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January 22, 2017 / 24 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan Beach’

Alcohol And Drugs In The Jewish Community: The Problems Few Can See

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Disbelief and denial are two words that can describe the alcohol and drug problem in the Jewish community, and that is a problem in itself.

Have you given much thought to this issue? Most of us haven’t. It’s not until we are personally affected that we become concerned. We must not let it to get to that point.

As chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I have been afforded a view of drug and alcohol problems on both a statewide and a local level. In most communities the evidence of drug abuse and overindulgence in alcohol is obvious in criminal activity, emergency room visits, employment statistics and dysfunctional families. To look at those communities is to know that drugs and/or alcohol are an issue. Our community is different; many of those abusing alcohol or drugs are not only functioning well but maintaining either high grades or business success.

Last December, in conjunction with the Orthodox Union, I brought together thirty local rabbanim, social workers, doctors, psychologists, counselors, program directors and attorneys who work with community members experiencing alcohol and drug problems. The roundtable discussion provided the experts with a forum to share information. Such problems as shul-hopping for simchas serving alcohol, excessive drinking at Kiddush Clubs and helping oneself to another family member’s prescription painkillers found in a medicine cabinet were highlighted.

The experts all agreed that there is a growing problem of drug and alcohol abuse in the Jewish community and expressed a collective frustration that there were too few resources to respond. The perception of our community being alcohol- and drug problem-free extends all the way to the halls of the legislature. When I talk to my colleagues, they have trouble believing there is a need for funding prevention and treatment programs in the Jewish community.

Another obstacle to dealing with the alcohol and drug problems head-on is the shame these problems cause in the Jewish community. Whether it’s just embarrassment or the fear of difficulty with a shidduch in the future, drug and alcohol problems are often kept behind closed doors by families, shuls and organizations.

This only serves to exacerbate the problem. There should be no shame in dealing with either an alcohol or drug problem. We must all understand this and come together as a community to provide support for our neighbors dealing with alcohol and drug issues. They need our help. This is important for the individual as well as for the community.

It was because of the unique circumstances surrounding the alcohol and drug problem in the Jewish community that I recently invited Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, who heads the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, to participate in a roundtable discussion, cosponsored by the Orthodox Union. I thought that it was important for our state’s top alcohol and drug official to see and hear firsthand our concerns and needs.

On May 3 the commissioner joined more than twenty practitioners and rabbis from our community at the Young Israel of Midwood. The roundtable participants told the commissioner that the false notion that no alcohol or drug problem exists in the Jewish community often results in individuals with problems not receiving the treatment they need and the community as a whole not getting its fair and needed share of resources for prevention and treatment programs.

“The level of denial still needs to be addressed…it’s tripping us up,” one social worker said, while a program director added that she can “walk down any block in Flatbush and point out houses on each block with a kid or two at risk.”

Commissioner Gonzalez-Sanchez was told about the need for culturally sensitive treatment and prevention programs: “Being an orthodox Jew in recovery is much more than having kosher food.” A drug counselor shared a story of an Orthodox client doing well in an out of town secular drug treatment program who called in distress because she suddenly felt a rekindling of spiritual feelings.

Commissioner Gonzalez-Sanchez understood. “The Office of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Services,” she said, “remains committed to providing quality health care that is comprehensive and sensitive to the specific needs of the individuals we serve. I look forward to continue working closely with Assemblyman Cymbrowitz to address the issues facing the people of this community.”

Steven Cymbrowitz

Carrying The Torch Of Torah

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Even before his eyes open in the morning, the kollel student has in his head the rapid-fire flow of verses, laws and teachings from the prior day’s learning. The words of Modeh Ani exit his lips while he reaches to shut the alarm before it wakes his family. Soon he will be on his way, confronted with many topics of halacha and hashkafa.

He will concentrate on the pages in front of him and ask questions: What is it that is being said here? What exactly is Rashi alluding to? Why is it phrased in this way?

If the answer is obvious, he will ask why the statement needed to be made at all. If there is a seeming contradiction in what he’s reading, he will seek out explanations and clarifications. He is looking for foundation and principle, for what is to be included and excluded. He wants to know what is expected of the Jew.

And yet kollel students are derided by a fair number of people in our community. Perhaps this is due to misconceptions about whom a kollel student is and what he represents – a proper understanding of which gets to the very heart of whom we are as a people and why we were created in the first place.

