On the way to the cemetery, we were fortunate to hail a taxi driver who spoke fluent English. He had made aliyah many years before from East Flatbush, where my husband and I lived.

He told us a story of an elderly neighbor who had recently passed away. Due to various circumstances, he had been unable to pay a shiva call. When it came time for the shloshim, this man’s family happened to hail his cab to take them to the cemetery. He was thankful to be able to honor his neighbor in some way, and commented that it was a lucky coincidence.

They replied, “There are no coincidences.”

My family and I ascended to my father’s kever, where I saw a young chassidic boy saying Tehillim. I realized that this was my great-nephew who was learning in yeshiva in Israel for the year. I was stunned that we both arrived at the same time. He could have been there at any point throughout the day. This “coincidence” brought me to tears.

My sister always arranges a minyan at the cemetery so that someone can recite the Kaddish.

Through my tears I said to my father, “Look at Hashem’s great kindness. Hitler tried to destroy you, but did not succeed. And here, you merited having two great-grandsons – out of many more great-grandchildren – who are taking part in the minyan on your yahrzeit. What a zechus for your neshamah.”

There are no coincidences. May my father’s holy neshamah have an aliyah, and may we all witness techiyas hameisim with the imminent coming of Moshiach.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

World’s Anger
 
   Where was the anger of the world when innocent civilians were killed and hurt in Israel’s northern towns? Where was the world’s anger when Gush Katif, Sderot and Netivot had missiles and Katyushas raining down on them – in a so-called time of peace?
 
   Where was the world’s anger when Israeli citizens were blown to pieces by suicide bombers? Where was Tony Blair? Why did he not appear on TV and shout, Stop! Enough! There was a deafening quiet as Jews were being blown to pieces.
 
   I remember the U.S. using napalm against villages in Vietnam, killing innocent civilians. The French fought in Algeria and thousands of Muslim civilians lost their lives in French bombing raids and vigilante reprisals. And the chutzpah of Tony Blair! We Jews remember Britain’s occupation of our country, keeping Auschwitz survivors from entering what was then called Palestine, turning their backs and closing their eyes as the Arabs slaughtered Jews.
 
   Please, God, let the world be angry with us. It means we are winning, and how great it is to be a winner. Please God, help us and let this be.
 

Barbara Ginsberg

Maale Adumim, Israel
 
 

 

Clinton’s Legacy
 
   Re the July 28 Media Monitor column (“That Old-Time Clintonian Engagement”):
 
   It never ceases to amaze me that there remains among some diehard Clintonistas a compulsion to exercise selective amnesia regarding former president Clinton’s “engagement” and “moral authority” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 
   The overriding reason Clinton pushed for Camp David II was his desperate need to neutralize the Monica Lewinsky impeachment stain on his presidential legacy. He forced Israel to offer suicidal concessions and it was all for naught because Arafat rejected even these generous inducements and initiated an intifada that killed and injured thousands of innocent Israeli civilians.
 
   President Bush’s unwavering support of Israel stands in stark contrast to Clinton’s deceptive actions and irresponsible pressure on Israel.
 
   There is not the slightest doubt that George W. Bush is the best friend Israel’s ever had in the White House.
 

Fay Dicker

Lakewood, NJ
 
 

 

The Real War
 
   Regrettably, most European and Asian governments do not yet realize that Israel is fighting an existential war for its very survival. This is more than a war with Hizbullah. It is the opening salvo of a vicious war launched by an inhuman enemy – Iran – determined to eradicate the Jewish state, God forbid. The genocidal pronouncements of the barbaric leader of Iran are all too clear.
 
   I pity those gullible and historically ignorant Europeans, Asians and others who are swallowing the propaganda fed them by controlled media. Leading this pack are the left-leaning (pseudo) intellectuals who are guilty of selective inattention to the murderous intent of Islamic terrorism. The Europeans, especially, have forfeited their right to pressure Israel to compromise once again.
 
   What is at stake is Israel’s survival. One-third of our country is effectively paralyzed. More than half the population of the northern third of our tiny country has been forced to live with perfect strangers in central and southern Israel who have opened their homes to them and their families.
 
