Monday, January 26, 2009

Rabbi Sacks on Chabad

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talks to CNN about Chabad and the Holtzbergs. While he is a great speaker I am pleased that it is only 2 1/2 minutes as I found myself falling asleep - he really has a boring and monotonous delivery.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photos from the Front

Jake Livni (who has previously sent photos from Israel of Rabbi Groner's levaya) just sent me these photos he took in Sderot and at the staging area just outside Gaza just a few days ago. He describes his trip:

I went to Sderot on Sunday this week, a few hours after the ceasefire that Israel declared unilaterally. Hamas celebrated the ceasefire in classical style by launching 20 rocket attacks into Israel. I joined a group of Americans handing out food treats and clothing (socks, underwear, towels) to the soldiers who were leaving the Gaza Strip. First stop was Sderot, where we picked up an order of fresh baked goods to distribute. The people of Sderot are just trying to live normal everyday lives, despite the concrete bomb shelters at bus stops, the concrete bomb-proof umbrellas built over school buildings, the 15-second incoming-missile alerts, and the media milling about.

From Sderot we went to a military staging area just outside the fence with Gaza. The soldiers were delighted to see us. They were very happy that this battle was over. The tanks and APCs carrying the soldiers were loud and fast; I had to be careful running in the mud, getting close to these large moving machines, but not too close. We heard one Qassam land somewhere nearby and explode.

Finally we went to a military base in the area, where family members were streaming in to see their sons/husbands/brothers who were coming back from Gaza. One grandfather and grandmother were so very happy to see their grandson safe and well and asked me to take their photo. I couldn't refuse them.

Now Israel is going back to the usual: politics, elections and the lack of rain, among other things. At least this chapter has worked out mostly well for now. Some soldiers have died, others injured. They can't celebrate with us but aren't forgotten.


All images are Copyright Jake Livni and may not be reproduced without permission. For enquiries, email AussieEcho and I will forward any messages to him.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Jewish Way

The traditional Jewish way of dealing with difficult times is with humour. This Dry Bones cartoon is more factual than funny but I think the video expresses everyones frustration with the media well.

The Rebbe's Room

Photo by Fred R Conrad/The New York Times

The New York Times has just published a short piece by Alan Feuer about the Rebbe's room. The interesting article can be found here.

No One There, but This Place Is Far From Empty

According to the sages, sanctity lingers. “Holiness,” the Talmud says, “does not depart its place.”

There are many places holy to Jews — the Western Wall and Joseph’s Tomb among them — but one of the plainest and least-known is the empty ground-floor study on your left just inside Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

There, in 1942, a young rabbi and electrical engineer named Menachem Mendel Schneerson settled in, having fled the war in Europe and spent a year doing classified military work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Rabbi Schneerson was the son-in-law (and cousin) of Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, who then led the Lubavitch movement. Over the next half-century, as he took the reins, no other physical location, from his house on President Street to his eventual grave in Queens was ever more connected to the great, respected man.

“People look toward the rebbe’s room today as they did to the rebbe himself, as a beacon of light,” said Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, a leader of the Lubavitch community. “One might think of it as suffused — with awe.”

Before Rabbi Schneerson died in 1994, few people realized how small the study was, a tiny, although tasteful, place with a chandelier and ornamental moldings. It is a testament to his presence that while many were permitted in, they were so intimidated that they scarcely had the wit to look around.

During his life, in fact, the study was a mess, a disorderly scholar’s cave strewn with books, religious tracts and mountains of correspondence. The small space functioned as an office and, despite the clutter, as a throne room: for there, among the letters and the papers, the rebbe courted mayors, senators, presidents and every prime minister of Israel.

On Sunday and Thursday nights, from 8 p.m. until 6 the following morning, the study was transformed into a parlor, as Rabbi Schneerson met his flock, listening and solving problems, not unlike a clubhouse politician. The sessions were so popular that reservations were required — often months in advance. People got as little as a minute. When your time was up, a buzzer would sound.

In 1988, after Rabbi Schneerson’s wife died, he moved into the study full time. He slept there, and disciples brought his meals. Four years later, when he had a stroke, the study became his private I.C.U. Medicine went to him.

