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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

2000 Years of Jewish Culture Exhibition at London’s Shapero Rare Books

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Bernard Shapero of Shapero Rare Books and Sandra Hindman of Les Enluminures are delighted to present 2000 Years of Jewish Culture: an exhibition of books, manuscripts, art, and jewelry.

A selling show, it is the first of its kind ever staged in the UK in a private space, and, accordingly, it will be marked by the publication of a fully illustrated catalogue. The exhibition encompasses every aspect of Jewish life, including philosophy, religion, literature, photography, fine art and jewelry.

Curator Bela Goldenberg Taieb said that “each of the assembled artifacts – the oldest of which is a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls – is representative of a particular field of endeavor, and as such they collectively offer a truly compelling picture of the Jewish contribution to world culture.”

The exhibition, featuring more than 100 objects, will be arranged over the basement, ground and first floor of Shapero’s Mayfair premises. It presents several important rare books, the subjects of which span the tenth to the twentieth centuries, including first editions of some important examples of Anglo-Judaica.

Bernard Shapero said that “the whole exhibition shows the positive side of Judaism. There’s no Holocaust material or anti-Semitic material, which forms a large part of collecting in this field.”

From November 2 to 19, at Shapero Rare Books, 32 St. George Street, London W1S 2EA

Gallery Talk: Beatriz Chadour-Sampson “Jewish Wedding Rings,” Thursday November 3, 7 PM.

JNi.Media

Israeli Embassy in UK Slams Event Hosted by House of Lords Blaming Jews for Holocaust

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

The Israel Embassy in London has condemned an event hosted by the House of Lords at the Palestine Return Center which also co-hosted the “Balfour Apology Campaign” launched ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

The event, which calls on Britain to apologize for the Balfour Declaration and show remorse for its “past colonial crimes in Palestine,” also blamed Jews for the Holocaust, and compared the Jewish State to the Islamic State, or Da’esh (ISIS).

The Balfour Declaration was the document which in 1917 pledged British support for a Jewish homeland in what was then called Palestine, the Roman name for the land referred to in the Bible as “Eretz Israel,” the Land of Israel.

The session, run by Baroness Tonge, an independent MP who was formerly a Liberal Democrat, was held to launch the Balfour Apology Campaign ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

“This Islamic State in Syria is nothing with Islamic. It is a perversion of Islam just as Zionism is a perversion of Judaism,” said a member of the audience at the event.

A second audience member said, “If anybody is anti-Semitic, it’s the Israelis themselves,” with panel members applauding in response.

Blogger David Collier, who attended the event, said he had “witnessed a Jew-hating festival.”

Hana Levi Julian

Report: 3 MKs, IDF General Were KGB Agents

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Three Knesset members, senior IDF officers (including one member of the IDF General Staff), engineers who worked on classified projects such as the Lavi supersonic warplane and the Merkava tank, as well as intelligence officers in sensitive positions, have been exposed as KGB agents by documents to be revealed by the daily Yediot Aharonot this Friday.

The secret documents have been copied over a period of 20 years by Vasili Mitrokhin, a former senior KGB agent, who hid his work in milk jugs under his vacation home in a suburb of Moscow. In the early 1990s, Mitrokin contacted the West and he, his family and his milk jugs were transported to the UK. The revelations in these documents were a harsh blow to the Soviet spy network, exposing an estimated one thousand KGB agents around the world. Those documents included revelations about KGB activity inside Israel, and Yediot has now received some of them from a secret archive at Cambridge.

One of those KGB spies in Israel’s highest echelons was MK Elazar Granot, a socialist leader who served on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and was privy to Israel’s military secrets. The KGB also employed a senior engineer in Israel’s national water project in the 1950s and 60s, and even a senior agent in the GSS counter intelligence dept.

According to Yediot, the KGB’s highest prize was the recruitment of an IDF general who was member of the General Staff. When he was exposed, in 1993, the high ranking was already terminally ill and the powers that be decided not to prosecute. They likely did not relish the exposure either. He died shortly afterwards.

