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SEPTEMBER 2020 * ISSUE 9

‫נשי אורה‬

Nishei Ora WOMEN OF LIGHT

JEWISH WOMEN’S MAGAZINE High Holidays Edition


Middle and High School Tracks

Nietzah Benbenishti Principal and School Director

Every girl has talents. Every girl is equipped with a specific spectrum of G-d given talents with which to maximize and fulfill her mission in this world. At Yotzer Ohr, we strive to develop and enhance those gi s.

Maximize Potential In a warm and caring environment, full of creativity and multi-faceted approaches to education, we ignite a spark in each girl to love Hashem as well as an awareness and understanding of her own diverse potential.

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Extra-curricular Learning An assortment of extra curricular subjects are encouraged. For more information:

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Daily elective subjects are provided to explore different interests and capabilities while combining integrative learning techniques.

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‫נשי אורה‬

Nishei Ora WOMEN OF LIGHT

Philosophy and Vision As women of Nishei Ora, the content that we share is based on Torah values of Godliness, honesty, kindness, generosity, joy and self-expression. Our vision is to be a light unto ourselves, our families, our communities and the world.

Mission Statement Nishei Ora strives to educate and inspire communities by offering a medium for creative and spiritual expression, through writing and art, to Jewish women and teenage girls of all Jewish backgrounds.

We span the vast spectrum of observance, and together we have created a beautiful, one-of-a-kind publication with meaningful, thought-provoking and inspiring content. The nine editions of Nishei Ora we have created so far are filled with stories of women working to create within themselves a home for Hashem, bringing holiness into the world.

Thank you to our Lamplighters! Laura Tanenbaum Miriam Racquel (Meryl) Feldman Sandy Roth

Vicki Seznick Judith Fox-Goldstein Anonymous

Andrea Mail Fern Estner

Nishei Ora is a nonprofit organization. Your donations are tax deductible. Become a Lamplighter online at NisheiOra.org. Or if you prefer, send donations to Nishei Ora, 3610 Yacht Club Drive #1413, Aventura, FL 33180

Become a Lamplighter Aleph ‫ א‬$1,800

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www.Nishei.org

Gimmel ‫ ג‬$360

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404-542-5800

light@Nishei.org


TABLE OF CONTENTS

TREE OF LIFE

INSIGHTS

Elul / Renewal

pg. 8

Educating the Children of BTs

pg. 50

Ask the Rebbetzin

pg. 15

Learning Hebrew with Joy

pg. 52

GROWING THROUGH GRIEF Light Within the Hidden

pg. 16

Sholem’s Legacy pg. 18 Simi’s Bluebird pg. 22 Turning Anger into Gratitude

pg. 23

H E A LT H & HEALING Returning to Our Roots

pg. 26

Judging Others Favorably

pg. 29

Releasing My Fears Around Food

pg. 31

CBD and the New Me

pg. 33


CREATIVE SOULS Healing Art pg. 36 My Story of Art & Aliyah

pg. 38

Connecting with the True Creator

pg. 42

Unity Through Music

pg. 44

A New Generation’s Music

pg. 46

CONNECTIONS Q&A with Miriam Fischer

pg. 58

The Kosher Backpacker

pg. 60

Time Management with Esther Simon

pg. 62

Finding Light in the Darkness

pg. 64

“My Special Mom” & “Bubby”

pg. 67

ERETZ HAKODESH Reflections and Photos

FALL 2020/5781

Copyright 2020 | Nishei Ora Inc. - All rights reserved.

Editorial Director - Mindy Rubenstein

Social Media - Elisheva Shields

Contributing Editor - Michele Asa

Graphic Design - Sima Morgan

Assistant Editor - Shaindy Perl

Sales, Sponsorships & Fundraising - Daniel Rubenstein

Editorial Advisor - Rena Shochet

pg. 56

(ads@nishei.org)

Copy Editor - Carin M. Smilk

Rabbinical Advisors - Rabbi Yaacov Fisch, Rabbi Aviv Mizrachi

Editorial Intern - Anna Frieman

Cover Art - Miriam Liebowitz (see description, page 36)


EDITORIAL

On Faith Fa i t h i s n o t just a fe e l i n g . I t ’s a l so a ch oi ce . I’ ve spent much of my life following feelings— joy, a n g e r, sa d n e ss, d i sa p p oi ntm e nt , exc i te m e n t , n ove l ty. W h a teve r i n n e r fe e l i n g p ul se d t h ro ug h m e a t t h e m o m e nt fu e l e d my t h o ug h t s a n d a c t i o n s.

S

o when I discovered the warmth of Torah Judaism

The thin paperback contained a profound and life-

through Chabad 13 years ago, I fell in love. At the

changing message for me that I felt compelled to share

time, it was based largely on a feeling of acceptance, excitement and even a bit of rebellion. My parents and my husband questioned my infatuation with Judaism— rightly so. I wanted to do it all, immediately, to look and act the part. Even if it meant completely giving up who I had been. Once immersed in an Orthodox community, however, I saw that the Judaism I fell in love with was not being consistently practiced by many of the people I met. And, it seemed, joy and enthusiasm and a love for G-d were all too often not part of the equation.

And that’s when she showed up at my door. A friendly visitor, who was born to Jewish parents, but knew little about Judaism. Instead, she had embraced Christianity. And now she was at my house, holding a Tanakh, wanting to share her discovery with me. I asked questions about her background and journey. Then I shared with her the beauty of Judaism that I had discovered more than a decade earlier and then rediscovered just weeks before. I told her how we are part of an unbroken chain that goes back thousands of

Now on the inside of Orthodox Jewish life, I was no

years to Sinai, but that my parents hadn’t explained that

longer chasing the mitzvahs with the same fervor as my

to me. Neither had hers. So I understand how appealing

love-at-first-sight infatuation. I questioned if I was doing

it was for her to find solace in another religion.

the right thing. Maybe my brother, who converted to Catholicism, has it right. Or maybe my parents who don’t believe in G-d were right to question my path. Maybe my lifelong Mormon friend has it right. Or my Baptist college roommate.

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

with anyone who would listen.

But all the beauty and authenticity she was seeking actually exists in our own religion. I gave her Jewish books to read (and copies of Nishei Ora) and told her about Shabbat and kosher and the parsha, the weekly Torah portion. And I told her that as Jews we have a

I prayed and prayed that I would find inner peace and

special mission, to serve as examples of goodness and

answers to my questions. And peace slowly found its

Godliness. And that we have a monumental privilege and

way into my heart.

responsibility to use the Torah as a guidebook for our

I had just read and reread an essay by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan called If You Were God, and I then shared it with my teenagers who, like most people that age, are seeking

daily lives. Using these messages from our Creator, we serve as “infiltrators,” trying to bring His light into this seemingly crazy world.

to understand their identity and purpose. (NCSY created

As a writer, that has been part of my mission and

a special guide, based on the essay, just for teens.)

continues to be the goal of Nishei Ora. Our artists, writers

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by Mindy Rubenstein

and editors have created nine editions so far filled with stories of women working to create within themselves a home for Hashem, bringing holiness into the world. When God first gave the Torah, He told the Jewish people (Leviticus 20:26), “You are holy to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from other people, that you should be Mine.” We are His, part of an ongoing relationship. It is our mission to set an example, it says (Deut. 4:6), “You must observe [these commandments] carefully and keep them.” The Jewish people who keep the Torah are meant to be an example of a perfect society designed by G-d. We don’t always succeed, because we are human, but that doesn’t change the mission. It was in this spirit that Judaism gave birth to Christianity and Islam. Although far from perfection, Kaplan says, these religions are a step in the right direction away from paganism. The final step is yet to be made. My passion and excitement during the conversations with my visitor left my face flushed, and she would smile and thank me graciously for not sending her away. Then she would show up again the next week. And the next. But as much as I was explaining these beautiful Jewish secrets to her, I was also reminding myself. My uncertainties about observing the details and stringencies of Torah had left me confused. I was genuinely searching for the truth and for a connection to G-d, but sometimes I didn’t feel that connection or experience it with others. So I would turn inward, and the light within would seem to go out. As a baalas teshuvah, I had completely transformed my life. And my husband grew to love Torah Judaism along with me. But, for the most part, my zealousness early on was based on feelings. Not so much on commitment or on a relationship with G-d until recently. Part of my teshuvah, my ongoing reckoning with myself during this High Holiday season, is to learn to understand that G-d is there even when I don’t feel it. And it’s that choice—to turn towards Him instead of away—that makes all the difference. And that choosing to read the words of Torah, the prophets and tehillim, creates an opening, a softening within my heart. Sometimes, I literally have to force myself to pick up the books, to do something I know is good for me. In this edition of Nishei Ora, courageous women share their experiences of tremendous loss and grief; yet, they still chose to turn towards G-d and Torah. I’m so grateful for their strength and willingness to share their personal journeys in an effort to help others. Reading their stories, and in some cases, meeting them in person has inspired me to seek out and reveal His light even in my seemingly darkest of moments. As the Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom said, “G-d’s love is stronger than the deepest darkness.” I am trying, sometimes succeeding and other times not, to choose G-d and Torah and love. To seek and be the light. Even when I don’t feel like it. Please reach out to me to share your stories at editor@nishei.org.

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TREE OF LIFE

Repentance

An Unexpected Path to Teshuva As a nursing student, during my psych rotation I was required to sit in on several AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings.

I was fascinated by the concept of the 12-step program

know who our King is and acknowledge Him, then what

and wanted to know whether it fit into the framework

is the point of our teshuva? Rosh Hashanah is the day

of Judaism.

we crown Hashem as our King, and Yom Kippur is the

I have since learned much about the steps, and that the concepts are very much Jewish in nature. Then I

wrongdoing.

wondered whether and how they fit into the mitzvah

The Rambam explains that teshuva is a three-step

(commandment/opportunity for connection) of teshuva

process, and without all three, our teshuva is incomplete:

(translated as repentance, but from the Hebrew word lashuv, meaning “to return”).

1. Acknowledging the sin (hoda’ah): recognizing what we did and what brought us to that point

Although we can do teshuva anytime of the year, in the

2. Confession (vidui): out loud

months of Elul and Tishrei the doors to access G-d are

3. Regret (charata): regretting what we did and

flung open wide, which makes it easier to approach G-d

committing to never doing the sin again

and seek forgiveness. It is the time about which Yeshaya (Isaiah) 55:6 states, “Seek Hashem when He can be found, call upon him when He is near.” It is a singular opportunity each year to engage in a course correction. Elul and Tishrei are unique opportunities in which

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

apex of the days of repentance where we repent of our

The 12 steps are a framework to go up the rungs of the ladder to repair and connect, tools to forge a true relationship with G-d, our fellow man and ourselves.

Hashem makes it easier to have a real relationship with

CHESHBON HANEFESH

Him. He has a will for us. He wants connection with us

Doing teshuva and working through the 12 steps

and for us to keep His commandments. The mitzvos are

requires a cheshbon hanefesh (moral inventory, literally

not just technical rules, but are an expression of G-d’s

“accounting of the soul”). We have to make a fearless and

desire for a relationship with us. In Pirkei Avos (Ethics of

searching inventory of ourselves, a factual accounting of

Our Fathers), it says, “Make His will your will.” Go beyond

our actions and thoughts, free from emotion. We need

mere observance of the law and actually remake your

to be very clear and honest about who we are, where we

will to align with G-d’s. This is not a burden, but an

are in our lives and what direction we’re headed in. We

opportunity to reveal your true self.

have to recognize every part of ourselves—the good,

Interestingly, you may notice when reading through

the not so good and even the not so attractive.

the Rosh Hashanah machzor that there is little focus

All of it makes up who we are, and if we only focus

on doing teshuva. This is because the prerequisite to

on what we perceive as negative about ourselves, we

teshuva is to recognize G-d as our King. If we don’t

can never change and do true teshuva. This is because

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focusing solely on the negative brings one to despair and then depression. From that place, we have no hope

by Michele Asa

THE 12 STEPS

for anything, including ourselves. We don’t believe that

1. Acknowledging the sin (hoda’ah): recognizing what we

we can grow and change, and live amazing lives.

did and what brought us to that point.

Cheshbon hanefesh is an accounting of how my soul

2. Confession (vidui): out loud.

manifests to the outside world. What are the thoughts, speech and actions I am invested in? I have to know my

3. Regret (charata): regretting what we did and

inner strengths and what is being triggered in any given

committing to never doing the sin again.

moment. Where am I, where should I be and what is the plan to get there with the ultimate destination being a

The 12 steps are:

relationship with G-d, to serve Him. We continually take

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our

inventory because often we will miss something (it’s

lives had become unmanageable.

like peeling back layers of an onion the deeper you go). It’s an ongoing process that helps let go of yesterday’s stuff. In this way, we avoid accumulating baggage of

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

wrongdoing and guilt. And we become more truthful

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to

human beings.

the care of God as we understood Him.

The driving force of our lives should be simcha. We

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of

could think it’s depressing to reveal mistakes through doing an inventory. But despair is a tool of the yetzer

ourselves.

hara to bring us down by castigating ourselves that we

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human

are beyond hope. This leads to lack of connection and

being the exact nature of our wrongs.

depression. But if we can rid ourselves of the things that take us away from connecting with G-d and make space for the holy neshama, shouldn’t we be happy? Be like the janitor—he sweeps up and disposes of the dirt; he doesn’t wallow in it. Happiness is a choice we can make every day.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

In Pirkei Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers), it is written “Repent one day before you die.” Because we don’t

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,

know the day of death, we are enjoined to repent every

except when to do so would injure them or others.

day. When we say shema at night, acknowledging G-d as our King, that is the time to do an accounting of our soul work from during the day—the cheshbon hanefesh.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

This inventory helps us to stay focused on what really

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve

matters. It’s like a GPS; it reroutes us back to Hashem.

our conscious contact with God as we understood Him,

We have daily opportunities for inventory starting from

praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the

the moment we open our eyes each day, three times

power to carry that out.

a day when we pray (a time to pause and plug back

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these

in) and saying the shema at bedtime. In the morning, immediately upon opening our eyes, we say Modeh Ani Lefanecha.

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steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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TREE OF LIFE

Repentance

We acknowledge that Hashem is our Kingwho has allowed us to awaken and has confidence in our ability to use the day ahead to its maximum potential. By virtue that I am on the earth and wake up every day is a message from G-d that I am precious, and that He believes in me.

EVERYTHING IS FROM HASHEM Everything we are is G-d given—tailor-made to perfect our neshamos (“souls”). Greatness is defined by our small every day actions, which build on each other, the choices and behaviors that are in our control. We

‘TESHUVA’ AND T H E 1 2 S T E P S: A PRACTICAL GUIDE 1. We admit we were powerless over alcohol (or substitute any bad habits or addictions for the word alcohol), and that our lives had become unmanageable.

can’t control who we are, only what we do with what we

This is not through a lack of bechira (“free

are. We are meant to strive for shleimus (“wholeness/

choice”), but that we used our free choice to

perfection”) and gadlus (“greatness”). The work is up to

allow harmful elements and attitudes to enter our

us, and our spiritual accomplishments are ours forever.

beings. We can’t overcome this problem without

The physical results of our actions in this world Hashem

siyata dishmaya (“help from heaven”). Once we

decides.

let go of the illusion of control and realize that

If I can realize that everything I am is my toolbox to help me grow, then accepting myself for who I am becomes easier. A large part of the 12 steps is having the humility to realize that G-d is in control, not me. When I “let go, and let G-d,” my life will be happier and less angstdriven. We cannot do anything without G-d’s help. So we pray to Him to guide us and help us to be successful.

only G-d can help us fight our yetzer hara (“evil inclination” or the lure to do wrong), we can start our journey to recovery/teshuvah.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Prayer is conscious contact with G-d. Prayer brings us back to the only one we should be dependent on; G-d. Working through the 12 steps in a methodical way will correct bein adam lemakom, bein adam lechavero and bein adam leatzmo (our relationships with G-d, others and ourselves), and show us what practical actions we can take to improve our spiritual lives. But it is not a “one Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

and done,” a once-off. When you get to the 12th step, you go back to the beginning and start over again because there are more and more layers of ourselves to uncover each time we go through the steps. Living honestly with the awareness of G-d’s presence in all we do isn’t easy. But the rewards of peace of mind, joy and connection with Someone who loves us more than we can ever imagine make working on getting there worthwhile.

