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December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Russian Jews’

Netanyahu Tells Russian Jews about the ‘Real Iran’

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Jewish community leaders in Moscow during his trip to Russia, “The Iranians deny our past and repeat their commitment to wipe the State of Israel off the map. This reminds us of the dark regimes of the past that plotted against us first and then against all of humanity.”

The Prime Minister , who has made Iran the one and only topic in recent statements, explained to the Jewish leaders, “They are also using propaganda: They are now creating a propaganda film in which hears a piano being played, and sees the Foreign Minister going through a building, talking about the need for peace in the future.

“This is not the real Iran. The real Iran is what the leader of Iran, Khamenei, said yesterday. He called Jews ‘rabid dogs’ and said that they were not human. The public responded to him with calls of ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’

“Doesn’t this sound familiar to you? This is the real Iran! We are not confused. They must not have nuclear weapons. And I promise you that they will not have nuclear weapons.”

Rabbi in Critical Condition in Israel after Attack in Russia

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Chabad emissary Rabbi Ovadia Isakov is in critical condition in Rabin Medical Center in Israel, where he was flown on a private emergency flight after being shot in the chest by one or more unidentified assailant around 1 a.m. Thursday.

He is in serious to critical in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital, formerly known as Bellinson Hospital and located in Petach Tikvah, adjacent to Tel Aviv.

Russian Jews financed the flight, reportedly on an Israeli Air Force plane, after doctors in Russia determined he was able to be flown to Israel. He was accompanied by a three-man medical team, consisting of a surgeon, paramedic and critical care physician, Chabad reported.

Rabbi Isakov was seriously wounded when he was shot at short range after he stepped out of his car near his home in the Russian city of Derbent, located in the predominantly Muslim republic of Dagestan in southeastern Russia.

The Jewish community assumes that the attack was a hate crime, and Russian police say the motive probably was anti-Semitic.

“Religious activity of Isakov is one of the attempted murder theories of the detectives,” police said.

Extremists “have put themselves not only outside of any religion but also apart from humankind; their only goal is to kill innocent people, chiefly those who promote eternal values, morals and spirituality, in this world,” Rabbi Lazar said in a statement quoted by Interfax.

“There is not and can be no compromise with terrorists: the state is not only entitled to but also obliged to use all means available against them. Several well-known muftis in the Caucasus, who professed moderate Islam and who called for inter-ethnic and inter-religious peace, have died at the hands of such thugs.”

Six years ago, the rabbi’s family home was attached while he, his wife and nine-month-old baby were in their bedroom.

The ZAKA rescue organization, Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and the local Jewish community worked to bring the rabbi to Israel.

Please keep saying Tehillim for Ovadia ben Zehava Chaya for a full and speedy recovery.

One in Five NY Jews Live in Poverty

Friday, June 7th, 2013

A new report shows that 20 percent of Jewish households in the New York metropolitan area are poor, a figure only marginally lower than the rate in the general population.

The report released Thursday by UJA-Federation of New York found more than 560,000 people living in 200,000 poor or near-poor Jewish households, a figure that represents a doubling of the number of people living in poor Jewish households since 1991, despite only a 14 percent increase in the Jewish population. The report also found nearly half of children in Jewish households live in poor or near-poor conditions.

Among all residents of the New York area, some 25 percent live in poor households, the report said.

“The sheer scale of Jewish poverty in the New York area is immense, and the Jewish community has a sacred responsibility to care for those in need,” said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation’s executive vice president and CEO.

The report found that the largest group of poor Jewish households in New York is Russian-speaking seniors, followed by Hasidim and non-Russian-speaking seniors.

Though the report acknowledges that contemporary American poverty does not typically result in “extreme deprivation,” it does note that 14 percent of poor and 9 percent of near-poor say they cannot make ends meet.

“In the most affluent society in history, this should not be acceptable,” the report said.

The report defines poor households as those earning less than 150 percent of the 2010 federal poverty guideline.