David Israel

‘Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven’ at the Met [video]

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Between the year 1000 and 1400, roughly the time of the crusades (1095-1291), the city of Jerusalem became the most significant place in the known world, an object of desire to people from as faraway as Britain and even Scandinavia and Iceland to India. This universal preoccupation with Jerusalem, ushered a most creative period in the city’s history, the subject of a new exhibition opening Tuesday, Sept. 26, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition, “Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven” demonstrates the enormous influence of the city, sacred to the three monotheistic religions, on the art of that time.

“While Jerusalem is often described as a city of three faiths, that formulation underestimates its fascinating complexity,” says the exhibition’s web page. “In fact, the city was home to multiple cultures, faiths, and languages. History records harmonious and dissonant voices of people from many lands, passing in the narrow streets of a city not much larger than midtown Manhattan. This will be the first exhibition to unravel the various cultural traditions and aesthetic strands that enriched and enlivened the medieval city.”

More than 200 works of art have been gathered from some 60 lenders worldwide, with a quarter of the objects arriving from Jerusalem, including key loans from the city’s religious communities, some of which have never before shared their treasures outside their walls. “Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven” bears witness to the crucial role that the city has played in shaping world culture, a lesson vital to our common history.

The following are notes from the museum’s website, accompanying the exhibition.

“Beginning in about the year 1000, Jerusalem captivated the world’s attention as never before. Why did it hold that focus for the next four centuries?

“A kind of Jerusalem fever gripped much of the world from about 1000 to 1400. Across three continents, thousands made their way to the Holy City—from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions alike. Generals and their armies fought over it. Merchants profited from it. Patrons, artists, pilgrims, poets, and scholars drew inspiration from it. Focusing their attention on this singular spot, they praised its magic, endowed its sacred buildings, and created luxury goods for residents and visitors. As a result, the Holy City shaped the art of this period in significant ways.

“Dramatic circumstances, including natural disasters, political turmoil, intense religious fervor, and an uptick in world travel, brought new attention to the city. In the 1030s, the Fatimid caliph who ruled over Jerusalem forged an agreement with the Byzantine emperor to rebuild the Holy City after a series of earthquakes and the malfeasance of his predecessor. In 1099 European Christians achieved their improbable dream of conquering Jerusalem. In the wake of their bloody victory, they created glorious buildings and works of art for nearly a century. In 1187, the military leader Saladin (1137/38–1193) retook the city and rededicated its Islamic sanctuaries. In the late 1200s through the 1300s, Mamluk sultans blessed with stable reigns promoted the city as a spiritual and scholarly center.

“Throughout these years, the city was home to more cultures, faiths, and languages than ever before. As the site of both conflict and coexistence, it inspired art of great beauty and fascinating complexity.”

One of the exhibition’s many galleries is named “The Absent Temple.” It cites instructions from an early 11th century guidebook for Jewish pilgrims regarding a visit to the Temple Mount: “If you are worthy to go up to Jerusalem you should observe the following procedure: If you are riding on a donkey, step down; if you are on foot, take off your sandals, then rending your garment say: ‘This our sanctuary was destroyed.'”

But even with no Temple to visit, Jewish pilgrims flocked to medieval Jerusalem. They came to mourn the destruction of the Temple and pray that it would one day be rebuilt. Their prayers largely took place not within the city but around its walls. They made a circuit of the city’s gates—a custom that was revived after the liberation of Old Jerusalem in 1967—concluding at the eastern Gates of Mercy, built over an ancient gateway to the Temple. There they might scratch their names and prayers into the stone. They then ascended the Mount of Olives, the historic site where it is believed that the Divine Spirit will return at the time of Redemption. This significant spot east of the city afforded the best vantage point from which to gaze upon the Temple platform.

