Chabad Chayil-Highland Lakes Jewish Center has completed the first week of afternoon Hebrew school. Children enjoy a variety of classes, Judaic instruction and activities in the warm and caring atmosphere of the award-winning Chabad Center at 2601 NE 211 Terrace in North Miami Beach.
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OK, you be the judge: this is an official White House image of President Barack Obama talking with patrons during a stop at Lechonera El Barrio restaurant in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 2, 2012. To the untrained eye it’s just another press-the-flesh kind of thing, nothing special.
Except, what’s the president doing with his right hand? He definitely places it, full, open palm, over the young woman’s head, much the way many of us, frum fathers, have done to our children on Friday nights for time immemorial.
You think it’s a Kenyan minhag?
Israeli summer is in full glory – ice-cold watermelon, late-afternoon cookouts, summer camp, and the arrival of another planeload of smiling, energized immigrants from North America, courtesy of Nefesh b’Nefesh, the Jewish Agency, the Ministry of Absorption, and the Jewish National Fund.
The third flight since June 18 brought 229 Jews home on the “wings of eagles” from New York’s JFK airport.
The new Israelis – young and old, singles and large families – were greeted with tears and warm embraces from family members, as well as songs and a celebratory, 800-people welcoming ceremony organized by Nefesh b’Nefesh and its partners.
Among the dignitaries present to address the honored immigrants was Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Chairman MK Danny Danon.
“I’m honored, and we are all excited to come and greet you today because for you it’s a special moment, but also for the people of Israel,” Danon told the attendees. Offering respect to recently deceased Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir, Danon told the crowd a story about a question he once asked the respected Israeli leader.
“After I introduced him in an event in Florida many years ago, I was younger, with more hair… I asked Shamir ‘what was your great achievement? Leading the underground? Being in the Mossad? Being the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the prime minister? What was your great achievement , Mr. Shamir? He told me ‘Listen, young guy. The great thing is to bring olim to eretz yisrael [the Land of Israel]’, that’s what he believed, and that is what we are doing here today.”
However, Danon offered a stark contrast between the number of immigrants choosing Israel as their home, and the number of Africans doing the same. “Unfortunately, there are more African infiltrators who come from Africa to Israel than olim who come to Israel every year. So the government must do more,” Danon said.
“I want to tell you, the people who made the decision – for you, it was a personal decision. You chose to bring your family, you chose to come to live in Israel, you made the right decision. The best place to bring up, to educate Jewish families is here in Israel, and I know that you come from a wonderful community, but you will not regret it.”
In the 10 years since Nefesh b’Nefesh’s inception, the group has assisted 30,000 Americans, Canadians, and British Jews in making aliyah. Included in that number are 2,500 new IDF soldiers, 378 physicians and psychologists, 650 scientists and medical professionals, and 2,300 new residents in Judea and Samaria. The good times have kept on rolling after the planes landed, with immigrants celebrating 4,000 births, and 640 marriages.
Yael Katzman, Director of Communications for Nefesh b’Nefesh, said that while the organization continues to receive applications from Jews of all backgrounds and personal situations, it has noticed an increase in the number of singles and young professionals choosing to make Israel home. Nefesh b’Nefesh has responded by specializing events and information for the group.
“We’re doing all sorts of special programming for them,” Katzman said. “Next month we have a boat ride we’re organizing in the NY area so they can get together and hear about Israel and aliyah and network with each other.” Approximately 1,400 young professionals are expected to touch down in 2012.
One of those young professionals is Tag Adler, son of Yeshiva University Dean Norman Adler, who returned to Israel after several years in Los Angeles while his wife pursued her PhD, and left the illustrious Google Corporation to make Israel home.
“The market here is incredible for hi-tech in general – this is ‘startup nation’, so I knew that if I left Google, I could come here and find another job and luckily I was able to do that,” Adler said. “And there’s so much talent here and so much opportunity, that people should not be intimidated to come here to get a better job. In fact, I got a really good job, even a step up from what I was doing with someone else, so the dream can come true in Israel. You can have your cake and eat it too here in Israel.”
According to Katzman, the majority of American immigrants harken from New York and New Jersey. Among the concerns Nefesh b’Nefesh helps them address are separation from family members staying behind in the Diaspora, language barriers, and employment.
“Nefesh b’Nefesh was created on the foundation of helping people overcome the obstacles, whether it’s employment or integration or bureaucratic processing, but these are all things Nefesh b’Nefesh has tried to help with and it’s the secret to our success in the last decade,” Katzman said.
Despite criticism that Nefesh b’Nefesh has not garnered a huge surge in the number of Jews hearing the call to return to the homeland, Katzman noted that Nefesh b’Nefesh applications continue to pour in, and that the numbers are only rising. “We’re expecting close to 5,000 olim this year,” Katzman said. “We have never experienced a decrease in the number of olim – we’ve only gone up.”
