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AISH  Empty Re: AISH

Post  Admin on Tue 17 Sep 2019, 7:49 pm

But I Haven’t Changed All Year!
Sep 5, 2015  |  by Sara Debbie GutfreundBut I Haven’t Changed All Year!
4 common thoughts that block change before Rosh Hashanah.
https://www.aish.com/h/hh/gar/fulfillment/But-I-Havent-Changed-All-Year.html?s=mm
“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life,” leadership expert Robin Sharma once said. Soon it will be Rosh Hashanah and I feel almost exactly the way I did the year before. Could all this time have gone by without me making any real changes? Am I going in circles, living the same year over and over again?

What are the key thoughts that block us from change every year and how do we dispel them?

1. Thinking that we can’t learn. We become so entrenched in our habits and our routines that many of us believe that we can’t learn how to begin again. But there is a saying: If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. But when you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. There are countless scholars and successful people in every field who struggled when they first started out, but they were determined to learn. We are not imprisoned by our past; it’s never too late to learn new ideas and change the story.

2. Believing that we tried everything. Many people try to change and give up after trying different approaches. But as Thomas Edison warned, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.” Often we feel like giving up right before we are about to find our answers. We feel like quitting right before we are about to succeed. The path to success is only through failure. As long as we are alive, there are more possibilities and more ideas to try. Every failed approach is a lesson that brings us closer to our goals.

3. Thinking we can remain the same. Even if we’re on the right track, we’ll get run over if we just sit there. Sometimes it seems like the safest route for us is to remain in our comfort zones and not change at all. But not growing doesn’t keep us in the same place; it pulls us down. And when we are down we begin to think that since we have already veered off track, we might as well push off changing for tomorrow. Or next week when our schedules are easier. Or perhaps next month we’ll try again. But when we find ourselves in a hole, the first thing we need to remember is to stop digging. Don’t run back to what broke you. Keep moving forward, however slowly you need to go.

4. Forgetting that we are created in the image of God. Rabbi Noah Weinberg ztz”l said, “Treat yourself with the same awesomeness that you would a volcano. There is tremendous energy available. You just need to tap into it. Open yourself up to see your real potential. Stop looking at what you are. Look at what you can be.” You have the potential for greatness. Instead of knocking yourself, at the end of each day, focus on something that you did right that day and take pleasure in your accomplishment. Connect to the Divine spark within. You can’t change if you’re constantly putting yourself down. Treat yourself as if you have extraordinary power to change yourself and the world around you at any moment. Because you do.

This Rosh Hashanah, let’s all take one concrete step forward in improving ourselves and taste the sweetness it brings to the new year.
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Post  Admin on Sun 15 Sep 2019, 10:20 pm

Queen Wilhelmina and the Munkaczer Rebbe
Sep 14, 2019  |  by Rabbi Yaakov Cohen
54
SHARES
A royal encounter and the importance of gratitude.
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Queen-Wilhelmina-and-the-Munkaczer-Rebbe.html?s=mm
With thanks to Rabbi Paysach Krohn for publishing this story as well as to Rabbi Nachum Aaronson and Rabbi Motel Aaronson for 


About the Author
Rabbi Yaakov CohenMore by this Author >
Rabbi Yaakov Cohen grew up in New York and earned his Bachelors in Psychology, his Rabbinic Ordination and his Masters in Education and Administration; all from Yeshiva University. He now lives in Chicago, IL where he works as the Judaic Studies Principal of Akiba Schechter Jewish Day School and Educational Director at NCSY. Rabbi Cohen is a passionate educator and an inspiring speaker who has travelled throughout the country speaking for organizations, schools, synagogues and universities on a variety of topics and to audiences of various sizes and affiliations. Rabbi Cohen is a community leader and is actively involved with several local organizations and synagogues.



Eli Cohen: The Real Story of Mossad's Master Spy
Sep 14, 2019  |  by Jerusalem U
How did his dangerous work help Israel and what led to his identity finally being revealed?

https://www.aish.com/jw/me/Eli-Cohen-The-Real-Story-of-Mossads-Master-Spy.html?s=mm
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Post  Admin on Thu 12 Sep 2019, 8:47 pm

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Britains-Kitchener-Camp-Saved-4000-German-Jews.html?s=mm
Britain's Kitchener Camp Saved 4,000 German Jews
Sep 9, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Britain's Kitchener Camp Saved 4,000 German Jews
The little known story is now being told.

Life for German and Austrian Jews had become steadily more restricted ever since the Nazis were elected to power in Germany in 1933. Then on November 9, 1938, mobs ran wild in the streets of German and Austrian cities, vandalizing Jewish homes and businesses, burning synagogues and terrifying and beating up Jews.

That night, which became known as Kristallnacht, nearly 100 Jews died and hundreds of buildings were destroyed. 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps in the aftermath.

Jews scrambled to leave, but there were very few places in the world willing to take in desperate Jewish refugees. The Jewish men confined to concentration camps in 1938 were told they were free to leave - if they could find a country willing to take them in. It proved an almost impossible task.

The Jews of Britain came together to help. In 1933, with Hitler’s rise to power, a group of prominent Jews, including Anthony de Rothschild, Otto Schiff, Simon Marks (chairman of the famous department stores Marks & Spencer), and Dr. Chaim Weitzman (who later became the first President of Israel), had formed the Central British Fund for German Jewry (CBF). In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the CBF came up with two audacious plans to rescue Jews.

The CBF brought about 10,000 Jewish children to Britain in 1938 and 1939 in a massive program that was called the “Children’s Transport”, or Kindertransport.
After the horror of Kristallnacht the British government relaxed the rules of entry of certain categories of people. Unaccompanied refugee children could enter the country, receiving a temporary travel visa, if private citizens guaranteed they would pay for each child’s education, care and eventual ticket out of the country. The CBF organized British citizens to guarantee the expenses.

Kitchener camp, 1939. Georg Benjamin, front left. Courtesy http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/

Some Jewish women were allowed into Britain on two year “domestic” worker visas in order to alleviate the servant shortage. (My own grandmother was among these Jewish women whose lives were saved because British households wanted a supply of cheap domestic servants.) But the 30,000 Jewish men who languished in Nazi concentration camps had no options. No country wanted them.

The CBF got to work, lobbying officials to take in these Jewish men. Britain’s government didn't want refugee camps on its soil. Housing German citizens, whatever their religion, was seen as particularly risky. But the CBF gained permission for a transit camp. A disused military camp called Kitchener camp in the southern English county of Kent was requisitioned to provide temporary shelter. Up to 5,000 men could be brought to Kitchener if the CBF pledged funds to support their upkeep.

Kitchener camp, 1939, Moshe Chaim Gruenbaum, http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/

Time was short and the CBF started bringing Jewish men from concentration camps to England in February 1939. The Jewish community turned to a pair of Jewish brothers, Jonas and Phineas May, who’d previously helped run the Jewish Lads Brigade, a youth group, to run the camp. With their background in running summer camps, the CBF thought Jonas and Phineas could help welcome the traumatized Jewish men.

Lothar Nelken was a judge in Germany who’d been fired from his post for being Jewish and imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp. He arrived in Kitchener camp on July 13, 1939. “At around 9pm we arrived in the camp,” he recorded in his diary. “We were welcomed with jubilation…The beds are surprisingly good. One sleeps as if in a cradle.”

Eventually thousands of Jewish men called Kitchener Camp home. “It was necessary to start a system for admitting 400 men a day,” Phineas wrote on June 14, 1939.

Kitchener camp, Jack Agin, Cook, 1939. Source: Clare Ungerson’s Four Thousand men,
with the kind permission of the Wiener Library

The camp bustled with life. Shabbat services, classes, a newspaper, several bands all occupied the camp’s swelling population. The camp also hosted weddings between the refugees and their fiancées who’d manage to make it out of Nazi Europe. The men hoped to bring their wives and children over to start new lives in England. As war became more likely, the mood in the camp plummeted. Jewish women and children left behind in Nazi Europe were in grave danger.

By September 3, 1939, when World War II was declared, about 4,000 Jewish men had been brought to Kitchener camp. With the world at war, the men realized their families wouldn’t be able to join them.

Many of the refugees were determined to fight Nazis. “Kitchener men” were allowed to join Britain’s Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, a logistics division that helped plan British military invasions. Over 800 Kitchener refugees accompanied the British Army as they fought in northern Europe in 1940. After the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, the Kitchener refugees were brought back to England.

After France fell to the Nazis in 1940, the public mood changed and British authorities were uncomfortable having so many German-born men on English soil. Refugees who’d enlisted to fight were allowed to remain in the army. Other refugees were moved to internment camps, mainly on the remote Isle of Man; many of the refugees were sent to Canada and Australia. Few saw their families ever again.

For 70 years, the story of Kitchener camp was very little known. It is now being told. On September 2, 2019, a plaque was unveiled in the town of Sandwich, near the camp, marking the remarkable story of 4,000 Jewish men who were rescued. Phineas and Jonah May’s children were present, as were the descendants of some of the refugees whose lives were saved at Kitchener.

One descendent who attended was Paul Secher, whose father Otto arrived in the camp in May 1939. “My father didn’t talk about it very much,” Secher said. “I sensed it was a painful subject for him. He managed to escape (Germany) but his parents and a sister didn’t. The burden must have been immense.”
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Sep 2019, 10:25 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/sam/Darwinism-Judaism-and-the-Clash-between-Science-and-Religion.html?s=mm
Darwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
Sep 8, 2019  |  by Melanie PhillipsDarwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism.

Yale University professor of computer science David Gelernter has renounced his previous belief in Darwinian evolution.

Writing that he was sad to give up on “a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory,” he said he had concluded that it couldn’t explain the big picture – not the fine-tuning of existing species, but the emergence of new ones.

Whether or not his argument is well-founded is a discussion for another time. The point here is that it’s unsayable by anyone who isn’t prepared to risk professional and social suicide.

Darwinism, said Gelernter, had passed beyond a scientific argument. Although his Yale colleagues had treated him in a courteous and collegiate manner, people took their life in their hands to question Darwinian evolution.

“They will destroy you if you challenge it,” he said. There was nothing approaching free speech on this topic. “It’s a sort of bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged, violent rejection, which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion.”
 
Gelernter’s conclusions about Darwinism have derived principally from his analysis of the statistical probability of the evolution of new species. Yet anyone who queries Darwinism is immediately labeled “anti-science” and accused of being a religious nut.

Indeed, the pushback against Gelernter’s apostasy has included the observation that he is a religious Jew. Apparently, the only reason he could possibly have come to this “denialist” conclusion, says one pro-evolution website, is that he views science through “Old Testament goggles.”

In fact, a belief that’s unchallengeable has the characteristic of religious faith. That’s why Gelernter calls Darwinism a religion.

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced?
There are plenty of other unsayables in our thought-policed society. Human-made global warming, for example, is considered beyond challenge because the science of that theory is said to be “settled.” This is, in fact, anti-science dogma because nothing is ever settled in science, which is always open to fresh challenges.

So how come our scientific age promotes anti-science ideas more akin to religious doctrine and calls them science?

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced? Why has debate been so widely replaced by hateful insults? And how come this has been accompanied by an upsurge in anti-Semitism, often among precisely the same subscribers to the liberal anti-racist “woke” agenda?

There may be a connection here that is generally overlooked. And it involves the Jews.

At the core of all this moral and intellectual confusion lies an onslaught against the core principles of Western civilization on the grounds that these are innately exclusive, prejudicial and oppressive.

That’s because they are rooted in biblical values that are held to be cruel, obscurantist and inimical to reason, enlightenment, and generosity of spirit.

By contrast, the secular agenda is believed to stand for all good things associated with modernity, such as kindness, rationality, and progress.

The West tells itself that modernity sprang from a repudiation of religion in the 17th-century Enlightenment.

In fact, as a new book points out, Christianity remains at the core of contemporary Western thinking even among those who disdain it. "Dominion," by the British historian Tom Holland, is a magisterial analysis of the way in which Christian values have shaped the West and still do so even in the most unlikely places.

His book is not merely a fascinating account of the extraordinary reach and persistence of Christianity, which has evolved and adapted down through the generations and across societies. He also argues that Christian values, which have sometimes led to slavery, empire, and war, nevertheless lie at the core of what makes the West civilized and good.

This has startled people for whom it is axiomatic that only secularism produces goodness while religion produces only bad stuff. But Holland points out that even attacks by secular liberals on Christian thinking are motivated by Christian values of tolerance and fairness.

Of course, there’s an elephant in this particular room. For although these core Western principles were introduced and spread by Christianity, their origin lay in the Hebrew Bible.

Holland pays due regard to the Jewish foundations of Christianity and also to the terrible way that Christianity has behaved in the past towards the Jews.

But what so many overlook is that moral principles assumed to have been invented by Christianity, such as compassion, fairness, looking after the poor or putting others first, were all introduced to the world by the Hebrew Bible.

It is Judaism’s Mosaic code that gave the West its conscience and the roots of its civilization by putting chains on people’s selfish appetites. And strikingly, every contemporary ideology that aims to undermine or transform the West is based on opposition to Jewish religious beliefs, Jewish moral codes or the Jewish homeland in Israel.

Deep green environmentalism, for example, wants to knock human beings off their pedestal in Genesis as the pinnacle of creation; sexual lifestyle choice negates Judaism’s moral codes; scientific materialism repudiates belief in the Divine creator of the world; anti-Zionism denies the Jews’ right to their own homeland; and liberal universalism is an innate challenge to Judaism which, as a stubbornly and uniquely distinct set of beliefs, always stands in the way of any universalizing ideology.

Much of this secular onslaught goes back to the central Enlightenment idea of a world based on reason, which French Enlightenment thinkers in particular perceived to be in opposition to religion.

But the West’s concept of reason actually comes from the Hebrew Bible. Ideas such as an orderly and rational universe structured on a linear concept of time were revolutionary concepts introduced in the book of Genesis.

These ideas were essential to the development of Western science. Early scientists believed that natural laws necessarily presupposed a law-giver. As Galileo Galilei said: “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.”

The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism. With so much of the Hebrew Bible interpreted over the centuries as allegory or metaphor, Judaism has never seen science as a threat.

The 12th-century Jewish sage Maimonides was the great exemplar of the belief that science and religion were complementary. He wrote that conflict between science and the Bible arose from either a lack of scientific knowledge or a defective understanding of the Bible.

Without the Hebrew Bible, there would have been no Western rationality or principles such as justice or compassion. But secularism holds that the rule of reason divorced from biblical religion would banish bad things like prejudice or war from the world and the human heart.

Impossible utopianism like this invariably results in oppression. So it proved with medieval apocalyptic Christianity, the French Revolution, communism and fascism; and so it is proving today with the cultural totalitarianism of the Left.

Like all utopians, the Left believes that their ideas are unchallengeable because they supposedly stand for virtue itself. All who oppose them are therefore not just wrong, but evil. So heretics like Gelernter must be stamped out because no quarter can ever be given to any challenge to secularism.

What secular liberals don’t understand is that in attacking the Jewish concepts at the core of the Christian West, they are not merely repudiating their own supposed ideals of tolerance and rationality, but are sawing off the branch on which they themselves are sitting.

Reprinted with permission from JNS.org.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Sep 2019, 10:23 pm

https://www.aish.com/ci/sam/Darwinism-Judaism-and-the-Clash-between-Science-and-Religion.html?s=mm
Darwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
Sep 8, 2019  |  by Melanie PhillipsDarwinism, Judaism and the Clash between Science and Religion
The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism.

Yale University professor of computer science David Gelernter has renounced his previous belief in Darwinian evolution.

Writing that he was sad to give up on “a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory,” he said he had concluded that it couldn’t explain the big picture – not the fine-tuning of existing species, but the emergence of new ones.

Whether or not his argument is well-founded is a discussion for another time. The point here is that it’s unsayable by anyone who isn’t prepared to risk professional and social suicide.

Darwinism, said Gelernter, had passed beyond a scientific argument. Although his Yale colleagues had treated him in a courteous and collegiate manner, people took their life in their hands to question Darwinian evolution.

“They will destroy you if you challenge it,” he said. There was nothing approaching free speech on this topic. “It’s a sort of bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged, violent rejection, which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion.”
 
Gelernter’s conclusions about Darwinism have derived principally from his analysis of the statistical probability of the evolution of new species. Yet anyone who queries Darwinism is immediately labeled “anti-science” and accused of being a religious nut.

Indeed, the pushback against Gelernter’s apostasy has included the observation that he is a religious Jew. Apparently, the only reason he could possibly have come to this “denialist” conclusion, says one pro-evolution website, is that he views science through “Old Testament goggles.”

In fact, a belief that’s unchallengeable has the characteristic of religious faith. That’s why Gelernter calls Darwinism a religion.

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced?
There are plenty of other unsayables in our thought-policed society. Human-made global warming, for example, is considered beyond challenge because the science of that theory is said to be “settled.” This is, in fact, anti-science dogma because nothing is ever settled in science, which is always open to fresh challenges.

So how come our scientific age promotes anti-science ideas more akin to religious doctrine and calls them science?

Our era is supposedly devoted to promoting individual freedom, tolerance and an end to prejudice. So why are so many views being silenced? Why has debate been so widely replaced by hateful insults? And how come this has been accompanied by an upsurge in anti-Semitism, often among precisely the same subscribers to the liberal anti-racist “woke” agenda?

There may be a connection here that is generally overlooked. And it involves the Jews.

At the core of all this moral and intellectual confusion lies an onslaught against the core principles of Western civilization on the grounds that these are innately exclusive, prejudicial and oppressive.

That’s because they are rooted in biblical values that are held to be cruel, obscurantist and inimical to reason, enlightenment, and generosity of spirit.

By contrast, the secular agenda is believed to stand for all good things associated with modernity, such as kindness, rationality, and progress.

The West tells itself that modernity sprang from a repudiation of religion in the 17th-century Enlightenment.

In fact, as a new book points out, Christianity remains at the core of contemporary Western thinking even among those who disdain it. "Dominion," by the British historian Tom Holland, is a magisterial analysis of the way in which Christian values have shaped the West and still do so even in the most unlikely places.

His book is not merely a fascinating account of the extraordinary reach and persistence of Christianity, which has evolved and adapted down through the generations and across societies. He also argues that Christian values, which have sometimes led to slavery, empire, and war, nevertheless lie at the core of what makes the West civilized and good.

This has startled people for whom it is axiomatic that only secularism produces goodness while religion produces only bad stuff. But Holland points out that even attacks by secular liberals on Christian thinking are motivated by Christian values of tolerance and fairness.

Of course, there’s an elephant in this particular room. For although these core Western principles were introduced and spread by Christianity, their origin lay in the Hebrew Bible.

Holland pays due regard to the Jewish foundations of Christianity and also to the terrible way that Christianity has behaved in the past towards the Jews.

But what so many overlook is that moral principles assumed to have been invented by Christianity, such as compassion, fairness, looking after the poor or putting others first, were all introduced to the world by the Hebrew Bible.

It is Judaism’s Mosaic code that gave the West its conscience and the roots of its civilization by putting chains on people’s selfish appetites. And strikingly, every contemporary ideology that aims to undermine or transform the West is based on opposition to Jewish religious beliefs, Jewish moral codes or the Jewish homeland in Israel.

Deep green environmentalism, for example, wants to knock human beings off their pedestal in Genesis as the pinnacle of creation; sexual lifestyle choice negates Judaism’s moral codes; scientific materialism repudiates belief in the Divine creator of the world; anti-Zionism denies the Jews’ right to their own homeland; and liberal universalism is an innate challenge to Judaism which, as a stubbornly and uniquely distinct set of beliefs, always stands in the way of any universalizing ideology.

Much of this secular onslaught goes back to the central Enlightenment idea of a world based on reason, which French Enlightenment thinkers in particular perceived to be in opposition to religion.

But the West’s concept of reason actually comes from the Hebrew Bible. Ideas such as an orderly and rational universe structured on a linear concept of time were revolutionary concepts introduced in the book of Genesis.

These ideas were essential to the development of Western science. Early scientists believed that natural laws necessarily presupposed a law-giver. As Galileo Galilei said: “The laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.”

The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is, in fact, foreign to Judaism. With so much of the Hebrew Bible interpreted over the centuries as allegory or metaphor, Judaism has never seen science as a threat.

The 12th-century Jewish sage Maimonides was the great exemplar of the belief that science and religion were complementary. He wrote that conflict between science and the Bible arose from either a lack of scientific knowledge or a defective understanding of the Bible.

Without the Hebrew Bible, there would have been no Western rationality or principles such as justice or compassion. But secularism holds that the rule of reason divorced from biblical religion would banish bad things like prejudice or war from the world and the human heart.

Impossible utopianism like this invariably results in oppression. So it proved with medieval apocalyptic Christianity, the French Revolution, communism and fascism; and so it is proving today with the cultural totalitarianism of the Left.

Like all utopians, the Left believes that their ideas are unchallengeable because they supposedly stand for virtue itself. All who oppose them are therefore not just wrong, but evil. So heretics like Gelernter must be stamped out because no quarter can ever be given to any challenge to secularism.

What secular liberals don’t understand is that in attacking the Jewish concepts at the core of the Christian West, they are not merely repudiating their own supposed ideals of tolerance and rationality, but are sawing off the branch on which they themselves are sitting.

