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Letters To The Editor – The Jewish Press –

Posted By on January 18, 2020

Photo Credit: Jewish Press

A Life-Giving Stadium

I had the zechus, together with my wife, to travel down from Canada to attend the Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. I was truly astounded at the concern of the organizers for everyone sitting in the cold weather. Hand, feet, and body warmers were provided for all the participants, as were free coffee and tea.

The person seated at my left, without asking, brought me tea and offered me some of his sushi rolls and an apple, while the fellow seated at my right offered me a can of Coca-Cola he had bought. I thought to myself, Mi kamcha Yisrael!

The morning of the siyum, I joined a Daf Yomi shiur in Staten Island. Amazingly, the daf that day, Niddah 70, had a connection with the siyum that took place later that day! The Gemara asks if the son of the Shunamite women who was resurrected by Elisha was tamei. The answer is Met mtamei vein chai mtamei A corpse transmits ritual impurity, but a living person does not. Immediately, I blurted out, MetLife!

The maggid shiur responded by saying that invariably, the daf is tzum zach, on target, with events happening in the Jewish world. Later, I realized that MetLife was the perfect location for making the siyum for another reason: The first word in Talmud Bavli, Meiamasai, begins with the letter mem. The last word, halachos, ends with the letter tav together spelling the word Met! (The Gemara also begins with the word Tanna, whose first letter is tav.)

Ki hem chayeinu Learning Shas from mem to tav is what gives us life, or, in other words, MetLife!

Mordechai Bulua

Slaughtering the Unborn

I would like to praise The Jewish Press for its excellent anti-abortion coverage. Dismembering unborn children in the womb goes against the pro-life values of Judaism, and it is an outrage that so many organizations under the banner of Judaism such as the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, and the Anti-Defamation League are vocal supporters of the willful termination of innocent human life in the womb.

The Jewish people or at least moral-minded and religious Jews need to step up more and protest the massacre of innocent human lives. Over 61 million unborn children in America have had their lives ended since Roe v. Wade in 1973, and while there are many Christian groups that speak out against abortion, the Jewish community in America has been essentially silent.

With approximately a million developing humans terminated every year in America, we Jews should not be silent as many Jews (and others) were in the late 1930s and 1940s as millions of human lives were terminated.

I hope The Jewish Press will keep up its great work in bringing attention to this modern-day Holocaust.

Marcy Pernham

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (I)

Rabbi Chananya Weissman has a problem with women learning Daf Yomi, and Talmud in general. I wonder if he would relegate women only to Tzena Urena as was the case in the not so distant past.

Years ago, there were no female physicians or attorneys. Would Rabbi Weissman object to women studying medicine or law because it simply wasnt done years ago? Furthermore, does a female professional automatically abrogate her role as an akeret habayit because she studies something that was previously denied to her?

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, ztl, taught the inaugural Gemara shiur at the Stern College Beit Midrash and instituted girls Gemara study at the Maimonides School in Boston. Rav Aaron Lichtenstein, ztl, supported the study of Gemara by women and noted that the Bais Yaakov movement a century ago was met with criticism just as womens Gemara study is today. Were these noted luminaries wrong?

Studying Talmud has brought countless bnot Yisrael closer to Hashem and more devoted to Yiddishkeit. It is not the threat to the Jewish nation Rabbi Weissman seems to believe it is. Women should have access to all our holy texts the same way they have unfettered access to secular knowledge and higher education today. They should have the skills to study and benefit from them as well. It will only serve to strengthen Orthodox Judaism.

To deny Jewish women this access and these skills is an affront and disrespectful on so many levels.

Bonnie Eizikovitz

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (II)

The article by Rabbi Weissman questioning whether we should celebrate womens Daf Yomi was deeply disappointing. Im quite frankly shocked that The Jewish Press was willing to publish an article dripping in sarcasm and deep-seated anger towards women.

The author wrote, I dont have to think hard to come up with numerous Torah sources severely discouraging Talmud study for women. If so, he should have included these sources instead of simply assuming that everybody reading his article is aware of them.

I will leave it to the gedolei Torah to decide whether women learning the daf is permitted or worthwhile. My primary issue with the author is his gratuitous attacks on women who take part in this endeavor and his questioning of their motives and integrity. It was completely uncalled for.

He characterizing these women as agenda-driven activists on the very fringes of religious Judaism who view traditional halacha and norms as being little more than burdens to be overcome. Does he know any of these women? Has he ever spoken to them?

While Rabbi Weissman may or may not have halachic sources to back up his opinion, he is in no position to judge these women or what they are doing.

From what I understand, not every woman feels it sufficient to be thanked for letting her husband study while she tends to more mundane household matters. Many of these women wish to be active participants as opposed to merely passive observers.

Steven Y. Steinhart

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (III)

Rabbi Weissmans missive, Should We Be Celebrating Womans Daf Yomi? was informative but somewhat disingenuous.

It is a womans choice whether or not to educate herself and become more familiar with her heritage. Its also her choice what commitments to prioritize in life.

The views on women learning Daf Yomi among the young ladies in my college classes all religiously observant range from disinterest to pedagogical enlightenment. They all, however, feel that it is their choice whether or not to pursue it.

We should not be dissuading the fairer sex, or anyone for that matter, from seeking the erudition of scholarly pursuit. Daf Yomi is not the mans domain; it is assuredly mankinds domain.

Ronald Neal GoldmanProfessor of EnglishTouro College and University System

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (IV)

I was interested to read Rabbi Weissmans article on the topic of womens Gemara learning as I was hoping to better educate myself on some of the rationales given against this practice.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Weissmans article provided no such rationale. Mainly, he noted that it is a relatively new phenomenon and tied it to radical leftist breakaway streams of Orthodox Judaism.

But I have witnessed many women taking to the spiritually-rewarding activity of Gemara learning not because of feminist ideology but because they wish to grow in their adherence and appreciation of the Torah.

In fact, most women I have seen taking to Gemara learning are not feminists, are perfectly fine with the age-old distinct customary roles for men and women, and can in no way be described as adherents of radical non-mainstream Orthodox movements.

Its true that Gemara learning among women was not widespread in centuries past. But then again, Torah education of any kind for women was not prevalent for most of our history (mirroring to some degree the state of womens education in general society).

By Rabbi Weissmans logic, the Bais Yaakov movement championed by Sara Schenirer in the early 1900s should be shunned because, in addition to reflecting the desire of traditional Orthodox Jewish women to study Jewish subjects on a more serious level commensurate with their intellectual capabilities, womens Jewish education happened to have also been encouraged at the time by more liberal non-mainstream revolutionary feminist elements.

This logic seems to me a perfect example of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Elliot PressBergenfield, NJ

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (V)

Rabbi Chananya Weissman writes beautifully and argues his position forcefully, but I take exception to his basic thesis. Rabbi Weissman categorically asserts that a gathering in Jerusalem for women who completed Daf Yomi as well as the burgeoning Daf Yomi movement for women is a manifestation of the leftist, feminist agenda.

I love a good conspiracy theory, but Im not buying this one. Rav Moshe, ztl, was asked about women wearing tefillin. He said that if a woman desires to wear tefillin because she wants to be like a man i.e., she has some ulterior motive she shouldnt wear them, but if she desires to wear them out of a sincere pure desire, its permitted.

