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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘yeshiva’

Torah and the Secular Jew

Monday, February 18th, 2013

I’m not sure what a secular-traditional-religious home is – but that is the way Ruth Calderon describes the home in which she was raised. Although I think that could describe a modern Orthodox observant Jew too, I think it can easily describe a non observant cultural Jew. Which is what I think Ruth Calderon is.

Dr. Calderon is one of Yesh Atid’s newly elected members of the Kenesset. By her own words she is not observant. If I understand correctly her education was that of the typical secular Israeli where Tanach (bible) is taught as literature and history and not as holy writ. And yet she has done something amazing. She has founded a secular Yeshiva. I suppose that means that her school is geared towards non observant Jews who want to learn Torah similar to the way observant Yeshiva students do.

As a youth, Dr. Calderon was not satisfied with the secular treatment of Judaism she got in Israeli schools. She knew instinctively that something was missing. Mainly the entire corpus of oral law as recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud. To put it the way she did in her inaugural speech before the Kenesset (as translated from the Hebrew in The Jewish Week):

I missed depth; I lacked words for my vocabulary; a past, epics, heroes, places, drama, stories – were missing… for me, this contained – I contained – a void. I did not know how to fill that void. The Talmud is not only the source of Halacha, it is many other things as well. It rich with culture, history, humor, ethics… and much more. She goes on to tell an inspiring story about her discovery of the richness and fullness of the Talmud and described the virtual love affair she has with it to this day. That love affair led her to pursue its study – at least on a secular level and she eventually earned a doctorate in Talmudic Literature.

Because of her love of learning, her Talmud study did not end there. She learns Daf Yomi with a Chavrusa (study partner). And as mentioned she founded a secular yeshiva. She is convinced that studying the Talmud is a vital aspect of being Jewish – even if only culturally – that is missing for the secular Israeli student… lamenting the fact that the founding fathers of Zionism abandoned its study. Again, to quote Dr. Calderon:

It is impossible to stride toward the future without knowing where we came from and who we are, without knowing, intimately and in every particular, the sublime as well as the outrageous and the ridiculous. The Torah is not the property of one movement or another. It is a gift that every one of us received, and we have all been granted the opportunity to meditate upon it a we create the realities of our lives. Nobody took the Talmud and rabbinic literature from us. We gave it away, with our own hands, when it seemed that another task was more important and urgent: building a state, raising an army, developing agriculture and industry, etc. The time has come to reappropriate what is ours, to delight in the cultural riches that wait for us, for our eyes, our imaginations, our creativity. This is a truly profound and inspiring statement. She concludes her Knesset speech with a beautiful drasha – an exposition from the Talmud (Kesubos 62a) that demonstrates the kind of ethics authentic Judaism is all about… and finally ends with a prayer that is said upon entering the Knesset:

May it be Your will, Lord our God, God of our fathers and mothers, that I leave this house as is entered it – at peace with myself and with others. May my actions benefit all residents of the State of Israel. May I work to improve the society that sent me to this chamber and cause a just peace to dwell among us and with our neighbors. May I always remember that I am a messenger of the public and that I must take care to keep my integrity and innocence intact. May I, and we, succeed in all our endeavors. How beautiful it is to see a cultural -and yet still non observant Jew – extol the virtues of Judaism as expressed by our sages. There are some people who might object to a woman citing passages from the Gemarah. They might feel that it is inappropriate for a woman to even speak in public – let alone teach Torah to men. Or even learn Torah for that matter. I am not one of those people. I am on the opposite end of that spectrum. I fully support Torah study by every Jew – man or woman – who desires to do so.

Hareidim – N.I.M.B.Y.

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Hareidim – obviously they’re worse than the Settlers. Who wants them? Worse, who wants them next living next door to you.

For a supposedly open-minded and tolerant society, some Israelis are very intolerant of Hareidim. So intolerant that they don’t want them as neighbors, while simultaneously complaining about Hareidi neighborhoods being enclaves of intolerance and isolation.