Reprinted with permission from JNS.org.
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Post  Admin on Thu 05 Sep 2019, 6:30 pm

Bob Dylan and Me
Aug 31, 2019
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons and with Martin Grossman
A fascinating new book explores Louie Kemp’s 50-year friendship with the music legend.
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Bob-Dylan-and-Me.html?s=mm
What happens when your best friend from childhood becomes a global superstar? In his newly-released memoir, Dylan & Me – 50 Years of Adventures, Louie Kemp chronicles how two Jewish boys from rural Minnesota met at Jewish summer camp in 1953. "Bobby Zimmerman was 12 years old and had a guitar,” writes Kemp. “He would go around telling everybody that he was going to be a rock-and-roll star. I was 11 and I believed him."

The two remained close buddies, and at age 19 Bobby Zimmerman headed off to New York to become folk hero Bob Dylan, while Kemp took over his father’s highly-successful seafood company.

Over the course of 50 years, Kemp enjoyed an "all-access pass" to Dylan's life as a trusted ally and friend, sharing together their hopes and disappointments, triumphs and difficulties. Kemp produced Dylan’s epic 1974 tour, "Rolling Thunder Revue," and Dylan served as "best man" at Kemp's wedding (coaxed into a tuxedo at the groom’s request).

“We remained true to those young boys from northern Minnesota,” says Kemp of their lifelong camaraderie. “We laughed at the same jokes, and confided our deepest thoughts and fears. We never needed anything from each other, but have always been there for each other... We always felt safe with each other in the way that only the closest of friends can. When one of us has needed a dose of truth, we've always known who to turn to.”

1957, at Jewish summer camp: Bobby Zimmerman with guitar. Louie Kemp to his right.

Spiritual Search

 
Beyond the sold-out concerts and private jets, Dylan & Me takes readers inside the songwriter’s spiritual journey. "Bobby always felt a strong connection to spirituality,” says Kemp. "He described people as ‘spirits dressed up in a suit of skin’," and he told Rolling Stone magazine: "I've always thought there's a superior power, that this is not the real world and that there's a world to come."

In the late 1970s, a friend invited Dylan to a series of Bible classes which took a decidedly Christian turn, pushing Dylan deep into the New Testament. Meanwhile, Kemp had become a Shabbat-observant Jew. “Nearly every day, Bobby and I would engage in intense discussions of theology,” Kemp recalls. “But I soon realized I didn't have a deep enough knowledge of my faith to counter Bobby's arguments.”

Kemp phoned Rabbi Manis Friedman, a Chabad educator in Minnesota, and asked him to fly to Los Angeles to teach Dylan “the Jewish version of the meaning of life.”

Kemp’s mission was to help Dylan find the spiritual fulfillment his soul was yearning for.
“It had become my mission to help Bobby find the spiritual fulfillment his soul was yearning for in Judaism – the religion of his ancestors,” Kemp writes. “I would introduce many more rabbis and observant Jews to Bobby, each bringing with him a brick to strengthen the foundation of his faith.”

Beyond these reflections, Kemp’s memoir includes some zany tidbits – like the time in summer camp the two pals raided a rival cabin with shaving cream, then “escaped” by taking a counselor’s car for a joy-ride. Or the time that Dylan traded an old sofa for an original Andy Warhol painting now valued at $60 million.

Then there’s the time that Kemp arranged for film legend Marlon Brando to join Dylan at a Passover Seder. At one point, the person leading the Seder asked Brando, who is not Jewish, to read a passage from the Haggadah. As Kemp describes, Brando obligingly delivered the passage "as if he were performing Shakespeare on Broadway." After the Seder, Brando told Kemp how inspired he was to see people that gathered together every year, all over the world, to thank God and celebrate an event that took place more than 3,000 years ago.

Bob Dylan (L) and Louie Kemp, 1972

Rolling Thunder Revue
In 1974, at the height of Dylan’s superstardom, he called Kemp with an original idea for a concert tour: Instead of flying in private jets and playing giant stadiums, why not travel by bus from town to town, playing in small, intimate venues – maintaining spontaneity by announcing the performances just a few days in advance.

Kemp liked the idea, and then Dylan dropped the bomb – asking Kemp to produce the tour. "Louie, you're a successful businessman,” Dylan said. “If anybody can pull this together, it's you."

The subsequent "Rolling Thunder Revue" became the stuff of legends, with dozens of artists including Ringo Starr, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell joining in the experiential four-hour shows. All the while, as Kemp criss-crossed America with the tour, he managed to juggle his “day job” at the seafood company. (A documentary about the tour, directed by Martin Scorsese, was released in June 2019.)

Bob's drive to write songs that mattered was born in part from his roots as a Jew.
Through it all, a Jewish element always remained. Reflecting on Dylan's lyrical themes, Kemp observes: "Supporting the underdog is virtually second nature to Jews because we have so often been in that position ourselves. We seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to persecution, discrimination, and injustice... There's no question in my mind that Bob's drive to write songs that mattered was born at least in part from his roots as a Jew.”

Indeed, Dylan’s songs from the 1960s such as "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and “Like a Rolling Stone” became anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements. His much-heralded "Neighborhood Bully" was written in defense of Israel:

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive,

He's criticized and condemned for being alive...

He's always on trial for just being born.

1975, backstage in San Francisco (L to R): concert promoter Bill Graham,
actor Marlon Brando, and Louie Kemp

Patron of Discovery
In the book’s acknowledgements, Kemp thanks the founder of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l. Though it does not involve Bob Dylan and thus is not in the book, Kemp shared with Aish.com details of how he became one of Rabbi Weinberg’s beloved partners.

“In December 1985, I was home in Duluth, Minnesota, and got a phone call from Aish’s Yona Yaffe to say that Rabbi Weinberg would like to come spend Shabbos with me. I had not met Rabbi Weinberg but I’d heard a lot of amazing stories about him.

“I laughed and said that Rabbi Weinberg was welcome for Shabbos, but that it was minus-20 degrees with an even-colder wind-chill factor, and lots of snow piled high.” (Mark Twain famously said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Duluth.")

Though Kemp offered to meet in balmy Los Angeles, Rabbi Weinberg preferred coming to Duluth. “He seemed like my type of person,” Kemp says. “He was not afraid of the elements, and was a man on a mission not easily deterred.”

Rabbi Weinberg was enthralled with the white mist as Lake Superior froze over.
Rabbi Weinberg arrived at Kemp’s mansion on the shores of Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world, which was in the process of freezing over. A white mist emanated from the lake, along with the crackling sound of ice being formed. Rabbi Weinberg was enthralled and asked Kemp to borrow outdoor gear: long underwear, sweater, hat, gloves, and boots. With Kemp watching from his warm home, Rabbi Weinberg walked down to the lakeshore, then climbed atop a gazebo to survey the lake’s mystical vision.

“Seeing Rabbi Weinberg’s spiritual depth and appreciation of nature was the first of many insights I would learn from him over the coming years of our friendship,” says Kemp.

Toward the end of Shabbos, in which Rabbi Weinberg generously shared his vast Torah knowledge, Kemp’s curiosity finally got the best of him and he blurted out: “Rabbi, I’m thrilled you’re here – but why Duluth in December?!”

Rabbi Weinberg smiled and said, “I have a plan to save the Jewish people and I need your help.” He went on to explain that Aish had developed the Discovery seminar, exploring the rational basis for belief in Judaism. A team in Jerusalem, headed by Rabbi Motty Berger, was ready to present the inaugural seminar – a 3-day Discovery weekend for 150 people at a Palm Springs resort hotel. All that was needed was funding.

After Shabbos, Kemp wrote a check to cover full cost of the weekend seminar, and promised to bring along a few friends to Palm Springs. Kemp told Rabbi Weinberg: “If it’s half as good as you say, we’ll fund the rest of it.”

At the Palm Springs weekend, Kemp witnessed how Discovery succeeded in changing participants’ attitudes – breaking their misconceptions and inspiring them to study Torah wisdom. Convinced, Kemp wrote a check for $150,000 to expand Discovery to 15 U.S. cities.

Since then, over 100,000 people worldwide have participated in Discovery, influencing untold numbers to become more Jewishly committed. Says Kemp: “Sponsoring Discovery was one of the best choices I ever made.”

Over the years, Rabbi Weinberg would fondly refer to Kemp as “the father of Discovery.” On one visit to Rabbi Weinberg’s office overlooking the Western Wall, he told Kemp: “The merit of all those who’ve attended the Discovery Seminar is credited to your heavenly account.” Rabbi Weinberg then grasped Kemp’s hands, and together they danced in joyous celebration over this great eternal reward.

And it all started at a wintry Shabbos in Duluth.

The Homeless Jew
Kemp, now 77, reflects on what made his friend Bob Dylan so successful, including his unprecedented receipt of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature:

1983: Bob Dylan (left) as the best man at Lou Kemp's wedding

"Some wonder why the Jews have been so successful in so many areas, including the arts. I believe it’s at least in part because the quest for knowledge, meaning, and truth are ingrained in Jewish culture. We have a passion to seek out meaning and give it new expression, both morally and artistically. That drive – along with another Jewish trait known as chutzpah – have always been strong in Bobby, and his gifts have made his expression worthy of the ages.”

In one amusing story, Kemp recalls the time he and Dylan attended Yom Kippur services in Santa Monica, California:

We had been there before, and the rabbi recognized Bobby right away. But few if any of his fellow worshippers – all somberly dressed – realized he was standing at the back of the room. Having, as usual, missed the memo regarding the dress code, Bobby was wearing cowboy boots, torn jeans, a hoodie, a black leather jacket, and what looked like a long-lost pair of Jackie Kennedy's sunglasses.

Specifically, he was attending the closing service of the day, Neilah... The Ark housing the holy scrolls of the Torah remains open for the entire service, and it is considered a great honor to be chosen by the rabbi to open it. This carries with it many blessings for the new year. The honor customarily goes to the temple's most generous donor – but not this time.

With his ancient eyes, Rabbi Levitansky scoured the congregation. At last, his gaze came to rest upon a solitary figure standing in the back of the room. He motioned the casually dressed fellow up to the pulpit, and up he came. Bob Dylan opened the Ark on Yom Kippur.

Afterward, when the last echo of the shofar had diminished to silence and most of the congregants had trickled away, the synagogue's biggest donor pulled the rabbi aside. "I want you to know, Rabbi," said the man, "that when you didn't call me up to open the Ark, I was quite hurt. Then I saw whom you chose and I realized you were even wiser and kinder than I'd imagined. So I'm going to double my contribution for the coming year. It takes a great and generous heart to give the honor of opening the Ark for Neilah to a homeless Jew."

In the end, Dylan & Me is not a biography, nor an analysis of Dylan’s songs and their impact. What sets it apart from the endless other books about Dylan is that it’s not based on third-party interpretations, speculations, or unconfirmed rumors. Rather, it is an eyewitness account by someone who knows Dylan… better than anyone else who has tried to explain Dylan to the rest of us.

Kemp says: “My friend has always been Bobby Zimmerman, not the legend ‘Bob Dylan’. We’re just two regular friends who would talk for hours like other friends... except that to the rest of the world, one of us happened to be Bob Dylan."

with thanks to Martin Grossman


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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Sep 2019, 4:08 pm

Hurricane Dorian: We're All Living in the Cone of Uncertainty
Sep 2, 2019  |  by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Hurricane-Dorian-Were-All-Living-in-the-Cone-of-Uncertainty.html?s=mm
Hurricane Dorian: We're All Living in the Cone of Uncertainty
How to react to feelings of mortality and fragility.

What if you knew when you were going to die? A group of researches in Germany collected blood samples from 44,168 people with ages ranging from 18 to 109 years old. Over the next 17 years, 5,512 people from that group died. After looking at 226 biomarkers in the samples, the researchers determined that 14 of the blood measurements, including inflammation and fluid balance, were the greatest indicators to predict if a person would die within the next 5 to 10 years.

To test their theory, they analyzed blood sample data taken from 7,603 people in 1997. Then, using the 14 identified biomarkers, they attempted to predict the likelihood that each person would have died within the next five to 10 years. They found their predictions were right approximately 83 percent of the time, higher than even they anticipated.

Based on their conclusion, published in a prominent medical journal, with one sample of your blood you can know if you don’t change anything, how much longer you will live. The question is what will you do with that information?

The truth is, we don’t need a blood test to tell us that we won’t live forever. In South Florida we are currently facing a category 5 hurricane with potentially catastrophic conditions. When a new storm develops and begins heading towards making landfall, the experts offer their best projections of where it is going and when it will get there. The “cone of uncertainty” is formed, and with each periodic update the communities and people in its path desperately look to see if they are still projected to sustain a hit. As long as one remains in the cone of uncertainty, there is an unavoidable angst and the tortuous process of waiting and anticipating what is to come.

None of us have certainty; at these times, we all confront our mortality and vulnerability.
If this past year in the world in general and our community in particular has taught us anything, it is that we are all in the cone of uncertainty always. Each day that we wake up is uncertain of what it can and will bring. Will we be visited by a devastating diagnosis, a mass shooting, a natural disaster, a terror event, a car accident or some other threat? None of us have certainty; at these times, we all confront our mortality and vulnerability.

But what do we do with that feeling? Will we give up, give in, fatalistically become complacent and content? Or, will it motivate us to stop procrastinating and take advantage of each and every moment? Will we not bother trying because what is it all worth, or will we finally stop saying I will get to it and make it, whatever it is for us, happen right now? We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we can only make the most of today.

Our rabbis describe two opposite reactions to a feeling of mortality and fragility. They discourage us from approaching life with the attitude of echol, v’shaso, ki machar namus, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die. Recognition of our own mortality has for some become a license for hedonism, to live selfishly and spend life pursuing immediate gratification and instant pleasure

Instead, our rabbis encourage us to say im lo achshav aimasai, if not now, when. Judaism teaches us to take our feelings of fragility and vulnerability and use them as springboards to grow, change and make a difference. A sense of mortality should encourage us to take advantage of every moment, to cherish every opportunity. Indeed, the Torah believes carpe diem, seize the day, but not for pleasure and selfish interests. Rather, seize the day to contribute to society, positively affect another person, become a better spouse, parent or grandparent, make the most of every moment. It is never too late to become the person you were meant to be.

I am always amazed by our hurricane heroes, the people who step up, show up and so generously help others by lending their generator, putting up shutters, dropping off a flashlight or just sharing where there is no line for gas. Some face a category 5 hurricane turn inward only to take care of themselves and their home. Others confront a collective potential catastrophe and turn outwards asking what can I do for others? Some secure their home, their possessions and their safety and others think about a neighbor, a single, ill, or older person who may need some help. The feeling of mortality and fear of the unknown can inspire a more selfish today or a more selfless today, the choice is up to us.

We have begun the month of Elul and with it the countdown to the High Holy Days. It is not a coincidence that we end Mussaf both days of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur with a moving piyyut that begins each stanza by signing the word hayom, today.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring…literally. Will we be hit by a catastrophic storm or will it shift away from us? Will we suffer damage or emerge unscathed? Will we be in danger or escape safely? Uncertainty is a large cone and we are in it. Nobody, including the weather people, know what tomorrow brings. So for now, let’s make sure to live our best lives in the only dimension we can – hayom, today.
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Post  Admin on Sun 01 Sep 2019, 4:14 pm

https://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Elul-How-to-Realistically-Change-the-World.html?s=mm
Elul: How to Realistically Change the World
Aug 31, 2019  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
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Elul: How to Realistically Change the World
Start by thinking small - and in that way change ourselves and our own world.

Feeling down about the state of the world? Hard to read the newspapers with all of the tragedies that have become part and parcel of our daily lives?

Well the month of Elul is here – the month, with its daily blowing of the shofar, meant to remind us that Rosh Hashanah is just a short four weeks away and that we have got to give serious thought to our personal responsibility to do our part to make the coming year a better one.

In light of the immensity of our problems how can we possibly do anything that would make a difference? Can anyone of us imagine that we personally could actually play a role in changing the world?

It is precisely in response to this question that Judaism gave a startling answer. Maimonides expressed it by way of a remarkable illustration. Every one of us, he taught in his Laws of Repentance, needs to think that as God judges the world in His annual review before the High Holy Days, He finds it perfectly balanced between its sins and good deeds. Divine judgment withholds its final decree until you are brought into the equation. And if your deeds also seem to be almost perfectly balanced between the good and the evil, then one, just one additional good deed, no matter how small can be the one to tilt your judgment favorably, which in turn would decide the fate of all of humankind.

The most important piece of advice I can give anyone as I think about ways to change the world with the beginning of Elul are two words: think small.
It may be far-fetched. Yet the greatest philosopher of the Jewish people did not hesitate to phrase it this way in order to impress upon every one of us the truth that every person makes a difference – and every one of our actions has consequences on the divine scale of judgment.

That’s why I think the most important piece of advice I can give anyone as I think about ways to change the world with the beginning of Elul are two words: think small.

Just a few years ago Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel peace prize for turning the concept of thinking small into a major innovation which has already revolutionized the banking system as well as the lives of millions of people. It was in 1974 that Bangladesh was hit by a devastating flood followed by a severe famine. Yunus decided to lend $27 without any collateral to a group of women of the city of Joba nearby the University where he worked as a teacher. Women there made bamboo baskets but were forced to sell them at such a low price that could barely pay for the raw material. They could never purchase larger amounts for lack of capital. Yunus initiated what is now known as microcredit, allowing poor people anxious to make a go of small businesses to succeed.

With the small sum they received they were able to finance their work and to establish themselves. Micro-finance, or microcredit, was born. Thinking small, something never practiced before, created a new way of life and of opportunity. One small act changed the balance of the scale – and millions today prosper.

And there is yet another way to think small. It is expressed beautifully by way of a story told in the name of the Chofetz Chaim.

At one time, he was asked how he was able to have such a great impact on the Jewish world.  This is how he answered: “Originally, I set out to change the world, but I failed.  So I decided to scale back my efforts and only influence the Jewish community of Poland, but I failed there, too.  So I targeted the community of my hometown of Radin, but I achieved no greater success.  Then I gave all my effort to changing my own family and I failed at that as well.  Finally, I decided to change myself and that’s how I had such an impact on the Jewish world.”

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy came to the same conclusion. “Everyone thinks of changing the world,” he wrote, “but no one thinks of changing himself.” And so the world continues with its myriad flaws, everyone complaining about the common sins of others while paying very little attention to themselves.

Most people want to change the world to improve their lives, but the world they need to change first is the one inside themselves.

There is a movement today that has taken the concept a step further into practice. It concerns itself not with the really large issues, issues which realistically most of us will be unable to influence, but with the smaller daily interactions which in fact define everyday life. It’s called “small acts of kindness” and I love it precisely because its demands are so easy and yet, if universally practiced, would really change our lives.

The suggestions are simple. Choose one or a dozen:

Give a genuine compliment to somebody at least once a day.
Write down what you appreciate about another family member and pass it along.
Check in with someone who’s sick.
Ask if you can help someone who may be having a difficult time in life right now.
Lend your vehicle to take someone without one shopping for their necessities.
Hold the door open for the person behind you.
Make a card for someone special.
Deliver flowers anonymously to a hospital patient.
Ask a senior citizen about their life story and truly listen.
Give a hug to a loved one or friend.
Offer to pay another person’s food bill.
Lend a hand to someone doing hard work.
Donate to a homeless person, perhaps give them some food.
Leave a kind server a generous tip.
Let a person out from a side road who’s waiting to get into the main road.
Help another parent out with a stroller or carrying things.
Give someone a book that you no longer need.
Give your parents or grandparents a call just because.
Volunteer at a community event.
Grandiose plans are great – but we rarely do them. Impressive ideas for changing the world are, yes, impressive but frequently impractical and unrealizable. So perhaps this year before Rosh Hashanah we could scale down our ambitions and think small – and in that way change ourselves and our own world.
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Post  Admin on Fri 30 Aug 2019, 1:31 pm

https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/558214721.html?s=mm
Collective Joy
Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)
Aug 25, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksCollective Joy
It is easy to speak to God in tears. It is hard to serve God in joy.

If we were to ask what key word epitomises the society Jews were to make in the Promised Land, several concepts would come to mind: justice, compassion, reverence, respect, holiness, responsibility, dignity, loyalty. Surprisingly, though, another word figures centrally in Moses' speeches in Deuteronomy. It is a word that appears only once in each of the other books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.[1] Yet it appears twelve times in Deuteronomy, seven of them in Parshat Re'eh. The word is simcha, joy.

It is an unexpected word. The story of the Israelites thus far has not been a joyous one. It has been marked by suffering on the one hand, rebellion and dissension on the other. Yet Moses makes it eminently clear that joy is what the life of faith in the land of promise is about. Here are the seven instances in this parsha, and their contexts:

1. The central Sanctuary, initially Shilo: "There in the presence of the Lord your God you and your families shall eat and rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you" (Deut. 12:7).

2. Jerusalem and the Temple: "And there you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns" (Deut. 12:12).

3. Sacred food that may be eaten only in Jerusalem: "Eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns - and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to" (Deut. 12:18).

4. The second tithe: "Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine, or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice" (Deut. 14:26).

5. The festival of Shavuot: "And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place He will choose as a dwelling for His name - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the strangers, the fatherless, and the widows living among you" (Deut. 16:11).

6. The festival of Succot: "Be joyful at your feast - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the strangers, the fatherless, and the widows who live in your towns" (Deut. 16:14).

7. Succot, again. "For seven days, celebrate the feast to the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete [vehayita ach same'ach]" (Deut. 16:15).

Why does Moses emphasise joy specifically in the book of Deuteronomy? Perhaps because is there, in the speeches Moses delivered in the last month of his life, that he scaled the heights of prophetic vision never reached by anyone else before or since. It is as if, standing on a mountaintop, he sees the whole course of Jewish history unfold below him, and from that dizzying altitude he brings back a message to the people gathered around him: the next generation, the children of those he led out of Egypt, the people who will cross the Jordan he will not cross and enter the land he is only able to see from afar.