Overwhelmingly, said Katzman, Nefesh b’Nefesh olim are Jews who connect deeply to their Jewishness.
“The people who are making aliyah are people who are affiliated or people who feel a strong sense of Jewish identity, they are committed,” said Katzman.
“Your family’s going to have to respect your decision that you have to live your dream, and they’re going to have to really love you and set you free to do that,” Adler said. “But ultimately you’re going to have to make that choice to live that dream.”
Here’s a list of something exciting to do in Jerusalem each night of the week. This doesn’t have to be taken literally – choose your favorites or mix and match, depending on how long you’re here. Post below with any other ideas of your own!
Saturday A classic and possibly overdone routine for Birthright groups: there’s a reason Ben Yehuda Street is always upbeat. Take a walk down and feel the love from the street performers with their unusual talents. Some do caricatures, some sing, play the harp, dance, swallow fire – there’s really no telling what to expect. There are delicious treats to pick up along the way, especially if frozen yogurt or crepes are your guilty pleasures. Along the train tracks you can stop by and grab a drink at some of the bars off of Yaffo street. Mike’s place is good to hang with the American crowd, Kings is good for dancing, and further down the street there are places to smoke hookah with a more laid back atmosphere. But don’t limit yourself to that area either. Explore some of the side streets. My friend and I decided to get creative and found another place hidden behind them with funky, Mediterranean music and a more Israeli vibe.
Sunday Emek Refaim is a place where on some days you can find a street fair with live music, art and theater. At night, take your taste buds for a tour of the area. Known for its great restaurants, you can eat your way through the neighborhood. Whether it’s Oriental, pizza, bagels or ice cream, there is an option for every craving. It’s like a little city in itself; a great way to have a more low-key night and ease into the week. Also, not far from the center of the city, you can take a starlit walk to the old city to burn off some of those calories when you’re done.
Monday The Mahane Yehuda market is a hub of chaos during the day. But every Monday night when the dried apricots are safely tucked away and all seems quiet, the street is resurrected. With only the lingering smell of the fish stands, the shuk turns into a late night party. A very hipster crowd packs the aisle and a DJ drops dance tunes. When I was there, it was a 90’s theme (score!) and people from all over the world moved to all the favorite childhood pop songs. A bar opens up in one of the stalls, with a rugelach and baked goods stand on the opposite side of the street. Take some to snack on for the way home, or pack some for the morning. The whole experience changes the perspective of the shuk and certainly makes for an entertaining evening.
Tuesday For a night with slightly more sophistication, check out Mamilla. The shopping area is beautiful with its giant stone buildings and twinkling lights. The Mamilla Hotel Bar will make you feel like a guest on a classy business trip. The hotel looks like a castle, and the bar is lit with candlelight, and features a giant projector and international beats. When I was there, the manager claimed to be featuring a DJ from Europe who cost 10,000 euro a night! Apparently a company brought him in for the night. Although it’s a little on the pricier side, the atmosphere is good for an intimate group of friends. Sip a glass of wine while watching the game or get up and dance. It’s a cool and classy way to take a trip to another country without even leaving Jerusalem!
With the Omer completed and the three weeks still a short time away, there seems to be an abundance of simchas being celebrated. Here are two easy, yet professional looking ideas to enhance any simcha. You may color coordinate these ideas for your sweet tables and the cookies make great party favors as well.
12-6 oz Plastic parfait cups
4 boxes Clear jell-o
1 box colored jell-o
Acetate paper (available at any copy center)
Invitation, monogram, name, message (i.e. It’s a Girl!)
1. Reduce the invitation, monogram or whatever you will be putting in the cup to a 1 ¾”x 1 ¾” square (you should be able to fit approximately 20 on a page).
2. Then copy onto acetate paper and cut out each section.
4. Fill parfait cups with the jello until its ½ inch from the top.
5. Allow the jello to set.
6. Once it has firmed, place cut out invitation, monogram etc, in the cup with the jello (see image).
8. Allow to firm and then fill the remaining space in the cup with it.
9. For best results allow to “sit” overnight as this will allow the colors to blend nicely.
Customized Simcha Cookies
Sugar cookie dough* (recipe below)
Square fluted cookie cutter (I used 2 ½)
Straight edge square cookie cutter (I used 2 ¼”)
Invitation, monogram, name, message (i.e. It’s a Girl!)
