Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reminiscences of Reb Zalman

Reading Fred Bloggs' comment on the history of Chabad in Melbourne (which, from my knowledge and discussion with other people, I believe to be factually correct) I remembered that I had seen some interesting reminiscences about Reb Zalman Serebryanski while surfing the web.

The Australian Centre for the Study of Jewish Civilisation at Monash University started a project to collect oral histories of prominent Melbourne Jews. On the Monash Uni website are transcripts of some of these histories. Mrs Nechama Werdiger, Mr Mendel New and Mr Shimon Allen have transcripts of their talks about Reb Zalman. They can be read here:

There is also an article I found about Reb Zalman, written by Laibl Wolf, on the Ohr Reb Zalman website here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Another Aussie Back From the Dead

Just a short time after the two miners were found alive and rescued in Tasmania (see here) an Australian man, Lincoln Hall, who was pronounced dead on Mount Everest, has walked into a base camp alive. "Hall, 50, was left for dead on the mountain, then found a day later by a climber who revived him with tea and oxygen" according to a report in The Age here.

What is it with these guys? Must be something to do with being Australian...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Is the Community Entitled to Decide?

With regards to specific comments on this blog regarding the right of Rabbi Groner to choose his successor I have a number of thoughts. There has been much discussion on many different blogs about the phenomenon of nepotism throughout the Jewish world. We in Chabad do not have a monopoly on this (see this post on Mentalblog). What bothers me is that certain people say that they are quite happy to just accept the leadership that is forced on them. This is just plain ridiculous.

The Melbourne Chabad community is amongst the largest in the world outside of America and Israel. Sure London & Paris have large communities but, compared to the size of the general Jewish population, we are quite a big community. To me this means that anyone who is going to call himself the "head shaliach", Morah D'Asroh or whatever should have the support of most of Anash if they expect to function effectively. To force the community to accept a new head without consultation and consensus is foolish and shortsighted.

With regard to Rabbi Telsner it seems that, to his credit, Rabbi Groner is making an effort to get community consensus. The letter speaks to this. Whether or not Rabbi Telsner is the right person to lead this community is yet to be decided but at least we are being given a chance to "check him out". Who knows if our opinion will be considered but at least we will be able to form that opinion before he is appointed.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yom Yerushalayim

Today, 28 Iyar, the 43rd day of the Omer, is Yom Yerushalayim. On this day in 1967 the old city of Jerusalem was liberated by the Israeli troops during the Six Day War. As a young child I remember the excitement of finally having our holiest city back in Jewish hands.

I took the above photos on trips to Israel over the last few years. The way the Kotel looks today is in stark contrast to the photo below of the Kotel in the 19th century where arab houses started just to the left of the picture.

For the historical facts of this day go to the Knesset site here. To read about the significance of Yom Yerushalyaim go to the Aish site here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rabbi Groner's Successor?

I believe that the Yeshivah community all received the above letter from Rabbi Groner today. (click on the letter to get a larger view)

Rabbi Groner tells us that his son-in-law, Rabbi Zvi Telsner of London, will be visiting us for "several weeks" as "Dayan in Residence". We are told that he will be "delivering a range of services to the community, including providing Shiurim, speaking at Kiddushim and Farbrengens, assisting in pastoral care, and being available to answer questions of Halacha". But you can all read what he says for yourself.

For quite a while the Chabad community in Melbourne has been without real leadership. Unfortunately Rabbi Groner's health hasn't been good for a while and he isn't able to provide the strength that he once did. The younger members of our community in particular (by this I mean those in their early 30s and under) appear to be lacking in guidance and do not appear to have a positive feeling towards the Chabad community. This letter doesn't say so but, from what I have heard, Rabbi Telsner is being groomed to take over from Rabbi Groner. These are big shoes to fill (no pun intended) especially as the Melbourne Chabad community has grown so much in numbers in the time that Rabbi Groner has been here and especially in the last 10-15 years.