   There is a wonderful spirit of unity, rarely seen in Israel. It permeates the very air we breathe. It dominates all conversations and is punctuated with a determination to put an end to the aggression against our homeland. We are all in this fight together. The sooner the civilized world realizes this is the opening barrage of a clash between two widely differing philosophies of life, the sooner action can be taken to control this growing menace.
 

Israel Rubin

Beit Shemesh, Israel
 
 

  

Far-Fetched Scenario
 
   Re reader Mendel Rubin’s question of whether it is “so far-fetched for religious Jews to consider the concept that missiles raining down on Israel just might be a warning from God that He does not want a gay parade in Jerusalem” (Letters, Aug. 4):
 
   I think the answer has to be yes, it is so far-fetched. In fact, it is beyond far-fetched. The idea that God would express his displeasure at some silly parade by murdering dozens of innocent men, women, and children assumes that God possesses a sense of justice that is even more warped than that of the lunatics shooting the Katyushas.
 
   TheGemarain Bava Metzia (58b) indicates that when we see a person suffering, it constitutes a “verbal wronging” on our part to suggest to him that his suffering is due to his own sins. It seems equally inappropriate to suggest to a person that her suffering is due to the sins of her neighbor.
 
   In point of fact, there is no great mystery as to who is to blame for the present suffering in Israel: it is the Islamic terrorists and their sponsors. If God has had some role in these tragic events, it is in any case beyond our capacity to know, and not something worth speculating about.
 

David Fass

Highland Park, NJ
 
 

 

Scrupulous Observance
 
   Rabbi Saul Berman’s comments in his response to his critics (Letters, July 28) were not based on any authoritative sources. Actually, as one reader pointed out, there are significant areas of halacha which are enforced leh-chumrah.
 
   The example cited by reader Chaim Silver is a perfect illustration of this principle as set forth in Berachos 20b. I would also add the Gemara in Berachos 53b where explicit preference is granted to the chumrah position. In reference to the latter, the chumrah outcome actually is favored even though it reflects Bais Shammai’s position. In fact, Bais Hillel’s psak le-kooleh is rejected, since it is inappropriately applied in that situation.
 
   Thus, contrary to Rabbi Berman’s conclusions, Chazal encourage scrupulous and meticulous application of halacha in order to enhancemitzvah performance. In fact, Chazal encourage us to go beyond the letter of the law to ensure that its spirit is observed properly. (See Bava Metziah 30b.)
 

   With regard to the Gemara in Berachos 20b, I would add one more point: Not only is Hashem pleased when His people perform mitzvahs with sincere devotion, the Gemara states that Hashem favors His people when they are conscientious in their duty.

   At this particular time in our history, as we beg Hashem for mercy while Israel faces implacable enemies, we should bear this important principle in mind.
 

Rabbi Joseph Bernstein

(Via E-Mail)
 
 

 

Disagrees With Endorsement
 
   There are two candidates for the Democratic nomination for the State Senate in the 21st District. The incumbent, Kevin Parker, favors gay marriage, opposes school vouchers, has been arrested for assaulting a traffic officer, and has been accused of harassing a female employee. Not surprisingly, he is losing popularity in his own home community of East Flatbush and its environs.
 
   Perhaps most telling to the Jewish community, in a speech on the Senate floor, Parker complained that when “our Zionist tendencies take over . . . we start looking at everybody . . . as somebody that is other.” A disturbing and revealing reference indeed. As the UN’s “Zionism is Racism” debate showed, Zionist is often a code word for Jew.
 
   The challenger in the 21st District is Noach Dear, who served our community energetically and effectively for over twenty years as city councilman and district manager. Were it not for term limits, Dear would probably still be serving as a senior committee chairman. (Too bad that term limits will be forcing us to choose a successor to the exemplary Simcha Felder.)
 
   Although the 21st District is 58 percent Caribbean, Dear lost to Parker by only 200 votes in 2004. Obviously Dear’s appeal crosses racial lines, especially in the East Flatbush community, which has strong family and moral values.
 
   Which candidate should The Jewish Press support in the September 12 primary? It would seem to be a no-brainer.
 
   Yet, inexplicably, The Jewish Press (editorial, July 28) is supporting Kevin Parker over Noach Dear! Are you trying to overcome what Parker might call your “Zionist tendencies” by supporting a candidate who opposes our needs and values?
 