In Friday’s (Jerusalem Post) In Jerusalem, the paper went on its usual rant about Hareidim (legally, mind you) acquiring more property in Jerusalem for their growing needs.

In this latest story, the (secular) residents of Ramat Sharett, who share a border with (Hareidi) Bayit V’Gan woke up nearly too late to stop the “machinations” that put them on the “forward position on the frontlines of the ongoing haredi-secular battle in Jerusalem”.

But luckily these secular residents managed to block the legal hareidi acquisition and construction, and reach a “compromise” with the city, thus acquiring one of the two plots in question for themselves, keeping it out of Hareidi hands who had legally already won it.

This of course follows up with their previous articles on Hareidim making inroads into Kiryat HaYovel, and other “last bastions” of secularism in Jerusalem, to the dismay of the less primitive and more open and tolerant secular residents.

But don’t be concerned, all these people say that Hareidim deserve to have a place to live, just not in their back yard.

But what happens when it’s not in their back yard?

Not surprisingly, it turns out these tolerant secular open-minded progressives don’t want Hareidim to have a place to live there either.

In the Jerusalem Post’s weekend magazine, they interviewed Brian Lurie, the new president of the New Israel Fund (NIF) and Naomi Paiss, their VP of public relations.

There’s so much disgusting stuff to talk about in that article, but one particular paragraph caught my eye.

As you may have guessed from above, there are so few communities that want to let Hareidim in, for fear of them taking over.

As a result, the Hareidim have been working on building in their own towns and cities (one in the Negev, one in Wadi Ara), where they can let their hair down, and not worry about bothering secular Jews with the threat of encroachment.

But, the NIF and other progressive group don’t like the idea that Hareidim should build all-Hareidi towns for themselves. And so they try to block it.

The Jerusalem Post quotes Naomi Paiss, NIF’s VP for public relations,

“…the NIF was involved in a campaign to change what was set up to an all-haredi 50,000-person city placed in the Harish wadi area [JS: think Baqa Al-Gharbiya and Umm el Qutuf] between a regular middle-class town of ordinary Jewish people, a kibbutz down the road and an Arab village up the hill.”

Paiss says the new city would have ruined an area where pluralism is working by artificially throwing in a new ghetto.

She says she has no problem with Hareidim moving into the new development, but the NIF is proud it has suceeded in making the new development open to all.

So let’s analyze her statement, down the road is a left-wing kibbutz ghetto. Up the hill is an exclusively Arab village ghetto (Baka Al-Gharbiya – Arab population 32,000+, Jewish population: 0). And somewhere nearby is a ghetto of middle-class ordinary (presumably secular) Israelis (who would of course welcome in Hareidim with open arms to their town).

So despite all those other ghettos nearby, a new Hareidi ghetto would have ruined the pluralism of the the area. Really.

I don’t know about you, but the hypocrisy is just reeking.

And perhaps there’s something else that Paiss isn’t actually telling us either.

This area, Wadi Ara, is actually an area overwhelmingly populated by Arabs, and not Jews, though it appears to me that she wants you to think otherwise by mentioning a kibbutz and Jewish town alongside and Arab village.

If I were a suspicious fellow, I’d wonder if perhaps the NIF fears that Hareidim moving in, with their high birth rates, would Judaize the Wadi Ara area. While a “pluralistic” town, “open to all” would prevent that from happening.

But I’m not a suspicious fellow, and I’m sure that wasn’t a consideration, even if she implied that there was only a small Arab village nearby, and not a few, including one with over 32,000 Arab residents.

Is it True that ‘No One Really Frum Has a TV’?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I’m not going to comment on the substance of Rabbi Daniel Schneierson’s post on YWN, entitled, “Is Chemistry Important?” People can make their own judgments about the importance of chemistry between a dating couple. On that topic, I will just say that a lot of what he says has merit – but I reject the idea that chemistry is not important.

What troubled me about his essay is the following offhand comment which he puts into parentheses: Nowadays no one really frum has a TV…

With this comment he has just wiped out of Orthodoxy most of observant Jewry including many Haredim. (I don’t know him personally but if he is not Haredi – he sure sounds like it in this post.)

