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January 19, 2017 / 21 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘South Florida’

It’s My Opinion: An Ongoing Challenge

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

             All across South Florida, the Jewish community is in festive Chanukah mode.  There are parties and events scheduled throughout the entire eight days. There are gala concerts, menorah lightings and Chanukah programs and fairs. There are dreidels to spin and latkes to eat and presents to wrap.


During these tough days of economic and political uncertainty, having fun is especially appreciated. It’s easy to get swept up in the happy swirl of activities and really forget the meaning of the holiday. However, the story of Chanukah is one that is of great significance to the Jewish people. It needs to be examined.


The narrative relates the tale of Judah Maccabee and his little band of men who fought the powerful Greek-Syrians (Under King Antiochus) and restored the holy Temple. It is the classic story of good overcoming evil and triumph under adversity. But the saga goes deeper.


Antiochus and his well-trained army were an external danger. The threat was apparent. Dealing with the assimilated Greek Jews was an internal danger and more subtle. It was actually a greater peril to the Jewish nation.


We have seen this scenario throughout the history of the Jewish people. When Jews overly identify with an alien culture, they face the risk of losing their own heritage. 


We saw this with the Hellenist Jews who loved and emulated Greek culture. We saw this with the Jews of Persia who partied with Achashveirosh. We saw this with the German Jews who loved their “motherland.” We see this presently in the American-Jewish community, with its staggering 50 percent intermarriage rate.


The Chanukah story is an ongoing challenge to our people. Our greatest problems still seem to come from within.


Irene Klass

              I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to Jewish Press Assistant Publisher Naomi Mauer, who last week suffered the loss of her husband, Dr. Ivan Mauer, and her mother, Irene Klass. May Naomi be comforted among the mourners of Zion, and may she know no more sorrow.

Shelley Benveniste

It’s My Opinion: Taking Responsibility

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

South Florida was recently inundated with weeks of torrential rain. The downside was that the weather ruined the much-anticipated Memorial Day weekend. The upside was that the storms made a dent in the terrible drought conditions that had plagued the area. Sometimes it is easier to see the wisdom of the old adage, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”


I escaped from the weather by shopping at a store that was having a huge sale. I stood next to a woman and the line was very long.


The boredom of standing for 20 minutes propelled her into conversation. She confided in me that she used to be an “A personality” who would have gone crazy at the delay we were experiencing. She offered that she was diagnosed with a chronic neurological disorder two years ago, and the finding had actually changed her life for the good. 


She told me that she no longer got bent out of shape by delays and hindrances.  She shared that she now has a very different take. She enjoys every day. She stops to watch a sunset or a butterfly. She no longer sits on her horn in a traffic jam. Her life is qualitatively improved. Her sense of gratitude and joy was actually palpable.


Every life is filled with challenges. Terrible stuff does happen. It is often very hard to extract any positive from the ordeal.   


We often have no option in the circumstances of life. The skies can be stormy and the prognoses can be grim. Sometimes the only real choice is to see the silver lining. 

Shelley Benveniste

It’s My Opinion: Unity

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

    The current crisis in Israel has been the catalyst of many rallies in South Florida.  Some of the rhetoric involved in these events has been quite shocking.  An Arab woman at a demonstration in Fort Lauderdale called for the Jews to go “back to the ovens.”  A rally in downtown Miami became violent.  Anti-Israel protesters screamed out vicious curses, hurled objects and engaged in fistfights.  One Jewish woman was hit in the chest by a bottle. 


  Amazingly, a very poignant and touching phenomenon has emerged as an outgrowth of this turmoil.  I witnessed it myself when I attended a Miami Beach gathering which was organized to show solidarity with Israel in the Gaza war.


   I saw haredi rabbis and secular Jews.  I saw men in knit kippot, velvet kippot, black hats, caps and bare heads.  I saw women with sheitels and long dresses joining with sisters in jeans and short skirts.  I saw elderly, middle-aged, and young Jews.  I saw every type of Jewish man, woman and child joining together. 


   They held signs.  They waved Israeli flags.  They sang, “Hatikvah” and “Am Yisroel Chai.”  They stood side-by-side.    


    In ancient days, the custom of Hakhel was a time that the entire Jewish nation gathered in the courtyard of the Temple. The event occurred every seven years, and included every Jewish man, woman and child. The people were encouraged to follow their Jewish obligations.  They were joined as a collective community with a common goal.


   In recent times, Jews have again visited the Hakhel theme with lectures and events held to rekindle this idea of Jewish unity.  Apparently Hamas rockets have, in their way, succeeded to accomplish this task.  

Shelley Benveniste

Homeless For The Night

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

      Miami Rescue Mission and the Broward Outreach Centers in Hollywood and Pompano Beach recently sponsored an unusual event.  The happening was organized to bring awareness of the plight of the homeless in South Florida.  It took place in Markham Park in Sunrise. 