   The Jewish Press has richly earned a reputation for courage and integrity. Your support for Parker is a mistake, and there is still time for your editorial board to reflect, reverse itself, and throw its support to the candidate best qualified to serve all the communities of the 21st District – Noach Dear.
 

Rabbi Nosson Scherman

Brooklyn, NY


 

 

 

Tale Of Two Cultures

 

      The contrast between the two events could not be more striking.
 
      The Shabbos of July 28-29 brought our Parsippany, New Jersey congregation (Shaya Ahavat Torah) twenty yeshiva students from a summer program at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown as well as chassidic guests from Boro Park, Williamsburg and Monsey. At the Friday night service their voices were tuneful and spirited. Our shul was a m?lange of shtreimels, black hats, large yarmulkes and knitted kippahs.
 
      Diversity, yes – but all were united by the Yiddishkeit and ruach pervading the sanctuary. It was a Shabbos to remember.
 
      On Sunday, July 30, I read in the paper about the funeral of a young woman who had been murdered early Wednesday morning after a night of club-hopping in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Her body had been found in a dumpster in West New York, New Jersey. She’d been captain of her high school soccer team and was set to begin college in the fall. She and her friends apparently enjoyed the nightlife in Chelsea and would hit the clubs a couple of times a week, drinking and searching for ways to be “cool.” If this is how she and her friends looked for excitement and happiness, it had to be the emptiest search imaginable. Is this what popular culture holds up as “cool”?
 
      Contrast the Chelsea scene with Shabbos in Parsippany. The twenty yeshiva students who spent Shabbos with us were 10th and 11th graders, ranging in age probably from 16-18. They split up into two groups for sleeping accommodations, ten of them staying with our rabbi and ten with us. They came with their own food, towels, and blankets, taking all their meals at our rabbi’s home.
 
      These young men were incredibly polite and quiet – and displayed the best middos. When they davened, you could see it coming from their souls. They knew the joy of Shabbos and knew how to make it infectious. They sang, they clapped, they danced. Their “cool” came from inside and so they had no need to search for thrills. They generated excitement.
 
      The “cool” sought by young people in the clubs of Manhattan is elusive, imaginary and empty. But the emes is that the real deal can be found every Shabbos in our homes.
 

Naomi Rotter

Parsippany, NJ

  

Rav Avigdor Miller: The Later Years

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004
Editor’s Note: This is the third and concluding installment in a series of articles on the life of Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, the first of which appeared in the issue of April 30, the second on June 4.
From 1946 to 1975 Rav Miller was the rav of the Young Israel of Rugby in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn. In 1975 the shul relocated to Ocean Parkway near Avenue R and was subsequently called Bais Yisroel Torah Center. Rav Miller served as the rav there until his passing in 2001.

In the nineteen-forties the Young Israel of Rugby was a shul similar to most Young Israel synagogues of the time. Its members represented a spectrum of observance from shomrei Shabbos to those who were not observant and came to shul on the ‘High Holidays’ for yahrzeits and yizkor. Most of the congregants did not have an extensive Torah education. In 1946 Rav Miller was offered the position of rav. I doubt any of the congregants realized what they were getting when they hired him.

Rav Yisroel Salanter is purported to have said, “Any rav whom the ba’alei batim do not want to get rid of is not a real rav, and any rav whom the ba’alei batim do get rid of is not a mensch!” What he meant is that the job of a rav is to raise the level of his congregants. To do this, he has to make them feel uncomfortable, because someone who is comfortable with his way of life will see no reason to change. On the other hand, if the rav puts too much pressure on the people, they will rebel and fire him. I have a feeling Rav Miller had this in mind when he set about changing the lives of his congregants.

How does a rav uplift the level of Torah observance of his ba’alei batim? How does he take men and women with limited or in some cases virtually no background in learning and transform them into people who come regularly to shiurim?

Most rabbonim have taken the approach of being mekarav people by sugar-coating their words and refraining, at least publicly, from saying things that the congregants do not want to hear. Not so Rav Avigdor Miller. He felt it was his job to ‘tell it the way it is,’ even though this meant that some would be uncomfortable when they heard his words.

While it was by no means his intention to drive people away, if people left the shul because they did not like what he said, then so be it. More than once I heard him say something to the effect of, “This is the truth. You probably haven’t heard it anywhere else before. You may not like it, but, nonetheless, what you are hearing is the truth!”