I am not going to debate the value of TV. I’ve discussed that issue many times. Suffice it to say that many of the criticisms of the right are true. But just like the internet, there is both good and bad in TV. And just like the internet, it ought not be banned or treated like hilul Shabbos to own one as Rabbi Schneierson does.

The problems with TV do not begin and end with Haredim. Nor even with Jews. There are many people who feel that TV is nothing more than a vast wasteland. And that one could spend their time much more productively without one. You don’t have to be a Haredi Jew to know that. Nor is it lost on decent people of all religions that there is way too much immorality on TV. I’m not going to argue any of that because it’s true.

But to make a blanket statement that nobody frum has a TV anymore (especially in a sort of humorous good natured tongue in cheek sort of way) proves just how isolated the fellow is… and how isolated he wants his community to be.Not because not owning a TV makes you isolated. But because identifying those who own one as not being frum. It is no secret that in his circles – not interacting with non frum Jews is an ideal they pursue. That’s why they try to isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as possible. And it is why they reject some children from their schools. Children from homes that have a TV or the internet. They do not want to be ‘tainted’ by the ‘goyishe’ values children from those homes bring to the school.

This attitude is so arrogant and narrow minded that it boggles the mind that one can even make a statement like that let alone believe it… and by mentioning it in passing, he insinuates that we all already know that… he is just reminding us of it.

This man is a Rebbe (Shoel U’Meishiv) in a yeshiva. And he is teaching his students to think of any Jew with a TV as not frum. And he teaches it in the most insidious way – in a semi humorous post as a foregone conclusion, without any qualification.

This is the”my way or the highway” attitude of so many Haredim. And the mechanchim they produce make it very dangerous one. He is teaching intolerance whether he realizes it or not. Owning a TV makes one not frum and therefore a purposeful sinner. One must not intermingle with purposeful sinners because they will influence you to sin.

I know he means well. He thinks by insinuating that frum people don’t own TVs it will reinforce the idea of just how bad owning a TV is. He believes that owning a TV is so dangerous to your Frumkeit that he subliminally teaches you to consider TV owners as not observant. After all the definition of being Frum has historically been whether one keeps Shabbos. According to Rabbi Daniel Schneierson the new definition of being frum is not owning a TV. He subconsciously implants in the mind of those over which he has influence that owning a TV is like hilul Shabbos.

The fact that there are entire communities of Jews that own TVs and that there are not insignificant numbers of moderate Haredim among them – doesn’t phase him. He probably writes them off as not frum too.

The Frum Student’s Alternative to Yeshiva in Israel

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Most students who attend Orthodox Jewish high schools in America are strongly encouraged – either formally or informally – to spend at least the year following graduation studying in a yeshiva in Israel, and a majority of them do.

That year spent in Israel is a cherished luxury for those who yearn to focus all their energy, nearly all day, nearly every day, absorbing the canonical Jewish texts and commentaries, without the distractions of secular life or study.

But not all observant high school graduates are prepared to sit and study Jewish texts for upwards of 10 hours a day, for an entire school year.  For those students, the choice has long been either giving in to pressure and signing up for an unwanted tour of duty that too often has unpleasant if not downright dangerous consequences, or to forgo altogether what may be the last opportunity to study Jewish text in the Jewish homeland at all.

Not anymore.

A speical program in Israel for post high school observant boys from the Diaspora has appeared on the scene.  This program is known as a “mechina,” and, at least thus far, its combination of text study with Zionist and educationally-inspired tiyulim (hikes), chesed (community service) and rigorous physical activity has provided the right answer for those who want to live in Israel before college, but for whom a traditional yeshiva was not the best fit.

Like a yeshiva, a mechina is based on traditional Torah learning, but it also dedicates a significant chunk of its curriculum to developing Torah-based leadership skills and real-life tools outside of the classroom.