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The essence of this step is letting go of self and making a space for what’s bigger than ourselves. We hold on to ego for dear life and resist believing that there is a power greater than ourselves, or that we need that power for anything. We are generally unwilling to let go of thinking we are in control. We make other things more important than connecting to Hashem. We intellectually feel

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we are self-sufficient and think we have it all figured out; that is our idol. Letting go also feels as if we are in

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

danger. It causes arrogance and anxiety. We have faith in G-d, but His realness is abstract so we don’t trust him. In the act of accepting, there is something bigger than myself’ I can let go of ego, arrogance, anxiety, etc. The vehicle to truly connecting to G-d is the willingness to let go of our stuff. It is empowering to come to the understanding that I

The more barriers I remove, the deeper my relationship

don’t need to do it all myself. I have Someone to lean on.

with Hashem. To know myself truly is to recognize both

We are given challenges to grow through. Embrace you

my deficiencies and good qualities. To do true teshuva, I

have character defects because that is how you were

have to do the work to identify and correct my negative

created and ask Hashem to remove your shortcomings.

qualities. But I have to balance that by acknowledging

Prayer takes it from the intellectual to the emotional

the good traits and giving myself credit for the good I

realm. Recognize that Hashem directs the outcome of

do.

your actions. My job is to try and do the best that I can in any given moment. Doing so demonstrates the belief in a higher power who gives me the tools I need to navigate the journey. Maintain humility.

5. Admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. We say al cheit in vidui (confession on Yom Kippur). Cheit is from the Hebrew word for “arrow.” We missed the

3. Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.

mark. Teshuva is incomplete without vidui. According to

This step is taking the first action of giving up our

Verbally articulating before Hashem what we have done

seeming independence, which leads to true liberation. If

repairs the feeling of being so ashamed of ourselves

we don’t have a real living day in and day out relationship

and blaming ourselves because our ego tells us that our

with Hashem, then we might have religion, but we don’t

sins are so bad that they are unmentionable. This leads

have G-d. And into that vacuum steps our addictions,

to depression, anger, self-pity and not living up to our

habits or something else that feels like life but turns out

G-d-given potential. Instead, have regret and say, “I am

to be death. Let go of ego.

human, Hashem sees me, I am sorry, I will fix it and move

Accept that everything is run by Divine Providence, and

the Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon), confession is one of the 613 mitzvos.

on.”

I am not in control of anything anyway. Live for today

Ego tells us that we are unworthy because of our

because that’s what’s available to me. I can’t change

tarnished past, and that we are so far from G-d that

the past; only my actions are in my control. I have to

we are worthless. No! We are always intact and whole.

accept myself for who I am today and be willing to

We can tarnish what we do, but not who we are at our

work on myself, and then let go and let Hashem control

essence (soulwords.org). EGO: Edging G-d Out!

the outcome. If I make it all about me, I will get stuck because the shift of balance went from Hashem to being wrapped up in myself. I am then unable to see Hashem or have gratitude or move forward because my ego just defined me.

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6. Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. We show up as completely ready to go on a journey to

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TREE OF LIFE

Repentance

our destination: connection with G-d. Letting go of self

pain, we are hiding from it and can never move past it.

is the hard part. The body will hold on, and fight tooth

We might tell ourselves that maybe we didn’t really do

and nail before letting go because who are we if not our

all that much harm whereas if we dig deeper, we may see

behaviours, addictions and habits? It feels as though we

we did profound damage. We want to make ourselves

are letting go of our very existence.

less guilty, but by doing so, we make ourselves less G-dly. Truthfulness brings a person closer to G-d and to others.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. In this step, we humbly ask Hashem to remove our defects as opposed to step 6, where we just say we are

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

ready. Humbleness is not low self-esteem or feeling like

We have to approach this with humility, do it methodically,

a shmatte. It is knowing that you are born as a perfect

and in the right way. Start with those closest to you—

package to live the life you are meant to live, the best life

your family and then outer circles. Most people are

that G-d wants for me. And whatever I have in my life—

generous and forgiving. If they say they will not forgive

challenges, gifts and talents—are all from Hashem. With

you, instead of making it personal, think of the other

the challenges, He has given me the tools to overcome

person. Why are they holding back? Perhaps the hurt is

them. But I need His help. This is empowering because I

deeper than I thought, and I caused more damage than I

realize I don’t need to, and I cannot, do it all myself. I have

thought, so I have more work to do. And perhaps it is the

Someone to lean on.

person’s own issue.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

My job is to do my utmost to make amends with the person I have hurt. The other person’s reactions are not in my control. Once a person has sincerely asked forgiveness three times, then the onus is on the other person for not forgiving. Sometimes, rehashing an old hurt will cause more damage than good. Guidance is needed to know when it is inappropriate to make amends. (There are halachic guidelines for this, so please consult your rav).

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The 8th and 9th steps are about personal relationships.

10. Continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admit it.

Look back and see who I have wronged, and make the

We schlepp so much baggage with us. The inventory

commitment to do everything I can to make amends.

process helps let go of yesterday’s stuff. The trick is not

When a relationship is damaged, we have to look at the

to stay stuck in regret and shame, but to make amends

harm done. If we don’t act on the inventory done in step

and move on.

4, we haven’t connected to or owned what we have done.

The danger of all this introspection is that we could go

Here we have to go face to face with the damage we

down the rabbit hole of depression, self-hatred, blame

caused. We need to look with new eyes as to what caused

and never feeling good enough. This is not the purpose

us to hurt another person. Ego tells us things like why do

of inventory. Doing an inventory and making amends is

we have to bring this up? It’s old garbage. We rationalize

hard, but freeing. Bring compassion to yourself, bring

to avoid facing what we have done. Until we face the

yourself with a full heart to pray to Hashem to guide you.

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therapist—people who will “tell it like it is” in a way that you can hear and accept. The reason we need such a Recognize that you are a human with frailties trying your best. Acceptance of self and others is key.

person to assist us is because we are often blind to our own faults and bad habits. A mentor can help us to overcome the resistance to

11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

change. On the other hand, we can become too focused

We pray to Hashem to guide us and help us to be

culminating in the magnificence of Yom Kippur, let’s

successful. Prayer brings us back to the only one we

come showing Him that we are sincere in wanting to

should be dependent on: G-d. Realize through prayer

change, but more than that, that we have a plan to get

that I am valuable to G-d, I have a purpose, I matter, and

there. May we be blessed with a year of seeing the good

the things I do matter. There is no room for despair—only

in everything G-d does for us. May we merit the coming

joy that Hashem has given me another day to serve Him. Make it personal.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs. Working through the 12 steps in a methodical way will correct bein adam lemakom, bein adam lechavero and bein adam leatzmo (our relationships with G-d, others

on our negative traits and ignore our good ones, so a mentor can help us stay balanced as well, preventing us from wallowing in self-pity and a lack of confidence. When we come before G-d during these holy days

of Mashiach speedily in our days. 1. The Rambam says that this refers to the 10 days of repentance from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur. References: Mistakes are entirely my own and should not be attributed to any of the sources: Many thanks to Rabbi Robert Sussman, editor of Jewish Life magazine (South Africa) for his invaluable help in editing this article God of our Understanding Rabbi Shais Taub

and ourselves). But it is not a “one and done.” When you

Teshuvah through Recovery Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski

get to the 12th step, you go back to the beginning and

Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman Torah and the 12 Steps Spiritual Group

start again because there are more and more layers of ourselves to uncover each time. Practicing the 12 steps in every area of our lives—in business, in relationships, between parents and children, spouses, friends—will keep us honest and humble, and less likely to fall into the same patterns that brought us down before.

FIND A MENTOR A mentor can help us make lasting changes in our lives and to uncover the many layers under which we bury our essence, mostly because we are too afraid to face our shortcomings and pain from our past. This process requires intensive, honest and sincere work best done with the help of a trusted mentor, rav, rebbetzin or

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The Twelve Steps are taken from Alcoholics Anonymous. http://www.lebanonpaaa.org/steps_traditions.php Recommended to learn and implement with a chavruta (partner) Cheshbon Hanefesh A guide to Self Improvement and Character Refinement by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Levin of Satanov Published by Feldheim Michele Asa, originally from South Africa, lives in the Toco Hills neighborhood of Atlanta. She works as a family nurse practitioner and was recently certified in functional nutrition, the practice of considering aspects of diet and overall lifestyle in health care. Michele leads the Atlanta chapter of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association and serves as co-president of Atlanta Bikur Cholim. An avid reader, Michele and her husband, Rabbi Ariel Asa, a mohel and sofer, have four children and multiple grandchildren. 13


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TREE OF LIFE by Rebbetzin Ita Rabinowitz

Ask the Rebbetzin

Much of the time my faith is strong; I feel inspired and connected to G-d and those around me. But there are lower moments, if I’m being honest, when I don’t feel spiritually connected, which carries over to my relationships. And it’s frustrating. How do I reconnect when my heart doesn’t feel it?

T

here is an idea that the heart is pulled after the actions. ‫ ספר החינוך טז‬-‫אחרי הפעולות נמשכים הלבבות‬

Sometimes, the way to make yourself feel something is to do actions that will encourage that feeling.

How do I “give” to Hashem? When I do what I know Hashem wants of me, I am giving of myself for His sake. This is true any time I do a mitzvah, but is especially powerful when it comes to something that is hard for me.

There is a famous piece by Rav Dessler in his sefer ‫( מכתב מאליהו‬Strive for Truth) about love. Rav Dessler

We

because

tells us that the root of the word ‫אהבה‬, love, is ‫הב‬, “to

not we

only love;

we

give also

love because we give.

give.” For example, if there is someone you don’t like so much, but you want to come to love her, the way to

For me, every major disconnect that I can remember has

do that is not to sit around waiting until your heart

stemmed from an issue relating to people. In other words,

feels love, but rather to give to that person. If you

disappointment with people (especially those who are in

give and give and give, eventually you will come to

powerful or influential positions and should be helping,

love that person.

but instead are doing the opposite) is what “triggers” in

This is one reason that parents typically love their

me a feeling of disconnect from Hashem.

children more than children love their parents.

To counteract these feelings, I focus on two areas:

Babies are born helpless. The parents give their

entire selves to take care of the child, and in so

Hashem in formal davening or tehillim, informal thanks

doing, they develop enormous love for him or her.

and requests throughout the day, or music, which I find to

We not only give because we love; we also love

be a very powerful way of connecting;

because we give. It is the act (of giving) that creates

the feeling (of love).

people who brought about these feelings in me, or at the

The same can be applied to our relationship with

very least, a commitment not to speak badly about them.

G-d.

This part can sometimes be really hard to do!

If I want to love Hashem, but I’m just not

1) a conscious effort to continue dialogue with

2) an effort to do something nice for the person/

feeling it, I can’t sit around waiting to miraculously

Though Hashem does not need my “gifts,” my act of

feel connected. Instead, I can cultivate the feelings

giving will create the love and closeness that I wish to

of closeness by “giving” to Hashem.

achieve.

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15


GROWING THROUGH GRIEF

Feature

L ig ht W it h i n t he Hidden by Orly Rosenzweig

A s I write my thoughts about an event that happened seven years ago, I feel overwhelmed with emotion.

I can hear my heart pounding, feel my palms sweating,

struggled and grappled with our new reality. I wondered

the lump in my throat forming, and my head flashing

where my mother and father were when I needed them

with endless imagery of what the tragic scene must have

most. The only source of comfort I wanted was to wish

looked like. The caution tape, an ambulance, the news

away this whole accident and just see and hug my mother

reporters, city officials and not to mention all the people

once more. I wanted to hear her laugh and see her smile,

who walked by in utter shock and tears. In many ways,

because that is more comforting than any newscaster,

Yom Kippur 5773, Sept. 13, 2013, will be a day I will never

lawyer, or well-meaning family or friend could offer.

forget, but at the same time it is a day I cannot remember.

received a get-well card from a couple of NCSY staff

running a bit later than usual to Yom Kippur services. It

members. In it was my tehillim name: Orly bas Esther,

was around 7 p.m., and my mother and I were walking

the light within the hidden.

to the Sephardi minyan at Etz Chaim Synagogue in Jacksonville, Fla.. There we would hear our acclaimed Sephardi davening tunes, just like my father would sing when he was alive. Although this year was different. As we headed across the street towards Etz Chaim for Kol Nidrei, we were hit by a car. The next thing I knew I was in the ICU at the hospital with life-threatening injuries. I thought to myself Baruch Hashem, thank G-d, I survived. When I asked where my mom was, I was told Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

Some time after I was released from the hospital, I

Seven years ago, my mother, Esther Oyahon, and I were

she was in the room next door. When the doctors felt I was stable enough, my shul rabbi, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch, broke the horrifying news to me that my mother tragically died in the accident. My world was turned upside down, and I now had to utter the blessing of Baruch Dayan Haemet, Blessed is the True Judge. In the following weeks, my older siblings from Israel flew to Jacksonville to nurse me back to health. Together we

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There is a verse in Micah, Chapter 7, verse 8, from which my namesake comes from: “‫ל־ּת ְׂש ְמ ִח֚י אֹ ַי֙בְ ִּתי֙ לִ ֔י ּכִ ֥י נָפַ ֖לְ ִּתי ָק ְ֑מ ִּתי ִּֽכי־אֵ ֵׁש֣ב ּבַ ֹח ֶׁ֔ש ְך ה’ א֥וֹר ִֽלי‬ ִ ‫ֽ ַא‬ My enemies don’t rejoice against me. When I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness Hashem shall my light.” The Midrash on Tehillim in Chapter 22 comments on the first part of the verse: “When I fall, I shall rise,” meaning to say had I not fallen, I would not be able to rise. It then goes on to comment on “when I sit in darkness Hashem shall be a light to me,” meaning, had I not sat in the darkness, Hashem would not have been a light for me. If I had not gone through these difficult challenges, I may have stayed complacent about where I was in life and would have not been able to become a more resilient and growth-oriented individual. In addition, if I had not been challenged, I would have not been able to actively choose Hashem as my beacon of light. It was through this unique challenge that I was able to build resilience 16


Kotel for Orly. People all over raised money, their voices

by trusting and having faith in Hashem On Rosh Hashanah, we will read about Akeidat Yitzchak, from a part Torah portion of Vayera. The first verse of the 22nd chapter in Genesis mentions, ‫ם ֑ ָה ָרְבַא־ת ֶא ה ֖ ָ ּ סִנ םיק ֹל ֱא ֣ ָה ְו‬, Hashem tested Avraham. The seventh verse in chapter

and their tefillot for my mother and me. The list goes on and on. I was and am still so unbelievably touched by all the efforts individuals took upon themselves just for my mother and me.