I have a hard time believing that 3,000 women (thats the number of estimated participants at the womens siyum) got together to work out a sinister plot to undermine Judaism as we know it. Daf Yomi is a seven-and-a-half-year commitment!

There are two other points Rabbi Weissman made that I would like to challenge:

1) He makes it seem as if Daf Yomi goes back thousands of years. In fact, it is less than a century old, and its only in the last 30 years with the advent of the Schottenstein Shas that it has become fashionable for the masses to join it.

2) Rabbi Weissman suggests that learning Talmud must be at odds with halacha since its a novelty. But so is women entering the workforce (the Gemara makes it clear that a woman should ideally be at home while her husband supports the family). Yet, thousands of kollel wives work and some boast advanced degrees from prestigious universities.

Why has this been accepted? Simple. Because thats the only way to keep the kollel system functional. When the times change, we have to adapt.

Dr. Yaakov Stern

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (VI)

I was very disappointed to see Rabbi Weissmans disapproval of Daf Yomi for women.

He wrote that numerous sources discourage Talmud study for women, but he cites no such sources.

Thanks to the great work of ArtScroll and Rabbi Steinsaltz, the Talmud has become very accessible to the Jewish masses, and the desire to study it on the part of so many is simply a natural extension of the passion for Torah we strive to instill in our boys and girls.

Rabbi Weissman argues that women learn because they feel like it or it makes them feel good as if this were somehow bad. Men, he writes, learn even if its difficult, frustrating, confusing and boring and even if [they get] nothing out of it. I was at MetLife in 2012 and on January 1, 2020, and I know many men who have completed the Daf Yomi cycle. I challenge anyone to identify a man who completed it without enjoying it on many levels.

I thank my wife for her support, which enabled me to complete the Daf Yomi cycle in 2012. Now that our daughters are grown, she feels she has more time to dedicate to learning, and I am proud that she has started Daf Yomi and I will encourage her to stay with it for the next seven years.

Rabbi Weissman mentioned how he would respond if his daughter told him she didnt enjoy learning. I hope that if his daughter expressed how much she enjoyed learning and wished to pursue learning Daf Yomi, he would encourage her as a way of benefiting herself and all of Klal Yisrael.

Warren SlatenTeaneck, NJ

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (VII)

In his article on womens Daf Yomi, Rabbi Weissman describes how the daughters of Zelaphchad came to Moshe reverently and respectfully to plead their case. However, there is much more to the story. Chazal says that not only were the bnot Zelaphchad brilliant; they were learned as well. They planned for their meeting with Moshe and put together a very cogent argument that ultimately Moshe could not refute.

Hashem subsequently declared that they should inherit their father, as should any daughter in a family with no boys.

Note that the bnot Zelaphchad could only come up with their argument based on their knowledge. As brilliant as they were, without their knowledge, they would not have had a case.


Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (VIII)

Please tell Rabbi Weissman that I found his article to be extremely offensive. I was denied the opportunity to study Gemara as a child. Thank G-d, I can study it now with the support of my father, husband, sons, and daughter. Educated women only add to Judaism.

Sima Navon

Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (IX)

The op-ed by Rabbi Weissman was beyond offensive to all frum women who learn Talmud and are committed to studying Daf Yomi and there are many. This is not some crazy slippery slope, as the article implies.

You should be thrilled that women have this commitment and are making time for Torah. Please applaud them.

Bracha Leah Atlas

Trumpeldor Felicitous Timing

Kudos to Saul Jay Singer for his wonderful article about Joseph Trumpeldor in the Parshas Vayechi issue. His citation of Gur aryeh Yehuda (Genesis 49:9) which we read that Shabbos morning in shul was most meaningfully selected by the memorials sculptor, Avraham Melnikov.

Thank you!

Dr. Nisan Hershkowitz,Brooklyn, NY

Grace and Brotherhood

In America the Beautiful we sing, G-d shed his grace on thee, and crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. Its grace and brotherhood that I think have been sadly absent from the American experience since President Donald Trump has taken office.

It shook me to the core when I heard the president speaking some months ago at a rally in western Florida about how to stop illegal immigrants from coming in from Mexico. One attendee shouted out, Shoot them. And the president of the United States the man from whom we are supposed to take our cues from as to what our nation stands for chuckled at the remark and said, Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.

He repeated Only in the Panhandle, and he got laughs and cheers. No repudiation of the remark by the president. No softening. Just laughs and cheers. Good-bye grace. Good-bye brotherhood. Hello to shameful hatred. Heartbreaking.

Alan Howard

Stop Taking Trump So Literally

Its reassuring that The Jewish Press is not taken in as even some Jewish newspapers are by the claim that the most philo-Semitic and witty American president in history is somehow sending dog whistles to anti-Semites. Actions are more important to thinking human beings than words or whistles and certainly more important than whistles that can only be heard by dogs.

Too many people unwittingly fail to appreciate President Trumps wit. To quote Salena Zito, The press takes President Trump literally, but not seriously, whereas President Trumps supporters take him seriously, but not literally. Exaggerations and witticisms are not lies. Referring to the president as an anti-Semite, though after all he has done for the Jewish people is a lie.

President Trumps most outspoken and well-known lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, may not be more Jewish than George Soros, as he claimed (again, with tongue in cheek) but, as is the case with the president, Rudys public behavior and actions are more Jewish in many respects than those of many Jinos (Jews in Name [or birth] Only).

Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.Kew Gardens, NY

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Letters To The Editor - The Jewish Press -

Progressively Speaking: Blue Monday, the year’s most depressing day – Jewish News

Posted By on January 18, 2020

The third Monday in January was designated Blue Monday by a holiday company in 2005 and has since caught the attention of the public for being the most depressing day of the year. Not only was this nonsensical pseudoscience, it was supposed to encourage people to book their holiday early to have something to look forward to.

Behind the fake news and the spin is a serious issue. Depression is recorded since Biblical times. The Psalmist asks: Why are you cast down my soul, and why do you moan within me?

Despair and a sense of isolation permeates our narrative, and no one is immune. Moses, David, Elijah they are all weighed down and despondent at times.

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Talmud engages with the problem, initially deciding that suffering is also a sign of Gods love, allowing usa different relationship with the divine, but immediately subverting this idea with stories of great rabbis.

Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba fell ill. His teacher Rabbi Yohanan visited him and asked: Is your suffering dear to you? Hiyya replied: Neither this suffering nor its reward.

Yohanan said: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand, and Yohanan helped him rise.

Later, when Yohanan fell ill and his student, Rabbi Hanina, visited, he asked the same question and received the same reply given by Hiyya. Hanina asked for Yonahans hand and helped him to rise.

Talmud asks now why did Yohanan wait for Hanina, given he could heal his student Hiyya? And the answer is powerful: A prisoner cannot free themselves from prison.

Suffering is never desirable, even if it potentially opens a door to God. From this comes the idea sometimes found in the Jewish community that it is a mitzvah to be happy, that we should never reveal depressive feelings.

But our tradition teaches that we need other people to help us out of our despair, and for this help we have to share how we feel. The stigma of mental ill health exists in our communities as it does in the wider world, something many are tryingto alleviate.

But maybe the idea of a Blue Monday, reminding us of everyones need for hope in dark times, will enable us to proffer a hand to our anguished fellows, even if we dont book the holiday its originators hoped for.