Murray M. and his wife were newlyweds when they began davening in the Young Israel of Rugby in the late forties. Murray told me that the president would come to shul on Shabbos morning and then go play tennis in the afternoon. Rav Miller often spoke about the importance of keeping Shabbos. It did not take too long before this president left the shul. Others who behaved similarly did the same. Those who remained, however, became staunch followers of Rav Miller. They found their commitment to Shabbos and the observance of other mitzvos strengthened by his words.

One should not get the impression that Rav Miller was not attuned to the feelings and thoughts of his congregants. His words from the bimah where indeed hard hitting, but in his personal dealings with his congregants he always tried to draw them close to Torah observance through encouragement.

Murray told me that while he lived in East Flatbush there was a young couples group that met Friday evenings after the seudah. It is well known that Rav Miller jealously guarded his time and devoted as much of it as possible to Torah learning and teaching. Despite this, Rav Miller regularly attended these gatherings. Recalled Murray: “He would come, listen attentively, but never say a word. At the end he would leave, wishing each of us a ‘Good Shabbos.’ ”

Perhaps Rav Miller was ‘taking the pulse’ of the younger generation so that he would know how best to deal with them.

A Master Pedagogue

Rav Miller was known for his hasmoda. However, despite – or perhaps more correctly because of - his unbelievable commitment to his own Torah learning, he found time to constantly give shiurim and lectures on a wide variety of topics.

Initially Rav Miller gave shiurim in the Young Israel of Rugby on such topics as Mishna, Chayei Odom and Ein Yaakov. In 1967 a visiting gadol encouraged Rav Miller to set higher goals for his congregants and teach them ‘gantz shas.’ Hearing this, Rav Miller began to teach Gemara to a group of about fifteen men, many of whom had little or no yeshiva background. Little did they know they were embarking upon a journey that would change their lives.

Rav Miller always emphasized that one had to ‘get the language of the Gemara into one’s mouth.’ He urged those who came to his shiurim to repeat the Gemara over and over again. “Practice it until you can say the blat like you say Ashrei!” he often would say. More than once I heard him observe that ‘there are people who attend Gemara shiurim for years, and yet they cannot read a piece of Gemara fluently.’

He began teaching Shnayim Ochazim B’Talis and basically started with Aleph Bais. It took a year to cover three blatt of Gemara. Yet at the end of that year all of his talmidim knew it cold. One marvels at how a man who had studied in one of the finest yeshivas in the world found the patience to teach on this level. When one thinks of the self-control it must have taken, it becomes even more impressive.

From this humble beginning the group went on to greater achievements. Additional shiurim were added, and with each passing year more and more people attended them. Someone once commented, “Most rabbonim take bnei Torah and make balabatim out of them. Rav Miller takes balabatim and makes bnei Torah out of them.”

To what extent did Rav Miller raise the level of his congregants? Let me share with you an experience I had in 1973. Rav Miller was still in the ‘old’ neighborhood, and I spent a Shabbos at the Young Israel of Rugby that I will never forget. It was especially memorable because I had the privilege of eating the Friday evening seudah in his home.

On Shabbos afternoon, a little more than an hour before Mincha, Rav Miller and I and some others walked to shul where he gave an hour-long hashkafa shiur. We then davened Mincha and ate seuda shlishis. When bentching was concluded, there was still some time – about twenty minutes – until Maariv. Everyone went upstairs, took out a sefer and began to learn. I had never seen anything like this in any other place I had davened. No one was schmoozing. Instead, every man was engrossed in his learning.

Bais Yisroel Torah Center

In 1975 Rav Miller relocated his shul to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and renamed it Bais Yisroel Torah Center. Here he expanded the number of shiurim he gave to an average of three a day. There were also his Shabbos droshos, his weekly hourly talk before Mincha on Shabbos, his Chovos Halevavos classes on Friday evenings during the winter, the learning of halacha between Mincha and Maariv, his regular Thursday evening hashkafa shiurim, and much more. It is difficult to understand how he could maintain such a demanding schedule while devoting countless hours to his own private learning, but he did. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that each Gemara shiur he gave at a fixed time and day was devoted to either a different perek in the Gemara he was learning that year or to a different mesechta entirely.