What he tells them is unexpected, counter-intuitive. In effect he says this: "You know what your parents suffered. You have heard about their slavery in Egypt. You yourselves have known what it is to wander in the wilderness without a home or shelter or security. You may think those were the greatest trials, but you are wrong. You are about to face a harder trial. The real test is security and contentment."

Absurd though this sounds, it has proved true throughout Jewish history. In the many centuries of dispersion and persecution, from the destruction of the Second Temple to the nineteenth century, no one raised doubts about Jewish continuity. They did not ask, "Will we have Jewish grandchildren?" Only since Jews achieved freedom and equality in the Diaspora and independence and sovereignty in the State of Israel has that question come to be asked. When Jews had little to thank God for, they thanked Him, prayed to Him, and came to the synagogue and the house of study to hear and heed His word. When they had everything to thank Him for, many turned their backs on the synagogue and the house of study.


 
Moses was giving prophetic expression to the great paradox of faith: It is easy to speak to God in tears. It is hard to serve God in joy. It is the warning he delivered as the people came within sight of their destination: the Promised Land. Once there, they were in danger of forgetting that the land was theirs only because of God's promise to them, and only for as long as they remembered their promise to God.

Simcha is usually translated as joy, rejoicing, gladness, happiness, pleasure, or delight. In fact, simcha has a nuance untranslatable into English. Joy, happiness, pleasure, and the like are all states of mind, emotions. They belong to the individual. We can feel them alone. Simcha, by contrast, is not a private emotion. It means happiness shared. It is a social state, a predicate of "we," not "I." There is no such thing as feeling simcha alone.

Moses repeatedly labours the point. When you rejoice, he says time and again, it must be "you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the strangers, the fatherless, and the widows in your towns." A key theme of Parshat Re'eh is the idea of a central Sanctuary "in the place the Lord your God will choose." As we know from later Jewish history, during the reign of King David, this place was Jerusalem, where David's son Solomon eventually built the Temple.

What Moses is articulating for the first time is the idea of simcha as communal, social, and national rejoicing. The nation was to be brought together not just by crisis, catastrophe, or impending war, but by collective celebration in the presence of God. The celebration itself was to be deeply moral. Not only was this a religious act of thanksgiving; it was also to be a form of social inclusion. No one was to be left out: not the stranger, or the servant, or the lonely (the orphan and widow). In a remarkable passage in the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides makes this point in the strongest possible terms:

And while one eats and drinks himself, it is his duty to feed the stranger, the orphan, the widow, and other poor and unfortunate people, for he who locks the doors to his courtyard and eats and drinks with his wife and family, without giving anything to eat and drink to the poor and the bitter in soul - his meal is not a rejoicing in a Divine commandment, but a rejoicing in his own stomach. It is of such persons that Scripture says, "Their sacrifices shall be to them as the bread of mourners, all that eat thereof shall be polluted; for their bread is a disgrace to their own appetite" (Hos. 9:4). Rejoicing of this kind is a disgrace to those who indulge in it, as Scripture says, "And I will spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your sacrifices" (Mal. 2:3).[2]

Moses' insight remains valid today. The West is more affluent than any previous society has ever been. Our life expectancy is longer, our standards of living higher, and our choices wider than at any time since Homo sapiens first walked on earth. Yet Western societies are not measurably happier. The most telling indices of unhappiness - drug and alcohol abuse, depressive illness, stress-related syndromes, eating disorders, and the rest - have risen by between 300 and 1,000 per cent in the space of two generations. Why so?

In 1968 I met the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of blessed memory, for the first time. While I was there, the Chassidim told me the following story. A man had written to the Rebbe in roughly these terms: "I am depressed. I am lonely. I feel that life is meaningless. I try to pray, but the words do not come. I keep mitzvot but find no peace of mind. I need the Rebbe's help." The Rebbe sent a brilliant reply without using a single word. He simply circled the first word of every sentence and sent the letter back. The word in each case was "I."

Our contemporary consumer is constructed in the first-person singular: I want, I need, I must have. There are many things we can achieve in the first-person singular but one we cannot, namely, simcha - because simcha is the joy we share, the joy we have only because we share. That, said Moses before the Israelites entered their land, would be their greatest challenge. Suffering, persecution, a common enemy, unite a people and turn it into a nation. But freedom, affluence, and security turn a nation into a collection of individuals, each pursuing his or her own happiness, often indifferent to the fate of those who have less, the lonely, the marginal, and the excluded. When that happens, societies start to disintegrate. At the height of their good fortune, the long slow process of decline begins.

The only way to avoid it, said Moses, is to share your happiness with others, and, in the midst of that collective, national celebration, serve God.[3] Blessings are not measured by how much we own or earn or spend or possess but by how much we share. Simcha is the mark of a sacred society. It is a place of collective joy.

Shabbat Shalom.


NOTES

1. Gen. 31:27; Ex. 4:14; Lev. 23:40; Num. 10:10.
2. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yom Tov 6:18.
3. The great French sociologist Émile Durkheim (whose father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all rabbis) argued, in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (trans. Karen E. Fields [New York: Free Press, 1995]), that religion is born in the experience of "collective effervescence," which is closely related to simcha in the biblical sense.
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Post  Admin on Sun 25 Aug 2019, 6:46 pm

Blinded by the Light: What Bruce Springsteen’s Music Meant to Me
Aug 25, 2019 | by Judy Gruen
https://www.aish.com/j/as/Blinded-by-the-Light-What-Bruce-Springsteens-Music-Meant-to-Me.html?s=mm
Blinded by the Light: What Bruce Springsteen’s Music Meant to Me
A new movie highlights how the rock legend inspired a teenager to pursue his dreams, reminding me everything I love about Springsteen’s music.
When I was single, I once accepted a date with a man I knew I wasn’t really interested in. This was clearly not my finest moment, but many readers may offer absolution when I explain that he had tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert. He was a music producer and in possession of very expensive, enviable seats, the likes of which I would never sit in again. I wrestled my conscience to the ground in about two seconds. No way would I miss this opportunity to see “the Boss” in concert for the first time.

Springsteen and his incomparable E Street Band played with electrifying abandon. Thousands of us danced and sang along with Bruce during “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “The River” and other hits. I’ll never forget the thrill of that evening, and the high that lingered through the following days.

The themes of a lot of Springsteen songs were in many ways distant from my reality. I didn’t grow up in an economically struggling town. I didn’t know anyone who worked on the highway, blasting through the bedrock, and I really had no ambition to drive a pink Cadillac, or drag race on the streets. Some songs were laced with an undercurrent of anger or anxiety; others were about dreams delayed or even deflated. Yet the songs were also shot through with irrepressible youthful energy, eagerness for romance, and a no-holds-barred determination to fulfill one’s dreams wherever they took you, once you escaped the “darkness at the edge of town.”

Who among us didn’t have a “hungry heart” when we were young?
Almost all young people dream of transcending the limitations of their upbringing, and I was no different. I also had dreams of my own and was resolutely determined to achieve them. I also longed to find the comfort of lasting love. Who among us didn’t have a “hungry heart” when we were young? In this way, Springsteen’s songs and their universal appeal spoke to me as well.

In the decades since I attended that incredible concert, I’ve remained a big fan of that young artist who put Asbury Park, New Jersey on the map. I also became a huge fan of “the Big Man,” saxophone player Clarence Clemons, who was a member of the E Street Band from its inception in 1972 until his passing in 2011. Through an act of sheer chutzpah, I also once wrangled an interview with Clemons for a rather shady magazine, despite my having zero credentials writing about the music scene. This, too, was exciting, bringing me close to a source of much musical joy.

As a decades-long Bruce Springsteen fan, I rushed out to see “Blinded by the Light,” the delightful new movie directed by Gurinder Chadha (“Bend It Like Beckham”) about the impact of the artist’s music on a Pakistani-born British teen named Javed. The film is part coming-of-age story and part movie musical, featuring enough Springsteen music to satisfy the most diehard devotees.

Javed (Viveik Kalra) feels his life is increasingly constricted by outside forces, including economic hardship, stifling parental expectations, and rising prejudice against the Pakistani community. Javed’s father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), forbids him from going to parties, dismisses his son’s quest to become a writer, and pressures him academically so that he can join the professional class. (Malik is a factory worker until he loses his job due to the recession in the late 1980’s.) When dropping Javed at school one day, Malik shouts after him, “Look for the Jews in your class! Do what they do! They are successful!”

Javed’s gloom is transformed to euphoria when hears his first Springsteen song: “Hey I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man, and I believe in the promised land,” Javed hears in the song “The Promised Land.” His eyes widen as big as doorknobs and his face lights up. Reinvigorated, he retrieves his poems from the trash and becomes an instant Springsteen addict, finding both emotional release as well as confidence in the music. He picks up his pen again to write, encouraged in large measure by his English teacher, who tells him that he has a gift.

Malik is at first disturbed by his son’s fandom to an American rock star but is slightly assuaged because he thinks that the name “Springsteen” sounds Jewish. In a running joke in the film, Malik continues to ask his son if he’s sure that “the Boss isn’t Jewish after all.

This feel-good movie is based on the experiences of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the real-life Javed, who co-wrote the film script based on his memoir, Greetings from Bury Park: Race. Religion. Rock'n'Roll. Manzoor’s obsession with Springsteen was no passing fancy. He has attended more than 150 concerts and met the artist several times.

Different forms of music speak differently to different generations. Many in my parents’ generation were shocked and disturbed by the emergence of rock ‘n roll, its hard and angry beats, and its unprecedented explicit lyrics. As an adult myself, I have been similarly appalled by the crudeness and sometimes, violent lyrics and beats of punk, hip-hop, metal and other styles popularized in recent decades.

I loved watching “Blinded by the Light.” Springsteen’s music spoke to me when I was a young adult; not just the words, but the music that thrilled and energized me (especially that saxophone!), lifted my mood, made me jump up and dance. The movie brought me back in time to when I was just old enough to begin to pursue my dreams. It also triggered wonderful memories of times when I have shared this favorite rock music with my husband, including one Springsteen concert we went to together -- before ticket prices shot stratospherically through the roof. I still listen to “Bruuuuce!” when I need the energy to keep pedaling on our elliptical bicycle, when I’m cooking, or just want to tap into that musical magic again.
Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, a formidable creative tool that can be used for ill or for good. It can trigger our lower, base instincts, or it can lift our souls as if with a divine kiss.

Of course, Jewish music also fills my soul. Who can ever get tired of hearing the triumphant sounds of “Od Yishama” at a wedding, of singing “Dayenu” during the Pesach seder, or of hearing “Eishet Chayil” on Shabbat? At shul, I am moved to tears each time the Torah is returned to the ark and we sing “Etz Chayim Hi,” together, as one community with one voice.

Those are sublime moments to be treasured. But I can’t live at that exalted spiritual level all the time. Sometimes, I just need to rock out a little with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.


Accidental Racism in the Jewish World
Aug 24, 2019 | by Aryeh Ho
Accidental Racism in the Jewish World
A “harmless” joke highlights the problem of racial sensitivity in some sectors of the Jewish community.

Earlier this year, my wife attended a program on Jewish education. The presenter made a seemingly harmless joke:

“A couple stopped having children after their fourth, because they read a study that said that every fifth child born in America is Asian.”

There was no way for him to know that among the sea of white faces in the audience, one of them was married to me.

I contacted the presenter to inform him that his joke was racially insensitive (it implies that having an Asian child is a negative outcome to be avoided). His first reaction was not to apologize, but to explain.

“The joke is not about race.”
“It doesn’t really disparage Asians.”
“I ran it by some Asian friends!”
“I teach courses on cultural diversity, so I’m well-versed in hot button issues like racism.”

The irony of that last point eluded him.

I responded by quoting the cardinal rule of comedy: If you need to explain your joke, the joke isn’t funny. The lesser-known corollary : If you need to explain why your joke isn’t racist, the joke is racist.

He eventually did apologize. “I’m sorry if you misinterpreted my joke.” In other words, the fault lay with the person who found the joke offensive, not the teller. It was a stunning abdication of responsibility – from a professional educator, no less.

I do not believe the presenter is racist. By all accounts, he is an upstanding, civic-minded, Torah-abiding Jew – the polar opposite of a white supremacist brandishing bigotry and tiki torches. He is not an agent of hate. And one joke in poor taste does not a racist make.

But racism exists on a spectrum. The hateful invective of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, and gun-wielding domestic terrorists occupies one extreme. The other encompasses a far subtler form of racism: the inborn, unconscious biases that shape the worldview of anyone raised in a predominantly white society.

It is not malicious. Most people are not even aware of it. It manifests most commonly as a lack of racial sensitivity – a gaping blind spot to the perspectives of marginalized peoples. It finds expression in comments and questions and jokes that seem harmless, but are actually hurtful.

And it is distressingly common in the Jewish world.

My life as a convert has been charmed. In the 12 years since I joined the Jewish people, I’ve enjoyed the wholehearted embrace of countless families and individuals who have gone out of their way to make me feel like a vital thread in the broader tapestry of Judaism. They’ve welcomed me with open arms and shown me nothing but acceptance and friendship.

Tolerance is a hallmark of Judaism, and I can attest to its truth.
It comes as no surprise that I have never experienced overt racism from fellow Jews. No taunts of “go home, Bruce Lee!” which I heard as a child in the suburbs, and even occasionally as an adult in the streets of Manhattan. Tolerance is a hallmark of Judaism, and I can attest to its truth.

However, to say that I have not experienced any racism whatsoever would be a lie.

I have heard children chant “ching chong, ching chong!” in my presence at Shabbos tables. I have heard adults quip that someone was so tired that their eyes “looked Asian.” I have been asked by the Jewish owner of a neighboring town’s kosher Chinese restaurant if I was a customer or one of the cooks. I have been complimented for speaking without an accent (never mind that I was born and raised in New York).

At their core, these “innocent” comments touch a raw nerve shared by every minority in America. They boil us down to physical traits, linguistic sounds, or vocations. They dehumanize, reducing individuals to stereotypes and tropes. They make us feel different, “othered,” and lesser. We are conditioned to think of ourselves as outsiders, and these comments reinforce that insecurity.

And the effects are amplified for children.

Our youngest son came home from playgroup one day and showed us a new trick he learned from his friends. Using his fingers, he lifted up the corners of his eyes – a universally-recognized gesture used to make fun of Asians. Thankfully, my son is still too young to know what it means. It’s even possible that the boys he learned it from are unaware of its hurtful implications.

But they did it. No teacher or parent stopped it. And I worry about all the teasing and taunts – playful or otherwise – in the years to come.

This is how it starts. The innocent schtick of children becomes the careless insensitivity of adults. An educator stands before a roomful of parents and uses a marginalized group as a punchline – and nearly every parent laughs. Those same parents perpetuate the ignorance by passing it on to the next generation: their children. My children’s peers.

The presenter may not be racist. The parents may not be racist. But the possibility that the joke is racist never crossed their minds. Perhaps not surprising, given how insular and homogenous many Orthodox communities tend to be. Children are largely shielded from an outside world that is far more diverse than what they see at home. Growing up with no regular contact with Asian, Hispanic, or black people, they never learn what is (or isn’t) socially appropriate to say to them.

It doesn’t help that formal Jewish education can sometimes compound the problem. Some schools cultivate an “us against them” mentality that frames all non-Jews as evil. Yes, Jews and non-Jews are different, and have different missions in this world. But the Jewish claim to the status of “chosen people” does not correspondingly relegate all other peoples to sub-human status. After all, non-Jews are also created in the image of God.

Yet I have heard children declare that “Hashem gave the Torah to the Jews, not the goyim,” or that “the goyim destroyed the Beis HaMikdash.” And their tone strongly suggests they are being taught that goyim means “those people who are lesser than us.”

I pray that my children never learn this lesson. After all, their father used to be a goy.

I’ve refrained from speaking out in the past for fear of being labeled “hyper-sensitive” or “too PC.” I’ve heard some Jews suggest that political correctness is a tool used by millennials and liberals to stifle the free speech of anyone who disagrees with them. To which I respond:

That’s easy for a white person to say.

Political correctness gives a voice to muted minorities who historically have been silenced by a loud majority. We live in a time when marginalized groups are finally feeling empowered to speak out. Shaming us for being “too PC” is an attempt to maintain the old status quo. It is stifling our free speech – not the other way around.

I’ve seen Jews roll their eyes when African Americans decry the use of blackface by white performers. I’ve heard Jews dismiss Native Americans who condemn the Cleveland Indians mascot as an offensive caricature. I wonder if those same Jews were as forgiving when a popular clothing retailer released a line of striped pajamas resembling concentration camp uniforms from the Holocaust.

I wonder if people who grumble about political correctness are really concerned about free speech – or if the political correctness is forcing them to take a hard, uncomfortable look at their own biases and prejudices.

Yes, we all have freedom of speech – liberal or conservative, minority or white. But we do not have the freedom to hurt. You have the right to speak your mind. But you do not have the right to make my children feel lesser for who they are. Indeed, causing pain through our words is considered one of the most serious transgressions of the Torah.

Among the many reasons the Talmud cites for the destruction of the Temple was the inability of Jews to put themselves in each other’s shoes. This failure to empathize, to truly understand what it means to be someone else, continues to plague us to this day.

So I choose words, not silence. The Jewish world is becoming more and more diverse – and as a father of children who epitomize that diversity, I feel a responsibility to call out racial insensitivity when I see it. Not to cause trouble. Not to shame or point fingers. But to educate. To inspire people to think before they speak and consider how their words can impact others.

Ultimately, the presenter relented. While he declined to abandon the joke entirely, he resolved to change it to make it less problematic for Asians. I am grateful – both for his willingness to do better, and for the lessons we all can take from this episode:

Learn to take the feelings of others into account when we speak.

Recognize our own biases and prejudices.

Believe others when they express and share their pain.

Together, we can raise awareness of racial sensitivity within the Jewish community. We can break the cycle of ignorance and inaugurate the path to empathy and inclusion.

We just have to recognize that racism is no laughing matter.
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Adopting Abi, A 6-Year-Old Ethiopian Boy
Aug 17, 2019  |  by Marni Linden
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Adopting-Abi-A-6-Year-Old-Ethiopian-Boy.html?s=mm
Adopting Abi, A 6-Year-Old Ethiopian Boy
Adopting Abi was the most challenging thing we've ever done, but at the same time the most significant, life-enhancing and rewarding.

Although we had been blessed with four children, my husband Jay and I always felt as though our family was not quite finished. After several disappointing miscarriages, we seriously considered fostering or adopting a child, but nothing ever worked out. All too soon it seemed our kids had grown and flown away, to school or jobs, throughout the country. But Jay and I didn't feel ready for an empty nest yet. We found the sudden silence of our empty home oppressive, missing the vibrancy, noise, laughter and chaos that children only can provide.

Looking and feeling far younger than our years, we believed we still had the ability to parent one more child. We began to seriously consider adopting, spending two years researching the entire process. We discovered an online support group for people like us called GAARP - Gracefully Aging Adoptive Refined Parents, described as “a forum for adoptive or would-be adoptive parents over the age of 40, who plan to be adoptive parenting into their silver and golden years.” With over 2000 members, we felt reassured we weren’t alone in this unconventional venture, despite the skeptical reaction of some family members and friends.

The minute we saw a photo of Abi's cute little face, with two missing front teeth, we felt he was meant to be our new son.
After the intensive research process, we finally found an ethical adoption agency whose main goal was to find families for older children, not only the healthy baby girls most people wanted. They sent their social worker to meet us and conduct our home study. We were approved and decided to adopt a six-year-old Ethiopian boy named Abi. The minute we saw a photo of his cute little face, with two missing front teeth, we felt he was meant to be our new son.

Our adoption journey was lengthy, involving complicated paperwork and one frustrating delay after another. Did we have any doubts along the way? Yes, definitely. Jay and I talked for hours. Were we truly making the right decision at this point in our lives? One friend tried to persuade us to shelve the whole idea, suggesting that at our age we should consider a relaxing ocean cruise instead. Yet, despite our doubts and fears, we felt compelled to continue the process. I knew, come what may, if we did not adopt Abi, we would always regret it.

My lifeline/support group consisted of other families who had adopted older children. These families were from different backgrounds but they all believed their adopted children were destined by God to be theirs. Our emails flew back and forth late into the night, my anxious questions receiving reassuring answers that only those who had been there, done that, could possibly provide. At last our long roller-coaster journey came to an end. The adoption was finalized and one bright afternoon, we met Abi, hugged him and knew he was ours. Our doubts and fears began to melt away in the warm sunshine.

A Different Life
Life was very different from then on, both for him and us. Older adopted children come with baggage from their pasts and Abi was no exception. Adopting him was certainly the most challenging, emotionally stressful thing we have ever done but at the same time the most significant, life-enhancing and rewarding. There was so much for Abi to learn but he was bright and curious and we learned along with him as we bonded into a family.

People would often tell us what a great mitzvah we did by providing Abi with a loving home. We feel that he gave us a rare gift too, the opportunity to turn back the clock. Suddenly we felt like young parents again, attending PTA meetings and soccer games, helping with homework, reading bedtime stories, singing “Hamalach HaGoel” and “Shema Yisrael” together.

We weren’t sure if Abi was Jewish from birth but were informed he’d been circumcised at one week old. Since we wanted him to be fully accepted by our Orthodox community without question, we decided to have him undergo a halachic conversion. The first step of the process was the hatafat dam brit in the office of a doctor/mohel. The second step of the process – immersion in a mikvah – was far more enjoyable. Abi loved the mikvah – (hey, a small swimming pool!) – and felt disappointed he couldn’t splash around in it longer.

