Friday, December 23, 2011

I am a Jew

Our condition, in Israel , has never been better than it is now! Only
The television and the media make other people think that the end of the
World is near.. Only 65 years ago, Jews were brought to death like
sheep to slaughter. NO country, NO army.
Only 60 years ago Seven Arab countries declared war on little Israel , the Jewish State, within hours after it was established.
..We were 650,000 Jews against the rest of the Arab world. No IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) or Air Force. We were only a Small group of sTubborn people with nowhere to go.
...Remember: Lebanon , Syria , Iraq , Jordan , Egypt ,
Libya , and Saudi Arabia , they all attacked at once. The state that the United Nations "gave" us was 65% desert.
We started it from Zero.
Only 41 years ago, we fought three of the most powerful countries
In the Middle East , and we crushed them in the Six Day War.
.Over the years we fought different coalitions of 20 Arab countries with modern armies and with huge amounts of Russian-Soviet weapons... and we still won.
.Today we have a Beautiful Country, a Powerful Army, a Strong
Air Force, an adequate Navy and a thriving high tech industry.
Intel, Microsoft, and IBM have all developed their businesses Here.
.Our Doctors have won important Prizes in the Medical Development field.
.We turned the desert into a prosperous land.
.We sell oranges, flowers, and vegetables around the world.
.We launched our own (Israeli developed) satellite! Three satellites at once! We
Are in good company; together with the USA (280 million Residents), Russia (220 million residents), China (1.3 Billion residents) and Europe ( France , England and Germany 350 million residents), we are one of the very few countries in the
World that have launched something into space!
.Israel today is among the few powerful countries that have Nuclear technology & capabilities. (We will never admit it, But everyone knows.)
.To think that only 65 years ago we were denigrated and hopeless.
We crawled out from the burning crematoriums of Europe.
We won in all our wars. With a little bit of nothing we created Super status.
Who are Khaled Mashal (leader of Hamas) or Hassan Nasrallah
(leader of Hezbollah) thinking they can frighten us? They just amuse us.
.As we celebrate Independence Day, let's not forget what this
Holiday is all about; we overcame everything.
.We overcame the Greeks,
.We overcame the Romans,
We overcame the Spanish Inquisition,
.We overcame the Russians pogroms,
We overcame Hitler. We overcame Germany and overcame the
We overcame the combined armies of Seven Countries at once..
.Relax 'chevre' (friends), we will overcome our current enemies too.
It doesn't matter where you look in human history, just think about The Jewish Nation, our condition has never been better than now. So let's lift our heads up and remember:
.It does not matter which country or culture tries to harm us or erase us From the world. We will still survive and persevere.
Egypt ? Anyone knows where the Egyptian empire disappeared to? The Greeks?
Alexander Macedon? The Romans? Is anyone speaking Latin today?
The Third Reich? Has anyone heard news from them lately?

.And look at us; The Bible Nation – from slavery in Egypt , we are Still here
and still speaking the same language. Exactly here, exactly now.
..Maybe The Arabs don't know it yet, but we are an Eternal Nation.
For as long as we keep our identity intact, we will Stay Eternal.
.So, excuse us for not worrying, complaining, crying, or fearing…
.Business here is 'beseder' (fine). It can definitely improve - but still fine. Don't pay attention to the nonsense in the (foreign) media. They will NOT tell you about our festivities here in Israel or our Good life, entertainment, meeting friends, etc.
Yes, sometimes morale is down, so what? This is only because we sometimes
mourn our dead - while they celebrate spilled blood.
This is the reason why, inspite of this, we will always win.
.Please forward this e-mail to all of your Jewish friends, everywhere in the world.
You are all part of our force - to maintain our ongoing existence.
.This e-mail may help some of us lift our heads up and be
Proud to say:

אני יהודי

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Tablecloth

The brand new Rabbi and his wife were newly assigned to their first congregation to reopen a Shul in suburban Brooklyn . They arrived in early February excited about their opportunities. When they saw their Shul, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Erev Puirm.