Out Of The Former USSR: A Yeshiva Brings Students To Israel And To Religion

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Last week, a quiet revolution took place in the Judean Hills outside Jerusalem. One hundred and twenty parents and children from the Former Soviet Union visited Israel for the first time to participate in a groundbreaking mission. The children, ages 12-14, were all prospective students of Lezion B’rina and its sister school Bat Zion, located in Beitar and Jerusalem, respectively. For nearly 20 years, the Lezion B’rina Institute has been a second home for hundreds of Russian Jewish students who have left their birth land to seek a better future in the Jewish homeland.  Yaakov, age 18, came to Lezion B’rina from Moscow at 13. “I was all alone. I didn’t have a future,” he said. “Although it is common for people to be friendly and smile in America, no one smiles in Russia.” His father was not in the picture and his mother suffered from severe depression and struggled to make ends meet. The extent of his Jewish identity was that he knew that he and his mother were Jews, but had no idea what that meant.  “Lezion B’rina gave me a future,” he said. “They taught me to think independently. All of my success in life today is because of this school. They gave me life and helped me with every step along the way.” Today Yaakov is getting a degree in business management at a most prestigious university, but more importantly, he feels that his life has now been infused with meaning and value as a member of the Jewish people.

 

Rabbi Josh Friedman (center) with Lezion B’rina alumni who are presently studying

in The Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev)

 

Lezion B’rina was founded in 1991 shortly after the fall of Communism, when thousands of Russian Jews were making aliyah to Israel each year, finally free of the walls of the Iron Curtain. Now, however, the numbers of Jews leaving the FSU have greatly diminished. The Jews that remain behind stand over a 90 percent chance of intermarriage and assimilation. In some ways, the problems that exist today are worse than during the Communist Regime.  Today’s youth never knew the horrors their parents experienced. Instead, due to the luxuries now available for the first time in Eastern Europe, they are complacent and no longer even desire to reconnect with their roots. They are living with the sad legacy of Communism – utter spiritual ignorance. Although conditions are much better than under Soviet rule, the wealth is still in the hands of the few. The stores are stocked to the brim with the latest luxuries and products, but most people cannot afford to buy these items. Nonetheless, considering the stories they hear about Israel in the news, few Russian Jews can imagine making aliyah. Under Communism, they knew they were Jews, although they weren’t free to be Jewish. Today, they have all the freedom in the world, but they have all but forgotten that they are Jews. Lezion B’rina has been reaching out to Jewish youth in the FSU to help them find a better life in Israel and reconnect with their Jewish heritage. Last week’s mission flew to Israel to see with their own eyes that such a life is possible. Housed in a beautiful, state of the art campus, Lezion B’rina not only offers a high level technologically-based secular education, but also a solid foundation in Jewish values, history, and tradition to infuse students with true Jewish pride. In addition to their regular high school curriculum, as well as Jewish history and Torah studies, students also partake in a wide variety of extra-curricular classes such as computers, graphic design, music, martial arts, carpentry, and sports. The curriculum is designed to help students gain the tools to go on to any field they desire and most importantly, to go on to live lives of happiness, value, and leadership. “You can’t find a school like this where Russian Jews can feel at home while learning about themselves, their heritage and their history,” said dorm counselor Eliezer Gelfand, originally from Minsk.  Lezion B’rina serves a double purpose of bringing youth to Israel who otherwise would have never considered making aliyah, but also helps to greatly ease the transition into mainstream Israeli society. Russian immigrants often live in secluded enclaves, regularly suffering from unemployment and poverty. Many are forced to take jobs far below their level of education and training. Teenagers can fall into bad crowds and sometimes end up in gang.  “Making aliyah with the assistance of Lezion B’rina greatly eases their acclimation to the land of Israel and increases their chances of success,” said Rabbi Josh Friedman, a musmach of Yeshiva University and the school’s administrator. “At Lezion B’rina, they will succeed. No one falls out here.” The high majority of alumni end up making aliyah and go on to become highly successful contributors to Israeli society.