Noah Lerner, from Edison, New Jersey will be attending Rutgers University next year.  This year Lerner is at Mechinat Yeud, a two year old program on the outskirts of Efrat.  Despite being from an observant family, Lerner was not planning on spending a year in Israel. He was eager to get on with college and move swiftly towards his goal of becoming a successful businessman. But now that he is more than halfway through his mechina year, Lerner could not be happier about his decision.

It was only by accident that Lerner found out about Mechinat Yeud.  He was sitting in the library during a free period in the beginning of his senior year, when he was approached and told there was someone in another room talking about a program in Israel that was not a yeshiva.  Lerner went to the session more out of boredom than interest in the program, but was excited by what he heard.

The learning is very important at Yeud, but what Lerner really loves is the opportunity to immerse himself in Israeli culture, “to have The Land be the classroom, to see the places I’ve learned about, to strengthen my Jewish identity in a way I’ll never have the opportunity to do again.”

A typical week at Yeud consists of rigorous learning sessions and lectures by leading Torah scholars, but also learning through experiences such as hikes Yam l’Yam (from the Mediterranean to the Kinneret), explorations of archeological digs, krav maga sessions, modified IDF boot camp, sessions on biomedical ethics and Jewish Law, volunteering at an animal therapy center, sessions on Jewish leadership roles in their future communities and working with “little brothers” with special needs or from underprivileged homes in the local communities.

Shmil Atlas is the executive director of Mechinat Yeud.  He recently spoke at length with The Jewish Press in an effort to explain what he hoped to achieve by creating Yeud. He said he and Rav Yaacov Shapiro, the founder and head of Yeud institutions – there is a Midreshet Yeud as well – had a vision of creating something dramatic and different with a year long educational program for observant young men from the diaspora.

Atlas says there are currently two ways the Modern Orthodox world responds to the secular world.  One is to become more isolated, to withdraw into what comes closer to a charedi experience, in order to shut out the outside world.  The other way is to daven, to engage in chevrusa learning, but when not specifically engaged in prayer or Jewish learning, to step completely outside of the “bubble” and act exactly like everybody else, i.e. not live as if Jewish values bind you when not engaging in “Jewish” life.

Israeli Haredim Becoming Black Hat Professionals

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Besides becoming more like their “Agudah” counterparts in the United States, thousands of Israeli Haredim also have enlisted in special fields in the IDF, belying accusations that they are “draft dodgers.”

“The move from the yeshiva to the university is based on economics, not ideology,” explains Israeli journalist Yisrael Gellis.

He told The Jewish Press, “Young married yeshiva students reached the conclusion they have to work to support their families.

“Approximately 25,000 Haredim have been learning as far back as five years ago, but the media always disparage them and do not report the new trend.”

The “Open University,” which allows students to learn at home, has attracted more than 600 Haredim, according to Gellis. Significantly, 150 of them are from what Gellis calls one of the most “fanatic” Haredi sects. Yeshiva rabbis have encouraged the new trend  but “without force,” Gellis said.

He added that many Haredim have found themselves without work after receiving university degrees because some secular employers are prejudiced against them.

A study by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, cited by the Globes business newspaper, sheds light on the “new Haredim.”

The students include more than 2,000 Haredim, approximately half of whom said their choice of a profession to study was personal and not based on market demand or the potential for career promotion.

The students are attending universities and colleges to learn professional skills through the Kemach Foundation for Promoting Haredi Employment. The organization, heavily financed by the Wolfson Foundation and other philanthropic contributors, offers scholarships to 6,000 Haredi students, almost all of whom are married with children. Women account for 20 percent of the students.

The Ministry of Industry has a long-term plan to being Haredim as well as Arabs into the work force.

An overwhelming majority of the Haredi students’ families have support from their families and spouses, according to the study.

However, a sizable minority of 30 percent said they are studying despite lack or support or outright opposition towards a new lifestyle.

The government report unintentionally noted the center-left and secular bias against Haredim, stating that the growth in the number of Haredi students studying contradicts “pessimistic assessments.”

Gellis also told The Jewish Press that despite the popular secular claim that Haredim avoid the military draft, an increasing number of Haredi youth have opted for the IDF’s special programs that trains them for technical skills.

