Saturday, June 30, 2007

"It's an Adventure"

Yisrael Kugel & Shmuli Raitman

Thanks for "noo" for finding this article on Shturem which originally comes from The Leader-Post newspaper. Shmuli Raitman - from Melbourne - and Yisrael Kugel are going on Merkos Shlichus to Saskatchewan which is a province in the middle of Canada (I also had to look it up in Google).

I appreciate any news of Aussies from our community and especially if they are doing good things like these bochrim.

Friday, June 29, 2007

LeKovod Yud Beis - Yud Gimmel Tammuz

I was astounded to see these wonderful photos of the Previous Rebbe on which, seemingly, have only just seen the light of day. I have heard so much about the Frierdiker Rebbe and how his personality was quite different from our Rebbe. To me these pictures show that to a certain extent.

Go here for more of the same.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rabbi Groner's Surprise Appearance

Speaking at the Dinner - another great photo by Roey Chemny

Everyone was very pleasantly surprised to see Rabbi Groner at the 50th Anniversary Dinner of Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah. The Jewish News has a nice report here and some photos can be seen here.

Rabbi Groner looked great and we wish Horav Yitzchok Dovid ben Menucha Rochel a Refuah Shleima.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another Aussie Making a Difference

This is not new news, in fact it is 13 years old, but an Australian woman in Crown Heights is making a big difference to many people's lives. Devorah Benjamin has established an organisation called Keren Simchas Choson Ve'Kallah which assists young couples getting married. I understand that she doesn't just help organise the chuppah and reception but ensures that the couple have the necessities to start their married life together.

I believe that this nine minute video was made earlier this year for a fundraising function. If you have any spare cash I would suggest making a donation to this worthy cause via their website here.

Update: I am told that she is not Australian but her husband is - close enough for me!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Aussie Bochrim Appointed Shluchim

Four Australian bochrim learning in Chovevai Torah in Crown Heights have been appointed shluchim to various Yeshivos for next year. They have been selected as part of a group of 13 in total .

Yehuda Chanaya (Didi) Waks is going to Yeshivas Chabad Lubavitch Argentina. The following boys are going to Mesivta Chabad Tucson, Arizona - Peretz Gutnik, Yosef Yitzchok Herbst and Michoel Kiselevitch.

Mazal tov to the bochrim and haztlocho rabbo in your shlichus!

See for the complete list.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Historic Photos

Chaim Tzvi Groner - far right

Chaim Tzvi Groner - second from left

These photos appeared in COL of a visit to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein by Rabbi Arye Leib Kaplan of Montreal with some bochrim. The visit took place in 5738 (1978) just before Pesach and one of the bochrim pictured is Chaim Tzvi Groner.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Seen at the Ohel

No Aussies here - just a view of the Ohel on 3 Tammuz

Levi Morozow

Mendel Raskin

Yossel Gutnick

Shimshon Yurkowicz & Mordy Gutnick

Dovid Leib Grossbaum


Aussies seen at the Ohel on Gimmel Tammuz. Check out all the photos on Shturem, Shmais, COL and and also here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Our Schools & Tuition (again)

Rabi Shea Hecht has written two op-ed pieces on over the last few weeks speaking about the problem of the average person paying for school tuition.

His first article is directed mainly at the issue of shluchim who, in general, find it difficult to meet the costs of schooling. This piece had dozens of quite heart-rending comments from parents who brought up the point that it is not just shluchim who have this problem. If one has a large family, as frum Jews are encouraged to, it is almost impossible to meet the burden of school fees unless you are almost a millionaire.

In his second, much longer, article Rabbi Hecht concentrates more on the average person - he obviously read the comments on his first article. Many of the points he brings up apply to the American scene where the schools do not get any government funding unlike Australia. Many of his other points are applicable here if the administration of the Yeshivah & Beth Rivkah would care to look at them seriously.

A few points, some of which I have raised previously, come to mind when thinking about our schools and the tuition crisis.

