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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘tzedakah’

Jewish Connections

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Yom Yerushalayim, a national day of thanksgiving to Hashem for the liberation and reunification of the Holy City of Yerushalayim, is celebrated in Israel with many different meaningful programs. One of them is the annual bike ride from Hebron to Yerushalayim, celebrating the former’s liberation.

As we looked out from our mirpeset (porch) across the fields, we saw many of the bike riders. Among them were our daughter-in-law and two of our grandchildren, but despite looking through our binoculars we couldn’t find them among the throng, as there were just too many riders going from the City of our Fathers to the Holy City. However, we heard the sounds of joyful music accompanying the bikers, which traveled into our home and enhanced our happiness.

It was also a personal day of remembrance, as it was the yahrzeitof the heroine of this story, Malka Metzger, my husband’s grandmother.

* * *

The time: the beginning of World War I; the place: Baligrod, Poland.

Malka Metzger, married with five children, stands at the doorway of her home, saying goodbye to her husband Alter Ben Zion. He has been drafted into the army. He dies in Trieste and his wife is left alone, without any source of income to care for her three sons and two daughters (one of the daughters was my mother-in-law, a”h). Malka was an intelligent woman whose strength, courage and faith in Hashem helped her whenever she faced difficulties.

She had a reputation in her town for baking delicious challot, breads and rolls. She decided to use her skills to make a living for her family. Malka approached one of the town’s wealthier Jews, Mr. Rubin, for a loan to buy flour and other ingredients for her baking. She promised to repay him and began doing so when she made some money. Malka fed her children with the baked goods left unsold. But when things began to deteriorate in Baligrod, Malka left for the U.S. (with tickets sent to her by Alter Ben Zion’s sister).

* * *

The time: the early 1920s; the place: New York City’s Lower East Side.

Malka’s children find jobs and through hard work and siyata d’shemaya, they are able to help their mother with living expenses. Her sons are able to save enough to open their own businesses, selling retail poultry. All the children get married and the family begins to grow. One of Malka’s sons, Yitzchak (Itcha), locates the two daughters of Mr. Rubin (the aforementioned generous lender) who also relocated to the Lower East Side. Itcha collects money from the family to help these women with their expenses. Malka lives to see the marriage of her children, and the birth of grandchildren and great- grandchildren.

She inspired all who knew her, and everyone respected the Metzger name.

* * *

The time: 2012; the place: Yerushalayim.

Malka’s granddaughter, Judy, and her husband are visiting Judy’s brother Gershon and his family in Yerushalayim. Judy is introduced to Gershon’s grandchild. The young man’s name is Yitsy Beri Rubin. As soon as Judy hears this, she wonders if there is a connection; Rubin is, after all, a common name. After much discussion, they conclude that indeed Yitsy is the great-great-grandchild of Mr. Rubin, the tzaddik who supported Malka Metzger when she was a poor almanah.

In 2012, Yitsy Rubin marries Malka Metzger.

If it wasn’t for Mr. Rubin’s tzedakah, who knows what would have happened to Malka and her family? Her faith that one Jew could, and would, help saved her and her entire family. And the Metzger family, Malka’s descendants, is well known in Jewish communities both in Israel and throughout the United States.

Baruch Hashem, today’s Metzger family members carry on the family tradition by living lives of Torah u’mitzvot – showing hakarat hatov, giving tzedakah, and performing acts of chesed.

Imagine the joy in heaven when this union between the Rubins and Metzgers came to be!

Schatz’s Gambit

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Bezalel: Art, Craft & Jewish National Identity
Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica
One East 65th Street
Sunday – Thursday 10am – 4:30pm or by appointment
212 744 1400 x 313; museum@emanuelnyc.org
emanuelnyc.org/exhibits/bezalel
Until August 31, 2012

Boris Schatz (1866 – 1932) had a revolutionary vision. He believed that the creation of a new modern Jewish visual culture would become a major force to both articulate a Jewish national identity and sustain the Zionist enterprise. In 1904 he approached Zionist leader Theodor Herzl with the proposal to establish a national arts and crafts school in Palestine and got his blessing. Tragically Herzl died later that year, but the Zionist leadership in Vienna assumed responsibility for the project and its funding. In 1906 Schatz arrived in Palestine with two teachers and two students and set about to create not only a national school that would inspire the new Jewish identity, but also help sustain the fledgling pioneers by promoting tourism and creating an export commodity – Jewish craft. His heroic vision is expertly explicated for us by curator David Wachtel at the current exhibition at the Bernard Museum of Judaica at Temple Emanu-El.