More than 5,000 Haredi youth have enlisted in the IDF’ Shakhar KaKhol (Blue Dawn) program that offer Israeli youth an 18-month study program to acquire technical skills that are then used in the Air Force and which give them employment opportunities after completing military service.

Does the Very Air in Israel Make One Wise?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

“Charedim in Israel are street thugs who use murderous violence to settle issues among themselves!” That is the impression one would get after reading about recent events there.

Of course that is not true. I know many Israeli Charedim. I live among them when I visit Israel. The ones I know are extremely gentle people for whom the word violence does not even enter into their lexicon, let alone that it would ever be used to settle conflict. I have never met any Charedi in my entire over 60 years on this earth that was in the slightest way violent.

The Torah (Genesis 25:27) tells us “Yaakov Ish Tam Yoshev Ohalim,” Jacob (In contradistinction to his brother Esav who was a hunter) was a person who “sat in tents.” If anyone can be called “The People of the Book” it is the Charedi world in Israel. Their biggest “sin” if you will – is that they spend as much time in study halls (tents) as they can. Their most “violent” acts are debating interpretations of Gemarah and Halacha with their study partners. I think that is true for the vast majority of Israeli Charedim of the Lithuanian variety. “Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam” (1st Mishna in Peah) does not exactly inspire violence.

So what happened in Jerusalem last week was most definitely an exception to the rule. From Israel Hayom:

“Rabbis’ emissary cruelly attacked in Jerusalem by lawless men who tried to murder him,” the headline of the newspaper HaPeles screamed in red ink after the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Nati Grossman, was attacked last Thursday by two haredi men who stabbed him in the head and fled.

Like I said, this is an exception. The problem is that there have been too may exceptions like this in Israel in the not too distant past. One may recall similar violence surrounding who would be Rav Shach’s successor as Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevitch Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

To say that this is a Chilul HaShem is an understatement. Supporters of two of the Charedi world’s leading Rabbanim, 98 year old Rav Aharon Leib Steinman and Rav Shmuel Auerbach (son of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ZTL) are literally killing each other over who will become the head of Lithuanian Charedi Jewry in Israel. The undisputed head until his death was Rav Elyashiv. But now that leadership is in dispute.

The very idea that violence will solve this issue is so ridiculous that it makes those violent Charedi supporters of these rabbis look like imbeciles. Not to mention the obvious fact that it makes them look like common street thugs.

Can anyone imagine this ever happening in the counterpart Lithuanian Yeshiva type communities in America? When Rav Ahron Kotler died, did Rav Moshe Feinstein’s supporters go around sticking knives into people’s heads who had other candidates in mind? The very thought of something like that happening in the world of Amercian Charedi Judaism is so ridiculous that it is laughable.

There is no such thing as a “candidate” for being a Gadol. That status is earned and is a form of recognition by the masses. One becomes accepted as a Gadol by his works. He has either published major works in Torah, or by creating a new societal paradigm for Torah study as did Rav Aharon Kotler. Or by being a great leader and teacher of Torah who has attracted many thousands of followers as did the Rav. Or any number of ways in which Torah scholarship combined with leadership skills has transformed them into greatness recognized by many people.

There are no elections. There are no committees of rabbis who decide who is or isn’t a Gadol. There are no backroom political deals in smoke filled backrooms to choose a compromise candidate. And certainly they are not chosen by supporters who resort to violence against his competition. Greatness does not work that way. Not in Judaism.

But don’t tell that to supporters of great people in Israel. They think violence in pursuit of their candidate is a God given mandate for them. Kind of like the way their extremist counterparts in places like Meah Shearim act when they want to get their way. I guess they feel about their extremism on religious issues the way Barry Goldwater felt about liberty. Except that I don’t think Barry Goldwater ever supported violence against his political opponents.

An Ignorant Student

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

It is almost as if he were responding to my post from yesterday. Rabbi Yonason Goldson who teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis agrees that there is a problem with Jewish education. But he seems to be going in the opposite direction of what I have perceived to be the problem.