See the rest here:

Progressively Speaking: Blue Monday, the year's most depressing day - Jewish News

A Shul With A Story: Shomrei Emunah Keepers of The Faith – The Jewish Press –

Posted By on January 18, 2020

Photo Credit: Shomrei Emunah

Kedusha. That is the word that kept reverberating through my mind as I walked into the Shomrei Emunah synagogue and it only heightened throughout my visit.

I knocked on the door of the magnificent edifice at the corner of 52nd Street and 14th Avenue in Borough Park and was greeted by Mr. Shloime B. Ellner. I introduced myself and explained that friends in Florida had recommended Shomrei Emunah for an article. I could hear a shiur being given in one room. The only other person I could see was a solitary figure in a large study sitting at a table with an open sefer. Mr. Ellner told me that Rav Shmuel Dovid Friedman spends so much time learning that he has very little time to spare so I should have my one question ready for him. Mr. Ellner unlocked the door to the study and it was the beginning of an incredible one-hour experience with Rav Friedman an hour of heightened kedusha.

My one question was a generic: What can you tell me about your shul? The Rav started with a story about HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, with whom he has a close and long-standing relationship. On one particular visit to see him in Bnei Brak in the 1980s, Rav Chaim told of a man who needed a medical procedure to save his life. It was very expensive, $10,000 per week, and could Rav Friedman raise the money. Rav Friedman came back to New York not sure how he could raise that amount of money every week. He decided to put ads in newspapers. Amazingly, every single week the money was raised, $8,000 a week from the ad in The Jewish Press.

Rav Friedman then told me that all these years he had never expressed hakaras hatov to The Jewish Press and was happy to be able to thank the newspaper and its readers.

Rav Friedman continued to speak of HaRav Kanievsky and reached into his wallet where he kept a small packet with a half-shekel coin that had been blessed. I was honored when he gave it to me to keep.

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Congregation Shomrei Emunah was established in 1907 and in 1910 built a Romanesque Revival style yellow brick edifice, which it still occupies today. Numerous talmidei chachamim founded Shomrei Emunah. Over the years it has become known as The Mother of Jewish Institutions due to the offshoots that were established from it: Beth El (see A Shul With A Story, June 26, 2019), Congregation Anshe Sfard, and Bnai Yehuda. Shul members were also credited with establishing organizations such as Yeshivas Etz Chaim (Hebrew Institute of Borough Park), Borough Parks first Jewish day school and a very popular yeshiva and Israel Zion Hospital, now known as Maimonides Medical Center.

A long line of distinguished rabbis served the kehillah, which might be why the Chofetz Chaim was known to have said that Gedolim traveling to America should visit Shomrei Emunah upon arriving. Rabbi Wolf (Zev) Gold was the shuls rabbi from 1928-1935. Rabbi Gold was the founder of the Williamsburg Talmud Torah and is credited with being the first President of the Board at Mesivta Torah Vodaas and the one who chose the name of the now iconic yeshiva. During those early years, numerous esteemed rabbis visited the synagogue including Rav Elchonon Wasserman, HaRav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, and HaRav Boruch Ber Leibowitz.

Dr. Harry Wohlberg was Shomrei Emunahs rabbi from 1935-1973. Rabbi Wohlberg was also a professor at Yeshiva University during that time and later served as Vice-President of the Religious Zionists of America. Rabbi Wohlberg served on the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America in addition to being a trustee of Bar-Ilan University. Rabbi Wohlbergs three sons were all rabbis. Rabbi Jeremiah Wohlberg recalls going to shul in the 1950s and seeing a large contingent of emigrants, many of them Holocaust survivors with numbers on their arms. The shul was also known to be staunchly Zionist. Shomrei Emunah hosted all of the leadership of the Zionist movement prior to and subsequent to the establishment of the State of Israel. Rabbi Zev Gold, who had made aliyah at that point, was one of the original signatories on Israels Declaration of Independence.

The renowned Rabbi Yaakov Pollak, ztl, who was niftar this past May, served as the Morah Dasra from 1973-2008. Rav Friedman told of the heroic efforts and success of Rav Pollak in rescuing the manuscripts of Rav Yitzchak Eizik Krasilschikov, known as the Gaon of Poltava, from Russia. During the 1970s, Rav Pollak made numerous trips every year behind the Iron Curtain to rescue the Poltava Gaons twenty-volume dual-commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi (twenty thousand pages) and other great works; all were transferred and removed in secret and accomplished with great humility. Thus what is recognized as the clearest and best explanation of the Talmud Yerushalmi is still learned in batei medrashim today in large part due to Rav Pollack.

Since 2008, Rabbi Aviezer Cohen has been the shuls spiritual leader. He has given a Gemara shiur, Chevras Shas, between Mincha and Maariv for over 40 years.He is a talmid of Rav Yoseph Dov Soloveitchik of Yerushalayim and of Rav Aharon Kotler.

While many in Boro Park are at the chassidishe end of the spectrum, Shomrei Emunah still offers a place for all people living in the community.It is a true makom of learning and tefillah.

This still vibrant shul has a profusion of minyanim and shiurim. There are 2-3 weekday minyanim for Shacharis, one for Mincha, and two for Maariv. Attendance numbers in the hundreds and an average Shabbos sees 60-70 women in the ezras nashim. There is a 7am minyan for Shabbos, a 9am minyan with a chazzan, and a 9:15 minyan without. The 7am Shabbos minyan was started so that family members with a relative in nearby Maimonides Hospital could daven early and then go to the hospital or nearby nursing homes. Its the earliest of its kind in the area.

In its heyday, when mainstream Orthodox Judaism was at its peak in Boro Park and Shomrei Emunah was the jewel, the shul saw 500-600 people on a typical Shabbos. My friend who recommended I visit told me that Rabbi Pollack was his mesader kedushin. He spoke affectionately of Shomrei Emunah smiling as he recalled the men wearing top hats as they sat in the seats of honor at the bima.

One sign of the vitality of Shomrei Emunah today can be seen in the success of its numerous daily shiurim. There are two daf yomi shiurim, one in English and one in Yiddish, classes on Talmud Yerushalmi, Mishnayos, and others given over in Hebrew, English, or both. The Avos Ubonim learning program draws approximately 150 participants on motzei Shabbos. Twice this year the shul was misayem Shas.

Back to my original question. The Rav shared that some years ago there was a regular shiur with about 15 men. One day, without forethought and not knowing why, he asked if there were any men who had given $100,000 to a worthy cause. Many hands went up. The Rav then asked if anyone had given $250,000 and a few hands went up. Rav Friedman said, Thats my shul. Everyday working men, attending shiurim, and no one knew the generous amount of money each had given to tzedakah.

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Rav Friedman gives two shiurim a day, and is perhaps better known for his recordings on The Rav gave me a USB drive with thousands of his lectures. Can you imagine, thousands of opportunities to learn!

Before leaving the study, Mr. Ellner showed me bookshelves of seforim written by Rav Friedman. Rav Friedman wrote close to one hundred popular seforim on various topics on the Shas. As Rav Chaim told him to write seforim on Talmud Yerushalmi, Mr. Ellner explained, Rav Friedman writes chiddushim and collects mefarshim and hes like the Artscroll of Talmud Yerushalmi.