And what to call the new Zionist art school? “Bezalel,” of course, after the first Jewish craftsman who had the “spirit of God, in wisdom and in understanding and in knowledge and in all kinds of workmanship” (Shemos 31:2) to fashion God’s dwelling place in the wilderness. Schatz established the cultural model wherein the biblical past authorized the future vision for a Jewish homeland and modern culture. Interestingly enough, as radical as his Zionist Art project seemed, it was at its core deeply conservative as a cultural movement, openly spurning the modernist revolution that was sweeping Europe in the early 20th century. The attempt to create a Jewish nationalist art needed other tools.

Schatz was born in Lithuania, went to yeshiva and then art school. While he was drawn to the early Zionist movement he studied art in Vilnius, Warsaw and Paris and developed into an accomplished sculptor. 1n 1895 he was invited by the King of Bulgaria to become the official court sculptor and establish the Royal Academy of Art, working to forge a Bulgarian national identity through art workshops and home craft industries. In the tumult following the horrifying 1903 Kishinev massacre, Schatz turned his attention again to Zionism, but this time with a vision of an art and craft movement that would lead the Jews to their homeland. Boris Schatz exclaimed “Art is the soul of the nation,” and this could have easily been the anthem of the new movement.

The school he established in Jerusalem promoted a late 19th century academic style in combination with aspects of Art Nouveau. It espoused a romantic view of Jewish life in Palestine, promoting an oriental exoticism of Jews in “biblical” garb, espousing the traditional religion even though the artists were mostly estranged from traditional practice or sensibility.

Tunisian Boy (late 1930s) by Moshe Murro (1888 – 1957) is typical of the style and craft produced by the Bezalel School. These plaques concentrated on Jewish themes and Jewish “types,” emphasizing the young man’s peyosand exotic turban as framed by arabesques of braided filigree silver. The school featured many different departments including workshops for metalwork, carving in wood, stone, ivory, and shell, ceramics, carpet weaving, basketry, lithography and photography. The initial goal was to provide employment for the “impoverished Jews of Ottoman-ruled Jerusalem by producing goods for local tourists as well as export to the Jews of the Diaspora.”

Damascene Vase & Plate (1913), Brass, silver & copper. Bezalel School Moldovan Family Collection

Highly skilled craft was a hallmark of the Bezalel style and this Damascene Vase & Plate (1913) is no exception. Inlayed silver and copper on a brass base and the intricate floral patterns evoke an eastern opulence within a sensuous Turkish form making it a very handsome export item. Good for business but questionable as the expression of a new Jewish sensibility.

Ephraim Moshe Lilien (1874-1925), one of the best known Jewish artists of the time, was an accomplished illustrator when he joined Bezalel as its first instructor. Although he only stayed in Palestine for a short while, he was extremely influential in forming the school’s dominant graphic style. The drawing, Sabbath (1906), seems to be emblematic of some aspects of the Bezalel approach. It depicts “the seventh day of Creation: ensconced in the celestial realm, the enthroned figure of God is flanked by two angels whose mighty wings obscure the Divine Countenance.” Adam and Eve below, here nude are sheltered “by the Tree of Knowledge.” The work is filled with contradictions, nudity aside. Adam and Eve were first expelled from Eden, had to clothe themselves and then came the first Sabbath, outside the Garden and away from the Tree of Knowledge. Either Lilian is representing a vision of an ultimate return to Eden or simply a confused chronology. Regardless, his idiosyncratic use of biblical imagery is radically outside the realm of traditional Judaism. And yet this is proposed as the basis of a new Jewish art for Palestine.

My Machberes

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Emergency Call From Woodbourne

The historic B’nai Israel of Synagogue in Woodbourne, New York, under the leadership of Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, beloved Nikolsburger Rebbe, has issued an emergency call for help in finalizing its preparations to serve the Catskills region and beyond this summer.

The Department of Buildings has determined the shul’s roof, built in 1922, is no longer safe. A simple calculation of the number of minyanim daily, including Shabbos and Sunday, and the average number of mispallelim at each minyan, tells us the shul had upward of 60,000 visits last summer. With so many people using the shul, the safety of its structure is an absolute necessity.

B'nai Israel Synagogue in Woodbourne

On January 15, 1999, the B’nai Israel Synagogue, with its signature outdoor menorah, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. With its present expanded function, the shul has now also achieved a place in Jewish history as the first shul to have non-stop minyanim in the Catskills. With the shul officially recognized as a historic building, expert workmanship is required to restore the its roof to meet the necessary safety regulations.

Work on the roof work is underway. However, its cost is daunting. Though much emotional and spiritual support has been and continues to be carried by the shul and the Nikolsburger Rebbe, outside financial support is critically needed. The cost of the roof and related expenses totals more than $100,000. With summer just about here, completing the work is now an emergency.