3/8 of an inch of coordinating ribbons (about 12” per cookie) – optional
Plastic straw – optional
Small cellophane bags – optional
1. Reduce the invitation, monogram or whatever you are using (I reduced to 2 ¼”)
2. Then copy it onto acetate paper – you should be able to fit approx 12 per page – and cut them out.
3. Roll out the cookie dough.
4. Using the fluted cookie cutter, cut out the dough.
5. Using a straw, cut out two holes – approximately ½” from top and 1” apart from each other on each cookie (see picture)
6. Then bake according to the recipe directions (see below).
7. Meanwhile roll out fondant
8. Using the square cookie cutter cut out fondant to a slightly smaller size then the cookies.
9. When the cookie has cooled, place the fondant square on top of cookie (if the fondant does not stick to the cookie try dabbing a drop of water on it).
10. Turn fondant covered cookie upside down. Push a plastic straw through the cookie holes and into the fondant. This will create holes in the fondant as well.
11. Place your cut out invitation, monogram, etc onto the fondant.
12. Use a pen to mark off holes on the paper and then using a hole puncher cut out the holes. Once again place your invitation, monogram, etc. over the fondant.
13. Push ribbon through holes (starting from the back of the cookie). You can use a toothpick to help push the ribbon through.
14. Then form a bow.
16. For a finishing touch wrap cookies in cellophane bags and ribbons.
Mazal tov and much nachas!
Sugar Cookie recipe
4 cups flour
1 cup margarine
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 T. vanilla sugar
1/4 c. orange juice
Mix flour and margarine in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and eggs; mix. Add remaining dough ingredients; mix until well-combined. Roll dough out on parchment paper or cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes.
Prominent members of Hancock Park Jewry and leading Hungarian community figures met with city attorney and district attorney candidate Carmen Trutanich over breakfast at Abbas on La Brea Ave. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and L.A. Fire Commissioner Andrew Friedman introduced Trutanich. Consul Generals Balazs Bokor of Hungary and Wolfgang Drautz of Germany represented their respective communities.
Seven men – including 4 rabbis – happened upon by an Israeli paratrooper in a closed military zone on the Hermon mountains on Monday, were on a mission of their own – to safeguard the sanctity of the Jews of the city of Metulla.
The Jewish Press’s Yishai Fleisher was on patrol during reserve duty with his paratrooper battalion on the snow-topped Hermon mountains when he happened upon an unexpected group of men. “As I was patrolling, I saw a group of people who were clearly Hareidi Jews using pitchforks on the snow, and approached them to ask what they were doing.”
As it turns out, the men – all of whom had military clearance to be in the area – were representatives of Israel’s National Center for Family Purity, and had made the trek to the Hermon to gather snow for a mikvah (ritual bath).
“The men informed me that they had clearance to be in the closed military zone for the purpose of collecting the snow for the people of Metulla,” Fleisher said.
It all began when the water of the mikvah of Metulla became dirty and had to be emptied. The local religious authorities hoped that the water would be refilled by a late spring rain, but that rain never came. Not knowing how to solve the problem, and wanting to provide the 1,500 residents of Metulla the ability to sanctify themselves in the ritual waters, as laid out in Jewish law and practice, the Rabbi of Metulla called Rabbi Shaya Pfoyfer of the Family Purity Center.
With a team of 3 additional rabbis and 3 workers, Rabbi Pfoyfer made arrangements to come to the Hermon, to collect snow for the mikvah. Jewish law requires that mikvah water be “living” – rain or snow. However, the means by which this water can be collected are laden with legal requirements and technicalities, necessitating supervision by religious authorities.
Because the snow cannot be carried in vats or other closed containers, which would render it “non-living”, or drawn, huge construction materials sacks were marred by a series of rips in the bottom, to allow the snow to be collected in an incomplete vessel, and retain its “living” status. The snow was not shoveled into the bags – which would have yet again compromised its “living” nature, but rather knocked off of snow drifts into the bags with pitchforks.
After 2 hours, 1500 liters of snow were collected in about 15 huge, ripped sacks, which rested on wooden palates. The palates were forklifted onto a waiting refrigerated truck and transported to Metulla for the mikvah.
“I took a few pictures of them, and I asked if I could join in and help fill a few bags, so that I could take part in this beautiful mitzvah,” Fleisher said. “The Hermon is a beautiful place, but taking part in this mitzvah made it all the more meaningful. Thank God for this year’s snowfall, which continues to be important for Israel and the Jewish people.”
The Hermon mountains are mentioned a few places in the Tanach, but the first mention is in Devarim (Deuteronomy), Chapter 3, Verse 8-9: “At that time we took the land from the hand of the two kings of the Amorite that were on the other side of the Jordan, from Arnon Brook to Mount Hermon – Sidonians would refer to Hermon as Sirion, and the Amorites would call it Senir”. Rashi, the great Torah commentator, notes in these passages that the names given to the Hermon by other nations were relevant because four nations contended for control of the Hermon, each giving the peaks a different name. The Torah notes this, according to Rashi, to show how desired the Land was.