They worked hard, repairing aged pews, plastering walls, painting, etc, and on 8th of the Adar (February 17th) they were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On February 19 a terrible snowstorm hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the Rabbi went over to the Shul. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high. The Rabbi cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Erev Purim service, headed home. 

On the way home, he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Mogen David embroidered right in th center. It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the Shul. By this time it had started to snow. 

An older woman running
from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The Rabbi invited her to wait in the warm Shul for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the Rabbi while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The Rabbi could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area. 
Then the Rabbi noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Rabbi, "she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?" The Rabbi explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Poland . The woman could hardly believe it as the Rabbi told how he had just gotten "The Tablecloth". The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Poland . When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to a camp and she never saw her husband or her home again. 
The Rabbi wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the Rabbi keep it for the Shul. The Rabbi insisted on driving her home. That was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.
What a wonderful service they had on Erev Purim . The Shul was almost full. The Service was great. At the end of the service, the Rabbi and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.. One older man, whom the Rabbi recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the Rabbi wondered why he wasn't leaving. The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Poland before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike? He told the Rabbi how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a camp. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years between. 
The Rabbi asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the Rabbi had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Erev Purim reunion he could ever imagine. 
Based on a true story; God does work in mysterious ways! Take 60 seconds and give this a shot! All you do is simply say the following small prayer for the person who sent this to you: 
"Hashem, bless all my friends and family in whatever it is that You know they may be needing this day! May their lives be full of Your peace, prosperity and power as they seek to have a closer relationship with You. Amen."

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Girl with an Apple

The Girl with an Apple 

(This is a true story and you can find out more by Googling Herman Rosenblat. He was Bar Mitzvahed at age 75)

August 1942. Piotrkow , Poland .

The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously. Al l the men, women and children of Piotrkow's Jewish ghetto had been herded into a square.

Word had gotten around that we were being moved. My father had only recently died from typhus, which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto. My greatest fear was that our family would be separated.

'Whatever you do,' Isidore, my eldest brother, whispered to me, 'don't tell them your age. Say you're sixteen.

'I was tall for a boy of 11, so I could pull it off. That way I might be deemed valuable as a worker.

An SS man approached me, boots clicking against the cobblestones. He looked me up and down, and then asked my age.

'Sixteen,' I said. He directed me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men already stood.

My mother was motioned to the right with the other women, children, sick and elderly people.

I whispered to Isidore, 'Why?'

He didn't answer.

I ran to Mama's side and said I wanted to stay with her.

'No, 'she said sternly.

'Get away. Don't be a nuisance. Go with your brothers.'

She had never spoken so harshly before. But I understood: She was protecting me. She loved me so much that, just this once, she pretended not to.
It was the last I ever saw of her.

My brothers and I were transported in a cattle car to Germany .
We arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp one night weeks later and were led into a crowded barrack. The next day, we were issued uniforms and identification numbers.

'Don't call me Herman anymore.' I said to my brothers. 'Call me 94983.'

I was put to work in the camp's crematorium, loading the dead into a hand-cranked elevator.

I, too, felt dead. Hardened, I had become a number.

Soon, my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald's sub-camps near Berlin .

One morning I thought I heard my mother's voice.

'Son,' she said softly but clearly, I am going to send you an angel.'

Then I woke up. Just a dream. A beautiful dream.

But in this place there could be no angels. There was only work. And hunger. And fear.

A couple of days later, I was walking around the camp, around the barracks, near the barbed-wire fence where the guards could not easily see. I was alone.

On the other side of the fence, I spotted someone: a little girl with light, almost luminous curls. She was half-hidden behind a birch tree.

I glanced around to make sure no one saw me. I called to her softly in German. 'Do you have something to eat?'

She didn't understand.