Mr. Ellner, by the way, has a Masters degree in mental health counseling. Outside of his shul responsibilities, he works with different modalities in the milieu of holistic healing. More depth, knowledge, and wisdom emerging from the great minds of Shomrei Emunah.

It must be all of the learning that contributes to the kedusha. Not just in the Beis Medrash or in Rav Friedmans stories, it emanates from the walls themselves. There is a warmth to the smell of old leather seforim and the vintage ambience of a room long used studiously; it was a surreal and very special experience to have ruchnius transformed into tangible air. Rav Friedman said that he would like to refurbish the shul, that halacha requires a shul to be beautiful. Ahh, but the name Shomrei Emunah, Keepers of the Faith, so represents the beauty of this very special shul with a lot of stories and what is more beautiful than a shul with kedusha.

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A Shul With A Story: Shomrei Emunah Keepers of The Faith - The Jewish Press -

Changing the Jewish Narrative –

Posted By on January 18, 2020

For many, Belgrade's Jewish community is defined by the tragedy of the Holocaust. But as a new movement devoted to changing the narrative grows, the citys Jews are discovering the joys of a vibrant, sustainable Jewish experience.

Does Jewish life have a future in Belgrade?

For many, Belgrade's Jewish community is defined by the tragedy of the Holocaust. But as a new movement devoted to changing the narrative grows, the citys Jews are discovering the joys of a vibrant, sustainable Jewish experience.

The Nikola Tesla airport looked like it hadnt been upgraded in a long time. I arrived in Belgrade on a gray February day, late in the afternoon, and after clearing passport control, found my driver in the arrivals area holding up a piece of paper with my name on it. I followed him to a run-down parking lot where we got into an old jalopy caked with mud. It sputtered and stalled and finally started.

I had come to visit Chabad of Belgrade and was looking forward to a first conversation with the cab driver, but the language barrier made that difficult. What I saw out of my passenger-side window was consistent with what Id read: Serbia is a poor country, with shabby roads and squalid block buildingscommunist-era holdovers. The ride was just long enough for me to get oriented.

When we got into in the city, the car turned onto Kneza Miloa street, a main artery flanked by embassies and government buildings. By now it was dark, and the rain was coming down hard. People scurried under umbrellas, dodging nasty splashes of rain from passing cars and buses. The buildings were dimly lit, if at all, but I could see that many of them were nineteenth century historic preservations.

The car pulled up onto the sidewalk in front of what looked like a restoration of a supremely elegant pre-World War I home. The mansion of a Serbian count or baron back in the day, I thought.

Stepping around muddy puddles, I walked up to the glistening buildingthe only white facade on the street, awash in brilliant light. It beckoned with warmth. Chabad of Serbia read the signage on the front. Rabbi Yehoshua Kaminetzky came out to greet me.


Inside a beautifully appointed dining room, two peopletravelers from the U.S. who had come in for a conference--were having dinner. At the other end of the long table, a handful of men had just finished a weekly Talmud class with Yehoshua. They were happy to linger and talk. I met Alexander Albahari, 50, a chemist who grew up in Belgrade and knew that he was Jewish, but didnt know what that meant.

We had no Jewish practice at home, he said. A friend invited him to join a class at Chabad. One thing led to another, and Alexander soon discovered the joy of belonging to a community. Everything I know about Judaism, I learned here, he said. I put on tefillin for the first time here, at age fifty. I learned about Shabbat and began studying Jewish texts: Talmud, Mishna, Jewish law, and Kabbalah. Chabad, he said, is now his second home, the one place where he feels relaxed about his Jewishness.

Fedor Bogunovich was also born and bred in Serbia. Hes been a member of Belgrades old Jewish establishment for forty years. I was finally inspired when Chabad came, he tells me, describing the Kaminetzkys as a force of unity: I come in with all my stress, and I leave feeling relaxed.

Relaxed seemed like an odd term in this context. But the old guard of Belgrades Jewish community has been mired in bitter strife and squabbles for some time, and the conflict has alienated Jewish locals. Chabad has stayed out of the fray, working instead to change a Holocaust-dominated narrative. This preoccupation with the past, saysMiri Kaminetzky, is suffocating Belgrades Jewish life.

Serbia was the only country outside Poland and the Soviet Union where the Nazis killed Jews on the spot without deportation. Out of a prewar Jewish population of 16,000, approximately 14,500 were murdered. It was also the first country after Estonia to be declared Judenfreifree of Jews. Still haunted by the Holocaust, Serbias Jewish community invests the majority of its resources in museums, cemeteries, and other memorials to its tragic past.

We want Jews here to experience the color, the vitality, and the joy of Jewish life, Miri says. She describes Serbians in general as remarkably warm and friendly, and says she feels blessed to be living in a country that is uniquely free of the anti-Semitism that is rampant elsewhere in Europe. So theres really no reason for Jews here to be afraid to identify openly.

Today, Belgrades Jewish population numbers about 2,000, but those numbers are dwindling as young people leave for better economic opportunities. Still, the Kaminetzkys say, those who remain deserve better.

It is heartbreaking to see that most of the Jews we meet, having lived in Belgrade all their lives, have never had the opportunity to really learn what it means to live as a Jew, Yehoshua says. To them, Judaism has only been a liability. And you cant build a future like that. We want the Jews here to live with Yiddishkeit, and to draw life and energy from it.


Since opening Chabad of Belgrade in 2008, Miri and Yehoshua have been treating Jewish Serbs to a novel experience. Animated discussions over Jewish texts, elegant Shabbat dinners, exciting childrens programs, thought-provoking womens classes, daily services, guest lectures, holiday programs, and Jewish life cycle celebrations have attracted scores of new regulars and contributed to the development of a dynamic Jewish community. Shabbat services and meals bring about eighty people to the Chabad House, and holiday events draw as many as several hundred.

It is the only oasis of peace and true Jewish spirit in this city, says Milena Shnap, a local woman whom I met at one of Miris classes. Rabbi and Miri Kaminetzky and their children have created a welcoming atmosphere for all who come, whether they are tourists, Israeli businesspeople, or domestic visitors.

Milena speaks enthusiastically about the rich engagement opportunities that she and other Serbian Jews have found at Chabad: Shabbat services at Chabad exist throughout the year. Children learn weekly about upcoming holidays or interesting Jewish topics. The Kollel Torah organizes lectures for adultsoften with prominent visiting guest speakersas well as a thematic monthly womens event. Each holiday is extraordinarily organized and leaves us with a strong sense of Jewish unity and an amazing, memorable experience.


An eclectic group of women, all professionals, settle down for the third in a series of classes about the Jewish calendar. Speaking in English and fairly good Serbian, Miri uses source sheets from primary Jewish texts to guide the women in a discussion about Jewish law. Specifically, the group is investigating why Jews living in the diaspora tag an extra day of observance onto certain holidays. The conversation then expands into an exploration of the mystical aspects of Jewish holidays.

The women stay on after the class, catching up with each other. Miri reminds them that they are invited to the circumcision of a newborn later that week: a young woman in the community gave birth to a baby boy and Chabad is hosting the brit-milah.

For this group, Jewish life cycle events are fairly new experiences introduced to them through the Kaminetzky familys personal milestone celebrations: their sons brit-milah, their daughters Shabbat candle lighting ceremony, their sons first haircut, and later, his bar mitzvah.