The installation features specially commissioned videos that provide subtle glimpses, as through windows, of the varied and colorful panorama of Jerusalem with its ever-present medieval monuments. Complementing the videos are short interviews with some of the fascinating men and women who maintain the city’s medieval legacy.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 899, September 26, 2016–January 8, 2017

JNi.Media

Israeli Postal Service Delivers Letters to God at the Wall Ahead of Rosh Hashanah

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Israel Post Director General Danny Goldstein on Monday met with Western Wall and Holy Sites Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, to deliver to him a consignment of letters addressed to God. The holy mail was delivered ahead of the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays, and will be placed in the cracks and crevices of the ancient stones of what used to be a supporting wall for the Temple. The letters were posted from Israel as well as from Russia, China, France, Nigeria, Spain, the Netherlands, the US, and the UK.

Letters to God

Letters to God

Hundreds of letters are mailed to Israel annually addressed to “God,” “Jesus,” “Our Dear Father in Heaven” and “the Western Wall.” These letters, most of which lack a return address, are sent to the Israel Post Lost and Found Dept., which then sends them, every few months, to be placed among the stones of the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Back in 2006, a company called Letter to God Ltd. announced a service of placing letters to God, written on the customer’s home computer, in the cracks and crevices of the Western Wall. We are not sure what happened to them, but their website, letter2god.com, is available for the right price. Another example of free enterprise losing out to the nanny state.

JNi.Media

British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Converted to Islam Just in Time for Hajj

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Simon Collins, 60, is the first British ambassador to Saudi Arabia to attend the Hajj pilgrimage, which is verboten to non-Muslims. This is because Collins has converted to Islam. He joined an estimated 100 thousand Brits who have embraced the religion of Mohammad, including, possibly, the late Sir Winston Churchill.

Inayat Bunglawala, founder of Muslims4UK, a Muslim missionary organization, told the Independent in 2011 that these figures were “not implausible.” He pointed out they mean “that around one in 600 Britons is a convert to the faith,” noting, “Islam is a missionary religion and many Muslim organizations and particularly university students’ Islamic societies have active outreach programs designed to remove popular misconceptions about the faith.”

Collins was pictured wearing the white robes of the pilgrimage. The photo was posted on the twitter account of Saudi Arabian writer and feminist Fawziah Albakr, who wrote in Arabic: “First British ambassador to the Kingdom undertakes the Hajj following his conversion to Islam. Simon Collins with his wife Huda in Mecca. Praise be to God.”

Twitter users who congratulated the Collinses included Saudi Arabia’s Princess Basmah bint Saud, who wrote: “Special congratulations to the ambassador and his wife.”

Collins was posted in Riyadh in 2015, after fleeing Syria where he represented the UK until 2012. Before that Collins was the UK’s ambassador to Qatar, after stints in the UK missions to Bahrain, Tunisia, India, Jordan and Dubai.

Are the Brits easily influenced by outside religions? You bet. In 2014 a letter was discovered by Warren Dockter, a history research fellow at Cambridge University, in which Winston Churchill is being beseeched by his future sister-in-law, Lady Gwendoline Bertie, in August 1907: “Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalize, Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.”

Lady Gwendoline cautioned: “If you come into contact with Islam your conversion might be effected with greater ease than you might have supposed, call of the blood, don’t you know what I mean, do fight against it.”

Churchill wrote Lady Lytton, also in 2007: “You will think me a pasha. I wish I were.”

Mazal tov.

David Israel

How 1970s Hassidic Hackers Created Worldwide Broadcast Network

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

By Mordechai Lightstone

This article appeared originally on Chabad.org.

This is the story of how a handful of young Hassidim set out to build a global communications network in the era before Periscope, Skype, VoIP, or even satellite or Cable TV. Their actions would sow the seeds for dozens of future Chabad-led forays into digital communications.

As Shabbat ended and the Sabbath peace faded on Saturday, Jan. 17, 1970, there was a palpable sense of excitement on the ragged streets of Crown Heights, N.Y., the Brooklyn neighborhood that’s home to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters. The previous decade had not been kind to residents. Crime rates had shot up. Blockbusting had led to so-called “white flight,” as rapidly shifting demographics and the general malaise that had begun to afflict New York City in the Lindsay administration took hold. Once home to Jews of all backgrounds, only Lubavitcher Chassidim—many of them survivors of the Holocaust and of Soviet oppression—remained en masse as a Jewish community, a harden bulwark against what locals perceived as a communal collapse.

