Monday, September 29, 2008

Jerusalem - Uman ?


Before he passed away, the famous Rabbi Nachman of Breslov commanded his Chassidim that after his death, they should come to his grave every Rosh HaShana.

Rabbi Nachman moved to Uman only half a year before he died in 1810. His former house had burnt down and thus he was looking for a new location. Uman wasn't too far away from Medziboz and so he decided to move to Uman (Ukraine). But there was also another reason why Rabbi Nachman especially moved to Uman.

In 1768, a terrible pogrom had taken place in Uman where the Haidmacks killed 10.000 Jews. Rabbi Nachman got the idea that it was him who had to lift up all the souls (Neshamot) of this slaughtered Jews. And this is another reason why he commanded his Chassidim to come to his grave and pray Tehillim (Psalms) every Rosh HaShana. The souls of the murdered still have to be lifted up.

Especially in Israel, the ideology of all kinds of Breslover Chassidim going to Uman every Rosh HaShana is more than a contradiction. Rosh HaShana is a high holiday where we are all standing before G - d in order to crown Him as King.
It was Him creating our universe and us. Moreover, He is judging us for the upcoming year. Us and the whole world. And Rosh Shana is not only a Jewish holiday, as G - d is judging Jews and Gentiles on that day.

How can Jews, in this case the Breslover Chassidim, look to Uman when Jerusalem is THE place to be ? Be close to G - d and pray for forgiveness. Has one Rabbi (Rabbi Nachman) the power to change the whole Rosh HaShana concept ? A concept where you should try to get closer to G -d and be with your family.

Instead the Breslover Chassidim leave their family and go to Uman. One can argue that some of their wives have their own "party" in Meron (northern Israel). But what kind of holiday is that ? The husband in the Ukraine and the wife in Meron or wherever ?
Actually one of the wives told me that she is quite happy being alone with the kids and getting rid of her husband for a few days.

The question is if G - d is the most important figure on Rosh HaShana and not a Rabbi calling himself "the Zaddik of the Generation". You can be a Zaddik but you cannot put yourself above G - d. Israeli Rabbis such as the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef as well as many national religious rabbis oppose the whole Uman business. Jerusalem is the place to be and not worshipping a Rabbi at his grave. Pray to G - d and not to Rabbi Nachman.

And wasn't it Rabbi Nachman himself saying that every Jew has the potential of becoming a Zaddik ? So, why do you need to run to Uman and get uplifted by him ? Uplift yourself and stay in Jerusalem, as there is no other place like our city.

However, I found a few pictures from Uman and when I look at them, I am very glad to be in Jerusalem.

In case you are in Jerusalem and haven't booked seats in a synagogue, it might be hard for you finding something. However, the "Zemach Zedek Synagogue" from Chabad is open to anyone.
Location: Jewish Quarter in the Old City. Just look for the Cardo.

Yeshivat AISH HATORAH is running a program together with Jeff Seidel and the HERITAGE HOUSE, right across "Bonker's Bagels" in the Jewish Quarter.

For meal placements please meet Jeff Seidel at the men's water fountain in front of the Kotel (Western Wall).

Please note that all the programs and meals are only for Jews !

I will be praying with the Litvish as well and divide myself between the Machlis family and Mea Shearim.

A great, joyful, healthy and successful New Year to all of you.

Chag Sameach and Shana Tova from Jerusalem.
Not from Uman but to Uman !

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Toldot Aharon celebrated

The Toldot Aharon Rebbe is sitting at the far right (front row). To Rebbe Kahn's left (sitting in the middle, front row) is the Nadvorna Rebbe and at the far left, you can see Rabbi A.Y. Schwartz from Vienna.


On Shabbat Parashat "Ki Tavo", the Toldot Aharon in Mea Shearim celebrated a great special Kiddush after the synagogue service.

The Toldot Aharon Rebbe, Rabbi David Kahn, celebrated the birth of the first child of his oldest daughter. His daughter got married at the end of May last year and I actually went to the Sheva Berachot Tish at that time.

The daughter and her husband from Chassidut Spinka, Rabbi Baruch Kahana, gave a big Kiddush and the public as well as important rabbis and family members participated.
Unfortunately, I missed it !

However, Mazal Tov to the family.

Kidnapped by the Zionist police


I am late but nevertheless, I am letting you know it:

Last week, 40 so - called Sikarikim got arrested by the police. All of them were sitting on a bus going to Meron - to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochais grave when their bus was stopped and the police question the passengers.

The main goal was to have a demonstration at the grave in Meron and letting everyone know how "evil" the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel (Western Wall), Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, is.

However, it looks like Rabbi Rabinovich knew about the plan because he informed the police who stopped the demonstrators.

Last Shabbat, the Pakshivilim (news posters) again screamed from all the walls in Mea Shearim:

40 Kidnapped by the Zionist Police !!!
The criminal Rabinovitch declared war !!!


So, what now, Rabbi Rabinovitch ?
Why couldn't you just let those 40 guys demonstrate instead of showing your power and good connections to Israeli politicians and police ? You "impressed" everyone so much that now Mea Shearim is screaming for war ? Couldn't you find another proper solution before the high holidays ?

The last Shabbat of the Year


What was happening in Mea Shearim on the last Shabbat of 5768 ?

For Kabbalat Shabbat last Friday night, I went, as usual, to Karlin - Stolin in Yoel Street. The men's side downstairs was packed, the women's side … well, we were about four or five women. There wasn't too much space anyway at the Ezrat Nashim (women's side), as the whole space was filled out with benches. All set up for the upcoming high holidays.

The greatest worry of all chassidic group is space and where to put all the members during the synagogue service. Outsiders are often not accepted for the service and they have to look for places somewhere else. Especially the Toldot Aharon are very limited and at the moment, it is extremely hard to be an outsider. At least unless you decide to dress up as one of them and pretend something.

When I walked with a friend of mine to the great Toldot Aharon Synagogue the same night, we were turned down. A female member of the group was standing in the middle of the entrance and that was it. She was the bouncer and I asked her about what is going on. "Members only" - that was going on.

I wished her a "Shana Tova - Happy New Year" and we left. I really have to admit that the Toldot Aharon have the best bouncer women. And I have some experience there.

The woman on Friday night looked great in her traditional white apron and there was no way of getting around her.

A hard way to go


A friend of mine, Chana Baruch, died last week and after making Havdalah at the house of Rabbi Mordechai Machlis last night, a whole group of guests walked over to Chana's husband David who is sitting Shiva.

Going to a Shiva and especially writing about the subject before Rosh HaShana is never very pleasant. First of all, who wants to think or know about death right before a high holiday ? And I hate going to Shivas because I never know what to say and how to keep up a conversation with a mourner. In this respect, Sephardic Jews are much easier to handle than Ashkenazi Jews. For the Sepharadim every that matters is food. About a year and a half ago, I went to a Kurdish Shiva and I haven't even found the time to sit down, there was already a tray full of cake under my nose. This kind of environment makes it much easier that at an Ashkenazic Shiva.

