Showing posts with label Rabbi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rabbi. Show all posts

March 23, 2019

Purim In Israel, Chabad Style

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Purim in Israel, Chabad Style."
We had the privilege to be in Israel for Purim night. We are going down Ben Yehudah Street in Tel Aviv looking for a synagogue for Megillah reading. Out of nowhere comes this Rabbi in Purim costume dashing down the sidewalk on roller skates. He pulls up in front of me and asks me to join them at the Chabad shul (#770 of course). Who can say no when Chabad is not only so cool and inviting, but also always helping to keep our minds focused on doing another mitzvah and towards the ultimate coming of Mashiach.

Over and over, I find you just gotta love everything about Chabad--they understand faith, ritual, and people's hearts and for that and their acceptance of all Jews, I truly appreciate them. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 9, 2018

Know Before Whom You Are Standing

So many synagogues have this important saying at the top of the Holy Ark where the Torahs are kept in front of the shul.

It says, translated into English:

"Know before who you are standing (i.e. G-d)."

The idea is to remember when you are in the holy place of worship that you are standing and praying before G-d and should conduct yourself appropriately and with respect and reverence. 

While certainly there are times when people forget themselves in the synagogue and say or do something not completely appropriate (e.g. socializing, talking, or even telling jokes to their neighbors during the service), usually it is not intended to be disrespectful, but rather to be friendly with their neighbors and community. 

However, this past Shabbat I witnessed behavior in the synagogue (name withheld)  that was truly a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d). 

Out of respect for the Rabbi (and Rabbabite), I will neither mention their names or go into the details about what happened except to say that it involved the politics surrounding the end of the Rabbi's 3-year term and the inability for him and the board to come to terms on a new agreement (even though one had  apparently been signed and reneged on). 

This did not belong in the synagogue on the holy Shabbat, period. 

Those embracing and kissing the Rabbi in his support and going against the President and the board that is elected to represent the congregation was disgraceful. 

Further, while I support the Rabbi saying his farewells, demanding to speak without the permission of the President and the board, and even before the President gave his regular announcements was inexcusable. 

And when the fighting between the Rabbi and President brought yelling and fighting to the congregants, this should have been a sign for that behavior to immediately cease. 

The desecration of the "peace" of the Shabbat with the politics, money, and contract issues and the ensuing fighting (almost civil war between those supporting the Rabbi and those the President and the board) before the Holy Ark filled with the Torahs was reprehensible. 

For the spiritual leadership to behave in such a crude and disrespectful fashion was a mark of utter disgrace in the synagogue before G-d. 

I have never seen anything like this before and hope never to have to witness anything so irreverent again. 

This was a most traumatic event for the community and I hope we will recover in time and have a complete healing. 

Moreover, I pray that G-d forgives the behavior that happened and has mercy on this congregation because things got out of control and I think they forgot before whom they were standing.  ;-)

(Source Photo and not of the synagogue under discussion: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 25, 2016

Lag B'Omer Hillula @ Magen David






Beautiful praying, learning Torah, fundraising, and evening celebration at Magen David Sephardic Synagogue.

Lag B'Omer 2016

Thank you to the Rabbi, Samy, and all our friends for a wonderful evening. 

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 23, 2016

Happy Purim At Magen David













(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)


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January 2, 2016

Blessing Each Other

Today in synagogue, we did not have any Kohanim (members of the priestly class) to do the ritual blessing of the people. 

So Rabbi Haim Ovadia did something really creative and beautiful.

He had each of us turn to our neighbor and put our hands over each other's heads and recite the blessing from the Torah:

"May G-d bless and guide you.
May G-d shine his countenance on you and be gracious to you.
May G-d turn his countenance toward you and grant you peace."

The gesture of brotherhood and caring for each other was very, very nice, and I got to meet someone new in synagogue today.

People need people...and we need G-d. 

Somehow it makes everything better. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 30, 2015

Chabad Making A Difference




Beautiful job by Rabbi Yudi Steiner of George Washington University hosting the Chabad Sukkot Barbecue in Washington, D.C.

The Rabbi was there welcoming students and Jews from around town to a sweet BBQ luncheon in the sukah. 

And the students were making the blessing with the Rabbi on the lulav and esrog for the holiday.

As always, Chabad is out there making a difference in Jewish lives, helping them do mitzvot, and spreading cheer and unity wherever they are. 

We are so lucky to have wonderful Lubavitch chasidim all around the world helping Jews be better Jews. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 19, 2015

Part 2 - Birds Of A Feather

An open letter to the Board and members of the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) and the Bronx District Attorney's Office:

In my May 30th blog, G-d is Good, (Some) People Not So, I wrote about the accused Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt of the RJC, the now known "Sauna Rabbi," who the New York Times disclosed about having some unorthodox and usual practices of getting naked with children and young adults. 