That Shabbat, however—the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat and the day preceding it—was decidedly different.

In January 1970, for the very first time, the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen after Shabbat was broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Chassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel. Inside the “World Lubavitch Communications Center” (WLCC), Meni Wolff can be seen working on the broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

In January 1970, for the very first time, the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen after Shabbat was broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Chassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel. Inside the “World Lubavitch Communications Center” (WLCC), Meni Wolff can be seen working on the broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

At 38 degrees, the weather was relatively balmy for mid-winter, and the streets thronged with thousands of Chassidim. More than 100 guests had arrived from Israel, with even more from Jewish communities in Montreal, Los Angeles, London and beyond. It was the 20th yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory—and the date that his successor, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—assumed the mantle of leadership for the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

When the Rebbe delivered his first discourse 20 years earlier, the Chabad community in the Western Hemisphere numbered in the dozens. Under his guidance, the movement had blossomed, with some 100 Chabad Houses (outposts of Jewish observance and life) opening in communities and on college campuses large and small to serve Jews around the world.

That Friday had seen the completion of the “Sefer Torah to Greet Moshiach,” a Torah scroll begun by the Previous Rebbe in 1942. Though the majority of the scroll had been written relatively quickly, its completion had languished; by 1970, the project was all but forgotten. The week before, however, the Rebbe had announced that the Torah would be completed on Friday afternoon, the ninth of Shevat, and that a grand dedication would be held.

Inside the Jerusalem regional hub for the WLCC

Inside the Jerusalem regional hub for the WLCC

Instead of the normal hustle-and-bustle of preparation before Shabbat, that Friday the challahs had all been baked, the chicken already roasted and the matzah-ball soup put up the night before. Everyone was to be found at 770 Eastern Parkway, Lubavitch World Headquarters. In a first for the Rebbe, a photographer was brought in to officially document the day’s proceedings. Also for the first time, after Shabbat the Rebbe’s talk at the farbrengen (Hassidic gathering) would be broadcast live through a phone-line hook-up to 1,000 Hassidim gathered in the village of Kfar Chabad, Israel.

This early work done by a handful of yeshivah students in Brooklyn would ultimately serve as a catalyst for the Chabad movement’s expansion across the world of popular and digital media. It sowed the seeds for dozens of future Chabad-led projects, including the earliest roots of what has become the largest Jewish-content website to date: Chabad.org.

‘Publicity Through the Radio’

The need to promulgate Jewish thought and teachings via modern technology has deep roots in Jewish history. The mention of Jews involved in the nascent art of printing in Europe pre-dates Gutenberg and the Hebrew texts of Rashi’s commentary on the Torah, as well as the halachic treatise the Arba’ah Turim, which dates to 1475, making them Incunabula—the earliest works of the printed word.

In the 1940s, enterprising Chabad Hassidim in America and Israel began discussing Judaism on the radio. Among those shows were lectures on the Tanya (the seminal work of Chabad philosophy), begun in January 1960 on WEVD, The Forward’s Yiddish radio station.

The Jerusalem hub: The hook-up from New York would be rebroadcast from here to cities throughout Israel.

The Jerusalem hub: The hook-up from New York would be rebroadcast from here to cities throughout Israel.

The Rebbe encouraged the endeavor shortly after it began, drawing parallels to the Zohar’s reflection on the wellsprings of Divine and secular knowledge as a precursor to the Messianic era: “There is publicity through writing and print . . . there is publicity through speech . . . but the possibility of publicity through the radio is doubly advantageous. . . . The voice does not weaken, but reaches the ends of the earth with the same vigor with which it left the mouth of the speaker.”

“The audio equipment kept picking up radio waves from a local French channel and the audio was rather tinny, but to us, it was amazing. We were on a high!”