Chana Baruch was only 59 - years - old when she died. For many years, she had come to the Machlis meals on a regular basis and people just loved her. She worked as a doctor for an Israeli Kupat Cholim and was very well respected.

After Havdalah, Rabbi Machlis made a long speech about her and some of us went over to Ramat Eshkol, where her husbands is sitting Shiva. While we were walking those 15 - 20 minutes, each of us probably thought about what to say to David. When we walked into his home, he was quite happy to see us and all of us said down and listened to his story about how his wife passed away. A lung infection and after a very short time, Chana passed away at the hospital.

Before going to a Shiva, I always fear not to be able to find the right words. But, once you are there, it doesn't seem too hard anymore and it always helps talking about the dead person.

Even if death is not the most pleasant subject to talk about, especially Rosh HaShana should remind us that everything and everyone of us depends on G - d. On Rosh HaShana, we crown G - d as our King, as it was Him alone creating this universe and us. And thus we have to accept that there are things we don't understand or cannot grasp. He has His reasons why and how He is running the world in this way and not in another. And as Rosh HaShana also stands for the birthday of Adam HaRishon and thus humankind, we are automatically reminded of how we were created and that we are all only mortal beings.

Shana Tova and Chatima Tova - Have a great, healthy and successful New Year and may you all be inscribed into the "Book of Life" !

Friday, September 26, 2008

Before Rosh HaShana


Although I live in Jerusalem and especially this week, thousands of people found their way to the Kotel (Western Wall) in order to say the Selichot - prayers, I haven't found any time joining them. I feel bad about it and try to look for all kinds of excuses. Of course, I am busy and all this. However, Jerusalem is full of people coming from all over the country. There are even Cafes in Jaffa Road which are open at night. At least for this week.

However, I promised myself that on Sunday night, I will finally make it.

Shabbat Shalom - Gut Shabbes - שבת שלום - to all of you !

Dr. Chana Baruch Beberich z"l


My friend, Dr. Chana Baruch Beberich, passed away. The news reached me so unexpectedly and late that I wasn't able to get to the funeral in time.

I had known "Dr. Chana" for a few years already and first met her at the Machlises. She always showed up with her husband David and gave speeches at Rabbi Machlise's Shabbat table. Last Purim, another friend and me took her to some chassidic Tishes and we had such a great love when the vibrating Chana got lost inside the Neturei Karta Synagogue.

I am still unable to grasp that she passed away and was buried on Jerusalem's Har HaMenuchot yesterday afternoon. I was told that many people attended the funeral; many of them used to be her patients. Haredim and national religious - everyone was there. Her sudden death was even announced in a haredi forum.

We will definitely miss her !

3000 Children in Belz


Approx. 3000 Talmud Torah children (from different Talmud Torah) were praying at the Belzer Beit Midrash yesterday.

All pictures here:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Awakening in Beit Shemesh ?


Rabbi Ovadiah Yoseph is coming to Beit Shemesh on 5th October (Sunday).
The question is if Rabbi Yoseph is really coming to awaken the Jews for the high holidays or if it is just another election campaign, as one of the celebrities, Moshe Abutbul, wants to become the new mayor of Beit Shemesh.

Chassidut Gur and the Internet


Gerrer Chassidim (Gur) are supposed to fill out this latest questionnaire.

Who in the household has a computer ?
Does the computer have an Internet connection?
Does the mother or the father need a computer for work ?
What kind of modem do you have ?
For what exactly do you need the Internet ?
Do you have a rabbinic permission for having a computer at home or using the Internet ?
What is your purpose of having a computer ?

The Neturei Karta meets Achmadinejad


After the Iranian Adolf Achmadinejad finished his anti - Semitic propaganda show at the UN in New York, he walked over to the Neturei Karta and had a friendly chat with them. And believe it or not, the Neturei Karta even gave a nice present to Achmadinejad: a wine goblet (cost: 700 Dollar).

Is he supposed to make Kiddush with it ?
And is the Neturei Karta secretly making some Kiruv ?

However, the Iranian Adolf assured the NT that he is aware of the difference between Zionists and Jews.
Well, he didn't really point that out too much in his speech at the UN.

After the meeting, Rabbi Israel David Weiss announced to the press that the meeting hab been extraordinary successful (whatever that means).

Rabbi Weiss also pointed out that the Neturei Karta and Achmadinejad have a common goal: rejecting the Zionists and their State. And, the Iranian President doesn't hate Jews but only Zionists.

How naive can someone be ?
Maybe Rabbi Weiss should speak to some Holocaust survivors.

Rabbi Israel David Weiss is convinced that Achmadinejad doesn't deny the Holocaust but condemns it just as everyone else.

My suggestion:
Why doesn't Rabbi Weiss move to Teheran ?

Here you are able to find all kinds of Neturei Karta Videos:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Yetzer called Pornography


Rosh HaShana is just around the corner and maybe I should concentrate on more positive issues instead of disturbing society matters. Maybe I should rather write about "Teshuva - the return to G - d)" or other related issues because on Rosh HaShana, G - d is going to judge the whole world. And despite all celebrations and good food, Rosh HaShana is actually a very serious holiday.

Nevertheless, there are society problems and many issues have to be mentioned. Of course, some people would prefer not to talk about it and just keep quiet. I am not that type of person although there is a danger that outsiders may get the wrong impression about haredi society. Unfortunately, a minority always has a potential to destroy the reputation of everyone else. Especially in Israel where the secular press just loves to jump on the religious.

The Online Maganize Ynet published an article again dealing with the important subject "Haredim and Internet pornography".

A religious female student of the Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan described the following situation:

She (the student) couldn't fall asleep and decided to walk over to the computer room on the campus. Most computers were occupied by male Haredim and first the student thought that they were studying something. After a closer look, however, she realized that all Haredim were surfing through pornographic sites.
The student was shocked and went to the press in order to make it public. The right step in my eyes, as it is high time that everyone starts noticing the problem, and not only the Yeshiva world or the modesty police (Mishmeret HaZniut).

It is a disgrace for the Yeshiva world what has been going on for some time. Married and single Haredim storm into public libraries in order to satisfy their sexual desires. Secret gay haredim and heterosexuals, singles or married men, everybody is hanging around. Once they are sitting in front of a computer, they forget about shame and people sitting next to them. The Streimel is being put aside and instead, naked women show up on the screen.
Internet Cafes are too expensive and thus the Haredim discovered the libraries. Here they spend hours staring at naked breasts or naked male body parts.

Apparently Yeshivot and Rabbis are helpless. There are warnings and decrees (from the Gerrer Rebbe) but this doesn't help. The Yetzer seems to be too strong. Those Haredim don't get to the computer with a positive intention; no, the only reason they surf is to get to pornographic websites. Who cares about Torah and religious sites ? Just Type "sex" into Google and all your desires will be satisfied.