 

 

Rabbi Josh Friedman (center) with Lezion B’rina students in front of the yeshiva

 Today hundreds of couples are raising Jewish families in Israel because of Lezion B’rina. Many are in top universities, or work in prestigious positions throughout Israel’s workforce. Countless others hold high-ranking positions in the IDF, working on building and defending the Jewish homeland. “It is so moving for me to see children from such disadvantaged backgrounds now living happy and successful lives in the State of Israel,” Rabbi Friedman said. Natan Sharansky is one of the biggest supporters of Lezion B’rina. His background as a Refusenik and his desire to come to Israel while in a Soviet prison help him understand the importance of Lezion B’rina better than most: “They are bringing children from the Ukraine, from Belarus, from Russia, who come from very problematic families, with very problematic backgrounds, without any idea of what it means to be Jewish. Now they are becoming good Jews and Jewish values are becoming part of their lives.”  One of the ways that Lezion B’rina accomplishes this is through its warm, personal environment. Since students often come to Israel without family, the staff becomes their surrogate families. At Lezion B’rina every student is guaranteed a personal relationship with teachers and mentors, who help build up their confidence through encouragement and love.  “Our staff doesn’t simply come in the morning and leave in the evening,” explained Rabbi Menachem Bombach, principal of the school. “They are totally committed to the vision and goals of Lezion B’rina and most importantly to the students. It’s like a family. Everyone who comes, even for a few minutes, feels the warm atmosphere.”  Students are also given counseling to help them cope with their difficult past. The school is equipped with an on-staff psychologist, guidance counselor, housemother, and nurse. “Our boys come from very complicated families. We give them psychological help to deal with their issues and relationships,” said Moshe Melamed, assistant principal. “If you feel your family’s problems day after day, it’s hard to do anything else. We are involved in saving lives. These children would have nothing. We give them a new start and they have a chance to succeed.”  Russians are typically suspicious of strangers; yet some 95 percent of the students are committed to attending Lezion B’rina in September. “When they return back to the FSU and see the contrast, the other five percent will most likely make up their minds to come,” Rabbi Bombach said.  “I couldn’t believe how special and giving people could be,” one of the parents told me. “I wish I could have attended a school like this. The staff cares only about how best to help the children. Nothing like this exists back in Russia. It’s like night and day.”  “Stalin and Lenin didn’t want them to preserve the Jewish way of life,” Rabbi Bombach said. “But their grandparents prayed that their children and grandchildren should continue to carry on the eternal flame of their Jewish heritage.”

To find out more about Lezion B’rina, visit www.lezionbrina.com. To support its efforts, you may donate online or send checks to Lezion B’rina Institute, 639 East 2nd Street, Suite 3R, Brooklyn, NY 11218.

Six Thousand Miles (Part II)

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

         Part I of this series introduced the 6,000-mile driving tour that my wife, Barbara, and I took in the van driven by my brother, Avi, and our sister-in-law, Martha, to the Canadian Rockies. It detailed the challenge of obtaining kosher food on a driving tour. A month-long trip of this type can be very interesting and exciting. In the many different towns and cities we visited, we sought and found Jews with an affinity for other Jews.

 

         The second challenge for Orthodox Jews is how and where to spend Shabbat while traveling. Thanks to both the Internet and Chabad, our four Shabbatot were the most interesting parts of the trip. We planned our trip so that each Friday, we would be in a different city with an Orthodox neighborhood. We found warm and friendly home hospitality in each community.

 

         Our first Shabbat was observed in Minneapolis. We enjoyed the hospitality of Corrine and Dr. Marty Kletzko and of Dr. and Mrs. Thorne. We were invited on Erev Shabbat to eat with the Kletzko family and on Shabbat we joined other guests at the home of Rabbi and Mrs. Goldberger. We were impressed by the Divrei Torah discussed by the rabbi’s children during the meal, and we enjoyed our visit with our host families.