As the Rebbe’s emissaries traveled around the world—founding Jewish communities from Los Angeles to London to Melbourne, Australia—the demand to hear the Rebbe’s talks increased. Though his talks were transcribed and printed in pamphlets, and unofficial reel-to-reel recordings were swapped among friends, Jewish communities around the world yearned to take part in the farbrengens in real time.

The idea of broadcasting the Rebbe’s weekday talks was broached as early as 1959 as an extension of the radio broadcasts on Tanya and other Hassidic works by Rabbi Yonah Eidelkopf in Israel. The Rebbe rejected then, saying “the time has not yet come.”

In the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Rebbe’s leadership, yeshivah students in Israel, unable to fly to New York, broached the idea of creating a phone hook-up with the yeshivah’s staff. The Rebbe was approached, and permission was granted. The talks would be heard around the world.

Hassidic Hackers

The original broadcast was arranged by three Israeli yeshivah students, all in their 20s, who were studying in Brooklyn. Mulik Rivkin, Chaim Boruch Halberstam and Meni Wolff showed an innate technical aptitude, as well as the dedication to set the project up in the evenings and early mornings before the talk.

Their first task was to find a place in 770 to serve as command central, their center for operations. One of the small rooms near the back of the long corridor that forms the spine of 770 had a small window that looked down on the large synagogue beneath it, and more critically, had a phone line.

After the successful broadcast to Israel, other communities clamored to take part in future phone “hook-ups.” Yonasan Hackner, for example, was an English student studying in the Chabad yeshivah in the Parisian suburb of Brunoy, France. “As soon as we heard about the hook-ups,” he recalls, “we immediately started thinking about how we could have them as well.”

Wolff, right, and Chaim Baruch Halberstam working on the January broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

Wolff, right, and Chaim Baruch Halberstam working on the January broadcast. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The broadcast set the stage for future technology. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The broadcast set the stage for future technology. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

Eliezer Kalman Tiefenbrun, a local artist, began experimenting with HAM Radio and other technologies to try and bring the “hook-up” in London. He reached out Hackner for technical advice.

Together, they cold-called Halberstam in New York and began making plans to broadcast the Rebbe’s talk a month later—on Purim—in London.

In the era before Periscope, Skype, VoIP, or even satellite or Cable TV, such actions were nothing short of revolutionary.

Back then, phones in the United States (not merely the line, but the hardware itself) were owned by the communications conglomerate Bell System. In England and Israel, as well as elsewhere abroad, the phone lines were run by the national post-office system. Many aspects of phone utilization were highly regimented and mired in bureaucracy. Long-distance calls, for instance, had to be arranged in advance with the phone company, booking time beforehand with an operator. And the fee was considered prohibitively expensive, with a direct call to Israel costing $3.50 a minute in 1970.

At the same time, the 1970s were considered the “Golden Age of Phreaking”—the exploratory phone “hacking” at the cutting edge of communications. Meeting at homebrew computer clubs, future tech luminaries such as Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, all had their start at this rudimentary form of hacking.

The second hook-up, March 22, 1970, on Purim. Additional phone lines were run from other offices, as well as from neighboring buildings, to make the calls to Israel, Montreal, London and France possible. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

The second hook-up, March 22, 1970, on Purim. Additional phone lines were run from other offices, as well as from neighboring buildings, to make the calls to Israel, Montreal, London and France possible. (Photo: Mulik Rivkin Archive)

It was in this cultural milieu that a handful of Hassidic hackers sought to cobble together a working phone system to transmit the Rebbe’s talks live across the globe.

That said, Halberstam and Hackner had a number of technological hurdles to address. Even after securing the funds and booking long-distance time with an operator, they needed to ensure that the audio could be played clearly to the groups assembling in London. In addition, Hackner would be returning to France for yeshivah, so the decision was made to transmit London’s hook-up to there as well.

Hackner approached a telephone agent for advice, who said that while it technically possible to attach a phone line directly into a speaker, it wasn’t officially allowed.