60 in Tehillim that takes

In the seven years that

the word ‫ ה ֖ ָ ּ סִנ‬further and

have passed, I continue

uses it in another way

to see so many blessings

other than its common

Hashem has given me. I

translation as “test.”

once received a wedding

It

says

‫לְ ִה ְתנוֹסֵ ֑ס‬,

‫ֵּנ֣ס‬

‫ִּֽל ֵיראֶ ֣יָך‬

‫ָנ ַ֘ת ָּ֚תה‬

Hashem,

You

card from my dear friend, Eidel Pearl. Among the many

gave to those who fear You a test, as a banner.

She

on this verse and makes a connection that the ‫נס‬, to make someone great. The

Maharal

writes

the

purpose of life is to bring one’s koach, one’s potential, el

hapoal,

a

return

“to

action.” This means that the way to maximize one’s potential to the utmost is

written

it

to me Hashem has given.”

The Midrash comments

a test, is meant to ‫להתנוסס‬,

things

said, ‫אור לי נתן קל‬: “A light

It

was

through

this

unique challenge that I was able to build resilience by trusting and having faith in Hashem.

by bringing it into reality as an action. A test is meant to bring out our potential and make us even greater, like a banner. But it is not just me who was transformed and grew from this challenge; it was the whole Jewish community at large who acted and were elevated as well. Right after the shofar-blowing that signified the end of Yom Kippur, everyone across the globe came to know what had happened; whether it was through the national or

is

certainly

right.

Hashem

has

blessed

me

my

husband,

with

Netanel

Rosenzweig,

and our baby son, Yehuda Simcha, named after my father

Yehuda

Shalom

Ohayon A”H and Netanel’s grandfather Julius Yehuda Rosenzweig A”H. Each one of us has our own story. A story filled with our

own personal hardships, pain and suffering. Sometimes, we may feel depressed or discouraged through difficult times in our life. Yet our challenges are there to help us grow and become even greater. If we have the growth mindset that Hashem is our guiding light, then we can not only realize, but actualize and far surpass these tests. And through these challenges we can create, sustain and continually deepen our connection with Hashem.

international news, social media or by word of mouth. It wasn’t just that they heard about it, but what they did after they heard about it. Each person took upon themselves something leilui nishmat in memory of my mother, as well as in merit of my refuah shelemah, my speedy recovery. Mitzvot for Orly bat Esther. Keep Smiling Cards for Orly. Bike Rides for Orly. Hafrashat Challah for Orly. Tehillim for Orly. Concert for Orly. Kumzitz at the

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

Orly (née Ohayon) Rosenzweig is originally from the warm and sunny Jacksonville, Fla. She was actively involved in NCSY as a teenager. She attended Tomer Devorah Seminary and continued her passion for studying Torah at Women's Institute of Torah Seminary and College (WITS/Maalot Baltimore), where she received a B.A. in Judaic Studies. She recently graduated from Wurzweiler School of Social Work and currently lives in Washington Heights, N.Y., with her husband and son.

17


Feature

GROWING THROUGH GRIEF GROWING THROUGH GRIEF

forces and help Sholem. My

son

Menajem

finally

made

it to the hospital. I didn’t know where he had been or how he was

Sholem’s Legacy

after such a horrible experience. Shneur, my other son, had gone to pick up Menajem from the site of the accident, and brought him in confused and disoriented. Menajem lost his phone at some point, adding to the overarching sense of chaos and confusion. I hugged him and thanked G-d that

This article was written by Sholem’s mom, Devorah, and translated by Anna Freiman. Editor’s Note: Though I never met Sholem, z”l, I met his mom a few months after his accident and feel so blessed by her smile, warmth, unwavering faith and genuine concern for me and my family. A simple Sunday night, during the crazy COVID quarantine. A family readying itself for just another week to come. Me preparing, doing my thing, hearing my son, Sholem z”l, say: “Wait, Menajem! I’ll come bike-riding with you.” It’s 9 p.m.; there’s only one hour left until curfew. These two brothers, accustomed to riding through life together, go out for a spin; it’s a mundane scene until one doesn’t come back. Instead, he teaches everyone that life is finite, and in the blink of an eye, it can disappear. At 10:32, there was a knock on the door of my house. I opened it. A police

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

officer handed me Sholem’s driver’s license and told me, “He’s badly hurt.”

he was alive. Menajem told me, “Mom, don’t worry,” and hugged me tighter. No one knew how to console me from the depths of the grief that consumed us all. I didn’t know what to do either. I just knew I’d have to accept whatever happened with the same faith as always. One chain of Tehillim began, then another,

followed

by

more

and

more. The entire world, friends and strangers alike, had come together to fight for my son. I just told G-d, “Do what You have to do. I trust you.” There were three days of prayers. Three days of pleas. Three days of

I started yelling like crazy. “Iosi, Iosi, they ran over Sholem.”

doing good deeds for the merit of

On the way to the hospital, my heart thumped like I was walking into a

a refuah shleimah, a full recovery.

nightmare—one that, for more than a month, I begged G-d to wake me up

Thousands of people were mobilized

from. The worst thoughts a person can have raced through our minds. We saw

like reserves during a war—a war for

him when we arrived at the hospital, but they told us he was going straight to

my 17-year-old boy.

the operating room.

There were some miracles. In the

During the surgery, as we sat in the waiting room, we knew there was almost

middle of the pandemic, we were

no hope, but there we were, together, holding on tightly to our faith and our

able to bring my daughter from

fortitude.

Argentina, and Sholem waited for

I called a woman I knew to start the Tehillim chains. I called my daughter, my sister, my brother. I called everyone I loved and everyone who loved me to join

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her. He wasn’t going to leave this world without seeing her, without seeing his family together, without 18


seeing the people he so loved and respected holding each other once more. Even though we were living all across the globe, we were able to be together for this final goodbye. Those three days were a blur; I barely remember them. I don’t know if I ate, but I do know that I slept. At some moment, from within the deep pain of knowing I might lose my son, my soul, incomprehensibly, had peace. It had a certain tranquility that I cannot explain. I had faith in G-d, and that’s what held me together. At 7 a.m. on Thursday, the phone rang while my husband and I were sound asleep. “You should come to the hospital now.” We knew what was happening. Sholem was leaving this world. As I stood before my son’s body, I promised his dreams would become a reality. Sholem was born into a family of Chabad shluchim (emissaries), and my husband is a synagogue rabbi, so we lived in four different countries. Sholem was always religious, and the kippah SHOLEM WITH HIS BROTHERS

on his head was his shining light and emblem. When he was 3 years old, his biggest passion became soccer, and as he was going into ninth grade, he asked us to allow him to switch from yeshivah to a Modern Orthodox day school so that he could devote more time towards fulfilling his dream of playing soccer. His fight was playing while being the only person on the field with a kippah, and although he knew it wouldn’t be easy, he never gave up. After his accident, I decided to find a solution to this internal battle that Sholem had fought for so long, and we began the Sholem Corazón Valiente foundation to remove the barriers religious children face while pursuing their athletic dreams. Today, I can say with pride that our first goal has been achieved; we formed a soccer team that won’t play on Shabbat. Sholem is a part of it, and it’s a relief to me to know I was able to do something to make his dreams come true.

SHOLEM WITH HIS MOTHER

Off the field, I want to make Sholem’s personality an eternal guiding light for us all. He was one of the most loving, kind, humble souls that a person could know. Always fighting for what he thought was right, Sholem was a big inspiration for all those who knew him, even in his short 17 years.

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19


GROWING THROUGH GRIEF GROWING THROUGH GRIEF

Feature

And because his accident caused thousands of people to be awoken from routine, to stand up and to fight for him, his death has to have a meaning greater than what our minds can comprehend. Understanding it like this alleviates my pain. G-d has tested me. I went to shivot and consoled so many families. Now, it’s my turn, and life is telling me: “Devora, this is your challenge. What are you going to do? And, I respond, “I want to live, and live a life with meaning.” In the middle of the coronavirus, when many people were scared of the unknown plague, my son died in an accident. Only G-d controls our lives. He is the only One we should

Let’s Fight for the Light and Reach New Heights by Anna Frieman

fear. He gives and He takes, and His logic is beyond our comprehension.

Sholem was the kid who always had a smile on his

Today, I think Sholem is in a better place, calmly resting,

face, who never complained, who was an emblem

and this relieves my soul. The pain is with me and my

of love, gratitude and Jewish pride.

family because we love and miss him. But I have faith that

One time I asked him why he wore a kippah, and his

everything is a part of something bigger, and that his

answer was so simple but so beautiful. “Because I’m

light and his mission will flood our days here in this world,

Jewish,” he said. That was it. That was all Sholem

helping us make his dream and the dream of many others

needed. He understood what it meant to do things

like him—people who want to live in what seems like two

lishmah—for the sake of heaven—and to do them

incompatible worlds—a reality.

with pride. He wore the kippah happily, and despite

With love, faith and dedication, we are allowing

the pain of being different and getting picked on,

Sholem’s legacy to live on and form a new world for our

it was worth it because he did it lishmah, for God.

community—one that he is still a part of.

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

Sholem Corazon Valiente aims to extend Sholem’s legacy by promoting his values and character traits: leadership, compassion, confidence, resilience and pride. It aspires to teach kids to be proud of who they are, even if it means being different, and to enable Jewish teens to play soccer by creating a club team that doesn’t compete on Shabbat. Learn more at sholemcorazonvaliente.com. Devorah Benchimol, originally from Argentina, lives in Sunny Isles, Fla., near Miami, where she serves as a rebbetzin and teacher. She and her husband lead Beit Rambam, an Orthodox Sephardic Latin Congregation, and previously served as head rabbi and rebbetzin in Argentina, Columbia and Guatemala. Devorah has more than 35 years of experience in education and dance therapy. She is the mother of four and grandmother of six. NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

And, now, in this incredibly dark time in our lives, it’s both easier and harder to do things for God. It’s easier in that everyone is doing it. In the merit of the aliyas haneshama of Sholem Dovber ben Iosef z”l, there are hundreds of people turning towards Torah in a way our community has really never seen. There’s this level of motivation and inspiration that’s making us all rise to new heights. Sholem’s fire is lighting us up. But I think deep down, it’s so much harder now than ever before to really, really do things for God because now, our faith is lacking. We all find ourselves asking why? Why did this happen?

20


How could something so awful happen to someone so

tears, but now is the time to cry a few more, to bang on

amazing? No one knows.

God’s door, to unlock the gates of Heaven, to demand a

But I found comfort in Rabbi Akiva’s take on this week’s parsha, Parshat Emor. Rabbi Akiva says that the great

better tomorrow and to work on ourselves endlessly to be the women who merit the arrival of Mashiach.

miracle of Sukkot was not the Clouds of Glory that

Let us fight to do things lishmah for Hashem. Let us fight

protected the Jews through the blazing desert, but the

to reach new heights in our growth and Torah. Let us fight

miracle of the continued emunah (“faith”) of Jewish

to bring Mashiach Tzidkeinu and to all finally be together

people. No matter how much we complained, Am

again. For Sholem.

Yisrael did not stray. We kept going, kept following, kept venturing forwards on the journey into the unknown. So, clearly, if this is the miracle, then true faith is not knowing with certainty. Faith is having the courage to live with uncertainty. And to still turn to God for everything

Anna Freiman was born and raised in Miami, Fla.. She is a high school senior who is passionate about education, personal growth and Torah values, and is looking to utilize this zeal in the near future as a professional writer.

and bang on His door. Life isn’t easy. Our journey is full of pain and mystery. But the Jewish people were built to embrace the unknown. I’m a firm believer that suffering does not have a rightful place in our world. It was not part of the original plan for creation and was introduced only after Adam’s sin. And so, I also hold that part of the mission of the Jewish people is to eliminate suffering. It is to rise to the call, to bang on Heavens door and to demand mercy in justice just as Abraham did with Sodom and Moshe did after the Golden Calf. Vaychal Moshe—Moshe pleaded, the Torah says. Our mission is to plead with Hashem for a better world. It is to fight for Mashiach to bring that world. It is to become people worthy of living in this world. Right now, everyone is making pledges and taking on things in Sholem’s merit, and it’s amazing. And the Gemara says that the women of the generation redeemed the Jews during Yetziat Mitzrayim, which means that the women now—in what could be the last generation before Mashiach—hold our redemption in our hands. Let’s emulate Sholem’s faith and turn his fight—the fight of Klal Yisroel—into our fight, too. We’ve all shed too many

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“ S H O L E M WAS T H E K I D W H O A LWAYS H A D A S M I L E O N H I S FAC E ”

21


GROWING THROUGH GRIEF GROWING THROUGH GRIEF

Feature

Si m i’s Bluebi rd by Noa Bejar

Simi keeps her eyes closed

Until one morning

When the sun covers her face

Simi does not hear

In the morning

her Bluebird

She waits

She sings “Modeh Ani” alone

And listens

And washes her hands quietly Before searching the tree

Until she hears

outside her window

the Bluebird singing Outside her window

Did she sleep so late

Every morning

Every morning

Her Bluebird couldn’t wait

Simi keeps her eyes closed

To start his day

And listens

Simi sings “Modeh Ani”

To the sounds outside

With her Bluebird

Did her Bluebird

And they hum together

Find another tree

while Simi washes

By another window

The Bluebird sings

Did her Bluebird leave

to start his day

Every morning

Because he was never hers

Simi does, too

Before she starts her day.

Like she wanted to believe

her window She remembers her Bluebird She remembers him singing

Every morning

ABOUT THE POEM Simi feels a connection, a partnership, with a bird that consistently chirps outside her window. They start their morning routine together, and it motivates her to begin her day. Until one day the bird does not sing and is not there. So Simi must remember their routine and carry on about her day.

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

These days, in particular, there is a lot of pain and loss, and children need unimaginable strength to cling to memories of loved ones. This poem gives them permission to do so while moving on with their day. I wrote this because my daughter's classmate (an only child) has now lost both parents to cancer.

Noa Bejar, an educator and administrator in the Lubavitch school system, is also a college guidance counselor specializing in options for day-school students. She enjoys writing, especially children’s stories and articles. She and her husband live in Weston, FL and have three awesome children.

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22


T U R N I NG A NGER I N TO GR AT I T U DE by Miriam Ribiat

It happened on a Tuesday afternoon in February. It was bitter cold outside, but the sun shone brightly, warming me as I stood in my kitchen, preparing dinner. Then the phone rang. It was my older sister Esti calling f rom the hospital. She was all of 30 years old. But she had just been given a

I also had a hard time with hilchos aveilus (“the laws of

diagnosis of a terrible kind of cancer. The prognosis was

mourning”). I felt that I needed to listen to music for my

bleak.

sanity. My mother would be urging me to do so. So now

Perhaps the sun continued to shine. But my world went

does she really care if I turn on that iPod?

dark. I was cold and couldn’t stop shivering. And then a

But with a lot of introspection, it didn’t take me too long

few days later on Friday afternoon, my mother called me.

to realize that I was fooling myself. The only way to have

She just returned from the doctor. She had cancer.

any comfort, and the only way to go on living a joyful life,

It made no sense. We were a regular, average family. These crazy stories happen to other people. Not to us. The treatments began. The scans and the waiting for results became part of everyday life. It was a

roller

coaster ride with ups, downs, twists and turns. And then one night, our story had another shocking twist. My father, a young, healthy 60-year-old, suffered from a major heart attack and died within minutes. My sister died eight months later, and my mother died shortly after. My grief numbed me. I had nothing left in me to continue forging a relationship with Hashem. After all, I had davened and davened, and it seemed as if it was all for nothing. Because I was in so much pain, I couldn't imagine that Hashem really cared if I moved a muktzah item on Shabbos while reaching over to get something.

is to embrace Hashem. If I am angry at Him, then whom do I fall back on? Whom can I count on as a loving father that knows how much I am suffering? I know that I can never understand why this happened to me, but I also know that I can find chesed of Hashem in my many painful and challenging experiences. Without a relationship with Hashem, I would be completely lost. And slowly, I started reaching out more and more to Hashem. Some days were easier. Some days were harder. But as I worked on my connection with Hashem, I realized more and more how badly I wanted that relationship. Although I have come a long way, certain events will bring me right back into those times of disconnect. The approach of Rosh Hashanah is one such thing.

