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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Lubavitcher’

The Evolution Of American Orthodoxy: An Interview with Yeshiva University Librarian Zalman Alpert

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Books. Some people love them; others claim they can do without them. For Zalman Alpert, they are essentially his life.

For the past 35 years, Alpert has served as a reference librarian at Yeshiva University (YU). Educated at Columbia University’s School of Library Services and New York University’s School of Education, where he attained a master’s degree in Modern Jewish History, Alpert is one of those individuals who knows a little (sometimes a lot) about everything. Over the years, he has contributed articles to such works as Encyclopedia of Hasidim; Jewish American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia; Encyclopedia of Jewish American Popular Culture; Midstream; and The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press: In your three decades as a YU librarian, what would you say was your most interesting experience or encounter?

Alpert: Well, one recent one took place last summer when I noticed a Catholic priest in the library. I started talking to him, and through conversation it became clear that his mother was a little girl during the Holocaust, was hidden by non-Jews, and never came back to Judaism. She adopted the Catholic religion and eventually married a Catholic in Poland.

For some reason, however – I guess because of the pintele yid inside her – she and her husband moved to Israel in the 1960s or so. This young man was born there and attended Israeli schools, but the family later left Israel and moved to a Polish enclave in New Jersey. Subsequently this young man returned to Poland, studied for the Catholic priesthood, got a doctorate in Old Testament studies using the Hebrew he had acquired in Israel, and is now a professor at a Catholic theological seminary in Poland.

I couldn’t really get this priest to admit he felt Jewish although he knew the halacha and didn’t deny he was Jewish. He said he came to the library to familiarize himself with midrashic literature because he wanted to see how the Jewish rabbis interpreted the Bible.

Have you ever met people in the library who would otherwise never dare step in YU due to ideological reasons?

Absolutely. In fact, many of the more interesting people I have met over the years are chassidic rabbis from Williamsburg. The Pupa dayan, for example, was here, as was the spiritual head of the Organization of Young Satmar Chassidim.

They come because everything is in one place, and many of them don’t want to go to the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) for theological and halachic reasons. In recent years, though, there’s been a marked decrease in the number of chassidim who come here because of the availability of such databases as HebrewBooks.org, Otzar HaHochma, etc.

Many people claim JTS’s library is far better than YU’s. True?

If you’re doing research that requires use of old manuscripts, JTS is better. But if you’re doing research that involves books published in the last few hundred years, I would say YU compares favorably to JTS and in some areas is even better.

Why does JTS have a better manuscript collection?

They started building their collection a lot earlier than YU. When Solomon Schechter took over the seminary in 1902, he brought part of his library with him, which included a lot of Cairo Geniza fragments. Also, Schechter brought faculty members with him who were very interested in creating an academic library, and they went to Europe actively seeking manuscripts and rare books.

In contrast, YU’s college was first created in the 1920s and the Jewish studies graduate school only started in the late 1930s. YU’s library only really became very professionalized after World War II.

How many Jewish books does YU own?

I would say 300,000-400,000. We also have something like 50 incunabula, which are books printed before 1500.

You possess something of an interesting family background. Can you share?

My parents were Holocaust survivors from Lithuania/White Russia. In Europe, my father was part of the Lubavitch community, but my mother came from a misnagdic background. I attended Lubavitcher school in New Haven for many years growing up, and then went to YU later on.

Do you consider yourself Lubavitch?

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, said there were three sorts of Lubavitcher chassidim: chassidei ha’geza, i.e., people descended from Lubavitcher chassidim; chassidei ha’nusach, i.e., people who live their lives according to Lubavitcher minhagim; and chassidei Lubavitch, which I imagine means people who study Chabad chassidus and have a personal connection to the Rebbe. I would put myself in the first two categories.