He soon grew accustomed to going to shul with us on Shabbat, participating in the kiddush afterward, even eating the traditional pickled herring with crackers. We enrolled him in the local Jewish school and soon he became more fluent in Hebrew than we were.

However, there were problems too. With so many changes to adjust to in a short space of time, Abi grew easily frustrated when he couldn’t get his way. He did make some friends but dealt aggressively with a few other boys he didn’t get along with. The school had a strict no-fighting policy so Abi had frequent ‘punishment’ days at home. After he picked up and threw a chair at a classmate, we were called into the principal’s office to see what could be done to help Abi. The principal herself was convinced he had ADHD and insisted that Ritalin was the answer. One of his teachers suggested taking him to a psychologist dealing with traumatized children. He gave Abi a battery of tests and recommended a medication to help him calm down and become less aggressive. He also started seeing a child therapist to cope with his past issues. She utilized both play and art therapy with him and it broke our hearts when she showed us a drawing Abi had made of his dimly-remembered birth mother, a woman with tears pouring down her face.

Thankfully, by the end of the school year, Abi’s aggressive behavior had greatly diminished and over the summer we weaned him off the medication, though he continued to see the therapist for another year.

People stared at us, a young, brown-skinned boy with a white couple old enough to be his grandparents. But Abi, a good-looking, captivating child, gradually became an accepted part of our community.
We soon realized that people tended to stare at us, a young, brown-skinned boy with a white couple old enough to be his grandparents. But Abi, a good-looking, captivating child, gradually became an accepted part of our community. Jay and I learned to march to a different drummer as a conspicuous, interracial family, becoming more aware and sensitive towards racism.

Visiting an Ethiopian shul to celebrate the arrival of a new sefer Torah to their community, Jay and I realized what it felt like to be a minority, the only white people within a large group of Ethiopians.

Abi himself quickly learned to deal with racial slurs. When a boy called him a ‘kushi’ (a derogatory term for an Ethiopian) Abi immediately responded, “And you are cottage cheese!”

Sometimes we saw a bit of humor in the situation too. Once when we were discussing healthy food choices, I pointed out that brown bread and brown rice were healthier than white bread and white rice. “I’m brown so I’m healthier too!” Abi pointed out with a grin.

Just as Abi has grown accustomed to our culture, we try to incorporate some elements of his into our lives. We have become friendly with two sweet Ethiopian sisters in our neighborhood. I learned to cook Ethiopian food (thanks to youtube videos) though I still draw the line at eating berbere, a fiery spice similar to jalapeno peppers. When Abi was old enough to understand, we told him about the 2,500-year old dream of Ethiopian Jews to return to Israel, their bravery to undertake that long difficult journey and their fervent belief the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem.

One sunny afternoon Abi and I were walking past a dumpster on our street when he noticed a huge teddy bear perched on top of it. His brown eyes went wide. "Who threw away this nice bear?" he asked, shocked.

"Maybe the kid who owned him doesn't want a teddy bear anymore since he’s all grown up,” I suggested.

"So why don’t his mom and dad adopt a new kid like you and Daddy adopted me?”

For a moment I felt stunned. Abi is well aware of the fact that he is our second-time-around child but we’d no idea how normal a process he thinks this is. We rescued the teddy bear, perfectly clean and in great shape. Perhaps on some level Abi identified with it. Someone else no longer wanted it, but he sure did! Though it’s a huge bear, taking up a lot of space in his bed, he sleeps with it every night. It’s exactly the right size to fill his heart, just as Abi has filled ours.
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Post  Admin on Sun 18 Aug 2019, 10:50 pm

A Mother’s Letter in Auschwitz
Aug 17, 2019  |  by Gedalia Guttentag
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/A-Mothers-Letter-in-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
A Mother’s Letter in Auschwitz
In the hell of Auschwitz Erika Bock, 18, received a final message of faith that would accompany her throughout her life.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, summer 1944. A train from Budapest slowed as it approached the infamous camp gates and finally stopped at the platform. The doors to the cattle cars opened; welcome to hell.

Against the incongruous background of a prisoner orchestra playing a Hungarian folk song, the SS guards forced the prisoners – already weakened by the inhuman overcrowding of their journey – out onto the platform in a mad rush of barking dogs and terrified men, women and children.

One of those who stepped out that day was Erika Bock, an 18-year-old girl originally from Pressburg, Slovakia. One of five children, she had been born into a house permeated by Jewish learning. Her father, Samu Bock had studied in the world-famous Pressburg Yeshiva for 13 years. Her mother Gisela was accustomed to fast every Monday and Thursday for half a day, and she had her seat taken out in shul so that she would stand for the whole time out of respect for its holiness.

Like many Central European Jews, she and her siblings were raised as German-speakers with a secular education. But unusual for a girl of her time, Erika also had an extensive Jewish education. The groundbreaking Beis Yaakov girls school system – today a global phenomenon – was in its infancy. In 1939 her parents sent her to Tapolchan, Slovakia where the original Krakow branch of the movement had relocated due to the war.

It was the example of her parents’ home together with her own immersion in Jewish learning that gave her the faith for what she was to endure in the years ahead.

Unlike in next-door Hungary, terror came early to the Bock family in Slovakia. By 1940, persecution of Jews had begun under the Nazi-allied regime of Catholic priest Josef Tiso. When deportations of Jews started in 1941, Samu and Gisela Bock decided that their daughters had to flee to Budapest, where Jews were safe.

They paid a courier to drive Erika and her younger sister Mimi across the border to neighboring Hungary. Due to the danger, a famous rabbi then in Pressburg, Rav Yonason Steif, permitted them to leave on Friday night.

The young girls weren’t on their way to freedom. Their driver betrayed them and drove straight to the nearest Gestapo headquarters.
But unknown to the young girls, they weren’t on their way to freedom. The driver who their parents had trusted crossed the border and drove straight to the nearest Gestapo headquarters. The girls were arrested and taken to a Budapest jail, where they were beaten and held in solitary confinement. Destroying the papers that identified them as Jews, the sisters claimed that they had been deported to Hungary against their will.

Although the authorities couldn’t prove that they were Jewish, Erika and her sister were deported to Auschwitz along with other Jews from Budapest. Standing on the Auschwitz railway platform in 1944, Erika found herself being sent to the left in a selection whose meaning she didn’t understand at the time.

She was assigned the horrific job to sort through the belongings of those who had just been gassed. Told only that they would be going to the East for “resettlement”, many Jews filled their pockets with money, pictures, or prayer books as they left on their final journey.

During one night shift something unusual happened. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, young Erika felt an extreme fear. As she would say later, until you got to Auschwitz there was fear; afterwards, one was so preoccupied with impending death that there was no fear. And yet on that night a sudden terror overcame her, making her teeth chatter.

Two of Erika’s fellow prisoners from Poland called the overseer, a Dutch Jew called Eli. He came over and asked what was happening. “I can’t go on, I don’t want to go on,” said Erika, bent over with panic.

But the foreman rebuked her: “Look at that crematorium. There is my wife, there are my children, but I must continue. You have to carry on!”

But the fear didn’t leave her, and she reached for a siddur in the pile of belongings that she was sorting and prayed.

Later that night, a new consignment of belongings arrived. Erika picked up a handbag and suddenly called out, “This is my mother’s!”

Having been separated from her mother years before, with thousands of Jews from all across Europe arriving and being killed daily, what were the chances that this was really her mother’s handbag?
One of the Polish women said to the other, “Panis zwarisvala – she’s gone crazy!” Having been separated from her mother years before, and with thousands of Jews from all across Europe arriving and being killed daily, what were the chances that this was really her mother’s handbag? And yet Erika insisted that it was the black bag with an ivory handle that her father had given to her mother.

As the others watched, Erika opened the handbag. Inside was a picture of herself, and postcards – addressed to her. They were stamped “undeliverable”, returned to her mother who had never stopped trying to contact her as she was imprisoned.

One, in Hungarian, bore the following message: “My dear child, never stumble, always have trust in God.”

So as her mother was being gassed, which inexplicably prompted an outburst of fear and crying in Erika, she received a final message of faith – one that would accompany her throughout her life.

It was only in the 1970s that Erika began to speak about her experiences. After the war she married Mr. David Rothschild of Zurich, and together they built a house famous for being open to all in need, and were instrumental in creating much of the city’s Jewish infrastructure including the school and old age home. But it was an encounter in a Swiss hospital that persuaded her that she had a duty to share her story. While lying in a hospital bed, the nurse noticed the number 82587 branded into her arm. “Frau Rothschild,” she exclaimed, “how clever of you to write your phone number on your arm so that you shouldn’t forget it!”

Shocked that an educated person, only three decades after the Holocaust could be unaware of what those numbers meant, she decided that it was time to speak.

In a talk that she gave to foreign diplomats in Bern, Switzerland in 1998, Mrs Rothschild spoke of that incident: “Can you see that this was something supernatural? At the very moment that my mother, from whom I’d been separated for years, was gassed, I was overcome with feelings of tremendous fear. 'Never stumble, always trust in God!' These words were her last legacy to me, and have remained in my thoughts my whole life.”

Mrs Erika Rothschild passed away just over 20 years ago, and I married her granddaughter, named after Erika’s younger sister Mimi who died in Auschwitz just after liberation. Having survived Auschwitz, a world of suffering and tears, she set up a home full of the warmth of the Judaism that she’d seen at home.

But perhaps the enduring message of the handbag in Auschwitz isn’t so much about suffering, as about the faith possible despite hard times.

Life brings challenges, some of them very difficult ones. We may not be able to explain the darkness – but for the person of faith, the light is there. For Erika Rothschild, her faith was real; it was born in her parents’ home and strengthened in the crucible of Auschwitz.
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Post  Admin on Sun 18 Aug 2019, 10:47 am

Broadway Actor Takes The Narrow Way
https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/video/jewish-testimonies-i-met-messiah/broadway-actor-takes-the-narrow-way/
By Eitan Bar
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What do you do when your life revolves around popularity, but the way of truth is the unpopular one to take? Broadway star Jordan Gilbert chose to follow it, no matter the price, staying true to his faith and his Messiah!
In a world that makes it harder and harder to speak out about our faith, Jordan decided that he won’t be silent.
Eitan Bar is a native Jewish-Israeli who was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel (1984). Graduated with his B.A. in Biblical Studies from Israel College of the Bible (Jerusalem, 2009), his M.A. in Theology from Liberty University (2013) and is now pursuing his Doctorate with Dallas Theological Seminary. Eitan currently serves as ONE FOR ISRAEL's Director of Media & Evangelism. (From 2006 to 2013, Eitan worked for CRU, in which his roles included serving as Israel's VLM-SLM leader.)

Eitan's professional background is in "Multimedia Design and Visual Communications" working for various secular advertising agencies in Tel-Aviv.

Eitan is the producer of:
1) I MET MESSIAH (Jewish testimonials).
2) Answering Rabbinic Objections to Jesus.



https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/527948601.html?s=mm
Why Is the Jewish People So Small?
V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
Aug 8, 2019
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
158
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Why Is the Jewish People So Small?
Nations are not judged by their size but by their contribution to the human heritage.

Near the end of Va-etchanan, so inconspicuously that we can sometimes miss it, is a statement with such far reaching implications that it challenges the impression that has prevailed thus far in the Torah, giving an entirely new complexion to the biblical image of the people Israel:

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples. (Deut. 7:7)

This is not what we have heard thus far. In Bereishit God promises the patriarchs that their descendants will be like the stars of the heaven, the sand on the sea shore, the dust of the earth, uncountable. Abraham will be the father, not just of one nation but of many. At the beginning of Exodus we read of how the covenantal family, numbering a mere seventy when they went down to Egypt, were "fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them" (Ex. 1:7).

Three times in the book of Deuteronomy Moses describes the Israelites as being "as many as the stars of the sky" (1:10, 10:22, 28:62). King Solomon speaks of himself as set among "the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number" (1 Kings 3:8). The prophet Hosea says that "The Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted" (Hos. 2:1).

In all these texts and others it is the size, the numerical greatness, of the people that is emphasized. What then are we to make of Moses' words that speak of its smallness? Targum Yonatan interprets it not to be about numbers at all but about self-image. He translates it not as "the fewest of peoples" but as "the most lowly and humble of peoples." Rashi gives a similar reading, citing Abraham's words "I am but dust and ashes," and Moses and Aaron's, "Who are we?"

Rashbam and Chizkuni give the more straightforward explanation that Moses is contrasting the Israelites with the seven nations they would be fighting in the land of Canaan/Israel. God would lead the Israelites to victory despite the fact that they were outnumbered by the local inhabitants.

Rabbenu Bachya quotes Maimonides, who says that we would have expected God, King of the universe, to have chosen the most numerous nation in the world as His people, since "The glory of the king is in the multitude of people" (Prov. 14:28). God did not do so. Thus Israel should count itself extraordinarily blessed that God chose it, despite its smallness, to be His am segulah, His special treasure.

Rabbenu Bachya finds himself forced to give a more complex reading to resolve the contradiction of Moses, in Deuteronomy, saying both that Israel is the smallest of peoples and "as many as the stars of the sky." He turns it into a hypothetical subjunctive, meaning: God would still have chosen you, even if you had been the smallest of the peoples.

Sforno gives a simple and straightforward reading: God did not choose a nation for the sake of His honour. Had He done so He would undoubtedly have chosen a mighty and numerous people. His choice had nothing to do with honour and everything to do with love. He loved the patriarchs for their willingness to heed His voice; therefore He loves their children.

Yet there is something in this verse that resonates throughout much of Jewish history. Historically Jews were and are a small people: today less than a fifth of one per cent of the population of the world. There were two reasons for this. First is the heavy toll taken through the ages by exile and persecution, directly by Jews killed in massacres and pogroms, indirectly by those who converted - in fifteenth century Spain and nineteenth century Europe - in order to avoid persecution (tragically, even conversion did not work; racial anti-Semitism persisted in both cases). The Jewish population is a mere fraction of what it might have been had there been no Hadrian, no crusades and no anti-Semitism.

The second reason is that Jews did not seek to convert others. Had they done so they would have been closer in numbers to Christianity (2.2 billion) or Islam (1.3 billion). In fact Malbim reads something like this into our verse. The previous verses have said that the Israelites are about to enter a land with seven nations, Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Moses warns them against intermarriage with them, not for racial but for religious reasons: "they will turn your children away from following Me to serve other gods." Malbim interprets our verse as Moses saying to the Israelites, Don't justify intermarriage on the grounds that it will increase the number of Jews. God is not interested in numbers.

There was a moment when Jews might have sought to convert others (to be sure, there was one instance when they did. The Hasmonean priest-king John Hyrcanus I forcibly converted the Edomites, known as the Idumeneans. Herod was one of their number). The period in question was the Roman Empire in the first century. Jews numbered some 10 per cent of the empire, and there were many Romans who admired aspects of their faith and way of life. The pagan deities of the Hellenistic world were losing their appeal and plausibility, and throughout the centres of the Mediterranean, individuals were adopting Jewish practices. Two aspects of Judaism stood in their way: the commandments and circumcision. In the end, Jews chose not to compromise their way of life for the sake of making converts. The Hellenistic people who sympathized with Judaism mostly adopted Pauline Christianity instead. Consistently throughout history, Jews have chosen to be true to themselves and to stay small rather than make concessions for the sake of increasing numbers.

Why have Divine providence or human choice or both, eventuated in the sheer smallness of the Jewish people? Could it be, quite simply, that through the Jewish people God is telling humankind that you do not need to be numerous to be great. Nations are not judged by their size but by their contribution to the human heritage. Of this the most compelling proof is that a nation as small as the Jews could produce an ever-renewed flow of prophets, priests, poets, philosophers, sages, saints, halakhists, aggadists, codifiers, commentators, rebbes and roshei yeshivot; that they could also yield some of the world's greatest writers, artists, musicians, film-makers, academics, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople and technological innovators. Out of all proportion to their numbers Jews could and can be found working as lawyers fighting injustice, economists fighting poverty, doctors fighting disease, and teachers fighting ignorance.

You do not need numbers to enlarge the spiritual and moral horizons of humankind. You need other things altogether: a sense of the worth and dignity of the individual, of the power of human possibility to transform the world, of the importance of giving everyone the best education they can have, of making each of us feel part of a collective responsibility to ameliorate the human condition, and a willingness to take high ideals and enact them in the real world, unswayed by disappointments and defeats.

Nowhere is this more in evidence today than among the people of Israel in the state of Israel: traduced in the media and pilloried by much of the world, yet still, year after year, producing human miracles in medicine, agriculture, technology, the arts, as if the word "impossible" did not exist in the Hebrew language. When, therefore, we feel fearful and depressed about Israel's plight, it is worth returning to Moses' words: "The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples."

Small? Yes. Still surrounded, as the Israelites were then, by "nations larger and stronger than you." But that small people, defying the laws of history, outlived all the world's great empires, and still has a message of hope for humanity. You don't have to be large to be great. If you are open to a power greater than yourself, you will become greater than yourself. Israel today still carries that message to the world.

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Rabbi Lord Jonathan SacksMore by this Author >
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is an international religious leader, philosopher, and respected moral voice. The author of over 30 books, Rabbi Sacks has received multiple awards in recognition of his work including the 2016 Templeton Prize. He is the recipient of 17 honorary doctorates, was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. He served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013.

These weekly teachings from Rabbi Sacks are part of the ‘Covenant & Conversation’ series on the weekly Torah reading. Read more essays from the series on www.rabbisacks.org.

Now available for additional learning: The FAMILY EDITION of Covenant & Conversation, designed to enhance your parsha conversation with everyone from teenagers to great-great-grandparents. To read and print this new learning resource, for an inter-generational discussion around your Shabbat table on Rabbi Sacks’ ideas for the week, click here!
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Post  Admin on Thu 08 Aug 2019, 1:38 pm

But What If I Don't Want the Sacrifices of the Temple to Return?
Aug 3, 2019
by Billye Tziporah Roberts
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/But-What-If-I-Dont-Want-the-Sacrifices-of-the-Temple-to-Return.html?s=mm
But What If I Don't Want the Sacrifices of the Temple to Return?
I’ve never liked the idea of animals dying for me… or God.

Imagine that you lived in the United States in the early 1600s, in one of the first settlements – Jamestown, Virginia or near Cape Cod – where the Pilgrims started out. Life was, to say the least, hard.

Less than half of the Pilgrim families that landed at Plymouth Rock survived that first winter. Fewer than 150 of the 700 original Jamestown colonists survived the first three years.

Disease, starvation, bad water, hostile Native Americans. Not only no luxuries. Almost no necessities.

Now imagine someone from the year 2019 shows up. Someone who lives on that same east coast where you are barely surviving. They describe life as we live it today. They tell you that people live in multi-story buildings, that it's possible to travel from one area of the country to another, even one country to another, in only hours. They talk about places where you can buy all the food, clothing or anything else you need.

Long before that person began trying to explain telephones or the internet, you'd decide that they were either crazy or a liar. How else could you respond to such outlandish stories?

I have a similar problem when I try to imagine what life was like when we had the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. What happened there is so far outside of my current reality that I just can't wrap my mind around it. Especially the idea of bringing sacrifices.

It wasn't that I didn't want the Temple re-built. Believe me, I do. But I always hoped that it could be done without all those sacrifices.
I've always thought it was both uncivilized and unnecessary to slaughter all those innocent animals, not to mention unsanitary. Ick! I mean, what kind of a way is that to show my love, my joy, my appreciation to God?

I would think maybe it was just something that was necessary "back then," but we certainly don't need to do that sort of thing anymore.

My stomach always got queasy thinking about the sight and sounds of the animals being slaughtered, and the blood being slathered all over the alter.

I am also extremely sensitive to odors, so imagining the smells of blood and slaughtered animals and burning flesh only added to my nausea. It was beyond me to imagine all of that being "a pleasing smell to the Lord."

Because of these imaginings, I struggled with the part of the prayers where we ask for the rebuilding of the Temple and the re-institution of sacrifices. It wasn't that I didn't want Mashiach (the Messiah) to come, or that I didn't want the Temple re-built. Believe me, I do. But deep in my heart, I always hoped that it could be done without all those sacrifices.

But one morning, as I was saying that part of the prayers, I had an insight based on something I learned from Rabbi Stephen Baars.

What if I simply couldn't understand what it was like when the sacrifices were made in the Temple? What if, like the American colonists from the 1600s who wouldn't be able to understand life in America in the 2000s, what if it was so outside of what I have experienced that I am just not capable of even imagining what it was like when sacrifices were made when the Temple still stood?

After all, God's presence dwelled in the Temple. Has anything in my life come close to that experience? Maybe. I have had moments when I sensed the shadow of God in my life. But sensing the revelation of the Shechina, the Divine Presence that filled the Holy Temple? That had to have been so very much more.

Imagine you are there:

What if… what you saw wasn't intestines and blood but the living Presence of God hovering over the alter, a tangible vision of the Transcendent, inviting you to participate in an eternal dance with the Divine?

What if… what you heard wasn't the screams of dying animals but the singing of God's praise by His angels and you answering, harmonizing in joyous song about the wonder and love of God?

What if… what you smelled wasn't horrid and overpowering, but pure and fragrant: sweeter than incense and spices? Until every breath was filling you, opening you up, until every pore in your body was taking in the aroma of the world, breathing in time with the entire universe?