Yesterday in the New York Times, I read the follow up to the story that Dr. Donald Liss, the Chairman of the Board, overruled the board who demanded that Rabbi Rosenblatt leave the synagogue, and now many of the board members are resigning over this travesty of justice and members are leaving the synagogue to start break-away prayer services. 

At the end of my last blog on this subject, I wrote: "One last thing I will say, there are others in that community that were involved."

One of the others involved, guess who?

Yes, the Chairman of the Board who overruled the community and is protecting Rabbi Rosenblatt. 

I grew up in Riverdale from the age of 10 when my family moved from the upper west side of Manhattan. I attended SAR Academy, the local yeshiva. My family had many lovely friends in this community and we attended the RJC where we were members for over 20 years.

Dr. Donald Liss significantly older than myself and my friends growing up frequently invited us to his house in Riverdale to "learn" Torah and for Shabbat meals, although the learning frequently turned into talk and banter and "wrestling." Dr. Liss, as a doctor of rehabilitative and sports medicine, claimed great interest in my physical fitness as a youth and my practice of martial arts. He started to run and workout with me and my best friend and this at times lead to more "wrestling" matches.

Later Dr. Liss provided me a Summer job in his and his brother's practice at Englewood Hospital. Dr Liss was quite well off and took advantage of me that my family was less so and I needed a job. He provided me the opportunity to work out there in their "gym" during lunch and then when I would change in the locker room, he would invariably show up to talk with me. 

Other times, he invited me to go on vacation with his family to the Poconos to babysit his kids.  I remember one particular time, I went running on the trail there, and he came.  When we got back to the house we were staying in, he dropped all his clothes in the kitchen area in front of me and his wife and totally nude just started talking. 

Other times, when I would work out in my apartment in Riverdale with weights or stretching for karate, even during the day, Dr. Liss would show up. And he would also invite my friend and I to his home to lift weights and more "wrestling".

As I got older and smarter, I realized Dr. Liss's behavior was not normal, and his interest in my workout and my Torah learning did not seem innocent any longer. I stopped getting together and taking his phone calls. His calling, hang-ups, and messages increased.

I met Dr. Liss one last time to put an end to his harassment, and I confronted him that I thought despite his being married with kids and his professing of religion that he had abnormal tendencies, and I wanted him to stay away from me.  He pretended to be shocked at my allegations as a Jewish man who sat towards the front of the synagogue and was learned. 

When I moved to DC, the only contact I had from Dr. Liss was when he tried to friend me on Facebook, which I promptly cut him off. 

That Dr. Liss would now protect Rabbi Rosenblatt and overrule the wishes of the Riverdale Jewish Center is a Chillul Hashem and travesty of justice. 

Every word in this blog is true, and I hope it helps the community and the victims to get over this tragedy and desecration of G-d. The good people who wish to grow up and pray without unwanted advances of some sick individuals hiding behind many veils of religion and family deserve their community back. 
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August 12, 2015

Why Did G-d Create The World?

So we met the Rabbi at Starbucks for a coffee and conversation. 

We talked about such a wide variety of topics--the Ten Commandments, the laws of Shabbat, driverless cars and smartphones, women's minyan (prayer services), and even LGBT.

Not sure how this came up, but at one point the Rabbi turns to us and asks, "Why did G-d create the world?"

Taken a little off guard by this very big question, I blurted out, "To get to the other side!"

I thought he was going to fall off his chair, and then we all laughed. 

But then we started to discuss some of the traditional answers like G-d out his infinite love created us with a spark of himself.

In very mortal terms, I guess maybe it's not so fun to be G-d (omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent) but be alone in the universe.

By creating us, His children, he gave the gift of life, learning, and growth for us to emulate the Divine. 

What about all the terrible suffering?

Perhaps just part of our tests, trials, and tribulations to ultimately grow our souls. 

Still it's a tough world. 

I wonder maybe "to get to the other side"--for us to get to Heaven--isn't such a bad answer after all (even if it comes from the chicken crossing the road joke). ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 31, 2015

Light Up The Night

This was a beautiful piece in the New York Times today.

It was about how two sons handled the final hours with their father after he was removed from off life support.

With the prodding of one son, the father reluctantly agrees to see a Rabbi before his death, and this Rabbi describes to the dying man the meaning of his (and our) life:

"Imagine your whole life now, and for each [and every] time you did something good, imagine it as a little glow you left behind that lights a dark road stretching back in time. It's a long, long row of lights now, isn't it?"

Remembering over time, the father nods, smiles and is obviously comforted in this final hour as he sees in his mind's eye all the shinning lights for the acts of kindness that he was leaving behind. 

Isn't this what life is all about?

Every choice we make, everything we do, can have an amazing impact and leave light when before there was just darkness. 

Imitating G-d in creation, we create light separating it from the darkness out there, good from evil...we create the future. 

Our goal...light up the night. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 30, 2015

Part 1 - G-d Is Good, (Some) People Not So

I am quite disabled after hip surgery, but I am livid. 