Chabad Sends Camouflaged Torahs, Cheesecakes, to Soldiers Overseas

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

The Aleph Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitch organization catering to the needs of Jewish soldiers and their families, is helping servicemen celebrate the upcoming holiday of Shavuot with 1,000 special military edition Torah books, according to a report on Chabad.org.  The pocket-sized, soft cover, camouflaged  Gutnick Edition Lifestyle Books Torahs include Hebrew text with a contemporary translation and commentary by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The movement shipped 1,000 editions around the world, along with individually-wrapped single-serving cheesecakes, in keeping with the Shavuot tradition to eat dairy foods, as well as holiday candle-lighting kits.

The organization also announced that it will offer correspondence classes on Jewish topics such as prayer, holidays, and kosher laws.

Meeting The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

It was a beautiful morning in May 1985 when I decided to take my tzedakah box to Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. I did not know much about Chabad, and had to ask for directions.

Driving along Eastern Parkway, I encountered thousands of Lubavitcher chassidim. I finally managed to park my car on a side street.

As I started to walk, I asked a chassid, “Where is 770?”

He said, “four blocks ahead.”

I pushed my way through the crowd until I saw the building, and approached the three steps leading up to the front door of 770.

To my amazement, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was coming out of the building and facing me, looking directly into my eyes. I froze right there on the steps.

“What do I do now?” I wondered.

The Rebbe was walking toward me. I went backwards down the three steps. My left hand touched the gray Cadillac parked there, and I dropped my tzedakah box on the sidewalk. A young Lubavitcher chassid opened the front door of the car.

The Rebbe looked at me again and got into the car. I closed the car door, picked up my tzedakah box from the sidewalk, proceeded up the three steps again and ascended to the office on the second floor.

I could not believe what had just happened to me: meeting the Lubavitcher Rebbe face-to-face!

It must have been Divine Providence that I had come to 770 to drop off my tzedakah box.

Several years later, I told a fellow Lubavitcher chassid my story and he said, “You did not close the car door for the Rebbe. The Rebbe opened the door for you so that you could continue doing mitzvot and learning Torah until the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

May it be soon!

Mendy Sacho – Designing Fashionable Kapotes

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

   When one thinks of kapotes, the traditional long suit jackets worn by married Lubavitcher chassidim, one doesn’t automatically think of the cutting edge of fashion. Yet Mendy Sacho, a 25-year-old Lubavitch tailor in Toronto, Canada, is pushing the garb into the spotlight.
 
   After all, it doesn’t get more fashion-forward than the New York Times fashion magazine. The publication recently profiled Sacho, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, in its Fall Men’s Fashion issue after a reporter came across his active Facebook page for Sartoria Sacho, the name of his custom clothing business.
 
   Sacho, whose father owned a men’s shoe store in Johannesburg, said he always felt an affinity for fashion. While his friends tended to wear the typical black and white garb of yeshiva bochurim, Sacho gravitated toward a slightly more atypical look – always within the bounds of tzniut (modesty) but with a funky spin.
 
   As an 18-year-old bochur in Crown Heights, Sacho walked into a men’s hat store one day and asked if they needed any help. The assistance he offered there turned into a successful job shaping hats, conducting fittings, and serving as a de facto “personal stylist” to various customers once they got wind of his keen sense of style.
 
   When men’s accessories like ties and cuff links were added to the store’s inventory, Sacho only continued impressing customer – and his boss – by expertly pairing up different items and offering his opinion on what suited each person best. When the store began a custom clothing business as well, Sacho was essentially running the show, involved in all aspects of design, measurements, and fittings.
 
   “I started designing kapotes, a popular item in Crown Heights, coming up with new twists on the basic fashion,” explained Sacho, who places brightly colored or paisley linings inside his kapotes. “And from there, I began my own custom clothing business.”
 
   Just as Sacho’s new business was getting off the ground, he was set up with a Canadian woman named Masha, whom he soon married. “She then schlepped me back to her hometown of Toronto,” quipped Sacho, “which was a bit challenging, as I was just making a name for myself in New York.”
 
