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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘shabbat’

Tossing a Jewish Lasso over Wyoming’s Wild West

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

By Carin M. Smilk

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

‘Very Much at Home’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning by Example

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Spiritual Change of Scenery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garin Tzabar: Helping Lone Soldiers Feel At Home In Israel

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

These lone soldiers, hailing from countries including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Turkey and Azerbaijan arrived in Israel without their families to join the Israel Defense Force and help build the Jewish nation.  ’Garin’ means seed in Hebrew but can also refer to a group of people who collectively immigrated to Israel and ‘tzabar’ refers to the ‘sabra’ cactus fruit which is prickly on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside, a euphemism to describe Israelis.

The Garin Tzabar program is in charge of bringing these lone soldiers to a kibbutz or Israeli city, providing them with an adopted family, a Garin community that supports them throughout their army service and Hebrew classes to assist their immersion into the IDF.  Several months from now the new recruits will begin to serve in the Israeli Army.  The Garin Tzabar  ensures lone soldiers receive support and attention on their birthdays, during holidays, Shabbat, and their days off .

The State of Israel officially welcomed this year’s Garin Tzabar participants during a special ceremony held at Tel Aviv University. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  gave a video greeting praising these young Jewish men and women and  numerous other government officials attended the event.

MK Sofa Landver, who addressed the group, stated, “We are here to receive the immigrants and the soldiers in our country, the most wonderful country in the world. It’s you who have come to serve and defend Israel. You will change the world.” A representative of Nefesh B’Nefesh added, “It’s not just a plane ride, it’s the destination and that’s Israel. Enjoy your new life.”

Netta Gelb, a new Garin Tzabar participant, was born in the Israeli city of Netanya and has spent the past 15 years growing up in Canada. Although she has Israeli relatives,  she is leaving behind her parents and siblings.  Gelb expressed the excitement many Garin members felt when she said, “I have been really looking forward to this for a long time.”

Michael Kosky, another Garin Tzabar participant, added, “We have come here to play our chapter in Jewish history. I am part of this program. Good luck to every one here.”  A lone soldier already serving in the IDF named Ariella, who hails from an Argentine family and grew up in both America and Israel told the audience that she holds dear the “values of loyalty to the state, its people, and the Tzabar members” and said to the new recruits “If you live together, you will learn a lot.”

Eitan Press contributed to this report.

Visit United with Israel.

Manischewitz Debuts Kosher Recipe App

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The Manischewitz Company, leader and innovator in Kosher foods, announces the beta version debut of their free Kosher Recipe App now available for download on all Apple and Android devices. The Manischewitz Recipe & Holiday Guide app makes its debut just in time for the fall Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Notable chefs, cookbook authors, and everyday home cooks submitted hundreds of recipes for the app which spans many occasions including Passover, Chanukah, Thanksgiving, Shabbat, Shavuot and more. Other categories of recipes include gluten-free, everyday meals, lunches, side dishes, and desserts.

The contributor’s shared many recipes, some of which have been in their family for generations. In addition to the recipes supplied by home cooks and well-known chefs, all recipes from finalists and winners from all past Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off Contests have been included as well. Jamie Geller, cookbook author and found of The Joy of Kosher magazine and website, contributed numerous recipes across all categories.

Key App Features Include:

All Kosher recipes that use Manischewitz ingredients Recipes for Holiday and everyday including Chanukah, Thanksgiving, Passover, Shabbat, Shavuot, 4th of July, Purim, and more Holiday fun facts Shabbat times for each week Recipe sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

Besides being kosher and easy to prepare, all the recipes feature some of the most popular Manischewitz products including all natural broths, noodles, matzo, matzo meal, honey, and many more. It is very easy to find recipes by typing in keywords or searching through the categories. The app will be an easy way for families to find new favorite recipes that can be shared and enjoyed at holiday and everyday meals.

The Manischewitz Recipe & Holiday Guide can now be downloaded for free to any Apple or Android device by searching for “Manischewitz” in the App Store for Apple devices, and the Google Play Store for Android devices, or by visiting the respective stores at the links below:

(Apple)

(Android)

Beitar Jerusalem Announces Shabbat Ban on Soccer Games

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

The Beitar Jerusalem soccer team announced that it will stop playing on Shabbat in order to allow its religious and traditional fans to attend team home games.