Even the regular day-to-day financial burden of maintaining the warm setting is considerable. Those wishing to use their tzedakah dollars most effectively should consider helping to underwrite this particularly noble effort. Assisting the shul at this time is worth exertion and self-sacrifice. Assuming a share in the tefillahs and Torah-learning taking place at the Woodbourne Shul will surely be noted and rewarded by the Kadosh Baruch Hu.

* * * * *

During the summer months Woodbourne, officially classified as a hamlet of the town of Fallsburg, sees a dramatic population increase with the influx of observant Jews from all over the greater New York City metropolitan area. Businesses there thrive from the July 4th weekend through Labor Day.

This is the third summer that B’nai Israel Synagogue, on Route 52 (Main Street), will serve the entire Catskills with its 24/7 full-service open-door operations. It exerts a powerful magnetic force throughout the Catskills, with a minyan every fifteen minutes (or even more frequently) and often multiple minyanim in its main sanctuary, beis medrash, and vestibule, drawing mispallelim from the length and breadth of the vacation region and beyond. The Woodbourne Shul now ranks with such famous minyan venues as Shomrei Shabbos in Boro Park, Veretzkier in Flatbush, and Lederman in Bnei Brak.

Nikolsburger Rebbe

Prior to the summer of 2010, the Nikolsburger Rebbe formally met with the B’nai Israel administration, and with their overwhelming support assumed leadership of the Woodbourne Shul. The board of B’nai Israel must be applauded for their many years of self-sacrifice in preserving the facility. Though the shul had not been fully utilized for years, the board’s resilience in its maintenance must be recognized as an important part of its present spectacular success.

During the regular school year Rabbi Jungreis tirelessly serves as rebbe at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, where he has infused thousands of children through the years with passionate Yiddishkeit. In addition, he leads Beis Medrash Khal Chassidei Nikolsburg-Kollel Boro Park at 4912 Sixteenth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Boro Park neighborhood. There, Rabbi Jungreis exercises a captivating pull on chassidishe youth at risk. This special effort continues in Woodbourne during the summer.

Chassidim of Rabbi Jungreis have again freshened and upgraded the Woodbourne Shul in preparation for the summer season. As in years past, they have rented a home across the street to serve as the Nikolsburger Rebbe’s summer residence.

With the walk-in lower level of the shul having been lovingly refurbished and turned into a large beis medrash with walls of sefarim and Judaica, the shul now comfortably accommodates more than one minyan at a time.

The Wonderful Month Of June

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

To all of my friends who are always telling me that I should have a weekly column, this article is for you. The truth is, I love to write and would love to have a weekly column (I do have protekzia [influence] with this newspaper), but I have to be inspired. I am not one of those prolific writers who sit down at the computer and the words just flow. But once those inspirational juices get started, there is no telling where they will take me.

The author with her sister, Hindy Greenwald

June has always been my favorite month. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I was born in June. It is also the month that leads to summer and I am one of those people who always looks forward to summer, even though it no longer automatically means vacation/fun time. Years ago when I was in high school, Regents exams often came out on my birthday, but I never let it spoil my enthusiasm for the month and surely not for “my day.”

My birthday this year is a milestone one and I am very thankful to Hashem that I have reached this age. When my husband was alive he would always wish me a Happy Bloomsday, mentioned in the novel by James Joyce, whose characters Molly and Leopold Bloom toured Dublin on June 16. June 16th forever after became Bloomsday.

My sister Hindy was also born in June, and my son Dovid was born on my sister’s birthday, albeit 20 years later. Granddaughter Esti has is a June birthday and I told her that she was my birthday present 14 years ago, as was granddaughter Tamar, 19 years ago.

June is the month of graduations and this June that same Esti is graduating elementary school, and my grandchildren, Eyal, Daniel and Avigayil are graduating high school. My granddaughter Shira Fuchs Hirtz graduated Nursing school, giving us another nurse in the family.

Eyal Schwartz

I can still remember the excitement at graduation time and the wonder of the unknown as we began the next phase of our lives. It was both sweet and a little sad as we said goodbye to our teachers and some of our friends.

Graduation from high school in Israel is a very different affair than it is in other countries. My grandson Eyal Schwartz will be starting Hesder Yeshiva on Rosh Chodesh Elul. Hesder is the Israeli army program where a young man commits to 5 years of joint yeshiva learning and army service. And granddaughter Avigayil Schwartz will be starting her year of Sherut Leumi, national service.