   Still, enterprising as ever, Sacho set up shop in their new home, slowly building up a client base. One of those clients was a man by the name of Matisyahu – perhaps the only mainstream artist with a Top 40 hit single (“King Without a Crown”) and kapotes in his closet. Sacho has designed several custom-made kapotes and suits for Matisyahu, and was commissioned to design a kapote for Matisyahu’s 311 concert appearance in Atlantic City, NJ.
 
   “Knowing Matisyahu, and being able to be backstage at his concerts, have helped connect me to several influential people in the music world, who are well-connected to people in the business and fashion worlds,” explained Sacho.
 
   One contact he has made is now investing in a storefront in Crown Heights, Sacho’s old stomping ground, where his kapotes are sure to become a must-have item by many in the neighborhood, once the store opens sometime in late fall. Sacho plans to travel back and forth between his two businesses, devoted to making the clothes himself, though he admits that hiring an additional tailor will soon be necessary.
 
   The buzz that has generated in the mainstream fashion world has no doubt helped him secure many a non-Jewish client. In fact, Sacho estimates that more than 25 percent of his clientele is not of the Jewish persuasion and unaware of the kapote‘s place in the chassidic world. For these clients, Sacho generally designs suits or shorter-length kapotes. “After all,” commented Sacho, “the cut of a kapote is very similar to that of a tuxedo. Many of my non-Jewish clients come to me via referrals from their Jewish co-workers, as well.”
 
   Explaining his unique career path, Sacho said, “I always had an interest in men’s clothing, which is what prompted me to walk into that hat store in the first place and try to make a job out of a hobby. Since I was a kid, I’ve been dressing just a little differently from my friends, and using my hands to create things that people can be proud to wear. Now, that interest is fashion has translated into a career for me, for which I am so grateful.”
 

   Sartoria Sacho custom designs kapotes and offers ready made garb as well. Custom-made kapotes and suits are typically around $500. Visit www.kapotas.com for more information.

The Mikveh For Men

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

I attend a Tanya shiur (lesson) every Sunday evening at the Chabad House of Queens. At 9:30 p.m., we daven Maariv.

A few weeks ago, as I was leaving to go home, I happened to notice the many volumes of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Igrot Kodesh (letters written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe). I picked out a volume at random and opened it. I asked an elderly Lubavitcher man there to read to me the Rebbe’s letter.

The letter was dated June 5, 1984. It was written to a Chassid regarding the importance building mikvehs for every community. The Rebbe explained the measurements of the mikveh and spoke about how one should concentrate on the mitzvah of mikveh while immersing.

The elderly Lubavitcher looked at me and asked, “What do you have to do with mikvehs?”

I told him that I usually do not immerse in a mikveh. I closed the book, put it back on the shelf, and went home.

On Friday mornings, I usually daven at the 7:30 a.m. minyan at the Young Israel of Hillcrest. On my way out, my wife asked me not to forget to buy the challahs for Shabbat. That morning, I happened to take a different route to buy the challahs. As I drove past the community mikveh, I suddenly remembered that about five months before, my wife had given me several new dishes to tovel (immerse) in the mikveh. They had been in the trunk of the car all this time.

I parked the car, took the dishes and proceeded to the dish mikveh. I said the blessing, immersed the dishes, and packed up, preparing to leave. As I was leaving, I happened to glance at the men’s mikveh on the other side of the building. The water was crystal clear and I could smell the freshness of the towels near the wall.

I suddenly felt the urge to stay and immerse in the mikveh. The experience was exhilarating, holy, and uplifting.

Afterwards, I went on to shop for the challahs and drove home.

Since then, I frequent the mikvah at every opportunity I get – thanks to that evening when I picked up the Rebbe’s Igros and my soul became bound up with the mitzvah of mikveh!

May we all continue to learn Torah and observe mitzvot till the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/the-mikveh-for-men/2009/02/18/

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