Afraid to take apart the phone, Hackner and Halberstam experimented with various means of connecting microphones to the phone’s speakers. Talking long-distance, they bandied about ideas across the Atlantic for days on end and late into the night. “We had teams of yeshivah students in Montreal, South Africa—all over the world trying to build a better hook-up system,” says Hackner.

view-of-the-18-elul-farbrengen

View of the 18 Elul farbrengen from WLCC’s window to the main synagogue in 770, Sept. 13, 1976 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Initial attempts included using ACE bandages and even sink plungers to join the two.

“When I finally did take apart my phone,” recalls Hackner, “I was shaking.” In the end, they created a system that hardwired the signal from the phone into local sound systems.

In order to transmit the call further, a phone in one of the London Chabad House offices was left off the hook to pick up the audio playing on the building’s intercom.

For the actual Purim talk, Hackner was back in Brunoy. Sound equipment was sourced in Paris, and given the six-hour time difference between London and New York, late that night the students gathered in the yeshivah’s study hall.

“The audio equipment kept picking up radio waves from a local French channel, and the audio was rather tinny,” recalls Hackner, “but to us, it was amazing. We were on a high!”

Jewish communities in London, Israel, France and Montreal had been able to unite with the events taking place in Brooklyn, N.Y.

From left: Rabbis Chaim Boruch Halberstam, Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen and Yonasan Hackner at work in WLCC, Nov. 27, 1980 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

From left: Rabbis Chaim Boruch Halberstam, Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen and Yonasan Hackner at work in WLCC, Nov. 27, 1980 (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

‘On the Phone All Night’

After that, additional communities expressed interest in joining. Regional hubs were quickly set up, so that the connection from London to New York could be routed to such cities as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow, as well as to France and Israel, where it would be rebroadcast to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Kiryat Malakhi in the south and beyond. In time, the office in London routed three-quarters of the hook-ups, including lines to South Africa and Australia.

Each community was responsible for raising funds to cover their hook-up, as well as towards general operating expenses. A six-hour farbrengen then could cost upwards of $1,250 (the equivalent of about $7,800 today) and would only begin at 1 o’clock in the morning in London.

On one occasion, Hackner recalls a bewildered English operator sitting until 6 a.m., trying to figure out why people in London were taking part in a seemingly one-way call to New York.

“Whenever the Rebbe would pause from speaking,” says Hackner, “the operator would ask us if the call was over. We told him to read a book or take a nap—that we’d be on the phone all night.”

Phone trees were even set up in larger communities in Israel, London and France to alert people to “surprise” talks by the Rebbe.

A phone tree to alert residents in Paris about live hook-ups from Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. Due to the time difference, Chassidim overseas wishing to take part would have to wake up late at night to listen in.

A phone tree to alert residents in Paris about live hook-ups from Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. Due to the time difference, Chassidim overseas wishing to take part would have to wake up late at night to listen in.

On Oct. 6, 1970, a new level of innovation was attempted as well: A two-way line was established, allowing the Chassidim gathered in Kfar Chabad not only to hear the Rebbe speak, but respond to his toast of l’chaim as well.

Halberstam in New York continued to expand the infrastructure to operate the hook-ups. Dubbing the operation “World Lubavitch Communications Center”—with the acronym WLCC, and the tagline “spreading Judaism via all means of audio and visual communications”—additional phone lines were added to the room. By the end of 1970, eights lines were set up to broadcast the talks.

“The actual room still had only one physical line,” reports Halberstam. “In order to meet the sudden demand, wires were run from around the building and even from neighboring homes.”

Some 420 phone lines were ultimately run from the phone company directly into WLCC. In turn, these lines served as regional hubs to hundreds of other countries, cities, communities and private homes.

In 1972, an equalized phone line integrating radio-quality audio was installed, allowing a team of translators to give a simultaneous running translation during the Rebbe’s public weekday talks in as many as four languages over shortwave radio. The lines had the added benefit of potentially allowing the Rebbe’s talks to be broadcast over the radio.

“The Rebbe told us that he wasn’t yet ready for his public talks to be broadcast on the radio,” said Halberstam. A year later, however, the Rebbe consented.