It can happen that the librarians discover those sex fanatics and throw them out. But there is nothing to worry about, as there are plenty of other Internet places. And if non of them is available, there are still the real prostitutes.

As soon as I see a haredi guy walking into the National Library in Jerusalem without any bag, paper or pen, I know exactly what he is up to. Sitting in front of a computer, looking carefully to the left and to the right, and then getting to Google in order to find pleasure. You should see the looks on their faces while they are surfing through pornography. One should take a picture of those faces and show them to their potential Shidduch or wife.
Apropos wife, I feel very sorry for those haredi wives who think that their dear husband went to the Beit Midrash.
Well, in a way this is true but do we speak about a different kind of virtual Beit Midrash.

Where are the modesty police, the rabbis and the Gerrer Rebbe ?
Just send them to the public libraries and they will be surprised about who they are going to meet.

Peeping Tom underneath the immodest Bridge


How far should the whole modesty issue go ?
Sometimes I really feel that especially haredi society is becoming more and more crazy. What mostly drives me nuts are certain rabbis claiming that Meshiach doesn't come because there are so many immodest women.

How do those rabbis know why Meshiach decided not to show up ? Have they ever spoken to him ?

Usually we get the impression that it is always men inventing more and more restrictions. Women should wear this and not that; they have to be in the kitchen and take care of the kids.
Higher studies for women ?
"Chas ve'Shalom".
The modern orthodox and other may think that rabbis making such decrees are a bunch of old guys who have nothing to do with regular society but just sit somewhere in their dark study room and care about the continuation of their own power.

Whoever has thought this way is very much mistaken.
There are many haredi women who insist on the modesty issue. Just look at the woman of Chassidut Gur emphasizing the bedroom Takanot of their group. And now there is another issue which, at first glance, seems to be so ridiculous.

Countless religious women complained about the new Jerusalem bridge being totally immodest. Complaints about the bridge located at the entrance of the city are anything but new but now, it really seems to get out of control.
Religious women complained that the railing of the bridge could be a temptation for perverts because the railing is made of transparent plastic. Let's assume that someone is standing below the bridge, he could look up and thus start peeping tom by looking the women under their skirts.

Women walking over the brigde fear that everyone underneath the bridge would be able to see their underwear due to the plastic material. And those religious women raising the issue, want the railing material changed into something else where one cannot look through. Or in other words, the bridge is immodest and it has to be turned into something modest.

The immodest railing made out of plastic. Would you look through it and become a peeping tom ?
Photo: Ynet

Honestly, I would have never imagined how people can be so fanatic about modesty. It doesn't mean that there shouldn't be no modesty at all but what would have our foremothers said about the whole subject ? The foremothers, the Prophetess Devorah, Beruriah, Rashi's daughters and many other famous Jewish women.

People are getting more and more crazy and I am asking myself if this might be the reason why Meshiach refuses to come. Well, at least, he shouldn't be standing under the bridge !

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vishnitzer Rebbe visiting the Kotel


The Vishnitzer Rebbe from Bnei Brak, Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Hager, was visiting the Kotel (Western Wall) today.
As the Vishnitzer Rebbe is suffering from an illness, his two sons, Rabbi Israel and Rabbi Menachem Mendel, are fighting about leadership.

Today, only his son Rabbi Israel Hager accompanied him to the Kotel in Jerusalem.

In the center: Rebbe Moshe Yehoshua Hager.
Second from the left: The Rebbe's son Rabbi Israel Hager.

Link to all pictures:

We want Meshiach now !


Is it only me noticing that more and more people talk about the immediate Ge'ulah (redemption) ?

Especially now before Rosh HaShana, some religious Jews seem to see a sign that Meshiach is on his way. Don't get me wrong; I do believe in Meshiach and, just as everyone else does, hope that he will be coming soon. However, wherever I go, religious Jews talk about the time having arrived and it has to be almost now.

It is not always Chabad drawing conclusions about the arrival of Meshiach. In Talmud Sanhedrin it says that Meshiach should be coming around the year 6000 (according to the Jewish calender). But in the same Talmudic Tractate it also says that we should avoid any calculations regarding Meshiach's arrival and the Ge'ulah.
In Talmud Sotah as well as in Sanhedrin, we can find a whole list about the conditions for Meshiach. What are the conditions for his arrival and how should the world look ? Should everything be so miserable, should there be a war or is he coming when everything seems to be so wonderful and perfect ?
Fact is, we don't know for sure.

I feel that more and more people are getting lost in calculations. Soon we are celebrating the New Year 5769 and if we believe that Meshiach should be due around the year 6000, we have still got some time. Or maybe not.

Jews always tend to look at certain worldly events as signs for the upcoming Ge'ulah. Certain wars, people's behaviour, anti - Semitism, Iran and Europe being Gog and Magog, etc. In every generation, many times Jews thought that different events lead to Meshiach. "Get ready, he is on his way because there is another war".

I personally feel that some Jews are totally getting lost in the Meshiach idea. Even former famous chassidic rabbis. Let's just look at the Seer (Chozeh) of Lublin, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz (1745 - 1815). In those days, chassidic rabbis saw the wars with Napoleon as an important sign for a close Redemption. And when you look into all those generations throughout history, there were always signs of Meshiach. That's life. But you shouldn't run after every single event, after every war or hurricane, in order to predict an immediate arrival.

Meshiach comes when G - d wants him to show up.
Does this mean we just have to sit and wait ?
"It is up to G - d and I cannot do anything !"
Nevertheless, there are actually many opinions that we Jews are able to do something to bring about the Ge'ulah. Hasten it so that G - d has no other choice but sending us Meshiach. Why don't we take action instead of sitting around and doing nothing besides Torah study and prayer ? Why not being actively involved in making everything ready for Meshiach ? And doesn't G - d Himself want us to be ready ?

Rabbi Mordechai Machlis made a rather strange remark the other Shabbat. Some may even think that he lost his mind.

In a speech at the Se'udat Shlishit (third Shabbat meal) he suggested that we should be so ready for Meshiach that maybe we should organize a special Meshiach dress for ourselves. Just showing that we are really expecting him and not just look at it as a concept. Do we want Meshiach and actively do something for his arrival ? Maybe if we did, he would come sooner than expected.
All those suggestions might sound rather strange but I do see a point in it. At least I started seriously asking myself what I personally do to bring Meshiach. On the other hand, I just don't want to get lost in exaggerated expectations. I am not one of those looking through the news and trying to figure out if this or that event has to do with Meshiach.

Although I do want Meshiach, it is hard to imagine how our lives would be. Maybe we should think much more often of an active role and not only relying on a concept or everyone else.

Kaliv / Kalov


Many people get confused between the two Rebbes of Kaliv - Kalov.

You can find the Kaliver Rebbe in Jerusalem where he has his center in Chana Street (near Bar Ilan Street).