 

         In the process of organizing the visits to the various communities, I offered to discuss our life in Israel with any interested group. In Minneapolis Rabbi Goldberger asked me to speak during Seudah HaShlishit, and there was a very lively discussion.

 

         We had read at Minchah the story of the spies sent by Moshe to visit Israel. The word used in the Torah is “La Tour,” to tour the land. I mentioned that Moshe sent tribe leaders, similar to tours made by influential shul officers and community leaders. The Torah taught us a lesson of how careful community leaders must be to not misinterpret what they see in Israel. They should not bring back reports about Israel that begin with, “It is a great and wonderful country, but…! You can fill in the “but” that often implies that Israel is not a place where we can or need to live. When the Biblical “tourists” returned with a “but” report, the punishment was 40 years of wandering in the desert. The punishment today seems to be intermarriage, drugs and other dangers in the Diaspora.

 

         Our second Shabbat was in Calgary, Canada. Here the Shabbat home hospitality was organized as a shul fund-raiser, and was easily requested via the Internet from the hospitality coordinator, Marina Segal. We enjoyed the hospitality of Debbie and Nelson Halpern, where we slept and ate Friday night, and Samantha and Josh Margo, who hosted us for Shabbat lunch.

 

         An interesting comment was made by Debbie Halpern. She said that before we arrived she Googled me and, thanks to my Jewish Press articles, I was “famous.” The conversation all weekend, of course, centered around living in Israel, and the fact that having lived there for 34 years, we are living proof that it is possible for an American family to live, raise a family and prosper there. Shabbat ended after 11:00 p.m. in northern communities, which gave us lots of time to shmooze.

 

         After spending a week in the Canadian Rockies, our third Shabbat was in Edmonton, Canada. We were warmly hosted by Rabbi Avi Dreilich and his family. Rabbi Dreilich is the rabbi of the Chabad Shul, and we were impressed by the number of former Russian Jews that attended the shul. They came, davened, listened to some Torah, and were influenced by the rabbi. His natural acceptance of Russian Jews made them feel welcome, which was impressive.

 

         The week we attended, an elderly Jew who had never had a bar mitzvah was smiling from ear to ear as he was called up to the Torah for the first time. He was helped with the brachot,and he enjoyed the Kiddush held after davening. The Kiddush gave Rabbi Dreilich another opportunity to remind the community that an experienced mohel for adults had been invited for the following week to circumcise those who never had a bris. Several men had already signed up.

 

         Our lunch with the Dreilich family and their other guests lasted until 6:00 p.m. and was filled with Torah, discussions about Israel and their community, and about Rabbi Dreilich’s work. After Shabbat, at 11:35 p.m., Rabbi Dreilich and his sons quickly went to work putting the finishing touches on the equipment for Sunday’s golf tournament fund-raiser.


 

         PART III: The Fourth Shabbat In Toronto.

 

         Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.

Superstition Or… ? (Part I)

Wednesday, October 8th, 2003

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I discovered your book, The Committed Life and I must tell you that it changed my own life. I come from an atheistic background and never gave Judaism a second thought until a Christian friend bought me your book as a gift. Since reading it, I have embarked on a quest to find out more. I guess I’m still not totally observant, but I am definitely heading in that direction. Most recently, I read your new book, The Committed Marriage, and that was an amazing experience. I only wish that I lived in New York City so that I could come to your classes and study with you. In any event, thank you for writing and sharing so much wisdom with us.

I am writing you at this time with what you might consider to be a very odd problem – but before I go into detail, I would like to give you some background about myself and my family. My parents are from Russia, and we came to this country ten years ago. In Russia, my father was an architect and my mother was an engineer, but they couldn’t find employment here in their professions, so they were obliged to take menial jobs in order to support us.

