Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spot the Aussie

Shturem has photos from a number of Lechaims held for recent engagements. Two Sydney engagements were included - Lieder & Greenblat (Argentina) and Friedman-Leuchter. The photos are here and include a number of Australians.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Aussie in the News

Rabbi Yossi (ben Reb Arel) Serebryanski is a shaliach in Denver, Colorado. He is featured in the above video on the Denver Post website.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Representative Leadership

There have been a number of comments here, in shul and around the community about the Vaad Ruchni and it's recent rulings. Unfortunately there is a lot of scepticism and cynicism about the leadership of Chabad in Melbourne and Yeshiva Shul in particular. These feelings have been brewing for a while but, with the passing of Rabbi Groner obm, they are being expressed more openly.

Due to a number of reasons, not the least Rabbi Groner's ill health over the last few years, our community has had a feeling of being rudderless. This is despite the many Chabad Houses and good works done by groups and individuals in the community. Even though there is a lot being done as far as outreach to the general Jewish community there is a feeling that not enough is being done to nurture our own community. I believe that this needs to start with either the Yeshivah Executive/Committee of Management, the Vaad Ruchni, Rabbi Telsner or maybe some other group of people who really care.

It appears to me that the established leadership has certain strengths and weaknesses:

The Yeshivah Executive/Committee of Management: From my observation this self-appointed committee work hard on an individual and group basis. I know that many, if not all, of them give much of their time to Yeshivah matters despite having businesses to run and the needs of their family to meet. The issues I see are that
(1) they are self-appointed therefore not giving other talented people in the community a chance to participate. This also ensures that only like-minded people are appointed to the executive and different points of view may not necessarily be heard.
(2) they appear to be mainly concerned with the running of Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah Colleges and not necessarily with the general Chabad community.
(3) being self appointed they are not accountable to anyone in the community and we have to accept their decisions as there is no other choice. I believe it would benefit everyone if they were subject to elections.
(4) there is no financial transparency. I assume that they control the finances but how would we know (see no 3 above).

The Vaad Ruchni:
(1) Nobody is really sure how they were appointed. We are told that Rabbi Groner directed that a Vaad Ruchni be setup before his passing but there appears to be general disbelief about that.
(2) While I have the utmost respect for the individual members some of them appear to be political appointments.
(3) The original statement from the Executive about their appointment states that the Vaad Ruchni will work together with the Committee of Management. I know that a lot of people feel that their rulings are subject to approval by the Executive and this weakens the impact and respect of the Vaad Ruchni.
(4) I don't believe that the Vaad Ruchni has made a convincing case that they should be allowed to make statements and rulings which affect us all. Already one of the members is involved in an unfortunate business dealing which negatively impacted on a number of people here.
(5) The latest ruling about exiting shul was, I believe, a good one. Unfortunately the practical aspects were not thought through and it became a source of annoyance and amusement.

Rabbi Telsner: I think that Rabbi Telsner has impressed most of the community with his knowledge and his commitment to serving the community. Being that he is only the Rav of the shul and has no input into the schools or the wider Chabad community. He is therefore the spiritual leader of the Yeshivah Shul and not of Melbourne Chabad which is, I believe, to the detriment of the community.

It seems obvious to me that there needs to be some way of uniting the whole of the Melbourne Chabad community. Demographics have changed drastically in the last 15 or 20 years and the community is not just based in Hotham Street but throughout Melbourne. There needs to be some mechanism where we can all meet together and discuss our needs and formulate a way for the community to proceed into the future. It appears that there needs to be an elected committee which is accountable to everyone and has fixed terms so that those elected understand that they have to perform or they will not be elected next time. In other words a simple democracy.

I know that there are a number of people and families who think that it is their right to "run" Melbourne but times have changed. There are many extremely talented people (men and women) - some are not even wealthy or related to the "major" families - who have a lot to give and who would love to devote their free time to the community. If we give everyone a chance it can only be a positive thing for us all.