Or if I went outside before I benched. After all, look what

My sister Esti was not doing well. She was not responding

He did to me.

to the chemo, and she was weakening. But it would be

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GROWING THROUGH GRIEF GROWING THROUGH GRIEF

the first Rosh Hashanah without my father, and she would not let my mother be alone in Michigan for Yom Tov. And so she informed my mom that she was coming in from New York to spend the holiday with her.

Feature

been affected by the quarantine that was forced upon us. Seeing Hashem’s power can really shake us up and make us realize that it is all in the way that Hashem wants it to be. No one could have predicted an entire world shut

She was so sick. Even with her supportive husband,

down. With all of today’s technology, it just doesn’t seem

it wasn’t easy to travel. She spent most of Yom Tov in

possible.

bed. But she was there with my mother, who was moved beyond words. My sister’s devotion touched her to the core.

And yet, Hashem did it. Hashem showed us that He is in control, and we have so little power. Many people have said, “I let go of schedules, I let go of outcomes, I just had

Sadly, the next Rosh Hashanah, Esti was no longer

to take it minute by minute because I didn’t know what

here. And as the Yom Tov was approaching, our phone

would be.”

conversations constantly found my mother kept saying, “What will I do? I can’t be alone for Yom Tov. But I am too sick to travel to my children in the East.” I reassured her over and over again, saying, “Don’t worry, Mommy, you will not be alone. We will work something out. Let’s wait a little longer to see how you are feeling.” The holiday was just around the corner as I sat beside my mother as she lay on her deathbed. I saw her neshama slowly leaving, and I leaned over, and I whispered, “See mommy, you didn’t have to worry. You won’t be alone for Rosh Hashonah.” She was greeted by her husband and daughter. Yes. Rosh Hashanah brings up a lot of memories for me. I am back sitting at my mother’s side, helplessly watching her die. I have learned many things about myself and gained many tools to cope with my painful losses. One big lesson for me is that I have no control in this world. Hashem runs it. But what I really need to write about is not about the tools that I have found within me, but about how the Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

by Miriam Ribiat

coronavirus has affected me. I have no doubt as each of you read this, you are nodding your head and thinking of this past year and this awful plague that Hashem has brought upon us. We have all been affected. Many of us know someone who died or someone that lost a close relative or friend. Everyone has

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And this has brought me back to all those years ago. I didn’t realize it right away, but after all these deaths, I was carrying tremendous guilt. I gave myself way more power than I have. I thought to myself, “If only I would have encouraged her to switch doctors, if only I would have realized that these symptoms were worrisome, if only, if only, if only ... ” It took a very wise friend to help me realize that all these “if onlys” were the workings of the yetzer harah. Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen. I had no power to keep my mother alive for longer, the same way I had no power to ease my sister’s pain. The exact amount of pain and the precise length of their lives was what Hashem wanted. But it was all hidden in the mundane. It was hard to find it. But I was determined to give complete control of my life to Hashem. After all, I realized, what do I know about life? I don’t know what is best for me. I don’t know what really makes sense in this upside-down world. It was with a lot of talking and rehashing events over and over again that slowly helped me accept that whatever happened was supposed to happen. I had no control over anything. I might have thought that I did, and perhaps I wish that I did. Maybe I even did actions that gave me the illusion of control. But I am Miriam Ribiat. I am powerless. I also started noticing the good that Hashem was currently bestowing upon me. Each day was filled with so much kindness from Him. Sometimes, I would stop and listen to what was going on in my home. The washing machine

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Some practical steps to help strengthen your relationship with Hashem: 1. Accept where you are today. Don’t fight it. It will

7. Go for a walk or sit by the water, feel Hashem’s

fight back harder.

presence in nature. Try to internalize that if He is

2. Talk to Hashem. It doesn’t have to only be with formal prayer. But as you go about your day, tell Hashem what you are hoping for. Ask Him to help you have it. 3. Ask Hashem to help you accept when things don’t go the way you wanted. 4. Visualize throwing a package up to Hashem. What is in this package? Something you are angry about? Something you were wishing for? Something that you don’t want in your life? How is it wrapped up? In a balloon? A pretty box with a pretty bow or a cardboard box that shows that you are angry? 5. Journal what you want Hashem to do with your package.

taking care of each blade of grass, each small fish in the water and each tiny bug, He can take care of you as well. 8. Find all the little things in your life that you are grateful for and thank Him. Like this: Thank you Hashem that my child said something cute and it made me laugh, thank you Hashem that my daughter made the bus, thank you Hashem that my boss was in a good mood today, thank you Hashem that I had willpower not to eat that danish, thank you Hashem that I have all the ingredients in my house that I need to cook dinner. The list is endless. And when Hashem sees how much you notice all the good that He does for you, He will want to continue to shower you with blessing.

6. Write a letter to Hashem and imagine how He is answering you.

was cleaning one load, while the dryer was warming a

There should be no more tragedy. Only simcha. We

different one. The house smelled from the baking cake,

should all learn to have steadfast emunah and to accept

and the pot of fresh chicken soup was bubbling on the

whatever Hashem gives us.

stove. Look what I have in my house! A family to clean up after and to cook for. The strength to do all this work and all my senses to see, hear and smell what I accomplished. These aren’t small things. If Hashem can give me so many gifts at one time, then I know that He loves me. And then it is easier to accept that the nisyonos that He gave me were given to me from love as well.

We do what we believe is the right thing, we try for the outcome that seems like the best outcome, but ultimately let’s accept that whatever happens is because it is Hashem who is in control. And this is the year that we should be zoche to the geulah sheleimah, to merit the full redemption with Moshiach.

And as this virus has attacked us, the lesson was learned

Miriam Ribiat is the project manager of Chevrah Lomdei

anew. Not only am I powerless with people dying, but I

Mishnah, an organization dedicated to providing for the needs of those who are grappling with loss, as well as providing merit for the neshamos of their loved ones. Through her work, Mrs. Ribiat educates adults and children about aliyas neshamah (“elevation of the soul”) opportunities, and is involved in coordinating support services for those who have lost a parent. She is the author of many personal essays on the topics of mourning and loss. Mrs. Ribiat can be reached at (732) 961-0421 or mribiat@chevrahlomdeimishnah.org.

am powerless over every single little thing. If Hashem wants me to stay home for three months, then I will. Because it is Hashem’s will that will come to fruition. Not mine. So as we enter this period of Yomim Noraim—the Days of Awe, the High Holidays—let’s beg Hashem to give us a year full of mazel and bracha, of fortune and blessing.

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H E A LT H & H E A L I N G

Returning to Our Roots:

R e c l a im in g Hea lth as a J e w ish Virtu e This article is the first in a series exploring the importance of health within Judaism. Manya will discuss topics ranging from diet to disease prevention and present her vision of a 21st-century Kashrut Ethic, in which kosher food is the epitome of nutrition, regenerative agriculture and animal welfare. “I believe we should be a light unto the nations in all areas, including health and food systems,” she says.

Ever since I discovered the intimate connection between lifestyle and disease on my own healing journey, I started wondering why Jewish practice doesn’t place a greater emphasis on healthy living. I had just watched my body break down from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), an autonomic nervous system disorder I was diagnosed with at 18 years old. I had seen how physical illness can literally turn life upside down—preventing one from driving, grocery shopping, socializing and even doing simple household tasks. I had learned how integral our bodies are for literally everything we do, and how even a minor malfunction can drastically impair our lives. After all of the conventional POTS treatments failed, I turned to the world of holistic medicine and slowly reclaimed my health through a combination of nutrition, acupuncture and neurorehabilitation. While I healed my body and transformed my lifestyle, I became increasingly perplexed about why Jewish communities don’t spend more time discussing physical health. I mean, we often talk about the soul—about mitzvot, about emunah, about connecting to Hashem. But we don’t talk nearly as much about taking care of our bodies—about proper diet, exercise, sleep, stress management and more. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why not?” The concept of guarding one’s health is rooted in Jewish sources. It even has its own section in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, the summary of Jewish law! Rambam, an esteemed 12th-century physician and Torah scholar, writes extensively about taking care of our bodies, as do other great Torah scholars like Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), the first chief rabbi of pre-state Israel. So why does healthy living seem to get pushed to the sidelines in Jewish education, conversation and community life? Growing up, I rarely heard health mentioned in my Judaic classes, let alone prioritized in Jewish social settings. While running a Shabbat youth group in high school, I fed the kids mountains of candy and treats provided by the shul. One adorable brother and sister used to bring their own healthy snacks, and I remember feeling so bad for them. I thought, Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

“I’d never be that type of mother.” Now I know that’s exactly the type of mom I will be! Still, I wish I didn’t have to choose between personal values and community values. If health truly is a virtue in Judaism, shouldn’t Jewish communities be paradigms of healthy living? Let’s back up for a second and see what the text says about guarding our health. The Torah states: “Guard yourself and your soul very much” (Deut. 4:9). Why does it say “yourself” and not just “your soul?” Besides, doesn’t Judaism teach that our soul is our true essence? Yes, but our soul could not exist in this world without the physical body as its vessel. Therefore, we must meticulously care for our body—the soul’s one-and-only vessel—with healthy lifestyle habits.

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by: Manya Goldstein

Rambam writes in the Mishneh Torah, his groundbreaking

forsaken the holiness of the body. We have neglected

book on Jewish law, that it is impossible to fully connect

health and physical prowess, forgetting that our flesh is as

to Hashem when one is unwell. “Therefore, one must avoid

sacred as our spirit.”

that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger,” he states in Chapter 4 of Hilchot De’ot (“The Laws of Personal Development”).

That’s quite the powerful statement—that our body is as sacred as our spirit. It connects back to Rambam’s teachings that we should focus on caring for our bodies as much as caring for our souls. And it creates a powerful

Rambam discusses the importance of exercise and sleep,

opening for us to start discussing health in our Jewish

but he considers diet the most crucial factor in maintaining

schools, shuls, homes and communities.

physical health. More than 800 years later, researchers have discovered that poor diet is the top risk factor for mortality in the world (data from the “Global Burden of Disease,” the most comprehensive observational epidemiological study in the world). Wow, Rambam was quite ahead of his times!

Especially now in the midst of a global pandemic, we must do everything we can to strengthen our bodies and fortify our immune systems. Let us return to our roots and rekindle the great mitzvah of guarding our health so that our pristine souls can be housed in the strong, healthy vessels they so dearly deserve.

Unhealthy diets, consisting of highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates, contribute to a range of chronic and stroke. Shifting to real, whole foods—like vegetables,

What can you do to guard your health today? Here are some ideas:

nuts, fruit, quinoa, eggs, fish and meat—can make a

1) Choose real, whole foods that come from plants or

tremendous difference in terms of mental and physical

animals instead of processed foods that come from a

health.

package or box. And remember, it’s not all or nothing!

Which brings us back to our original question: Why don’t

Any positive food choice is a step in the right direction.

Jewish communities place more of an emphasis on healthy

2) Get up and move! Go for a swim, take a walk, dance

living? Why don’t more shuls feature vegetables, fruit and

with your kids, start a garden. The less stationary we

nuts instead of cookies, cakes and chips at kiddush? Why

are, the more our bodies will thank us.

conditions from heart disease and diabetes to Alzheimer’s

don’t we talk about the value of exercising and sleep in addition to learning Torah?

3) Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. To help your body and mind wind down, dim the lights

I think part of our answer is that Jewish practice tends

in the evening, avoid screens and do relaxing activities

to focus on the soul over the body. And it’s easy to see

like reading, drawing, meditation or yoga.

why. The soul is our perfect, pure essence—a piece of G-d Himself. It sure seems more attention-worthy than mere flesh and blood.

4) Focus on connection. Connect to loved ones, connect to nature, connect to yourself. By fostering healthy relationships with ourselves, G-d and all of

Rabbi Kook declares otherwise, writing in his seminal

His creations, we greatly support our health and well-

work Orot (“Lights”): “We require a healthy body. We

being.

have greatly occupied ourselves with the soul and have Manya Goldstein is a health writer and educator living in Jacksonville, Fla. She graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in journalism in 2019 and is currently pursuing her MS in Health Education and Behavior at the University of Florida. Manya became fascinated by health after being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) at 18 years old. Over the next five years, she reclaimed her health through a combination of nutrition, acupuncture and neurorehabilitation. To learn more about her story, visit: www.meetmanya.com.

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H E A LT H & H E A L I N G

Peach Crisp by: Manya Goldstein

INGREDIENTS: 4-5 peaches 1 cup rolled oats (you can buy gluten-free or organic oats, if you desire) 1 cup shredded coconut (look for plain coconut with no added sugar) 2 Tbsp. coconut oil 1 Tbsp. maple syrup

DIRECTIONS: 1) Preheat oven to 350° degrees. 2) Cut the peaches (or fruit of choice) into small pieces. 3) Place into a glass pie dish (you can also use an 8-inch or 9-inch square casserole dish). 4) Bake the fruit for 30 to 40 minutes or until soft. 5) While the fruit is baking, combine the oats, shredded coconut, coconut oil and maple syrup in a bowl. Stir until combined. 6) Once the fruit is soft, add the topping to the dish. Continue baking for 10 minutes or until the topping is golden-brown.

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

Enjoy! *This recipe can be customized with all kinds of fruit like apples, cherries, blueberries, nectarines and more. If you’re using apples, I recommend adding cinnamon to the fruit and topping for a delicious autumn flare.

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by: Blimy Konig

Judg i ng O t her s Favor ably: A Per s ona l He a lt h Jou r ne y

Are there pizza and doughnut days? Yes! Such is life, and we make the most of it. Our bodies are miraculous to the extent that we can

I chose to learn more about healthy eating when every

help the body do its job we should. That includes not

other avenue to feeling better was closed to me. Years

overburdening the toxic load it must deal with. A few

of struggle with an undiagnosed autoimmune condition

generations ago, most of these chemicals did not exist.

forced me to step away from the cycle of antibiotic

They are now in our water, air, cleaning products, personal-

prescriptions and dead-ends in order to feel alive again.

care products and food. This is our new normal. Chronic

I was judged and ridiculed for leaving the conventional

disease is also our new normal. Disease is the language

medical model but have never had cause to regret the

our bodies use to communicate dis-ease, and we need to

changes I made. Baruch Hashem, I am living steroid-free

be respectful and listen.

and am healthier than ever. I am still fascinated by this

Taking responsibility for your health is a very big topic

exploration: How would we feel if we gave ourselves a

right now. Start by getting out of your body’s way.

chance?