I inched closer to the fence and repeated the question in Polish. She stepped forward. I was thin and gaunt, with rags wrapped around my feet, but the girl looked unafraid. In her eyes, I saw life.

She pulled an apple from her woolen jacket and threw it over the fence.

I grabbed the fruit and, as I started to run away, I heard her say faintly, 'I'll see you tomorrow.'
I returned to the same spot by the fence at the same time every day. She was always there with something for me to eat - a hunk of bread or, better yet, an apple.

We didn't dare speak or linger. To be caught would mean death for us both.

I didn't know anything about her, just a kind farm girl, except that she understood Polish. What was her name? Why was she risking her life for me?

Hope was in such short supply, and this girl on the other side of the fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and apples.

Nearly seven months later, my brothers and I were crammed into a coal car and shipped to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia .

'Don't return,' I told the girl that day. 'We're leaving.'

I turned toward the barracks and didn't look back, didn't even say good-bye to the little girl whose name I'd never learned, the girl with the apples.

We were in Theresienstadt for three months. The war was winding down and Al lied forces were closing in, yet my fate seemed sealed.

On May 10, 1945, I was scheduled to die in the gas chamber at 10:00 AM.

In the quiet of dawn, I tried to prepare myself. So many times death seemed ready to claim me, but somehow I'd survived. Now, it was over.

I thought of my parents. At least, I thought, we will be reunited.

But at 8 A.M. there was a commotion. I heard shouts, and saw people running every which way through camp. I caught up with my brothers.

Russian troops had liberated the camp! The gates swung open. Everyone was running, so I did too. Amazingly, all of my brothers had survived;

I'm not sure how. But I knew that the girl with the apples had been the key to my survival.

In a place where evil seemed triumphant, one person's goodness had saved my life, had given me hope in a place where there was none.

My mother had promised to send me an angel, and the angel had come.

Eventually I made my way to England where I was sponsored by a Jewish charity, put up in a hostel with other boys who had survived the Holocaust and trained in electronics. Then I came to America , where my brother Sam had already moved. I served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War, and returned to New York City after two years.

By August 1957 I'd opened my own electronics repair shop. I was starting to settle in.

One day, my friend Sid who I knew from England called me.

'I've got a date. She's got a Polish friend. Let's double date.'
A blind date? Nah, that wasn't for me.

But Sid kept pestering me, and a few days later we headed up to the Bronx to pick up his date and her friend Roma.

I had to admit, for a blind date this wasn't so bad. Roma was a nurse at a Bronx hospital. She was kind and smart. Beautiful, too, with swirling brown curls and green, almond-shaped eyes that sparkled with life.

The four of us drove out to Coney Island . Roma was easy to talk to, easy to be with.

Turned out she was wary of blind dates too!

We were both just doing our friends a favor. We took a stroll on the boardwalk, enjoying the salty Atlantic breeze, and then had dinner by the shore. I couldn't remember having a better time.

We piled back into Sid's car, Roma and I sharing the backseat..

As European Jews who had survived the war, we were aware that much had been left unsaid between us. She broached the subject, 'Where were you,' she asked softly, 'during the war?'

'The camps,' I said. The terrible memories still vivid, the irreparable loss. I had tried to forget. But you can never forget.
She nodded. 'My family was hiding on a farm in Germany , not far from Berlin ,' she told me. 'My father knew a priest, and he got us Aryan papers.'

I imagined how she must have suffered too, fear, a constant companion.. And yet here we were both survivors, in a new world.

'There was a camp next to the farm.' Roma continued. 'I saw a boy there and I would throw him apples every day.'

What an amazing coincidence that she had helped some other boy. 'What did he look like? I asked.

'He was tall, skinny, and hungry. I must have seen him every day for six months.'

My heart was racing. I couldn't believe it.

This couldn't be.

'Did he tell you one day not to come back because he was leaving Schlieben?'

Roma looked at me in amazement. 'Yes!'

'That was me!'