       The participants wanted to have the experience of being homeless for “one night.” They wanted to understand what it felt like. They wanted to actually know what the phenomenon was about.

    Hundreds of volunteers paid a $10 registration fee to take part.  Many slept in cardboard boxes.  Some used sleeping bags.  All were outdoors and under the stars.

    However, those who participated in the sleep-a-thon had a qualitatively different experience than those who are really living on the street.   Despite the very best of intentions, one cannot truly experience homelessness without living it.  The volunteers knew that they had a home to go to and that the night in the park was a symbolic gesture.  Their experience was philosophical and not real life. 

   It is important to remember this when dealing with individuals who are experiencing problems or losses. It is especially important when visiting a shivah house.  Many people actually make the mourners feel worse with their well-meaning attempts at comfort.  The phrase, “I know what you’re going through,” is often just not true.

    Understanding the plight of someone in distress can be difficult.  There are parts of life that can only be grasped by those who have gone through a similar experience.  Sometimes saying, “I’m sorry” is better than saying, “I understand.”

    It is hard to truly comprehend being homeless or hungry or losing a loved one to a dread disease or disaster from a strictly theoretical stance.  Even with the noblest of objectives, empathy has its limitations.

Shelley Benveniste

Call Now!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

      Jews in South Florida and throughout the United States are taking action. Now, dear readers, if you have not done so yet, please join them.

     There is a travesty of justice that has befallen one of our brethren.  None of us can really feel the pain, the waste of life or the sense of betrayal that is Jonathan Pollard’s lot.  The tragedy is immense.

     We can never really feel Pollard’s anguish.  We are sympathizing from the perspective our own lives.  We have not spent 24 years rotting in prison. 

    There is, perhaps, something that we, as a people, could do to help.  An outgoing American president has a special ability.  He can grant pardons to prisoners.  This is a special opportunity and a critical time. Every one of us needs to participate in the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim, freeing the captive. 

    The entire Jewish community needs to flood the White House with calls and letters. Jonathan Pollard needs to be freed.  It is enough! 

    Call the White House and ask President Bush to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard.  The number is 202-456-1111.  Call now. 

Shelley Benveniste

Hollywood, Florida – Hooray For Hollywood

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

        When most people think of Hollywood, they think “lights, camera, action,” along with images of movie stars, celebrities and the Lakers. They think of Hollywood, California. But on the opposite side of the country, there’s another Hollywood: Hollywood, Florida, which just happens to be one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the United States.


         If you were to drive through the “other” Hollywood on December 25, you’d be quite surprised how few houses are adorned with Christmas decorations. In fact, the city is home to over 40,000 Jews. Many of them are either unaffiliated or non-practicing, or both. Yet there is an impressive amount of Orthodoxy within Hollywood, and several strong kiruv establishments are helping bring unaffiliated and undereducated Jews closer to Judaism.


Congregation Ahavat Shalom



         The largest shul in the area is the Young Israel of Hollywood, where Rabbi Edward Davis has been the spiritual leader for over 25 years. The shul has a membership of over 450 families, and a strong youth department that has three different minyanim on Shabbos: one for post-bar mitzvah boys (and bat mitzvah girls); one for 5th graders to bar/bat mitzvah young adults; and one for 3rd and 4th graders. The Young Israel also runs one of the two mikvahs in Hollywood. The other is under the auspices of Chabad.


         While the Chabad Mikvah might be small, Chabad’s presence in Hollywood certainly is not. There are an impressive five Chabad shuls in the Hollywood area, each with its own shlichim. The shuls have separate minyanim daily and on Shabbos, but synergize several times throughout the year for certain occasions. In fact, the five Chabads recently had a joint Lag B’Omer celebration. One might wonder if so many Chabad establishments in one place are necessary or even practical. “People ask why five Chabads,” responds Rabbi Zalman Korf of the Chabad of Walnut Creek. “I would tell you why not 15? The need exists in Hollywood. We are dealing with people who have little connection to Torah other than the fact that they are Jewish. Chabad is bringing basic Judaism to these people.”


Rabbi Joseph Korf of the Hollywood Community Synagogue-Chabad



         And it seems to be catching on. Hollywood’s Chabad of The Ocean has a noticeable senior citizen presence (many are Holocaust survivors), but is now seeing a strong increase in attendance from younger people in the community. (About 100 people, on average, attend davening Shabbos morning.) “Orthodoxy is on the upswing here,” says Rabbi David Kudan, “and there are a good amount of people who are searching for spirituality. There are a lot of great opportunities for Jews of all ages here.”


         Chabad is just one of three different kiruv organizations trying to revitalize the Jewish spirit in Hollywood. PATH, the Project for Advancement of Torah Study in Hollywood (www.pathtotorah.org), was started four years ago by members of the Orthodox Hollywood community. PATH’s mission is “to bring Torah learning and appreciation to the Jews of Hollywood regardless of background, affiliation or education.”