In an article on Beyond BT he laments the fact that there are so many students who have gone through “the system” ( including a year of study in Israel) at an estimated quarter million dollar expense – and yet feel that they are ignorant of Judaism (as was reported in the case of one student written about in a Jewish Action piece).

He ultimately blames this phenomenon on the “dumbing down” of Jewish education by lowering expectations. Here is how he puts it:

Unfortunately, Jewish schools and educators have not been immune to the lunacy sweeping the educational enterprise—suppression of competition, safeguarding students’ feelings at all costs, promoting self-esteem over academic achievement and dumbing down coursework to the level of the least-capable student. What has been lost is the insistence on excellence, an aggressive curriculum of core subjects (both Jewish and secular) and devotion to hard work.

It is quite surprising to see that kind of evaluation of Jewish education in light of so many educators who have published articles lamenting just the opposite: That there is too much emphasis on academic achievement, too aggressive a curriculum, and too much hard work.

And yet I think I understand where he is coming from. So how can there be such a contradiction? How can we on the one hand be overly aggressive and competitive to the point of allowing less intelligent or motivated kids to fall through the cracks and become at great risk for going OTD or worse? And on the other hand dumbing down education to the lowest common denominator?

I think it depends on the school and the environment. The OTD problems that occur because of the pressure to excel definitely exists in both the Charedi world and the Modern Orthodox (MO) world.

It is a rather well known phenomenon that Charedi schools are becoming ever more selective in who they accept leaving out a great many students who are relatively bright but simply do not measure up to the highly competitive standards of the school. And these schools are constantly pushing the envelope of Torah learning in an effort to “outgun” the competitions as the top school in Limudei Kodesh (which consists almost exclusively of Talmud study).

The same is true of many MO schools where the push for excellence in secular studies puts tremendous pressure on students – many of whom simply can’t hack the pressure. And yet parents push their kids to the limit – and beyond – so that they will qualify for entry into a prestigious ivy league school or the like.

There is no dumbing down in these schools. Just a lot of pressure.

But I understand that there are parents who do not want their kids to be so pressured. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a parent complain about their child’s long day in a Yeshiva High School… saying it is too much for them… that they should be given a little more free time – perhaps eliminating night seder so they can relax and be more refreshed for the next day.

School administrators are not deaf. Especially in smaller towns. If the majority of parents want a lighter day and/or curriculum, they will respond to them. Or close.

Rabbi Goldson must be experiencing this kind of school. Cities with relatively small Orthodox populations do not have the kind of pressure cities like New York and Lakewood have. The parent in St. Louis does not feel the need to compete with or outdo the “the school down the block.” Because there is no school down the block.

But I don’t know that any of these paradigms sufficiently explain why the student described above felt he was ignorant of Judaism. While I agree that dumbing down education is a bad move and can contribute to that student’s feelings. I don’t think that explains it.

Making the curriculum harder and more competitive without examining what the actual curriculum just means that a Charedi school for example will increase the amount of time their students will study Gemarah.

In the MO school it might mean increasing the secular curriculum and/or workload. In my view both scenarios will not give the student in question any better insight into his Judaism. It isn’t only how hard one studies, butwhatone studies.

What needs to be done in both cases is to broaden the curriculum to include the study of Judaism itself, not just Gemarah or secular studies. Yeshivos need to introduce studies like Jewish philosophy, Jewish history and Jewish ethics. Mussar, Navi, Machshava, and Hashkafa, are sorely understudied in most institutions if they are studied at all. There ought to be some time taken off from Gemarah study in Charedi schools and from secular studies in MO schools to make room for these very important parts of Judaism.