What if… after all your other senses were completely overwhelmed by these fantastic sensations what you ultimately felt was simply... God.
What if… after all your other senses were completely overwhelmed by these wonderful, fantastic sensations, what you ultimately felt was simply... God. You were more than filled with God. You were overflowing with God.

And it was the most wonderful, and, of course, completely indescribable, thing you'd ever felt.

And you were almost totally, completely, wholly, a part of it all. Almost.

All you would want would be to push past that almost all the way into the Presence that is God. And after having lived with the direct and immediate sensation of what it means to be connected to God, you would never – ever - want the experience to end.

But, of course, it would have to: when the sacrifices ended, or when the festivals ended, or even just when the day ended.

However much a person might want to stay in that state of closeness to the Eternal, we live in a physical world. We need to go home, back to our jobs, to tending our families; to eating, drinking, sleeping. The wonders of the sacrifices would fade.

But what if… all those overwhelming sensations and emotions didn’t fade completely away? What if they became a tiny little flame that managed to survive somehow, deep inside, under the hearts of those who were blessed to experience the sacrifices?

What if… that tiny little flame remained, even after the Temples were destroyed and the sacrifices were no more?

What if… it still burns, tucked safely away beneath the hearts of the Jewish people? So that even though we don't really remember, we can't really forget either?

Because there is still an echo, passed down from generation to generation, that we can just barely hear if we listen hard enough; just barely feel if we open our hearts enough?

What if …my issues with the sacrifices wasn't really a problem with what happened in the Temple? Instead, they were a problem with my inability to recognize that tiny little flame inside me and allowing it to open my mind to what my heart already knew?

Right now, I am preparing my mind and heart for Tisha B'Av. So I am spending a lot of time thinking about the destruction of the two Temples, and hoping that my thoughts about that tiny little flame turn out to be true.

Because that would mean that I’ll be able to focus, with no reservations, on the wondrous experiences and the closeness to God that the re-built Temple will bring us.

So that I will be able to say, with a joyous and undivided heart: may it be soon.
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Post  Admin on Mon 05 Aug 2019, 10:01 am

A Magic Trick in Auschwitz
Jul 27, 2019  |  by Ronda Robinson
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/A-Magic-Trick-in-Auschwitz.html?s=mm
A Magic Trick in Auschwitz
For Werner Reich. magic sparked a crumb of hope during the Holocaust.

In the hell of Auschwitz it was a magic trick that gave Werner Reich hope. The 91-year-old Holocaust survivor remembers seeing the trick it to this day.

As a 16-year-old, he had come back from a work assignment, climbed onto the top of a bare wooden bunk in the concentration camp barracks and found another inmate doing a card trick. Reich recalls, “It was like finding a gorilla in your bathroom. You can’t comprehend where it came from, what it was doing there. It knocked my socks off, although I didn’t have any.”

The older man, Herbert Lewin – whose stage name as a magician in Berlin had been The Great Nivelli – kindly explained how the trick worked without being asked. “I remembered every detail. It was the first trick I’d ever seen in my life. From that point on I practiced that card trick every single day in my head,” says Reich.

Balm for the Soul
“The trick provided for me a mental diversion from the daily gnawing of hunger and the constant fear for my life. It gave me something to think about, something that was a goal.”

He knew the rhythm, the movement, the flow of the trick well enough to recreate it in England after his liberation from Auschwitz, Poland.

The gift of a card trick during the unimaginable, harrowing time spawned a lifelong interest in magic. Although Reich doesn’t perform magic for pay, he enjoys using it to uplift the spirits of hospital patients and friends. He also donates his talent for fundraisers.

A member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Psychic Entertainers Association, Reich says magic has taught him how to think outside the box and approach problems from a different angle. He has learned to think on his feet, maintain presence of mind and take command of an audience.

“For this reason, I have never had a ‘bad’ audience and am a successful speaker even in the worst school.”

Teaching Youths Not to Hate
Imprisoned in jail and concentration camps from ages 15 through 17, the nonagenarian uses his energy to speak 100 times a year and promote Holocaust awareness at schools, colleges, synagogues, churches and conventions worldwide.

Sometimes he is called on to do an intervention. “Anti-Semitism has been here all the time. It’s just coming to the surface,” says Reich. For instance, a school where teens had been caught painting swastikas invited him to teach them the meaning and consequences of their actions.

The response is always positive, he says. Even though he has every right to play the victim card, Reich tells audiences not to feel sorry for him.



“I have had a very good life!” he reports. “What is important is not to be a bystander. We are all responsible for each other. I always quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.’ I beg them not to be a silent friend.”

A Happy Life Turns Ugly
Born in Berlin in 1927, he describes his early years as a typical middle-class Jewish life. His father worked as a mechanical and electrical engineer. His mother was a proud German who had served in the army in World War I, saved the lives of soldiers and received an Iron Cross military medal.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany stopped allowing Jews to work at major companies, colleges and hospitals. Reich’s father lost his job. The children had to leave school.

At age 6, Reich and his family moved to Yugoslavia, where his father had served during WW I as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army.

“In 1933 people thought in two years Hitler would be out and we’d go back home. We had to sell our house for next to nothing. When we left, 25 percent of all our financial means was confiscated by the government as an emigration tax. We came to Yugoslavia and my father couldn’t find job because the country was strictly agricultural,” Reich recently told an audience at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta.

“I was a kid, I was very happy. I went to school. I learned Croat and Serbian. I didn’t know the problems my parents had. In 1940 my father died, then a few months later Germany invaded Yugoslavia. Everything got turned upside down.”

His mother felt safe because of her military service, but she feared for her children and placed the elder, a daughter, with one couple and Werner with another who worked in the resistance movement. He quips, “It’s like hiding the cheese in the mousetrap.”

The Gestapo Knocks
Werner lived a lonely life, cooking, cleaning and developing film for the resistance movement. One morning there was a knock at the door. Several Gestapo agents burst in and threw everything out of the closets. One stood guard over Reich with a gun, ordering him to leave the door open when he went to the bathroom.

The secret police then arrested the 13-year-old and took him to prison, questioning and hitting him for hours, no matter what answers he gave.
The secret police then arrested the 13-year-old and took him to prison, questioning and hitting him for hours, no matter what answers he gave. They locked him in a basement cell with a concrete floor and bucket for a toilet and fed him only liverwurst sandwiches for three days. “They obviously lacked imagination as far as food was concerned,” he says dryly.

He spent two months in different prisons. In one cell in Gratz, Austria, he looked out a third-floor window to the prison yard below and saw his mother walking in a circle. It would be the last time he would ever see her. He then spent 10 months in Terezin, a concentration camp north of Prague in the Czech Republic.

Little could Reich imagine the horrors to come. “I was sort of convinced all of this was going to stop very soon. I didn’t know anything about death camps.”



He soon found out as one of 2,500 prisoners shipped via railroad cattle cars. “They gave us a piece of bread and a couple of cans of sardines the Red Cross must have sent. Buckets overflowed after an hour. We were lying in our feces and urine.”

Stealing the Horses’ Food to Survive
After three days the train doors opened. “It was a scene out of hell. We asked where we were. They told us we were in Auschwitz.” Stripped, shaved and tattooed with the number A-1828 on his arm, Reich lived on 400 calories a day. After a couple of months there, he passed through three selections by Dr. Mengele. The vast majority were killed after that.

“We were trying our best to survive. It was a question of life or death.” He worked in the stables and stole the horses’ food. After nine months there, in January 1945 he and 60,000 other prisoners went on a three-day death march during which 15,000 died. He then suffered a four-day railroad transport in coal cars to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. In open railroad cars, they endured snow, ice and death from frostbite.



At Mauthausen, he relates, “We got a tablespoon of moldy bread a day. I slept next to a dead man for three days just to get his rations.”

When liberated on May 5, 1945, at the age of 17, Reich weighed just 64 pounds. He then went to Communist Yugoslavia. After regaining his strength, he managed to escape to England, find work and get married. He and his wife, Eva, moved to New York, where his sister settled after the war.

A Lucky Life, A Lucky Man
Reich spent 10 years studying in college at night and worked as an industrial engineer. He and Eva were married for 61 years until her death in 2016. “She was the love of my life. I have two sons, David and Michael, two delightful daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. Life has been very, very good to me. I really have no complaints. I was lucky. I was really lucky.”

Herbert Lewin – The Great Nivelli, the magician whose stage name derived from reversing the spelling of his last name – also survived the war. He wound up settling in New York less than 30 minutes away from Reich. After Lewin died in 1977, his former bunkmate spotted the obituary in a magician’s magazine. They never met again after Auschwitz.
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Post  Admin on Mon 29 Jul 2019, 10:56 am

Reuven Bauman: Through Fire and Water
Jul 28, 2019  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Reuven-Bauman-Through-Fire-and-Water.html?s=mm
Reuven Bauman: Through Fire and Water
Reuven Bauman’s heroic rescue on a Virginia beach echoes his grandfather’s lifesaving deed 50 years earlier.

The story is well-known: On July 9, 35-year-old Rabbi Reuven Bauman was on a Virginia beach, chaperoning day campers. Some of the boys got too close to the water’s choppy edge and were caught off-guard by a giant wave. Seeing the boys struggle to regain their balance in the now-deep water, Reuven immediately threw off his shoes and rushed in to save them.

During those perilous moments, Reuven held the boys tightly, keeping them from slipping out further. A nearby fisherman helped the boys reach shore safely. Yet suddenly, Reuven himself was caught in a treacherous rip tide and swept out to sea; his body was recovered five days later.

From where did Reuven derive this extraordinary sense of courage and self-sacrifice for others?

After speaking with the Bauman family, the rest of the story can now be told.

New York City, 1967. Reuven’s paternal grandfather, Wilhelm Bauman (known fondly as Willy), was a cabinet-maker. While out on a job, Willy’s partner was working in an adjacent room. Suddenly Willy heard a massive explosion. Highly-flammable glue had combusted – consuming the adjacent room in flames.

Disregarding his personal safety, Willy rushed into the dangerous inferno and pulled out his injured partner – likely saving the man's life.

In the process, however, Willy was critically injured with third-degree burns covering much of his body. Doctors did not expect him to live through the night.

Willy stayed in intensive care for many months, and eventually – with the help of an experimental burn unit – returned home to his family. Though his ability to walk was permanently damaged (he often used a wheelchair), Willy lived another 40 productive years.

Rabbi Mark Bauman was 12 years old when his father performed this exceptional deed. Mark is also the father of Reuven Bauman, whose valiant rescue on a Virginia beach echoes his grandfather’s lifesaving deed of 50 years earlier.

“Between my father and my son,” Mark says of the heroic courage transmitted through generations, “it was fire and water.”

At great personal cost, Willy Bauman performed a heroic lifesaving rescue in 1967.

Appreciating Reuven
Reuven Bauman was a beloved teacher of children in Norfolk, Virginia, spending countless hours meticulously preparing class material and developing new methods to teach in a clear, accessible way.

On a personal basis, Reuven was devoted to his students, caring and connecting to each on his level. “The boys loved him,” says Reuven’s father. “The other day a parent came over to me and said: ‘My son dislikes school, but he loved Rabbi Bauman’."

Two days before his death, Reuven accompanied the day camp to an amusement park. He rode on terrifying rollercoasters, feeling it was important to share that experience with the kids. “His commitment to his students was his life’s mission,” said Rabbi Mordechai Loiterman, the principal where Reuven taught. “It wasn’t a job he was doing; this is how he defined himself.”

Last year, Reuven published a children’s book, Yanky’s Amazing Discovery, about a boy who overcomes his struggles. The boy is inspired by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century, whose character traits could be emulated by a child on any level.

Says Rabbi Mark Bauman: “Reuven felt it was important to portray our Sages in a way that is relevant and accessible, to encourage young people to aspire to their greatness.”

Reuven also wrote children’s poems about the Jewish holidays, which is being prepared for posthumous publication.

Family and friends describe Reuven as the perfect blend of intellect, humility, dignity, sweetness, humor, and love. Regardless of age, level of observance or background, Reuven respected everyone. When the yeshiva’s non-Jewish cook had a heart attack, Reuven took the initiative to buy a card, have everyone sign it, and bring it to the hospital.

"He always made you feel like a 'somebody'," says Yisrael Schwartz, Reuven’s brother-in-law. “His kindness, his smile, his ability to connect with people. Reuven had a quiet, gentle way of making you feel good about yourself.”

Reuven in his element: teaching a class of seventh graders

Reuven lived and died with Kiddush Hashem – deeds that sanctify God’s Name. His jumping into the dangerous waters to save his students was but an extension of his devotion to always putting others first.

Mordechai Bauman, one of Reuven’s five brothers, cites the Talmudic teaching that if someone desecrates God’s Name in secret, the deed is exposed in public. The same is true of the flipside: If a person sanctifies God’s Name in secret, the deed is rewarded publicly.

“Throughout Reuven’s life, he sanctified God’s Name in a very quiet, unassuming manner,” says Mordechai. “Maybe that is why God gave him the opportunity to complete his mission with an act that would cause a public Kiddush Hashem, one which spread across the globe.”

Reuven with his brother-in-law, Yisrael M. Schwartz

Massive Recovery Effort
When Reuven went missing, people far and wide were amazed at the massive outpouring of assistance, as hundreds of volunteers from organizations in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Georgia rushed to Virginia to join the search. Helicopters and a private airplane were commandeered to search up and down the coast; others came with boats and jet skis. Volunteers in SUVs scanned the terrain with binoculars, while other crews walked miles along the shore in 90-degree heat.

“When the call goes out that someone needs help, you just go without thinking twice,” says Yosef Nissel of Misaskim of Maryland, an organization that helps those dealing with tragedy. Nissel and his team of volunteers drove four hours to Virginia Beach with a boat in tow; upon arrival they chartered a second.

After a day or so of searching, the Coast Guard and other public rescue teams ended their effort, conceding it as futile. Yet the army of Jewish volunteers would not be deterred. Driven by the ever-slim chance of rescuing Reuven they pressed on, committed not to leave until they could at least accord Reuven the honor of a proper burial.



Day after day, working for hours on almost no sleep in sweltering heat, volunteers combed 450 square miles in a coordinated and organized effort. They were assisted by a local expert who calculated tides, currents and wind patterns – devising search grids for land, sea and air.

Meanwhile, thousands around the globe were drawn to this tremendous Kiddush Hashem by praying and performing good deeds on behalf of Reuven.

After a break for Shabbat, the volunteers were back in the ocean Sunday morning before sunrise.

On Sunday, as the midday sun beat upon the exhausted crew, a local fishing captain suggested that volunteers head out a few miles to where the ocean turns clear and has thick patches of seaweed. There, about one mile off the coast near the Virginia-North Carolina border, and six miles from where Reuven was last seen, Nissel’s team spotted his body.

Yosef Nissel, a volunteer from Maryland, discovered Reuven’s body one mile from the shore.

For an entire week, volunteer organizations like Achiezer, Misaskim, Chai Lifeline, Chaverim and Hatzalah were featured on the news – highlighting the tight-knit Jewish community and making a positive impression on everyone involved.

Coast Guard members were especially inspired, given that a few weeks earlier an 8-year-old boy had drowned in similar circumstances, swept away by a powerful rip current. In that instance, authorities gave up the search and simply waited for the body to wash up on shore.

In one particularly dramatic moment, when the Coast Guard diver brought Reuven's body out of the water, he proudly declared, "I am a Jew."

Importantly, Reuven received a proper burial, bringing a measure of relief to the grieving family.

Via conference call, over 40,000 people attended the funeral, where his brother-in-law Yisrael Schwartz declared:

“It as if God was saying to Reuven: You've done all this kindness for others in your quiet, unassuming way. Now I will give you a chance to save a life, and make a tremendous public Kiddush Hashem. The name Reuven Bauman will be known around the world as a man of true Kiddush Hashem. Here you go, Reuven. Take this gift. You deserve it.”

For Reuven Bauman, other people always came first. Now we each have the opportunity to give something back, by helping to care for Reuven’s wife and five young children, with a donation to the Bauman Family Fund.

May the memory of Reuven Tzvi ben Menachem Yitzchak continue to uplift and inspire.
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Post  Admin on Mon 29 Jul 2019, 10:50 am

Jews in the American Military
Jul 27, 2019
by Marc Liebman, Captain USN (retired)
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/Jews-in-the-American-Military.html?s=mm
Jews in the American Military
Four American Jews who made a major contribution to the American Armed Forces.

Most American Jews do not know of the major contribution their fellow Jews have made to the American Armed Forces. Many actually changed the way the U.S. military operates.

Here are four men who made a difference.

Commander Uriah P. Levy, war hero, fighter of anti-Semitism, philanthropist
Uriah P. Levy served with distinction in the War against the Barbary Pirates and the British during the War of 1812. He was the Commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean Squadron. Six times, Uriah Levy took superior officers to court martial for anti-Semitism. Twice he was forced out until a board reviewed the proceedings and reinstated Levy. Despite this, he became the first Jewish flag officer in the U.S. Navy.

While a flag officer in 1850, Levy led the effort to eliminate flogging as a punishment for sailors convicted for crimes under the Articles of War. The U.S. Navy was the first major navy to do so.

After he retired from the navy, Levy learned Monticello - Jefferson’s home and plantation - was about to be sold to pay family debts. Levy bought it and began its restoration. He commissioned the statue of Jefferson that now sits in the Capitol Rotunda as the only privately funded statue on U.S. property. The religious center at the Naval Academy is named after Levy.

Vice Admiral Joseph Taussig - Naval Strategist
Joe Taussig’s father, Ed, was recruited into the U.S. Navy by Uriah Levy and became the first Jewish Midshipman at the Naval Academy. Ed Taussig was the first of four generations of Naval Academy graduates, all of whom had distinguished careers.

By the time the U.S. became involved in World War I, Joe Taussig competed assignments in China, Cuba and the Philippines. In May, 1917, as commander of Destroyer Squadron 8, he led the first destroyer squadron to deploy to Europe. His squadron’s accomplishments led to an assignment in D.C. as the head the Division of Enlisted Personnel, the organization responsible for recruiting, training and retaining enlisted men.

After the war, Captain Taussig testified before Senate Committee for Navy Affairs that when World War I broke out, the Navy was far from ready for war. His comments and his award-winning essay that challenged then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposal that the Navy make up its manning shortfalls by enlisting men being paroled from jail, earned him Roosevelt’s ire.

In the U.S., officers “serve at the pleasure of the President.” As a practice that holds to this day, rarely do Navy or Marine Corps officers speak out publicly against our political leaders. When one does, one puts one’s career at risk.

Admiral William Sims, the Navy’s highest-ranking officer and a critic of Navy preparedness publicly supported Taussig. Sims sent Taussig to the Naval War College first as a student, then as a tactics instructor and eventually he became the head of the Strategy Department.

When Roosevelt took office in 1933, he informed the Navy that he would not approve RADM Taussig’s promotion to Vice Admiral. The dispute went public when two influential columnists – Drew Pearson and Robert Allen – criticized Roosevelt’s decision not to promote Taussig who was the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations. Instead, the Navy gave him command of cruiser and battleship divisions before sending him to run the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Fifth Naval District.

In May, 1940 Taussig was again asked to testify before the Senate’s Committee on Naval Affairs. He said the Navy was not prepared a war with Japan that he believed was inevitable. Allen and Pearson called Taussig the “best strategist in the Navy.”

Roosevelt was furious and as commander-in-chief, he demanded Taussig retire immediately. After Pearl Harbor and early Japanese victories followed the plan Taussig outlined, he was recalled, promoted to Vice Admiral and served on the Secretary of the Navy’s staff.

Today, VADM Joseph Taussig’s legacy lives on. As head of the Division of Enlisted Personnel, he set standards individuals must meet and focused the navy’s efforts to recruit the best and the brightest men and women. He established the Naval War College as think tank for naval strategy and war-gaming that honed the skills of the officers who led the navy to victory during World War II.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rosenthal – Bomber Pilot
When Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Robert Rosenthal had just finished Brooklyn Law School. On December 8th, he enlisted in the Army and after receiving his wings was assigned to fly B-17. He arrived in England in August 1943 as a B-17 aircraft commander in the 418th Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group.

The group was known as “Bloody Hundredth” because of its high loss rates even though they were not much worse than any other B-17 unit. Before the P-38 and P-51s began escorting the bombers all the way to the targets and back, the Eighth Air Force was losing more than ten percent of the bombers on every mission. With the fighter escorts, the loss rate dropped to a more “acceptable” seven percent.

On October 10th 1943, Rosenthal’s crew in a B-17 named Rosie’s Riveters took off on its third mission. The Eighth Air Force expected the bombers to get to their target in Muenster, Germany unescorted. His B-17 was the only one of 13 bombers from his group that returned. When he landed, two of his airplane’s four engines were shut down due to battle damage and it had a large hole in the left wing due to a direct hit by an 88mm shell.

Rosenthal flew his required 25 missions and volunteered to fly a second tour. The first time he was shot down in September 1944, he broke his arm bailing out over German occupied France. The Free French managed to get him back to England and Rosenthal resumed his career as a B-17 pilot.

On his 52nd and next to last mission, Rosenthal flew the lead bomber headed to Berlin. An 88mm anti-aircraft shell set the B-17 on fire. Nevertheless, Rosenthal led his formation over the target before he descended. He was the last to bail out at 1,000 feet just before the B-17 exploded. Rosenthal and his crew landed behind Soviet lines and were flown back to England. Rosenthal flew one more mission before the war ended.