Educate yourself on how to build a stronger and more

No one loves to hear “You are what you eat,” but it

resilient immune system. Hint: Sanitizing the world is not

happens to be true. I’ve heard this analogy many times

the answer.

and it's just so good: You wouldn’t put fake gas in your car

There is so much you can do to improve your body and

because that would just damage your engine and hurt the

health, and you honor yourself and your Creator when

longevity and quality of your car.

you do. For those with children, you are setting a priceless

Your body is the same way in how it responds to fake food.

example and imparting Torah-true life skills.

I remember speaking to a respected oncologist who

I choose not to use hand sanitizers or products that are

confidently stated that what you eat makes no difference

designed to destroy bacteria. Bacteria is a very general

to your health. That’s unacceptable. If you get tipsy when

category that encompasses good, bad and benign

you drink alcohol, tired when you eat a bagel, hyper or

bacteria. Our immune systems are built by healthy

angry when you consume food coloring, then food

bacteria, and these are our best—and first line of—defense

definitely affects you.

against the bad bacteria in our bodies and environments.

I try to prepare real food in our home. That’s not to say that

When we use sanitizers, we destroy the good bacteria,

my kids won’t occasionally sneak unhealthy snacks, but

too, essentially destroying our immune defense- and

99 percent of the time, we make better food choices. I try

our resilience. We are left with a short-lived clean slate

to use clean ingredients and make food from scratch. We

that is quickly populated by less than ideal bacteria. We

avoid chemicals, enriched products (synthetic vitamins

have an opportunity to develop good relationships with

are no good), food coloring, MSG (also named yeast

the bacteria in and around our bodies by respecting

extract or glutamate) and soda. We try to limit sugar to

them, digging in the dirt outside, interacting with our

home-baked treats and buy organic as much as possible.

environment and eating probiotic-rich fermented foods.

We like to incorporate fresh smoothies, sourdough bread, soups, sprouts and vegetables where we can. We didn’t always eat this way. Disease taught us to dig deeper and try to do things differently. It brought us to our own wisdom and awe of the systems Hashem created within us. Real food is miraculous and connects you to your Creator, the world around you and to yourself.

Use simple (not antibacterial) soap to keep clean and healthy. As women, we know that everything is connected to everything and is affected by everything. Parallels exist in seemingly disparate places. It is each individual’s personal mission to preserve, protect and develop their own neshama to the best of their ability. It is also each individual’s personal mission to preserve,

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H E A LT H & H E A L I N G protect and develop their own health to the best of their ability. A medical paradigm that encourages panic deserves a second look. A strong foundation, spiritual or physical, should include being satisfied with our choices. If we feel there is a lack, honor that and look deeper into making things better for yourself. Your personal choices should give you confidence. Whatever path you’ve chosen, rejoice in your ability to choose and customize the best solutions for you. For one person, peanuts are an excellent source of protein; for another, they are a death sentence. Choose wisely and then trust that Hashem is with you, guiding you and protecting you, whether you choose to go the antibiotic route or to avoid it. He is the ultimate healer. Do your hishtadlus and then be at peace!

Hummus and Sauerkraut-Juice Dressing Hummus whisked with enough sauerkraut juice to make it creamy and runny. Serve over greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, avocados, sprouts.

Quinoa Coconut Curry

Almond-Butter Freezer Fudge INGREDIENTS:

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup raw creamy almond butter (unsalted)

1 cup raw creamy almond butter (unsalted)

1/4 cup coconut oil, softened

1/4 cup coconut oil, softened

1.5 Tbsp. raw honey

1.5 Tbsp. raw honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract (non-alcohol, if possible)

1 tsp. vanilla extract (non-alcohol, if possible)

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt 2 tsp. oil (I prefer avocado or olive)

DIRECTIONS:

1 yellow onion, chopped

Mix well together, transfer to a parchment paper-lined square dish. Freeze until solid, cut

4 garlic cloves, chopped

into squares.

3 Tbsp. curry powder

Store in the freezer and serve cold as it melts at

2 13.5-oz. cans of coconut milk

room temperature.

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

2 Tbsp. maple syrup 1½ tsp. salt 2 sweet potatoes, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Mix well together, transfer to a parchment paper-lined

2 lbs. frozen vegetable mix (defrosted)

square dish. Freeze until solid, cut into squares.

2 cups quinoa, soaked and rinsed first

Store in the freezer and serve cold as it melts at room

4 cups water

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temperature.

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by: Golda Deutsch

RELEASING MY FEARS AROUND FOOD

accept my emotions and honor and respect my body, so that my body could work for me, not against me. Very importantly, I also learned to connect with my “self,” thereby connecting to my tzelem elokim. I started to value my needs and wants as Divine needs and wants. I learned that Hashem doesn’t want us to be uncomfortable, nor does he want us to do things that feel hurtful to us. I am still learning more about this connection and how this should look like in my daily life.

I started my health journey at a young age

Physical and emotional health go hand in hand. I look at optimizing

as I struggled with acne and skin issues that

metabolism, finding the root cause for all issues and not using

really affected my self-esteem. I was told I have

Band-Aids, and finding peace with food and lifestyle.

possible polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and struggled with psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other issues.

In terms of lifestyle, I focus on getting enough sunlight and fresh air, refreshing sleep, managing stress and doing amateur strengthtraining. I eat a modern version of an ancestral diet focused on

I tried every diet I could find, from sugar-free,

nutrient-dense and whole foods—a diet like our ancestors ate. I

gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, keto, whole30

try to meet my nutrient needs from quality foods and strategic

and intermittent fasting. I felt that the more I

supplementation.

restricted, not only did my issues not get better, they actually got worse over time, and other issues would crop up. I didn’t have a lot of energy, was weak, and pregnancy really took a toll on my body. After lots of struggling, I began to realize that I have to stop chasing symptoms and look at the real root cause. I read and read, and read some more. As a truth-seeker and rule-breaker, I sifted out information that made sense emotionally, biologically and historically. I learned that the tenets of health that we were taught were often politically or financially motivated or based on flawed non-evidencebased research. This discovery was a breath of fresh air and allowed me to let go of my fears around food. I stopped seeing some foods as bad and others are good. I learned that the purpose of food is nourishment and pleasure, and that both are valid. I gave myself permission to eat what I wanted when I wanted, while simultaneously educating myself about the nutrition and learning to tune into my body’s cues and respect them. I also learned to acknowledge, validate and

My diet consists of fruits and root vegetables, fruit juice, properly prepared grains like sourdough bread and soaked rice, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, coconut (oil, water), natural sugars (raw honey, organic sugar, maple syrup), sea salt, and very occasionally, some chicken. You will notice that this allows me some of my favorites like bread, sushi, ice-cream and chocolate—all of which I had been restricting for years. I eat often and make sure that each meal contains carbs and protein. My skin issues are almost cleared up (healing is a process and takes many years), my digestion is unbelievable, I have no hormonal symptoms, and best of all, I feel free around food. I love having fun in the kitchen and coming up with new recipes. One of my favorite recipes that I created so far is for energy balls. Eat two of them and get almost all your B vitamins, tons of minerals and trace minerals (only found in foods in trace amounts, but still very vital) a lovely balance of carb, protein and fat. More than that, they are delicious! Golda Deutsch is originally from London, earned

England, a

bachelor's

where degree

she in

nutritional science and a master NLP certification. She now lives in Monsey, N.Y., and practices as a holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach. She is passionate about family and women’s health.

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H E A LT H & H E A L I N G

Energy Balls

Makes 18-20 balls.

by: Golda Deutsch

INGREDIENTS:

DIRECTIONS:

1 cup raw honey

1) In a double boiler, heat honey and coconut oil until melted.

1/3 cup refined coconut oil 1 cup Bluebonnet brewer’s yeast

2) Remove from flame, and add brewers yeast and cocoa powder.

2/3 cup raw cocoa powder

Mix in remaining ingredients.

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3) Use a tablespoon to make small

Pinch of sea salt

mounds on a lined cookie sheet. Freeze for a few hours.

1 cup shredded unsulfured

4) Remove from the freezer and

coconut

store in the fridge.

In honor of

Bonnie Melamed Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

Who can find a wife of valor? Her value far exceeds that of rubies… She is more precious than corals… ........... Your Special K Eishet Chayil generally translated as “Woman of Valor.” Book of Psalms (chapter 31:10–31)

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CBD & THE NEW ME

by: Nisa Vinokur

Within the last few years, CBD has undoubtedly become

couldn’t properly care for, and I felt I was out of options.

one of the most-talked-about health and wellness

My doctor suggested applying for a medical marijuana

products on the market. From health-food stores to big-

card; however, since I was nursing a newborn, this was not

box stores and everything in between, CBD can be found

something I was comfortable with.

in supplements, topical creams, and even coffee shop lattes and spa treatments!

It might be hashgacha that I have a close family member who started a company with a successful line of CBD

However, 20 years ago, when I was returning home from

products. After speaking with him I learned that not all

Israel as a new ba’al teshuvah, no one was really talking

CBD is created equal and that the dosages can vary

about CBD. If someone had told me that one day I would

depending on the individual. He sent me a tincture to try

be using cannabis products regularly, I would have

and after a few weeks, my sleep became restful, my body

laughed. Not because I am someone who is skeptical

felt healthy and strong, and my mood was great!

about health supplements.

CBD became a part of my daily supplement regimen,

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I was born and raised in

and I was determined to learn more about the amazing

Baltimore by “hippy” parents who were pioneers in the

hemp plant. I became committed to sharing my story

health-food industry.

and helping others also find natural ways to support their

I spent my early adult years in Maryland selling

health goals.

supplements as an employee of Whole Foods Market

So, what exactly is CBD? What are the health benefits? Is

and as a chef for a caterer with an emphasis on healthy,

it marijuana? Let’s take a dive and answer these questions.

organic, farm-to-table cooking. I exercised and ate well … healthy living was my passion! However, like many, I associated the word “cannabis” with the intoxicating effects of marijuana. I wouldn’t have known that CBD (a cannabis product) is different from marijuana and does not produce any psychoactive effects.

CBD is short for cannabidiol—a phytochemical called a cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant. CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most well-known and thoroughly researched cannabinoids; however, there are more than 100 that have been identified. THC is found in marijuana and produces the psychoactive effect or

At the time, I was eager to begin shidduch dating and

“high.” Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the plant

build a life based on Torah values. While my healthy

species Cannabis Sativa, but hemp is bred to have low

lifestyle merged seamlessly with my new religious lifestyle,

levels of THC (0.3 percent or less) and high levels of CBD.

I wanted to distance myself from the culture of my secular

Marijuana is bred to have high levels of THC and low levels

college years (late-night parties, music concerts, etc.,

of CBD.

which marijuana would inevitably have been a part of).

CBD can bring balance to our body’s endocannabinoid

Fourteen years ago, I married my husband, and by 2011,

system. Discovered by scientists at the Hebrew University

I was raising two young children. Life was busy, and my

of Jerusalem, the endocannabinoid system plays a role in

husband worked late nights out-of-town running a kiruv

maintaining bodily homeostasis and regulating functions

organization. There was no time for self-care.

such as sleep, mood, metabolism and pain.

By the time our third child was born two years ago, I

Endocannabinoids

was almost 40, and it became critical that I prioritize my

produced by our body that bind to endocannabinoid

health. Being exhausted was just the tip of the iceberg;

receptors. The cannabinoids in hemp have the ability to

life had reached a point of crisis. I had acquired a list of

bind to these same receptors.

ailments a mile long including trouble sleeping. I tried everything under the sun, including an inexpensive bottle of CBD that I picked up from the supermarket. I was devastated because I had three beautiful children who I

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are

cannabinoid-like

molecules

When purchasing CBD products, steer away from products

containing

preservatives,

artificial

colors

and flavorings, and imported hemp. Instead, choose

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H E A LT H & H E A L I N G natural ingredients, domestically farmed hemp and CO2 extraction (which is a safe and preferred method).

Pumpkin-Spiced Latte

A reputable company will ensure the safety and efficacy

with real pumpkin and maple syrup!

of their products by providing a certificate of analysis detailing tests performed to check for contaminants, pesticides, heavy metals and molds, as well as the amounts of each individual cannabinoid. The product label should tell you the potency (amount of

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup milk of choice (coconut milk or oat milk work well for non-dairy options)

CBD in the bottle) and whether the CBD is Full Spectrum,

1 Tbsp. canned or fresh roasted pumpkin

Broad Spectrum or an Isolate. This refers to the level of

2 tsp. vanilla extract

processing that the hemp extract goes through after the initial extraction. Full Spectrum contains all of the cannabinoids naturally found within the plant, including trace THC. Broad Spectrum is similar; however, the trace THC has been removed. An Isolate on the other hand, contains just CBD and zero THC. Also,

some

companies

now

½ tsp. cinnamon, plus more for topping A pinch of nutmeg and clove Ÿ cup of strong coffee or espresso 1 tsp. of maple syrup or to taste

have

reliable

kosher

certification. My story is not unique; many individuals today are looking

1 dropperful unflavored CBD oil of choice (optional) Heavy cream or coconut cream (optional)

for natural ways to support health and wellness. In the United States, hemp-derived CBD is legal and nonpsychoactive, making it an excellent option.

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As with any supplement, before trying CBD, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider. If you have any medical conditions, do not delay or discontinue treatment without speaking to your provider first. Nisa Vinokur is from Baltimore, Md. Passionate about all things related to healthy living, Nisa can usually be found in the kitchen cooking, in the garden growing her own food or creating her own therapeutic essential oils blends. She enjoys spending time in nature with her husband and three children, whom she currently homeschools. Nisa earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts

DIRECTIONS: 1) Pour first seven ingredients into a small saucepan and mix with an immersion blender. 2) Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a mug. 3) Add dropperful of CBD oil (if using). Blend with a handheld milk frothing wand. Whip cream (if using) with a frothing wand and spoon on top. 4) Sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!

from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also a RYT-200 Certified Yoga Instructor. She currently works as a distributor for a health and wellness company that features high-quality CBD products.

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by: NIsa Vinokur

Paleo Banana Blueberry Muffins Grain free and no refined sugars!

Lemon-Herb Roasted Pattypan Squash and Chickpea Salad

INGREDIENTS:

INGREDIENTS:

2 very ripe bananas

1 can of chickpeas or ¾ cup of soaked/cooked chickpeas

3 large eggs

6 pattypan squash cut into segments

½ cup of maple syrup or honey

Olive oil

3 Tbsp. oil (melted coconut, grapeseed or avocado oil)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 ½ cups almond flour

Zest from ½ lemon

½ cup arrowroot flour

4 anchovies packed in oil, drained and finely diced

3 Tbsp. coconut flour

(for vegan version, substitute 1 Tbsp. rinsed capers)

½ tsp. baking powder

8 fresh mint leaves, chopped

½ tsp salt

A dozen chives or a few scallions, chopped

½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

DIRECTIONS: 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pinch of cayenne pepper 1 dropper unflavored CBD oil of choice (optional)

2) Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

DIRECTIONS:

3) In a small bowl, mash bananas. Add maple

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

syrup, oil, vanilla and eggs; mix well. 4) In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. 5) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Mix in blueberries. 6) Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

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2) Place squash segments on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil and salt. 3) Roast 30 minutes until starting to brown. 4) Combine herbs, anchovies, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and CBD (if using) in a bowl. 5) Toss the cooled squash and chickpeas with the herb dressing, and serve.