Olivera Ristic, a forensic graphologist, began learning about Judaism on her own through the internet. But until she got to know the Kaminetzkys, it was all abstract. When you see an example of a Jewish family living a life of Torah and mitzvahs, thats very powerful, She says. Otherwise, its just words.

The women have formed a close bond with Miri, who is as much a teacher as she is a role model and a confidante. As they learned about mikvah, they expressed an interest in observing the mitzvah. The problem was that the nearest mikvah was a four-hour drive to Budapest, explains Miri. So she launched a crowdfunding campaign and, in no time, raised the necessary $90,000 locally to convert a small garage at the back of the Chabad House.

Their participation speaks volumes about the commitment we have from local Jews who want to join us in building an infrastructure of real Yiddishkeit, Miri says.


Nir Makdasi, a well respected Israeli real estate developer and important personality in Belgrades Jewish and business circles, has been living in the city for the last six years. He greets international buyers from Europe and elsewhere in his sleek offices, which sit atop a luxury residential complex under construction, directly across the Chabad Center. Makdasi exudes success and robust optimism.

As an Israeli transplant, the entrepreneur says he felt a need to be a part of a Jewish community in Belgrade. He looked around for a while until he encountered Chabad. The fresh, enterprising attitude he found with the Kaminetzkys was a perfect fit for him. I just clicked with Yehoshua, he says. Makdasi quickly became an active member of Belgrades Chabad community.

I express curiosity about his business success in Serbias depressed market economy. It depends where you look, he says with a chuckle. According to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, Serbias economic development is considerably below the European average. But, the Forum adds, there is large growth potential, and Serbias structural economic reforms will be the key to unlocking it.

Makdasi sees that as analogous to what the Kaminetzkys have been doing: If you focus on the positive, like Chabad does, you unlock great potential. You discover opportunities and you create a gorgeous reality.


Changing the Jewish Narrative -

The Bible Says What? ‘Reuben slept with his father’s concubine’ – Jewish News

Posted By on January 18, 2020

While Israel (Jacob) stayed in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his fathers concubine; and Israel (Jacob) found out.(Genesis 35:22)

These are the only details shared in the Torah that Reuben, son of Jacob and Leah, lays with the handmaiden of Rachel, his fathers other wife.

However, Bilhah is more than simply Rachels handmaiden, she is also the mother of Jacobs sons, Dan and Naftali. In some parts of our text, she is referred to as his wife, in others his concubine. This is a troubling narrative, so much so that in the Mishnah we learn this is one of a handful of Torah texts that should be recited, but not translated into the vernacular, in order for it not to be understood.

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The Torah does not immediately share with us the implications of Reubens actions, but we get clues later in the text. As Jacob prepares for his own death, he offers to each of his children a blessing. Reubens is more of a curse: Unstable as water, you shall excel no longer. For when you mounted your fathers bed, you brought disgrace! Reuben also loses his birthright as firstborn.

There is amahloket(disagreement) in the Talmud. Some argue that Reuben did in fact lay with Bilhah and was deserving of his punishment, others that he was free from sin and spared at the last moment from being intimate with Bilhah. We cant know what really happened but it is interesting, though unsurprising, that we never hear Bilhahs account of the incident.

Nor do we hear her perspective or voice when she lends her womb to Rachel to support her and Jacobs relationship when they are struggling with infertility. The silence of Bilhah, like so many other Torah narratives of women, speaks volumes about the marginalisation of women in our sacred literature.

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The Bible Says What? 'Reuben slept with his father's concubine' - Jewish News

What Is Life Worth? Thoughts on the Siyum HaShas – Jewish Link of Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut

Posted By on January 18, 2020

Authors note: This brief talk was presented at the Hadran Womens Siyyum Ha-Shas in Jerusalem on January 5, 2020, 8 Tevet 5780. Standing at the podium, looking out on a sea of over 3,300 people, mostly women, celebrating Torah study together felt like walking in a dream. There was so much hope and power in that room. I recited the Hadran in tears.

In the seven and a half years since I began daf yomi, I turned fifty and celebrated both my thirtieth wedding anniversary and my thirtieth year as an educator. I lost one of my closest friends to cancer. I opened a center for Jewish education. My beloved bubbie died at 100, and I stood under the huppa with three of my children. My youngest is learning at Midreshet Lindenbaum and is sitting in this audience right now. I became a grandmother and grieved with friends who lost parents and some who, lo aleinu, lost children. As I traveled the Talmuds 2,711 pages, my daily learning was a sacred anchor for all these significant transformations. Learning the daf enhanced my daily sense of blessing, helping me actualize my own lifes purpose in large part because there was one enduring question that kept surfacing for me in learning the daf: What is human life worth? Sometimes very complex sugyot can be reduced to a variation on this simple but profound question.

Lifes worth, for example, is at the heart of the eighth chapter of Bava Kamma, HaHovel beHavero:

Mishna: One who injures another is liable to pay five types of compensation: damage, for pain, medical costs, loss of livelihood, and humiliation (Bava Kamma 83b).

While money cannot relieve great physical and emotional losses, it signifies accountability and responsibility as part of a just society. In the Hammurabi codes of the Ancient Near East such physical reciprocity was deemed legal and appropriate. Poke out my eye, and Ill poke yours. But Bava Kamma presents one argument after another to show that an eye for an eye was never to be taken literally. Heres one of my favorites:

Rabbi Dostai ben Yehuda asks if An eye for an eye (Leviticus 24:20) means monetary restitution or the loss of an actual eye? But what if the eye of the one who caused the injury is large and the eye of the injured party is small? You cannot literally apply the phrase an eye for an eye.

Your eye and my eye are not the same size. Ayin tahat ayin can never be executed literally because it cannot be executed precisely. Without the capacity to be precise, this type of violent recompense should not be used at all, echoing Gandhi: An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Perhaps the Torah used this expression because the only way one can ever know what the loss of an eye feels like is to lose one. It focuses us deeply on the worth of every human life.

This perek of Talmud has had real-world application for millennia. To cite but one example, money can never compensate for life. But sometimes it has to. Kenneth Feinberg, a well-known D.C. attorney, was appointed Special Master of the U.S. governments September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. His was an impossible task. When people are grieving, the last thing they want to think about is putting a price tag on someone they love, whether a CEO, a firefighter, a cook, or a janitor. Feinberg called it the most harrowing experience of his professional life.

In Bava Kamma, as in the 9/11 fund, the worth of life is determined in response to violence. Surely, I thought, there must be a way to measure human life as a response to joy or virtue. I found what I was looking for in Masekhet Arakhin. In Leviticus 27:1-8 a person donates his or her worth to the Beit HaMikdash as an act of thanksgiving or joy.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When anyone explicitly vows to the Lord the equivalent for a human being

Human worth was assessed on a recognized compensation scale and that amount was vowed as a gift to Gods house, an intimate form of tzedaka. In fact, the Haemek Davar, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, writes that Its called a pele, a wonder, because its not something that God asked of anyone. It represents a desire to give more of ourselves than is asked. Its hard to find a contemporary analogy to Arakhin, but it inspired me to finally give voice to something I had long wanted to do.