         Headed by Rabbi Yossi Jankovits, PATH has so far inspired 60 unobservant Jews in the community toward Orthodoxy. While the teens in Hollywood are involved in National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), Achva Programs and Bnei Akiva, PATH is directed mainly for adults (though it is slowly starting to work with college-age students as well). Rabbi Jankovits is the only official rav of PATH, but he relies on his students to help achieve PATH’s goals. Many of the young men and women who have gone far down PATH’s road often assist and teach new students. But this does not mean that they don’t have the chance to learn with the rabbi as well.


Rabbi Yossi Jankovits of PATH



         Rabbi Jankovits, who routinely has 25 people over for Friday night dinner, works relentlessly in hopes of inspiring even more of Hollywood’s Jews. Giving 48 shiurim per week, his day begins at 5:30 a.m. with a daf yomi shiur at the Young Israel, and often ends with one of the various shiurim given at the South Florida branch of Aish HaTorah (located in Hollywood) at night. PATH is not officially affiliated with any of the shuls in the area, but rather uses several synagogues to host its shiurim.


         “PATH is not trying to pull people away from their shuls,” says Rabbi Jankovits, “but provides community outreach accessible at any level. We help increase the numbers of people attending [Orthodox] shuls.” Dov Tilles, president of the snowbird-friendly Congregation Ahavat Shalom, is quite impressed with what PATH is doing in the neighborhood. “They are doing an excellent job here,” he says. “We have a wonderful turnout at the shiurim. More and more people are coming, and get a lot out of it.”


         It is perhaps telling that Aish HaTorah’s South Florida branch is in Hollywood. Opened in 1988, the branch has attracted tens of thousands to its programs from Hollywood and all of the surrounding communities. Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale has been the executive director since 1993.


Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale, executive director of Aish HaTorah of South Florida, with his family



         Make no mistake that despite the excellent kiruv that is going on there, Hollywood is not a neighborhood with scattered elements of Orthodoxy. In fact, it has everything a modern-day Jewish community could want. There are nearly a dozen kosher restaurants, three kosher groceries, two bakeries, and a Judaica store. (And while we’re at it, the weather isn’t half bad!)


         Many of the grade school level children in the community attend Brauser Maimonides Academy, located in Hollywood. But Miami is only 30 miles away, and some parents send their kids to one of several yeshivot in the area. Most high school students either attend the Rabbi Alexander S. Gross (RASG) Hebrew Academy, Hillel Community Day School (both located in North Miami Beach), or Weinbaum Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton (though there are also some other, smaller yeshivot). Many of these young adults also spend a year in Israel. Subsequently they head off to college, a majority of them out of state. While their lives lead them in different directions, many have a longing to return.


        “Hollywood is a great place to come home to,” says Devora Bergman, a Midreshet Lindenbaum and Columbia University alumnus who now lives in Manhattan. “I definitely see myself moving back there at some point.” Mark Ginsberg, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and now the av bayit of Yeshivat Eretz HaZvi in Jerusalem, was raised in Hollywood. “It was really a great place to grow up,” he says, “and though my heart is in Eretz Yisrael, I’ll always feel a strong connection to Hollywood.”


Hollywood Community Synagogue-Chabad’s annual Chanukah concert



         While certain Jewish neighborhoods fit a particular niche, mold or even stereotype, Hollywood cannot be simply labeled in any one category. “There is a very interesting trend happening in Hollywood,” says Rabbi Ryan Girnun. “And I think it’s actually occurring in many Jewish neighborhoods in the U.S. Here you have FFBs  (Frum From Birth) and BTs (Ba’alei Teshuvahs), but now what you’re seeing are a lot of FTPs  (Frumer Than Parents), which makes for a nice mix.” Rabbi Girnun, a second year law student at the University of Miami, his wife Barri, the student activities director at RASG Hebrew Academy, and their two children represent a growing number of young married couples moving into Hollywood.


         On nearly every Shabbos afternoon, one can walk into Giulianti Park (located at N. 42nd Terrance, about three blocks from the Young Israel) and see dozens of the neighborhood’s children at play. Nearly all of these youths are Jewish. But what makes this site so interesting is the parents who accompany them. Some of the fathers are dressed in white shirts and black pants, with their tzizit out. Others wear polo shirts and slacks, and some of the dads might be wearing shorts and sandals.


At Aish HaTorah of South Florida’s 2006 Purim party



         Yet no one is really paying attention to garb, which makes Hollywood such a wonderful neighborhood. It is a warm, accepting community, where the people are friendly and sincere. Judaism is available in Hollywood on many different levels, and this is part of what makes the Young Israel, the five Chabads, PATH, Aish HaTorah, and all the other shuls – and the community as a whole – such successes.


         Rikki Rothstein, a resident of Hollywood for 11 years, says it best: “This is the type of community for all types of Jews.”

Yoni Glatt

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/hollywood-florida-hooray-for-hollywood/2007/05/22/

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