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CREATIVE SOULS

Healing Art Q& A w i t h M i r i a m L i e b o witz

How long have you been painting and how did you get started? My mother is also an artist, and I grew up watching her paint, draw, whatever. I was always exposed to all of the best materials—my mother was very generous, and she would share with me. I have always dabbled with art and can remember myself being involved with art in some way or another throughout my life. As a child, I did a lot of detailed drawings, and then when I got older, I studied graphic art and did a lot of Judaica. Those were received very well, but were tight and very exact. I was longing to find a way to do more self-expression, to find my inner being more. But every time I tried, I got very stuck and frustrated.

I’ve found this scribble drawing to be the most powerful form for me, where I’m able to express emotion and myself through the art. I’ve been very surprised and in awe of what comes through when I trust the process. It is the art of emunah—both of these art forms, really, of having faith that you will see what you need to see. That you can follow that. Focusing on that frees me and that inner critic who says “it should look this way” or “that isn’t any good.” That was the awakening for me. I can just sit down and start something, and trust the flow. I’ve gotten to the place where the shame critic doesn’t come in as much, and I can work from a place of exploration, wonder and be rooted in the process rather than the final outcome. Even if I have a concept I want to put down on paper,

Then I had found two approaches that helped open up

being process-oriented allows the image to flow without

for me the ability to do art as healing and self-expression.

the inner critic.

One was a Waldorf-type watercolor approach called veil painting. You make layers of transparent watercolor and start randomly laying them on the page. Then, you find

What was your inspiration behind these three paintings?

something that you see in the layers on the page, follow and develop it. That approach freed my mind to find the image already present in the paint. The second was something called scribble drawing,

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

which I learned about in a book called Art is a Way of Knowing. The author, Pat B. Allen, describes the process of scribbling on the page and finding an image, and then you follow that image. Somehow, it boycotts your inner critic, circumventing the part of you that says, “This isn’t good enough, what are you trying to do?!” You know, that shaming place that follows us around and tries to pull us down.

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All of these paintings are women with the Torah. I was really responsive to and inspired by our community’s Simchas Torah. We’re in the heart of Jerusalem, in Nachlaot. My community is called V’Ani Tefillah, and

36


with Miriam Liebowitz

it used to be led by Rav Raz Hartman. They left the

feeling unhappy or stressed, it’s an amazing outlet for

neighborhood, and my husband actually took over

me to get the emotions moving by getting them down

the leadership, Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz. There’s a huge

on paper. The healing is mine, but it’s also the response I

emphasis on the women’s experience around Simchas

get—where the art meets other people.

Torah.

What the art does for me it also seems to do for others

The women get two Torahs, and it has become a place

in witnessing it and seeing it. My hope is that the art be

where women from all over the country come. It is

both—something I use to heal me, and something that is

mamash devekut; I have no other way of describing it. It

also healing for others.

is utter adoration of Torah and Hashem. It is unworldly, almost, and a very feminine experience. So every year,

Miriam

I am inspired to put this experience down on paper

Jerusalem-based

in some way, and to try and capture a little bit of the

who moved to Israel from

closeness.

California with her mother

Leibowitz

is

a

artist

when she was seven years

Where do you create your art?

old.

Miriam

specializes

I don’t have a studio; I work in my bedroom at my desk

art. She creates mostly

or at my dining-room table. It is my lifelong desire to

with chalk and oil pastels,

in inspirational, intuitive

respect myself enough as an artist to get myself a studio

and sometimes also with

setting. Until now, and when my kids were younger, it

mixed media or oil paints. Miriam believes in the power of

was much more convenient to work from the home.

art to lead us to healing. Miriam is passionate about Torah,

Wherever I can, really. Some of the drawings, especially

spirituality, personal growth and creative self-expression—

the scribble drawings, I make from the bedroom floor

all themes evoked in her artwork. A dedicated mother

where I have more space. You know, you make do and

of five, Miriam also facilitates parenting workshops and

find where to work. God willing, that’s the goal, to have a

is married to Aaron Leibowitz, who is a rabbi and social

space where I can really enter the process more.

activist in the heart of Jerusalem.

What is Miriam’s Healing Art? I called my Facebook page “Miriam’s Healing Art.” As I started sharing my art more, I got a lot of responses of how much it moved people and how much it touched them. It touched them in places they hadn’t even known they needed healing, but they felt it—just the connection that was formed in the art. It expressed an experience that they felt and could respond to and identify with. For me, this journey and this art has been about my own healing. It’s almost like art therapy that I do for myself. It’s opened up new avenues for understanding myself more. Some of the images that come through are very intense and surprise me; they help me open up a lot of childhood wounds and really process through art. If I’m

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37


CREATIVE SOULS

My Story of Art & Aliyah hadn’t painted seriously for 20 years. My response was “paint what?” He suggested

One could say that I was forced into becoming a fulltime artist. I had a degree in fine art and loved

Hashem through nature, and the setting of the Ruth story is all landscape. And

so

it

happened

that

my

first

painting from that time, “The Downfall of Elimelech,” set me on a creative, spiritual journey that I would never have had the courage to begin.

painting, but there were two things

Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, was

stopping me. First, I felt that I didn’t have

the leader of the generation. He was at

anything worthwhile to say, and second,

a turning point in his life. It was a time

I was caught up in the rat race trying to

of drought in Israel, and Elimelech made

earn a living, working for my husband’s

the wrong decision. He abandoned the

business.

people, and ran away with his family and

We were living in South Africa, and Jewish education and medical insurance were more than we could afford. We have five children, Baruch Hashem, and

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

the story of Ruth, as I’m very connected to

all his wealth. Elimelech didn’t actualize his potential, and he is compared negatively in the literature to a mere stump; like a fox sneaking away from the ruins.

painting felt like an irresponsible thing.

Painting “The Downfall of Elimelech” got

After 10 years, however, I couldn’t cope

me thinking. How do we know that we

with the stress of business and crazy

are making the right choices in life? Was

deadlines, and I was on the verge of a

I really meant to actualize my potential

breakdown. Looking back, it seems that

through painting?

what often feels like the worst thing in life happening to you, turns out to be full of bracha. We just don’t see it at the time.

A few years later, in 2009, we made aliyah. All the paintings that have emerged since then are all deeply personal, yet they

So there I was, unable to work anymore,

express

and I turned to my husband for help.

people relate to. My husband tried to

He advised, wisely, that I should paint. I

explain that to me, but I didn’t believe it

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universal

feelings

that

many

38


by Caryn Yavin

until I started exhibiting the paintings in

relate Your Glory, though I see You not”

different communities in Israel. There was

(An’im Zmirot).

a wonderful response, Baruch Hashem, from people of diverse backgrounds, gender and age.

The source, Ani’im Zmirot, is known in English as the “Song of Glory.” It’s usually sung at the end of davening and often by

In South Africa, I would run away from Tehillim groups, fearing that I would be the weak link. I didn’t connect with the Psalms at all. In Israel, however, life’s challenges suddenly opened up the book of Psalms for me, and I realized that so many of my feelings and desires were echoed in its verses. It became my need to link the Psalms and my intense experiences, and communicate them visually, using landscape as a metaphor. The paintings express various themes in my life. For example, a “Prayer for Peace,” which won an award in Israel. “Alone” is one of a series of nine paintings, called “Diary of a Struggle Between Fear and Faith,” that I created during my time in chemotherapy. A yearning for a closer connection to Hashem is expressed in “The Kotel: Ocean of Tears.” Appreciating the channels of blessing is expressed

a child. Essentially, when visitors come to my gallery, I share with them all my stories through the paintings. They are stories full of “coincidences”—of how I see Hashem’s guiding hand in all my ups and downs. For example, by the time we left South Africa, we couldn’t afford any medical insurance. Had I not been in Israel, where all my medical expenses were completely covered, I would have been in big trouble. Also, my bout with cancer opened up the book of psalms for me in a way I never thought possible. It’s the comfort that the psalms brought me that gave rise to the paintings in “Diary of a Struggle Between Fear and Faith.” When I exhibit these paintings, it gives me an opportunity to speak about my somewhat humorous, and all too human, relationship with Hashem.

in “Days of the Omer.” And seeking

I still can’t speak Hebrew, and I never

Hashem’s protection in “The Wing.”

would have had the courage to make aliyah, just like I didn’t have the courage

All the paintings (some, in the form of replicas) are now on permanent display where we currently live on Sde Bar Farm in the Gush Etzion. The irony is, that I’m living now overlooking the very

to commit to painting full time. Through all life’s challenges, however, it feels like Hashem’s Guiding Hand has pushed me exactly where I’m meant to be. And I’m eternally grateful!

landscape of the Judean Desert that I painted in the Elimelech painting 13 years ago in South Africa! The sign for my gallery in Sde Bar reads: Landscapes

of

the

Soul—A

journey

through life’s ups and downs. “I shall

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39


CREATIVE SOULS

Caryn’s Art Gallery

The Kotel ‫הכותל‬ Ocean of Tears ‫ים של דמעות‬ .‫ נַפְ ִשׁי חוֹלַת ַאהֲ בָ ֽ ֶתָך‬,‫הָ דוּר נָאֶ ה זִ יו הָ עוֹלָם‬ .‫ בְּ הַ ְראוֹת לָהּ ֹֽנעַ ם זִ י ֽ ֶוָך‬,‫אָ נָּא אֵ ל נָא ְרפָ א נָא לָהּ‬ .‫ וְ הָ י ְָתה לָּהּ ִשׂ ְמחַ ת עוֹלָם‬,‫ָאז ִתּ ְתחַ זֵּק וְ ִת ְת ַרפֵּ א‬ [‫ סעודה שלישית‬,‫]מיזמור ידיד נפש‬

Alone ‫בדד‬ .‫ָקרוֹב ה’ לְ ָכל־קֹ ְרָאיו‬ ‫לְ כֹל אֲ ֶשׁר י ְִק ָראֻ הוּ בֶ אֱ מֶ ת‬ [‫ יח‬:‫]תהילים קמ”ה‬ Near is the Eternal to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.

universe my soul pines for Your love. Please O G-d, please heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance. Then she will be strengthened and healed, and eternal gladness will be hers.” [Yedid Nefesh, Zmirot Shalosh Seudos]

[Psalms 145:18] Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

“Majestic One, Beautiful One, Radiance of the

More of Caryn Yavin’s paintings can be viewed on her website: www.carynyavin.weebly.com. For inquiries: carynyavin@gmail.com.

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40


by Caryn Yavin

The Downfall of Elimelech ‫נפילת אלימלך‬ .‫הוַ י ְִה֗י בִּ יְמֵ י֙ ְשׁפֹ֣ט הַ שֹּׁפְ ִט֔ים וַ י ְִה֥י ָרעָ ֖ב בָּ אָ ֶ֑רץ וַ ֵ֨יּלְֶך ִא֜ישׁ ִמבֵּ ֧ית ֶל֣חֶ ם‬ ‫וּשׁ ֵנ֥י בָ ֽ ָניו‬ ְ ‫ְהוּד֗ה לָגוּר֙ בִּ ְשׂדֵ ֣י מוֹאָ ֔ב ה֥וּא וְ ִא ְשׁתּ֖וֹ‬ ָ ‫י‬ [‫א‬:‫]רות א‬ And it happened in the days when the Judges judged that there was a famine in the land, and

The Wing ‫הכנף‬ .‫בְּ אֶ בְ ָרתוֹ יָסֶ ְך ָלְך וְ ַתחַ ת כְּ נָפָ יו ֶתּ ְחסֶ ה‬ [‫ד‬:‫]תהילים צ”א‬

a man went from Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn in the fields of Moab, he, his wife, and his two sons.

With His wing will He cover you, and under His

[The Book of Ruth 1:1]

wings will you take refuge ... [Psalms 91:4]

Days of the Omer ‫ימי העומר‬ .‫ וְ הָ יָה ה’ ִמבְ טַ חוֹ‬, ’‫בָּ רוְּך הַ גֶּבֶ ר אֲ ֶשׁר יִבְ טַ ח בַּ ה‬ [‫]ברכת המזון‬ Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, then Hashem will be his security. [Grace after the meal]

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41


CREATIVE SOULS

Connecting With The True Creator I like to draw, paint, read lots, and also love yoga and meditation. My all-time favorite pastime is painting with my daughter. I love to draw portraits and create realistic pieces, but also have found a love in abstract art. I wanted to attempt abstract painting to break my habit of perfectionism with my work. My current series is an abstract series of the seven emotive sefirot on the Tree of Life. I first learned to paint from my grandmother, Rachel Adams. She was an artist. I was lucky enough to live down the road from her. She would inspire me by showing me her new paintings and then she would set up little areas for us to paint together. She was my best teacher and biggest inspiration. I am a convert to Judaism. I converted to Orthodox

life. My connection to Am Yisrael and to Hashem is the true doorway to my creativity and artistic ability. Sometimes, I create pieces and don’t even know how; it’s all the Creator. Before I paint, I meditate and ask the Creator to flow through me onto the canvas. I owe it all to Him. Art affects me in a kaleidoscope of ways. It’s a release of emotions when I’m creating and a deep awareness of my emotions when I see it completed. When I see a piece of art that really moves me, I always want to talk to the creator and find out the story behind it. This allowed for a blossoming of my relationship with the True Creator, G-d. Creating art has allowed me to grow, learn, feel, experience and by connecting to G-d, connecting to my true self.

Judaism in 2013. My desire to become Jewish began in 2009, after multiple spiritual and unexplainable events in my life. I grew up fascinated with Jewish history and did a 12-piece art exhibition when I was 17 years old relating

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

to the Holocaust. Even as a young child, I was an avid reader and I remember my mom buying me The Diary of Anne Frank and other Holocaust-themed books. Continuously throughout my life, I was being directed to Judaism. It opened my eyes to the fact that there is

Ruth Adams lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and is a single mother of 11-year-old October Belle. She works as the program coordinator for a Jewish learning organization that assists in Orthodox conversion to Judaism. You can see her artwork on her Instagram at ruth.adams.art. For more information, email Ruth at rutemarlena7@gmail. com.

a very intelligent, compassionate and loving Creator behind the scenes nudging me along every step of my

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42


By Ruth Adams

Ruth’s Kabbalistic Abstract Series (acrylic on canvas)

NETZACH

YESOD

HOD

GEVURAH

TIFERET

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CHESED

43


CREATIVE SOULS

Unity Through Music By Aviva Chertkov

Recently I saw a survey online ranking 20 jobs in order of

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to play

most essential to “absolutely not essential,” and artists

this beautiful little piece of music by Elgar for her; maybe

made the top of, well, you can guess which list. The

she would find some solace and comfort in it, even for a

essential jobs in the questionnaire, which surveyed 1,000

moment. As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo

people, were described as having to meet “basic human

writes, an artist often starts out making art for himself,

needs,” and I would have also ranked doctor above artist

but “at some point he realizes he wants to share it.” He

if I was asked.

describes this desire to share as a “generous impulse

However, beyond surface appearance, humans have a basic need for the arts because Hashem created

everything the doctors were doing.

us in His image and our neshama yearns to emulate

However, just reaching out to one doctor in New York

Him as creators. But rather than go too deep into the

didn’t feel like enough, knowing that health-care workers

philosophical discussion about art and music, and their

all over the country were defending us on the frontlines.

purpose in society, as I tried to do when I first sat down

So I thought, why not organize violinists from all over

to write this, I’ll just tell you about a project I created this

the United States to record “Salut d’Amour” so we could

past April.

virtually play it “together”? Why not get one violinist

As concerts were cancelled or postponed, and wedding gigs stopped coming in, I found myself practicing more

from every state in America, as a way to show unity and gratitude and love for our health-care workers?

and choosing new pieces to learn. As a professional

From university and the summer music festivals I

classical violinist, the repertoire out there feels never-

attended around the United States, I knew musicians

ending, and so it’s a joy to discover pieces you’ve never

from so many places, and the classical community

played, or even better, ones you’ve heard since childhood

is tight-knit enough that I was sure I could find all 50

and start to play for the first time yourself.

within a week. With enough hubris and naïveté to get

So I picked this beautiful, short song to learn by the English composer Edward Elgar, called “Salut d’Amour” and written as an engagement present to his wife-to-be. It’s full of love and romance and lyricism. Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

rooted in humility,” and I truly felt this way, humbled by

Around this time, the pandemic’s effect on health-care workers and hospitals around the United States filled the news every day. It also happened to be that one of my relatives is an ER doctor in New York City, and thinking of what she was going through each day made me wish I could do something to show her support and care during this tremendously difficult time.