The Kalover Rebbe resides in New York but I met him once at the Tish of the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak in Jerusalem. That was about a year ago.

However, both Rebbes have their own websites and if anyone has details about the Kaliver Tish in Jerusalem, I would be happy.

The Kaliv Site:

The Kalov Site:

New Terror in Jerusalem


When I went down to the Old City last night, everything was blocked. It was hard to reach Jaffa Gate and even the gate itself was closed, as there was a bomb alarm. Further up, at the junction Jaffa Road, Shivtei Israel (right in front of the municipality), a Palestinian terrorist had driven with his car into a group of soldiers and bystanders. Approx. 19 people got injured. The terrorist was shot by one of the soldiers.

Afterwards the roads were closed off and, as many people were on their way to the Kotel (Western Wall), hundreds of people were watching the police investigations in a state of shock and helplessness.

Here are some pictures from last night's terror attack:

Selichot - Prayer at the Kotel


I found some great pictures of the Selichot - prayers at the Kotel (Western Wall).
Now before Rosh HaShana, the Kotel is packed with thousands of people every night. Sephardi, Ashkenazi, secular or religious ... everyone just seems to stream into the Old City and asked for G - d's forgiveness.

It is an incredible atmosphere and everyone staying in Jerusalem at the moment shouldn't miss the Selichot at the Kotel.

The Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem

Monday, September 22, 2008

Everyone will stare at you !


Just recently, I witnessed a very interesting scene and to tell the truth, I was glad not to be too much involved.

I was sitting together with a friend of mine and another woman was joining us. My friend and the other woman are both from New York. My friend has been visiting Jerusalem for some time and has started going to a litvishe program for Baalei Teshuva (Jews who become religious later on in their lives).

The other woman sitting down next to us was in the middle of her thirties, she is black, converted to Judaism and has been studying at the same institution as my friend for quite a while.

The black woman said to my friend that, as she is now studying at this litvishe institution, she should change clothes. Instead of pants or stylish New York clothes, she should start becoming a modest woman. Someone frum. Long skirts, long sleeves, stockings and a frum hairstyle - whatever that means. If my friend wouldn't do so soon, all the other frum litvishe girls would stare at her. And not only them, all frum people would just stare at her, and this wouldn't be too comfortable.

"If you want to get accepted, you need to change", the black woman said. And by the way, wearing pants is an Aveirah (sin) anyway. We are in the month of Elul and you should avoid doing Aveirot".

My friend just blew up on her and said: "I am sick and tired of you. You frummies just keep on telling me what do do. How to dress, how to behave, how to get accepted. I don't want to get accepted and I don't give a damn. I am only here for a few weeks and don't care what you guys tell me. Just leave me alone".

"Well, the black woman responded anxiously, if you don't change, people keep on staring and you. You are not in New York and Jerusalem is different. But if you are fine with not being accepted, well, I am just letting you know".

"Yes, I am very fine with it, my friend yelled. I am so sick of being told - wear this and that - , this is an Aveirah and that, don't touch a dog on Shabbat, don't say this because it is Lashon HaRah (idle gossip). I cannot tell you how you people are driving me nuts. I want to be myself and squeezing myself into some frum clothes and going like "nanana" is just not me. Don't you people get it ?"

My friend got more and more upset and so did the black woman.

The black woman was so anxious and I started feeling sorry for her. She almost cried when she told us that everyone is always staring at her, as if she doesn't belong to the Jews.

"Why, because you are black ?", my friend asked.

"Well, I could be Ethiopian, but Israelis realize that I am not. I don't look Ethiopian and thus people think that an American black person cannot be Jewish. They look at me as a stranger".

The black woman really wants to be part of the Jewish people; part of the frum society. And she does anything to satisfy all necessary demands. I told her that she does too much.

You cannot always do Mitzwot and think that other people pay attention and see how great you are. You are doing Mitzwot, so what ? Do them because you want to do them and because of G - d, and not for the neighbours.

After the black woman had left, my friend told me that such people really go on her nerves. Of course, you have to feel sorry for them, in a way. They think that once they show everyone that they are so great, all the Haredim are coming to embrace and accept them.

I told my friend that at the very beginning, I probably did the same. However, after a short while I was sick of running after recognition and just started doing my own thing. Keeping Mitzwot, yes, but for myself and not for my environment. I stopped running after acceptance. And since, my life has become much happier. Whoever accepts me can do so, and if not, well, I cannot change someone's mind. So, they don't accept me ? So, what ?
Shall I kill myself ?

I don't run after society and I couldn’t be around such kind of Baalei Teshuva meaning so well all the time. I am not talking about the black woman but in general. Many Baalei Teshuva come up to you and let you know how you should think and do this and that. Everyone means soooo well and they don't realize how much they go on the nerves of others.


To be continued !
As there is no end to the problem.

HaRav Uzi Meshulam


I have heard a lot about the claims of the Israeli Rabbi Uzi Meshulam lately.

Among other things, he keeps on saying that after the foundation of the present State of Israel, Yemenite Jews were kidnapped by the Ben Gurion government and handed over to Ashkenazi families who couldn't have their own children.

However, this claim is true and was confirmed by the Israeli government a few years ago. But Rabbi Meshulam also says that some of those Yemenite babies (children) were tortured, as the hospitals, kidnapping the babies from their biological parents, did medical experiments on the Yemenite (Sephardic) babies.

Does anyone know if this is true and if we can believe what Rabbi Meshulam claims ?

Here is his website in English:

I was just asking myself how this whole matter could be true. The State of Israel was founded right after the Holocaust and countless Jews underwent medical experiments in the concentration camps. So, how would they be able doing the same to other people ?
To their fellow Jews ?

One Sephardi guy answered something very interesting. He said that "especially" after the Holocaust, certain Jews were able to do such things.

Sepharadim and their Selichot - Prayers


Since Rosh Chodesh Elul, Sephardic Jews have been saying their Selichot prayers for Rosh HaShana.

All pictures:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rabbi Brandsdorfer's Family Ties

Toldot Aharon Chassidim in Mea Shearim / Jerusalem.


And again, last Erev Shabbat, my favourite chassidic Tish was on - the Toldot Aharon in Mea Shearim / Jerusalem.

Apparently the vast majority has never ever heard about the Toldot Aharon; Israelis and Diaspora Jews alike. Unfortunately, the Toldot Aharon seem to be rather for insiders and Chassidut freaks like me. But, nevertheless, still many people keep on sending me e - mails and investigating about the group. It is rather astonishing how many people interested in Chassidut know some Toldot Aharon members and even the New York family (Sidichov) of the Rebbitzen.

Until today or especially today, most Jews only know Chabad which is a real pity. The chassidic world has so much to offer and Chabad is only a tiny part of it. It is much greater getting to know other chassidic groups such as Satmar, Nadvorna, Bobov, Slonim, Vishnitz, the Toldot Aharon and many others. Whoever hasn't been to a real lively enthusiastic Tish doesn't understand anything about Chassidut.