This is what is lacking most in the academic life of that ‘ignorant’ student. I doubt that it had as much to do with his curriculum being dumbed down as it does by what his lack of a fuller Jewish curriculum. I doubt for example that he did not spend his year in Israel in intensives study. But it was probably exclusively Gemarah if his experience was typical. So he may end up knowing a lot about the amount of damages one must pay if his ox gores another ox. Or how to return lost objects to their owners. But when it comes to the meaning of Judaism he will be the one who is lost.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

My Machberes

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Satmar Celebration Cliffhanger

Every year the worldwide Satmar community celebrates the Holocaust rescue of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l (1886-1979), founding Satmar Rebbe and author of Divrei Yoel. He was succeeded by his nephew, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, zt”l (1914-2006), Satmar Rebbe and author of Beirach Moshe. He, in turn, was succeeded by his two sons: Rabbi Aaron and Rabbi Zalman Leib.

This year the celebrations will take place on Tuesday night, December 4, the eve of 21 Kislev.

The location of the commemoration by followers of Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe and younger successor to the Beirach Moshe, had until recently been undetermined. Multiple articles in the weekly Yiddish newspaper Der Yid waxed loud and rousing about the upcoming celebration, predicting that thousands upon thousands would participate. But the articles failed to identify where exactly the celebration would take place.

The followers of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe and older successor to the Beirach Moshe, announced early on (see My Machberes, Nov. 9) that their celebration would be held at the Williamsburg Marcy Armory, location of many major Satmar events. In fact, last year’s celebration by the followers of Rabbi Zalman Leib took place at the Williamsburg Marcy Armory, while the followers of Rabbi Aaron used the National Guard Armory in Crown Heights. (Both armories have more than 60,000 square feet available for use.)

In preparation for Satmar’s 21 Kislev celebrations last year, use of the two armories were negotiated between the controlling governmental agencies and both Satmar groups. Accordingly, whatever choice was settled in 2011 would be reversed in 2012. Use of the Williamsburg Armory was the preferred choice but followers of Rabbi Aaron, reviewing weekend traffic patterns and area parking availability, elected to use the National Guard Armory in Crown Heights in 2011 and the Williamsburg Armory in 2012.

Hurricane Sandy Interferes

Abruptly, in the midst of planning and preparation, the Northeastern U.S. was slammed by Hurricane Sandy. The Crown Heights Armory was mustered into service as an emergency shelter for victims of the superstorm. In addition, emergency equipment being used to help in the post-storm cleanup were parked there in off-hours. Every square inch of space was being used.

The Crown Heights Armory seemed unlikely to be available to Rabbi Zalman Leib’s followers for this year’s celebration. The Jacob J. Javits center in Manhattan was their second choice.

But on November 15, the Crown Heights Armory advised the group that the site would be available for the December 4 celebration and its preparations.

Bright and early on Monday morning, November 19, planners and laborers descended on the armory in order to transform its 60,000 square feet of empty space into comfortable accommodations for the thousands expected to participate in the celebration. Curtains will decorate the walls; extra lighting as well a sophisticated sound system will be installed. A temporary kitchen, bathrooms, as well as enough sinks for all to wash their hands must be in place. Hanging space for thousands of coats must be fitted in, together with the maximum seating space, all within the rules and regulations of the building and fire departments.

Work continues daily so that everything will be in place for the night of the celebration.

Celebration Publications

All participants at the Williamsburg Armory celebration will receive sefer Mishulchan Melachim Volume II, a compilation of discussions that Rabbi Aaron, Satmar Rebbe, had with chassidishe rebbes, rabbis, and roshei yeshivas who visited him at his home. Their free flowing discussions were recorded and transcribed. The conversations touched all areas of Torah knowledge, including law, customs and lore. The talks were wide and deep, revealing the Satmar Rebbe as a master of halachic development as well as of the histories of chassidishe rebbes. Originally they were distributed weekly in Kol Hisachduseiniu, published by Kollel Atzei Chaim (Satmar) in Bnei Brak. The column was titled Mishulchan Melachim (From the Table of Kings) and was well received.

The first volume of sefer Mishulchan Melachim was published last year, for the 21 Kislev 5772 celebration. The sefer contained comprehensive indexes for names and subjects. Every copy of the 10,000 that were published was eagerly grabbed up. This year’s volume is eagerly anticipated. The first volume encompassed the Satmar Rebbe’s discussions during 5769 (2008-9).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/my-machberes/my-machberes-45/2012/11/29/

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