This June brought me to Israel for the bar mitzvah of grandson Elan Mauer. Elan read the whole Parsha and Haftorah and gave a lot of nachas to all of us: me, his parents, Tzvi and Shana Mauer, and his other grandparents, Dr. Jack and Tammy Rosenblatt. But it was the first bar mitzvah without my husband Ivan and his loss was keenly felt throughout the festivities.

I will also be attending the bat mitzvah of granddaughter Gail Harrison in California this month ,and then culminating the simchasfor me is the forthcoming wedding at the end of June of my granddaughter Rachayli Fuchs to Shaul Klein. I feel like my cup runneth over, as King David said in Psalms.

The author with new kallah, Rachayli Fuchs

As of this writing I am still in Israel. It is the best place on earth to give thanks to Hashem for all of the chesed He has shown me. I look out of my window each morning as I get to the part in Shemonah Esrei where it says Boneh Yerushalayim, and I look out at the cranes and the building, and see every word of the prayer taking place right before my eyes.

It is also a good place to give tzedakah, and the needy that surround one in different parts of Jerusalem, make it easy to do so. I know some people get annoyed by the many people standing near the Kotel with their hands out, but I actually appreciate their presence as I hand them some money.

Two Magic Words

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Last week I mentioned that I’d received numerous reader responses to my series of columns detailing my experiences in a San Diego hospital following surgery for a broken hip. I shared one such note with you last week. Here is another.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

Your articles speak to each and every person and always touch a sensitive chord in the heart. The letter in last week’s column was a case in point. The writer found strength and courage for herself and her ailing mother in your story of the prima ballerina.

The column that spoke to me most powerfully was “Our Calling Card: ‘Baruch Hashem,’ ” in the May 11 issue.

I have been married for thirty years. We have five children, and that is a “Baruch Hashem.” We have never been wealthy but have always been able to make our mortgage on time, pay school tuition, send our children to camp and take a family vacation now and then – and for all that, I can once again say, “Baruch Hashem.”

Last year our oldest daughter got married. An acquaintance recommended the young man, telling us he was wonderful on every level. All our inquiries substantiated this. From his rebbes, his friends, and his relatives we heard only good reports, so it was with great joy that we took our daughter under the chuppah and said “Baruch Hashem.”

And then, as if from nowhere, all my Baruch Hashems vanished and I could no longer utter those words.

Three years ago my husband had lost his job. No reasons were given. He had been working in that same position for nine years, but like many businesses his firm was impacted by the sluggish economy and many people were let go, my husband among them. Three years later, he has yet to find employment.

My husband is an attorney. He was employed by a prestigious New York law firm, but that made no difference. For a full year he tried to find another position, and when that didn’t work he was prepared to take any job, no matter how menial, as long as he was paid a salary.

Then calamity struck. He suffered a heart attack. We had thought things couldn’t get worse, but now they became intolerable. The one bright spot in the darkness was that Hashem had given us the wisdom to keep up the payments on his medical insurance. At least we had coverage.

And then came another shock. That “wonderful young man” my daughter had married suddenly decided he’d had enough – he wanted out. My daughter came home expecting her first baby. I didn’t know which way to turn.

“Baruch Hashem,” which I always said with such gratitude, was no longer on my lips. My younger children became very sad. Where yesterday our home was full of joy, now there was hardly any laughter. The question kept gnawing at me – What do I do?

I recalled one of your articles in which you recommended that when families find themselves in crisis, everyone needs to push up his or her sleeves and get to work in any way possible.

But I’d never had training in any profession. I was nineteen when we were married and soon after our marriage we received the good news that our first child was on the way. Any plans for a career were put on the back burner and I left school to become a full-time mommy.

We had received loans from gemachts and help from Tomchei Shabbos, Additionally, there is a wonderful tzedakah in our community that helps families in similar situations meet their monthly mortgage payments. While I was grateful for all that, I still couldn’t say “Baruch Hashem.”

In your May 11 column you wrote about your father, a tzaddik who, despite all his suffering, never forgot to say “Baruch Hashem.” Even when he could no longer speak, there were two words he managed to mouth: “Baruch Hashem.” And you wrote of your cousin, a rebbe who lost his rebbetzin and all children in the concentration camps. When he came to the United States, he remarried and hoped to start a new life. And then, once again, tragedy struck. His rebbetzin became mentally ill and had to be institutionalized, and his little children all became casualties. And yet whenever you called him, he always responded with “Baruch Hashem.”

Money? I’m Giving it Away!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=85

I thought this would be one of the hardest mitzvot of all.

Years ago, I was taught by secular Jewish friend that giving away money was disrespectful to money. It devalued money to give it away.