I admit that not everyone in the world has access to the Toldot Aharon, as they are mostly located in Mea Shearim and the Ge'ulah neighbourhood. Nevertheless, they are one of the most influential members of the anti - Zionist umbrella organization "Edah HaCharedit". Although the Toldot Aharon started off as a rather small group, within the past few years they have been growing a lot. The great Synagogue in Shivtei Israel Street is far too small and therefore they have started building a new, much bigger, Synagogue right next to the old center. Money is an important issue and as it is missing, all the construction work doesn't move on.
And this is the reason why this time, the group members also have to squeeze themselves into the old Synagogue over the high holidays. The Toldot Aharon are extremely anti - Zionist and thus don't accept any finincial support from the State of Israel. Instead they are looking for donations and support from other related chassidic groups such as Satmar.

Last Erev Shabbat, I took a friend and we were so lucky to arrive on time. Rebbe David Kahn had just entered the men's section on the ground floor of the Synagogue and started making Kiddush (blessing over the wine). When we climbed upstairs to the Ezrat Nashim (women's section), I saw a note hanging on the wall in the staircase. It was written in Hebrew and thus addressed to members and visitors alike. Otherwise all the news letters are written in Yiddish.

Due to the upcoming high holidays, the Toldot Aharon are planning to add a third Ezrat Nashim at the northern side of the Synagogue.

As I have already mentioned, the group is tremendously growing and at peak hours, there is hardly any space in the women's section. The women sometimes are squeezed in like sardines although there are already two bigger women's sections available.
The growths seems to be due to the high birthrate of the group. And on the high holidays, lots of further members living in Beit Shemesh are expected to come. One of the women told me that the group members from Beit Shemesh usually find shelter at the houses of the Jerusalem members.

We found a great spot on one of the metal benches and were able to overlook everything. While I was watching the Rebbe, the Rabbi sitting to his left, caught my attention.
"Wasn't this ... ? No, this couldn't be.
But, wait a minute, wasn't this Rabbi Me'ir Brandsdorfer sitting next to Rebbe David Kahn and obviously enjoying himself ?"

Rabbi Me'ir Brandsdorfer

I asked one a the female members and she had expected anything but not that an outsider is inquiring about Rabbi Me'ir Brandsdorfer. As soon as she realized that I know a little about Mea Shearim, she opened up.

"Yes, this is Rabbi Me'ir Brandsdorfer, and although he belongs to "them" (Toldot Avraham Yitzchak) he shows up once a month at the Toldot Aharon. The reason is very simple: Rabbi Brandsdorfer is related to the Kahn family.

Almost twelve years ago when the Toldot Aharon split, Rabbi Me'ir Brandsdorfer supported Rebbe Yaakov Shmuel Kahn who is now the Rebbe of the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak. Since, Rabbi Brandsdorfer has been joining the "competitor" group "Toldot Avarahm Yitzchak", he left the Toldot Aharon. Despite his switch, he remained an important rabbi of the Edah HaCharedit.

Rabbi Me'ir Brandsdorfer (to the left) is shaking hands with the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe Yaakov Shmuel Kahn (to the right)

I was still surprised to see him at the Toldot Aharon because I had never expected him there due to all the disputes.

Further Toldot Aharon news:
The third Ezrat Nashim is only being build for the upcoming high holidays.

As the Toldot Aharon Synagogue will be packed with members on the high holidays, visitors should rather look for different spots in Mea Shearim or elsewhere. Space is very limited and expensive.

On Yom Kippur as well as on Simchat Torah, only Toldot Aharon members are allowed to enter their Synagoge.
This is also happening due to the limited space.

On Friday night, we could feel the space issue, as we were sitting like sardines and as soon as I got up, I realized how stiff I was. After two hours "suffering" we went over to the Avraham Yitzchak where there was much more space. Most female members had gone home already and there were plenty of seats. However, we were too tired for any further enjoyment. Actually a pity because Rebbe Yaakov Shmuel Kahn had more than 300 Chassidim gathered around him and he was in one of his great spiritual moods.

To the right: The Rebbe of the Toldot Avarahm Yitzchak, Rabbi David Kahn, with his brother Rabbi David Kahn - the Toldot Aharon Rebbe, in the center.

Who is a "PIG" ?


New Pakshivili (news poster) - old issue !

Besides being a "Shababnik" and a "criminal", the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, is now accused of being a "pig" as well.

He is bringing "Zionist impurity" to the Kotel and now to Meron.

Baruch of Medziboz

"Light of Torah" von Elie Benzaquen


The small Ukranian town Medziboz only became famous due to the Baal Shem Tov who used to live there from 1740 – 1760. In those days, Medziboz used to be one of the biggest towns in the Ukraine;
there were 545 Christian and 219 Jewish households in Meziboz. Altogether 5000 Jews of whom one – third was Jewish. The inhabitants mostly earned their living as merchants, as the town's location between Lwov and Kiev was more than convenient.

Rabbi Baruch ben Yechiel of Medziboz was born in 1753 and died on 18th Kislev 1810 (see "Encyclopedia of Chassidut" by Yitzchak Alfassi). Already Rabbi Baruch's mother was more than famous, as her name was Adel and she was the daughter of the Baal Shem Tov. His father was Rabbi Yechiel Ashkenazi. The younger brother of Rabbi Baruch was the well - known Rabbi Chaim Ephraim of Sudlikov (the "Degel Machane Ephraim"). It is said that Baruch of Medziboz inherited the fiery temperament of his mother Adel.

When someone like him comes from such a famous chassidic family background, one usually becomes a rabbi himself in order to keep of the family tradition. And thus for a short period of time, Rabbi Baruch studied with the successor of the Baal Shem Tov, with the Maggid of Mezritch (Rabbi Dov Bear Friedman). Then he studied at the school of Rabbi Pinchas Shapira of Koretz. Later, Rabbi Baruch married the daughter of the wealthy Rabbi Tuvia of Ostrova and settled in Tulchin (Ukraine).

Unfortunately, hie first wife died and when Rabbi Baruch married for the second time, it was the daughter of the relative and Rabbi Aharon of Titov. With his second wife he moved to Medziboz where he bought a great house and even horses. Rabbi Baruch didn't consider it as a contradictory being a famous chassidic rabbi and, at the same time, leading a wealthy lifestyle.

It is not easy to determine Rabbi Baruch's character today. He considered himself as the "real" successor of the Baal Shem Tov because the great chassidic master was his grandfather. Nevertheless, there was a fraction of three rabbis against him and those three were Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the Chabad founder) as well as the Seer (Chozeh) of Lublin, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz. A further critic of Rabbi Baruch was Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

All the disputes didn't keep new Chassidim from coming in order to study with Rabbi Baruch of Medziboz who eventually had a few hundred followers. And another positive point was that he was very friendly with Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.