I come to this siyyum having checked two goals on my spiritual bucket list profoundly connected to the question of lifes worth: finally completing the daf yomi cycle and donating a kidney. I have not spoken about this publicly and not much privately either. As of this past July 15th, my left kidney is in a man in Wisconsin who, like me, has four children and two grandchildren. Reflecting on the message of Arakhin and my incredible good fortune during these years of learning, I finally decided to give thanks in a way that forced me to think about what my life was truly worth to someone else. Anyone in good health can do this, but it is a serious decision. Its also one of the best decisions Ive ever made. No doubt, many others in this room have been influenced by their learning in unexpected ways. The donation helped move me from the beit midrash of my mind to contemplate the real-world suffering of others and the impact one life can have upon another, even, and especially, a stranger. The transition from Bava Kamma to Arakhin helped me understand the value of a life not only when violence strikes but also as a powerful response to deep joy. By the way, you can do daf yomi and keep all your organs intact.

Daf yomi also demands self-sacrifice, sacrifice for the sake of higher growth. How blessed I am we all are to be making this siyyum here in Yerushalyim, celebrating not only our learning but how our learning changes us, helps us value life and lifts us up to a place of joy. This is a day that God has made, let us rejoice and be happy.

This article appears courtesy of, the website of TRADITION: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought, published by the Rabbinical Council of America.

Dr. Erica Brown, a consulting editor of TRADITION, is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University and the director of its Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership. To learn more about becoming a kidney donor visit Renewal in the United States and Matnat Chaim in Israel.

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What Is Life Worth? Thoughts on the Siyum HaShas - Jewish Link of Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut

Hunters creator on killing Nazis and casting Al Pacino in his Jewish superhero series – The Boston Globe

Posted By on January 18, 2020

We face incredible advents of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia throughout the world today, he says. Crafting a love letter to his grandmother, which would honor her struggle while exploring the righteous anger many Jews felt toward Nazis who escaped justice after World War II, started to feel increasingly urgent and timely.

Struck one day by the concept of flooding such a story with the pulpy, propulsive colors of his favorite comics, Weil created Hunters, starring Logan Lerman and Al Pacino. The series debuts on Amazon Feb. 21, with 10 episodes.

Set in 70s New York, it follows a ragtag group of vigilantes who uncover hundreds of Nazi officials living in secret around the United States, plotting to architect a Fourth Reich on American soil. They embark on a dangerous, bloody mission to thwart the Nazis genocidal scheme.

It really comes from the notion of a Jewish superhero, he says of Hunters," which is hyperviolent and stylized. Before the pilots end, characters have been stabbed, gassed, bludgeoned, and dispatched in much nastier ways; crucially, the Jewish characters carry out this violence more than theyre on the receiving end of it.

I wanted to showcase Jews not as intellectual, nebbishy, victimized, or emasculated, but to show them with might and strength, explains Weil. "Wanting to gain vengeance can be Jewish, too. Its the idea of people whove been so otherized and persecuted for so long reclaiming power that is so political.

In searching for an actor to play Jonah Heidelbaum, who becomes a hunter after his grandmother is murdered by an intruder, Weil had long pictured Lerman. Best known for starring in the young-adult Percy Jackson franchise, Lerman has carved out a niche for himself playing sensitive, soft-spoken young men in coming-of-age dramas like The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), Stuck in Love (2013), and Indignation (2016).

Theres this great world-weariness about him so few young actors can achieve, Weil says. Logan can do that in spades. Its the quietude about his performances. He has such heart and soul, and its simply there, within him.

For Lerman, the comic-book framing of Hunters at first felt like a tonal mishmash, given its subject matter. But as he read the scripts, the actor grew to understand Jonah as someone with a strict moral code, informed by his worship of virtuous superheroes like Captain America.

When Jonah is confronted with the ugliness of the hunters mission, its a clash of ideals, says Lerman, 27, speaking by phone. That comic-book lens also plays against the question at the center of the series, which is, Does it take evil to fight evil? Do you have to become a bad guy in order to fight the bad guy?

Another draw for Lerman was the chance to act opposite Hollywood great Pacino, in his first TV series. Pacino currently Oscar-nominated for playing Jimmy Hoffa in Martin Scorseses organized-crime opus The Irishman costars as Meyer Offerman, the mysterious founder of the hunters who co-created the group with Jonahs grandmother.

Its been the greatest honor of my career so far, Lerman says of working with Pacino. I adore him as an actor, and getting to fall in love with him as a human being was truly something special.

Even more effusive about Pacinos involvement is Weil, who remains stunned that the actor signed on in the first place. It took four meetings between the pair for Pacino to make his mind up to do so, during which time Weil felt himself challenged to craft the richest-possible version of Offermans back story and future arc. (At least two more seasons of Hunters are planned.)

You think youre a great writer until you meet a great actor, says Weil. Theres so much Al intuits about characters, from the decisions they make, to the clothes they wear, a look, a glance, the music they love. I would watch him build this character in his mind, brick by brick, memory by memory, just sitting there. It was magical.


Starring: Al Pacino, Logan Lerman, Jeannie Berlin, Dylan Baker, Carol Kane, Lena Olin, Josh Radnor, James Le Gros

On: Amazon. First season streams on Feb. 21.

Isaac Feldberg can be reached at, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.

Originally posted here:

Hunters creator on killing Nazis and casting Al Pacino in his Jewish superhero series - The Boston Globe

Tiffany Haddish: The ‘word of God’ is the ‘best gift’ – The Salem News

Posted By on January 18, 2020

Tiffany Haddish thinks the "word of God" is the "best gift" you can give someone.

The 40-year-old actress was gifted a Bible with a diamond cross on the cover from Beyonc and Solange Knowles' mother Tina Knowles Lawson during her birthday bat mitzvah last month, which she hosted to celebrate her Netflix special 'Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah'.

And although Tiffany is Jewish, she still appreciated the present she received, because she says sharing your "beliefs" with someone is a "blessing".

She explained to Us Weekly magazine: "Now that was a blessing. I think that's one of the best gifts you can ever give someone is the word of God.

"I feel like that's super special and super important. I don't care if it's a King James' Bible, a Torah, [or] a Quran - when you share your beliefs with someone, I think that's the best gift you could ever give someone because that gives them understanding and clarity."

Tiffany's Netflix special aired on the streaming service to mark her 40th birthday on December 3, and the star - whose father was a Jewish refugee from Eritrea while her mother was an American Jehovah's Witness - said prior to the release that she wanted to "honor" her heritage with the show.

She said: in a video shared to Instagram: "What do you mean you're black and you're having a bat mitzvah, Tiffany?' Well, I don't know if y'all know this about me, but I'm Jewish. I'm Jewish by DNA.

"And because of my father, I want to honor him and our ancestors, and I want to do something that represents growth and maturity. And I want to teach. That's what I've been put on this planet to do is teach, and Judaism is all about that!

"It's my black mitzvah, baby! She grown, and she ready!"

Meanwhile, the 'Night School' star recently revealed she has been learning Hebrew ahead of her bat mitzvah ceremony.

She said: "I'm going to read from the Torah and everything."

