Summer issue of Lubavitch International

Page 1







ennessee Governor Bill Haslam joined members of Nashville’s broader Jewish community in April, to celebrate the opening of the new Chabad of Nashville Genesis Campus for Jewish Life. Funded largely by philanthropist Boaz Ramon, the $3 million architectural beauty, set inside nature, surrounded by trees and wildlife, make it a beckoning spiritual oasis. Constructed from local materials—40 tons of stone from a Tennessee quarry—the new center, the vision of Chabad representatives Rabbi Yitzchok and Esther Tiechtel, fits organically into its environment. The building’s interior design is reminiscent of Jerusalem’s Old City. Continued on page 4

New Chabad Center AT Sarah Lawrence College


isdom with understanding,” the motto of Sarah Lawrence College, fits perfectly with the ideals of Chabad, which is opening a center at the Bronxville campus in time for the 2012 fall semester. Continued on page 3


The Nobel Laureate shares his thoughts on bearing witness, the teacher-student relationship, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his Shluchim. Page 6

Chabad Synagogue, Basel

First in

80 Years F

or the first time in 80 years, Basel’s Jewish community—the second largest in Switzerland—dedicated a synagogue. The inauguration in April of the Feldinger Chabad Jewish Center represented a meaningful milestone for Jewish life here.

The city’s earliest Jewish settlements date back to the 12th century, yet Basel still enjoys a well established community that maintains many educational and social institutions. But as with other European cities, this one on the banks of the Rhine River has witnessed patterns of a dwindling Jewish population in recent years. Europe’s old Jewish communities have long suffered from anti-Semitism, assimilation and steady immigration to Israel. Continued on page 5





Bat Mitzvah

In Paris

Susan Handelman

Travel Guide

PG 8

PG 10

PG 15

PG 16


A Teacher

Make Yourself A Teacher







It is worthwhile and appropriate for every Jewish man, woman and child to fulfill the instructions of the mishna, “Make for yourself a teacher.” One ought to choose a teacher whom they admire and respect, and communicate with him or her periodically, evaluating with the teacher’s help, their achievements in terms of the individual’s Divine service, their moral and ethical behavior, and all other matters concerning their spiritual development.




June/July 2012. Volume 2, Issue 2. Lubavitch International is published 5 times a year, February, June, April, September, and December by Machne Israel, 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213. Postage paid at Brooklyn, NY post offices.


Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky


Baila Olidort

Executive Editor

Rabbi Yosef B. Friedman

Managing Editor Zalman Feldman

Media Relations Yaacov Behrman

Features Editor

Mordechai Lightstone

Contributing Writers S. Fridman Rena Greenberg Chaviva Galatz

Published by

mACHNe IsRAel luBAVITCH NeWs seRVICe The official news network of the Chabad-lubavitch movement Since 1958 luBAVITCH WoRld HeAdquARTeRs 770 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, NY 11213 Email: 718-774-4000 WWW.luBAVITCH.Com

--The Lubavitcher Rebbe

OF TEACHERS AND STUDENTS Rabbi Yohanan’s sons all predeceased their father. Unwilling to fully part from his children, Rabbi Yohanan carried a fragment of the bone of his 10th son wherever he went, never forgetting his bereavement (Berachot 5b and Rashi). When his student, Resh (Shimon ben) Lakish, died, Rabbi Yochanan was inconsolable. He tore his garments and wept, “Where are you, O son of Lakisha, where are you, O son of Lakisha?” and he cried until he lost his mind. The rabbis took pity on him, and prayed for an end to his unbearable suffering, whereupon he died (Bava Metzia 84a).


abbi Yochanan, compiler of the Jerusalem Talmud, was one of the greatest teachers of the Talmudic era. His father died before his birth, and he was orphaned of his mother soon after. Tragedy would mark the rest of his years with the death of each of his children in his lifetime. But his grief at the loss of his student, Resh Lakish, exceeded even his agony over the loss of his sons. For in his student, Rabbi Yochanan found not only a mind receptive to his own, but a resource so vitally nurturing and confirming that without it he lost his will to live. Those fortunate enough to have so rarefied an experience with a teacher or student may find it difficult to describe. How to articulate that something without which life seems unimaginable? As the articles and features in this issue fell into place, the theme of the teacher-student relationship began to emerge. It is an appropriate theme, coming as it does on the 18th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe—when we reflect on the bond between the Rebbe and his own disciples; on what has been lost with his passing, and on what he left to us to build upon. “The relationship between teacher and student is mysterious,” Elie Wiesel, who chose his teachers and learnt hungrily from them, said in our conversation (page 6). When describing his own relationship with the Rebbe, the prolific writer becomes reticent; the mystery is not easily given to articulation. Historically, the best of Jewish study and scholarship emerged out of paradigmatic teacher-student relationships, as many of the anecdotal excursions in the Talmud show. But such relationships are less commonplace today. In 1986 the Rebbe exhorted his disciples—men, women and the children—to follow the advice of the mishna in Ethics of the Fathers, “Make for yourself a teacher.”

In her review of Susan Handelman’s book, Make Yourself A Teacher (page 14), Chana Silberstein speaks to the same theme: It is not access to knowledge that defines Jewish education, but rather the “close relationships of teachers and students.” In this issue’s Profile (page 10), we feature a contemporary example of loving teachers who were catalysts to amazing transformations in the lives of their students. Those of us fortunate to remember our time with the Rebbe know the blessing of the experience. Today, we remember with the help of videos of the Rebbe as he communicated with his students. These recordings offer an invaluable look back at a fascinating phenomenon, as interesting for what we can glean from them about the Rebbe as for what they reveal about the disciples in his presence. What was it that kept thousands of eyes fastened to his face? In the best of Jewish tradition, the teacher is a conduit, the individual who stands at the chasm that threatens to sever past from present, and closes the gaping hole that would make it impossible for today’s generation to build upon yesterday’s achievements. Perhaps that is what the Chasidim saw as they gazed for hours upon the Rebbe: the individual who stood at the halfway point negotiating with fascinating creativity and success the Torah of a lost generation in a new world; the quintessential teacher who enables his students to move forward, by securing them with solid foundations. When Joshua the prophet protested the fact that ordinary individuals were aspiring to prophecy—once a form of teaching generally reserved for the few elite—Moses rebuked him. “Would that all the people were prophets . . .” Master teacher that he was, Moses rejected the notion that teaching was the domain of the few. For those of us who remember hearing the Rebbe speak, Moses’s words resonate. The Rebbe called upon us to choose our teachers and grow as students, but he also wanted each of us to be teachers. Indeed, Shluchim of the Rebbe reflect this dynamic, each one a student dedicated to daily study, each one a teacher to his or her respective community. In the process all are enriched as the circle of students and teachers engaged in the giving and receiving of Torah continues to widen and grow. Baila Olidort


EDUCATION SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE continued from cover page.

and understanding of their faith.” The Deitschs, who were recruited by Rabbi Velvl Butman, Executive Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Westchester County, have visited the campus several times. “Some students responded enthusiastically, and others laughed at us. They told us ‘You are never going to get a minyan, everyone here is way too liberal!’”

Rabbi Sruli and Mushka Deitsch will begin their activities as full Chabad representatives, where they will introduce a variety of Jewish educational and social programs for the Jewish student body of this liberal arts college. Rated the “College with the Best Discussions” by The Princeton Review, SLC’s academic structure combines small seminar classes with individual, biweekly studentfaculty conferences, giving SLC’s 1,670 students the opportunity to develop very close relationships with their professors. “We want to recreate the successful round table experience the students enjoy in college, in our programming. “Our goal is to foster a close relationship with the students, and engage them in interactive discussions on Jewish themes.” But in its 2011 assessment of the Best 373 Colleges, The Princeton Review also rated SLC the nation’s least religious campus, creating an interesting challenge that Rabbi and Mrs. Deitsch see as an opportunity. “From our interactions with students thus far we saw that these students like to understand the details of Judaism through personal discovery. After experiencing Judaism in its practical form they begin to seek a deeper meaning


Chabad School in Lugansk

Hosts National Academic Competition For the fifth consecutive year, students from across Ukraine participated in the prestigious academic Olympiad at the Beit Menachem Ohr Avner Chabad day school in Lugansk, Ukraine. All municipal schools in the country participate in the contest which tests students’ academic mastery.

Nearly one third of the college population is Jewish. A good majority of students at this once women’s only college hail from major Jewish cities, like New York, New Jersey, or Los Angeles. Among the college’s notable alumni are Jewish names like Barbara Walters, Rahm Emanuel, J. J. Abrams, and Kyra Sedgewick. Despite the large number of Jews who have passed through its doors, the college has never had a permanent Jewish center. Westchester County’s campuses have been served by Hillel and other Jewish organizations, “yet students are happy to know that we are offering them the option of the unique Chabad spirit of Jewish celebration.” Rabbi Deitsch said. “We hope to inspire a culture shift so that along with creative writing, the arts and the philosophical discussions of Sarah Lawrence, students will recognize the relevance of Judaism in their lives. The Deitschs will begin their activities with a grant from the Rohr Family Foundation in conjunction with Chabad on Campus.

“Our goal is to foster a close relationship with the students, and engage them in interactive discussions on Jewish themes.”


hen the event was first hosted by the private Jewish school five years ago, it represented a milestone for the Jewish community which succeeded in persuading local education authorities to allow its participation despite the fact that it does not conduct classes on Saturday. The Olympiad was a great success, and hosting duties soon became a tradition for Ohr Avner. “For the first two years we had to convince (the authorities) to allow us the honor of hosting,” explained Chief Rabbi of Lugansk and local Chabad emissary, Rabbi Sholom Gopin. “Today we have reached a point where we are forced to turn away some of the interested schools due to a lack of room.”

This year, more than one hundred third and fourth grade students converged on the city to compete for the top academic prizes in Mathematics, Russian, Ukrainian and English. The friendly intellectual competition serves as a motivating factor for both students and teachers to achieve optimal excellence in their studies. Tanya Vertinikova, Deputy Mayor of the city and head of the local Ministry of Education, who presided over the administration of the tests, praised Ohr Avner’s high level of educational standards and achievements. The accomplishments were particularly impressive considering that aside from the full government school program, Ohr Avner students must complete an additional six to eight hours a week of Hebrew and Judaic studies. Lugansk’s Ohr Avner day school, a trailblazing institution for the active Jewish community, under the auspices of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, has been critical to the revival of Jewish life in this east Ukrainian city.




NASHVILLE CHABAD CENTER continued from cover page.

Speaking from the pulpit of the new sanctuary, flanked by an 18 foot glass wall, the Governor said, “Any time you dedicate a new, physical place of remembering, a place of study and a place of life, the community moves forward.” He described the new center as a reflection of great communities and great states which “are made up of a combination of people who all bring their gifts and talents to bear on making that community a better place.” With the tree of life carved in wood on the magnificent ark in the background, Rabbi Tiechtel spoke emotionally, of having come full circle. “When my namesake, my great grandfather Yitzchok Raskin lived in communist Russia he, too, started in a basement. I’m sure he dreamt of a synagogue, a living center as this. But he was taken away cruelly by the KGB.” In the 1940s, Chabad planted roots in Nashville when Rabbi Zalman Posner arrived as a representative of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn.

“So many people in Nashville had a part in making this Center happen, so it is truly a wonderful testament to our cohesive community.”

The Tiechtel children help the Governor cut the ribbon.

Governor Haslam greets Nashville community members at the dedication ceremony.

The 14,000 square ft. center, constructed by Mr. Fred Yazdian who dedicated 20 moths of his time to the project, includes a an oak paneled library, a social hall, a kosher dairy café, two kosher commercial kitchens, an exquisite mikvah, an outdoor patio and play space. “So many people in Nashville had a part in making this Center happen, so it is truly a wonderful testament to our cohesive community,” said Rabbi Tiechtel. The new center, he said, “presents us with an opportunity and a challenge to grow in every way, and make Jewish life in Nashville exciting, meaningful and enriching. Tommy Bernard, president of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nashville, Tennessee is proud of the Genesis Campus for Jewish Life.

Community members enjoy dinner in the new center’s ballroom.

“I’m proud of what people are going to feel when they walk through the doors, and I’m proud of having been part of making it happen.” Bernard, who has been studying Torah, Jewish law and Chasidic thought with Rabbi Tiechtel and has been a supporter of the local Chabad House for the last decade, was thrilled to see the move from the Tiechtel’s basement space to the new facility. “They have built something I think is going to be quite timeless,” said Bernard. “And I think they will be there for many years to come.”

The Genesis Campus for Jewish Life at night.




chabad synagogue in basel continued from cover page.

Chabad in Basel is drawing Jews who are typically younger, urban and unaffiliated. “They are successful and accomplished, yet feel a disconnect with anything related to Judaism or their heritage.”

build the foundations of a new community that will allow them to experience Judaism and Jewish culture in a meaningful way.” With a whirlwind of Shabbat gatherings, holiday awareness campaigns, youth clubs and adult education classes, the Wishedskis’ Jewish outreach is breathing new life into the declining status quo.

Front facade of the Feldinger Chabad Jewish Center

“The exodus from the Diaspora,” as the trend is known, has left even long-standing institutions struggling to keep their constituents. So the opening a new synagogue in the city—the first since 1929—is somewhat of an anomaly, heralding a fresh outlook in contrast to what has been described by leading scholars as “the dying European Jewish Community.” Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski, who codirects Chabad-Lubavitch of Basel with his wife Devorah, attributes Chabad’s unique appeal to Basel’s unaffiliated Jews to this reversal.

“The communities here consist mainly of Jews who have lived here for years. They are generally very traditional and at some point, they find their way to Israel or other strong Jewish communities worldwide. There the chance of their children assimilating is smaller.” Chabad in Basel, he explained, is drawing Jews who are typically younger, urban and unaffiliated. “They are successful and accomplished, yet feel a disconnect with anything related to Judaism or their heritage. At our Chabad Center, we work with them to

The warm and inviting Chabad community, which celebrated its 10th year anniversary this year, works well with the established Jewish community (“Israelitische Gemeinde Basel” – IGB), supplementing its activities. Guy Rueff, President of the IGB, agrees. “We have a good working relationship and we have cooperated in the past in joint events. Chabad has clearly shown that it is an asset to the community.”

Remembering the Feldingers The new Feldinger Chabad Jewish Center was sponsored by Miamibased philanthropist Sami Rohr in honor of the Feldingers, a Basel Jewish family who personally sheltered him during World War II. The center, which began hosting ac-

tivities in 2008, is centrally located in the city in a building that used to house a non-kosher butcher shop. Wishedski describes the converted property, now boasting an elegant synagogue, social hall, lecture rooms and game room for children, as “architectural genius.” “It is built in such a way that it is able to serve us for any possible event or activity. The furniture is almost like Lego in the way it connects and comes apart.”

Benefactor’s Personal Connection Mr. Rohr’s family had fled Lyon in unoccupied France in 1943 and was smuggled into Switzerland. When his parents were taken to a refugee camp in Morgin, Mr. Rohr was sent to a children’s home near Basel. Soon after, some members of Basel’s Jewish community took the refugee children home to care for them. Rohr was welcomed wholeheartedly into the home of Shlomo Zalman and Recha Feldinger, who treated him as one of their own. Today, Mr. Rohr, patriarch of the distinguished Rohr Family, sees the new synagogue and Chabad center as the ultimate way to continue their legacy.



Photo By Bentzi Sasson


Q & A

Elie Wiesel, one of the most passionate Jewish voices of our time, enjoyed an enduring correspondence and personal relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. An avid student, a sought after teacher, survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Wiesel is the author of numerous related books, among them the bestselling Night, the first in a trilogy about his life in the concentration camps. Recipient of many literary awards and honorary degrees, Mr. Wiesel, a professor at Boston University, spoke with Baila Olidort.

BAILA OLIDORT: You were an enthusiastic student from a young age. Did you look for moral character in your teachers? ELIE WIESEL: Absolutely. I would not want one who uses knowledge against the moral dimension of life as a teacher. I have lobbied around the world pleading for compulsory courses on ethics in every school—medicine, architecture, commerce. What are we doing if not that? In your memoirs you write about the Torah study of your childhood in Sighet, and then how you continued to study after the war. What do you continue to study today?

I remain with gemara—Bavli and Yerushalmi, and all of the Chasidic masters.

You describe your relationships with several teachers who clearly held a very significant place in your life. And today you are a teacher. Do you have a similar relationship with your students as your teachers had with you? I hope so. I can [have that kind of relationship] because I choose my students, I choose my subjects.

The relationship between teacher and student is very mysterious. You know that according to halakhah, [ Jewish law] if a father and a teacher are kidnapped, we ransom the teacher first. So it is very mysterious. Students are there to receive, and I am there to give. Where do we meet? Do you think this kind of intense relationship between student and teacher is intrinsically Jewish?

Well, the Greeks had it too. Socrates and Plato were after all very, very close. But ours is more so.

Tell me about the mystery of the relationship between the Rebbe and yourself. That is too personal.

But, when the Rebbe was alone with anyone, it was an opening. He opened doors for his visitor, or his student or Chasid—secret doors that we all have. It wasn’t a break-in. It was just an invitation. And that was really the greatness of the Rebbe. I think the Rebbe had a great talent for that—one of the greatest and the best that Judaism has ever seen. Would you say that the Chasid and the student are the same?

A Chasid comes not only to learn from the Rebbe, but more than than that: to live. Meetings, farbrengens with the

Rebbe—they become a chapter in life. The interesting part is that in ancient times, the teacher chose the student. In Chasidic times, it was the Chasid who chose the Rebbe. And the moment the Chasid chose the Rebbe, the Rebbe had no right to say no. You are a Vizhnitzer Chasid.

Yes, and I began each meeting with the Rebbe telling him that.

What compelled you to come to the Rebbe in the first place?

The late Gershon Jacobson—he was my colleague. I was writing for Yediot Aharonot in Israel and for the Yiddish Forward, and he was writing for the [Yiddish] Tog Morgan Journal. We met often, and he would tell me, “You should go and see the Rebbe.” I’d tell him that I’m a Vizhnitzer. He said, come as a journalist. I came as a journalist for the first time. And once I met the Rebbe, it was for always.

What did you take away with you from the farbrengens?

That is personal. But, I once came to a farbrengen, I think it was in honor of the Rebbe’s 70th birthday, and there was a big book [where guests wrote inscriptions] and I wrote, Ashrei hador sheAdmor manhigo. “Fortunate is the generation that has the Rebbe as its leader.” The Rebbe created a bond, first of all between Chasid and Chasid. That was true of every Rebbe back to the Ba’al Shem Tov, that when a Chasid came to the farbrengen, it wasn’t only about the bond with the Rebbe; emunat tzadikim [faith in the tzaddik] is one thing. But dibbuk chaverim [bonds between friends) is something else. And the Rebbe achieved that.

After the Holocaust, Vizhnitz and Chasidic life more generally was transplanted from Europe to Israel and to America. Was anything lost in the process? Yes, the authenticity. What we managed to do was to save Vizhnitz by transferring the geography. Vizhnitz is there, but not really [the way it was] —everything is diminished. The world is diminished. Our ancient teachers say we are farther away from Sinai. Many young Jews feel that today there’s nothing stopping us from integrating, from assimilating fully, and we ought therefore to let


VIEW go of the past and move on. How do you feel about that? I never thought that way. We do hold on, and that is a good thing. I would not be who I am if not for my link, my fiery link to my past, to my childhood, to Israel. I tried to pass it on to my son, my grandson, and even to my students and my readers. What do you tell a young Jewish generation about their indebtedness to history? Six million Jews died al kiddush haShem, to sanctify G-d’s name. Therefore what? Therefore, be Jewish.

How do you imagine we can make up for the loss?

We cannot compensate for what we lost. It is mathematically impossible. The numbers are not numbers, they are human beings. Can I recreate what I lost in Sighet? And yet there is movement, there is a will, there are creative ideas.

You dedicated your life to raising awareness about the Holocaust, about the evil that human beings are capable of. And yet anti-Semitism continues. Genocide continues.

A few years ago I was invited to address the General Assembly at the UN. I gave my address the title, “Will the World Ever Learn?” and I came home very saddened, because it hadn’t. And yet we try to teach the world. The Jewish people tried as much as possible to bear witness. What else can one do? In general there is an upsurge of anti-Semitism all over the world.The intellectuals are becoming more and more extreme in their condemnation of Israel.

Isn’t that demoralizing for you?

It is sad, but not demoralizing. I would never allow them that victory.




two of you on that.

Oh, but there was. The Rebbe said we cannot understand. We are not supposed to understand.

And you said?

I want to understand.

And have you over the years come closer to understanding?

[An early Jewish poet] said, “If I would know Him [G-d], I would be Him.”

What then propels the quest?

I define myself by my quest, not by what I find.

You have mentioned that the Rebbe often asked you about your plans to marry. Was that a factor in you getting married?

Oh, yes. The greatest bouquet of flowers I ever received was from the Rebbe for my wedding. He was nudging me to get married. I have letters—one letter in which we speak about Jewish theology—seven, eight pages about theology. At the end, [of the letter] he said, “And by the way, when are you getting married?” As if the two had something in common.

What did the Rebbe want from you?

I cannot tell you. It’s between him and me.

What do you think the Rebbe wanted to see happen today?

I’m sure he felt that if the Jewish people knew what Jews should do for the G-d of Israel and for the people of Israel, Moshiach would come. That was his dream. To prepare the world for biyat haMashiach.

When you reflect on the Rebbe, do you think he was satisfied with his achievements?

What did you walk away with from your encounters with the Rebbe?

No, but unjustly. He always felt he hadn’t done enough, and yet he had done more than anyone I know. He felt that somewhere, maybe somewhere in Nepal—he didn’t travel but he knew what was going on—there is somebody who needs something. Once you feel that, you cannot be happy. If there was one person who, let’s say, was hungry for yiddishkeit . . .

In your memoirs, you share some of the conversations you had with the Rebbe about G-d, and some of these letters were published. It seems to me that ultimately, there was not much of a disagreement between the

That’s why he had this great idea of the Shluchim. One of the greatest achievements of the Rebbe is the Shluchim. I have tremendous affection for every one of them, and admiration, and gratitude. Because they carry not only the Rebbe’s message; they carry the Rebbe’s sadness and the Rebbe’s joy, and the Rebbe’s dream. They are carriers; they are the carriers of his vision.

No matter what, I won’t give up. The principle of teaching is a major component in the survival of our own people.

Everything was so personal. Of course we spoke about things that were not. He read every one of my books in French. He was a very good reader. Occasionally we had disagreements.

When the Rebbe was alone with anyone, it was an opening. He opened doors for his visitor—secret doors that we all have. It wasn’t a break-in. It was an invitation. And that was the greatness of the Rebbe. The Rebbe had great talent for that, one of the greatest and best that Judaism has ever seen.




Bat Mitzvah Redux

Girls Club Explores A Better Way to Celebrate the Bat Mitzvah

Julia is one of thousands of girls who’ve approached Jewish womanhood with the help of Bat Mitzvah Clubs International. Bat Mitzvah club members, Newton, PA.


our years ago, when Julia Heifetz was nearing Bat Mitzvah, her mom, Beth, a Washington D.C. mother of two and a partner at Jones Day law firm, wanted more than schwag and partying.

“I wanted my daughter to have an opportunity to think about what it means to be a Bat Mitzvah and what it means to be a young Jewish woman today,” said Heifetz. Although Julia had been involved in Jewish life through their Conservative shul and at her Conservative temple, Heifetz was concerned that “the important role of Jewish women both historically and today can be overlooked.” So Beth took to the internet searching for resources to share with Julia. After stumbling across Bat Mitzvah Clubs International (BMC), she contacted the local Chabad representative Nechama Shemtov, and worked with her to put together a group of girls, find leaders, and launch a chapter of the Bat Mitzvah Club. According to a 2001 Jewish Adolescent Study by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, in which nearly 1,300 Bat and Bar Mitzvah boys and girls from Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and independent congregations were surveyed in Eastern Massachusetts, three-quarters of the respondents

cared seriously about a search for meaning in life, but only 40 percent sought to find that meaning through their Jewishness. After her Bat Mitzvah, Julia wanted to continue her Jewish involvement, and with Shemtov’s help, they established a local chapter of Friendship Circle. Now 16, the experience continues in Julia’s life, shaping her identity and sense of self as a Jewish woman. For the past four years, Julia and a friend have spent time every week during the school year with a boy who has special needs. “It has been a remarkable growth experience for her on many levels, including responsibility, planning, time management, the importance of giving to others, and the wonderful feeling that comes with doing the right thing,” Heifetz said. Julia is one of thousands of girls who’ve approached Jewish womanhood with the help of Bat Mitzvah Clubs International. Created 20 years ago by Esti Frimerman, a Brooklyn mother of a large family and a Hebrew school teacher, BMC aims to reach Jewish girls in their formative years with a powerful message. “My objective is to help these girls tap into the spiritual dimension of their personality,” Frimerman said. Frimerman took a concept from Chabad Chasidic doctrine about a G-dly soul that becomes complete at the age of Bar-Bat mitzvah, and

created a program for 11-13 year olds at the flagship Chabad girls school, Beth Rivkah, in Brooklyn. She developed a curriculum with a focus on Jewish feminine identity. Soon after, in 1993, she got a request from Tzivos Hashem International to rethink the program for secular public school girls, and Bat Mitzvah Clubs International was born. Herself a mother of five daughters, Frimerman knows “that turf very well,” and enjoys the challenge of reaching this demographic with eye-opening, enduring ideas. Through thoughtfully devised activities and discussion, “the girls discover for themselves the wisdom that will see them through this time and as they get older.” Stephanie Blitshtein, who went through Bat Mitzvah Club in Plano, Texas, in 2007, said that being part of the program changed her.

experience at the BMC, would only date Jewish men. We’ve had calls from girls getting married, who remember what they learned about mikvah, or about setting up a Jewish home, and they want to incorporate that into their lives,” she said. Prompted by a desire to learn more about Judaism, Helena Rosenstrauch, now 20 and preparing for her senior year at the University of Buffalo, joined the Albany, NY BMC in 2002. The opportunity, she said, had a “great impact” on her. “Jewish values continue to guide my life, and I know that they always will thanks to my upbringing and the BMC.” Rosenstrauch said her participation in the club brought her closer to her mother and her grandmother, and she now is as involved as ever in her campus Chabad and Hillel.

“BMC taught me what it meant to become Bat Mitzvah and the responsibilities that came along with that.” The program, she said, also gave her Jewish knowledge in terms of practical mitzvot that empowered her to ramp up her observance and her involvement in the Jewish community.

In Munich, Germany, Chanie Diskin saw the power of the program after teaching fifth, sixth, and seventh graders in the public school system, and hearing how they celebrated their Bat Mitzvah. “I knew that I needed to become proactive,” she said. “I needed to impart meaning into their otherwise meaningless disco party celebrations.”

As Frimerman had hoped, the BMC has proven an enduring impact on critical life choices the girls make later in life. “We’ve had calls from girls who as a result of their

Diskin brought the Club to Germany, where she expanded it for teenagers because so many girls wanted to continue learning. “As a result, many girls have opted for a




German Minister of Family Affairs

Dedicates New Nursery at Chabad Berlin


he German Minister of Family Affairs and Youth, Dr. Kristina Schröder visited the Chabad Kindergarten in Berlin earlier this week, to participate in the dedication of a new nursery school.

BMC members, Fox Chapel, PA.

religious ceremony in the Orthodox tradition either on Friday evening with a candle-lighting ceremony or a havdalah ceremony,” she said. Today, there are some 300 active Bat Mitzvah Clubs around the world. Currently, Frimerman is working on translating the curriculums into five languages: Portuguese, Spanish, German, French, and Russian and is also partnering with to

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create a dynamic virtual experience for club leaders, parents, and bat mitzvah girls. Frimerman sees the BMC as a meaningful alternative to the negative stimuli of popular culture that young girls are exposed to. “The girls really gravitate towards it. You can see their hunger for an experience that nurtures them in a wholesome way.”

At the event, widely covered by Germany’s national media, Dr. Schröder received a tour of the facility, and watched a presentation by the children. “This institution is a sign of the growing Jewish life in Germany,” she said. Dr. Gideon Joffe, President of

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Berlin’s Jewish community expressed gratitude to Chabad for the new nursery school, and for contributing to “the growth and development of Jewish life in Berlin.” The Kindergaren was established in 2004 with the support of Or Avner. Three children were enrolled at the time. Today it has grown to a school with an enrollment of 150. Because of the kindergarten’s rapid growth, explained Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel, Director of Chabad of Berlin, another is scheduled to open after the summer.

German Minister of Family Affairs and Youth, Dr. Kristina Schröder visits the Chabad Kindergarten in Berlin with Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel.




A Teacher in Paris: Rabbi Shmuel Azimov


missary of the Rebbe to Paris since 1968, Rabbi Shmuel Azimov is credited by many of France’s Jews for the sweeping changes that have turned Paris and its surrounding areas—once a Jewish wasteland—into a vibrant hub of Jewish life. Over the years, they have flocked to him, seeking his mentorship, guidance, and friendship. With his deep-rooted Chabad Chasidic world-view and a profoundly compassionate concern for others, “Moule” (short for Shmuel), a household name in France’s Jewish circles, has negotiated every aspect of Jewish communal life, working cooperatively and effectively with all of the city’s Jewish organizations and municipal authorities. Together with his wife, the late Bassie Azimov, he opened Paris’s first Chabad House in 1972. Under his leadership, Chabad centers have since opened in every district of Paris and its suburbs, most recently in the Champs Élysées. Anti-semitism is on the rise in France. Recent attacks in Toulouse in which four Jews were murdered, and the violent attack in June on yeshiva students

in Lyon are deeply worrisome. France’s Jews are calling on the government to take more aggressive measures to put an end to the violence against Jews. Rabbi Azimov is hopeful, he says, that authorities will work swiftly and effectively so that its Jewish citizens do not need to live in fear. France is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the Diaspora, and Jewish life in Paris, where some 375,000 Jews reside, is thriving. With forty Chabad centers and some 170 Shluchim in Paris, a day school bursting at the seams with 2,000 students, and an annual budget of roughly $25 million, Rabbi Azimov has built and continues to grow a remarkably successful Jewish infrastructure. We chose to interview Rabbi Azimov for this issue of Lubavitch International, and gain some insight into this man who thousands call their teacher. Baila Olidort

Paris 2012

one adult at a time. They taught groups, they taught college students, they started a school. Between the two, hundreds, and eventually thousands of Jews would study Torah. The Azimovs filled their days and their evenings teaching. “Moule” made his rounds at all major and local universities in Paris, seeking out Jewish students who welcomed the chance to join a Torah study class. His wife reached out to local families, teaching the women, their daughters, and college girls, so they would want to marry Jewish, and live as Jews. Nothing more elaborate, nothing more grandiose or glamorous than finding Jewish people who would accept the invitation to study Torah.

Rabbi Shmuel Azimov shuffles slowly into the dining room of his Paris apartment where I wait to meet him. The sixty-six year old rabbi suffered a stroke thirteen years ago, leaving his speech and movement impaired, but he has graciously agreed to talk with me. A warm, lively vibe fills the highceilinged ample rooms that are cheerfully cluttered with family photos. The apartment appears well-lived-in. Children and grandchildren come and go. During our meeting, Rabbi Azimov’s son and several of his granddaughters poke their heads in to ask him a question. A young man comes in asking for help. Rabbi Azimov is non-discriminating in his affable attentiveness and concern. We talk for several hours, the conversation punctuated by his gentle humor and soft laughter. I remind myself that this is a man still in mourning. His wife and partner in life, Bassie Azimov, passed away quite suddenly six months ago. The two had been married for forty-five years; together, they raised a family and a phenomenon. Today, the Azimovs are credited by many of France’s Jews for the radical transformation that has made the city of lights a lively Jewish metropolis. I’ve come prepared to hear Rabbi Azimov discuss his early struggles, the great aspirations, the vision and the strategy that he

Rabbi Moule Azimov and his wife nursed as they set out on their lifelong mission as Chabad Shluchim to Paris. But the dyed-in-the-wool Lubavitcher Chasid is altogether understated about his prodigious success. I press on. Surely he and his wife devised a plan, nurtured a dream,

conceived a schema that would help explain his considerable following and the dramatic success of his shlichut. Not really. He and his wife, he tells me plainly, were just teachers. They taught one child, one teenager,

Slowly but surely their students took an interest not only in studying, but in living Jewishly. And then they became Chabad Shluchim. In the 1960s, with the influx of Jews from Algiers, Tunis and Morocco, France’s Jewish population grew rapidly. Jewish communities blossomed. Success begat success. Today, Beit Chaya Mouchka, the Chabad Jewish school in Paris founded by Mrs. Azimov and her husband—a $22 million complex when it was built 20 years ago— counts two thousand students from preschool through high school.

Chasidic Upbringing Shmuel Azimov was born in Russia, in 1945. He was three years old when his family arrived in Paris after fleeing communism. For most




“I will not send Shluchim,” the Rebbi said. Instead, he told Azimov, there are young people in France who have become involved in Judaism. “Teach them and they will become Shluchim.”

Exterior of the Beit Haya Mouchka school in Paris.

Chabad Jews escaping communism, France was a point in transit—either to the Holy Land or North America. The Azimovs were among the few Chabad families who remained. There were not many Jews in Paris; most were disaffected Holocaust survivors, and the city was largely devoid of any real Jewish activity. Rabbi Azimov got his early grooming as a teacher from his father who went door to door searching for students. Chaim Hillel Azimov founded 20 Talmud Torahs in Paris and its surrounding areas. When he was old enough, he went to the Chabad boys yeshiva founded in Brunoy in 1947, by Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. In 1963, then a teenager, Rabbi Azimov made his first transatlantic trip to see the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, traveling by charter flight from London. “I was one of three Chabad boys from Paris who lived in the yeshiva dormitory. After returning from my first visit to the Rebbe, the three of us were instructed to start our activities as shluchim in Paris

while continuing our studies in the yeshiva in Brunoy. So every Shabbos, we would return to the city. There were many children of Holocaust survivors who assimilated. But we reached some, we began to learn with them, to teach them, and eventually, they joined us in the yeshiva in Brunoy.” The boys kept up a regular correspondence with the Rebbe, informing him of their activities. The Rebbe wrote back with instructions. (The letters were evenly divided At the Beit Haya Mouchka kindergarten, children enjoy a high teacheramong the three of them; Rabbi student ratio. Azimov retained seven letters.) At some point, his two friends continued their rabbinical studies in New York. So when he came next to see the Rebbe in 1965, he asked the Rebbe if he too, should remain in New York. “My meeting with the Rebbe (yechidus) was at 6 a.m. The Rebbe told me to return to Paris, and he blessed me with “great success.” He then said to me, “Do you know what ‘great success’ is?” “It is success beyond your expectations,” he told Azimov. There are many ways to measure success, but by all accounts—by

Photo credits: Israel Bardugo, Mendy Hechtman, Levik T., Mendel Benhamou, Meir Dahan




Visitors participate in a Talmud class at the newly opened Champs ÉlyséesChabad Center. the numbers of Jews who have been reached, and by the opportunities for Jewish engagement that the city’s Jewish population enjoys today—it is indeed “success beyond expectations.”

The Organic Teacher More interesting yet, is the organic nature of Rabbi Azimov’s success. Almost all of the 170 shluchim serving in Chabad centers in Paris were his and his wife’s students. It is a story that reflects a highly functional family, or the dynamic of an exemplary teacher/students relationship. As per the guidance he received from the Rebbe, Rabbi Azimov makes a point of knowing the character of the individual in his employ. “It helps to know what each one wants to achieve from his shlichut. It helps to know what responsibilities are suitable for each one.” And when something doesn’t work out, the teacher in him gently steers his students into another position that they are better suited for. “There’s enough work here for everybody, so that if someone isn’t doing well in one area, they adjust to something else.”

Rebbe will send Shluchim, we will expand.” But the Rebbe had something else in mind. “I will not send Shluchim,” The Rebbi said. Instead, he told Azimov, there are young people in France who have become involved in Judaism. “Teach them and they will become Shluchim.” After his marriage to Bassie Shemtov in New York, the couple returned to Paris. Arriving on the eve of the May 1968 student protests, the Azimovs inspired a grassroots transformation of their own. They continued to receive the Rebbe’s guidance: Rabbi Azimov and his wife should teach as much as possible. The Rebbe specifically instructed Azimov to dedicate half of his time to teaching in a formal school. “I became a teacher in the Lubavitch school for boys, and eventually at the one for girls as well.” At a time when no one saw a yarmulke in a French university, Rabbi Azimov, in full Chasidic regalia, fearlessly toured the campuses. “I began to give Torah study classes at all the different universities in Paris—not as part of any formal university curriculum, but for Jewish students who were interested.” His wife also taught classes to women and girls.”

Azimov is ever cognizant of the Rebbe’s foresight. When once asked What did he teach, I ask him? by the Rebbe whether he plans to expand his activities, he said, “If the “I taught Torah. I taught the value

Public Chanukah Menorah lights up the night sky in the heart of Paris. of the mitzvahs. I taught about the importance of traveling to see the Rebbe. What is good for me, I must share with others. If I am a Chasid, I must offer my student the same opportunity, the same experience of yiddishkeit that I want for myself.” Rabbi Azimov traveled regularly to the Rebbe who took particular interest in seeing and guiding the growth of Jewish life in Paris, where he and his wife lived for a period of seven years, beginning in 1935. “We’ve sown the seeds,” the Rebbe’s wife once told Rabbi Azimov, reflecting on that period of her life in Paris.

At a Chasidic farbrengen on Simchat Torah in 1973, the Rebbe, called for “a revolution in France against the evil inclination.” At that memorable event, the Rebbe suddenly surprised the audience as he led in the singing of Le Marseillaise to the words of ha-aderet v’ha-emunah, from the Siddur. It was thus that the French national anthem, popular today among Chabad Chasidim, was appropriated, as it were, by the Rebbe as a Chabad niggun.

I ask Rabbi Azimov what he did to make the “revolution” that the Rebbe mentioned. “We simply continued to teach Torah. Granted, not everyone is a scholar. But everyone was receptive “Your work is to reap the harvest . . . .” on some level.” Soon the Azimovs’



they survived four years of punishing exile for their dedication to Jewish education, Bassie was raised in a deeply entrenched Chasidic home. Her parents were representatives of the sixth Rebbe to London, where she grew up.

Saying the Shema at the Chabad Boys School in Paris. classes began to draw large crowds. If good teaching is a factor in shaping the life choices of students, the Azimovs were remarkable teachers. And if teaching by example is ideal, the Azimovs were consummate teachers. When a certain standard of kosher dairy that Rabbi and Mrs. Azimov used and which they taught their students was necessary in the observance of kosher—even for babies—was not available to Jewish families in remote areas of Paris, Rabbi Azimov traveled by train carrying the dairy products, which he personally delivered to these families. Eventually, kosher food became available.

Reaping the Harvest Chabad centers opened in every one of Paris’s 20 districts, and in Montparnasse, in Orteaux, in Place des Fetes, in Flandre, and in numerous suburbs of Paris, making it easier for young Jewish couples choosing to adopt an observant lifestyle. Kosher consumption grew, and kosher restaurants opened— today there are some 130 kosher eateries in Paris. I try to reconcile the thriving Jewish life I see in Paris with media reports of growing anti-Semitism. It is a problem, says Rabbi Azimov, as it is a problem in many other places. But he trusts that the authorities will do what they must to ensure a change in the climate. Here and there Jews are making their homes elsewhere, but they are not leav-

ing in droves by any means. In fact, with one of largest Jewish populations in the world (approximately 500,000), there is enormous opportunity for Jewish life in France. Martine Uzan is principal of the 500-strong Beit Chaya Mouchka preschool. The product of Parisian public schools, Martine met the Azimovs as a young woman. Her husband was a university student at the time. Slowly but surely, their lives began to shift. The Azimovs’ integrated sense of purpose and identity made the Uzans want to learn from them, she explains. “The relationship they had with people was genuine. They were very focused, and every conversation with them resulted in some practical decision” towards a deeper commitment and identity. It is clear that what Martine and the others found in both the rabbi and his wife was not charisma, but a quality of candid honesty. “Their clarity about what was right, what their purpose was, and the courage they had to do what they felt needed to be done,” explained Uzan, was rare, and made others want to rise to the opportunity to live more nobly. Perhaps it is the result of a Chasidic sensibility cultivated over generations that results in a profound selfknowledge. Both Rabbi and Mrs. Azimov trace their Chabad lineage several generations back. Daughter of the legendary Rabbi Bentzion and Esther Golda Shemtov who met and married in Siberia where

As is true of most Chabad centers around the world, Azimov guides Shluchim in Paris to achieve financial independence. But the paternal sentiments in him cushion the process, making it easier for them to find their footing. “I don’t think it is right to put a young emissary to work in difficult circumstances. I don’t want the Shluchim to feel that they are lacking.” Today, Rabbi Azimov’s budget has grown to about $2 million a month. How does he sustain this consistently, especially in this economy, I ask? “We are fortunate that we have many supporters.” Jews all over France, even those who are not formally affiliated, had their entry to Judaism through Chabad, and they continue to be grateful, especially for the impact that the Azimovs have had on the Jewish experience in France. Many choose to support his activities, and Rabbi Azimov appreciates the broad base of small donors. “It is better to have many people who want to participate in Jewish life, rather than a few major players,” he says.

Reflections After suffering a stroke in 1998, he was forced to take a slower pace, at least physically. Yet he continues to maintain responsibility for his budget, and he continues to teach in school as the Rebbe instructed him to do half a century ago. No longer able to lead a class as he once did, he now works with students individually. I ask why he continues given the difficulties. “I once asked the Rebbe if I may dedicate full time to my administrative activities, but he insisted that I continue to teach half a day in school. He said ‘there are reasons’ that I should be teaching every day. I don’t know what they are, I never asked.” What, I want to know, is most


If good teaching is a factor in shaping the life choices of students, the Azimovs were remarkable teachers. And if teaching by example is ideal, the Azimovs were consummate teachers. important to Rabbi Azimov in his role as a teacher? “To understand where the individual comes from, what their personal, emotional and intellectual inclinations and abilities are, and how to teach them in a way that empowers them to then teach themselves.” Today, Rabbi Azimov has the benefit of perspective, of hindsight. He has seen the dots connect, the blessings fulfilled, the privilege of guidance that proved foresight and vision. “When we sent the Rebbe plans of the school building, he asked: ‘Does this plan include everything?’” Azimov understood that to mean that enormous as the complex was, it was still not big enough. “So we revised the plans, and miraculously managed to get approval to add another story to the building.” The Rebbe’s remark made it possible for them to squeeze as much usage and capacity out of the building for years, before outgrowing it. Today, the school is looking for additional space for the September school year. As I get ready to leave, Rabbi Azimov says, almost to himself, “Some people believe that the Rebbe’s blessings are a spiritual matter. I have seen rather that their fulfillment is revealed, physically, materially.” He recalls the time he sent the key to the first Chabad House which he opened in Paris, in 1972, to the Rebbe’s secretariat. When he next saw the Rebbe in a private audience, the Rebbe thanked him. And then, Azimov recalls, “the Rebbe blessed me. He said to me ‘G-d should help that you can say that this space is too small for us.’ “We have seen that blessing realized again and again. We have since outgrown every center we’ve opened.”




Chabad Center Opens in Tacoma, Washington


habad of Pierce County recently completed construction on a new synagogue and education center. An architectural replica of “770â€?, the famous Brooklyn headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch international movement, the structure’s completion marks a pivotal turning point for the local Chabad and Jewish community, as it finally has a place to call home. “There are a couple thousand Jewish people here spread out throughout the county,â€? Rabbi Zalman Heber, director of Chabad of Pierce County explained. “Having a center will pull all these people together and give them a sense of belonging and home. It is an essential step in creating a true community.â€? The Hebers arrived in Tacoma in November 2003 and began offering Jewish educational and social programs while operating out of their home. They soon outgrew the limited space and began searching for a permanent center in which to expand. With backing from their growing community, Chabad found the ideal location on a 7,148 sq ft lot previously occupied by a large garage. Zoning issues delayed the project, but in August of 2011, after a two-year-legal battle, construction began and the beautiful 30-foot tall 8,300 sq ft building soon rose. Now, less than a year later, the $2.4 million center stands ready to house a gsxm nhq cdum wo



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synagogue, classrooms, offices, kosher kitchen and social hall. Like some other Chabad emissaries worldwide, Heber chose to design the building as a replica of Chabad Headquarters. Heber chose to design the building as a replica of 770 for symbolic and practical reasons. “I grew up in Crown Heights and everything 770 represented means a lot to me. And we needed to maximize a very limited area. 770’s architectural design allows us to maximize our floor space.� With its brick exterior and single-door front entrance, the building blends nicely into the residential area. Described as “comfortable and homey� in atmosphere, the center, said Heber, “allows us to do everything properly,� said Heber. “It allows us to grow.�

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THE LOVE OF LEARNING Chana Silberstein Make for Yourself a Teacher: Rabbinic Tales of Mentors and Disciples

By Susan Handelman


University of Washington Press 151 pp


he Jewish people have often been called “the people of the book,” and it is worth considering whether this is an apt characterization. The nature of a written text is that once it is complete, it is cut free of its owner and takes on a life of its own. As books have proliferated (whether handwritten, printed, or electronically transmitted), the nature of learning has changed. The modern reader has evolved to become an intellectual Marlboro Man, riding off alone into the sunset, bravely claiming virgin mental territory. If he or she discovers that their hard-earned wisdom bears uncanny resemblance to those of previous generations (as is often the case with readers of history and literature)— what truly matters is that in true Piagetian fashion, they rediscovered and reconstructed these truths for themselves. But Susan Handelman argues that the Jewish people are not the people of the book, but the people of the mouth, the vigilant keepers of the oral Torah without which our sacred texts cannot be properly understood. What for many generations was transmitted only by word of mouth, teacher to student, is currently recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud, but in a manner so concise, so cryptic, that its decoding requires conversation with others as we struggle to make sense of it. Handelman quotes the midrash on the verse “for G-d gives wisdom; out of His mouth comes knowledge and discernment” [Prov. 2:6]: “It can be compared to a rich man who had a son. The son came home from school and found a platter of food in front of his father. His father took a piece and gave it to him . . . but the son said: I only want the piece which is in your mouth.”(Midrash Exodus Rabbah 41:3) The heart of Jewish education, then, is not about the free access to knowledge and information, the lifeless record of which can be found in a book. The heart of education is in the close relationships of teachers and their students. It is education as feeding and nourishing, education as loving and sharing. Handelman deftly explores this theme by examining three stories recounted by the Talmud about the enigmatic Rabbi Eliezer. In the first story, a young Rabbi Eliezer leaves the family homestead empty-handed against the wishes of

this father to study Torah from Rabbi Yochanan. In the second story, Rabbi Eliezer dissents with his colleagues about the ritual status of an oven, and refuses to accede to the majority. As a consequence, he is placed under ban. In the third story, his colleagues and disciples visit him on his deathbed as Rabbi Eliezer mourns all that he has not be able to transmit to his students. Handelman invites us to read the stories carefully, noting their particular nuances, while leaving it to us to decide their final meaning. In the process, she helps us to reflect deeply on our own experiences as teachers and students. The Talmud tells us that when Rabbi Eliezer first arrives to study with Rabbi Yochanan, he has nothing to eat. It is only when after some time, a foul smell is emitted from his mouth that his teacher recognizes his predicament and invites him home to feed him. Rabbi Eliezer is described by the Mishnah as a “lined pit that does not lose a drop.” He is voracious in his learning, and faithful to his teacher. And as Handelman notes, the container must be stronger than that which it contains, or it will break. Later, when Rabbi Eliezer’s father comes to the academy to disown his son, Rabbi Yochanan asks him to open his mouth and speak. Though at first Rabbi Eliezer refuses, when he speaks, Rabbi Yochanan kisses him on the mouth and says: “Rabbi Eliezer, master, you have taught us truth!” Handelman points to the parallels between physical and spiritual hunger that are apparent in this story as she explores the transition from receiver to giver. The second story describes the famous oven of Achnai which was constructed of segments with sand placed between the layers. While objects that are complete and whole are subject to becoming impure, broken or incomplete vessels are not subject to impurity. The rabbis are of the opinion that such an oven is subject to impurity because it is designed to be made of pieces and therefore is to be considered whole, but Rabbi Eliezer maintains that it nevertheless cannot be considered a finished object and thus is always pure. Handelman explores their views as an allusion to the state of the Jewish people in Israel after the destruction of the Temple. Rabbi Eliezer be-

lieves that in a post-destruction age, the people cannot be complete, while the Rabbis accept the current status quo; reality must be accepted and life must go on. Ironically, it is Rabbi Eliezer who most imbues the imperfect state of the Jewish people with vibrancy and meaning. As Handelman points out, only complete objects are subject to impurity— and death is the ultimate state of completion. Objects that are alive, in a state of flux, are not subject to impurity. (She notes that perhaps this explains the vitality that is felt while one is in the midst of a creative project but that dissipates as soon as it is done.) Rabbi Eliezer rejects the view of the majority, and because this threatens to destabilize the authority of the academy, he is banned from teaching. There is no greater tragedy for one who lived to transmit the tradition he received from his teacher. In the final chapter, on his deathbed, Rabbi Eliezer places his arms over his heart, and says, “Woe to you, two arms of mine, which are like two Scrolls of the Torah being rolled up.” He then proclaims to his students, “Much Torah I learned, and much Torah I taught. Much Torah I learned, but I did not even skim from my teachers as much as a dog licks from the sea. Much Torah I taught, but my disciples drew from me as much as a painting stick from its tube.” Handelman explores the struggle of the teacher who must find the right balance between being too removed from or too close to their students. To be too distant is to be inaccessible, to be too close is to keep them for maturing intellectually and developing indepently. And when the teacher is about to die, he or she must leave it to others to keep the conversation alive. As we approach Gimmel Tammuz, I am struck by the fact that the Rebbe chose personal mentorship over the authoring of books. He penned thousands of personal letters, met with countless individuals, spoke publicly to large audiences, and stood for hours distributing dollars and touching hearts, one at a time. For Torah cannot be static. It is a vibrant flow, a sharing of our most intimate selves to those we hold dear, a kiss of love, a breath of life, transmitted mouth to mouth.




Traveling Abroad this Summer?


ubavitch International’s traveler’s guide offers a glimpse into the Jewish history, sites and services found in some popular tourist destinations where Chabad has an active presence.

Make a point of including Chabad on your itinerary. Wherever your travels take you, Shabbat with Chabad means a little bit of home even on the other side of the globe. A kosher meal, a meaningful encounter, an inspired service are often the unexpected joys of a vacation. Photos by Mordechai Lightstone

London Good to know:


eferences to a Jewish quarter in London date back to the end of the 11th century. By mid-century, the community rose to prominence, attracting both merchants and scholars. The famed Biblical commentator and inveterate wanderer Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089 -- 1164) settled briefly in London before continuing on to Oxford. Jewish life in London would be tried considerably over the coming century. During the coronation of King Richard I in 1189, anti-Jewish riots broke out. The Jewish quarter was set afire and some 30 people died, among them Rabbi Jacob of Orleans, one of the Tosafot school of Talmudic commentators. By the end of the next century, Britain’s entire Jewish community was expelled.

longer relegated to the poorer East End of London, Jewish communities grew in other areas, among them Golders Green, Stamford Hill and Hendon. To date, Chabad operates a network of 16 communal and educational centers in London, serving the city’s 200,000 Jewish residents.


Bevis Marks Synagogue: Great Britain’s oldest synagogue, dating back to 1675 was built in the style of the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. The synagogue was formally recognized 1950 as a “Grade I Listed Building” for its exceptional historical and architectural interest.

Until the interregnum and the reign of Oliver Cromwell (1599 -1698), The Jewish Museum: Located in the London Borough of Camden, the Britain had no official Jewish presence. Following Cromwell, the door was museum documents Jewish life, history and art in London. In 2010 the opened for a Jewish return and by 1881, the Jewish population reached museum reopened after two years of extensive renovations. 150,000, many of them settling in London.

Eat, Pray and Connect:

In the years preceding the outbreak of World War II many Jews trapped in mainland Europe were able to flee to London. Perhaps most famously was The United Kingdom is home to one of the largest diaspora Jewish the Kindertransport, which, between 1938 and 1940 brought some 10,000 communities. London alone has a population of some 200,000 Jews and boasts numerous kosher food and synagogue options. Chabad in London Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany. will offer a bevy of services for the influx of Jewish tourists this summer. Following the war, London’s Jewish community swelled with refugees. No Additional information can be found at:





Good to know:

Good to know:




ews first settled in this city on the banks of the Seine after the Roman lanking the Vltava river and crowned by the Pražský Hrad / Prague conquest of Jerusalem. Soon a rich tradition of Jewish scholarship Castle, Prague retains much of its historic charm and mystique. Before and piety grew in France. Sages such as Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki the Holocaust, this Czech capital was home to one of the most important Jewish centers in Europe. The earliest records of a Jewish presence date back (1040–1105), the preeminent Biblical and Talmudic commentator, and the Tosafists, known for their glosses on the Talmud, left an indelible mark on to 970 C.E. Torah scholarship and Jewish life. Famed residents included the Talmudic sage and mystic (and legendary creator of the Golem), the Maharal, Rabbi Yehuda Loew (1525-1609), and Following the Second Crusade during the 12th century, France’s Jews Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, author of the Halakhic responsa Noda Biyehudah were subject to intense persecution. In 1240, the famous disputation of the Talmud began in Paris. Rabbi Yechiel of Paris was forced to publicly defend (1713-1793). Judaism in the court of Louis IX. Two years later, the Talmud was put on At the outbreak of World War II, some 92,000 Jews lived in Prague, trial and burned. Ensuing years brought continued oppression and the comprising almost 20 percent of the city’s population. At least two-thirds of expulsion of French Jewry. Jews began resettling Paris in the 18th century. Prague’s Jews perished in the Holocaust. Since 1996, Chabad representatives By the French Revolution, some 500 Jews lived in Paris. Rabbi Manis and Dini Barash have served the city’s Jewish community. Today, official data lists some 3,000 Jews in the Czech Republic, about half During the 19th century, France’s Jewish population continued to grow, and of them residing in Prague. Approximately 15,000 Jews live in the country. by the time of WWII, an estimated 300,000 Jews lived in France. About 25 percent of French Jewry died in the Holocaust. In addition, some 100,000 Jewish tourists visit Prague each year. Following the Six-Day War, an influx of Sephardic Jews from North Africa caused France’s Jewish population to swell. Today, with a population of Josefov: Prague’s Jewish Ghetto offers visitors a glimpse back into nearly 500,000, the majority who live in Paris, France has the third largest Jewish 1000 years of the city’s history and architecture. Sites of interest include population in the world. the famed Altneuschul, the oldest functioning synagogue in the city, and the Old Jewish Cemetery—the resting place of the Maharal and other Chabad has played an important role in Jewish education and communal life in France. (See this edition of Lubavitch International page 10). Some Jewish luminaries. 115 Chabad centers and more than 450 representatives currently serve the The Jewish Museum: Opened in 1906 to preserve artifacts from Prague’s country’s Jewish population. Jewish history, the museum gained infamy when the Nazis co-opted it during the Holocaust, hoping to transform it into a “Museum of an Extinct Race.” Today selections from museum’s collection are on exhibition in many The Pletzel: Paris has had a near continuous Jewish presence since the 13th of Prague’s historic Jewish sites and synagogues. century. Known by its Yiddish nickname, Pletzel (literally “the little place”), Theresienstadt: Located some 60 kilometers from Prague, Theresienstadt today the neighborhood hosts several synagogues, boutique shops and testifies to the dark chapter of Czech Jewry’s liquidation during the kosher restaurants. The last three Lubavitcher Rebbes frequented the small Holocaust. Designed as a “model concentration camp,” and open to the synagogue at 17 rue De Rosiers during their trips to Paris. outside world, Theresienstadt served as a gateway to Auschwitz, Majdanek, and other death camps further east. Some 30,000 Jews died at the camp Museum of Jewish Art: Located at 42 rue des Saules, in Montmartre, the itself, mostly from disease and malnutrition. museum showcases traditional Jewish ritual items as well as works by Chagall, Mane-Katz and other Jewish Parisian artists.



Eat, Pray and Connect:

Eat, Pray and Connect:

Chabad currently offers a full service synagogue and daily minyanim. Kosher meals are available at Chabad’s Shelanu restaurant. On Shabbat, guests are Paris is said to have more kosher restaurants than New York City. Locate a welcome to join the local Jewish community for services and Shabbat meals. kosher restaurant at For Shabbat reservations and additional information: Shabbat services as well as communal meals for guests are hosted at Chabad Chabad Center Prague Champs Elysées. For reservations for Shabbat meals and additional 3 Parizska street, Prague 1 information: Chabad’s Shelanu restaurant 8 Brehova street, Prague 1 Chabad representatives: Rabbi Manis and Nechama Dina Barash

Chabad Champs Elysées 122, avenue des Champs Elysées Chabad representatives: Rabbi Yona and Chana Hasky






Good to know:

Good to know:



he Pearl of the Danube has served as a haven for Jews since the raków’s history is deeply tied to Poland’s Jewish life. First arriving in the Roman Empire, predating even the arrival of the Hungarian tribes. then-Polish capital in the late 13th century, Jewish merchants began to As immigrants from neighboring Germany, Bohemia and Moravia traveled build what would become a center of Jewish scholarship and culture. east in the 11th century, Budapest’s Jewish community grew. Despite a Jewish presence in the region’s leadership and economy, local nobility and When Jewish communities in Spain and Germany experienced a climate the church enacted a series of anti-Jewish laws. of persecution and expulsions Poland became a popular refuge. By the 16th century, over 80% of world Jewry lived within Poland’s borders. Rabbi Jacob Rabbi Moses Schreiber (1762–1839) of Pressburg (Bratislava) in Pollak (ca. 1470-1541) settled in Kraków in 1503, introducing the pilpul neighboring Slovakia, known for his monumental work Chatam Sofer, method of Talmudic study. In 1550, under the leadership of Rabbi Moses greatly influenced Hungarian Jewish tradition and practice. Isserles (1520-1572), a renowned Jewish scholar, authoritative commentator and codifier, Kraków solidified its status as a center of world Jewish scholarship. When WWII broke out, Budapest’s Jews faced an oppressive local government. Jews were forcibly conscripted into the army as part of the On the eve of the Holocaust, there were 60,000 Jews in Kraków, making unarmed munkaszolgálat on the Soviet front. The liquidation of Hungarian up a quarter of the city’s population. By April 1940, all but 15,000 had Jewry began in earnest in 1944. Adolph Eichmann ordered the removal of been expelled. The remaining population, forced into the ghetto, worked in 400,000 Jews to ghettos and a month later began deportations to Auschwitz. the Płaszów. The famed German industrialist, Oskar Schindler used his Raoul Wallenberg, Sweden’s special envoy to Hungary, saved tens of factory to save 1,098 Jews from Płaszów. thousands of Jews by famously issuing protective passports, sheltering the new “Swedish citizens” in his buildings considered Swedish territory. By Two thousand Jews from Kraków survived the war. Though some Jews war’s end, 40% of Budapest’s Jewish community had been murdered. opted to stay in Poland after the war, many left. By 1968, when policy in the Polish government took a decidedly anti-Jewish stance in the wake of the Under communist rule, Jewish religious life suffered, and Hungarian Jewry Six Day War, only 700 Jews remained in Kraków. was isolated from the broader Jewish community. Today 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, forming one of the largest Jewish communities in Central Europe. Chabad has had a permanent presence in Hungary for the past 22 years, and has built a network of synagogues and Jewish institutions in Hungary.


Óbuda Synagogue: Historically, Óbuda was the only city in the capital region to allow Jewish settlement. Built in 1820, the synagogue drew thousands of Jews. The Obuda synagogue was closed down after the Holocaust. In the 1960s, it was converted to state-run television studio. The sanctuary and three-story interior, designed by architect Andreas Landesherr in the French Empire style, were destroyed. Valued at an estimated four million dollars, the synagogue was recently restored to its former grandeur. Jewish Museum: Adjoined to the Great Synagogue on Dohany Street, the largest synagogue in Europe, the Hungarian Jewish Museum commemorates the history and culture of Budapest’s Jewish community. Sziget Festival, Judafest and The Jewish Summer Festival are major summer attractions for Budapest’s Jewish tourists.


Kazimierz: Named after King Kazimierz III, the neighborhood has long stood as the center of Krakow’s Jewish community. Once considered a dangerous area, the last two decades has seen Kazimierz’s restoration and a renewed interest in Krakow’s Jewish history. The Rema Synagogue: Built in 1553, by Rabbi Yisrael, the father of Rabbi Moses Isserles. The current building was restored in 1829. During the Holocaust, the synagogue was used by the Nazis as a storehouse. Though the sanctuary was desecrated, the building itself was not destroyed. The Old Jewish Cemetery, resting place of many of Krakow’s most famous residents, including Rabbi Moses Isserles and Rabbi Nathan Nata Spira, a Polish Kabbalist and author of Megaleh Amukot, is located next to the synagogue. Auschwitz: Located 65 km from Krakow in the city of Oświęcim, it is the infamous killing grounds and final resting place of an estimated 1.3 million people, 90 percent of them Jewish. The Auschwitz-Birkenau labor and extermination camps, serve as chilling reminder of Hitler’s Final Solution and the annihilation of European Jewry.

Eat, Pray and Connect:

Kosher meals can be catered through Chabad of Krakow. Shop kosher products at the grocery the Isaac Synagogue. Kosher dining is also For Shabbat reservations and help with travel plans: available at the Olive Tree, Krakow’s only full service kosher restaurant. Weekday minyanim are held at the Isaac Synagogue and Kabbalat Shabbat and Saturday day services are at the Kupa Synagogue. For Shabbat services: Shas Chevra Lubavitch Shul The Olive Tree VI., Vasvári Pál utca 5. ul. Kupa 6, Kraków

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Chabad Óbudai Shul III. Lajos utca 163 Keren Ohr Chabad Israeli Shul V. Károly körút 20

Isaac Synagogue 18 ul. Kupa, Krakow Kupa Shul 27 ul. Miodowa, Krakow

Chabad representatives: Rabbi Boruch and Batsheva Oberlander

Chabad representatives: Rabbi Eliezer and Esther Gurary




S. Petersburg

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ewish merchants and moneylenders first began to work in Venice as far back as 10th century. Permission to settle in the city, however, was not granted until the 13th century. In 1516, the Doges, Venice’s ruling council, confined Jewish residence in the city to the old foundry, or geto, in Venetian. Though not the first city to confine Jewish residence to a specific neighborhood, the small island, pronounced “ghetto” with a guttural “g” by the German Jews who settled there, would lend its name to all such enclaves to which Jews were subsequently confined.



ewly conquered lands in 1791 under the Russian Empire’s rapid expansion brought some five million Jews directly under Czarist control. While upwards of 40% of world Jewry now resided in the Russian Empire, they were relegated to living within the Pale of Settlement. Only Jewish professionals and merchants were granted a special dispensation to live in the capital. Under the reign of Alexander II, new laws allowed Jewish merchants to settle outside the Pale. Soon, wealthy Jewish merchants, physicians, and other intellectuals settled in the city. By the turn of the 20th century, some 35,000 Jews lived in Petersburg.

Following the Spanish Inquisition, Iberian Jews sought refuge in Venice, Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of S. Petersburg’s Jews joining the existing Ashkenazi, Italian and Levantine Jewish communities. emigrated to Israel and elsewhere. Some 80,000 remain today. Rabbi Isaac Abrabanel (1437–1508), famed scholar and leader of Portuguese Jewry during the Inquisition, was among those to settle in Venice. Jewish life flourished in Venice in the 17th century. Jewish merchants controlled much of Venice’s foreign trade and an active Jewish press printed first editions of many of the most important Torah works, including the first complete printing of the Talmud and the Code of Jewish Law. Today, Venice has a Jewish population of some 500, with only 30 of them living in the Ghetto proper. Chabad has been active in Venice for over 20 years, reaching out to the hundreds of thousands of Jewish tourists that visit each year.



Grand Choral Synagogue: Built in the Moorish style and opened in 1893, the opulent synagogue seats 1,200. Under Soviet control, the synagogue remained open but fell into disrepair. Reconstruction began in 1999 with a donation from the Safra family. The main synagogue, along with the smaller synagogue, run in the tradition of a Chasidic shteible, reopened to the public in 2005. Peter-Paul Fortress: Established in 1703 by Peter the Great on a small island by the north bank of the Neva River. Built to defend against a feared Swedish attack, the fortress was never put to use. By 1720, the fortress was used to hold political prisoners. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad, was held there for 53 days.

Ghetto: The oldest “Ghetto” in the world, the historic Jewish neighborhood remains the center of Jewish life in Venice. Divided between the Ghetto Vecchio and Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, the Ghetto is home to five of A number of kosher restaurants have opened in S. Petersburg in recent years. Venice’s historic synagogues. Tours of the ghetto and its synagogues can be Le’chaim located in the Grand Choral Synagogue, offers traditional made through the Jewish Museum. Ashkenazi and Israeli dishes. A “non-profit restaurant,” proceeds are used Lido: An 11 km long sandbar located in Venice, Lido is the site of Venice’s to support the local Jewish community.

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ancient Jewish cemetery.

Once a popular, non-kosher bar and grill, 7:40 was reborn as the city’s premiere kosher spot in 2009. Today, the restaurant offers upscale dining as Piazza del S. Marco: Though best known as the home of the Doges, Venice’s well as a full bar and kosher-wine list. The Golden Café offers traditional ruling council, the Piazza’s presence in Jewish history is considerably darker. Russian, Georgian and Israeli cuisine in a more casual setting. In addition, Following Pope Julius II’s order to destroy the Talmud, copies of the sacred kosher products can be purchased from the “Kosher” store adjacent to the text were publicly burned in the Piazza on October 21, 1553. Grand Choral Synagogue.

Eat, Pray and Connect:

Shabbat services are held in the Grand Choral Synagogue. Gam-Gam, Venice’s kosher restaurant offers an eclectic mix of traditional The Grand Choral Synagogue, Le’Chaim Restaurant and Kosher shop: Italian and Israeli dishes. Gam-Gam Goodies, Chabad’s dairy restaurant, Lermontovsky 2, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190121 offers pastries as well as Italian pizza and ice cream. Email: Shabbat Meals are hosted at Gam-Gam, as part of Chabad of Venice’s 7:40 famed hospitality program. Friday night services are held in the Sephardic synagogue during the summer. Shabbat day services, as well as weekday Bolshoi Sampsonievsky minyanim, can be found at Chabad in the Campo del Ghetto Nouvo. pr., 108 Chabad representatives: Rabbi Rami and Shachar Banin

Golden Cafe Lermontovsky prospect, 27 Chabad Reprsentatives: Chief Rabbi Mendel and Sara Pewzner



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