Thursday Evening Hashkafa Shiurim

Rav Miller became famous for his Thursday evening lectures which dealt with a wide variety of topics. One never knew what he would start with and where he would end up during these talks. In addition, there was an open question and answer period at the end, and it is here that one got a taste for Rav Miller’s breadth of Torah and secular knowledge. Virtually anything could be asked, and it was. Amazingly, he always had a ready, well thought-out answer, no matter what the question.

Tapes of these talks were made available beginning in the early seventies at a nominal fee, and people from all over the world ordered them. Here was a man who sat in a small shul in Brooklyn whose Torah was heard worldwide. Through these tapes and his books he influenced countless individuals. There are even those who never met him who consider him their rebbe. Rav Miller understood the power of technology and utilized it to spread his Torah teachings far and wide.

Appropriating His Time

Rav Miller always guarded his time jealously and, whenever possible, used it for either teaching or learning. When asked to attend this or that simcha or other event, he would usually decline, saying, “I have to study for my final exam.” If the person to whom he was talking didn’t understand what he meant, he would explain that he was going to be examined in the World to Come and wanted to be prepared.

Sometime in the 1980′s he told me he once wanted to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for advice on how he should spend his remaining years. “Should I stop giving shiurim and concentrate on clinching all of my learning” Or, perhaps I should give more shiurim and thus help others to a greater extent.?

He went on to relate that he had made an appointment to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “But when I heard you had to go at two in the morning, I canceled my appointment! I never go anywhere that late at night. I am always in bed by eleven-thirty at the latest.” I then asked how he had resolved his dilemma, and he replied, “By doing some of both, reviewing my learning as much as possible and giving shiurim.”

Straining the Emunah

Rav Miller was a ‘rationalist’ and would dismiss any story that smacked of the esoteric with a wave of his hand, saying, “We are not m’chuyev to believe such a story.” I once related to him a story that Rav Chaim Volozhin had written about the Vilna Gaon as part of the introduction to one of the Gaon’s seforim. Rav Chaim wanted to prove that the Gaon was an expert in Kabbalah and related an amazing story about the Gaon teaching his chiddushim in Kabbalah to the AriZal and Reb Shimon Bar Yochai.

Rav Miller waved away the story, despite the fact that it came from an impeccable source. I then asked why he always dismissed such stories out of hand. He replied, “Our emunah is strained enough by what we are required to believe. To add anything more is not wise.”

Only later, when I became familiar with the Shabbtai Tzvi movement and the outlandish things that people who lived at that time believed did I begin to appreciate the wisdom of his words. Rav Miller was an expert in history, and, of course, he knew what he was talking about.

The Sum of a Great Man

One cannot do justice to a man as great as Rav Miller in a few articles. The many things he did, his influence on others, his commitment to Yiddishkeit, his idealism, his hasmoda and so much more, cannot be easily summarized. Perhaps the words that appear on a plaque in his shul give some indication of the measure of the man. The plaque is dedicated to his memory, and the English part of it reads:

OUR BELOVED REBBE WHO LED AND GUIDED OUR KEHILLAH FOR 53 YEARS INSTRUCTED US IN TORAS HASHEM DAY AND NIGHT SHOWED US HOW TO RECOGNIZE HAKODOSH BORUCH HU THROUGH HIS GREATNESS TIRELESSLY AND ELOQUENTLY LED THE BATTLE FOR THE HONOR OF HASHEM AND THE TRUTH OF HIS TORAH INSPIRED US TO ACCOMPLISHMENT IN LIMUD HATORAH AND PERFECTION OF CHARACTER TRAINED US TO BE AWARE ALWAYS OF HASHEM YISBORACH, AND TO EXPRESS ENDLESS GRATITUDE TO THE BOREI OLOM FOR ALL THE DETAILS OF OUR LIVES AND TAUGHT US TO VIEW THE WORLD THROUGH THE HASHKOFOS HATORAH DEDICATED BY HIS TALMIDIM, WHO ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL

Dr. Yitzchok Levine is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

On May 5, Dr. Levine gave a lecture at Congregation Talmud Torah in Flatbush entitled “An American Revolutionary: The Life and Times of Rav Avigdor Miller”. This talk may be heard at http://g2.stevens-tech.edu:7070/ramgen/llevine1/r_miller_5_05_04.rmj.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/rav-avigdor-miller-the-later-years/2004/08/04/

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