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me started, I began reaching out to friends from Florida, Michigan, Kentucky, California, as many as I could each day, and to my excitement, most agreed to the project right away. After 20-some states, I began asking for friends to recommend musicians, finding a violinist from the Milwaukee Symphony who studied at my university, a girl from the Hawaii Symphony who had studied with my same teacher back in Chicago, and more with surprising connections. Eventually, it got down to places like New Hampshire and

44


the Dakotas (I knew it was going to be the Dakotas … ) and I had to email the symphony personnel managers and professors I knew, until two weeks later, I had 50 violinists from every state in America practicing Elgar’s “Salut d’Amour” at their homes and starting to send in their recordings. With Hashem’s merciful hand guiding the process, a friend from North Carolina (violinist turned professional video editor) volunteered hours and hours of his time to edit the videos so that 50 tracks of violinists playing a song would sound perfectly in sync. In the end, violinists from as far away as the Arkansas Symphony and Boise Philharmonic expressed their joy at taking part in the project, and making music while their concert halls lay shuttered and dark. It wasn’t just something to do while sitting at home all day which uplifted us; it was the unity and connection of the project, the beauty of Elgar’s music (which I must have listened to more than 200 times and never tired of, miraculously), and the purposeful gratitude with which we each played. The basic need of a Jewish neshama is for closeness with Hashem, and to bring His light into the world. I meant to do a chesed through music, to make a gift for the listeners, the health-care workers whom we so wholeheartedly appreciated; instead, I gave a deeper gift to us music-makers, an opportunity to do what is essential to us—to bring unity and beauty to this world through art. Russian-American violinist Aviva Chertok was raised with a strong Jewish identity, but as immigrants from the USSR, her family had little religious knowledge. While they learned of and started observing Jewish practices like Passover and Sukkot over the years, Aviva’s sister was the first to fully immerse herself in Judaism with the help of kiruv organizations in college. Over time, she and her whole family have become ba’alei teshuvah. Aviva has performed around the United States, England, Israel and China. She holds an M.M. from the Royal College of Music in London and a B.M. from the University of Michigan. She has won numerous awards in chamber music, such as 1st place at the Discover National Chamber Competition, and has been featured on Chicago’s WFMT radio station and on NPR’s “From the Top.” Aviva currently lives in Chicago, where she teaches violin, is a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and is founder and artistic director of the Picardy Collective classical ensemble.

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45


CREATIVE SOULS

Jewish Artist Pushes Boundaries to Bring New Music to the Next Generation, Connecting With Halachah and Hashem By Mindy Rubenstein

Franciska Kosman has learned the delicate art of integrating Torah values into her creative pursuits, navigating the sometimes challenging standards of the Orthodox Jewish world. Born and raised in Moscow to parents who moved there 30 years ago to do Jewish outreach, Franciska— or Freydie—speaks honestly about her journey as a frum female entrepreneur, musician, singer, composer and coach, as well as a wife and mother of two young children.

A blend of rich, soulful Hebrew lyrics, with sources including tehillim, chumash and naviim, Franciska’s music -- her voice, her words (even if I don’t understand the Hebrew)—pull on my heart and soul. “Sometimes, I write music first, sometimes I think of music to match a specific verse in Tanach,” she says. “It is something that I accessed or learned to do at a very young age, so there is little thought or planning that goes into the process. Now, that I am learning how to write

When I first discovered Franciska online and saw how

lyrics in English, it is a whole new thing. It’s really about

beautifully she expressed herself, I thought of my

sitting down to write and then composing and allowing

daughters as we each work to bring our own uniqueness

the energy to flow through you, or being present when

and talents into Jewish life. I chose to adopt an Orthodox

big emotions appear and allowing you to receive them in

lifestyle as an adult, gradually culling out most everything

a musical way.”

I was raised with from the secular world, and this is music I would choose because I actually love it—not just because it’s one of our select choices by a frum artist.

Her grandmother’s Jewish-themed paintings adorn her album covers. And, like many young people, although she received a Jewish education and has family to

Music, fashion and the overall allure of the non-Jewish

emulate religiously, she struggles to follow some of the

world can be confusing for women and girls struggling

details of Orthodox life.

to find their identity in modern times, especially those who migrated over from another religion or from a nonTorah-observant version of Judaism. My kids say that much of Jewish music just doesn’t sound as good as non-Jewish music. As painful as that is to hear, it’s hard to argue. Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

an influence on her—and me.

So when I heard Franciska’s music, my first thought was that it’s really, really good, even mesmerizing. I called my daughters over to the computer to listen with me. “Wow, she’s so beautiful!” my 10-year-old daughter said, watching one of her music videos with me. My teenage daughter sat down to watch and listen, admiring Franciska’s look and sound. I was happy to see this have

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Torah guidelines for modesty are “a huge challenge for me with what I do,” admits the 27-year-old during our phone interview, as her 4-month-old daughter coos in the background and my 8-year-old son plays next to me. “I’m pushing boundaries.” Franciska attended Lauder Etz Chaim in Moscow, a government-funded school created by her parents after the fall of the infamous Iron Curtain, allowing for cultural education,

including

Jewish

history

and

Hebrew-

language classes. “Davening (prayer) wasn’t part of the official program,” she said, but still, they included that in their day, before school started, along with Navi (the prophets). On 46


Sundays, her mother taught a small group the subjects

She has lived in Atlanta and Baltimore, and now calls

that are part of a regular day-school dual-curriculum not

Philadelphia home. She moved there five years ago with

offered in the school.

her husband, Menachem, because they have family there

Some frum teachers came over from Israel, she says,

and fell in love with the community.

but most were Russians new to learning about Judaism,

Despite facing challenges, Franciska has been going full-

so they would study the material and then teach their

steam ahead, often working through the night, putting

students. This was in the ’90s, and these same teachers

her creativite passions into action. She started putting

are now very knowledgeable, she says. Some left for

out music albums shortly after getting married and has

Israel and the United States, but some still teach in the

made one every year since, slowing down after having

school.

her now 3-year-old daughter and baby.

The creative arts were largely subsidized by the Russian

“A large amount of energy, inspiration and creativity

government, so “everybody does something, and it’s

came only after getting pregnant and experiencing

very affordable,” she says. Her sisters focused on fine art

such a miracle happening with my body,” she says of

and dance, while Franciska took ongoing music lessons

motherhood.

five or six days a week, including classical guitar and piano. She began learning piano at age 6 and composing songs when she was around 8. “Music is not what I do, it’s who I am,” she says.

“New music, some of my best music, just flew through me,” she says. “I feel like having a child—more so a daughter—made me feel like I must do something unique with my talents. I

She left Moscow at age 16 after graduating from the

cannot just let them hang out in the background of my

high school and Igumnov International Music Academy,

life. I had a new wave of inspiration and ambition I have

and went to seminary in Israel, then Touro College in

never experienced before.

Manhattan, where she majored in business. “Business is my next love, after music,” notes Franciska.

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

But she acknowledges that there were challenges, too, learning to balance being a mom and an artist.

47


“THERE IS MUCH BEAUTY THAT COMES YIDDISHKEIT, THE VALUES, THE LIFESTYLE. “

WITH

“I couldn’t manage being home with a baby, so after paying so much in day care, I had to figure out how to justify the costs. Even though I don’t think this way anymore, a mom doesn’t need to justify needing help so she can rest up and gain her strength back.” Franciska already has plans for her next few albums. She also hosts podcasts—interviewing women in the arts and entertainment, and giving them a platform to share their stories—while also building her professional network. Plus, once a month, she interviews survivors of abuse. “I’m using my platform to give those women a voice,” she says. “I was feeling quite lost after some awesome releases, so

strictly adhering to standards of dress. “I didn’t want to

my mentor, Rifka Harris, suggested I start a podcast to

be telling them how to dress, but now I do. I wish I didn’t

use my voice in a different way and build something that

have to.”

is beyond just ‘me’ and my artist needs.” She has also transitioned into coaching to help creative

in front of men. But she rarely performs live, and when

women build businesses “to have money to work on their

she does it’s for women only.

passion projects,” she explains. “By creating a business that establishes their brand or talents, such as teaching or performing, I help women self-support their dreams and their lives.” “I wear a lot of hats,” she says, “but it’s super fun.” One of her favorite aspects of her career is making music videos. “People don’t just want music; they need visuals,” she insists. Her videos include Jewish female dancers, and her modest-but-marvelously-chic wardrobe is a big part Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

After age 12, according to halachah, she couldn’t perform

“Torah and halachah are definitely values I was raised with,” she says. “My mom always encouraged me in pursuing my music—from lessons, to tutors, courses, equipment—just pure love and support. She was the one who challenged me to compose my first song by saying, ‘just try.’ ” When it comes to her music recordings, she said that some rabbinical authorities and modern communities say that recorded music is not considered kol isha, forbidden for men to listen.

of her brand. For her videos, she dons gowns, costumes,

Still, there are some inherent barriers within the Orthodox

beautiful makeup and sheitels (wigs).

Jewish community that make it challenging for female

“It’s all about the glam,” she says.

singers. For example, many Jewish stores wouldn’t have women’s music CDs out on display (they are kept in the

She’s also giving a platform for the female Jewish

back) and if women bought them, they can’t just listen

dancers. After getting some pushback from the ultra-

to them in the house where men and boys might hear.

Orthodox community, she makes sure they are more

Plus, women typically can’t be hired for simchas like male musicians.

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

48


“It’s a huge challenge in getting the music out there,” she

Just like any entrepreneur, there are late-nights and

reveals. “It’s a juggling act.”

Sundays working and following her creative passions.

Still, she loves what she does and continues to put herself into her music, even if that means constantly re-

“That’s what happens when you’re in charge,” she says. “That’s the struggle that any business woman has.”

evaluating who she is and where she holds religiously.

But Franciska wants to be honest about the challenges

And her connection to G-d is the common thread

she faces with some of the halachah and stringencies

that connects her passion for music with her desire to

for women in the Orthodox Jewish world. Only then, she

continue sharing it.

says, can women find support and move past the feelings

“It definitely is a part of me, connecting to the words,”

that they are alone in our uncertainties and challenges.

she says. “But it’s also about bringing new music, new

For example, she says women often talk about how

production for the new generation and to be able to

beautiful mitzvahs like kol isha, tznius and mikvah

connect to our ancient-yet-so-relevant texts.”

are. But for her, it has been very hard, and often these

She acknowledges that women in some Chassidic and

halachos didn’t and don’t always feel beautiful.

ultra-Orthodox communities are not encouraged to

“This is the life I live, and I try to live in the best way

share their talents, and in more extreme cases, they are

with these restrictions, even though it’s really hard, and

actually told to stop singing. “But creating music is a

I sometimes don’t fully appreciate the beauty of it,” she

spiritual experience. I want to show them there’s a place

says. “It’s a challenge. But you acknowledge that it’s

for it.”

hard.”

For me, using your voice and using your talents is a way

“I am not someone who just accepts. I challenge and

that you should connect to G-d. You can find a way

push. I want to know the sources. Society changes, and

within Judaism to use your talent.”

halachah evolves. My perspectives have also changed.”

Rather than women and teens finding role models in

For her career, her passion and her brand, as well as in

the non-Jewish world, she wants them to be able to

her personal life, balancing the tightrope of modesty

see Orthodox Jewish women looking beautiful and

laws and community acceptance continues to present

expressing themselves in a spiritual way. But she realizes

challenges that she doesn’t shy away from facing.

there will always be some people who don’t agree with or accept what she’s doing.

“The focus of tznius should not be just a dress code per se. You should look at the spirit of the mitzvah,” she says.

“I’m not trying to please everyone. I’m trying to provide

“I don’t necessarily agree with all the rules, but I try to

something that doesn’t exist for girls and women who

do it anyway.”

need it to help connect to their spirituality or struggle with it. There are so many talented singers out there; there are so many options,” she says. “When I show up, I want to show up in the most professional, glammed-out way,” she adds. “I’m keeping halachah. There are rebbetzins and there are singers. I wish people didn’t hold me to the standards of a rebbetzin.” She points out that her husband is her biggest fan.

When asked why she continues to follow the religious stipulations despite the challenges, she pauses, then responds slowly, thoughtfully. “Some things in life are hard, and you just have to do it because it’s good for you,” like a healthy diet and going to sleep on time, she says. “There is much beauty that comes with Yiddishkeit, the values, the lifestyle. Nothing is perfect. I wouldn’t want to raise my kids any other way.”

“His love of music is very strong, and he’s extremely supportive. If not for that I don’t think I would be able to continue,” she says. “He’s definitely a pillar. He’s an amazing source of strength.”

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

Mindy Rubenstein, founding editor of Nishei Ora, has worked as a professional journalist for 22 years. She and her husband have four children, and live in Florida.

49


EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS

Educating the Children of BTs

Becoming a baalas teshuvah in my early 20s was such an incredible turning point.

words into Yiddish and then finally at last, English? When

I stepped into the world of Torah Judaism full of

and then to have a separate class in which Yiddish was

excitement for the paradigm shifts that I had so painfully

taught, I was told “no.” There were no compromises.

and consciously embraced over a journey of two-and-

There was no understanding of what not just my children

a-half years. Bucking the social norm and becoming

were struggling with, but many children of baalei

enlightened with Jewish mystical wisdom and traditions

teshuvah families were struggling with as well. And that

set me on my path.

was just the beginning of my disappointments.

And once married, how excited I was to share the

The amazing Torah wisdom that had been taught to

incredible gifts of Torah with my budding offspring.

me with such lovingkindness and excitement, stories

Though I had not been raised knowing the secrets of the

and teachings filled with intrigue, depth, meaning and

universe, I was confident that my children would be. My

mystical explanations, was not being given over to my

journey of becoming a baalas teshuvah, which had been

children in that way. Instead, the beauty of Torah had

so fraught with confusion and the difficulty of releasing

been turned into tests, grades and dry lectures, except

past beliefs, would not be my children’s journey. My

for a few individual teachers who knew better.

children, whom I would send to Torah schools, would not

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

have to face those challenges.

I complained that my children were struggling with understanding their studies and asked if the Chumash could be just translated from the Hebrew into English,

Fast-forward about 30 years later. I know very few baalei teshuva families, or frum-from-birth families, who didn’t

And then reality hit—the reality of sending my children to

have children go off the Torah derech. The excitement

a school that was created by and for those Yidden who

of movies, social media and modern society has by far

had grown up with Torah—those known to be FFBs. The

replaced the excitement of learning and practicing the

cheder that I sent my boys to and had even moved cross

gifts of a Jew’s heritage. Boring classes and complacent

country for, insisted on teaching the precious Torah,

teachers in Torah-true schools are no match for the fast-

what I had grown to love, in not just one language that

paced, easy-to-access and intriguing secular knowledge

was foreign to my family, but two.

of today.