Rosenthal was selected to interview Herman Goering and prepare the case against the head of the Luftwaffe. Goering was convicted of war crimes and the night before he was to be hung, a cyanide pill was smuggled into his cell and Goering committed suicide.

In 1948, Robert Rosenthal returned to the law firm that hired him right out of law school. He was elected to the Jewish-American Hall of Fame in 2006 and passed away at the age of 90 in 2007.

Colonel Aaron Bank – The Founder of the Green Berets
As a young man, Aaron Bank traveled extensively through Europe and became fluent in German and French. At the outbreak of World War II, he was 37 and volunteered. He went through Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Because of his language proficiency, Bank was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.).

After training on how to conduct clandestine operations, he parachuted into France on July 31st,1944 as the leader of a three-man Jedburg team code-named Packard knowing that if he was captured, the Gestapo would torture and kill him. Aided by French partisans, Bank’s team harassed the Germans until he was pulled out in late 1944.

Bank’s next assignment was to recruit and lead a team of anti-Nazis and former German soldiers who would kill Adolph Hitler if and when he fled to his redoubt in Berchtesgaden. O.S.S. head, William Donovan reportedly told one of his subordinates to “Tell Bank to get Hitler.” The mission was called Iron Cross and was cancelled just after the team boarded its airplane to fly into Bavaria.

Right after the war ended in Europe, Bank was sent to French Indochina to rescue French and other Europeans held prisoner by the Japanese. While there, Bank worked with Ho Chi Minh who was fighting the Japanese. After the war, Bank served in intelligence billets in Europe before being sent to Korea as the executive officer of the 187th Regimental Combat Team that fought in several battles.

Back in the U.S., Bank was assigned as the Chief of Special Operations Branch of the Army’s Office of Psychological Warfare and ordered to “staff and gain approval for an O.S.S. Jedburg style force.” In 1952, the Army approved and funded 2,300-man unit. Its mission was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air deep into enemy occupied territory and organize the resistance guerrilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations with the emphasis on guerrilla training.”

Bank and seven others started the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) on June 19th, 1952 in Fort Bragg, NC. Within two years, the 10th was manned, operational and split into two units, the 10th and the 77th. After the Berlin uprising in 1953, both were expanded. The structure, training, tactics and employment of Green Beret A Teams that Bank outlined in 1952 are still used today. Colonel Bank retired in 1958.

After Bank left the Army, President Kennedy authorized the wearing of the “beret, man's, wool, rifle green, Army shade 297.” Since then, the Army Special Forces have been known as the Green Berets.

Bank wrote two books. One was the story of his career - From O.S.S. to Green Berets. The other was a novel called Iron Cross that Ethan Nathanson, author of the The Dirty Dozen, helped him write.

Horrified at the lack of security at the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California near where he lived, Bank lobbied for changes. Twice he had to publicly expose the vulnerability of the plant to sabotage. Finally, in 1974, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted on his recommendations for all nuclear power plants in the U.S.

There are many others such as ADM Ben Morrell who is considered the father of the Navy’s SeaBees and General Sydney Sachnow, a Holocaust survivor who is one of the most revered and highly decorated Green Berets ever who had distinguished careers. Their accomplishments along with many others are buried in U.S. military history. They are Jewish role models whose story is worth telling to our children.

If you are interested in more about this topic or are part of a group that would like to see the presentation on these and many more American Jews, the author welcomes the opportunity. You can contact him either through Aish.com or via his website https://marcliebman.com.
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Post  Admin on Thu 25 Jul 2019, 11:22 pm

4 Jewish Lessons from Lion King
Jul 23, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/j/as/4-Jewish-Lessons-from-Lion-King.html?s=mm
4 Jewish Lessons from Lion King
The hit movie draws on timeless Jewish values and stories.

Disney’s 2019 remake of Lion King is a beautiful update of the original film with realistic looking computer-generated animals portraying all the beloved animal characters.

Beyond its fidelity to the 1994 film, Don Hahn, the producer of the original Lion King, explained that its creators drew inspiration from sources including Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the Bible, particularly the Biblical stories of Moses and Joseph.These stores feature “a character (who) is born into royalty, is then exiled, and has to return to claim their kingdom,” Hahn said.

Here are four key Jewish lessons from the Lion King.

True Meaning of Heroism
A true king doesn’t rule for the sake of his own glory, King Mufasa tells young Simba in Lion King. A truly great leader must devote himself to his people and work on their behalf, not his own. It takes Simba years of exile before he’s finally mature enough to return home and assume the mantle of leadership, risking his life and fighting to protect his pride.

This stirring narrative draws on Biblical stories. The lives of many Jewish heroes involved exile and return. Our patriarch Jacob was raised in the land of Israel, but had to flee for many years and live in exile before he was able to return home. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s royal household before he was forced to flee and live in hiding for many years; he eventually returned to Egypt and helped lead the Jewish people to freedom.

These Jewish heroes experienced periods of doubt and uncertainty.They had to overcome fear and weakness to emerge as brave heroes. They didn’t do it alone: in each case, it was their belief in God and their realization that there’s a divine plan for Jewish survival that gave them the courage to act. Jewish heroes of the Torah didn’t assume leadership because they craved glory or power. It was the recognition that the situation demanded their unique response that spurred them to greatness.

Meaning of Life
In Lion King, Simba becomes embroiled in a bitter feud between his father, King Mufasa, and his evil uncle Scar. Scar kills Mufasa and convinces Simba that he’s to blame for his father’s death. Overwhelmed by shame, Simba leaves and begins a new life in exile, befriending a warthog named Pumbaa and a meerkat named Timon. They teach him that life is meaningless. “Hakuna matata” (which means “no worries” in Swahili) should be his only goal. Though this phrase can mean “be chill” or “relax”, Simba’s friends turn it into an anthem and way of life, instructing their friend that there’s no point in trying to achieve greatness or be selfless and brave.

Jewish thought rejects this nihilistic view in favor of King Mufasa’s wiser way of looking at the world. An Infinite Being created this world with a purpose, infusing the universe with meaning.

As Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. explains, “Just as the universe in its entirety has a purpose, so does everything in the universe… Each individual has a purpose. My existence is not an accident. I have to accomplish something with my existence. Being is not haphazard or meaningless”. We each have an important role to play, Like Simba, our challenge is discovering and fulfilling our life goals that only we can accomplish.

Role Models
One of the most moving scenes in Lion King comes when Simba sees the image of his father before him and is reminded of King Mufasa’s wisdom and the high hopes he had for his son. In the original 1994 Lion King, this stirring scene features Simba recognizing his father’s face in the constellations of the night sky. In the 2019 version, Simba magically sees his father’s face in his own reflection, as he peers into the surface of a pond.

Perhaps the movie’s writers were inspired by a beautiful Jewish tale. The Torah describes Joseph, the favorite son of our patriarch Jacob, being sold into slavery in ancient Egypt. There, he worked for a mighty minister named Potiphar, and seemingly became integrated into the ancient Egyptian society in which he found himself. He proved himself a trustworthy worker, and rose to become an overseer with great responsibility.

Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and went out of her way to tempt him. One day, she laid a trap for Joseph, who found himself alone with her. It would have been so easy for Joseph to succumb to the loose morals of Egypt, yet in that moment, he suddenly had a vision of his father Jacob. In an instant, Joseph suddenly remembered the moral code his father stood for (Rashi on Genesis 39:11; Talmud Sotah 37). That vision gave Joseph the strength to resist Potiphar’s wife. (In a turn of events, Joseph was cast into prison but later rose to become second in command to Pharaoh himself.)

Fight Against Injustice
Lion King echoes Jewish themes when some female characters refuse to accept oppression and injustice. After the wicked lion Scar seizes the throne, he institutes a repressive, horrible rule that makes his fellow lions suffer terribly. Instead of accepting this dismal fate, two female lions – Simba’s mother Sarabi and his fiancé Nala – resist. Nala even goes on a hazardous journey to find help far away.

Perhaps the scriptwriters were inspired by Jewish teachings. Jewish history features Shifra and Puah, (alternative names for Moses' mother Yocheved and his sister Miriam) two incredibly brave women who resisted evil oppression and are credited with the very survival of the entire nation of Israel. While the scriptwriters apparently were inspired by the story of Moses, who was raised in a royal household only to endure exile before returning, it was Moses’ mother and sister – and other Jewish women – who saved the Jewish people through their long dark years of slavery.

While Jewish men despaired, it was Jewish women who somehow found the strength to go on, and who convinced their husbands not to give up on family life. Jewish women continued to raise children and imbue their families with the hope that one day things would be better. When Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish baby boys be thrown into the Nile, Jewish midwives defied their order.

Throughout history, the Jewish people have been saved time and again by brave Jewish champions. 
Our compelling stories have inspired countless writers, including those who penned Lion King.
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jul 2019, 6:46 pm

Finding God in the Darkness
Jul 20, 2019  |  by Risa Rotman
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Finding-God-in-the-Darkness.html?s=mm
Finding God in the Darkness
On display in Har Nof, the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries.
Faigy was part of our group of ladies who learned together every other week, delving into topics related to building a trusting relationship with God. One week Faigy took on an uncharacteristically serious tone as she started to tell us the story of her parents. She first described her mother’s childhood in an Orthodox home in Belgium before the demonic thunder and lightning of the Holocaust descended on their idyllic world and how the family were constantly on the run until the end of the war.
Faigy’s father’s story continues to fascinate me until today. He also lived in Belgium as well as other parts of Western Europe, but he was not raised in an observant home. It was heartbreaking to watch Faigy’s tears as she described how a Nazi beast beat her father to a pulp and left him in a river of blood. Faigy described the event as if she had just personally witnessed the attack on her beloved father.
The author with her grandchildren at the bris of the first grandson named after Chaim
“After the war, my father found himself with a group of young Orthodox Jews,” Faigy told us. “Knowing very little about his own heritage, he felt comforted in the presence of these determined contemporaries. Slowly he took on mitzvah observance and in time he found his wife. Eventually the new couple made their way to America, started a business and built a thriving Jewishly observant home."
In the shards of the Holocaust he found a relationship with God.
The words of Rav Shach, the great Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh echo in my mind: “Those who left Judaism after the Holocaust, we can understand. Those who remained faithful, we will never be able to fully understand.” But Faigy's father did not remain faithful; it was in the shards of the Holocaust that he found a relationship with God. This is where my fascination lays.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. I can think of a story that happened to us when we were sitting shiva for my husband, Chaim hy’d, who passed away from his wounds in the Har Nof attack. During the shiva we were inundated by people, friends and strangers alike, all coming to connect with us as they gave us their condolences. A few journalists came to hear the story, so that they could share what we went through with their readers. One journalist spent a fair amount of time respectfully listening to my sons talk about their father and the difficult year leading up to his passing.
A few hours later that same day, the journalist returned with an older American Jewish couple. They were very eager to speak to me. The journalist told me that after leaving our home earlier that day he went into town to take care of some errands when he happened upon this older non-religious couple. They were touring Israel and had taken some time out to relax downtown. The couple and the journalist started to talk and for some reason, the journalist told the couple about our shiva.
Chaim and Risa Rotman
He described to them what had happened in the shul in Har Nof and how two terrorists entered the holy sanctuary loaded with guns, knives and cleavers bent on accomplishing as much destruction as possible. Before the police shot them down, these terrorists left four men dead, four widows and 25 orphans. They also left my husband, Chaim (amongst others who thank God recovered from their wounds) hanging between the upper and lower worlds.
For one year we watched Chaim hang on to the slippery thread of life before his passing. It was a year of tremendous Kiddush Hashem. Nurses, doctors, patients and their families at the various hospitals Chaim entered and departed were witnessed to how his loving family and community took care of him and each other. Men came to sit by his side and learn together. Loving packages of food were distributed freely. Comments from the spectators like, “We have never seen anything like this before,” were not unusual.
Throughout this difficult time the family and community didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of kindness.
The journalist continued to explained to the non-religious couple how throughout our test, we – the family and community as a whole – didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of chesed and kindness.
Facing the couple, the husband now spoke up as his wife nodded along. “We were very taken with your story, Mrs. Rotman. I don’t want your husband’s death to be in vain. I have to discover my Judaism. When I heard your story, I asked this man,” he said pointing to the journalist, “to take me to a place where I could purchase a pair of good-quality tefillin. I heard that your husband never missed wearing his tefillin until the day of the attack. I am well into my 70s and have never once put on tefillin. Now I will start wearing tefillin in your husband’s memory.”
Everyone in the room was left speechless. We were witnessing the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries. They can maim us, harm us, and even kill us but they will never take away our souls that are thirsty for a connection with the Divine.


The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Jul 14, 2019  |  by Rabbi Menachem Levine
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Incredible-Story-of-the-Righteous-Convert-of-Vilna.html?s=mm
The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Who was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert buried next to the Vilna Gaon?

Jewish history is replete with famous converts. Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, the prophet Ovadia, Onkelos, the famous Biblical commentator and a nephew of Emperor Titus. Rabbi Akiva and his disciple, Rabbi Meir, were both descended from converts, as were the leading Talmudic Sages Shemaiah and Avtalyon. Even King David himself traced his lineage to Ruth, the convert whose story we read during the festival of Shavuot.

The House of Potocki
Perhaps the most important convert in recent history was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert, ger tzeddek, of Vilna. Who was he and what is his story?

Avraham ben Avraham was born Valentin Potocki, a child of one the most prominent Polish families in the Kingdom of Poland.

His parents were devout Jesuit Order Catholics and at the age of 16, Potocki enrolled in a Catholic seminary in Paris. There he met Zaremba, who would become his study partner and close friend. The two were quite scholarly and decided to explore the Hebrew Bible (“The Old Testament”) in greater depth.

One day, they saw an old Jew studying a large volume of Torah and asked if he could teach them. Tradition tells us his name was Rabbi Menachem Man ben Aryeh Löb of Visun, and his teachings and explanations of the Hebrew Bible impressed them. They prevailed upon him to instruct them in the Hebrew language so they could study further. In six months, they acquired proficiency in the Hebrew, as well as a strong belief in Judaism.

At the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death.
At this point, the friends told Rabbi Man that they wanted to convert. This was a dangerous choice in Poland because at the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death (until this law was abrogated by the Polish Sejm in 1768). Rabbi Man suggested that they travel to Amsterdam to convert, as Amsterdam was considered a more open and tolerant place.

Potocki decided to first travel to Rome to clarify his decision. There he became certain that he could no longer remain a Catholic. He subsequently moved to Amsterdam, where he converted according to Jewish law, and took on the name of Avraham ben Avraham. Zaremba also converted and was known as Baruch ben Avraham, and he and his family moved to the Holy Land. Avraham left Amsterdam and moved to Vilna, which was at the time under Polish rule. He returned to Poland despite the danger he would be in should he be recognized, as he was liable to the death penalty for his conversion.

By this time Avraham’s parents were searching frantically for their missing son. They sent messengers to the various countries where Avraham had written to them from during his journeys, but could find no information as to his whereabouts.

Knowing the danger that he faced if he was found, Avraham consulted with the Vilna Gaon, one of the greatest sages of the past few hundred years. The Vilna Gaon advised Avraham to leave the large city of Vilna and move to a smaller town where he was less likely to be found. Following his advice, Avraham moved to the town of Ilya. There he sat in a synagogue, dressed like a pious Jew, and studied Torah for many hours of the day and night. He was sustained by righteous women of the city who provided him with adequate food.

In that city, there was a Jewish tailor who sewed uniforms for Polish bureaucrats. He overheard his clients talking about a divinity student of noble lineage who had disappeared. The tailor began to suspect that the stranger in the shul was the one they were discussing. This tailor's son had a habit of disturbing men studying in shul, and it happened once that he was sharply rebuked by Avraham. In anger, the tailor reported him to the Bishop of Vilna, and Avraham was identified and arrested.

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to be burned alive at the stake.
Avraham’s parents visited him in prison and begged him to renounce his Judaism publicly. They promised to build him a castle where he could practice Judaism privately. According to Rabbi Ben-Zion Alfes, the Maggid of Vilna, Avraham refused his mother, saying, "I love you dearly, but I love the truth even more."

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to death by being burned alive at the stake.

It is related that while in prison, Avraham communicated to the Vilna Gaon his sadness. The Gaon expressed surprise. “But you are going to give your life al kiddush Hashem, for the sake of Heaven, so why are you crying? You should be joyful!” he told him.

The Vilna Gaon
The righteous convert explained that he wasn’t pained by his impending execution, but rather because he had no continuation among the Jewish people. “I don’t have a father and I don’t have children or brothers among Israel,” he said.

The Vilna Gaon replied by quoting the verse in Isaiah (44:6), “I am first and I am last, and besides Me there is no God.” The Midrash states: “I am first — I have no father; I am last — I have no son.” The Gaon explains the Midrash as teaching, “I am first — I have no father” means “I (God) am the Father for those who have no father,” and “I am last — I have no son” means “I (God) am better than 10 sons.” With his words, Avraham was comforted.

On the day of his scheduled execution, local gentiles brought wood for the fire that would burn him. They then gathered in the square where the execution would take place. This was on the second day of Shavuot, corresponding to May 23, 1749.

Avraham went with joy, confident in his life’s choices. As the fire began to consume his body, Avraham recited the blessing one recites when giving up his life al kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God's Name, and continued with the words of Shema Yisrael, until his soul left his body.

The Vilna Gaon's old gravesite, before it was destroyed.

In defiance of an order that no one should dare collect the Avraham’s ashes to bury them, the Vilna Gaon sent Reb Leizer Shiskes, a beardless Jew disguised as a gentile, to try to gain possession of Avraham’s ashes. Shiskes bribed the guard to hand him the ashes, and he was also given two fingers that had survived the fire. These were placed in an earthenware vessel and buried in the Vilna cemetery. The Vilna Gaon blessed Shiskes with long life, and he indeed lived for 112 years. In fact, on Shiskes’ grave was inscribed, “[Because of] the blessing of the Gaon, the number of the years of his life was 112.”

When the Vilna Gaon passed away, he was buried in the plot adjacent to Avraham, who became known as the Ger Tzeddek, Righteous Convert.

In 1927, the Vilna community made a monument for the plot of the Ger Tzeddek, along with a plaque that stated, “The tomb of the Ger Tzeddek, for a precious, clean, and pure soul, the kadosh, Avraham ben Avraham zt”l, who sanctified God in public on the second day of Shavuot, 5509.” On the second day of Shavuot, the Jews of Vilna commemorated his yahrzeit and tell the story of his conversion and martyrdom. It was also customary that every shul in Vilna would say Kel Malei Rachamim in his memory on that day.

Tragically, during World War II, the Nazis destroyed the cemetery where the Vilna Gaon and Avraham ben Avraham were buried. Yet, in 1949, the Communists granted permission to move the remains of the Vilna Gaon, and seven others, among them Avraham ben Avraham to a new cemetery, where they remain until today.

Vilna Gaon's gravesite

In the renowned Volozhin Yeshiva (and in many yeshivas until today), a song is sung that was composed by Avraham ben Avraham as he was marched in the streets to his execution. The words are taken from the beginning of the morning prayer service, “Aval anachnu amcha, bnei brisecha, bnei Avraham Ohavcha shenishbata lo b’Har Hamoriah” – But we are Your nation the sons of Your covenant, the sons of Avraham Your beloved one, to whom You swore at Mount Moriah, the seed of Yitzchak his only son who was bound upon the altar, etc. Blessed are You, etc., who sanctifies His name in the multitudes.”

Avraham ben Avraham was one of those souls who sanctified God’s name. His story is testimony to the great spiritual levels a convert can attain, to the extent that he was buried alongside one of the greatest Torah sage of his time. May his life and deeds continue to be an inspiration.

There are secular scholars who claim the story of Avraham ben Avraham is fictitious, due to a lack of primary sources.

Yet, there is a contemporary written account from the year 1755, a mere six years after his execution, from Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776). In his book Vayakam Edus b'Yaakov, p. 25b, Rabbi Emden wrote:

“Some years ago, a prince from the house of Potolzki converted to Judaism. He was caught and incarcerated and encouraged to return to his original faith...He nevertheless was not afraid of dying...and died sanctifying God’s name. May peace be with him.”

There are also multiple oral histories, and several 19th-century Jewish and Gentile Sources, including famed Polish author Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, that corroborate the story. Additionally, printed versions of the story from varied Jewish communities over the past 270 years, all tell the identical tale.

It has been logically suggested that the reason there are few non-Jewish written accounts of this story was because the powerful Potocki family censored the story.

I would like to note that there are descriptions about the Ger Tzedek that are clearly inaccurate or exaggerated. After extensive research, this article was written based on the most accepted version of this incredible story.
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jul 2019, 1:54 pm

The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Jul 14, 2019  |  by Rabbi Menachem Levine
https://www.aish.com/jw/s/The-Incredible-Story-of-the-Righteous-Convert-of-Vilna.html?s=mm
The Incredible Story of the Righteous Convert of Vilna
Who was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert buried next to the Vilna Gaon?

Jewish history is replete with famous converts. Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, the prophet Ovadia, Onkelos, the famous Biblical commentator and a nephew of Emperor Titus. Rabbi Akiva and his disciple, Rabbi Meir, were both descended from converts, as were the leading Talmudic Sages Shemaiah and Avtalyon. Even King David himself traced his lineage to Ruth, the convert whose story we read during the festival of Shavuot.

The House of Potocki
Perhaps the most important convert in recent history was Avraham ben Avraham, the righteous convert, ger tzeddek, of Vilna. Who was he and what is his story?

Avraham ben Avraham was born Valentin Potocki, a child of one the most prominent Polish families in the Kingdom of Poland.