Today there are different versions about the dispute between Rabbi Baruch and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. However, Rabbi Baruch considered himself as more "special" because he was related to the Baal Shem Tov and, according to his opinion, he was the one who interpreted the teaching of his grandfather in the right and authentic way. Already the Maggid of Mezritch admitted that he himself interpreted the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov according to his own understanding.

And this is a problem today, as we don't always know the original teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. All the rabbis after him changed some teachings according to their individual understanding.

Later on, also Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi interpreted the Chassidut according to his thoughts and opinions. No wonder that Rabbi Baruch was angry about all the different versions and everyone claiming something else. When Rabbi Shneur Zalman published his TANYA, Rabbi Baruch got extremely upset. In 1808, Rabbi Shneur Zalman came down to the Ukraine in order to raise funds and Rabbi Baruch considered this as trespassing into his territory.

There is no doubt that Rabbi Baruch had the advantage of being related to the Baal Shem Tov, and his "competitor", Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi had never met the chassidic master. For Rabbi Baruch was Rabbi Shneur Zalman not an "original" Chassid although the latter loved to say that he is the "spiritual grandson" of the Baal Shem Tov.

The Baal Shem Tov emphasized the concept of the Zaddik (righteous) but the chassidic Rebbes after him turned it into a real concept (e.g. Rabbi Elimelech of Lejansk). According to Rabbi Baruch, the Zaddik has to be the center of the community. He is the most important person and the Chassidim are supposed to learn from him.

Quite often, Rabbi Baruch of Medziboz suffered from depression and melancholy and his Chassidim tried to cheer him up.
The Rabbi didn't leave any writings of his own and when he passed away, his Chassidut died out.
He was survived by three daughters who all married rabbis; however, he had no son and thus no successor.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Selichot - Prayers


Tonight, all Ashkenazic Jews all over the world are starting the traditional Selichot - Prayers before Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year).
The Sephardic Jews have already started praying Selichot on Rosh Chodesh Elul.
Usually the Selichot are being said after midnight.

The Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem will be packed for the next coming days. Hundreds or even thousands of Jews are coming to say the Selichot.

Normally we start saying Selichot on the Mozzaei Shabbat right before Rosh HaShana. Halachically we need to pray them on at least four days.This time, however, the holiday is starting on a Monday night and thus, the Selichot are said earlier.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shabbat Shalom

Picture by B. Mezzera / A Simple Jew

Shabbat Shalom - A Giten Shabbes - שבת שלום - to all readers of this Blog !

Most chassidic Rebbes are back from their summer vacation and hopefully there will be some great interesting chassidic Tishes taking place in Jerusalem tonight.

New Holocaust Decision from Berlin


Messianic Jews and fanatic Christians just met at a congress in Berlin (Germany). There they decided that converting ALL Jews to Christianity is going to be one of their highest priorities.

No wonder that more and more Jews look at the Christians with scepticism. Although not every Christian is a missionary, Jews have to be extremely careful.

Messianic Jews, Evangelists and other fanatic Christians are the new Hitlers in our time !

The Belzer Rebbe and SHASS


The Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, gave a blessing to Moshe Abutbul who wants to become the next mayor of Beit Shemesh.

The above picture shows the Belzer Rebbe sitting in the middle.
To the left: Moshe Abutbul and to the right: Eli Yishai (head of the Sephardic - haredi SHASS party). In front of Yishai you can see the former Knesset member Israel Eichler (Chassidut Belz).

It is no news at all that Belz supports the Sephardi SHASS party.It is also said that when Moshe Abutbul was already having some political influence, he already gave lots of support to Chassidut Belz.

Help Belz and you receive a blessing from the Admor !

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Twelve Months without Rabbi Avraham Shapira


The Jerusalem Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva held a memorial service for its former Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Avraham Elkana Kahane Shapira z"l.

Stealing Jewish Children during the Holocaust


In her book "Hidden in Thunder", Esther Farbstein quotes the following true story:

"One day our parents informed us that we were in for a surprise – Bitya amd her surrogate mother would be coming to visit us ! We were overjoyed to see Bitya, and our pleasure increased when we sensed that she felt comfortable with us at home. After eating lunch together, we recited the "Grace after the Meal – Bircat HaMazon". Mrs. Kersbergen followed suit by whispering some prayers while clasping her hands on the table and crossing herself repeatedly, but we were completely unprepared for what happened next. To our utter astonishment, Bitya followed Mrs. Kersbergen example. We were appalled – our sweet little Bitya praying like a Christian !

My parents rose and left the room. A short while later they returned and explained to Mrs. Kersbergen that although they had originally intended for Bitya to stay with her, they now felt that the situation was not as dangerous, and they had decided that Bitya would return to us. Mrs. Kersbergen was clearly surprised at this sudden turn of events, but she took it all in stride and left in a friendly and cheerful mood.

Father and Mother were visibly shaken. All they said to us was "We received you children as a deposit from Heaven. We do not know when we will be obligated to return our deposits, but one thing is certain – we will return you as Jews !"

Bitya returned her soul to her Maker in Bergen – Belsen in February 1945, at the age of five years and four months. She did so as a Jewish girl, as her parents had vowed.


Many new Halachic questions came up during the Holocaust. Among them was the question if Jewish parents should hand over their children to Christian families or give them into convents. Most Jewish religious families, however, never thought about giving their children away to Christians.

Especially the Catholic convents in Eastern Europe didn't accept Jewish children just out of love; the nuns had a firm agenda which was doing the best to convert Jewish children to Christianity. Extreme Christians call this "saving souls in order to bring about the second coming of their false Meshiach J.C."
Already after the few days at the convent, Jewish children were systematically baptised.

Wasn't it enough that the Nazis did "their best" to exterminate the Jewish people ? Now also the church came up with its plan not only to destroy Jewish lives but also Jewish souls.
Esther Farbstein quotes a story in her book where Jewish children accepted by a covenant were led into a prayer room where they were told that this is a "Synagogue". The room was neither a church nor a synagogue but simple a room for missionizing Jewish children. Here they were taught a new kind of prayer. Prayers to the false Meschiach J. C. How can young children to be expected making a difference between Judaism and idol worship ?

After the war, on 10th February 1946, Rabbi Herzog met Pope Pius XII. and asked him to instruct his follower to return Jewish children from Catholic convents. The appeal was in vain and from an estimated 5000 Jewish children, only half was returned.
And half of the children were mostly not returned because the convents were willing to do so. Instead, different Rabbis went from convent to convent and found out by themselves, which one of the children was Jewish. Many convents denied having accepted Jewish children.

It needs to be mentioned that there were definitely some Christian families who did mean well and not everyone was so fanatically into this idea of missionizing helpless Jewish children and, thus exploiting the war time situation. However, Catholicism used to be extremely important and influential in Eastern Europe in those days and especially convents followed the church rules. Rules whose goal ii is to missionize all Jews to Christianity. The same rules existed in the Middle Ages and the same rules exist today when fanatic Christians come to Jerusalem in order to missionize or Evangelists preach their "Freedom for Jerusalem". There is no difference and the churches haven't changed.