What is the reason for our existence? The question has been debated by philosophers and intellectuals throughout the ages. For religious Jews, the answer was given when Am Yisrael stood at Har Sinai and received the Torah. From that moment on, the study and fulfillment of its instruction would be the defining purpose of our lives.

Torah learning is our connection to Hashem, the cornerstone of our faith, the very essence of our being. A Jew must have interwoven into every aspect of his life what it is that Hashem wants from him. In other words, he should strive to achieve spiritual perfection. How? Through cleaving to Hashem, the Ramchal tells us (Mesillat Yesharim chapter 1). And this cleaving comes through studying Torah.

Now we understand the function of the kollel. As a consequence of the Jews having splintered into so many different factions, there has been an ongoing decline in Torah scholarship. Things are not as they once were. The Talmud (Berachos 35b) states, “The earlier generations made their Torah fixed and their work temporary.” Since we no longer have this level of study, the kollel is a means to ensure a viable foundation for higher Torah learning. It is a means to defend against spiritual decline and conserve the fundamentals of a Jew’s life.

If it is not possible for all of us to immerse fully in Torah, we should at least attach ourselves to those who do. These are the people who sustain the world, because it is the Torah that makes the world exist (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbos 137b, Pesachim 68b, Nedarim 31a). Kollel students are not very different from the Kohanim and Levi’im of long ago who carried the responsibility of maintaining the Beit HaMikdash on behalf of the rest of the nation.

The word kollel means “collection” or “gathering” and is an institution of full-time advanced learning of a variety of Judaic subjects. The intent of the program is to have a quorum of Jews who study full time and are supported by others. This is the concept given in the Torah by Yaakov to Yissachar and Zevulun, who established a partnership with one learning Torah full time and the other working fulltime, dividing the reward between them.

On a practical level, the kollel provides a training ground for communal rabbis and leaders. If we want to ensure future generations’ commitment to Judaism, it is incumbent on us to preserve the core of Judaism – the scholars and teachers who transmit and elucidate the Torah. This fact of life becomes obvious from a basic survey of the many communities – Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas and Philadelphia, among others – that have become home to high-level kollels and seen concomitant spikes in Jewish religious observance.

A kollel system as large as Lakewood (with more than 4,000 students), even though beautiful, is an anomaly. Most community kollels consist of only a handful of students – sometimes as few as six or seven. Of some 13 million Jews worldwide, a miniscule percentage learns full time and receives a small stipend (usually less than 200 dollars a week).

Ron Finkelstein

YMB/Alliance: Educational Breakthrough In Brooklyn

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

While in Paris last March celebrating his wedding anniversary, Jacques Baghdadi set in motion another kind of shidduch. Like many in the community, frustrated with the high cost of yeshivas in Brooklyn, he knocked on the door of Alliance Israelite Universelle, an organization with 150 years of experience providing high-quality, affordable Jewish education worldwide.


One year and one more trip to Paris later, Baghdadi’s journey has come full circle; the Yeshiva of Manhattan Beach became the first American school to partner with Alliance in an effort to expand the school and enhance the curriculum while keeping costs down. This convergence was possible because both institutions have a common mission.


“The promise the Alliance presence represents here is the beginning of a partnership that will promote a more vigorous Jewish education in our community,” said Jerry Greenwald, president of YMB. “For many years we have supported educating Jewish children who showed up at our doorstep and accepted our responsibility to nurture and teach each of these children without regard to their parents’ ability to pay.”


At the March 26 meeting that officially inaugurated the partnership, Jo Toledano, director general of Alliance, expressed similar thoughts as he recalled meeting with Baghdadi a year before. “The Alliance has served for the past one-and-a-half centuries through education geared toward the needs of every community in each country. The Alliance developed different approaches to educate various types of Jewish students based on respect between students and their teachers of limudei kodesh, the skills of teaching, the love of Judaism based on strong knowledge, and the access to Hebrew texts.


“I saw the same approach at the yeshiva as that of the founders of Alliance. Both YMB and Alliance were looking for the best way to transmit Jewish identity. In this school there is a neshama. There is something very unique.”


That morning, the sound of children singing tefillot could be heard up and down the hallways decorated with educational posters and charts honoring student achievements. YMB offers classes through eighth grade and provides scholarships to families in need. Graduates are able to attend some of the most prestigious yeshiva high schools in the metropolitan area, but for some families these schools are financially out of reach.


With support from Alliance, YMB plans to open its own high school, adding a 9th grade in September 2010 and another grade each year. This will both heighten academic expectations and lighten the financial burden on parents, said Hilda Mirwis, the school’s principal. This coming September will see changes in what is already a challenging academic curriculum with the addition of French classes – not as an elective, but as a daily requirement, initially in preschool and early childhood classes.


Like all schools in the Alliance network, the new incarnation of YMB will reflect the organization’s French roots and its commitment to rigorous secular education alongside traditional Jewish studies. The most obvious change will be the daily twenty-minute French classes, but students will find a more European philosophy infusing all classes when they return from summer vacation.


Of course it will be adapted to an American Modern Orthodox yeshiva, said Rabbi Elie Abadie, educational adviser for the YMB-Alliance partnership, but generally the philosophy will emphasize broad universal education and promote understanding over rote memorization. YMB teachers will participate in an ongoing mentoring program with Yeshiva University and visit established Alliance schools in Montreal. Students will also participate in exchange programs between Alliance schools around the world to promote cross-cultural interaction.


This isn’t completely new for YMB. One reason Alliance choose YMB over all the other schools on its seven-year waiting list is that it’s already shown a commitment to quality secular and Jewish education, accessible to all. 


“Our mission is to educate our children to be productive Modern Orthodox Jews and patriotic American citizens through a belief in and a love for Hashem, Israel, Torah and mitzvot,” said Mirwis. “Indeed, our graduates have fulfilled a Jewish mother’s dream. Many have gone on to the most prestigious universities and have become doctors, lawyers, businessmen, educators, and rabbis, often in the service of the Jewish community.”


“The school is not an industry, it gives personal attention,” said Toledano, who had visited the latest addition to the Alliance network several times during the process.


Having grown up in Lebanon below the poverty level, Baghdadi knows the power of an Alliance education first-hand. “My parents could not afford to pay a thing,” he said. Alliance gave him a scholarship to their school in Beirut where every student, rich or poor, wore a uniform.


“It opens up a world of advantages,” he said of the Alliance model, explaining that multilingual YMB graduates will have better opportunities for higher education and employment. Baghdadi graduated speaking Hebrew, French, Arabic, and English and went on to become a successful businessman.



Seated left to right: George Lati, YMB parent and board member; Jo Toledano, Director General, AIU; Jerry Greenwald, YMB President; Isabelle Friedman, American Friends of AIU; Hilda Mirwis, Head of School


Standing left to right: Elias Levi, YMB board member and Mattan Besseter; Baruch Kassab, YMB board member and Alliance graduate; Ruth Kahn, YMB staff; Linda Handlarsky, YMB staff; Edmond Elbaz, Director General AIU Canada; Rabbi Elimelech Gottlieb, Director NYC Institute for Day School Management; Jacques Baghdadi, YMB board member and Alliance graduate; Jack Bokai, Yola Haber, Sephardic Bikur Cholim, Division of Career Services; Leah Hoffman, YMB staff; Sara Leah Rubinstein, YMB staff.


(Photo by Shimon Golding / The Jewish Press)



When the Alliance partnership was first proposed, some YMB parents and faculty were worried that enhanced secular studies would come at a cost to the Jewish half of the school day. But further research revealed that each Alliance-affiliated school creates its own Jewish studies curriculum based on its community’s preferences.


The key to the Alliance philosophy is balancing a given community’s Jewish identity with engagement in the modern world.


“Alliance graduates could be scientists, but also excellent human beings that have a very strong base in Judaism,” said Edmond Elbaz, Alliance director general for Canada. He cited Maimonides, the sage and the doctor, as a role model.


The Oldest Jewish Organization


When Alliance was founded in 1860, it was about as far from Canada or Brooklyn as one can get. A group of young French Jews, eager to participate fully in secular society but unwilling to leave behind their traditions, met in Paris to develop an organization that would let them – and fellow Jews around the world – do both.


Just one year after its founding in Paris, Alliance opened its first school in Morocco where impoverished students received a free education along with food and clothing. Over the next few decades more schools were established in places like Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, and Egypt. Funding came mostly from the French Jewish community as well as the Rothschild and de Hirsch families.


“Its mission was to bring modernity to Jewish populations that were living almost in a middle-ages environment,” Elbaz said.


Before Alliance arrived in the Middle East, Jews had no access to public education and received only limited schooling from rabbis, according to Alliance Vice President Hubert Leven, a descendant of one of Alliance’s founders, Narcisse Leven, and president of Rashi Foundation.


Although there was some Jewish content in these pioneering Alliance schools, the priority at that time, according to Leven, was to get the students out of poverty through general education. Families were eager to enroll their children since Alliance was “the only opening to the modern world,” Leven said. After World War II public schooling was more widely available to Jews, so Alliance strengthened the Jewish identity component of its educational program.


Today, Alliance schools are located primarily in France, Canada, and Israel, since most Jews have left the Arab countries, although Moroccan schools remain. Alliance headquarters in Paris also provides adult education and is home to the largest Jewish library in Europe. Its alumni show up in headlines around the world, from former Israeli minister of foreign affairs Silvan Shalom to renowned Baghdad-born Canadian author Naim Kattan. Alliance founders are singled out by name in a prayer recited in Sephardic synagogues during Yom Kippur that thanks benefactors to their community throughout history.


“A lot of people think Alliance was something of the past,” Leven said. Alumni and their descendants need to be reminded that Alliance still exists and is as committed as ever to promoting Jewish identity and education, he added.


As Elbaz put it, “We have to follow our population wherever it is.”


From Paris to Brooklyn


A lot of those alumni happen to be in Brooklyn, including a number of YMB parents. When Baghdadi visited Alliance in Paris, he hadn’t even heard of YMB and proposed that Alliance build a school from scratch in Brooklyn. Back in New York, while at a meeting where other communal issues were being discussed, he told friends about the Paris meeting. It was Alliance graduate and YMB parent George Lati who suggested the partnership “knowing that the two were made for each other,” he said.


Four months after Baghdadi’sParis visit, Toledano visited New York. Lati, along with community members Toufik Kassab and Jacques Boucai, lobbied Toledano for an Alliance presence in Brooklyn over dinner at Prime Grill. It was only in a follow up phone call that Lati suggested Toledano visit YMB and evaluate a potential partnership. It took many more persuasive emails and calls after that, but eventually Toledano agreed.


“Toledano came, he looked, he was very impressed,” Lati said of the November visit. True to Talmudic tradition – “Through the testimony of two witnesses, the matter is decided” — both Leven and Elbaz visited the school and echoed Toledano’s observations.


Over the next few months YMB was host to a steady stream of Alliance visitors including Isabelle Friedman, former president of American Friends of AIU, Helene Eisenberg, a prominent French attorney, and her husband, Mark Eisenberg, vice president of Alliance, culminating in the March meeting.


The partnership was a logical step for Lati and other YMB parents who grew up in Alliance schools. “The years I spent with alliance are the years I remember with fondness,” he said. Lati recalls how his years at the Alliance gave him a feeling of family while providing him with a superb education, four languages and exceptional organizational skills that serve him well in his business to this day.


YMB works with parents to make tuition affordable, and even the building owners – board members of an attached synagogue – didn’t charge rent for many years, Lati said.

“They did the right thing as Jews,” he explained.


In short, YMB showcased the values of charity, Judaism, and education, just as he remembered from his Alliance school in Beirut. Lati first went to a French non-Jewish school because his father thought it would give him a sense of discipline, but the school just scared him.


“The other four years I spent with Alliance are the years I remember with fondness,” he said. Armed with four languages and a superb education, he recalled how it gave him a feeling of family and instilled organizational skills that serve him in his business to this day.


When his daughter started yeshiva in New York and came home asking for expensive brand name clothing, Lati realized that on the way to $10,000-plus tuitions, some core Jewish values had gotten lost. The search for a less materialistic, more caring school led the Lati family to YMB in Brooklyn. But once his children reached high-school age and left YMB, Lati was again faced with school representatives who were more “business-like” than “Jewish-like.” He said asking for tuition subsidies was degrading.


After that, as Baghdadi put it, “the puzzle fell together,” substantiating Lati’s initial conviction, and the YMB-Alliance partnership began to take shape. For Alliance students turned YMB parents, it’s a chance to provide the top-notch education they remember from childhood in the Brooklyn school that reflected Alliance values from the start.


In the words of Elbaz, “It’s a match from heaven.” Greenwald agrees. “We so much appreciate the adoption of our children and our yeshiva into this fine family. The educational changes proposed by the Alliance to be incorporated into our already excellent daily curriculum will bring about unprecedented growth potential for each one of our precious students.”