His parents were devout Jesuit Order Catholics and at the age of 16, Potocki enrolled in a Catholic seminary in Paris. There he met Zaremba, who would become his study partner and close friend. The two were quite scholarly and decided to explore the Hebrew Bible (“The Old Testament”) in greater depth.

One day, they saw an old Jew studying a large volume of Torah and asked if he could teach them. Tradition tells us his name was Rabbi Menachem Man ben Aryeh Löb of Visun, and his teachings and explanations of the Hebrew Bible impressed them. They prevailed upon him to instruct them in the Hebrew language so they could study further. In six months, they acquired proficiency in the Hebrew, as well as a strong belief in Judaism.

At the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death.
At this point, the friends told Rabbi Man that they wanted to convert. This was a dangerous choice in Poland because at the time conversion to Judaism was punishable by death (until this law was abrogated by the Polish Sejm in 1768). Rabbi Man suggested that they travel to Amsterdam to convert, as Amsterdam was considered a more open and tolerant place.

Potocki decided to first travel to Rome to clarify his decision. There he became certain that he could no longer remain a Catholic. He subsequently moved to Amsterdam, where he converted according to Jewish law, and took on the name of Avraham ben Avraham. Zaremba also converted and was known as Baruch ben Avraham, and he and his family moved to the Holy Land. Avraham left Amsterdam and moved to Vilna, which was at the time under Polish rule. He returned to Poland despite the danger he would be in should he be recognized, as he was liable to the death penalty for his conversion.

By this time Avraham’s parents were searching frantically for their missing son. They sent messengers to the various countries where Avraham had written to them from during his journeys, but could find no information as to his whereabouts.

Knowing the danger that he faced if he was found, Avraham consulted with the Vilna Gaon, one of the greatest sages of the past few hundred years. The Vilna Gaon advised Avraham to leave the large city of Vilna and move to a smaller town where he was less likely to be found. Following his advice, Avraham moved to the town of Ilya. There he sat in a synagogue, dressed like a pious Jew, and studied Torah for many hours of the day and night. He was sustained by righteous women of the city who provided him with adequate food.

In that city, there was a Jewish tailor who sewed uniforms for Polish bureaucrats. He overheard his clients talking about a divinity student of noble lineage who had disappeared. The tailor began to suspect that the stranger in the shul was the one they were discussing. This tailor's son had a habit of disturbing men studying in shul, and it happened once that he was sharply rebuked by Avraham. In anger, the tailor reported him to the Bishop of Vilna, and Avraham was identified and arrested.

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to be burned alive at the stake.
Avraham’s parents visited him in prison and begged him to renounce his Judaism publicly. They promised to build him a castle where he could practice Judaism privately. According to Rabbi Ben-Zion Alfes, the Maggid of Vilna, Avraham refused his mother, saying, "I love you dearly, but I love the truth even more."

After imprisonment and a trial for heresy, Avraham was condemned to death by being burned alive at the stake.

It is related that while in prison, Avraham communicated to the Vilna Gaon his sadness. The Gaon expressed surprise. “But you are going to give your life al kiddush Hashem, for the sake of Heaven, so why are you crying? You should be joyful!” he told him.

The Vilna Gaon
The righteous convert explained that he wasn’t pained by his impending execution, but rather because he had no continuation among the Jewish people. “I don’t have a father and I don’t have children or brothers among Israel,” he said.

The Vilna Gaon replied by quoting the verse in Isaiah (44:6), “I am first and I am last, and besides Me there is no God.” The Midrash states: “I am first — I have no father; I am last — I have no son.” The Gaon explains the Midrash as teaching, “I am first — I have no father” means “I (God) am the Father for those who have no father,” and “I am last — I have no son” means “I (God) am better than 10 sons.” With his words, Avraham was comforted.

On the day of his scheduled execution, local gentiles brought wood for the fire that would burn him. They then gathered in the square where the execution would take place. This was on the second day of Shavuot, corresponding to May 23, 1749.

Avraham went with joy, confident in his life’s choices. As the fire began to consume his body, Avraham recited the blessing one recites when giving up his life al kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God's Name, and continued with the words of Shema Yisrael, until his soul left his body.

The Vilna Gaon's old gravesite, before it was destroyed.

In defiance of an order that no one should dare collect the Avraham’s ashes to bury them, the Vilna Gaon sent Reb Leizer Shiskes, a beardless Jew disguised as a gentile, to try to gain possession of Avraham’s ashes. Shiskes bribed the guard to hand him the ashes, and he was also given two fingers that had survived the fire. These were placed in an earthenware vessel and buried in the Vilna cemetery. The Vilna Gaon blessed Shiskes with long life, and he indeed lived for 112 years. In fact, on Shiskes’ grave was inscribed, “[Because of] the blessing of the Gaon, the number of the years of his life was 112.”

When the Vilna Gaon passed away, he was buried in the plot adjacent to Avraham, who became known as the Ger Tzeddek, Righteous Convert.

In 1927, the Vilna community made a monument for the plot of the Ger Tzeddek, along with a plaque that stated, “The tomb of the Ger Tzeddek, for a precious, clean, and pure soul, the kadosh, Avraham ben Avraham zt”l, who sanctified God in public on the second day of Shavuot, 5509.” On the second day of Shavuot, the Jews of Vilna commemorated his yahrzeit and tell the story of his conversion and martyrdom. It was also customary that every shul in Vilna would say Kel Malei Rachamim in his memory on that day.

Tragically, during World War II, the Nazis destroyed the cemetery where the Vilna Gaon and Avraham ben Avraham were buried. Yet, in 1949, the Communists granted permission to move the remains of the Vilna Gaon, and seven others, among them Avraham ben Avraham to a new cemetery, where they remain until today.

Vilna Gaon's gravesite

In the renowned Volozhin Yeshiva (and in many yeshivas until today), a song is sung that was composed by Avraham ben Avraham as he was marched in the streets to his execution. The words are taken from the beginning of the morning prayer service, “Aval anachnu amcha, bnei brisecha, bnei Avraham Ohavcha shenishbata lo b’Har Hamoriah” – But we are Your nation the sons of Your covenant, the sons of Avraham Your beloved one, to whom You swore at Mount Moriah, the seed of Yitzchak his only son who was bound upon the altar, etc. Blessed are You, etc., who sanctifies His name in the multitudes.”

Avraham ben Avraham was one of those souls who sanctified God’s name. His story is testimony to the great spiritual levels a convert can attain, to the extent that he was buried alongside one of the greatest Torah sage of his time. May his life and deeds continue to be an inspiration.

There are secular scholars who claim the story of Avraham ben Avraham is fictitious, due to a lack of primary sources.

Yet, there is a contemporary written account from the year 1755, a mere six years after his execution, from Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1776). In his book Vayakam Edus b'Yaakov, p. 25b, Rabbi Emden wrote:

“Some years ago, a prince from the house of Potolzki converted to Judaism. He was caught and incarcerated and encouraged to return to his original faith...He nevertheless was not afraid of dying...and died sanctifying God’s name. May peace be with him.”

There are also multiple oral histories, and several 19th-century Jewish and Gentile Sources, including famed Polish author Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, that corroborate the story. Additionally, printed versions of the story from varied Jewish communities over the past 270 years, all tell the identical tale.

It has been logically suggested that the reason there are few non-Jewish written accounts of this story was because the powerful Potocki family censored the story.

I would like to note that there are descriptions about the Ger Tzedek that are clearly inaccurate or exaggerated. After extensive research, this article was written based on the most accepted version of this incredible story.
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jul 2019, 1:53 pm

Finding God in the Darkness
Jul 20, 2019  |  by Risa Rotman
https://www.aish.com/sp/so/Finding-God-in-the-Darkness.html?s=mm
Finding God in the Darkness
On display in Har Nof, the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries.

Faigy was part of our group of ladies who learned together every other week, delving into topics related to building a trusting relationship with God. One week Faigy took on an uncharacteristically serious tone as she started to tell us the story of her parents. She first described her mother’s childhood in an Orthodox home in Belgium before the demonic thunder and lightning of the Holocaust descended on their idyllic world and how the family were constantly on the run until the end of the war.

Faigy’s father’s story continues to fascinate me until today. He also lived in Belgium as well as other parts of Western Europe, but he was not raised in an observant home. It was heartbreaking to watch Faigy’s tears as she described how a Nazi beast beat her father to a pulp and left him in a river of blood. Faigy described the event as if she had just personally witnessed the attack on her beloved father.

The author with her grandchildren at the bris of the first grandson named after Chaim

“After the war, my father found himself with a group of young Orthodox Jews,” Faigy told us. “Knowing very little about his own heritage, he felt comforted in the presence of these determined contemporaries. Slowly he took on mitzvah observance and in time he found his wife. Eventually the new couple made their way to America, started a business and built a thriving Jewishly observant home."

In the shards of the Holocaust he found a relationship with God.
The words of Rav Shach, the great Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh echo in my mind: “Those who left Judaism after the Holocaust, we can understand. Those who remained faithful, we will never be able to fully understand.” But Faigy's father did not remain faithful; it was in the shards of the Holocaust that he found a relationship with God. This is where my fascination lays.

But perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. I can think of a story that happened to us when we were sitting shiva for my husband, Chaim hy’d, who passed away from his wounds in the Har Nof attack. During the shiva we were inundated by people, friends and strangers alike, all coming to connect with us as they gave us their condolences. A few journalists came to hear the story, so that they could share what we went through with their readers. One journalist spent a fair amount of time respectfully listening to my sons talk about their father and the difficult year leading up to his passing.

A few hours later that same day, the journalist returned with an older American Jewish couple. They were very eager to speak to me. The journalist told me that after leaving our home earlier that day he went into town to take care of some errands when he happened upon this older non-religious couple. They were touring Israel and had taken some time out to relax downtown. The couple and the journalist started to talk and for some reason, the journalist told the couple about our shiva.

Chaim and Risa Rotman

He described to them what had happened in the shul in Har Nof and how two terrorists entered the holy sanctuary loaded with guns, knives and cleavers bent on accomplishing as much destruction as possible. Before the police shot them down, these terrorists left four men dead, four widows and 25 orphans. They also left my husband, Chaim (amongst others who thank God recovered from their wounds) hanging between the upper and lower worlds.

For one year we watched Chaim hang on to the slippery thread of life before his passing. It was a year of tremendous Kiddush Hashem. Nurses, doctors, patients and their families at the various hospitals Chaim entered and departed were witnessed to how his loving family and community took care of him and each other. Men came to sit by his side and learn together. Loving packages of food were distributed freely. Comments from the spectators like, “We have never seen anything like this before,” were not unusual.

Throughout this difficult time the family and community didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of kindness.
The journalist continued to explained to the non-religious couple how throughout our test, we – the family and community as a whole – didn’t just keep our faith but nurtured it and watched it blossom into a community of chesed and kindness.

Facing the couple, the husband now spoke up as his wife nodded along. “We were very taken with your story, Mrs. Rotman. I don’t want your husband’s death to be in vain. I have to discover my Judaism. When I heard your story, I asked this man,” he said pointing to the journalist, “to take me to a place where I could purchase a pair of good-quality tefillin. I heard that your husband never missed wearing his tefillin until the day of the attack. I am well into my 70s and have never once put on tefillin. Now I will start wearing tefillin in your husband’s memory.”

Everyone in the room was left speechless. We were witnessing the unconquerable strength of the Jewish people in the face of their adversaries. They can maim us, harm us, and even kill us but they will never take away our souls that are thirsty for a connection with the Divine.
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Post  Admin on Sun 14 Jul 2019, 10:43 pm

Lucette Lagnado’s Lost Egyptian Jewish World
Jul 14, 2019  |  by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Lucette-Lagnados-Lost-Egyptian-Jewish-World.html?s=mm
Lucette Lagnado’s Lost Egyptian Jewish World
The award-winning journalist brought the Cairo Jewish community of her childhood to life.

Lucette Lagnado never stopped fighting. “She was a courageous and brilliant reporter and writer,” explained Paul Steiger, former Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal where Ms. Lagnado covered health care issues. The famous WSJ reporter died last week at the age of 63.

An article she wrote shed light on Josef Mengele’s gruesome experiments on Auschwitz prisoners and led to her 1991 book Children of the Flames about the survivors and their descendants. It was her memoirs about her own family, however, that brought Ms. Lagnado greatest fame. Her twin books The Arrogant Years (2011) about her mother Edith, and the award-winning book The Man in the Sharkskin Suit (2007) about her father Leon, brought to life the vibrant Jewish world of Egypt her family fled, and described their difficult acclimation to life in the United States and her longing for the world she’d left behind.

Ms. Lagnado was six years old in 1963 when her family fled Egypt. Her grandparents had moved there from Aleppo, and for years, her large extended family enjoyed a robust Jewish life in Cairo and Alexandria, which at the time boasted some of the largest and most established Jewish communities in the world.

Lucette Lagnado, then 6, and her family pose for a family portrait
on the eve of their exodus from Egypt in the 1960s

On Friday nights, Ms. Lagnado recalled, her father had his pick of synagogues to attend in the Jewish quarter of Cairo. “When services were over,” she described in The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, “the exquisitely dressed men once again crowded the streets, laughing and joking as they hurried home to their wives and children, anxious to sample the special Friday-night cooking whose smells filled the night air of Ghamra” neighborhood.

Even in the darkest days of World War II, when it seemed that Nazi troops were poised to take over Egypt, Egyptian Jews comforted themselves that the Jewish community would be safe. “Dieu est grand” (God is great), Ms. Lagnado’s father Leon would say whenever his neighbors feared for their lives.

Egyptian Jews’ sense of security shattered after Israel was established in 1948. Anti-Semitism began to increase, and during the 1952 revolution in Egypt, foreign and Jewish-owned businesses in Cairo were attacked, burned and destroyed. Several people, including a young Jewish woman visiting from Alexandria, were killed in the riots. Jews, whose families had lived in Egypt for generations, began to face hatred and violence and fled.

Edith and Leon in Cairo, 1943
The Lagnados considered moving after the riots of 1952, but stayed put for over a decade, while their Jewish community found themselves increasingly targeted and dwindling as more and more Egyptian Jews sought shelter Israel or the United States. Caroline Lagnado, Lucette’s niece, recalled her father Ezra Cesar Lagnado telling her that for years after the 1952 riots he and other Jews remember “walking fearfully outside, anxious not to be attacked”. Suddenly, Jews were the enemy in Egypt, regarded as non-Egyptians, despite their thousands of years of history there.

By the late 1950s, Lucette Lagnado recalled, Jews were being attacked and were panicking. The “grand synagogue on Adly Street” in Cairo had become, she wrote, “a hub of frenetic activity, the scene every day of hurried weddings. As families prepared to flee to any country that would have them, as they plotted their escape literally to the ends of the earth – Australia, Venezuela, Canada, South Africa, Brazil – young lovers chose to tie the know lest they be separated forever. Engagements that would have lasted months were now barely a couple of days, while weddings that usually took a whole evening were performed in an hour.”

Jewish couples would sometimes go directly from their weddings in the synagogues to the piers to catch boats out of Egypt. “There wasn’t even time to cry,” Ms. Lagndano described. “There was only a feeling that one had to get out at any cost.”

Much of the Lagnado family fled to Israel. Life wasn’t easy there. In the 1950s, Israel was a poor state besieged by hostile armies from all sides, and it was struggling to absorb nearly a million Jewish refugees who’d been forced out of their homes in Arab lands like the Lagdanos. Ms. Lagnado’s grandmother and other relatives found themselves living in small farming communities across the Jewish state. Life was difficult. Her grandmother used to sing songs about the beautiful smell of orange blossoms back in Egypt, but now wrote saying she was living amongst orange groves in Israel and tiring of the scent she’d once found so alluring.

When the violence and anti-Semitism around them grew too great to ignore, Ms. Lagnado’s family decided life might be easier in the United States. It was a wrenching decision and in many ways her family never truly recovered.

The weeks before their departure were frenetic with preparations. Lucette, her parents, two brothers and sister all had new wardrobes made. Seeking ways to bring out some of the family’s savings, Ms. Lagnado’s father hired a man who owned a canning company to seal gold and jewelry into cans of marmalade to escape detection. (Fearing they would be discovered, he later opened the cans and gave away their contents; the family arrived in New York in 1963 with only $212, the amount they were officially allowed to bring out of Egypt.)

The Lagnado Family in Alexandria, 1952

After 18 months of makeshift living first in Paris then in New York, the Lagnados finally moved into a tiny Brooklyn apartment. They found that life in America was much more difficult than they’d anticipated. Upper class in Egypt, the Lagnados were suddenly penniless refugees in New York. They’d brought 26 suitcases with them from Egypt, filled with ballgowns and other custom-made clothes, but they never opened them in their new home. (Years later, the suitcases were burned in a house fire, their finery never worn.) A well-meaning social worker pressured Lucette’s older brother to go to work in menial jobs instead of attending college, a decision that he deeply regretted for many years. An anti-Semitic landlord evicted the family from their first apartment. Without connections, speaking broken English, the Lagnados found themselves vulnerable and adrift.

Perhaps nothing made the Lagnados realize how different their new life was than the humiliating experience of eating in the local kosher soup kitchen. The women who volunteered there were kind, Ms. Lagdano recalled, but nothing could disguise the fact that the family which once had given charity was now receiving it.

Many other Jewish families from Egypt were also pouring into Brooklyn, and they established a vibrant community, reviving some of the sense of fellowship their members had enjoyed in Egypt. “The congregation was booming,” Ms. Lagnado recalled. “They prayed in the exact way that they had in Egypt, determined to allow nothing to change, despite the fact that they now lived thousands of miles from Cairo.” Ms. Lagnado’s father found a loving home in the resurrected community of Egyptian Jews, while some other members of her family rebelled.

Ms. Lagnado was shocked to meet Jews who were entirely secular, and soon felt pressure to give up her Jewish traditions. Ms. Lagnado’s sister left the family and their traditional way of life, and Ms. Lagnado herself began to separate from the warm Jewish traditions of her family. When she first came to America, Ms. Lagnado had an English teacher who taught her the word “broken”, smashing crockery in class so that students could describe various items as broken. As the years went by in New York, Ms. Lagnado came to realize how apt the metaphor was: much of her family life seemed to be broken in their new home. Increasingly, Ms. Lagnado mourned the loss of Jewish life and sense of community her family knew in Egypt.

In her final year of high school, tragedy struck: Ms. Lagnado was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She had the good fortune to come under the care of an eminent physician, Dr. Burton J. Lee III, M.D., who would later go on to become the private doctor of Pres. George W. H. Bush. Dr. Lee became a trusted friend and mentor of Ms. Lagnado, and years later she asked him about something that had always puzzled her.

When she was first admitted to the hospital, Dr. Lee and her father had a private talk that left her father extremely emotional. What did her father say, she wanted to know. Dr. Lee recalled their conversation perfectly decades later. Ms. Lagdano’s father had implored and begged Dr. Lee to take on his daughter as a patient. Dr. Lee was intending to treat Ms. Lagnado anyway, he recalled, but there was something in her father’s demeanor that haunted him for decades. Noting his desperation at the time, Dr. Lee remembers thinking, ‘This man has no cards left to play” as he begged for his daughter’s life.

Ms. Lagnado saw it differently. Her father Leon was utterly devoted to her and to his family; “by breaking down and pleading his case like a mendicant and invoking me again and again,” she wrote, “my father had in fact found one last card he could play,” helping his daughter once more. Luckily, Ms. Lagnado responded well to her cancer treatment and recovered sufficiently to attend Vassar College, then graduate school at Columbia University, then pursue an award-winning career in journalism.

In the 1980s, Ms. Lagnado’s parents became very ill; the poor care they received led her to focus on health care as a journalist. Yet it was their family legacy and their legacy as Jews that she wanted them to be remembered for most.

In The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, Ms. Lagnado describes the Jewish heritage her father left. Even in his declining years, wracked by ill health and living in a tiny apartment, he filled his days with giving. Ms. Lagnado gives a poignant sample of the envelopes filling his apartment. “Pay to the order of ‘The Institute to Uplift the Souls of the Holy’, $5; pay to the order of ‘The Orphans of Jerusalem’, my father would write in his tremulous hand, $10. Pay to the order of ‘The Light of Life Girls’ College, $15….” His desk wall piled high with thank you notes and pictures from the many charities he supported. He was always haunted by loss – the loss of his warm community in Egypt, the loss of tradition as his family members shed Jewish practice – but Ms. Lagnado also wanted people to remember the communities he helped build and support.

Ms. Lagnado married fellow journalist Douglas Feiden 1995. Sadly, as a result of the cancer treatment she received as a teenager she was never able to have children. She is survived by Mr. Feiden, as well as by her numerous nieces and nephews and other relatives. Ms. Lagnado also leaves a precious heritage to all of us, who are enriched by her beautiful writing and her descriptions of the Jewish worlds she loved, lost – and at times rediscovered.

In her book The Arrogant Years, Ms. Lagnado described how she left the Orthodox Jewish traditions she grew up in, and the loss and sadness she felt at their absence. She also beautifully describes rediscovering the warm Jewish lifestyle she craved years later, after she tracked down a beloved childhood friend who still lived in the heart of the Sephardi Orthodox Jewish community in Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn. Now a grandmother, Ms. Lagnado’s friend welcomed her back with open arms.

“In my absence” Ms. Lagnado wrote, “the (Orthodox Jewish) Community...had grown and flourished… Families stuck together here, and children lived near their loved ones even when they were grown… Above all, the Community took care of its own, my friend reminded me.” It was all so much like the close-knit community Ms. Lagnado’s parents described in Egypt, and for which Ms. Lagnado longed all her life.