To quote Primo Levi:
"What kind of church is that" ?

Wasn't handing the children over in a Christian environment like a capitulation to Hitler's plan to destroy and kill the Jews ?
Yes, it was and since then, nothing has changed.


Here is an article by Daniel Goldhagen with a claim, the Vatican vehemently denies on the Internet:

Did the Pope 'steal' Holocaust children?

A 1946 Vatican letter was an attempt to stop the return of children to their Jewish families

By Daniel Goldhagen

Imagine that a person, at some risk to himself, saves an infant from a burning car in a rural area. The parents are dead. We would call him a hero.

But then he decides to keep the child and raise her in his god’s way. The man does not inform the authorities. When the desperate child’s relatives come looking for her, even knocking on his door, he denies any knowledge of the child’s whereabouts. The man’s initial good deed has become a crime. He is a kidnapper.

A document from the archives of the French Roman Catholic Church has just been published that reveals Pope Pius XII to have been like this man when Jewish relatives came frantically knocking, demanding their children. In October 1946 a letter containing papal instructions was sent to the papal nuncio in France, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII.

He was a man of known compassion for Jews, who was working to reunite Jewish children hidden in Catholic institutions during the Holocaust with parents, relatives and Jewish institutions. The letter ordered Roncalli to desist and to hold on to the Jewish children: “Those children who have been baptised cannot be entrusted to institutions that are unable to ensure a Christian education.”

Pius XII’s intent to deprive Jewish parents of their children was unequivocal: “If the children have been entrusted (to the church) by their parents, and if the parents now claim them back, they can be returned, provided the children themselves have not been baptised. It should be noted that this decision of the Congregation of the Holy Office has been approved by the Holy Father.”

Not returning baptised Jewish children was thus presented as a general church principle and policy decided upon by the church’s authoritative Congregation and personally approved by Pope Pius XII. So it stands to reason that this policy was to be implemented across Europe.

It is still not known to what extent Roncalli or other church officials actually implemented the Vatican directive. The documents relevant to the church’s policy remain sequestered in the archives of the Vatican and in the archives of the national churches.

During the Holocaust unknown thousands of Jewish children had gained refuge in Catholic monasteries, convents and schools — though not at the behest of the Pope. They were saved by local heroes, priests and nuns, who also baptised an unknown number of the children under their care.

It is well known that Jewish survivors, in many though not all cases, had great difficulty retrieving their children. But it was only suspected that the church had a policy of stealing these Jewish children for Jesus.

Now we have a smoking gun: this chilling document. It reveals that the Pope’s and the church’s policy was, in effect, to kidnap Jewish children, perhaps by the thousands. It exhibits Pius XII’s callousness towards the suffering of Jews and its plain purpose was to implement a plan that would victimise the Jews a second time by depriving these survivors of the Nazi hell of their own children.

The document cannot surprise anyone familiar with the Catholic church during this period. But it does remove what Pius XII had enjoyed: plausible deniability. For 60 years the church and its officials have worked hard to deny the many crimes and outrages against Jews before, during and after the Holocaust committed by Pius XII, bishops and priests.

Pius XII and the church kept this policy of denying Jewish parents their children secret from the world, because they knew that it would be seen as outrageous and criminal. Yet religious robes should not cloak a person and his deeds from being called plainly what they are. The recent priestly sex abuse scandals have taught us this. They have also taught us that transparency is necessary for this most secretive of churches.

If the church is the moral institution it claims to be then it must take measures to redress this: the Vatican should establish and fund a fully independent commission of outside historical, ecclesiastical and forensic experts, led by a person of international stature, to determine how many Jewish children the church did not return and the role that Pius XII, cardinals and bishops played. The commission should be granted full access to all church institutions, personnel and documents.

Pope John Paul II, who has worked hard to improve the church’s bearing towards Jews, should publicly instruct all national European Catholic churches to co-operate fully with the investigators and to unearth what happened in their parishes.

For the church is an institution that records and preserves one thing above all else faithfully: baptisms. Upon identification, all Jewish victims or their survivors should be located by the church and notified. The commission should also publish detailed historical reports of its findings.

If Switzerland could do this with its Bergier Commission for the theft of Jewish assets during the war, and if Australia can do this for the children its government stole from Aborigines during the same period, the Catholic church can do this now. And the Vatican should finally stop the decades-long stalling and obfuscating about fully opening its own and its national churches’ archives covering the Holocaust period to scholars and journalists. It should also stop pretending that its sole transgression was not having done more to save Jews, and that its sole act of public penitence need be issuing wan apologies for its acts of omission. Surely this papal letter to Roncalli is not the only incriminating document in the church’s vast secret archives.

Finally, it should now be clear that the church should cease efforts to canonise Pius XII. He oversaw a church that, during the war, continued centuries-old practices of anti-semitism, knowing that the Jews were being persecuted and slaughtered. He presided over a church where German priests used its genealogical records to help the Nazis determine whom to persecute as a Jew and that officially continued for more than a decade after the Holocaust to teach that all Jews for all time are guilty as Christ-killers.

And with this authoritative church document from its own archives we know that Pius XII effectively made himself into one of the most rampant would-be kidnappers of modern times not to mention a person bereft of human empathy for the Jewish parents in search of their children after years of suffering.

Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi’s memoir and commentary on the character of humanity was If This Is a Man. How can we not ask: if this is a saint, then what kind of church is this?

Daniel Goldhagen is the author of A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is this a good Intention ?

According to Ynet, 15 Neturei Karta members took part in an anti - fence demonstration in the Palestinian village of Naalin (in the West Bank).

Although the Neturei Karta loves to emphazise its sympathy for the Palestinians, I very much doubt that there exists anything like that. But if yes, I don't understand how they can call themselves Jews.

In case, the Neturei Karta is just following its own usual anti - Zionist agenda, here is an explanation for that:

"The Talmudic reason for anti - Zionism"

Contradiction: Neturei Karta

It would be interesting to know which part of the Neturei Karta took part in the demonstration ?

The members of the more moderate "Torah veYirah Beit Midrash" or Rabbi Israel Hirsch's fanatic group.

Rebbe David Kahn in Saalbach

The "Blumenhotel" in Saalbach / Austria


Every summer, the Toldot Aharon Rebbe David Kahn is going on vacation to the "Blumenhotel" in Saalbach / Hinterglemm in Austria. The below picture shows Rebbe David Kahn in Saalbach this summer.

The Toldot Aharon Rebbe is sitting at the far right (front row). To Rebbe Kahn's left (sitting in the middle, front row) is the Nadvorna Rebbe and at the far left, you can see Rabbi A.Y. Schwartz from Vienna.