These days, the study is a shrine of sorts, mostly empty beyond a clock, a desk, some glass-fronted bookcases and a decorative style that is classic old-time Brooklyn. There is a 1950s-era telephone, and the window facing Eastern Parkway is made of bulletproof glass.

Grooms meditate there before their wedding days, and people pray. On any morning when the Torah is read, the worshipers flow from the study out into the hall.

“This great world leader lived in one room, as simple and as plain as could be,” Rabbi Krinsky said. “There was no embellishment, no opulence. It was exactly like the man.”

One more thing about the all-night advice sessions: A story is told that when Senator John F. Kennedy was running for president, he sought an audience with Rabbi Schneerson. He happened by one night when a session was afoot. As the senator had no reservation, he was politely turned away.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Open Letter to the World

This "Open Letter" was supposed to have been written by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Despite how he has been portrayed in the media I believe the sentiments expressed are felt by most Jews whatever their political opinions.

During this particular time in our history this letter really hits the spot.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Memory of Greg Sher

A website has been created in memory of Private Greg Sher a"h who was killed in Afghanistan on January 4 this year. Amongst his other activities Greg was an active member of the Community Security Group and was often seen outside Yeshivah on Shabbos.

The website can be found here.

Down with fruit drinks!!

I couldn't resist posting this photo from one of the anti-Israel (=anti-Semitic) demonstrations being held around the world. Like many of his friends this guy is obviously a deep thinker.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Great Insight into the Gaza War

Part 1

Part 2

Hal Lindsay is, according to his entry in Wikipedia, an American evangelist, Christian writer and Christian Zionist. He delivers a coherent explanation of the war in Gaza. This is worth watching if only to get ideas on how to explain the situation to your non-Jewish friends and colleagues. (Just ignore the last 45 seconds of part 2).

Thanks to SS for directing me to this.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Simons Yartzeit in Crown Heights

A Yartzeit gathering and farbrengen in memory of Zev & Rochel Simons was held in Crown Heights last night. Reports and photos are on and COL.

Many Australians who are currently in New York as well as previous shluchim to Sydney were there.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Private Greg Sher A"H

After receiving permission from the family the Defence Department named the latest casualty in Afghanistan, Private Greg Sher. Greg was a member of the 1st Commando Regiment based in Sydney.

According to the Chevra Kadisha website the date and time of the funeral will be announced this Friday.

Personal statement released
on behalf of the family of Private Greg Sher
Greg’s entire family and his many friends are devastated by his untimely death.

Although the family of any person in the military is aware of the possible risks involved, it is not until the worst happens that you realise the real danger our armed forces personnel face.

Greg, for all who knew him, was a man of purpose and committed determination. He was an extremely positive person with a kind soul.

He was the sort of mate who would do anything for anyone, and his friends knew him for the great guy that he was. He was a loyal and loving family member who always put his family high on his list of priorities.

His decision to serve his country was a true indication of his character. He always wanted to help and be of assistance, and he had this opportunity on a previous deployment to East Timor.

Greg was much admired by his Army colleagues and was seen as a quiet achiever who always got the job done. His mates have described him as the best operator they have ever known.

We wish to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all those who have shown support at this very difficult time.

Most importantly, we ask to be left in peace in order to grieve in private.

Articles in the media:
The Australian
The Age
Sydney Morning Herald

Our thoughts go out to the family at this sad time.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

First Yartzeit of Zev and Rochel

Tomorrow, 11 Teves, is the first yartzeit of Zev and Rochel Simons. I think today, Asoroh BeTeves, is a fitting time to give tzedokah in their name. Click on the Simons Sefer Torah link on the right of this blog or go directly to the site by clicking here.

The Rebbe - 1967

The Rebbe's Message from Shmuli on Vimeo.

This video appeared on and I assume is taken from one of the JEM videos. It shows part of the Rebbe's sicha at the Lag BaOmer rally in 5727 (1967) just before the Six Day War. If I understand correctly the average person didn't know that there would be a war in Israel a month later and didn't quite understand what the Rebbe was alluding to. The Rebbe also started the Tefillin Campaign just before the June War.

In any case this is an appropriate message for this time.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fifteen Seconds

This graphic video comes from and illustrates succinctly what the Gaza war is all about.