Soon, the Rebbe’s weekday farbrengens, in addition to radio shows hosted by Rabbis J.J. Hecht and Yosef Wineberg, were broadcast over the radio on time purchased from WEVD. The radio broadcasts happened so frequently that ultimately, the mixing was done by the staff of WLCC and sent directly to WEVD’s offices at 770 Broadway. The room was also put to use during Jewish Educational Media’s live satellite broadcasts of farbrengens, and the “Chanukah Live” broadcasts in the 1980s and ’90s.

Spreading Light Around the World

Beginning in the 1980s, the “hook-up” room went through vast technological innovation.

In 1982, an automated system was built by Halberstam to directly connect people calling in to the live feed, without the need to manually connect the lines. Until that point, if a call was dropped or disconnected, the line would remain open in WLCC, effectively making it impossible to dial back in. Halberstam did the research, investigating various options used by telecommunications firms, and developed a method incorporating a password system. It also included 100 lines for on-demand call-in Torah lectures, as well as video and audio equipment to record and copy the events in the Rebbe’s court.

Rabbi JJ Hecht reads from his notes during a live running English translation of the Rebbe’s Yiddish talks at a farbrengen. The translation, later joined by others in Hebrew, French and Russian, was broadcast over shortwave radio. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Rabbi JJ Hecht reads from his notes during a live running English translation of the Rebbe’s Yiddish talks at a farbrengen. The translation, later joined by others in Hebrew, French and Russian, was broadcast over shortwave radio. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

By 1992, requests for additional phone lines came into the phone company so frequently that when work was being done on a nearby street, some 500 potential lines, in addition to fiber-optic cables, were run directly to 770. In total, 420 lines were ultimately installed, reaching 600 locations around the world.

“It was a massive undertaking,” acknowledges Halberstam. To meet the demand, additional staff members were hired. Among them was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (Y.Y.) Kazen, who began collecting and cataloging private recordings of the Rebbe’s earlier talks.

Rabbi JJ Hecht talks on the radio in WLCC’s office, March 1989. The show was broadcast on “The Forward’s” WEVD station. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

Rabbi JJ Hecht talks on the radio in WLCC’s office, March 1989. The show was broadcast on “The Forward’s” WEVD station. (Photo: JEM/The Living Archive)

WLCC served as the de facto communications hub for the Chabad movement—not only broadcasting the Rebbe’s public talks to hundreds of communities around the world, but also documenting the day-to-day happenings of the Rebbe’s court. Remote-control cameras were installed to capture people meeting the Rebbe to receive “Sunday Dollars,” and a cadre of microphones was purchased to record the Rebbe’s various talks, no matter where they took place in the synagogue.

During farbrengens, each segment would be recorded immediately and copied to tapes, allowing people to purchase tapes of the talk as soon as it had ended.

WLCC also served as a virtual incubator for many of the Chabad movement’s future forays in media and communications. The work of Eli Wiensbacher—creating phone hotlines for on-demand Torah classes—continues at the Heichal Menachem center in New York; the audio and video recordings of the Rebbe’ talks have been incorporated into Jewish Educational Media’s central archive; and the pioneering work of Kazen on early message boards would evolve into the Chabad.org website in 1993.

In recent years, the room has been re-imagined as a visitor center for the thousands of people who tour 770 every year.

Halberstam still works in the room, welcoming guests and allowing them to explore artifacts from video and audio, past and present.

“We greet hundreds of people each week,” he says. “The room continues to serve as a way of uniting communities from around the world. It’s the Chabad House for 770.”

Though retrofitted with a glass display case and computer equipment, the original switchboards and phone systems still remain.

Reflecting on the room, Hackner recalls: “It was a wonderful sight to behold. All of the switches would be lit and flipped, so it glowed like it was Chanukah in July . . . and you just knew that from this little room, such a powerful message was going out to the entire world.”

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

(Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Halberstam shows some of the custom-built computer hardware installed in the early 1990s. (Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Halberstam shows some of the custom-built computer hardware installed in the early 1990s. (Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Chabad.org)

Chabad.org

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/how-1970s-hassidic-hackers-created-worldwide-broadcast-network/2016/09/14/

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