In Brooklyn’s Orthodox community, “If someone was sick and infirm,” Ms. Lagnado described, “there were armies of volunteers rushing to visit them and comfort them and bring them soup. A bride in need of a trousseau could count on getting the fine clothes and gowns she needed…. It was exactly as the Jews had functioned back in old Cairo and in long-ago Aleppo, as it had in the world of the pasha and his wife, when philanthropy was personal as well as communal…” Ms. Lagnado had once again found the lost world of her youth.

“We have Thanksgiving every week,” she learned from her Orthodox friend, in the form of warm Shabbat and holiday meals. Ever the brilliant reporter, Ms. Lagnado wanted to convey that beauty and way of life. After a lifetime of yearning for the community and spirituality she’d had in Egypt, her gift to us lay in part in sharing the wonder she felt at finding this vibrant Jewish community once more in America.

“It was the siren song (my friend) had sung for years – every time I had run into her – a melody that filled me with yearning and where the lyrics consisted of only two words,” Ms. Lagnado wrote in her inimitable style of the Orthodox Jewish life she’d improbably discovered late in life: “Come back come back come back come back.”

Dr. Yvette Alt MillerMore by this Author >

Yvette Alt Miller earned her B.A. at Harvard University. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, and has a Ph.D. In International Relations from the London School of Economics. She lives with her family in Chicago, and has lectured internationally on Jewish topics. Her book Angels at the table: a Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat takes readers through the rituals of Shabbat and more, explaining the full beautiful spectrum of Jewish traditions with warmth and humor. It has been praised as "life-changing", a modern classic, and used in classes and discussion groups around the world.
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Post  Admin on Thu 11 Jul 2019, 10:21 pm

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Making-the-Holocaust-Real.html?s=mm
Making the Holocaust Real
Jul 8, 2019  |  by Judy GruenMaking the Holocaust Real
Archiving the Jewish American past, Gregg Philipson collects to remember and to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism.

The middle school students pass the small brown suitcase from one to another in the school auditorium. They each take a moment to touch its smooth, worn leather, and to look at the six-pointed yellow star that says “Jude” stamped on it. The metal closures are long broken, so that the suitcase is permanently slightly ajar, as if the story of its history is still inside, waiting to be told.

Gregg Philipson regularly brings this suitcase to schools, along with a dozen or so other WWII-related artifacts from his vast collection, to make the Holocaust a bit more real to the next generation. Over the past decade, Philipson, who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Michelle Warech-Philipson, has become one of the foremost collectors of WWII-related and Jewish historical artifacts in the country. He is a veritable walking encyclopedia about the Holocaust, Jewish military history, major Jewish figures from nearly all the U.S. wars, including the American Revolution, Civil War and the Confederacy, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and other U.S. military conflicts. Additionally, his expert knowledge includes the vital role Jewish chaplains have played in the military. Among his more eclectic interests are Jewish magicians, Jewish “strong men,” and Jewish astronauts.

Philipson is a retired executive who worked in the Biometric Authentication Security industry for more than 40 years. Now, in this unexpected second career, he and Michelle travel the country and sometimes internationally, usually at their own expense, so that Gregg can share his vast knowledge on any of these topics, bringing relevant portions of The Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive with them.

As a kid, Gregg Philipson collected toy soldiers and baseball cards. But as a young man in his twenties, he discovered the roles that his own father and uncle had played fighting against the Axis powers in WWII. That started him on a quest to collect artifacts that were relevant to his family’s personal history and to Jewish history. Among his first acquisitions were the soldiers’ uniforms that belonged to his father, Sergeant Bernard Philipson, who served with the U.S. Army’s 8th Armored Division and helped liberate the Langenstein Concentration camp, and to his grandfather, Louis Philipson, a U.S. Army sergeant in World War I.

The Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive contains a treasure trove of WWII propaganda art that includes cartoons, posters, and even milk bottles imprinted with slogans promoting the sale of war bonds. Some of America’s most famous artists, including Theodore Geisel (later known as Dr. Seuss), used their skills to create posters supporting the war effort. The Walt Disney studios produced posters featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck promoting gas rationing and war bond purchases.

“Letting the kids touch things makes it so much more real to them.”
The suitcase Philipson brings to all the schools is a rare artifact. It had belonged to Mere Schomacher Michelson, born on November 25,1848 and killed sometime in 1941 in the Latvian town of Liepāja. The Soviet Union annexed Latvia in 1940, and in 1941, when the Nazis had begun its campaign against the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), German Nazis and Latvian collaborators murdered nearly the entire local Jewish population, which had numbered about 7,000 before the war. Fewer than thirty Jews survived in Liepāja by the end of the war.

Gregg and Michelle Philipson at their exhibit at Texas State University

Philipson doesn’t lecture the kids from behind a podium. Instead, he walks through the room as he tells stories of history, handing students artifacts from his collection. “Letting the kids touch things makes it so much more real to them. It personalizes the unfathomable tragedy,” he observed.

Philipson is an inveterate shopper for artifacts. One of his latest purchases is a rare, anti-Semitic marionette puppet. Made in 1933, the doll’s face is painted to depict a Jewish man with a sinister, ghoulish face, wearing a wizard’s hat with a Star of David on it.

Rare, anti-Semitic marionette puppet made in 1933
“This is an important piece as it illustrates the vile anti-Semitic feeling prevalent throughout Europe prior to the Holocaust. It’s a perfect example of how children learn to hate while watching something as innocent as a puppet show,” he explained.

It requires intense effort to locate, purchase and preserve these artifacts, and it can be emotionally draining. "Collecting, if you do it at a very high level, is a very demanding lifestyle, and it gets quite emotional at times,” he said. “There are nights when I sit in my office at one or two in the morning, crying."

Philipson wants his collection to help shine a light on what “hate, bigotry, and apathy can do to individuals and to the world in general."
Philipson wants his collection to help shine a light on what “hate, bigotry, and apathy can do to individuals and to the world in general." To realize this goal, he loans pieces from his collection for public exhibitions around the United States, including to major museums such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., as well as universities, colleges, schools, and U.S. military installations. In 2012, former Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Philipson a Commissioner to the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. For many years Philipson also served as an advisory board member at the Holocaust Museum in Houston. He is a life member of the Jewish War Veterans.

Though Philipson speaks to audiences ranging from middle school kids to the elderly, his target audience is young people, “not only middle and high school students, but also U.S. soldiers who are still very young and impressionable,” he explained. Several times a year, he addresses the U.S. Army troops at Ft. Hood and speaks on various topics, including the Holocaust. The Philipsons are currently in the process of gifting Jewish Chaplaincy artifacts to the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Museum, located at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“Thank you for teaching us about this horrible time and for teaching me just how lucky I really am.”
With more schools integrating anti-bullying initiatives into their curricula, Philipson’s presentations to thousands of students a year augment what they are learning. “We tie in the lessons of the Holocaust to bullying. We say, ‘Be an upstander, not a bystander.’

A thank you letter he received from a middle school girl said, “I’m glad that you brought things that . . . belonged to people because it really opened my eyes and put things into perspective. There was something about touching and seeing the suitcase, armband, and concentration camp uniform with the star that made it all more real and sad. Because of you coming to our school, I will now try to take nothing for granted. So thank you for teaching us about his horrible time and for teaching me just how lucky I really am.”

Philipson often recommends the book, The Diary of Petr Ginz, written by a teenager whose diary was found in Theresienstadt, to students. Like The Diary of Anne Frank, this diary was also written by a teenager.

The Survivors' Talmud
The Collection includes three volumes of “The Survivors' Talmud” – also known as the U.S. Army Talmud – the first and only known edition of the Talmud published by a government body. Two survivors of the Dachau concentration camp, Rabbi Samuel A. Sneig, chief rabbi of the U.S. Zone, and Rabbi Samuel Jakob Rose, proposed the idea of printing an entire, full-size Talmud in Germany as a sign of the Jewish people's survival despite efforts to annihilate them, and the U.S. government agreed. It was difficult to even find a complete set of Talmud in Western Europe after the Nazi destruction of Jewish lives and property. Finally, two complete sets were found in New York and sent to Germany for the project.

While Philipson has spoken to hundreds of audiences, among his most gratifying experiences have been in China, at Harbin University as well as The Japanese Unit 731 Criminal Evidence Museum, both located in the city of Harbin, and the Shanghai Ghetto Jewish museum, which is located at the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue in the Tilanqiao Historic Area of China. Philipson has what he calls a “powerful” Shanghai ghetto collection and material about the Mir Yeshiva.

“The Chinese are among the most gracious group of people I have ever encountered in all my travels,” Philipson said. “They truly embrace the Jewish people and made us so very welcome. The trip was mutually beneficial as I learned a great deal about the history of Holocaust-era Japanese biological and chemical warfare experiments that were carried out on the Chinese civilian population. The Japanese atrocities across Asia during World War II have many similarities to the Holocaust.”

Because of these similarities, Philipson noted that the Chinese people have a growing interest in Holocaust history. Not only does the Chinese government protect the old Jewish synagogues and other Jewish-related buildings, keeping them in meticulous condition, but “the Chinese people cherish their history of providing safe haven for Jews,” he noted.

This history long predates WWII. “In the early 1900s, many Russian Jews fleeing pogroms were welcomed in Harbin. And Shanghai continued to be a safe haven during the Holocaust. Almost all the members of the famous Mir Yeshiva in Lithuania were able to reach Shanghai and survive.”

With anti-Semitism on the rise again, ugly stereotypes about Jews and vicious slurs against the State of Israel are gaining traction. Philipson’s collection not only works to combat those stereotypes, but to highlight Jewish contributions to anti-racism efforts. His collection includes memorabilia about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Philipson attends U.S. Army observances on topics that commemorate Black history, women’s history, women in the military, women’s equality, and Asian Americans/ Pacific Islander history.

“We have powerful collections on many ethnic groups and set up the exhibits for these events at Ft. Hood as well. Our audiences know we’re Jewish and they love how inclusive we are. I really try to talk about the Jewish experience in America, because we are a people who not only contribute to society as a whole, but we’ve also maintained deep awareness of our Jewishness. We’re saying, be proud of being an American, be proud of being a Jewish American, be proud of who you are and be respectful to others. The audience really gets the message.”

To learn more about the collection, go to https://philipsoncollection.utep.edu/about
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Post  Admin on Tue 09 Jul 2019, 2:19 pm

Messages from Your Loved Ones After They’re Gone
Jul 7, 2019  |  by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
https://www.aish.com/ci/s/Messages-from-Your-Loved-Ones-After-Theyre-Gone.html?s=mm
Messages from Your Loved Ones After They’re Gone
Obsessed with death, a child of a Holocaust survivor creates an app that enables you to leave meaningful messages to loved ones.

The two saddest words in the English language, it’s often been said, are “if only.”

Our lives are like a breath; our days like a fleeting shadow (Psalms 144:4). Our loved ones pass away and we can no longer share their presence. “If only…” is the universal cry of the bereaved desperately seeking continued connection and conversation with those who made their lives meaningful.

If only I could hear my mother’s voice once again reassuring me of her love, granting me more of her wisdom. If only my father could be here with me to give me strength and courage. If only I would’ve asked them the questions I never bothered to ask. If only I would’ve gotten to truly know them as my closest friends. Death, it would seem, has closed the door to any further interaction. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of death is its final verdict of silence from beyond the grave, its cruel response to “if only” with the harsh judgment that now nothing more is possible, it is simply too late.

Thanks to Gaby Eirew that seeming inevitability may have changed.

Gaby is the child of a Holocaust survivor. Her mother, Denise, was smuggled out of the Drancy camp in France in 1942 as a four-year-old by the French resistance, while her parents, unbeknownst to her, were murdered in Auschwitz. Denise was also given a fake postcard pretending to be from her parents, saying that if she cried for them, they would not come back – a way of protecting her, because it was feared that if she displayed any emotion about her parents it would draw attention to her true Jewish identity, and put her life at risk. Gaby’s mother never really knew her own parents, nor could she ever truly grieve for them.

Gaby Eirew with her mother Denise.

That awareness surely played a role in Gaby’s personal reaction to death of her parents in the space of a month followed very shortly by the sudden passing of her best friend. She found herself overwhelmed by her own grief while at the same time trying to imagine the impact her friend’s death had on her three young children.

"I imagined my kids like hers, growing up with everything that they knew directly from their mum stopping there and then. I wanted to write to them all and reassure them and tell them the most useful things, but I could not sum her up. Some things I realized the children would hear from their father and grandparents, but some things would surely have to come straight from her," Gaby told BBC. The tragedy that befell Gaby’s own mother, never really getting to know the woman who bore her and gave her life, was now repeated albeit by other circumstances with the passing of her best friend.

Gaby became obsessed with death, with its finality and with its closure of possibility for further sharing. She went around, as she put it “like a lunatic”, asking hundreds of people, “what have you prepared for your death? What messages have you left for your loved ones?”

The app empowers you to continue your conversations with loved ones by way of messages prepared before taking leave from Earth.
And so was born the idea for a remarkable app that would help children both to mourn for their parents as well as in a sense to keep them alive. A free app that would help them to continue their relationship. It has been used by tens of thousands of people in more than 30 countries to leave a legacy of video messages for their families.

With technology, we can achieve a small measure of immortality – our image, our voices, our wisdom, our advice, our memories – on video recordings. If, when we leave on lengthy trips or seek to maintain contact with family living at a distance we make use of Skype, why not – Gaby reasoned – continue our conversations with loved ones by way of messages prepared before taking leave from Earth.

So Gaby surveyed thousands of mourners to find out what they most missed aside from the physical presence of the deceased. In that way the prerecorded messages could be relevant in the most personal of ways. And the findings were fascinating.

When she asked people what they most wished they could have asked their parents, "The single most important thing that people said they wanted to hear was that their parent was proud of them, that they loved them and to hear them say that with their name," Gaby says. "So often people were told that their mum or dad loved them so much, but they needed and wanted to hear it". demonstrating the importance, as parents, to take advantage of the opportunities to say those words to our children during our lifetimes. We just don’t say them often enough.

Sometimes mourners wanted to hear a very specific set of words. "They wished they could ask their parent, 'I remember you whispering something to me every night, what was it? I want to hear it again.' It could have been a prayer, or nursery rhyme or other words that became part of a nightly ritual and helped them know they were loved before they fell to sleep”. This reminds us of the importance of the seemingly unimportant – the rituals of everyday communication which convey our love and our values, such as putting our children to sleep by reciting with them words of the Shema.

Another discovery was that bereaved children often carry a huge amount of guilt. "For a parent to say in a message 'I'm sick, I'm dying, it's not your fault, I don't want to die, I'm happy you get to live on and you get to have a full life,' that's really important." And conversely, that will remind us that while are alive we must be careful not to give them lifelong guilt by implying that their disappointments are the cause of our failures.

Gaby was also surprised to hear many of the more mundane – and quite specific – questions that children had for their parents. What floor cleaner did you use? That smell reminds me of my childhood. What perfume did you wear? I want to wear it too. What is the recipe for that soup you used to make? Satisfying children's curiosity about these kinds of details can really help with grieving, she says. And perhaps the importance of these questions to mourners can make us far more sensitive to the importance of creating memories during our children’s lifetimes when we are still with them – memories like the smell of the kitchen preparing for Shabbat and the odors of the holidays and their special foods.

Essentially, Gaby summarized, they were looking for advice and guiding principles that would help them make important decisions as their lives unfolded without their parents. What a remarkable realization it should be for us that the most important thing we can leave our descendants is a legacy of values rather than a lucrative financial inheritance.

Gaby's app, called RecordMeNow, is essentially a series of prompts that helps people to create a video library for their children, broken down into subject areas, based on Gaby's findings. A key aim was to get parents to record that simple message in video form for posterity

Gaby’s mission, to have people record meaningful messages to their loved ones before their passing, has a biblical precedent. That is what Jacob did as he called his children to his deathbed for a final blessing. Jacob knew that his words of guidance would have far greater impact with the realization by his sons of his imminent death. Death lends unparalleled significance to the words of someone we dearly love.

The RecordMeNow app is like a digital update to this idea. For the time being it is one of the best ways I know of achieving a lifespan even longer than 120.

Rabbi Benjamin BlechMore by this Author >

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, a frequent contributor to Aish, is a Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and an internationally recognized educator, religious leader, and lecturer. He is the author of 19 highly acclaimed books with combined sales of over a half million copies, A much sought after speaker, he is available as scholar in residence in your community. See his website at rabbibenjaminblech.com.
Click here to purchase Rabbi Blech’s new book, Hope Not Fear: Changing the Way We View Death.
 https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Not-Fear-Changing-Death/dp/1538116642/friendsofaishhat
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Post  Admin on Thu 04 Jul 2019, 9:35 pm

https://www.aish.com/ho/p/Talking-with-Angels.html?s=mm
 Talking with Angels
Jun 29, 2019  |  by Menucha Chana Levin
Talking with Angels
Margit (Gitta) Mallasz, swimming champion, artist and writer, saved 100 Jewish women and children in Budapest.

Margit (Gitta) Mallasz was born in 1907 in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, now Slovenia, to an upper-class family. Her father was an officer in the Hungarian army and her mother was Austrian. At the age of 15 Gitta moved to Budapest where she became a champion swimmer. Her best friends, Lili Straus, a sports teacher, and Hanna Dallos, a graphic designer, were both Jewish. After Hanna married Joseph Kreutzer they opened a graphic art studio and asked Gitta, who also had a talent for graphic art, to work with them.

Gitta and her brother in 1914
As anti-Semitism grew more widespread in Budapest, Gitta became the official manager of the studio for Hanna and Joseph. When the World War II began, the Jewish couple relocated to a small house outside Budapest, keeping a cautiously low profile. In March, 1944, when the Germans invaded Hungary, the friends closed the studio and returned to Budapest. Two months later, after the Jewish ghetto was created, Joseph Kreutzer was arrested and never seen again.

Then one of Gitta’s friends introduced her to Father Pal Klinda, a brave priest who sheltered Jewish women in a sewing workshop producing military uniforms. When Father Klinda asked Gitta to take charge of the workshop, she agreed if her friends Hanna and Lili could work there too.

Hanna and Joseph, Gitta, and Lili

Since the workshop was contributing to the German war effort, it was legally permitted to employ Jews on condition they were registered and authorized. Father Klinda and Gitta defied that regulation and sheltered many unauthorized children of the Jewish workers.

In October, 1944, the Arrow Cross, a fascist organization took control of the Hungarian government and started a brutal reign of terror for the Jews in Budapest. Thousands were tortured, abused and murdered in the final six months of the war and their property stolen or destroyed. During this fearful time, Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands of Budapest Jews using Swedish protective passports. Other foreign diplomats such as Giorgio Perlasca, Carl Lutz and George Mandel-Mantello also organized false documents and safe houses for them in Budapest. However, despite these valiant efforts, only 200,000 Jews (about 25%) managed to survive the Holocaust.

The situation in Gitta’s workshop grew more dangerous as the Arrow Cross militia searched for Jews throughout the city. Then a group of SS men moved into a villa right next door to the workshop. In November 1944 Arrow Cross men, headed by Father Andras Kun, a virulent anti-Semite, broke into the workshop. The vicious Father Kun wanted to destroy the Jews that were being save by Father Klinda. Claiming the workshop did not have a permit, Kun insisted that Gitta should give him a list of names of the Jewish workers. He threatened to shoot her if she refused.

Realizing some of the Jewish women had already managed to escape, Gitta provided Kun with a smaller number of names. The remaining women were taken away but fortunately one of the workers notified Father Klinda. He managed to save them and brought them back to the workshop.

After this petrifying ordeal, Gitta persuaded a German soldier to give her a document certifying the workshop was legal under the auspices of the SS. She even had the courage to complain to the SS men in the villa next door that her workshop was being harassed by the Arrow Cross.

Despite her brave efforts, the Arrow Cross men returned one month later. Gitta called the SS men and began negotiating with the Arrow Cross intruders. That gave most of the women enough time to escape through a hole in the wall which she had prearranged in case of necessity.

Thanks to Gitta’s foresight, 100 women and children managed to escape. Tragically, 16 were captured, including her close friends Hanna and Lili, and taken to the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

Eva Langley-Danos was the only survivor of these 16 women. Upon her return from Ravensbruck, she wrote an account of their fate. This account, together with the testimonies of the women and children who were sheltered in the workshop and escaped, later enabled Yad Vashem to verify the story.

After the war, each priest got what he deserved. Father Klinda was honored by Yad Vashem while Kun was executed.

Gitta remained in postwar Communist Hungary to support her impoverished parents and other family members, despite feeling stifled under Soviet oppression.

Fifteen years later, after her parents died and her nephews and nieces reached adulthood, Gitta “chose freedom” by fleeing the iron curtain to France in 1960.

Her life changed completely. She resumed her career as a graphic artist and married for the first time at age 53.

Although mourning the loss of her close friends, Gitta still had one tangible possession she had brought from Budapest. Consisting of several notebooks, these were transcripts of instructions Hannah claimed were given to her by an angel early in the war. After many years, Gitta decided to translate these spiritual notebooks from Hungarian into French and publish them as a book. “Talking with Angels” became a best seller and was translated into many other languages. Gitta always rejected the idea that she was the author of the book insisting, “I am merely the ‘scribe’ of the angels.”

However, for a hundred Jewish women and children from Budapest, Gitta herself was the courageous ‘angel’ who had saved their lives.

Spending her final peaceful years in the French countryside writing her books, she died on May 25, 1992 at the age of 85. In 2011, Gitta Mallasz was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
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