Home games will be held on Saturday nights or weekdays, according to the announcement by the team’s new owner Eli Tabib.

Beitar Jerusalem made headlines earlier this year when the signing of two Chechen Muslims, leading to fan protests and the torching of the team’s trophy room. Fans also attacked several Arabs at Jerusalem’s Malha Mall earlier this year.

British Resort Lost $150,000 in Tourism by Ban on Shabbat Candles

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

The British coastal resort’s University of Aberystwyth lost $150,000 in tourism income by banning orthodox Jews from lighting candles on Shabbat, a decision that forced them to cancel their annual summer visit to the campus on the Welsh coast, according to sources reported by the Cambrian News.

Only 15 families vacationed in Aberystwyth, but not at the university’s student village, where they would have had to give up lighting candles before Shabbat. The local British newspaper quoted one of the visitors, Myer Rothfeld, as saying he has been “overwhelmed” by the welcome from the people of the area.

Most of approximately 1,000 Hassidim from Britain boycotted the campus after 20 years for vacationing because they refused to accept the ban on lighting candles, which the university said was instituted for the first time out of concern for safety following an “incident.”

In their new condition for the Jewish tourists to visit, the London Independent quoted a university spokesman as saying, “The University… would be delighted to welcome this group back, as long as they are able to sign our terms and conditions.” However, one of the annual visitors, identified by the Independent as ”Mrs. Brander,” said, “We have found a holder to make each candle safer. We offered to discuss it with the fire brigade, but the university was not interested.”

What Does It Mean to Be Jewish?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The question “What does it mean to be Jewish?” has often been asked. I suppose you could invoke the old joke “Ask two Jews a question and you’ll get three opinions” to better comprehend how different Jews would respond to this question, so when I weigh in here, I hope readers will forgive me if my opinions don’t always accord with theirs.

But the question is legitimate and should be asked. Jewish people share a common heritage and are affected by many of the same issues today. They face a world in which their religion is part of their identity; no matter how far apart they are on the religious and political spectrums (not to mention any others), they share a common bond that unites them in terms of how they relate to each other and to the outside world.

So what does it mean to be Jewish? To me, it means the following:

● To believe in God. Divine affirmation is the foundation of Judaism. Everything else comes after.

● To observe Shabbat and the various yom tovim. What could be more meaningful, spiritual, and fulfilling – more Jewish – than practicing the religious aspects of Judaism?

● To lead an honorable life. Shouldn’t we all aspire to become tzaddikim, righteous people?

● To keep kosher. Certain things just seem to go together, like lox and bagels, gefilte fish and horseradish – and being Jewish and keeping kosher.

● To do mitzvot. There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, including the above. Carrying out mitzvot is part of our code.

● To carry on Jewish traditions. There’s life after davening, and it’s called Jewish culture. Chanukah gifts, hamantashen, and singing niggunim on Shabbat are just a few of the wonderful customs that have evolved from the religion and its people.

● To be proud of your Jewish heritage. Wear it on your sleeve – you’re a member of a tribe that has nearly 6,000 years of history.

● To feel an immediate bond with fellow Jews. Have you ever felt like you can be anywhere in the world and if you find a fellow Jew, you feel an immediate kinship?

● To involve yourself in a community of Jews. As birds of a feather flock together, it’s only natural for Jews to be immersed in a Jewish world – having Jewish friends, engaging in Jewish activities, living in Jewish neighborhoods.

● To feel a Jewish identity. Even if you’re not as religious as you could or should be, what could possibly make you more Jewish than feeling Judaism is an indelible part of your soul, or that being Jewish is simply who you are?

● To feel a special connection to Jewish history. Who can feel the pain of Jewish persecutions, expulsions, and genocides more than a Jew? Who can feel the catastrophe of the Holocaust more deeply than a Jew?

● To take great pride in Israel. Do you get the chills when you hear “Hatikvah”? After 2,000 years of Jews living in the Diaspora as a weak, defenseless, persecuted people, what greater modern miracle could there be than the resurrection of the Jewish homeland?

● To place an emphasis on education. Jewish parents may be the original “tiger moms and dads.” Perhaps that is why some professions are disproportionately populated by Jews.

● To feel empathy for the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden. You only have to consider how much we’ve suffered as a people to understand how this got into our DNA.