My mother works in the kitchen of a nursing home assisting the cook, and my father drives a cab. While they are earning a living, my parents are also very bitter and feel demeaned by their jobs. I mention this because it is the source of a lot of tension in our home. My parents’ moods swing from anger to depression. Whatever it is, there is no joy in our family - unfortunately however, there is a lot of shouting and fighting. But please don’t get the wrong impression. With all that, my parents are kind, good people. It’s just that life has been difficult for them.

When I became interested in Judaism, their anger became more intense. In Russia, we didn’t believe in anything or observe any of the holidays. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even know that they existed. Most of my aunts and uncles were intermarried, and no one ever thought that there was anything wrong with that.

When we came to America, we settled in _________ because we have relatives here, but they too are assimilated. I went to public school, where most of my friends were non-Jews. I had non-Jewish boyfriends as well, to which my parents never objected. My older brother did actually marry out of the faith. No one felt that there was a major problem with that, and my sister-in-law is very much a part of the family.

Since I became involved in Judaism, I have been going to a synagogue that caters to Russian Jews. They even put out a bulletin in Russian, which I brought home to my parents hoping that it might interest them, but it made no impression at all. I met some very nice people in the synagogue, one of whom is a young man whom I have come to care for in a very special way. He too is from a Russian background. He is totally religious and I recognize that I don’t measure up to him, but he is very encouraging and patient with me. He has told me that he cares for me and he asked to meet my parents - which turned out to be a total disaster. He is a computer programmer, but at present he’s not working because he has taken off a year to study Torah.

My parents have no tolerance for this. They view such study as sheer nonsense and cannot see how I can waste my time on someone who is not making a good living. While I am certain that this genuinely concerns them, I do believe that, were he not religious, they would be more accepting of him. I’m sure they would have no problem if he was studying one of the sciences or law. The yelling and, the bickering at home has become just too much for me. You see, everything has become a major problem. They can’t stand that I eat only kosher, that I try to keep Shabbos, that I go to shul, and that I pray in the privacy of my room. I have my own dishes, I buy my own food, and I don’t impose on my mother, but instead of seeing this in a positive way, she views it as censure of her and the family which, believe me, it is not. I don’t blame my parents for anything; I know that they have had a rough time and that they too are victims of circumstances.

Over the years, even while at school I worked very hard and managed to put aside a few dollars for myself, and now that I am, thank G-d, working full time, I do have some resources which gives me independence. I have been seriously toying with the idea of moving out and taking my own place. I would, of course, never want to hurt my parents and move a distance away, but as things turned out, a small studio has become available in our building.

It’s not much of an apartment, and it’s nothing to look at, but the price is right and it’s something I could manage. A further advantage is that I would still be living at home - that is, in the same building. But at least I would have some privacy, a place where I could shut the door and have some peace, where I could study, daven, eat my kosher meals and light my Shabbos candles without being criticized.

The only problem with the apartment is that it is on the third floor and my parents live on the 11th. You might of course wonder why that would present a problem, but there is this woman I know, also a Russian, very much sought after by many people in our community. She is very good at predicting the future and telling people things about their lives. I know for a fact that she has been correct in many instances - I saw it with my own eyes. In any case, she told me that to move from the 11th floor to the third is bad luck – that you don’t move from a higher floor to a lower one.

Initially I dismissed it as superstition, but then, strange things started to happen. Just this week I had a car accident. Thank G-d it wasn’t serious, but it did shake me up. Additionally, I haven’t been feeling well, and I have had some difficulties at work. Can all this be related? This turn of events all started when I began to think about moving. I haven’t made a decision yet - I’m so confused. I was wondering if you could give me some insights. What is the Torah view on this? As you can imagine, my parents are not happy at the prospect of my moving, but once I make my decision, I am certain that they will be accepting of it.

So I’m caught in a dilemma. Should I move or not? Is there substance to this woman’s prediction that moving from the 11th floor down to the third will bring bad luck? I’m so confused - I don’t know what to do. Thank you for your patience. I await your reply. If you wish, you may publish this letter. I only ask that you refrain from mentioning my name.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/superstition-or/2003/10/08/

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