I was ready to burst with joy and awe, flooded with emotions. I couldn't believe it! My angel.

'I'm not letting you go.' I said to Roma. And in the back of the car on that blind date, I proposed to her. I didn't want to wait.

'You're crazy!' she said. But she invited me to meet her parents for Shabbat dinner the following week.

There was so much I looked forward to learning about Roma, but the most important things I always knew: her steadfastness, her goodness. For many months, in the worst of circumstances, she had come to the fence and given me hope.. Now that I'd found her again, I could never let her go.

That day, she said yes. And I kept my word. After nearly 50 years of marriage, two children and three grandchildren, I have never let her go.

Herman Rosenblat of Miami Beach , Florida

This story is being made into a movie called The Fence.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The 7 Wonders of the Jewish World

The 7 Wonders of the Jewish World

A new list: The 7 Wonders of the Jewish World, with “world” not being a geographical location, but the full realm of Jewish experience.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is Orthodoxy Turning Jews On or Off?

A colleague of mine in Boca gave a sermon on Rosh Hashana bemoaning the current lack of Jewish affiliation and identity. He wondered out loud, why is it that so many are not showing up in Synagogue, Jewish day schools, Federations or anything Jewish? His question is a disturbing one, but frankly so was his answer. He said…
“I think it may be more…let me share with you…. There are those becoming orthodox, and there are those who reject the either/or thinking of orthodoxies…They don’t see the world in black and white. They reject the notion that says everyone hates me; everyone is out to destroy me. They are not fearful. They don’t view themselves or their people as weak…
There is a generation that is rejecting religion when it doesn’t listen to different voices. When it vilifies “the other.” When it only sees its own pain and not the pain of others. They reject communities that are xenophobic and too often racist. And it’s not just because they are “liberals,” but it is because they understand what it meant for US when we were denied rights, when we were a persecuted minority. They apply the lessons of our past to all who suffer in this world.”
Does the Orthodox community need to work hard to make sure we are inclusive, warm, welcoming, non-judgmental, accepting, respectful – absolutely, and we try to improve which each day. But, to be honest, I found it preposterous, offensive and misguided to suggest that the main cause of Jewish assimilation in America is the Orthodox community.
Indeed, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat vindicated and proud this week when I attended a meeting at Donna Klein Jewish Academy with Rabbis from across the community including the author of the words above. The purpose of the meeting was to share with us the progress and growth DKJA has experienced in the area of Jewish studies and in inspiring Jewish living among its students.
The school offers it High School and Middle School students two options for davening. There is a traditional minyan, which for all intents and purposes is run as an orthodox service. And there is what they call a contemporary service which does different things each day of the week including studying prayer, journaling about prayer, meditating and more.
The question was asked about the breakdown of percentage of students who go to each service. I, and my colleagues where somewhat startled by the answer. About 40% go to the traditional service and 60% to the contemporary one. Understand that this breakdown is remarkable considering the fact that fewer than 10% of the students come from traditional homes.
One of the non-Orthodox Rabbis suggested that perhaps the reason so many go to the traditional service is because you can go there and ‘space out’ with no accountability as opposed to the other service which requires participation and attention. I was deeply moved when the school’s administration, most of whom are not orthodox themselves, completely rejected that suggestion and responded that the kids go there because they find it authentic, moving and spiritual.
What a powerful reminder to each one of us, that Torah and a traditional way of life are attractive, beautiful, inspiring and when presented correctly turn people on, not off to Judaism, as my colleague erroneously suggested just a few months ago.
Look around at all of the new faces who have joined the community through Rabbi Broide’s Outreach programs. See how inspired, passionate and excited they are about their Judaism. Recognize that we have the power to influence so many more when we project everything that is right about our magnificent tradition.
Know with complete confidence that unaffiliated Jews are overwhelmingly not rejecting orthodoxy; they are just not exposed to what it’s really all about. Inspire yourself to inspire others!
Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Boca Raton Synagogue