  • The first point is one which has been raised repeatedly and in many forums - the lack of accountability and transparency with regard to the finances of the Yeshivah Centre. This impacts on many areas, not the least fundraising, where potential donors do not give as much as they might due to the perception of a "black hole" in which their money ends up. I am not advocating that salaries of individual employees should be revealed or that individual donations should be publicised. What I am talking about is publishing a balance sheet so that we can get some idea what the money is being spent on and how much things such as utilities, wages etc actually cost.
  • It is a well know fact that our school fees are inflated to cover the shortfall of parents who cannot pay full fees. We keep on being told that the schools have no money therefore parents who are not paying these (inflated) fees are made to feel inferior that they are "letting the team down".
  • In actual fact I do not believe that the schools are as badly off as they make out. The government gives funding to schools here (unlike the US) which amounts to a fairly large amount per child. But then again, maybe I am wrong and the schools do face a severe financial shortfall. This comes back to my first point - how do we know what the situation really is if we are not provided any information of where the money goes to.
  • The current CEO of the Yeshivah Centre has done a wonderful job in the past of arranging funding and grants from both government and charitable foundations. I do not know if she has time these days to devote appropriate energy to this area but it would appear that this is what she is good at and should concentrate on.
  • Over the past few years the Yeshivah Centre has held a few fundraising dinners. We are told that money is being set aside to attract Jewish children to the schools who now attend secular schools. That concept is wonderful and in line with the principles of Chabad. But at the same time as secular parents are being offered financial incentives our parents are being pressured even more - and sometimes quite roughly. As frum parents we have no choice but to send our children to Jewish day schools. As Chabad parents we are locked into sending our children to Chabad schools. And as Chabad parents our families are usually bigger than non-chassidic families which means that we have to come up with much more money for tuition than families with 2 or 3 children. There are people in the administrative staff who do not understand or appreciate why our familes are bigger than the average and at the very least need some education in Chabad values and customer service.
  • Lastly, and on a somewhat positive note, at least our teachers are paid in a timely manner. It is not uncommon to hear of teachers in New York not being paid for months on end.

After writing all the above I really do not know what difference any of it will make. I doubt that anyone from the "powers that be" will bother to read this let alone take it seriously. Despite many, many people in the community saying similiar things the excuse is always that it is only one or two people stirring up trouble. Surely it is about time that the PTB and the administration of the colleges treated their customers (ie. us) seriously and with respect and, if not including us in the decision making process, at least kept us informed of their decisions and the reasons for them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Yossel Back in the News

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Yossel Gutnick

The Shluchim Center in Crown Heights has just opened a new building and offices and Yossel & Stera Gutnick are one of the two Major Benefactors. Let's hope that this is a new beginning and we see many more institutions benefiting from their largess.

Photos and a description of the opening of the new center (in Hebrew) can be seen on COL here, here and here.
More photos and a report in English on here.
The Shluchim Centre Inauguration website is here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Decorum in Shul

A new brochure has been written aimed at Lubavitchers called "You Shall Rever My Sanctuary". It explains in a concise way the idea of acting appropriately in Shul - particularly during davening. It struck me as an appropriate chachlota that many of us could accept for Gimmel Tammuz. has scans of the brochure here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gimmel Tammuz - 13 Years

This video is not new but I feel appropriate for today.

A slide show of the Rebbe.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Achdus is the Answer

Click on the above images for a larger view

A relatively new website is running an Achdus campaign in preparation for Gimmel Tammuz. The flyers above explain it pretty well - the organisers are asking everyone to make a resolution which will increase in Ahavas Yisroel and Achdus amongst Chassidim.

They use some quotes from the Rebbeim to emphasise their point. The one that hits home to me is:
When the essential [service of] Ahavas Yisrael is lacking, what’s the point of Chassidus and Yiras Shamayim?
(From the Rebbe Mahrash, brought in Hayom Yom, pg. 77)

I hope that this campaign takes off and is treated seriously by all.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gimmel Tammuz Reflections

The Rebbe with Rabbi JJ Hecht at a Lag BaOmer rally

Rabbi Yossi Braun sent out this poignant email of his thoughts as we approach Gimmel Tammuz.