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Tiffany Haddish: The 'word of God' is the 'best gift' - The Salem News

Sheltered at Theater J, Reviewed – Washington City Paper

Posted By on January 18, 2020

Teresa CastracaneIts April 1939, and in their Providence, Rhode Island, drawing room, the affluent Leonard (David Schlumpf) and Evelyn Kirsch (Erin Weaver) are having a drink before their dinner guests, Roberta (Kimberly Gilbert) and Martin Bloom (Alexander Strain), arrive. With Sheltered, playwright Alix Sobler offers what at first appears to be the sort of polite domestic comedy that provided escapism between the crises of the Great Depression and World War II. Then, as Martin enthuses about a performance of Our Town they had just seen in New Haven, praising it for its Americanness, Roberta reminds him that there were no Blumenthals in Grovers Corners, New Hampshire.

The two couples are secular Jewish Americans, and Martin, in particular, is ashamed of many aspects of his heritage: his former name, Robertas grandfathers work in the Yiddish theater, that their son plays on a baseball team called The Maccabees, and the kinky hair that runs in the family. When the affable and apparently aloof Len attempts to broach the topic of the war about to break out in Europe, or the tyranny that German and Austrian Jews are facing after Kristallnacht and the Anschluss, Martin espouses isolationism, and insinuates that the traditional garb of religious Jews is to blame for Nazi anti-Semitism. This charge continues to be made even today as Orthodox Jews are attacked in Brooklyn, Monsey, and Jersey City. But like anti-Semitism today, Nazi anti-Semitism was rarely about religious observance, and based more on racist pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, a fact none of Soblers characters seem to grasp.

In contrast to the happily married Kirsches (Weaver and Schlumpf have wonderful stage chemistry together), it is heavily suggested that Martin is physically abusive behind closed doors, and it is little surprise that the Blooms teenage daughter is acting out. Even in those moments when Roberta is relegated to glaring at her husband, all Gilberts gestures make for a masterful comic performance.

Only when the men step out to look at Lens new Cadillac is the reason for the dinner invitation revealed: The Kirsches are soon to leave on a mission to rescue 40 Austrian Jewish children, and want their friends to take one.

One month later, the Kirsches are in Vienna negotiating with Hani Mueller (McLean Fletcher), a mother reluctant to give up her five-year-old son Reyner. The boy is anachronistically described as a fan of the Belgian comics hero Tintin, despite Tintin not being available in German until 1946.

For all Soblers good intentions, the script has a certain sloppiness. Is Leonard a general practitioner or an attorney? Theres evidence that in an earlier draft the first act was set in Philadelphia (Len and Martin are Phillies fans) and later revised to Providence, so that Len and Evelyn could meet at Brown University, and the drive from New Haven would be manageable. Yet when Evelyn describes Providence to Hani, all she can say is its a lovely city. One of the oldest in America. Likewise, theres little to identify Vienna beyond some spoken German and a mention of the Gestapos seizure of the Palais Nathaniel Rothschild.

This lacking sense of place gives the usually inventive scenic designer Paige Hathaway little to work with. Close observers might notice how the Providence parlor and Vienna hotel have different sconces, floor lamps, and couches, or that decorative American prints are substituted with kitschy Austrian paintings, but most will see that the wallpaper and wainscoting remain identical.

The biggest fault is that the two acts seem to belong to different plays; each act is incapable of unlocking its dramatic potential without its missing half. The hard decisions that lead the Kirsches to decide which of the 40 children to rescue are largely elided, as is the thinking that spurred them to rescue 40 children they do not know. The sort of home the troubled Blooms might provide for Reyner is also never explored.

There are stronger plays dramatizing attempts to rescue Viennas Jews: Mona Golabeks one-woman show, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, which Theater J presented in 2018, evokes time and place far more vividly, and Savyon Liebrechts A Case Named Freud, which has yet to receive a full production in America despite being one of the Israeli short story writers stronger works for the stage, both come to mind. This raises the question, why this play? Why now? Especially when it could use another rewrite?

To Feb. 2 at 1529 16th St. NW. $30-$69. (202) 777-3210.

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Sheltered at Theater J, Reviewed - Washington City Paper

Religion briefs: Activist Enola Aird to speak Sunday in New Haven – CTPost

Posted By on January 18, 2020

Published 2:54pm EST, Friday, January 17, 2020

NEW HAVEN Enola Aird will lead a conversation on Racial Healing, Injustice and Reconciliation, immediately following the 11 a.m. 19 at St. Lukes Episcopal Church, 111 Whalley Avenue, New Haven. All are invited to attend and participate in this meaningful conversation.

Aird is a lawyer, activist mother, and founder and president of Community Healing Network, Inc., launched in 2006 from St. Lukes Episcopal Church in New Haven.

CHN is the only organization focused exclusively on building the global grassroots movement for emotional emancipation to help black people heal from, and end, the trauma caused by the centuries-old lie of white superiority and black inferiority: the root cause of the worldwide devaluing of black lives, members said in a statement. Under Airds leadership, CHN has put into place key initiatives to build the movement for emotional emancipation, including Community Healing Days, celebrated annually on the third weekend of every October, to put time for healing at the top of the global black communitys agenda; Emotional Emancipation Circles, support groups to help black people heal from historical and continuing trauma; Valuing Black Lives: The Annual Global Emotional Emancipation Summit, which brings together black leaders from around the world to develop and carry out action plans; and the 2018-20 Global Truth Campaign and Tour, to sound the alarm about the pressing need for emotional healing in the black community.

A former corporate lawyer, Aird has worked at the Childrens Defense Fund, leading its violence prevention program and serving as acting director of its Black Community Crusade for Children; is a past chair of the Connecticut Commission on Children; and was a visiting scholar at the Judge Baker Childrens Center at Harvard. Aird, who was born in the Republic of Panama of Caribbean heritage, attributes her passion and commitment to the movement for emotional emancipation to stories passed down in her family about her great-grandfather Samuel Alleyne, who was a loyal follower of the Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

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Bible Study And The New Testament

NORTH BRANFORD Residents are invited to exploreThe New Testament at the at North Branford Congregational Church. Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the chapel of our church.

For information, email Jennifer at

Church offers ongoing workshops

NORTH BRANFORD All are invited to attend continuing community workshops every Thursday from 4 - 6 p.m. at Northford Congregational Church, 4 Old Post Road, Northford.

The workshops provide projects that help the less fortunate. During the past year, church members have helped vulnerable children, the homeless, families of service members, senior citizens, school children and others. Guests can drop in for part of the time or come for the full two hours. The workshops are ongoing.

To reach the church, call 203-484-0795.

Kof C holding series on Catholicism

NORTH HAVEN The Father James F. Donaher Council #3733 of the North Haven Knights of Columbus has organized a speaker series to strengthen our knowledge of the Catholic faith and to make each of us more natural evangelizers, according to a release.

The Joy of Service: Natural Evangelization Through our Lives will be held Feb. 20.

Refreshments and social time to follow.

The event is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary. For information, call Grand Knight Paul Caiafa at 203-671-2942.

Congregation BNai Jacob schedules events

WOODBRIDGE Congregation Bnai Jacob, 75 Rimmon Road, Woodbridge, announces the following:

Monday evenings, 7:30-9:30. Rabbi Shapiro teaches Pirket Avot, Ethics of the Fathers

Weekday minyan services at 7:45 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Jan 24, 6 p.m. Shabbat Schmooze. 6:30 p.m. Shabbat evening service.

Jan. 25, 9 a.m. Shir Hadash service followed by Torah service at 10:15 a.m.