● To have a Jewish funny bone. You can relate to Jewish humor because you’re laughing at yourself and other Jewish people you know – and, nu, do you think there’s any shortage of Jewish foibles?

● To think in “Jewish ways.” How do Jews think? Oy vey iz mir. We think the number 18 brings good luck, so we sometimes give gifts in denominations of 18, like $36 or $180. We try to ward off the evil eye after hearing compliments or wonderful news by saying “kenohora” or mimicking spitting by going “pooh-pooh-pooh.” Oh, and there’s the proverbial Jewish guilt, as well as our inimitable designation of “mishagas” to explain a panoply of crazy behavior with a Jewish edge. Is there such a thing as a Yiddishe kop? Suffice it to say that when you do something stupid, you’re not using it.

Zechut Avot : An Eternal Birthright

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The first time was many years ago. I had just concluded explanations about Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael” which arrived in Hebron from Slobodka, in Lithuania in 1924. The Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah features an exhibit about this illustrious Torah-learning academy, nicknamed the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ which includes a ‘class picture’ from 1928.

As I finished my brief account, an older man approached me, put his finger on a picture of one of the yeshiva students and asked me, ‘do you see him? That’s me.’

That was Rabbi Dov Cohen, a phenomenal Torah genius, who, following my tour, came back to Hebron and gave us his tour.

I always thought that this was a ‘once in a lifetime event,’ having someone point themselves out in a photo taken so many decades ago, here in Hebron.

But it happened again.

On Friday afternoon the Farbstein family came into Hebron for Shabbat. Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, today dean of the ‘Hebron yeshiva,’ now located in Jerusalem, arrived with his wife and many grandchildren. And his mother, Rabbanit Chana Farbstein.

Chana Farbstein was born in 1923. Her father was Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, a Torah giant. Her grandfather was the legendary Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, dean of the yeshiva, located then located in Slobodka, which, a year or so later, moved to Hebron. Chana lived in Hebron until the 1929 riots, in an apartment next to Eliezer Dan Slonim and his family.

Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Farbsteins took a short tour of Hebron, which began in the museum. When we approached the Hebron Yeshiva exhibit, she moved, as hypnotized, to one of the photos on the bottom row, stared at it, and then pointed to a small girl in the right corner, saying, ‘that’s me.’ To her right, a young woman had her hand on little Chana’s shoulder. ‘That’s my mother.’

A ‘once in a lifetime event.’ And it happened to me for a second time.

Chana later told us that she must have been about four years old at the time the photo was taken.

Even though she was barely five and a half at the time of the riots, she remembered them quite clearly: “I remember a big truck going through the streets. They were throwing rocks at our house and calling out my father’s name ‘Chezkel.’ They were looking for him. It was our good luck, he was in Jerusalem.”

“Do you remember what was told to you, what was going on?”

“No one had to explain. We knew exactly what was happening.”

She said that on Saturday afternoon, her family was removed from Hebron and taken to the ‘Strauss Building’ in Jerusalem, across the street from ‘Bikor Cholim hospital. Asked when she ‘left’ the city,’ she replied: “We didn’t leave. The British came, on Shabbat, and took us to Jerusalem.”

Later she also spoke about remembering the pain of having to pray at the 7th step at Ma’arat HaMachpela, not being allowed to enter the structure. “We would stand there for a few minutes, and then leave.”

Were relations with Arabs always poor? “No, when we went shopping in the market an Arab with a large round basket would go with us. We would put the produce we wanted into the basket, he would carry it and later bring it to our home.”

Chana Farbstein is a phenomenal woman. She also stood with us on Friday afternoon, at the cemetery in Hebron, where 59 of the 67 massacre victims are buried. Her son, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, recited two Psalms at the site, his voice breaking, sensing the atrocities and pain of the events occurring 84 years ago.

The next morning, Mrs. Farbstein walked from Beit Hadassah to Ma’arat HaMachpela for morning prayers, and later in the afternoon, to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to attend a special class presented by her daughter-in-law, Dr. Esther Farbstein, an expert on Holocaust studies, author of the book, “Hidden in Thunder.”

After Shabbat, as I arrived to interview her, I found her sweeping the floor.

Her son, Rabbi Farbstein, told me that that last winter she had been very ill, and there was grave concern that she might not recover. But recover she did, and despite only meeting her for the first time, her inner strength and iron will were quite obvious.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/zechut-avot-an-eternal-birthright/2013/08/05/

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