Rebbe Oh Rebbe!
Reflections for Gimmel Tammuz
By Rabbi Yossi Braun

My fingers are numb, the keyboard buttons are stiff and rigid, the mouse has frozen and the computer screen is staring me right in the eye appearing as one mass of blurriness. I want to scream and shout; tell the world his glory…

I want to give a message loud and clear in CAPS, BOLD AND UNDERLINED – Let my people know….

But it’s not happening. The words have become stuck in my throat. And my fingers are not cooperating.

I just can’t. I’m at a loss for words.

I have zero answers and loads of questions, doubts, confusions and uncertainties.
This is the wrong day, date and occasion. No, I can’t come to terms with it. I hate it.
The most eloquent speaker, the most meaningful metaphor, the most moving story – it just doesn’t work for me.

No explanation can do justice. No theory can cure the wound.
There is this huge gaping hole in my heart and no rationale can fill the hole and bridge the gap. You just can’t mend a broken heart.

But depression, melancholy and grieving is so off the mark too.

And “remembering his legacy” and “getting on with life” is just so amiss, so wrong and anathema to everything we stand for.
It’s called “losing the plot”. Missing the point. Totally off.

No, silence is not an option either.

Something must be said. Related. Announced. And possibly even shouted from the hilltops.
But what is that “something”? How do we go about it? Where is the secret formula?
It doesn’t exist. There is no secret formula

Which brings me back to the beginning: My fingers are numb, the keyboard buttons are stiff and rigid, the mouse has frozen…..

We’re lost, confused and torn. Torn between reality and another form of reality. Between heart and mind. Between The Truth and our truth. Between the present and the future.

Sure, we know and understand: the Rebbe is here like before. With us and in us. Nothing has changed.

Yet, the heart is still aching: nothing has changed yet so much has changed; so much is lacking and wanting.

Certainly, we believe with perfect faith, we acknowledge the fact that Moshiach is coming any second; it’s going to be something like never before. But, “we need some spirits ‘til we get to the bar”.

Rebbe Oy Rebbe! How we long to see your holy face again and draw inspiration from your holy countenance! If only we can hear your voice once again. One more time.

Shir Hashirim feels so relevant like never before.

Oh Rebbe! “Show me your appearance, let me hear your voice, for your voice is pleasant and your appearance is comely”.

I remember the farbrengens; I remember the Rebbe’s voice. How good were the days when “I delighted and sat in his shade and his fruit was so sweet to my palate”.

“On my bed at night, I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but I did not find him. I will arise and go about the city, in the market places and in the city squares. I will seek him…”

Hey. Wait a minute. I hear something. True. I’m in a deep slumber but my heart is awake and beating fast. It’s coming. Here it is.

Kol dodi dofek. My beloved is knocking: Open for me, my sister, my beloved….
I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had hidden and was gone. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he did not answer me”.

A moment of truth, but it’s all gone. What now? So where do we go from here?

We all have those moments where it rings so true. Where we experience a glimpse of the future, a taste of “living with Moshiach”. Where we begin to appreciate our higher calling.

This was a moment which needs to be savoured. It was a moment where the heart has detected some of the brainwaves. It became in touch with The Truth. It has been washed, if only for a moment, with the Torah Truth.

“Behold, he is standing behind our wall, watching through the windows, peeking through the lattices”.

We ought to take those fleeting moments of inspiration and invest them. Build on them. ACT ON IT.

Create an ongoing dialogue between your heart and mind. The gap can be bridged and will be bridged. You can sync your heart with the reality of Torah. Align your emotions with the promise of a future.

It works. Action is the place where heart and mind can meet.

Through “following in his footsteps”, learning about Moshiach and keeping his directives, it will happen. It will be for real. In this world. B’gashmiyus mamosh. And imminently, very very soon.

“The sound of my beloved, behold, he is coming, skipping over the mountains, jumping over the hills”.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gimmel Tammuz Thoughts

Rabbi Shimon Posner is the shaliach in Rancho Mirage, California. This article comes from his weekly community email.