There was an article in the New York Times about a Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt who likes to take children and young adults naked to the sauna and Mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) and watch!

Some even reported that he "gawked at a naked 12-year old," "invited a 15-year old for intimate night time conversations during which he frequently put his hand on the boy's leg," and invited himself into a 17-year old's living room and tried repeatedly to persuade him to change into a bathrobe."

The article describes how this has been going on for around 30 years and the Rabbi was asked in various forms to stop by the Riverdale Jewish Center synagogue, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), and even investigated by Yeshiva University (YU). 

Interestingly, this is happening after the "2012 sex scandal involving top Rabbi's from Yeshiva University, another with Rabbi Baruch Lanner with "sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of scores of teens" in his charge in the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), and most recently, the 6-year sentencing for "videotaping more than 150 women" (going to the Mikvah) of Rabbi Freundel of Kesher Synagogue (right here in Washington, D.C.). 

All of these sex scandals involved highly prominent rabbi's (and I feel sick to my stomach even using that esteemed word for them), and at the time this abuse was going on and for years after, no one wanted to believe this was happening!

A friend posted this article about Rabbi Rosenblatt on my Facebook page --we both know this Rabbi from Riverdale, NY where we grew up--and asked "What have you to say to this?"

Well let me tell you...many have come forward for the NYT's article and others on my Facebook page and behind the scenes to confirm knowledge of Rabbi's Rosenblatt's gawking and other inappropriate behaviors with children.

- "I refused to consider having him perform my marriage ceremony because of this and another of his 'unusual habits.'"

- "Not only was this common knowledge personally--it was known institutionally, by both YU and the RCA."

Yet others choose to continue the disbelief (some excerpts):

- "I believe these rumors to be vicious slander."

- "I want to believe some weird habits are being blown out of proportion."

So let me tell you that not knowing something is happening or not wanting to believe does not make it so. 

I and others I have spoken to remember children being invited to play racquetball as I remember it (squash in the article) and to go to the Sauna with the Rabbi afterward. 

As someone described for the NYT article about going to the Mikvah with the Rabbi, I can attest that this similarly happened to me PERSONALLY. 

Before I got married, the Rabbi accompanied me to the Mikvah for the ritual bathing which he said was needed before marriage, and just as the 15-year old victim in the article described, the Rabbi was "watching me" and I remember the Rabbi also telling me that he had to in order to see my whole body immersed.

I also remember feeling his look at me being off and feeling sick afterwards, like I just wanted to wash again and again. 

However for others referenced in the NYT article, it was much worse, "The routine was always the same: 'Always the hand on the shoulder or the leg, always the hand touching some part of your body'…The rabbi’s touch 'was very seductive and it was very manipulative in a way.'"

Unfortunately, as is typical, it is easier to blame the victims or disavow them, then acknowledge a deep-rooted sick and evil in our society by some who are at the top of the pecking order religiously and otherwise.

To be completely clear, the chilul Hashem is NOT with the victims, but RATHER it is with the man who for over 30 years continued this sick ruse, even after he was asked repeatedly to stop his inappropriate behavior with children and young adults. 

For those who choose to continue to look the other way, say how nice and scholarly these Rabbis are, and make every excuse in the book, rather than demand a FULL investigation and justice, all I can say is they are being complicit! 

One last thing I will say, there are others in that community that were involved.  

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 8, 2015

Wine Bottle Extraordinaire

I took this photo of one of the amazing wine bottles at an event last evening at Magen David Synagogue. 

Apparently, a very talented lady in there makes these special bottles. 

Unfortunately with the lighting, this picture does not near do them justice for how exquisite they looked. 

They were in different colors of lacing, with beautiful beads, hamsas, and other decorations, as well as pictures of our honored sages, and their names in hebrew over the photos. 

I asked facetiously one lady who was taking home a bottle whether she was going to drink it all that evening, and she pulled the bottle close to her and leaning in to me said, "This is going in my display case!"

And that truly is where these belong...they are amazing.

The wonderful lady that painstakingly makes these gave how many of them charitably so they could be auctioned for benefit of the synagogue. 

Aside from a wonderful soul, this person is very talented and should seriously start a business with these because they are awesome! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 26, 2013

Where Do You Find G-d?

My dad told me this joke over the weekend.

It's about the Rabbi who asked the little boy in school... 

"WHERE do you find G-d?"

Raising his voice again...

"Where do you find G-D?"

Stretching out his arms to the heavens....

"Where do YOU find G-d?"  

The boy rushes outside, nearly in tears, and finds his little brother and says:

"The Rabbi thinks we stole G-d."

I'm not sure if the joke itself is really funny or just the way my dad tells it. 

But I can almost see that child panicking and thinking he was being accused of something terrible. 

Anyway, as we all know G-d is everywhere and most importantly inside all of us. 

That's the spark that burns--our soul from above. 

(Source Photo: adapted from here with attribution to Kigaliwire)


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