It goes without saying that these ideas are mine alone. I welcome comments and input from others who have a different insight.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moadim LeSimcha!

Sukkot Dry Bones Golden OldieSukkot (1998) Dry Bones cartoon

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Va'ad Ruchni Suggestion

The Va'ad Ruchni has issued another "white paper" suggesting a more fitting way of exiting the Yeshivah Shul. This sort of falls in line with 770 (no not Yossel's - the real one) where they are also concerned about men and women mingling on the footpath outside after davening.

I do agree that at times it is extremely difficult to negotioate your way out of shul without having to push past people of the opposite sex. It is especially problematic on a Shabbos when there is a simcha or on any Yom Tov where there are a number of prams and pushers in the way as well. As is just human nature people stop to talk to their family and friends and forget that others are trying to exit.

Without being cynical - and in honest respect of the Va'ad Ruchni - I get the feeling that it is easier to issue rulings about minor problems rather than to deal with the more extreme issues of our community. The statement about drinking which was recently made is the closest to what I (and many others from what I have heard around the community) believe that the Va'ad should be concentrating on. I suppose that starting tonight we will see if the community is taking the Va'ad seriously about that particular issue.

The latest suggestion is:


In the precincts of a holy place such a Beis Haknesses (Shule) it is appropriate that certain standards of Tznius (modest behaviour) should be observed.

The area between the Shule entrance steps and the front gate often become congested, thereby creating a situation which is inappropriate for both men and women.

We therefore suggest that:-

  1. Men and boys should exit via the pedestrian gate directly opposite the Shule entrance and
  2. Women and girls should not congregate in the above area, but should turn left as they come to the bottom of the Shule steps and exit through the driveway gate.

We are sure that the obvious advantages of such an arrangement will far outweigh any minor inconvenience which it may cause.

We wish everyone Chag Sameach and may we merit the ultimate simcha - the Geulah Shleimah, bekorov mamosh.

Making Rings for the Lulav

I posted a couple of videos last year showing how to make rings for the lulav. This is a new one and is a different way of doing it compared to the two shown previously.

Good Yom Tov!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nothing's Changed

This 10 minute clip is from the Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s and, despite being made in the "dark ages", is pretty close to what those of us who have to travel economy class experience.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Interesting Photos from 770

The new English COL has some interesting photos from Erev Yom Kippur at 770.

This group is vaguely amusing and sort of ties in with my erev Yom Kippur post below. In a more serious vein the photos here are quality pics which give a nice feel to the Tishrei events in and around Crown Heights.

International Sukkah List

Avi Vorchheimer has put out his annual Sukkah listings again. This is his 14th year of collating and publicising sukkot throughout Melbourne and the world for the convenience of those of us that need to work during Chol Hamoed or are away from home for whatever reason.

This year Avi has updated the website - - and it looks much nicer, has a better layout and has more information than in the past.

Avi is one of Melbourne's quiet achievers. Great job Avi - we all appreciate your work.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Erev Yom Kippur - 5747

The Rebbe used to give a brocha to the Tmimim in the upstairs shul in 770 just before Kol Nidrei. It is a custom for fathers to bless their children on erev Yom Kippur and the Rebbe considered the bochrim to be his children. This was a not to be missed occasion and the room was packed to the rafters - quite literally.

This wonderful video came to me via Menachem K (see his blog of interesting stories of the Rebbe here).

Gmar Chasima Tova and have an easy fast.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Frierdiger Rebbe's Office

The Frierdiger Rebbe signing US citizenship papers in his office

Shturem has published a video of the Previous Rebbe's office in 770. It seems that the video comes from the Behadrei Hadorim section of the "Hyde Park" Israeli website.

For the interesting video of a room few of us have had the zechus to see in person click here.

For a wonderful colour video of the Previous Rebbe becoming an American citizen click here.