By Rabbi Shimon H Posner

Walking down Thirty-Fourth Street you see the camera-clad map-wielding tourists heading towards the entranceway of the Empire State Building. They stop and look up, they lean back, lean all the way back until just before they loose balance, and they start clicking pictures – of a wide, wide wall.

The more self-conscious, the more sophisticated blush when the passing New Yorkers suppress a sly grin. It is only once the tourist gets to Seventh Avenue that they gain any perspective of this magnificent, elegant landmark soaring above an already impressive skyline -- and how it is head and shoulders above Spokane.

Was the Rebbe a rabbi? Well yes, but no. Forget it, I'm not going to be able to explain what the Rebbe was, what the Rebbe is. It is now what, thirteen years already since his passing, and I don't see any perspective. I see legacy; newlyweds who never even spoke with the Rebbe that are chopping at the bit to do his work even before they've unpacked their wedding gifts.

"Look into the eyes of the one who has gazed upon the Rebbe!" the shtetl Jews would declare. Look at the lucky one who had made the trip-- by foot usually, by horse and buggy if they possessed what was considered wealth – to spend a Rosh Hashanah, a Succos, with the Rebbe. Perspective?

I see that his idea -- which raised more eyebrows than interest fifty years ago -- is now considered normative Jewish experience; Jewish children will be more inspired than their parents' generation: tradition for a generation without memory. When I came to Rancho Mirage a kind soul suggested that we'll be getting lots of calls for people who want to say kaddish in a traditional shul: like the one their parents frequented. Once in a long while we get such a call. Regularly, just ten minutes ago in fact, we get a call for help with getting kosher food: their grandchildren are visiting.

So if I can't give any perspective on the Rebbe why do I write of him on his yartzeit? For the exercise: the mere exercise will allow a place for the perspective to develop -- and will show the void of having no perspective. Lots of people who take their given expertise very seriously predicted what would happen to Chabad once the Rebbe would pass on, especially the youth. None that I know of spoke of a legacy which becomes more dynamic, not less. I would not have thought it.

Many of these couples are not fully aware of it, but they are not the first. It was their grandparents' generation that was arrested and served in Siberias Jews. In the blank next to the word "crime:" was written the word that sentenced them: Schneersonist. Most of these Schneersonists had never seen the Rebbe then; those who did not survive, never met the Rebbe now. The Bolsheviks meant Schneersonist pejoratively.

President Dubya on a trip to Russia-former Soviet Union-CIS-or whatever, spent forty minutes longer than planned in a shul where Shneersonists were arrested, where one of those newlyweds had come back to -- can I say it without sounding hackneyed? -- breathe Jewish life into the embers of the Jewish spirit.

No, no this is not perspective, this is just a wide, wide wall. Perspective you want? Keep walking.

Chof Ches Sivan

Rabbi Yosef Braun of the Tzemach Tzedek Shul in Sydney sent out a short description of the significance of 28th Sivan 5701 (1941) - the day the Rebbe and Rebbitzen arrived in the United States. The photo above is of the Serpo Pinto - the ship they travelled on. also has a short description here.

Rabbi Groner (our Rabbi Groner) often reminiscences about meeting the Rebbe at the ship when it arrived in NY. He was a 16 year old bochur who had just started learning in Tomchei Temimim and went along with the other yeshiva bochurim as well as the seniour chassidim sent by the Friediger Rebbe. I suppose that his retelling of this history has made this occasion stand out in my mind - maybe more so than some other dates.

Rabbi Braun tells the story:

The Rebbe and the Rebbetzin were in France during the early years of World War II. In 5701/1941, after tremendous effort on the part of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn - who was already in the United States - the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin were able to travel to Portugal, from where they boarded a ship to the United States.
On 17 Sivan the Rebbe & Rebbetzin boarded the ship in Lisbon, Portugal on route to the United States. They were on the ship for 12 days, and the trip was under extreme dangerous conditions, with torpedoes very near. With Hashem's help the ship was not harmed by the Nazis Ym"s.
From on the ship the Rebbe sent a telegram to the Frierdiker Rebbe, which notified him that they had crossed over the treacherous waters of Europe.
On Monday, Chof Ches Sivan, at 10:30 a.m. the ship docked in New York Harbor.
The Previous Rebbe, because of ill health, was unable to greet his daughter and son-in-law personally. Instead, he sent four of his most eminent Chasidim to greet them. The Previous Rebbe informed them, "I am selecting you as my representatives to welcome my son-in-law, who is arriving tomorrow. I will reveal to you who he is: Every night he says the Tikkun Chatzot prayer over the destruction of the Holy Temple. He knows by heart both the entire Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds with their commentaries, and Maimonides' great Mishne Torah (code of Jewish law), and is expert in the works of Chabad philosophy!"
The 28th of Sivan became established as a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the rescue of the Rebbe and the Rebbetzin from the fires that raged in Europe.
It also marks the beginning of a new era in Chabad outreach with the establishment by the Previous Rebbe of the central Lubavitch educational and publishing departments, which he placed under the directorship of the Rebbe.
May the 28th of Sivan this year be the ultimate day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the rescue of the Rebbe and the entire Jewish people from these last moments of exile, may Hashem send the redemption NOW!
(Courtesy of Eliezer Zaklikovski ,Shmais & Torah4blind)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Yeshivah Gedolah Shluchim - Pesach Adventures

The Shluchim from YG went on mivtzoim during Pesach as usual and this year have been very active as far as publicising their good deeds. A few weeks ago they produced a very professional looking booklet with stories of the events that took place around Australia and in New Zealand. Now they have produced a video of these same events. It is great to see their achievements in outlying communities. Keep up the great work!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Aussie in the News

Shmais and have reported on the new light on the omud at 770 to let people know whether or not to say tachnun that day. The light was sponsored by our own Michael Goldhirsch which makes it newsworthy for me. Of course, this type of system has existed in Yeshivah Shul for many years.

Check out the comments on - some are quite amusing.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hail to the Millionaires

Business Review Weekly has again produced the Rich 200 edition - the most popular edition of the year, well at least for me it is. And again a number of our co-religionists feature prominently. Nathan Werdiger, Eliezer Kornhauser, Frank Lowy, Richard Pratt, Solly Lew, Harry Triguboff and many others. In general they are supporters of community institutions both Jewish and in the general community.

Those of us who missed out (again) this year wonder what these guys do with all this money. After all, when they have finished paying their school fees and for their shul seats and made their obligatory multiple-of-Chai contribution to the UIA they have a lot more left over in their bank accounts than we do.

I know that there are some people who are jealous of the amount of money/assets possessed by these millionaires and billionaires but it makes no difference to me how much they have. What concerns me is that they understand that they have an obligation to help people less fortunate - and by their actions it seems that they do. I say good on ya. Kein Yirbu!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kosher McDonalds - Only in Brazil!!

Ronald McD sporting a yamulka

As reported in Shmais, a McDonalds store in S Paulo, Brazil was kashered for the day for what I assume was a fundraising event. The report says that 5,000 members of the Jewish community attended and that over 13,000 burgers were sold. Shmuli Tuvel, a "bochur shaliach" in S Paulo, who hails from Sydney, took lots of of photos of the event - see here.

I think that this is a great idea - although I wouldn't want to be the person kashering the place!

Shmuli Tuvel on mivtzoim

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Engel Family Sitting Shiva

We just received the sad news of the untimely passing of Rabbi Eliyahu Engel in Crown Heights.

Many of us have seen Rabbi Engel in Melbourne over the last number of years as he is the father of Rabbi Sholom Ber Engel, Rabbi Shaul Engel, Mrs Shternie (Rimler) Perline and Mrs Estie Benhamou.

Rabbi Engel ob"m, was a shliach in Australia in the 1970s and Rabbi of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation for a period of time. If someone knows more information about his time in Australia I would appreciate hearing about it.

The levaya will be in New York on Sunday and I understand that all the Australian Engels will be sitting shiva in Crown Heights. The phone number in Crown Heights is (718) 953 2429. Please be aware that New York time is 14 hours behind Melbourne time.