Feb 1, 5:30 p.m. PJ Havdalah service. Come in pajamas, all ages. Service with music, stories, cookies and hot cocoa.

Feb 2, 10 a.m. Gavriela Gavi Reiter will speak on Tu BShevat and Criminal Justice.

For information, visit or call 203-389-2111.

Community workshops are ongoing

NORTH BRANFORD All are invited to continuing community workshops every Thursday from 3 - 5 p.m. (new time) to work on projects that help the less fortunate, at the Northford Congregational Church, 4 Old Post Road, Routes 22/17.

During the last year, members say they have helped vulnerable children, the homeless, families of service members, senior citizens, school children and others. The workshops are ongoing.

For information, call the church at 203-484-0795 or find them on Facebook.

Beth Israel Synagogue schedules events

WALLINGFORD Beth Israel Synagogue, 22 N. Orchard St., Wallingford, announces the following activities and services. Go to for more information.

Saturdays, 9:45 a.m., Bagels, Lox & Torah Study with Rabbi Bruce Alpert. Open to the community.

Temple Beth David schedules events

CHESHIRE Temple Beth David, 3 Main St., Cheshire, announces the following events and programs.

Lunch & Learn with Rabbi Micah every Thursday at noon in the TBD social hall. Bring your own lunch.

Weekday minyan services at 7:45 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Youth Shabbat Service: First Friday for youth, 6:30 p.m.

Shabbat service: First Friday, 7 p.m. In this musical Shabbat experience, sing through much of the service. Services are participatory, spiritual, and fun.

Torah study: Join Rabbi Micah and a group of adults for Torah Study on Saturdays beginning at 8:45 a.m. and enjoy coffee, bagels, and a discussion about the weekly parsha. Details, go to

Church collecting used clothing

NORTHFORD St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 1382 Middletown Avenue, Northford, has teamed up with St. Pauly Textile Inc., to collect used clothing. The company works with non-profit organizations like St. Andrews Episcopal, to set up used clothing dropoff sheds designed to give community members a clean, attractive, and well-monitored place to donate gently used textile items, which are then distributedin the U.S. and worldwide to people who need them.

St. Andrews Episcopal Church receives funding for clothing collected, and additionally has the option to use any of this clothing to serve local community needs. St. Pauly Textile, Inc. collects more than 120,000 pounds of clothing every day and estimates that this clothing ends up in 44 different countries, including the United States, yearly.

All of the usable clothing is worn by someone, somewhere in the world. In 2017, the company was able to help keep over 20 million articles of clothing out of landfills. The company was founded 22 years ago in Rochester, NY and is an A+ rated member of the Better Business Bureau.

Accepted items include clothing, shoes, sneakers, belts, purses, blankets, sheets, drapes, linens, pillowcases and stuffed animals. Donors are asked to donate items in a plastic bag to protect against dirt and the elements. There is a small box on the shed that contains receipts to help donors take a tax deduction.

For information, call Nan Monde, Sr. Warden, St. Andrews, at 203-710-7005

Lay ministry training available

WALLINGFORD Masonicare Health Center, 22 Masonic Ave., seeks volunteers for its Lay Training in geriatric ministry.

Open to people of all faiths, the program has been teaching basic ministry skills to volunteers nearly 20 years.

Volunteers assist the chaplains with worship services, including vespers; programs that allow elders to explore and express their spirituality and faith through art, sacred circle dance and music; hymn singing; chanting and drumming; as well one-to one pastoral visits.

Other opportunities include transporting seniors to religious activities and instrumental accompaniment at worship services, vespers and hymn sings.

For more details, contact Chaplain Thayer Quoos at 203-679-6259 or For more about Masonicare: or 888-679-9997.

Discussion series

for people 60-plus

OLD SAYBROOK The New Adventures Team of St. Paul Lutheran Church, 56 Great Hammock Road, is sponsoring a new adventures series geared to people 60-plus.

Attendees dont need to be church members. RSVP to Charlotte Schlesselman at 520-560-0183 or For more information, call St. Paul Church at 860-388-2398.

Worship services


OLD SAYBROOK First Church of Christ Congregational, 366 Main St., is offering the following:

Early Bird worship, 8-8:30 a.m. in the Fireside Room, offers a more casual service with prayer, reflection, quiet music and communion.

Soul Service, 9-9:30 a.m. in the sanctuary, offers a variety of music, centered around rhythm & blues and jazz, with time for prayer and Scripture message, all underscored by a live band.

Faith Exploration for All, 9:40-10:20 a.m., with church school for pre-K-Grade 8, and workshops for adults and teens, including Bible study, spiritual practices, such as meditation and praying, and faith and health workshops.

Traditional worship, 10:30-11:30 a.m. in the sanctuary, offers music, including the First Church Choir, singing, times for prayer and silent meditation, Scripture readings, a sermon, and an opportunity for giving.

Nursery care is available 9:30-11:30 a.m. for ages infant to 3 years.

For more information, contact 860-388-3008 or

Resting in God

prayer groups

MADISON Resting in God, Two Centering Prayer Groups is held 6-7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9:30-11 a.m. Saturdays at Mercy by the Sea, 167 Neck Road.

Centering prayer is a method of entering silence in order to be still and know God. Free-will donation is accepted. For more information and to register, contact Claire at or 203-245-0401.

Introduction to Judaism, Hebrew

HAMDEN Congregation Mishkan Israel, 785 Ridge Road, has two adult education classes that are open to the community.

Rabbi Herbert Brockman teaches the introduction to Judaism class, which is on the basics of the Jewish tradition, its history, theology and observances, surrounding the life-cycle of a Jew and the yearly festivals. The class is held Sundays 10-11 a.m.

Rabbi Steve Steinberg is teaching introduction to Hebrew, which can be taken alone or in concert with Brockmans class. It meets Sundays 11 a.m.-noon.

RSVP: Sarah at 203-288-3877 or

Mosque opens

doors to visitors

MERIDEN Baitul Aman House of Peace Mosque, 410 Main St., holds Coffee, Cake, & Conversation at 8 p.m. Fridays.

Information:,,, @zahirmannan,, MuslimWritersGuild.

ASL interpreter

attends services

MILFORD Once a month, Sunday worship services at United Church of Christ, 30 Ormond St., Devon, include an American Sign Language interpreter.

A grant for the interpreter was provided by the CT Concerned Citizens for People with Disabilities.

For more information, call 203-878-4685.

Free dropoff program

is for ages 3, 4 years

WOODBRIDGE Congregation Bnai Jacob, 75 Rimmon Road, offers Gan Hayeled 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sundays.

The free drop-off program for ages 3 and 4 will run every Sunday that religious school is in session.

Call Bnai Jacob at 203-389-2111 for details.

Meditation program

slated in area

GUILFORD Meditation in Daily Life is offered 3-4 p.m. Sundays at Shoreline Center For Wholistic Health, 35 Boston St. No. 2. Classes are $12 each. No one turned away for lack of funds, according to a center press release.

Contact, or 860-266-6041.

All-ages choir

rehearses in loft

MILFORD The Choir of St. Marys is holding rehearsals in the choir loft. The all-ages choir is open to all the members of Precious Blood Parish. It sings at the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass, and for special services all year. There is no audition. Learn more at

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