And, for years, I agreed. Until I tried it.

There’s a special outreach newspaper that homeless people sell, and they get to keep all the money they raise. When the paper was launched, I was one of its most vocal champions: “finally a way for these people to earn an honest buck, instead of putting out their hands and just begging for it.” But then I promptly forgot about it.

Until a few weeks ago.

I had just spent more money on a single piece of sushi-grade tuna than most homeless newspaper vendors will make in a day, when I emerged from the store and saw…him. My body instinctively tried to carry me away from him. But my new-found Jewish teachings kicked in and stopped me.

I turned, looked him in the eye, and did something I normally avoided like…well…like homeless people on the street. I treated him like a human being. I struck up a conversation. And, while we were talking, I put all of the change in my pocket into his hat. He offered me a paper, and my old instincts kicked back in. “That’s all right,” I said, “I won’t have time to read it.” And he said, with a smile, “Take it. It’s got a good crossword.”

Now, let’s break this down. 1) He already had my money. All of it. Easily tripling what was already in his hat. 2) He had a limited number of newspapers in his hand. Which meant that, if he had kept my newspaper, he could “sell” it again, and make even more money. 3) He smiled and looked into my eyes, long after I had given him my money.

That brief experience was such a blessing to me that it broke my nearly 20-year habit of walking past beggars on the street, not making eye contact, and not giving them money.

He helped me to become a better Jew.

Giving away money may devalue money. But it adds value to my life as a prospective Jew, and to the life of the person I give to.

Is there a more valuable use for money than that?

Lost And Found

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

My son lost his backpack when traveling back to his base. He had put it in the hold of the bus in which he was traveling. He would need to replace his wallet, tefillin, clothes, books, phone charger and all of his documentation. Of course the tefillin was the most important item of all. It was a bar mitzvah gift from his grandparents and specially written for him, and we all know how expensive tefillin are. But obviously the sentimental value was irreplaceable.

We were both very upset. It was certainly possible that someone had mistakenly taken it and would call. But what if it had fallen out of the bus? What if someone had purposely taken it (though I’ve never heard of this happening)? My son went to the lost and found department at the Egged Central Bus Station (the terminus of the bus) in Ashkelon. Not holding out too much hope that the backpack would be recovered, I searched on the web for the prayer attributed to the Tanna, Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, that one says for lost objects. I’m not usually one for segulos, but I felt that a miracle was needed in this situation. I gave 10 shekels to tzedakah and said the prayer three times. The very second I finished my son called to tell me that someone who took the bag by accident returned it. Baruch Hashem, I’m a believer!

Wanting to publicize the miracle, I wrote to a few people telling them what had happened. One wrote back, saying that a lady she knows has a secular son living in the South Pacific who is slowly mellowing to Yiddishkeit. He had lost his glasses and hadn’t been able to replace them for a month. It suddenly occurred to her that she should say the prayer for finding lost objects. The very same day she said the prayer, he called her to report that the glasses had been found!

On 14 Iyar, Pesach Sheini, the Yom Hilula of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness takes place. When a Jew is in trouble there is a longstanding custom to give money l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. But it is most popularly used as a segulah for finding lost objects. The money should specifically go toward helping the poor in Eretz Yisrael because Rabbi Meir Baal Haness said he would help those that gave to Eretz Yisrael’s poor – for the sake of his soul.

The source for this custom is the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 18a-b) where we learn that Rebbi Meir bribed a guard to release the imprisoned sister of his wife Bruriah, who had been dispatched by the Romans to a brothel as punishment for her parents teaching Torah. The guard asked what would happen if he’d be caught. Rebbi Meir told him to say the words, “Eloka d’Meir, aneini – God of Meir, answer me” three times and he would be saved. The guard secured the release of Rebbi Meir’s unharmed sister-in-law, and the guard was miraculously saved when he uttered the words Rebbi Meir had instructed him to say.

The first part of the prayer that begins with “Amar Rabbi Binyamin” derives from Bereishit Rabbah 53:14, referring to Hagar having her eyes opened and being able to see the well from which she could draw water to save herself and her son. The lesson: Something might be right under your nose, but you need God’s enlightenment to see it. This is often the case when we lose something.

Especially on the Tanna’s yahrzeit, it is very meritorious to give charity or light a candle l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness and to say “Eloka d’Meir, aneini” three times.

As ultimate redemption, of course, comes from God, we shouldn’t attribute the miracle to the Tanna; we are, after all, calling out to Hashem. But it is in the merit of tzaddikim that we can ask for a little more help from Above. Apparently we can get it – if we’re not at a loss for words.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/lost-and-found/2012/05/02/

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