Me'ir Porush's Election Campaign


Jerusalem is electing a new mayor this upcoming November but the present mayor Uri Lupolianski isn't even sure if wants to step down our get re - elected.

However, several candidates have opened their election campaigns and the media is only concentrating on two particular candidates. Those two are Me'ir Porush from the Agudah and Ariyeh Deri from the sephardi - haredi SHASS - party.

It is most likely that the secular candidate Nir Barkat is going to win. However, the Haredim see a chance to take over the city. And, as usual, there are plenty of fights within haredi society about who is supporting whom. So far, Me'ir Porush hasn't had the support of the litvishe Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv because the Rabbi and Porush had an argument some time ago. Now there are claims that the two of them made peace. Apparently Me'ir Porush "went to Canossa" and apologized to Rabbi Eliyashiv.

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef is, how else could it be, supporting his sephardi candidate Aryeh Deri.

Many inhabitants of Jerusalem are worried about the two haredi candidates. Especially the secular population. Until now, Jerusalem has always been tolerant to anyone and people managed to live next to each other. For the past few years, more and more neighbourhoods seem to be taken over by Haredim and thus the secular are moving out. The secular fear that the Haredim want to force them into religion and show their worries openly.

Jerusalem is a place for all Jews and who would be the best candidate representing ALL Jews ? Additionally, Olmert is planning to divide our city and who would be the best candidate to fight such a decision ?

Jerusalem has always been complicated and so are the elections. According to the latest polls, Nir Barkat is going to win. Me'ir Porush from the Agudah won't have the slightest chance and the sephardi Aryeh Deri ? Who knows ?
For many voters he still is a criminal who has never apologized or admitted his crimes of bribery and money laundering.

Me'ir Porush and his election campaign

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ponevez Yeshiva


Here is a link to the website of the litvishe Yeshivat Ponevez in Bnei Brak.

Among litvishe Haredim, Ponevez is considered a kind of elite Yeshiva.

Kiruv Lie ?


A young woman who is also a Baalat Teshuva (a born Jew who became religious later on in his life) complained to me that Jews who obviously know something about their religion (like me) should avoid telling newcomers to religion about society problems. She claimed that a religious Jew and familiar with all kinds of frum Jewish societies would scare away a secular Jew who decides to learn more about his own heritage.
"You cannot confront a newcomer to religion with certain negative statements", the young woman told me.

Just to give you a brief practical example:
An American teenage girl had asked me about the meaning of all those Fakshivilim (news posters) on the walls of the ultra - orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood. I tried to explain everything to her very slowly. The girl also asked me about what it says on these posters. So, I explained her that sometimes there are rabbis who don't really behave according to Halacha and do the opposite of what they are supposed to do.

Someone standing next to us complained that we cannot tell the truth to 20 - year - old young secular Jews. Maybe they are just starting their first steps learning more and maybe eventually becoming a Baal Teshuva. Instead we should encourage them and let them know something positive.

On the one hand, the person complaining was right; being involved into Kiruv (bringing secular Jews closer to religious Judaism and, thus, to G - d) means telling people something positive. But on the other hand, the young girl had asked me a specific question and I felt obligated to answer her with easy explanations. And why, at all, should we only mention positive things ?

A young Israeli girl told me that her brother is very much involved in doing Kiruv. By the way, Kiruv in a Jewish sense doesn’t mean "missionizing". Kiruv means, among other things, going maybe to some Chabad or Aish HaTorah shiurim (lectures). Start learning Yiddishkeit (Judaism) or at least something about one's own religion. There are plenty of institutions offering classes to newcomers.

Bringing someone closer to religion also means answering plenty of questions. In most cases, the Kiruvnik doesn't expect a person being interested in learning to become frum. If you start learning, you are not expected to move to Boro Park or Mea Shearim the next day. And if a Kiruvnik does expect this from newcomers, it shows that he is the wrong person and a teacher without compassion and responsibility.

The young Israeli woman, however, claimed that her brother lies. The whole Kiruv business would be just a great lie. People only tell the greatest things about being religious. A secular Jew really interested in Judaism would thus get a false impression. A perfect dream world or illusion about haredi life. Who tells him that not everything is so perfect ? Who tells him about society problems and that he, the potential Baal Teshuva, might be not too accepted from born Haredim ? In other words, who tells the potential Baal Teshuva about reality and daily life ? And if someone does, then he only mentions a few minor issues.

And her brother himself says that he lies.
He has to in order not to scare people away.

Should someone involved in Kiruv tell the truth or rather not ?

"Guys, religion, Mitzwot, G - d, everything is just such an amazing but be aware of the fact that reality isn't always lik living in a wonderland. There are some criminal rabbis and not everybody always loves you. In other words, you as a newcomer have to fight your way through".

Who can be told such a statement and when ?

Not right away or maybe yes ?

I think that it very much depends on someone's personality and whoever decides to get closer to G - d or become frum, usually realizes by himself what is going on in his environment.

Let's assume that a certain Kiruv program doesn't prepare the newcomer for the life after the program; the daily life in the outside world. The program should at least provide professional teachers who are able to help the Baal Teshuva in case he is facing problems. The newly religious needs conversation partners and plenty of advice of how others mastered such and such a situation.

Last Shabbat, Rabbi Mordechai Machlis told us the following story:

A few years ago, the Machlises let a young Filipino staying in their house. He had come to Jerusalem in order to participate in a conversion course to Judaism. The Filipino passed the Beit Din and was so proud of being part of the Jewish people, but soon he became frustrated. He wore Zizit but wherever he went, religious Jews asked him if he is really Jewish or just a fake. Outsiders immediately noticed that he is a Filipino and people from the Philippines are not necessarily expected to be Jewish.
Rabbi Machlis said that one day, the guy came home crying and said that he is so tired and sick of justifying himself.

What is the answer ?

There is no perfect answer because every convert to Judaism as well as a Baal Teshuva has to fight his way through.

The remaining question:
Should newcomers to religion should be told the truth from the beginning or rather not ?

I believe they should be but in stages and not everything at once. Give them some time to settle and only then they are able to grasp everything else.

Mea Shearim Impressions


Impressions from the ultra - orthodox Mea Shearim in Jerusalem.

In the backyard

In the street

Chassidim wearing their traditional Streimel (fur hat). They always wear the Streimel on Shabbat, holidays or at private Simchas (feasts).

Kikar Shabbat Junction. The "border" between the two ultra - orthodox neighbourhoods Ge'ulah and Mea Shearim.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chaseneh in Gur


A grandson of the Gerer Rebbe (Chassidut Gur) got married in Jerusalem last week. Have a look at the crowd.

Chaseneh in Machnovke (Bnei Brak)


Here are a few photos from the Chaseneh (wedding) in the Rebbe's family (Chassidut Machnovke in Bnei Brak).

The Se'udah - The festive meal

The groom is sitting to the far right in the front row.

Under the Chuppah (the wedding canopy)

You can look at further photos here: