The Week In News
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
yeshiva university appoints
As Dean Of The Sy Syms School Of Business
r. Noam Wasserman, PhD, MA, Harvard University; MBA, Harvard Business School; BSE, Penn Engineering; BS, Wharton School of Finance, is the incoming dean of the Sy Syms School of Business. Previously he was the founding director of the University of Southern California’s Founder Central initiative and a professor at Harvard Business School (HBS) for 13 years. His book, The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup, was an Amazon #1 bestseller in Management and won the Academy of Management’s Impact on Practice award. Dr. Wasserman created HBS’s most popular entrepreneurship elective, “Founder’s Dilemmas,” for which he won the Faculty Teaching Award. Dr. Wasserman’s research has been published in top academic journals and national periodicals.
YU News discussed Dean Wasserman’s views on guiding the Sy Syms School of Business into the World of Tomorrow What is your vision for Sy Syms? To prepare our students to impact the world even better than the best business schools, by preparing them not only for the “9-to-5” of life but also for the 5pm-to-9am parts of their lives.
What makes YU uniquely qualified to achieve this? YU is the world leader in bringing the timeless wisdom and ethics of Judaism to cutting-edge real world problems, and Sy Syms should excel at improving everyone’s lives both at home and at work.
What could you say is our biggest opportunity at Sy Syms for both undergraduates and graduates? The undergraduate program has a solid core that we want to strengthen by tightening the connections faculty can create between their expertise and what they are teaching, and by improving our classroom impact by accelerating their development as teachers. The graduate side of Sy Syms is only getting started, with
an initial three programs that will grow into a cohesive suite of offerings for grad students.
How is philosophy expressed in the classroom?
How has your personal experience played a role in your relationship with faculty?
By teaching our students to link their passion with analytics and their heads with their hearts, we will be able to have the right people becoming entrepreneurs at the right points in their lives, and doing it in the right ways.
One of my joys at HBS and the University of Southern California is being able to teach professors how to focus on our students’ key takeaways – the important yet surprising lessons we should teach them – and how to have those takeaways drive our teaching. Nearly all business schools neglect to teach their professors how to excel in the classroom, instead hoping that they will succeed via “learning by doing.” Instead, we want the classroom experience to excite both our faculty and our students.
What would you say is the most important skill a young entrepreneur can learn? The most important skill is to learn how to, as Steve Jobs said, “Follow your heart but check it with your head.” (In Jewish terms, this can be seen as, “Sof maaseh b’machshava techila” – action has to be preceded by thought.) We need passionate entrepreneurs who are driven to change the world, but who know when to pull back on the reins to think about what they are doing and how best to do it.
How do you feel about becoming a part of the YU family? As both the son and father of YU graduates, Hashem has given me a deep appreciation for the central role that YU’s philosophy of Torah Umadda plays in educating the next generation of Jewish leaders. My experiences with bringing the insights of ancient Jewish wisdom to address modern business challenges has enabled me to see how our lives and the broader world benefit greatly from living a deep and meaningful life.
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
The Week In News
The Week In News
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
CONTENTS COMMUNITY Happenings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
JEWISH THOUGHT Torah Musings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Living with the Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 The Weekly Daf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
FEATURE Operation Exodus: The Chabad Effort That Saved 1,800 Iranian Jewish Children. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Humor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Tribe Tech Review. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
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Dear readers, Anti-Semites should be celebrating the state of Israel. For years they didn’t have a mainstream rallying cry with which they could openly hate Jews. Saying we’re “leaches” or “control the world” made the average American squirm. No longer. It is now fashionable and indeed “intellectually sophisticated” to single out Jews and their state for hypocritical condemnation. My grandparents were told, “Go back to Palestine; Jews don’t belong here.” Now my generation is being told, “Get out of Palestine; you don’t belong here.” Same complaints, same claims of dual loyalty, different excuses. In the 20s it was German Lebensraum, today it’s the Israeli child killers. We get a whiff of what it was like throughout the Jewish journey when a mainstream political party allowed anti-Semitism to veer its ugly head, casting a dark cloud over the world. This isn’t simply about the far left’s unchecked anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is like a virus. Once out, all monsters come out of their closets. Indeed, David Duke is one of Ilhan Omar’s biggest fans. By nature, I’m an optimist, despite my being knocked unconscious in the streets of Crown Heights when I was a child, and my black hat being taken and thrown away while walking in Paris as a teenager. I’ve always disliked scare tactics and would rather focus on the good taking place around us. Now it’s different. No one knows for certain how this will play out, but it is certain that all previous dark periods for Jews were preceded by this type of tolerated mistreat-
ment and name calling. This is especially so when morally corrupt agitators play the victim card and seek power through sympathy and comradery while shaming those they want to tear down. I wonder what the conversations in the shtieblach were like. How did they deal with differences of opinion? How do you keep a spirit of unity when we think the other person’s views are like playing with fire?! Perhaps we need to learn from the anti-Semites. They view all of us the same. You could have voted for Obama, I for Trump. No matter. We are all seen as Jews. That’s how we should view it. Whatever our (correct!) opinions are about the current state of affairs, we are all Jewish and are all part of a divine mission in bringing G-dliness and indeed the revelation of G-d himself into this world through learning Torah, doing mitzvot and acts of goodness and kindness. How it plays out is up to our Creator. Our part is to do our job. This Purim, let us seek out those we fundamentally disagree with. Say a l’chaim with them and uncover how we are really one and the same. If we do so, we can be certain that just as in the time of Haman Hashem made a series of miracles that ultimately turned things on its head, so too now, Hakadosh Baruch Hu will continue protecting us wherever we find ourselves. Indeed there will be light, joy, gladness, and honor. Wishing you joyous and spiritually uplifting Purim!
T H E P R E M I E R J E W I S H N E W S PA P E R H I G H L I G H T I N G L A’ S O R T H O D OX C O M M U N I T Y The Jewish Home is an independent bi-weekly newspaper. Opinions expressed by writers are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher or editor. The Jewish Home is not responsible for typographical errors, or for the kashrus of any product or business advertised within. The Jewish Home contains words of Torah. Please treat accordingly. FOR HOME DELIVERY, OR TO HAVE THE LATEST ISSUE EMAILED TO YOU FREE OF CHARGE, SEND A MESSAGE TO EDITOR@JEWISHHOMELA.COM
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
TheHappenings Week In News
The Largest Yeshiva in the World: 60,000 Children Make It Happen! Communicated
Twenty years ago, if someone would have mentioned the possibility of a thousand, or even a hundred, children stopping in the midst of Purim, the most hectic day of the year, and streaming into the bais medrash for an hour of learning, he would have been laughed away. “Impossible!” Today, an eight-year-old pulling his father along into Yeshivas Mordechai Hatzadik on Purim cannot imagine that there was a time when this mass father-&-son learning oasis was not one of the climactic moments of this special day. “Purim without Torah learning? That’s impossible!” Record Growth From its foundation, Yeshivas Mordechai Hatzadik has encountered extraordinary siyata dishmaya, spreading like wildfire across Israel and the world. Last year, more than 60,000 children learned in over 1000 shuls in Israel alone. YMH, the largest yeshiva in the world, does not stop at the borders of Israel; it extends across the globe, to cities across the United States and Canada, South Africa, England, France, Argentina, and many more—even all the way to Tunis! The worldwide numbers reach up to over 95,000 children! The exciting and exclusive prizes that are given out each year are ordered almost immediately after the previous Purim. Rav Aryeh Finkel, zt”l, our illuminating leader, encouraged awarding children with real, quality prizes for their Torah learning, two to three times a year as a valid and valuable motivational tool. Consider the following true anecdote from last Purim: Two boys in Bnei Brak were upset to find their father stone drunk and unable to accompany them to YMH. How could they give up the precious prize they had waited for all year long? In desperation, they called their uncle in Yerushalayim; perhaps he could come to Bnei Brak to learn with them? Unable to make the trip, the uncle suggested that they come to Yerushalayim the next day on Shushan Purim. The only catch was that at their uncle’s branch, the YMH learning took place at 7 a.m., right after vasikin. No problem! After their Purim seudah was done, the boys went to sleep early still in their clothes. At 5:30 a.m. the next morning, they were on their way to YMH in Yerushalayim. This is what we call a well-earned prize! Each year, we bear witness to unbelievable wonders. The gedolei Yisroel have been unusually effusive in their encouragement of YMH and in their appreciation for those who support the project. HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, asserted that one who donates to YMH creates extreme nachas ruach for HaKadosh Baruch Hu; hence the donor will surely see nachas from his own chil-
dren. The vast number of 60,000 children streaming to learn Torah on the exalted day of Purim creates an extraordinary power in heaven. Thousands of people who supported these 60,000 children learning, coupled with their heartfelt tefillos, have seen incredible yeshuos in shidduchim, children, health, parnassah and success in chinuch.
TheHappenings Week In News
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Emek Hebrew Academy Celebrates 58th Annual Trustee Dinner Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center’s 58th Annual Trustee Dinner took place on February 21st at the Petersen Automotive Museum. This year’s dinner was dedicated to the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education and the legacy of Mr. Alex Pollak, ob”m. The gallery, located on Wilshire Boulevard along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile neighborhood, is one of the world’s largest automotive museums. This phenomenal venue has over 100 vehicles on display in its twenty-five galleries, and our guests truly enjoyed perusing the gorgeous automobiles on exhibit. Mr. Nir Weinblut of La Gondola provided scrumptious catering along with an impeccable presentation. Mr. Brad Schachter of Nefesh Music sang and entertained to the audience’s delight. Highlight Photography was on hand to capture all our guests and each invitee was sent home with a framed photograph to remember the evening. Our master of ceremonies, Dr. Behzad Soufer, an Emek Board member and parent, introduced the Emek Boys Choir. These 5th grade boys, under the direction of Mrs. Rachel Seidel, sang the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikva.” This spectacular performance was followed by Rabbi Mordechai Shifman, Emek’s Head of School, who spoke about the importance of each community having a Jewish day school and every child within that community being afforded the opportunity to receive a Jewish education. This year, Emek chose to honor CIJE (Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education) for their ongoing partnership in supporting and propelling forward Emek’s 21st century educational objectives. CIJE has been extremely helpful in the building of Emek’s three new playgrounds. The first two, located at the Emek main campus on Magnolia, were designed with
both our Pre-1st and older students in mind. The playground at the Emek Early Childhood Center was specifically created for our younger constituents and is being thoroughly enjoyed on a daily basis. We are also grateful for CIJE’s help with upgrades in technology all over the Emek campus and the Innovation Lab in the Finder Family Library. Mr. Jason Cury, President of CIJE, spoke about the importance of technology in Jewish day schools and keeping up with the educational standards being set throughout the world. The goal is to prepare Emek students, as well as other Jewish students throughout the United States, for the global economy of the future. He was presented with a lovely Jerusalem stone tzedakah box as a token of our appreciation. In addition, we were honored to have the Pollak family come from near and far to attend the evening to honor the legacy of Mr. Alex Pollak, ob”m. Mr. Pollak was president of Emek from 1978 to 1983 and played an instrumental role in Emek’s purchase of the Magnolia campus. Rabbi Yehuda Pollak spoke on behalf of the family about his father and the Emek community. The Pollak family was presented with one-of-a-kind artwork created by Shabsai Uvsitzky of Shabsai’s Art. Finally, Emek enhanced the Trustee Dinner program with a special sefer Torah dedication in honor of Mr. Sol Teichman, ob”m. Sol Teichman, born in Munkacs in 1927, endured unthinkable persecution by the Nazis, losing most of his family during WWII. After the war, he set sail to America where he met his wife, Ruth. Together, they have devoted their lives to helping Jewish organizations in Los Angeles and throughout the world. Sol Teichman is one of our founding fathers and Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center
will always hold a special place in the Teichmans’ hearts. Last year, Emek commissioned a sefer Torah for Sol in honor of his 90th birthday. During the dinner, guests had the opportunity to write in our brand new Sol Teichman, ob”m, Legacy Sefer Torah. Additionally, dedication opportunities will be available throughout the year. The magical evening concluded as our guests had the opportunity to daven Maariv and partake in a delectable dessert reception. Hand-rolled cigars were available and all guests left with a beau-
tiful challah tray and a unique car-shaped cookie displaying the Emek logo.
Ner Aryeh Melave Malkah at Shaarey Zedek Brenda Goldstein Yeshivas Ner Aryeh presented its fourth annual Melave Malkah Dinner, titled, “Building for the Future,” at Shaarey Zedek synagogue on February 23rd. Past, present, and future Ner Aryeh parents enjoyed delicious food while listening to guest speaker Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg of Shaarei Zedek. Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Binyomin Lieberman introduced Rabbi Rosenberg. “Ner Aryeh answered the call of Mi l’Hashem eilai, [‘Whoever is for Hashem, come with me,’]” Rabbi Rosenberg said, echoing the words of Moshe Rabbeinu to b’nai Yisrael thousands of years ago, following the cheit ha’egel. Because of our forefathers in the desert who went forward at Moshe Rabbeinu’s call, our kohanim came
into being. Now, added Rabbi Rosenberg, we still need to answer that call, as the Chofetz Chaim explained to Rabbi Shimon Schwab way back in 1930. Ner Aryeh has answered that call, he said, by helping to make Valley Village/ North Hollywood “an attractive place. We would not have the same community if Ner Aryeh wasn’t part of the fabric of Valley Village.” Yeshivas Ner Aryeh, founded in 2001 and reestablished as a yeshiva and bais medrash in 2009, holds an affiliation with Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim of Queens. Rabbi Yochanan Weiner, one of the founders of Ner Aryeh, serves as menahel and rosh yeshiva of the high school. He and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yechezkel Cohen also run
Ner Aryeh’s three-year beis medrash program. Housed for many years in its present location in the home of the former Toras Hashem and now of the Lakewood Kollel, Ner Aryeh hopes to soon start construction on its new building. “Our brand-new building,” said Rabbi Lieberman in the school’s official video, “will have four state-of-the-art classrooms and a very beautiful, spacious, modern bais medrash, and a basketball court in the backyard so our students are able to go out and play, and a very beautiful dining room.” “There is no question that having our own building will instill a sense of pride in our talmidim,” added Rabbi Weiner. “All you need to do is work hard, and
you will succeed,” said a Ner Aryeh student in the video. He went on to explain how the Torah studies at Ner Aryeh mold the students into b’nai Torah. “When you learn the Gemara in depth, it trains your brain how to think, how to analyze. And then you have the mussar, which is teaching you how to act, as a ben Torah. And then you learn how to speak and how to write. You learn how to interact with the world.” The opening words of the video, from tehillim, kapitel kuf yud ches: Me’es Hashem haisa zos, hi niflas b’einenu, “This emanated from Hashem; it is wonderous in our eyes,” described the purpose of the evening perfectly: to celebrate a true makom Torah.
The Week In News
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
im n a b b a r a H d a Va dar u h e m t s o m e is th way to give m, i n o y v e ’ l s o n mata ky s v e i n a K m i a R' Ch Ruling of Harav Elyashiv to give for matanos l'evyonim:
$ 30 or more
(Which will be split between 2 poor people)
(Which will be split between 2 poor people)
Matanos L’evyonim - Vaad Harabbanim In Cash Directly On Purim Day
221 Regent Drive Lakewood, NJ 08701
Tax ID# 37-1456890
Fax: 1877-KVITTEL (1877-584-8835)
1888-36-36-248 international toll-free number
In Canada: 5831 Esplanade Montreal Quebec Canada h2t3a2
All donations are tax deductible. Please make checks payable to Vaad Harabbanim In accordance with U.S. tax law requirements regarding deductibility of contributions, VAAD HARABBANIM L'INYANEI TZEDUKA INC. shall have full dominion, control and discretion over this gift. All contributions subject to final board approval.
TheHappenings Week In News
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
This Purim, At the Tombs of Esther and Mordechai Communicated
“Michael” kisses his son on the forehead and closes the bedroom door behind him. “Finally, the kids are all asleep,” he thinks. A heavy silence rings through the apartment, as the young father faces another night alone. Since his wife’s passing, he has spent most evenings in silence, processing his grief. A babysitter comes to watch the sleeping children, and he heads out to work. Someone has to pay the rent. And right now, he’s the only someone his kids have. This Purim, nothing could bring this young family more simchah than a little bit of help. And when a shaliach from Vaad
HaRabbanim comes knocking during their yearly matanos l’evyonim event, that’s exactly what they’ll get. Hundreds of families in Israel currently suffer in poverty and rely on the help of organizations like Vaad HaRabbanim to pay their most basic expenses. This year, as part of a massive matanos l’evyonim campaign, Vaad HaRabbanim has begun to collect funds to be distributed to many of the poorest families in Israel. In keeping with the strictest observance of the mitzvah, the money will be distributed on the day of Purim. Messengers will operate through the cities of Bnei
Brak, Jerusalem, and more, handing out cash to those who need it most. Recipients are determined before the date by a rabbinical council who reviews their details. The event’s reputation precedes it, as each year the most esteemed rabbanim in Israel are photographed participating. In addition to the regular program, a group of emissaries will gather to pray at the tombs of Mordechai and Esther in Iran. Surrounded by kedushah in the resting place of the main players of the Purim story, the emissaries will pray for all those who donate to the campaign. The story of Purim is that of hidden
miracles, of Hashem’s chessed being carried out through the guise of nature. Those who participate in Vaad HaRabbanim’s matanos l’evyonim program are choosing to become a messenger of Hashem, in bringing comfort to those who desperately need it, on one of the holiest days of the year. Please, when you are preparing for Purim this year, do not forget those who struggle through hunger and debt to find a spark of simchah. Donations can be sent to: Vaad HaRabbanim 221 Regent Drive Lakewood NJ 08701 Write checks to Vaad HaRabbanim L’inyanei Tzedukah Online: www.vaadharabbanim.com Tax ID: 37-1456890 Fax: 1 (877) 5848835 International Toll-Free Number: 1-888-36-36-248 All donations are tax deductible.
Torah Musings The Week In News
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
That ONE Thing Sarah Pachter
My student, Rachel, was telling me about a wonderful guy she was dating. She described him as a quality person, with tremendous motivation and loyalty, who had depth beyond his years. She was happy with his physical appearance and said there was abundant chemistry between the two of them. Overall, things sounded like they were going well. “There’s just one thing…” She went on to describe how he liked listening to rap music. My student was not religious, and certainly had no problem with non-Jewish music, so I was somewhat surprised at this being an issue. She insisted that the musical genre was childish, foul, and not refined enough for her taste. It really bothered her. It was clear that I did not understand the full picture, and it was possible that there was something else creating this reaction in her. However, I told her that perhaps she was focusing too much on this one aspect about him. It seemed that he had other positive qualities that counteracted this one—somewhat minor—issue. Why was she letting this one thing get in the way? Months later, when the guy ended the relationship with her, she turned that sharp lens on herself. As she was analyzing what she did wrong in the relationship (as all the ladies do), she was sure it was this one thing, or that one comment that turned him off from her. She kept trying to blame things going sour on one, singular mishap. I replied to her with something that seemed out of left field. “Rachel, I know this seems unrelated, but bear with me. Did you know that Haman’s name is actually in the Torah?” She replied with polite interest for me to continue although obviously uncertain as to why I was bringing this up. I went on to explain that the Gemara in Masechet Megillah tells us that Haman is hinted to in Parshat Bereishit. Hashem told Adam which trees to eat from, then He says, “Hamin ha’eitz hazeh.”1 From this one tree you shall not eat. Hamin in Hebrew is spelled with the same letters as Haman. Why would Hashem choose to place Haman’s name in the middle of the story of Adam and Chava? Professionally, Haman had everything.
He was second in command to the most powerful king in the world. He even had the king’s signet ring, which meant the entire world served him. His family life seemed perfect, too—he was married with ten children. Given his circumstances, he had every reason to be content with his life. Everywhere he went, people bowed— just fell to the floor. Everyone, that is, except one—Mordechai. This Jew refused to bow, and that was all Haman could think about. Haman said, “Vichol zeh enennu shove li.”2 “All this is worthless to me, as long as the Jew, Mordechai, does not bow.” This attitude ultimately led him out of this world, for he was hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordechai. Adam had a separate but similar experience. Hashem enumerated all of the trees from which he and Chava could eat—the caveat being, this one tree they may not eat from. Adam and Chava could have enjoyed an eternal life of bliss, living in paradise with their every need met. But their desire for that one thing that was lacking got the better of them, and ultimately, they were taken out of Gan Eden. The message is clear as to why Hashem chose this passage to insert Haman’s name. We have to train ourselves to stop focusing on the one thing we don’t have. We must stop exclusively seeing the one thing our date does not have, or the one thing we did wrong in a given situation. This applies to dating, in our possessions, and in many other circumstances in life. A friend of mine, Mrs. Elimor Ryzman is a hashkafah teacher at a local high school. She gives the following lesson to her students each year. At the start of class, she hands each student a piece of paper with a black dot in the middle. She asked them to write what they see. Without fail, every girl writes, “black dot” or “black circle.” It is so easy to focus on the black dot, but what about the rest of the white paper? It takes up much more space than the black dot, but it’s easier to focus on the one negative part. For better or worse, our brains are programmed to think critically. This means we naturally zoom in on the negative of any given situation. Our ability to do so is a sign of intelligence, but it can do us harm when used in the wrong situation. Back to dating, for example. Of course, we want to keep our eyes peeled and make sure the person we are dating is a man or woman with intelligence and good character. However, if we are looking for perfection in ourselves or the other person,
(Megillat Esther 5:13)
then we aren’t really looking for marriage. Marriages, and people, are full of imperfections that we have no control over. We must train ourselves to stop focusing on that one thing he said or did wrong; such thinking can end a perfectly good relationship. Instead, we should remember to see the person as a whole. Just because he made that one questionable comment on one of your 15 dates doesn’t mean it’s a bust. We should see the whole picture and make sure to offer that same kindness to ourselves before dismissing him so completely. My student loved the dvar Torah and responded that she would try to stop analyzing the negatives in the guy and the relationship. Then she told me, “It’s not difficult for me to stop seeing the negative in the other person, but when I’m rejected, it’s hard not to overanalyze myself and what I did wrong. How can I stop this?” Rejection is hard, but when it happens, in some ways, it is easier than being the heartbreaker. There is a famous story that discusses a man who went up to Shamayim after 120 years and said, “Hashem, why didn’t You send me my soulmate? I thought everyone had a soulmate! But You never sent me
mine!” Hashem answered, “I did; you just thought her forehead was too big.” Rejecting another can always lead us to question if we made the correct decision. We second-guess ourselves and wonder if we should have stayed with that person, or if he or she was in fact our soulmate. But when we get rejected, it’s a brachah in disguise, for it’s out of our control. It comes from Hashem, and clearly wasn’t meant to be for us. Sometimes, our dates seem to be going so well that the breakup comes from out of left field—just like my answer to Rachel. But I always say, “Sometimes, it’s so crazy, it must be from Hashem!” Ultimately, this is the deeper message behind hamin ha’eitz and the message of Purim. The Jews were on the bottom, and then flipped to the top. Mordechai was supposed to be hung, and then ultimately Haman was instead. It’s so crazy, so topsy-turvy—as ve nahafoch hu suggests— that it must be from Hashem. We must remember this when dating, and beyond that in life. Don’t be like Haman! Focus on all the brachot we do have, not the one thing we don’t. May we all have a wonderful Purim, filled with brachah that is so crazy, so surprising, it must be from Hashem!
Living with the Times The Week In News
By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman
Last week in Congress, the seat of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy, outright Jew-hatred led to a joke of a resolution protesting anti-Semitism. The majority party was afraid that it would tick off three or more first-year congresswomen. The Democrat party is increasingly moving left, under the leadership of progressives. Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, refers to herself
as “the boss” of Congress, and the old-school party bosses run scared.
Since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jews have overwhelmingly been voting Democrat. Perhaps the embarrassing watered-down resolution last week against all forms of hatred ought to have opened their eyes to the current face and direction of the party. The Jewish big-shots who run the committees, such as Nadler, Lowey and Engel, thought that they would formulate another of many meaningless congressional resolutions and everyone would vote for it and they would move on. They would offer some platitudes against anti-Semitism and everyone would vote for the statement. Instead, leading presidential contenders, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, followed the newly-minted progressives and refused to support a simple boiler-plate resolution against anti-Semitism. After a fierce debate, the party adulterated the statement, did not mention the offending congresswoman, and omitted the obvious - that she is not deserving of sitting on important committees. There was a statement, Congress approved it, and then they were able to go back to whatever it is that they do. What does it say about our time that the Democrat Party cannot stand up to a freshie member of Congress who drips with Jew-hatred? It is now over seventy years since the Holocaust, and it is again in style to mock and curse Jews in the halls of power around the democratic world. We have become accustomed to European Jew-hatred over the years, but in America? The bastion of
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Rise Up Shushan freedom that is home to millions of Jews? The country that brought down Nazism, communism and fascism? The bulwark of democracy since its founding almost 250 years ago? That America is now becoming a place where Jews feel uncomfortable, harkens back to the days we thought would never be seen again. Ilhan Omar, the offending congresswomen, isn’t shying away from the hubbub she created. “I am certainly not looking to be comfortable, and I don’t want everyone necessarily to feel comfortable around me,” she said with a mischievous
Jews. It has become acceptable for celebrities and icons to express their open hatred. While they couch their rhetoric in words of sympathy for the poor Palestinians, the truth emanates. They couldn’t care less about the Palestinians. They just hate Jews. Once again, Jews in Europe cower and seek escape routes, a chilling reminder of seventy years ago. The Left battles Israel at every opportunity, offering nonsensical, hypocritical excuses for their anti-Semitism. Much of the modern anti-Semitism is depicted as anti-Zionism, though the folly is ob-
The Megillah teaches us how to deal with the Hamans of the day. smile tugging at her lips. “I think really the most exciting things happen when people are extremely uncomfortable.” The Jews are feeling uncomfortable? Good. They should. The charges against the Jews are nothing new, though thankfully what is new is that in times gone by, such scape-goating would be followed by pogroms, mass murder and pillaging. Today, so far, the calls are empty. It is not only in Washington that this is going on. It is happening in many other places where there are large percentages of Jews. Groups of gentiles band together and claim that the Jews are kicking them out of their homes and neighborhoods. The Jews don’t obey the laws, they claim. The Jews are dirty, unpatriotic and disrespectful, they allege. “We need to stop them,” they cry. “We need to keep them out of the neighborhoods that belong to us.” Throughout our history, we have encountered this animosity. Although there have been times when the hatred was delicately concealed, it is currently becoming more in vogue and acceptable to bash
vious. Jews fight for their safety and are condemned. Millions of Jews were driven to their deaths from those very countries in which anti-Semites currently flex their muscles. Anti-Semitism morphs to fit with the times. The age-old hatred for the Jewish nation adopts different slogans and chants, but at the heart of it all is the same old hatred for Yitzchok by Yishmoel, and Yaakov by Eisov and Lavan. Whether it’s under the guise of blaming the Jews for spreading the plague, or drinking human blood, as in the days of old, or cloaked in humanitarian vestments, hate is hate. In Europe, a continent soaked with Jewish blood, it is in vogue to knock Jews, demonstrate against them, accuse them of the vilest crimes, and create an atmosphere reminiscent of the darkest days of Jewry that many believed we would never return to. The eis tzorah is palpable in England, where Jews were burned alive; in Paris, where the Talmud was lit up and destroyed; in Germany, home of Kristallnacht and the
Holocaust; Poland, home of the crematoria; Austria, birthplace of Hitler; and many other places. We recognize that we suffer persecution and discrimination because we are Jews. The world’s hatred of the Jew is not derived from their concern about human rights violations or political decisions. Next week, we will read the Megillah and recognize, in the words of Haman, the same rhetoric we hear now. “Rise up Shushan,” he yelled (3:8). “There is a people spread among us, and they are spreading all over…” What he was saying was, “They don’t follow the laws, they aren’t productive, and there is no reason to keep them around.” Haman spoke the language of today. He spoke the language of thousands of years of Jew-haters and race-baiters. What we hear today is nothing new. The Megillah teaches us how to deal with the Hamans of the day. Today, we read the news, and hear the threats, and wonder how to respond. Do we show panic? Do we act senselessly? Do we threaten in return? Do we quickly capitulate? Since Har Sinai, we have been cast apart from other nations, despised, reviled, stomped on and murdered. Miraculously, we have endured. How have we succeeded? Public servants who believe they can act as they please, without considering all the ramifications of their utterances, speeches, votes and threats, cause further harm to our people and further jeopardize our peaceful existence here. Esther Hamalka occupied the second highest position in the land, but she had no agenda of her own. The queen’s every action and reaction was dictated by Mordechai. Laypeople see the world differently than people steeped in Torah. Very often, politicians, by their very nature, have a different outlook on their job and responsibilities. When the going is tough, they seek to portray strength, showing their constituents back home that they are defenders of the faith and the people, though at that time what might be necessary to ride out the storm is subtlety and intelligence. Mordechai should be the who gets to decide the proper course. Rabbonim need to be consulted and the issues discussed with them. In golus, it is not always prudent to flash muscle. Sometimes, we need to go along in order to survive. But it is Mordechai who gets to decide when to act this way and when to act that way. Very often,
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Mordechai is not popular. Back in Shushan, all the Jews partook in the feast of Achashveirosh. Besides that it was quite a ball, they reasoned that they had to show that they were loyal citizens. As far as we know, only Mordechai was opposed to participating. Only Mordechai chastised the Jewish people for eating out of vessels of the Bais Hamkidosh. But he was mocked and nobody listened to him. The Jews were punished for attending Achashveirosh’s feast and Haman accused them of being disloyal to the king, despite the fact that they were at the grand party. They rationalized that it was necessary to be there, but their reasoning was faulty and it backfired on them. As we read and study the Megillah, we assume that we would have been righteous, learned and intelligent enough to go against the flow and follow Mordechai. The fact is, the vast majority of the Jewish people viewed Mordechai as a misguided negative cynic. When Haman was appointed arch-minister and the entire nation bowed to him, Mordechai refused and forbade doing so. Once again, he was mocked and vilified by the Jewish people who accused him of putting their lives in jeopardy. He was unmoved. He wouldn’t budge. And it was the obstinacy of Mordechai that led to the salvation of the Jewish people. We are accused of not caring about our children. The government, in numerous venues, alleges that religious Jews act in ways that jeopardize their children. To self-appointed spokesmen and to other amei ha’aretz, the response may seem simple, but it never is. To merit a neis, we must follow the path of Torah. Quite often, that requires putting aside our own thoughts and comforts. Of course, at all times, we should question our own conduct and ensure that when others observe Jews, they see a nation of princes. They should see people of distinction, manners, class and concern for others, people who are mekadshei sheim Hashem. That won’t change the way Ilhan Omar, or the Jersey haters, or the Rockland bigots, or the many other Hamanists out there view us, but it will help the way we look at others, bring us together, and make us more worthy of Heavenly blessings and miracles. Purim is the Yom Tov of hester, celebrating that Hashem is looking out for us, even when we don’t see Him and the Divine is covered by the morass of golus. Instead of fixating on the negatives, let’s
look at the positives in life and concentrate on them. Purim reminds us that there is no happenstance, and even when all appears lost, triumph is just around the corner. Purim reminds us that with proper faith
and devotion, no matter how rough the trip is, the end will be bright and cheery. Purim is the day when we consume enough wine - ad delo yoda - that we recognize that we cannot make the right calculations, figure everything out, and de-
termine the proper course of action on our own, but must trust in Hashem and know that He will help us. Lechaim. Stop worrying. Kein tihiyeh lonu orah vesimcha vesasson vikor.
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The Weekly Daf Can a liquid become inherently forbidden if a forbidden taste is added to it?
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This question came up this week on Friday’s daf (108). We are presented there with arguably the most classic case of forbidden mixtures: a drop of milk falls into a pot of meat. The mishnah discusses the specific situation where the drop of milk fell onto a particular piece of meat and remained only in that piece. The mishnah rules that if the piece of meat doesn’t contain sixty times the amount of milk then “it” is prohibited. In the gemara, Rav teaches that the word “it” refers to all of the pot’s contents. For as Rav explains, once the milk entered that first piece of meat, the entire piece is considered non-kosher. As a result, all of the pieces become prohibited—even if the prohibited piece is only 1/60 the volume of the other pieces—because in Rav’s view, nullification doesn’t apply when the elements in the mixture are of the same type. The Raavad asserts that a distinction must be made when we discuss this concept of deeming a heretofore permitted food as inherently non-kosher as a result of it absorbing a non-kosher flavor: that this only applies to a solid food. If, however, a forbidden liquid became mixed with a kosher liquid, we do not say that the entire mixture is considered inherently non-kosher. Instead we would only have to be concerned about the non-kosher liquid itself, and so if we have 60 times its volume of kosher liquid, the non-kosher part would be nullified. The Shach (Yoreh Deah, 92:14) explains that this idea of permanently branding a food as inherently prohibited as a result of absorbing some prohibited flavor only makes sense when we’re dealing with a substantial and defined entity, like
a piece of meat. Whereas if we’re simply dealing with some prohibited liquid floating around in a heretofore permitted liquid, there’s no logic to brand all of the liquid as inherently prohibited. The Rishonim question the Raavad from the gemara on 108b which states explicitly that if meat flavor entered some milk, we do consider the entire mixture as inherently forbidden! The Rashba defends the Raavad by suggesting that the Raavad only meant to make his distinction by other prohibitions, but not with regards to the prohibition of milk and meat. By milk and meat, however, the Raavad agrees that once meat flavor infiltrates milk the whole mixture is considered inherently forbidden. What makes the milk and meat prohibition unique is the point that Rava made earlier on our daf: the fact that in this prohibition the Torah is saying that two foods, which on their own are permitted, become prohibited by being cooked together. By a unique prohibition as this, the Raavad agrees that as soon as some of one element gets infused in the other everything is deemed inherently forbidden. This defense of the Raavad is codified into the halachah: The Rema (ibid; 4) rules that while in the case of other prohibited foods we may (in cases of substantial financial loss) rely on the Raavad’s leniency and only consider the prohibited liquid itself when determining the mixture’s status, when it comes to milk that absorbed some meat flavor, we cannot be lenient, and we must regard all of the milk as an inherently prohibited substance.
MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
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MARCH 14, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Achdus Upside-Down Rebecca Klempner Recently, social media, public spaces, dinner tables, and even classrooms have been filled with raised voices, finger pointing, and Unfriending—not to mention Unfriending’s passive-aggressive cousin, Unfollowing. (I’ve probably already Unfollowed you. You just haven’t realized yet.) It’s hard to get along with our fellow Jews, let alone the rest of the planet’s human population, so here’s my handydandy list of pointers to help you get along with others. Because clearly, we are not trying hard enough. 1) Increase insults and namecalling! People will be more receptive to your opinion if you call them “an idiot” or “self-hating.” Add a shove or spit at them, and they’ll send you a thank-you letter for setting them straight. 2) If someone says something antiSemitic, respond with a racist trope!
Two wrongs make a right, right? 3) Insist everyone who opposes Netanyahu must be an anti-Semite. Including all the Israelis complaining about him on buses, in lines at government offices, and on Twitter. Also, your Doda Michal. And Israeli voters who support other parties. 4) Attack people, not their beliefs or actions. If you tell people they are rubbish, rather than that their ideas are rubbish, they might burst into tears. Since crying is cathartic, they will feel so much better afterwards that they’ll send you shalach manos. 5) Bring up old grudges. Including those based on offenses you said you forgave last Yom Kippur. 6) Dig up painful or embarrassing moments from their past to parade before the world even if they have apologized for them already. Because you’ve never regretted anything you ever
did, nor did you ever learn a lesson from your past actions. Cashiers make change, not people. 7) Be condescending. If you look down your nose at people, you appear taller, and they will be awed. 8) Use lots of sentences which start with the words “We” and “They.” Because that usually leads to people to grab each other’s hands and sing “Kumbaya.” 9) Dig in your heels when people challenge your opinion. Save flexibility for your yoga class.
10) Don’t try to see other people’s points of view. You’ll need bifocals— worse, trifocals!—and those are expensive. I wrote the above with tongue firmly planted in cheek—and tears in my eyes. There has been an even larger amount of discord in the Jewish community in the last few weeks than usual, and it’s no joke. The mitzvos of Purim are all actions which provide us with opportunities to develop love for our fellow Jews. When Jews show up to read Megillat Esther together in our synagogues, we don’t check their party affiliation at the door. We don’t exchange food gifts with friends and neighbors only if they are “our kind.” We don’t pour wine only for guests who share our opinions on Israeli politics. And we donate tzedakah to the poor regardless of how they feel about the president. Let’s all set our resentments aside for this joyous season and beyond.
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A Wyze Investment in Security Tribe Tech Review
There are many smart security cameras on the market. Nest is a popular brand offering cameras at $199 and $299. Netgear, another popular brand, offers the Arlo camera at $199, while Amazon offers the Cloud Cam for $119. Nest requires a subscription-based cloud service to store video in the cloud so that you can view it from anywhere. The Nest Aware cloud history service is $100 a year for 10 days of history and goes up to $300 a year for 30 days of history. It’s bundled with other services as well. When reviewing home technology, I often prefer to start at the bottom from a cost perspective and see if the features provided are sufficient before I move on to technology with a higher price tag. This month I’m reviewing the Wyze Cam which sells for $19.99 at Wyzecam.com. No, that is not a typo; the camera costs twenty bucks and does not require a storage subscription. Interested? Keep reading.
When the Wyze Cam camera arrived in the mail, I was shocked at how small the box was: literally a two-inch cube. Do good things come in small packages?
My wife Bibi’s reaction was, “Wow, this camera is cute.” The camera comes with a flexible stand which allows it to be raised, tilted and swiveled to point in any direc-
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tion. It also comes with a magnetic base and an adhesive for wall mounting (although I did not mount mine). The camera requires a nearby power outlet (it is not battery powered) and, of course, a Wi-Fi connection. Once plugged in, it’s simple to apply the camera as a baby monitor that will allow you to view your little ones from anywhere. I recommended this to a colleague who is a new father, and he loves it. There is also a two-way voice connection that allows you to speak to the camera and hear sounds along with viewing live images. Right out of the box, the camera offers both sound and motion detection options. When movement or sound is detected, the camera records and uploads to the cloud 12-second clips, which are saved for 14 days without a subscription. That is a huge advantage over some other services that charge hefty fees for a similar feature. I found the motion sensor to be accurate, detecting primarily actual movement. Occasionally, I received empty motion clips that seems to be triggered by cloud movements and shadows. There is a sensitivity option that I dialed down to address this. The sound clips did not seem very helpful, in my experience, though I did discover that houses make sounds—be it the air conditioning or heating or the refrigerator compressor switching on. I dialed down the sound sensor drastically, hoping it would still capture a glass breakage or other loud sound but not bother with the rest. There is a separate smoke and carbon monoxide alarm sensor that will notify you if any of your external house alarms are triggered, which can be very helpful in a real emergency. The camera also has wide angle (110 degree) viewing capabilities. When I placed it in my foyer, I was able to monitor both my front and side doors simultaneously, since they are set at a 90-degree angle of each other. If you require coverage of angles wider than 110 degrees, you can use two cameras and daisy chain from one power source to multiple cameras, avoiding extra wires. There is also a night vision mode that I set to Auto; it produces high quality videos even with all the lights in the house switched off. The camera is only for indoor use, so I placed it on a window sill facing the street to capture activity outside my front door. It worked well during the daytime, capturing all movements to my front door. The camera is compatible with the Alexa, so I can ask to view a live image of my front door from a compatible Alexa enabled device (Echo Show). The wide angle and motion
detection works against you in this scenario as the motion sensor picks up each car traveling on your block. Fortunately, a recent update to the software allows you to set a specific zone for motion detection. I set it to the narrow view of my front path while excluding any movement beyond the curb. This defines the motion detection zone, but once motion is detected in that zone, the full camera view is recorded. Night time video, however, was a little bit of a disappointment on my window due to the reflection of the glass. Motion detection on Shabbat poses the big challenge for this camera as well as other smart cameras and smart home devices. When speaking with halachic authorities, the common opinion is that triggering motion detection that is not for your benefit is not a problem. However, where the trigger is for your benefit it can be problematic. For example, if your neighbor’s motion light sensors are triggered when you pass on your way home, this may not be an issue since the motion detection is for your neighbor’s benefit and not yours. However, setting up a motion sensitive camera in your own home is clearly for your benefit, and this may not be permissible if it will trigger events on Shabbat. In a previous article, I quoted rabbinic authorities who believe keeping an Amazon Echo listening in your home on Shabbat is problematic for similar reasons (see tribetechreview. wordpress.com for archives). The app does allow for turning off the motion detection at certain times during the day but does not allow you to choose the day of the week, or to choose times based on sunset for Shabbat. Plugging the camera into a smart switch that turns the entire camera off for Shabbat is a solution (one that I previously recommended for the Amazon Echo, itself). I did this for a while, and it rebooted after Shabbat without issue. However, I wanted to find a way to keep the safety of the recording going 24/7 but to just turn off the motion detection triggers over Shabbat and Yom Tov. I believe I have found a solution, and it is a solution that may work for other smart device integrations. It is a bit elaborate, so it will require a second article. Please visit my blog at tribetechreview.wordpress.com or stay tuned for Part II next issue.
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And With this I Fulfill My Obligation
“My custom, for the past few years now, is to give Matanos Le’evyonim to Kupat Ha’ir immediately after Krias Hamegillah,
and this is how I fulfill my obligation.”
Maran Rabbeinu Sar HaTorah HaGaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit"a giving Matanos Le'evyonim to Kupat Ha'ir immediately after Krias Hamegillah Purim day, Lederman Shul
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קו העפת רי
The Week In News Feature
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Operation Exodus: The Chabad Effort That Saved 1,800 Iranian Jewish Children Forty years after the Iranian Revolution, recalling an unlikely and unheralded story Dovid Margolin It was a cold day in the spring of 1979 when 13-year-old Anna Monahemi arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. She came with a group of 40 Jewish girls—all of them from Iran, each of them alone. Her parents, like those of the other girls, had quietly bought her a ticket to Rome and sent her off, not knowing when they would see her next. There, the girls were greeted, processed and issued U.S. I-20 student visas. Five days later, they were safely in America. From JFK, Anna and the girls were brought directly to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., and placed with host families—members of the Chabad-Lubavitch community. This was not the only group of Iranian Jewish children in Crown Heights. Since the end of 1978, planeloads of Jewish refugee children had followed the same path to safety, intensifying after the January 1979 fall of the Shah of Iran and the return from exile two weeks later of the Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. By Passover of 1979, there were 1,000 Iranian Jewish children staying in Crown Heights with families, living in dorms, and studying in schools and classes established especially for them in the neighborhood. Jews had lived in what was long known as Persia for 2,500 years, and at the time of the revolution, 100,000 of them called it home. They were well-established and successful. But then came the Islamic revolution, followed swiftly, 40 years ago this month, by the Islamist seizure of power.
Violence roiled the streets. Threats against Jews were followed by the arrest and murder of leaders in the Jewish community. As the ground shifted under their feet, Persian Jews desperately sought avenues of escape, especially for their children. The answer came in the form of Operation Exodus, a historic ChabadLubavitch effort, still largely unknown, to rescue the Jewish children of Iran. With help from the Crown Heights community and an army of volunteers, the operation was spearheaded by the late Rabbi Yaakov Yehudah (J.J.) Hecht, the exuberant executive vice president of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), and personally approved and encouraged every step of the way by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. Operation Exodus was by far the largest organized effort to rescue the embattled Jews of Iran, and by the time it wrapped up in 1981 had brought 1,800 children to the United States. While Hecht was promised financial assistance from mainstream Jewish organizations, much of it never materialized, leaving him to cover the expenses alone. When Hecht passed away a decade later, his organization was still millions of dollars in debt. Yet he never for a second regretted it; there were Jewish children to be rescued, and he had gotten it done. Among other positions, Rabbi J.J. Hecht served as the Rebbe's English translator at many public functions, including
the grand Lag BaOmer parades held on Eastern Parkway beginning in the early 1950s. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) ‘Very Similar to Our World in Iran’ Anna Monahemi, today State Sen. Anna Kaplan, was elected this past November to the New York State Senate from North Hempstead. The first streets of America that she wandered were those of Chassidic Crown Heights, and she recalls being taken by the pre-Shabbat shopping rush along the main commercial thoroughfare, Kingston Avenue, and hearing the Rebbe speak at the central Chabad synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway. She still remembers the address on Montgomery Street where she stayed with a handful of other girls, the Chassidic family having taken a basement bedroom used by their own children and repurposing it for the girls. That Passover she joined hundreds of other Iranian girls at one of the communal seders organized for them, where, along with Farsi Haggadahs, they were served rice as per the Sephardic custom. In fact, it had been the Rebbe who insisted that every effort be made to make sure the Iranian children were as comfortable with their new surroundings as possible, including serving them rice, which is considered kitniyot and not consumed by Ashkenazi Jewry on Passover. The Rebbe personally visited the Iranian childrens’ seders, held in multiple locations, stopping first in the kitchen to thank the staff, where he saw the rice being prepared. In
the dining rooms he addressed the children in Hebrew, waiting as one of the children translated his words into Farsi. Kaplan remained in Crown Heights for the next few months, spending the summer at NCFJE’s Camp Emunah in Upstate New York before joining one of her older brothers in Chicago. Another brother of hers followed a similar route as she, going from Tehran to Crown Heights before moving on to Chicago as well. Kaplan says that for her, the differences in culture between the traditional, though not observant, home she came from in Tehran and the world of Chassidic Crown Heights were not all that different. “My goal was continuing my studies and getting an education, which included Jewish classes I took there,” Kaplan tells Chabad.org. “But the Lubavitcher community’s emphasis on family and the family unit, it was very similar to our world in Iran.” Chabad's campaign to bring 1,800 Iranian children to safety lasted between the end of 1978 and late summer of 1980. Pictured is one of the groups going through registration upon arrival in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., circa 1979. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) To her, the moral of the story is simple: “Human beings try to help each other when someone needs help. The Rebbe was instrumental in that.” The decision to send her and her brother out of Iran had been a difficult one for her parents, but they felt a sense of urgency to get them out of the country. This was made easier, however, by the fact that they were being taken in by fellow Jews. “That fact gave them comfort.” Ultimately, it is the kindness of her hosts that has remained with her, as well as the opportunities she received as a result. “They opened their home to us, and I’ll always be grateful for that,” she says. “Today, I’m living the American dream. I came as a political refugee and was now elected to a high office in a great state in the greatest country on earth.” Kaplan spoke to Chabad.org on a winter afternoon one Friday. “After this call, I’m going to prepare for Shabbat,” she said. “My mother is joining us.”
(Credit: Rivka Korf for Chabad.org)
This unlikely story of rescue began in the late 1970s, when an Italian-born Chabad yeshivah student named Hertzel Illulian was studying in New York. His
The Week In News Feature
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parents were successful Persian Jewish immigrants, traditional but not religious, and he had grown up in comfort in Milan. After serendipitously meeting a Chabad Chassid on the streets of Milan, who helped him don tefillin for the first time, Illulian became more religious and eventually came to New York to study at the Lubavitcher yeshivah. Like his fellow Chabad yeshivah students, each summer he’d enlist in the Merkos Shlichus rabbinical visitation program to share, teach and strengthen Judaism in underserved and remote Jewish localities. Illulian dreamed of traveling to his ancestral homeland, Iran, to try to impact its Jews as he had once been influenced in Milan. Iran was safe, he spoke Farsi; it was a good match. In 1976, he wrote to the Rebbe requesting a blessing for a summer posting to Iran, but received no reply. The same thing happened the next summer. Then came the summer of 1978. Illulian had an uncle in Forest Hills, Queens, whom he often visited and who prayed at the Sephardic Jewish Congregation, led then as it is now by Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht, Rabbi J.J. Hecht’s eldest son. It was to Hecht that Illulian broached the idea of going together on Merkos Shlichus to Iran. Hecht was intrigued. From what he heard from his congregants—a mixture of Sephardic Jews, Persians included—Iran might benefit from such a visit. Illulian again wrote to the Rebbe, and this time got a positive response. The details were then worked out, and both Illulian and Hecht raised the funds needed to cover the trip. “Our original intention was to establish a liaison with the community there, and then see if it made sense to send an official emissary there,” says Hecht. Illulian went about translating some Jewish beginner texts into Farsi, as well as the 12 Torah passages (pesukim), specially chosen by the Rebbe as verses children should learn and know. He also packed a few suitcases with mitzvah lapel buttons, Chassidic records and mezuzahs— and off they went. They landed in Tehran on a calm day in August of 1978. Revolution, refugees ... that was the last thing on their minds. When Rabbis Sholem Ber Hecht and Hertzel Illulian first visited Tehran in August of 1978, they went hoping to establish a formal connection between Chabad and the Iranian Jewish community; revolution and refugees were the last things on their mind. Hecht at the gates of a Tehran synagogue. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE)
The Iran the two young rabbis found was a rapidly Westernizing one, and the Jewish community, while traditional, was largely affluent and modernizing. Hecht and Illulian were officially greeted by Rabbi David Shofet, son of Iran’s chief rabbi, Chacham Yedidia Shofet, and himself at the time head of the Jewish com-
Chabad's campaign to bring 1,800 Iranian children to safety lasted between the end of 1978 and late summer of 1980. Pictured is one of the groups going through registration upon arrival in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., circa 1979. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE)
munity umbrella organization; Chacham Netanel Ben-Haim, who headed the Ozar Hatorah religious school system; and Rabbi Eliyahu Ben- Haim, who led both the Yusef Abad and Meshadi synagogues in Tehran. Arrangements were made for the pair to address on Shabbat the five or so main synagogues in Tehran, which on a weekly basis could draw anywhere from 500 to 1,500 people. “A lot of people thought we were there to collect money,” remembers Hecht. Many Jews, but not all, lived in opulent homes, drove Cadillac Sevilles or Mercedes 500s, and were accustomed to foreign rabbis coming to collect funds. “The first thing we did was get up and say, ‘We didn’t come to take; we came to give.’ That surprised them. We told them we were there because the Lubavitcher Rebbe has sent us there, we spoke about Judaism, encouraged them in their practice. We were very respectfully received.” For many centuries the Jews of Persia, like those in other Muslim-majority societies, were dhimmi, a tolerated but second-class-status minority. In modern Iran under the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, this had changed. He instituted a series of reforms, including breaking down the barriers that had been placed upon the Jews. This proved to be a good investment for the regime, as the Jews flourished economically, contributing handsomely to the new Iran, repaying the Shah with their loyalty as well. On the other hand, similar to what happens in other upwardly mobile societies, this had a negative impact upon the religious standards of the Persian Jewish community at large. Laxities crept in. Whereas the Ozar Hatorah schools, established in Iran in the aftermath of World War II, had once had thousands of Jewish students all over the country, by the time Hecht and Illulian visited, the branch in Tehran had perhaps a few hundred children enrolled. Hecht, second from left, and Illulian, far right, help an Iranian Jew don tefillin.
(Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) Bension Kohen had studied at Ozar Hatorah’s elementary school and graduated from the ORT high school in Tehran. When the two Chabad rabbis visited, Kohen was studying in a university and working part-time as an electrician at the Royal Gardens Hotel, where the pair stayed. “I met them and volunteered to be their chauffeur,” says Kohen. “You see two Jewish guys with beards and a kipah, you get excited. I introduced myself and stayed with them for the next couple of weeks.” While Hecht and Illulian had come to what was still a stable Iran, street demonstrations against the Shah had already begun. The Shah, while liberal in many ways, ran a police state, and his human-rights record did not match his economic reforms. People were agitating for more basic freedoms, but it was not obviously being fueled by Islamists. “[T]he revolution … at first appeared to be a broad-based coalition embracing the merchants, students, and many moderate elements, in addition to the reactionary clerics,” writes the late foreign-policy expert Peter W. Rodman. “[O]nly gradually did it become clear that, as in Petrograd in 1917, vacuums are often filled by the most ruthless, the most disciplined, the most fanatical.” Hecht recalls sitting in the home of Chacham Ben-Haim following Shabbat and seeing the television screen flashing images of street demonstrations turned violent. “That’s why we didn’t go to any other cities outside of Tehran,” he says. “We were afraid to get caught up.” Illulian stands near the gates of a Tehran synagogue, August 1978. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) The sudden violence frightened the Jewish community. Whereas the Chabad rabbis had hoped perhaps to meet a handful of Jewish boys who would be interested in coming to America to study in yeshivah, by the second week of their trip Iranian parents began approaching them about the possibility of sending
their children with them. The trip was set to last one month, with Hecht, who was married and had children, returning home after two weeks, and the late Rabbi Yossi Raichik, then a yeshivah student, joining Illulian for the second segment of the trip. By the time Hecht left, 20 sets of parents had inquired about sending their children to America. Hecht also gave his phone number to Kohen, their young driver. “He told me, if you come to America, here is my number,” recalls Kohen. A few months later, that number would come in handy. Meanwhile, Raichik arrived to join Illulian. He carried plates from which they printed a special Iranian edition of the Tanya, the central text of the Chabad movement, penned by its founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. But the circumstances on the ground were getting worse. Illulian was in regular contact with the Rebbe’s chief of staff, Rabbi Chaim Aizik Mordechai Hodakov, who counseled him to stay safe. Illulian had a close call with the Shah’s secret police. One afternoon he found himself in a car close to Tehran’s InterContinental Hotel, and the window for praying the afternoon minchah service closing. He stopped, pulled out a prayerbook and began reciting the words as he swayed. “Suddenly, I got surrounded by a lot of strange people,” Illulian recalls in an interview with Jewish Educational Media’s (JEM) My Encounter with the Rebbe oral history project. “They thought I was a terrorist … and wanted to arrest me.” Hecht and an Iranian Jew pose outside of the Royal Gardens Hotel. Before the revolution, the hotel was owned by the prominent Jewish Berookhim family, one of whom, Ebrahim “Ebi,” was arrested, accused of being a Zionist and killed by the Islamic Republic of Iran in July of 1980. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) Illulian’s Jewish driver tried to intercede, telling the agents that Illulian was harmless. The authorities left Illulian but detained the driver. By that time, “they were burning things in the streets, destroying pictures of the Shah and government property,” remembers Kohen. Instability or revolution almost always places the Jewish community in particular danger, but the Islamist element of this one was far more open from the outset about their antagonism. While Iran’s Jews had lived in relative safety, even prior to these events Iran was not a place by any stretch that was free of anti-Semitism. But now, the threats were becoming explicit. “Warning to all the Jews of Iran,” read a June 1978 flyer signed by a group calling itself the National Front of Young Muslims in Iran and forwarded by cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran to the State Department in Washington. “You blood-sucking people who have gathered in our Islamic country and are bleeding every one of us Muslims by extorting money-lending interest, theft and swin-
The Week In News Feature dling and sending the wealth collected in this way to the Zionist country of Israel … be aware now that your golden days are over. … You are hereby warned to leave the country as soon as you can otherwise we will massacre all Jews. … A Hitler is a necessity once in a while to exterminate the Jews … ” Now Illulian and Raichik found themselves inundated with requests from parents asking them to take their children with them. Illulian called Hecht and explained the unraveling situation. Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht turned to his father asking what they could do. Was it their job to now begin ferrying Persian Jewish children to the United States? A Tehran synagogue, August 1978 (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) J.J. Hecht was a legendary personality. Loud, energetic, dedicated, he had the voice of an old- time orator, hosted a regular Jewish radio program on New York’s WEVD and ran a whirlwind of projects through his organization, NCFJE. He was also fiercely loyal to the Rebbe, and in foot- soldier fashion would write reports and queries regarding his work to the Rebbe multiple times a day. There was even a joke that went around that he needed to hire a full-time courier to bring his messages down the block from his office at 824-828 Eastern Parkway to the Rebbe’s secretariat at 770. In this case, too, the elder Hecht turned to the Rebbe to ask whether this was a project he should now take on. Even a modest number of children would require I-20 student visas and all the paperwork that entailed, plus food, housing, schooling and more. The response was an unequivocal yes. The Rebbe said that this project would be a blessing for both the Iranian Jewish community, and for Hecht and his organization. “That’s what the Rebbe said, so that was it,” says his son. “He undertook the whole task.” Did he have any idea what this would entail? “I don’t think he did,” replies Rabbi J.J. Hecht’s wife, Rebbetzin Chava Hecht. “That’s how he was. He jumped in, even if the water was freezing.”
A Trickle Turns Into a Flood
In October of 1978, during the intermediary days of the holiday of Sukkot, Illulian returned to Tehran alone, this time armed with I-20 visa applications issued by Hadar Hatorah, the first-ever yeshivah for young men returning to the traditions of their ancestors, run under the auspices of NCFJE. “Herzel had the list of names of students who had decided they actually wanted to come, so we were able to start issuing I-20s for them,” says Hecht. “So we started doing that, then we had to also send all the supporting documents, which also had to be signed, including source of income, etc. So my father decided to sign those also.” Aside from the street demonstrations,
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In addition to Jewish education in Farsi, a full school program was created for the Persian children in Crown Heights. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE)
the Shah, struggling to squelch the unrest in his empire, began drafting young men not in university into his military. Another option that was given was to show proof of acceptance to a foreign university, so the young person would quickly be granted an exit visa. This was another reason for parents to find a way out for their children. Despite the growing tensions, the American embassy in Tehran was still properly staffed at the time, and Illulian was able to file the paperwork at the embassy, which issued the visas. A few weeks later, Illulian returned together with the first group of Iranian Jewish children, about 40 students. The boys were enrolled in Hadar Hatorah, while the girls attended Beth Rivkah, the flagship Chabad school for girls. There was plenty of dorm space for the boys, and the girls were put up with host families. “The word got out in Iran that this is the way to get your kids out of trouble,” says Hecht. “All of a sudden, we started getting calls from Rabbi David Shofet; he heard from mothers that they needed hundreds of these visas. So from November, December, January ... those months, we started sending them huge numbers of I-20 applications.” As the situation grew worse, the Shah received mixed messages from Washington. The State Department, on the one hand, led by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, was of the opinion that in order for Iran to stabilize and move in a more liberal direction, the Shah had to leave. President Jimmy Carter’s national security staff, on the other, led by Zbigniew Brzezinski, felt that the Shah was a stabilizing presence and a vital ally in the region who should be supported in his time of trouble. While it was true that the Shah was a dictator, the alternative, Brzezinski and others felt, would spell disaster. Carter leaned towards Brzezinski’s view, but this wasn’t being clearly communicated to the Shah, especially by the American ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan. Between November of 1978 and April of 1979, 1,000 children came to Crown
Heights. The bulk of them flew from Tehran to Rome, and then on to JFK, arriving in biweekly and then weekly waves. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) The Shah vacillated, unwilling or unable to pull the trigger and order the military to harshly crack down on the revolution in his streets. On Jan. 16, 1979, the once-all-powerful monarch of the Imperial State of Iran boarded an airplane and left the country for the last time. Bension Kohen left Iran the next day. He had purchased an acceptance form to Queens College on the streets and arrived in New York before Shabbat. On Sunday he dialed Hecht, who told him to stay where he was and he’d pick him up. The Farsi-speaking young man, who soon found himself volunteering as a counselor and cook in NCFJE’s booming Persian children’s program, has lived in Crown Heights ever since. Two weeks after the Shah’s departure, the exiled Khomeini made his triumphant return to Iran. The Islamic revolution in full force, there was no turning back.
Murder and Panic in the Streets
The mood in the Iranian Jewish community was tense. While worried, they remained deeply tied to the country. They had homes, properties, businesses, investments; it had been their native land for millennia. “People had this idea that this had happened once [the attempted coup against the Shah in 1953], and the Shah could still return,” explains Rabbi Shofet, who played a central role leading the teetering Jewish community in Tehran during those heady days, and is today the chief rabbi of the Nessah Synagogue and Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. “It was an illusion.” And so Shofet encouraged parents to send their children out via Chabad. While there were claims that the new Islamic Republic was against Zionists and not Jews, as this flyer states, threats against all Jews, and the arrest and murder of Jewish community leaders, took place as well.
“When there’s trouble, people turn to G‑d,” says Dovid Loloyan, by now also a rabbi in California, but at the time a 12-year-old boy growing up in a non-religious Persian Jewish household in Tehran. “My mother started going to synagogue, and there, in Rabbi Shofet’s shul, she heard him saying that there’s this group, Chabad, taking children to the United States to study, and we’d be able to go to college, too, because with Iranians there’s no way their child isn’t going to college.” Loloyan’s mother at first wanted to send her son to join his sister in Israel, but in Feb. 1979, El Al, fearing for the safety of its staff, suspended all flights to Tehran. That’s when she heard Shofet’s pronouncement in the synagogue, and the decision was made to send him to America. Loloyan was 12 at the time, and had seen protesters burning banks and looting stores, soldiers mowing down protesters. He wanted to leave, and the family went about quietly preparing. A newly arrived group learns to make blessings. Rabbi J.J. Hecht stands on the left; his son, Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht, is on the right. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) “It was known among the Jews that we children were leaving,” says Loloyan, “but we kept it secret from the Muslims.” Loloyan was a part of one of the first groups to leave Iran after the actual revolution—150 children in all. By this time the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which had been briefly overrun by Islamist militants in February before being freed a few hours later, had pulled back much of their staff, with the ambassador, Sullivan, being recalled in March. The I-20s could no longer be processed in Tehran. A third country was needed, and with Illulian hailing from Italy and a Chabad emissary, Rabbi Yitzchak Hazan, stationed in Rome, the decision was made to route the children through there. Loloyan’s group landed in Rome on March 13, 1979, coincidentally, on the holiday of Purim, which commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in ancient Persia approximately 2,400 years ago. In Rome, the children were promptly led to a reading of the Megillah, the Scroll of Esther retelling the story. It was the first time Loloyan ever heard it. A special emphasis was made that the children feel comfortable; this sentiment famously extended to Iranian children being served rice at the group Passover seders arranged for them. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) Miriam Finck has a similar story. In fact, her brother had nearly been a victim of the street violence. Among the enduring slogans of the Islamic Revolution were the chants “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Two years her senior, Finck’s brother had seen a “Death to Israel!” placard hanging on the street and tried pulling it down. He was caught and taken to a university to be hanged. It was only through the immediate intervention of her uncle—Finck’s father had recently passed
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away—who ran to an influential Muslim acquaintance and begged him to intercede on his nephew’s behalf that the boy was spared. “That’s when my family knew it was over,” she says. It was her uncle, too, who had heard a rabbi speaking in his synagogue of a way to send their children out. He told Finck’s mother about it; within three days, she and her sister had passports. The two girls and their group headed to Rome in March of ’79 as well. When they were leaving, Finck remembers giving her coached response to Iranian authorities, that she was going to Rome to visit relatives. In April of 1979 Khomeini announced the formal establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But in May came the greatest blow to the community: the execution of Habib Elghanian, a wealthy and respected leader of the Iranian Jewish community. In addition to Jewish education in Farsi, a full school program was created for the Persian children in Crown Heights. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) “The execution of Habib Elghanian last week created a great sense of anxiety within the Iranian Jewish community … ,” reads another U.S. embassy cable. “A general feeling was that, if a person of Elghanian’s stature was not safe, then all Jews were in jeopardy.” In Rome, Loloyan, Finck and her sister, Anna Kaplan and her brother, and the hundreds of other children, were greeted by Illulian, who was stationed there for a period of months. While Loloyan was in Rome for three days, Finck recalls staying there for two weeks in a nursing home, waiting to be processed at the American Embassy in Rome. “I was going to the American Embassy in Rome and they were so nice, so helpful, G‑d bless this country, how much kindness, how much heart they have … .” Illulian told JEM in his interview. “I became like a worker in the American Embassy. I was going in and out like a consul, with three, four hundred passports of these little kids that I gathered.” He would gather hundreds of children at a time at an embassy facility and in Farsi direct them in filling out the visa applications. A few hours later the visas were stamped, nearly pro forma, and the children ready to board airplanes to America. Crown Heights was quickly filled with Iranian children, and classes were held wherever space could be found. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) “I was in Rome for a few months until every child came to America,” Illulian recalls. “I’d go to the airport, place them, go to the embassy and get the visas, and then send them to America. There was an unbelievable energy. I would speak to the children about what was going on, about Judaism, about mitzvot; we would spend Shabbat together. But there were many nights when I did not sleep more than an
Boys praying at Camp Mordechai
hour or two. “The way we were getting these visas at the embassy,” Illulian adds, noting that there were thousands of other refugees in Rome working to get American visas, “it was a miracle.” Not everyone believed Khomeini was all that bad or that the Jews were really endangered. Yet another U.S. embassy cable from Tehran, this one signed by Sullivan in March of 1979, states that although Jews were certainly the subject of prejudice in Iran in the new climate, they were no worse than any other minority and “appear to have reached a reasonably satisfactory accommodation with the new powers that be.” Sullivan concludes that the general “shift does not, in our view, represent a change that would warrant treating Iranian visa applicants, whether members of minority groups or not, any differently than we have in the past.” While the Iranian children in Operation Exodus were processed as students and not refugees, the speed at which it was done indicates that this advice was ignored. From Rome, the groups headed in biweekly and then weekly waves to JFK airport, where they boarded buses to Crown Heights. Between November of 1978 and April of 1979, 1,000 children came to New York in this way. In Rome, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) assisted greatly with the processing, but all of the other responsibilities—financial and logistical—lay with the Chabad movement and Rabbi J.J. Hecht. The Rebbe made a point to engage and encourage the Iranian children. For example, on Purim of 1979, the Rebbe had the Persian children seated together in a place of prominence and requested that they sing a Jewish song familiar to them. Seen here is a group of Iranian boys passing the Rebbe for Kos Shel Bracha. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE)
The Hub: Crown Heights
In the beginning, things were simple enough. Most of the boys stayed in dormitories, while some of the younger boys and
all of the girls were placed with hundreds of host families. Like Kaplan, Finck and her sister were placed with a family—with whom she remains close to this day—as was Loloyan. “I used to visit families hosting the children every week,” says Moshe Chayempour, an Iranian Jew who had arrived in America in 1970 and was instrumental in Operation Exodus from the get-go. “These were not wealthy people hosting the children, but they took their own children’s bedrooms and gave them to these children. Who does that? It was unbelievable.” Roslyn Malamud and her husband were one of the families that took in children; two boys stayed in her home for more than a year. Today, the boys are active Jewish community members in heavily Persian community of Great Neck on Long Island, N.Y., and Malamud remains in touch with them, attending their weddings and, more recently, their children’s weddings. Her biggest motivation for taking in the children was her mother, who was born in Poland and had come to the United States before the war, but had lost much of her family in the Holocaust. On the last day of Passover 1979, the Rebbe spoke of the revolution in Iran, the hidden blessings that it contained and the new hope for the children who had been exiled from their homes, asking at the end that it be translated into Farsi. (Photo: Courtesy NCFJE) “My mother said, if before the war more people had taken in Jewish children, more children could have been saved,” says Malamud. “No one knew what was going to happen to the Jews over there, but this situation, it hit home.” Malamud ultimately got involved in more ways, even later traveling with a group of involved Chabad women and the senior Rabbi Hecht to Washington to lobby members of Congress for more student visas for the Iranian children. Hecht, responsible for the entire operation, was also not above hosting. He and his wife had two girls, Janet Afrah, then
14, and her sister Jackie, then 11, live in their home for months. “I had no children at home, so I was able to give them my full attention,” says Rebbetzin Hecht. The Hechts lived in nearby East Flatbush, where Rabbi J.J. Hecht was rabbi of a synagogue, so the solution was supposed to be temporary, as Rebbetzin Hecht didn’t want the girls to feel alienated from the other Persian girls. “But we gravitated towards each other,” says Afrah, “so we just stayed.” The connection would end up being a lifelong one. Towards the end of 1979 the girls’ parents managed to make it out of Iran and moved to Atlanta, with their daughters joining them soon thereafter. When Janet got married, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Hecht flew to her wedding in Atlanta where Rabbi Hecht presided over her chuppah; this repeated itself when her younger sister married some time later. “Two years ago my son got married and Rebbetzin Hecht came with her son, who read the Rebbe’s letter of blessing for the wedding, the one he sent when I got married,” says Afrah. “Rebbetzin Hecht sat at the badeken [the ceremonial veiling], together with my mother. I have always said I have two sets of parents.” For her part, Rebbetzin Hecht found herself overcome with emotion: “I cried,” she says. But back in 1979, as more and more children came, there were problems that arose, especially in housing the older boys. “Desperate for homes and beds for the children, who range in age from 10 to 22, Rabbi Jacob J. Hecht … signed a $500,000 contract on Monday [April 9, 1979] to buy Lefferts General Hospital,” reported The New York Times in an article titled “Jews in Crown Heights Make Room for Iranian Children.” The article notes that the building was in shambles, but excludes the fact that Hecht had signed the contract with the doctors with assurances that it was habitable, which it was not. While desperate times call for desperate measures, the fact was that despite the revolution, many of the children did not regard themselves as refugees. The Times article even quotes a 17-year-old Iranian boy named Israel explaining that “[m] any people think we escaped from Iran. I personally came from Iran because I wanted to read and study Jewish studies … I didn’t want to escape Iran because of the political situation.” “Some of the children, especially who came from rich families, they didn’t understand they were refugees and they complained. When a guy is used to his parents’ villa and leather couches in Tehran and then is dumped on a yeshivah mattress in Brooklyn, they don’t appreciate it,” says Kohen. “Their parents were scared and sent them away, but the children didn’t always want to understand that the situation back home was so bad that there’s no way to live there anymore.” “Everyone thought we just need a cou-
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ple of months, things will calm down and we’ll return,” recalls Afrah. “That was 40 years ago and we never went back.” While mainstream Jewish philanthropic organizations promised (and raised) funds for the effort, Rabbi Hecht received only token amounts, struggling to cover his ballooning budget. Instead of money, he got explanations that the Iranian Jews were wealthy and could pay their own way. That meant that not only was NCFJE and Lubavitch alone in the work—a few other Orthodox Jewish organizations brought over children on a far smaller scale; mainstream organizations did not— Hecht was footing the bill. “It was very hard; it was a lot of money and worry,” admits Rebbetzin Hecht. Camp Mordechai, named for one of the heroes of the Purim story, operated for a number of summers from 1979 to the early 1980s and saw hundreds of Iranian campers. Some of the staff went as far as to learn Farsi to communicate with their campers. The expenditures were not limited to the hospital. Hecht also obtained campgrounds in Monticello and Far Rockaway for summer camps for the Iranian children, aptly named Camp Mordechai for the hero of the Purim story, and established a new school with Farsi-speaking teachers, ESL classes and the like in Crown Heights. The costs soared, but he did it anyway. “My husband’s approach was: The Rebbe told you to do it, you do it. You don’t do it for the thank you, you do it to do it,” says Rebbetzin Hecht. “My husband didn’t need a thank you; he wasn’t the type.” In April of 1979, Rabbi J.J. Hecht purchased the Lefferts General Hospital for $500,000 as a dormitory for the Iranian boys. Unbeknown to him, the building had been previously gutted by looters, but NCFJE spent enormous sums to make it habitable. Beth Rivkah elementary school stands in its place today.
The Hostage Crisis
Passover 1979 was meant to be the last hurrah for Operation Exodus. “As far as I know, I am now stopping,” Hecht told the Times. But he didn’t. For one thing, things got even worse in Iran. As tensions between Iran and Iraq intensified, the new Islamic republic began snapping military-age boys off the streets to send them to what would turn into the devastating Iran-Iraq War. From the beginning there were also valid worries that the girls could be grabbed and raped on the simmering streets. But by late 1979, Rome had become overrun with other asylum seekers, and, as Chayempour recalls it, the Rebbe suggested London as an alternate center where the Jewish students could be processed. Then came the Iran hostage crisis on Nov. 4, 1979. Islamists overran the U.S.
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… It was done illegally, cost immense sums of money, and we did not want to be mixed up in this because we suspected that the organizers are unscrupulous people … G‑d Almighty should have mercy that they should be saved in a miraculous way. Yaakov Yehudah the son of Sarah, Hecht.
Dedicating the Persian Jewish Synagogue at NCFJE's headquarters in 1981.
Embassy in Tehran and took its staff hostage for 444 days. The U.S. severed relations with Iran, an embargo on Iran was put in place, and the United States stopped issuing student visas. “Since there were no forthcoming American visas, Britain wasn’t prepared to issue even temporary visas for the Iranian children,” explains Rabbi Faivish Vogel, a leading Chabad figure in London. “I was asked to solve this problem and get visas for these children.” Vogel phoned a Jewish member of parliament, Greville Janner, and told him there were 200 Iranian Jewish children who needed to get to London. He asked Janner, a member of the Labour Party, to approach the Home Secretary William Whitelaw, a Conservative, and request visas for the children. “Whitelaw asked him: Who will guarantee that they will leave Britain?” recalls Vogel, “and Janner told him: Rabbi Vogel of the Lubavitch Foundation.” Chayempour and Raichik flew to London to make arrangements for the children, whose presence in London was kept quiet. The children arrived in groups; Chayempour recalls heading to Heathrow to help take the children off the plane and past immigration. In at least one case, the plane made a stopover in London on its way to a third destination, and Chayempour was ushered onto the plane to collect the children, who were transferred onto Chabad-sponsored buses while Chayempour had their passports validated and visas inserted. An East Flatbush synagogue, today a branch of the Oholei Torah yeshivah, was used for some of the boys' classes. A portion of the boys were sent to Carmel College, a since-closed elite Jewish boarding school in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, and Raichik went there to serve as their counselor. Another portion of the boys was enrolled at the Hasmonean School in London while the girls were enrolled at the Lubavitch Senior Girls School in Stamford Hill, London. But as
the months stretched by, the American visas were still not forthcoming. Meanwhile, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, the director of American Friends of Lubavitch in Washington, worked his connections in the Carter administration and Congress. “Rabbi Shemtov worked very hard to get the green signal from United States that the embassy in London should give visas to these kids,” Chayempour told JEM in an interview. “We waited many months until, thank G‑d, on the day after Tisha B’Av, we got a call from him that we are approved and the kids can go.” With the full participation of the American Embassy in London, the I-20 student visas were granted to the Iranian children—unusual given official U.S. policy at the time—and the children finally flew to New York. With that, Operation Exodus came to a close, having saved 1,800 Jewish children from the clutches of an untested radical regime. In the coming years, 80,000 Jews left Iran, many of them having to smuggle themselves out illegally. The children— Loloyan, Kaplan, Finck, hundreds of others—were only reunited with their parents years later, and Rabbi Sholem Ber Hecht remembers signing hundreds of letters of support for Persian families attesting to their refugee status and the persecution in Iran, allowing countless more Iranian Jews to finally leave.
‘An Entire World’
Throughout Operation Exodus the senior Rabbi Hecht corresponded on a daily basis with the Rebbe, whose guidance was crucial to the operation’s success. NCFJE’s archives hold hundreds of letters written by Hecht to the Rebbe and replies on every minute detail of the plans. One letter from Hecht requests the Rebbe’s blessing for a group of 70 Jews who had been ferried by another organization via an illegal crossing on the Pakistani border and had been caught:
The Rebbe’s response in this case is unclear, but the Rebbe made a special point to constantly engage and encourage the Iranian children coming through Crown Heights. On Purim of 1979, the Rebbe famously had the Persian children seated together in a place of prominence at his gathering and requested that they sing a Jewish song familiar to them. They began singing the Sephardic tune of “Yigdal Elokim Chai,” and the Rebbe motioned for the thousands of Chassidim gathered to join along. On the last day of Passover that same year, the Rebbe spoke one of many talks on the subject of the Iranian children, requesting at the end that it be translated into Farsi for their benefit. He spoke of the revolution in Iran, the hidden blessings that it contained, and the new hope for the children who had been exiled from their homes. He pointed out that many of the Iranian children had joined along in the taahalucha—the Chabad tradition of walking to other synagogues to share words of Torah and the joy of the holiday with fellow Jews from all walks of life—and had brought happiness and song to local American Jews, while they had only just themselves arrived. The organizers of Operation Exodus, the Rebbe said, “should not fear that they have wasted so much energy on such a [relatively] small number of children, for every individual is ‘an entire world,’ and they will go on to impact their entire family and their whole environment.” Forty years later, the Rebbe’s words still ring true. The Persian Jewish community in the United States is blooming, proud of its roots and fiercely connected to its Jewish heritage. Most of the children had never seen snow before, seen here during a winter trip to Camp Mordechai. “The Rebbe told my husband that if even 10 percent of the Iranian children remain connected to their Judaism, then the effort was all worth it,” says Rebbetzin Hecht. “The numbers are far, far higher. We really saw the payoff.” “The Rebbe saw what was happening and acted upon it and saved a lot of people, not only physically but spiritually as well,” says Afrah. “How many people were saved? A lot. I started off as one person and now have five children and six grandchildren. There were 1,800 children and we are three generations already, and it will, G‑d willing, continue.” Reprinted with permission from chabad.org
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At Yeshivas Mordechai Hatzadik the vast number of 60,000 children streaming to learn Torah on the awesome day of Purim creates an extraordinary power in heaven.
children make it happen!
Each and every year we bear witness to unbelievable miracles:
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Thousands of people who supported these 60,000 children learning and their heartfelt Tefillos, have seen incredible Yeshuos in
Shidduchim, children, health, Parnassah and success in Chinuch.
For special inquiries contact Rabbi N.M. Falk: +972-53-3112-613
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Make it happen.
Enjoy every day, every minute
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