On Thursday evening, May 21, the Yeshiva of Manhattan Beach will celebrate the inauguration of the partnership with Alliance as the organization marks its 150th anniversary during a cocktail reception at Congregation Ohel David U’Shlomo in Manhattan Beach.

Liza Schwartz

Yeshiva of Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Sharing. I like to share my toys with my sister and share my books and papers with my classmates. It makes me feel good to do this mitzvah. When people see me sharing, it makes them want to share too.

– Lilly Ellenhorn, 6


Tzedakah. My favorite part of giving charity is giving stuff like toys away to children who don’t have any. I really enjoying doing this and I think it’s the biggest mitzvah you can do.

– Daniel Amar, 8



Kibud av v’ eim. I like listening to my parents. I especially like helping them with my little brother. I help get him dressed and I also watch over him when I’m told to.

Hannah Eisenberg, 6



Doing acts of chesed. I like helping people whenever I can. I help my mother with my 2-year-old sister, feeding her and putting her to bed. I also like helping my grandmother get items when she can’t reach for them.

Bella Zinger, 9

Ita Yankovich

Twenty-Third Annual Holocaust Memorial In Brooklyn

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

         Last Sunday the Holocaust Memorial Committee, located in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn held it’s 23rd annual Holocaust memorial gathering.


         The moving and emotional event was attended by over 1,000 people from all over the metropolitan area. They were greeted by politicians who have been strong supporters of the Holocaust Committee over the many years that the gatherings have been taking place.


         Among those that were in attendance were Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Councilman Michael Nelson and this year’s keynote speaker Congressman Jerry Nadler. This year, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the reunification of the holy city of Jerusalem in 1967, a special exhibit was displayed that included art posters, photographs and newspaper accounts of the Six Day War. Mr. Ira Bielus, founder of the Holocaust Memorial Committee, read aloud the famous ‘Letter to the World From Jerusalem’.  The letter, widely published after the 6 Day War, proclaims that the Jewish right to Jerusalem is a fact and the world has no right challenge it. 



Students lighting candle in memory of Prof. Lebresco at the Holocaust Memorial gathering in Manhattan Beach.



         Manhattan Beach is a neighborhood that is becoming home to more and more immigrants every year. This year, the Holocaust Memorial Committee recognized that it was 40 years ago that the struggle to save Soviet Jewry began, for with the closing of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Israel, so too was the door to emigration closed to Jews who wanted to leave the Soviet Union.


         During the candle lighting ceremony a special tribute was given to Professor Liviu Libresci, z”l, a Holocaust survivor who sacrificed himself to save his students during the massacre at Virginia Tech in April.


Attendees examining models of concentration camps done as part of an educational project sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz.  

(Photos by Shmuel Ben Eliezer)



         As always, the highlight of the program was the awarding of the Steven Cymbrowitz/HMC/Lena Cymbrowitz Foundation/David S. Sterner and Slyvia Steiner Charitable Trust Essay, Poetry and Art Contest, which was open to students from all over the Brooklyn area. This program has seen increasing participation every year, fuelling the hope that through Holocaust education and awareness, hatred of others can be stamped out in future generations.

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Question: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?





Yes. My family arrived in America around this time of year from Russia. When they came here they noticed everyone was eating turkey and celebrating and they took this as their own personal holiday to commemorate coming here. So for us, Thanksgiving is not some kind of secular holiday, but more of a personal anniversary.

– Susan Lerner, school psychologist





No. Since it’s not a spiritual holiday, I do not celebrate it. There are no special prayers on this day. I’m used to celebrating holidays on a spiritual and religious level. There is nothing wrong with celebrating Thanksgiving; the intentions of the day are good. I just prefer to celebrate holidays when they are tied to spiritual practices like davening.

– Devorah Gerber, occupational therapist





No. I work for a Jewish company, so the only holidays I get off are the Jewish ones. For me this is just a normal, typical workday. Society created it as a good excuse to get away for the weekend or get drunk.

– Eddie Lebovitch, manager





Yes – though not really as a holiday per se, but more as a family get-together. It has no religious associations for me; we don’t discuss what we are grateful for or anything like that. It’s just a good excuse for relatives to get together and enjoy some turkey and each other’s company.

– Sara Cohen, art therapist

Ita Yankovich

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/manhattan-beach-brooklyn/2006/11/22/

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