Due to Rabbi Groner's strong personality - and possibly the lack of young English speaking Rabbonim in Melbourne in the 1950s & 60s - he became a community leader and was (and still is) respected by the wider frum community. Times have changed, the non-Chabad frum communities are larger and self sufficient and have little to do with Rabbi Groner. On the other hand our Chabad community appears to me to be wandering aimlessly with little cohesion.

With all Rabbi Telsner's strengths and good qualities questions remain: Will he be able to be a strong centre for the community and will he have our respect and support; Will he be a mentor for the young and old in our community; Will we, as members of the community, give him a chance to prove himself. The few weeks that he will be spending here will be his testing ground. I for one wish him Hatzlocho Rabbo.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Aussie PM and the Shluchim

I know that the Shemtovs are political creatures but how (and why) did they get this photo op with John Howard?

I found this article on COL here. The Prime Minister is pictured with Levi Shemtov - shaliach in Washington - and Levi Shemtov - shaliach in Detroit and founder of the Friendship Circle.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Happy Lag BaOmer

Tomb Of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai At Meron, 1912
Read about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (the Rashbi) at Meaningful Life and Kabbalah OnLine.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tuition Crisis

Thanks to wannabe and Jake for pointing this post - Financial Realities in the Frum World - in the Beyond BT blog.
The author, "Sam Smith", raises some valid points which I know are of interest and relevant to families in Melbourne and Sydney.

I found this paragraph particularly pertinent:

In general I became frum to enter a society that valued the spiritual over the material. Yet, the reality is that the demands of this society create an arguably greater need for high-level material accomplishment than the society whose values I left behind. They force a person (without inherited wealth) to stay late at the office, take that second job, send the wife out to work, etc. – not to become wealthy but to pay the bills.

Boruch Hashem - They're Free!

Fantastic news! The two miners in Tasmania have finally been rescued after 13 days (and 14 nights) trapped one kilometer underground. Todd Russell and Brant Webb are look surprisingly well (as can been seen in the photo above from The Age) considering their long ordeal.

I am amazed at how strong these guys are both physically and mentally. More than likely things will catch up with them after the initial euphoria has worn off but for the moment they are doing really well. Speculation is that they will attend the funeral of their workmate Larry Knight, who died in the accident, later today.

Hopefully Russell and Web and the family of Larry Knight will be suitably compensated by the owners of the mine. Time will tell.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Keren Malki Blog

The Keren Malki Foundation was formed by Arnold and Frimet Roth in memory of their daughter Malki who was killed by a Palestinian murderer in the Sbarro bombing of August 2001.
The Malki Foundation is "focused on giving practical assistance to families who have a child with serious disabilities" in Israel. This is it's main aim and the website shows all the good deeds that they are doing.

Arnold, who is originally from Melbourne, and his wife Frimet also lecture throughout the world and write articles exposing the double standard that applies to Israel. The Keren Malki website contains their writings and speeches and much related material on terrorism.

The newest addition to the website is a blog - This Ongoing War - which is a report of events in Israel which are "under-reported, unreported and simply misunderstood". The media, especially outside Israel, reports very few of the terrorist events that occur - especially if these events are foiled by Israel. This Ongoing War reports these events and is an eye-opener for those of us who do not read or have access to the Israeli press.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rabbi Hodakov

Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Aizik Hodakov's yartzeit occurred the other day on the 18th day of the Omer. Rabbi Hodakov was, according to Chabad.org, the "Chief of Staff of the office of the Lubavitcher Rebbe". The fact is that he was an extremely close assistant to the Rebbe, a chassidisher yid and a personality in his own right.

One of the stories about him which appears on Shmais appeals to me. It shows that he had a similar outlook to the Rebbe:

In 1969 (the year of the first moon landing) a Bochur on Merkoz Shlichus was supposed to go visit Little Rock, Arkansas where he had a list of 8 Jews to meet. When he called ahead and found out that only three of the families were in town he called Rabbi Hodakov to ask if he should go there or skip it and go on to the next town on his itinerary.
Rabbi Hodakov answered "America just spent a billion dollars to send a man to the moon and there isn't even one Yid there. For three Yiddin certainly you should go!"