The staff themselves had grown up with Yiddish, so why

What I’ve come to discover is that there are Torah

not teach the Chumash in Hebrew, and then translate the

educators who recognize that the educational system,

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

50


by Miriam Racquel Feldman

as well as the child-rearing system, has failed, and a new system needs to replace the old. Avi Fishoff of Twisted Parenting, Devorah Weiss, Rabbi Shimon Russel and Ruchi Koval—and there are many more—are sharing incredible wisdom and attempting to present paradigm shifts in the way Torah Yidden are raising and educating children. Their ways are based on Torah wisdom that is guided by love, acceptance and compassion. “Educating a child according to their way” is not just fluff, but backed up by sage advice. “Today’s children,” the Lubavitcher Rebbe said, “do not need to be overly criticized or lectured about their shortcomings. They are their own biggest critics. Instead, they need to

judgement. Educator and social worker Devorah Weiss says this so wisely: “In our cruelly judgemental society, when we attempt to straighten out our child, are we doing so for the child or for our own reputation? Are you thinking about your child, or about what the neighbors will say?” As a parenting coach, she emphasizes loving acceptance and encouragement of the child. By noticing a child’s amazing qualities and pointing those out to them in the way of speaking, “I really respect your …, ” you can build up a child to believe in himself or herself.

“TODAY’S CHILDREN,”

hear more about their strengths and

THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE

incredible potential.”

SAID, “DO NOT NEED TO

But many of us, baal teshuvahs and

BE OVERLY CRITICIZED

FFBs alike, may have been raised,

There was such acceptance and love along my journey of becoming frum—the educators, rabbis and rebbetzins were so welcoming. This is the kind of atmosphere that our children need to be raised with at

OR LECTURED ABOUT

home as well as at school.

way of criticism, humiliation, negative

THEIR SHORTCOMINGS.

The fervor and passion of the baalei

judgement, shaming, tough love and

THEY ARE THEIR OWN

just plain insensitivity.

BIGGEST CRITICS.

It is an often underutilized practice

INSTEAD, THEY NEED

journey of choosing to be observant

what needs to be changed, shifted,

TO HEAR MORE ABOUT

is

fixed and prodded along. It is up to us

THEIR STRENGTHS AND

parents and educators to embrace this

INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL.”

both at home and in school, in the

to focus on a child’s light instead of

practice and run with it, knowing that this is spiritual avodah of today.

teshuvah

schools,

L’Yahadus

and

like

Machon

Aish

HaTorah,

that I attended when I was on my missing

from

our

children’s

educational experience. I was taught by staff and professionals who knew they had something spectacular to sell me—the gift of my heritage, the

gift of Torah. Our children deserve no less.

I love this quote from Ruchi Koval, co-founder and director of the Jewish Family Experience in Cleveland: “I

Miriam

thought that setting limits and teaching values was the

Feldman

main objective of parenting, but I now know that it’s this:

Pomona, N.Y., and now

making your home the most safe, fun and loving place to

lives in Chicago. She is

be. I wish I could reach a long arm back through time, and

a somatic healer, clarity

hug those kids and also myself. I would say, “Oh, honey.

and

Just breathe. It’s good enough. You’re good enough.

and writer. Her area of

Love. Just love.”

expertise runs the gamut—

Both educators and parents alike need to adopt a more loving, compassionate and light-filled approach to ourselves and children. I have found tremendous judgement in the frum community—something that we all do to each other. As a somatic healer and life coach, I do the work to drop judgements, both inner and outer, and bring myself to align more fully with compassion and a good eye. I help others do this as well so that our loved ones can feel kindness from us, rather than ego-based

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

Racquel was

(Meryl) born

relationship

in

coach,

from helping women to have

better

marriages

and to heal from trauma, anxiety and physical pain ailments to helping them overcome toxic relationships. She is driven to empower women to discover a clear path to joy by trusting the wisdom of their bodies, emotions, souls and intuition. She is a mom, a weaver of the Welcoming Nests and a blogger of the mystical happenings of an ever-changing world. Her website is MiriamRacquel.com. 51


EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS

Learning Hebrew with Joy T h e b l e s s i n g t h a t w e r e c i t e b e f o r e To r a h study—“ to engross ourselves in the words o f To r a h ” — h a s k i n d l e d a n e x u b e r a n t j o y i n my Hebrew-learning journey. Hebrew is so much more than just another world language. The individual letters, cantillations, words, sounds, melodies and phrases contain a spiritual essence that embodies love, kindness, wisdom, peace and all the life-giving characteristics of Hashem. By verbally expressing these holy letters and words, we are using the building blocks of Creation and applying them for holiness, even while we are engaging in the mundane tasks of our day. Each of us have the capacity to develop a personal relationship with the living, holy language, in which we can experience and deepen our spiritual connection with Hashem. The three verses of Psalm 98:4-6 are but a small portion of one of my favorite Psalms. As I read the inspiring words and hear the harmonious sounds of the Hebrew letters pour from my lips, a sense of deep gratitude envelops me and the bright light of pure joy starts to soar into the atmosphere. Let us raise our voices and shout joyfully before the King! May the letters and sounds of the holy language fill our hearts and ignite a holy spark that reaches the heavens. And may the emphatic sounds of the ancient shofar soon herald the coming of Mashiach as all G-d’s people are gathered from the four corners of the earth! “And it shall come to pass on that day, that a great shofar shall be sounded, and those lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in the land of Egypt shall come and they shall prostrate themselves before the Lord on the holy mount in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:13) Gavriela Riette Sinclair was born in Ekurhuleni, Africa, and immigrated to the United States in 1993. She is a licensed Occupational Therapist, and currently a full-time homeschool mom in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

For more

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

information on her free Hebrew educational tools, email info@Nishei Ora.org.

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

52


by Gavriela Riètte Sinclair

98:4-6 Shout joyfully to Hashem, all the earth, break forth in song and rejoice, and play music. Play music to Hashem with a harp, with a harp and the sound of a psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a shofar. Shout joyfully before the King, Hashem.

~yiLih.T

Tehillim 98:4-6 4

3

2

1

#,r'a'h

l'K

yh;l

W[yir'h

the earth

all

to Hashem

Shout joyfully

7

6

5

WreM;z.w

Wn.N;r.w

Wx.ciP

and play music

and rejoice

break forth in song

13

12

11

10

9

8

h'r.miz

lAq.w

rANik.B

rANik.B

yh;l

Wr.M;z

of a psalm.

and the sound

with a harp,

with a harp,

to Hashem

Play music

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

16

15

14

r'pAv

lAq.w

tAr.coc]x;B

of a shofar

and the sound

with trumpets

20

19

18

17

yh

%,l,M;h

yen.pil

W[yir'h

Hashem

the king

before

Shout joyfully

53


EDUCATIONAL INSIGHTS Tehillim 98:4-6 4

l'K

ha-a-rets

col

the earth

all

yh;l

1, 17

W[yir'h

to Hashem

ha-ri-u

Shout joyfully

noun, f, s

definite article

noun, m

verb

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ROOT

#,r,a

;h

l;l'K

;[Wr

earth, land

the

to complete, perfect

to raise a shout, give a blast

7

6

WreM;z.w

5

Wn.N;r.w

Wx.ciP

we-zam-me-ru

we-ran-ne-nu

pits-chu

and play music

and rejoice

break forth in song

verb

verb

conjunction

conjunction

verb

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ROOT

ORIGIN

ROOT

r;m'z

.w

!;nr'

.w

x;c'p

to make music

and

to give a ringing cry

and

to burst forth

12, 15

16

10, 11

lAq.w

rANik.B

we-qol

be-khin-nowr

and the sound

with a harp

noun, m, s

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

3

#,r'a'h

preposition

conjunction

yh;l

to Hashem

8

Wr.M;z zam-me-ru

Play music

noun, m, s

verb

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

lAq

.w

.B

rANiK

r;m'z

sound, voice

and

in, with

a harp, lyre

to make music

r'pAv

14

13

tAr.coc]x;B

h'r.miz

sho-far

ba-cha-tso-tse-rowt

zim-rah

a shofar

with trumpets

of a psalm

noun, m, s

noun, f, p

preposition

noun, f

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

r'pAv

h'r.coc]h

.B

r;m'z

a shofar

trumpet

in, with

to make music

19

yh

Hashem

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

18

%,l,M;h

yen.pil

ham-me-lekh

lif-nei

the king

before

noun, m

definite article

noun, m

preposition

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

ORIGIN

%,l,m

;h

~yin'p

.l

king

the

face, faces

to, for 54


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ERETZ HAKODESH

Eretz Yisroel; Our Home. Send your Eretz Yisrael experiences and photos to editor@Nishei Ora.org.

SUNSET AT ACHZIV BEACH (IN BETWEEN NAHARIYA AND ROSH HANIKRA - NORTHWEST ISRAEL)

PAM WILLIAMS Our cousins from Morocco served in tank units during the Six-Day War. At the end of the war, they drove their tanks into the Negev city of Dimona and made it home. Dimona was developed as a town for immigrants. It has seen Moroccans, Ethiopians, Russians and even Black Hebrew Israelites start their lives in Israel. Bedouins also call Dimona home. Throughout the town of 45,000 people, there are roundabouts with themes from Jewish history and Israel history. Theodor Herzl greets visitors as you enter Dimona. Over the years, I visited our cousins in Dimona and have gotten to know the town well—from its roundabout themes to its outdoor downtown mall, to its stray cats, to its diverse population, to its views of camels in the distant, to the lone shepherd herding his sheep. Dimona is Israel to me. My Hebrew name is Shimona, and our kids always say that I’m Shimona from Dimona. I love our

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

cousins there, but I also love the hidden gem of Dimona. It’s got grit.

SHAINDY PERL I love that all the signs and police uniforms etc. etc. have Hebrew letters. I love that bareheaded taxi drivers can bless you or preach spirituality and the guy collecting entrance tickets at the park can wish me a safe hike in Hebrew. The land, the people … it’s just HOME.

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

56


ITA RABINOWITZ

STACEY MCGHEE

1. As a student, I loved davening at the

I love that no matter where you are

kotel. Even though we can daven from

in Israel, you are in a spot that has

anywhere, the closeness to Hashem at

thousands of years of history under it.

the kosel is tangible and more easily

It makes you feel like you are a part of

accessible than anywhere else in the

something bigger than just you. … Also

world. My favorite was to daven vasikin

the food is amazing :-)

(“sunrise davening”) at the Kotel, which our school allowed us to do one day a week. 2. I loved the importance placed on Hashem and spirituality, and the de-

RENA SCHOCHET

emphasis of materialism. As Shaindy Perl

When my sister and I went to seminary

mentioned, this is culturally ingrained

in Israel together, the Kotel was a thin

and reflected by the inhabitants of the

strip. It had just been returned to our

land, even those who do not appear

possession, and the outpouring of love at

outwardly to be religious.

the Kotel made davening there profound.

3. The land is stunning! Our school took

When taking a bus from Bnei Brak to Tel

us on trips where we were privileged to

Aviv, I used to think, “Wow! These are

experience the beauty of the land. When

the roads Rabbi Akiva traveled! This is

we appreciate the visually appealing

where our history as a nation began, and

world, we see Hashem’s hand in its

we are zocheh to live here and traverse

creation and continuity.

the paths of Torah, history and Jewish rebirth.”

DESERT IN CENTRAL ISRAEL

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

THE KOTEL

BRANDON MELAMED AND ETHAN BEYER ON BEN YEHUDA STREET

57


CONNECTIONS

Q& A w it h Mi r ia m F i scher Miriam Fischer, originally from Memphis, Tenn., is a resident of Frederick County, Md., where she lives with her two children and a furry teenager named Darling. Miriam works in the IT department of Frederick Community College and has worked as a freelance political consultant on various State of Maryland campaigns. She attended NYU, has a liberal-arts degree, and is currently pursuing a second degree in communications.

Where are you from originally? What brought

time to drive me there. But I wonder if they thought it was

you to Maryland?

just a fleeting desire of a teenager.

I am originally from Memphis, Tennessee, but I have lived

I went to New York University for college and was again

in a number of cities, including Houston, Chicago (West

active in Jewish organizations. I was a little sister for a

Rogers Park), New York City, and I’m currently living in

Jewish fraternity, and a member of a Jewish sorority, as

Western Maryland, an hour away from Baltimore. I came

well as the campus Hillel. After NYU, I went back home

here for a job with the Food and Drug Administration in

to Memphis and finally decided to pursue conversion. I

2013.

initially went to a Reform rabbi after attending services for several weeks. He said I could convert when I was

How and when did you discover Judaism? I first became interested in Judaism when I was about 7 years old, and my dad told me his great grandfather claimed to be Jewish. Although it could have been

to the Jewish people. I felt I could already state that, but I knew I was not ready to be Jewish because I needed to learn more.

possible, there was no solid evidence that he was Jewish

I then decided to approach the Conservative rabbi in

other than his word. My maiden name from my dad’s side

Memphis for a conversion since I felt I wanted more

is Beck, which is a typical German-Jewish surname.

knowledge and insight than Reform could give me,

When I was around 8 years old, my friend’s mother came into our classroom at school to talk about Chanukah. Afterwards, I called her and asked her to tell me more about Judaism. She told me to ask my parents first and, if it was OK with them, she would. I was not sure my parents would say yes, but they did, so I called her and she shared the basics of Judaism. Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

comfortable enough to make a statement pledging myself

My junior high school in Memphis was about 30 percent Jewish, so I went to bar and bat mitzvahs and Jewish youth group dances. I would also check out many books about Judaism from the public library. At age 13, I asked my parents if I could convert. But they told me to wait until I was an adult. The synagogues were at least 30 minutes from my house, my parents worked and did not have the

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

but at the time, I was unsure I could live an Orthodox Jewish life. (When I was a teen, I read a book on Taharas HaMishpacha, the “Laws of Family Purity,” and I remember putting the book down because I felt I would never be an Orthodox Jew). The Conservative rabbi went over Jewish history and Hebrew each week. At this time, I started becoming involved with Hadassah, the Jewish Student Union at Memphis State University (since it was one of the few Jewish organizations in which I was not the youngest member) and Amit Women. At this same time, I had decided to return to school and applied to the American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism)-Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Los Angeles and to Touro College for Women in Manhattan.

58


not want my children to endure much of the pain I went In January of 1994, there was a major earthquake in Los

through being black in the Orthodox community.

Angeles, which changed my mind about going to school

After I came back to Orthodoxy, I had come to realize

there. I received a call soon after from Touro College, and

my walking away was really due to a lack of emunah, of

they wanted me to meet with an alumnus who was living

“faith”. I walked away because I felt the pain and pressure

in Memphis. I met with her, and she wanted to make sure

of being judged by man. If I had the proper emunah, I

that I understood that the school was Orthodox (at least

would have not cared what others thought because I’m

the dormitory) since I was attempting a Conservative

here for Hashem, my love of Hashem and the desire to be

conversion. She then suggested that I go speak with

closer to Him.

the Rabbi Rafael Grossman, the rabbi at Baron Hirsch Synagogue in Memphis (who later became president of

Please talk about what it’s like to be a minority

the Rabbinical Council of America). I was initially afraid to

within a minority.

speak with him because he was known to give extremely passionate speeches from the bimah.

I try not to think of myself in that way. I am simply Jewish and if I thought of myself in that manner—a minority within

By the time I made an appointment to see Rabbi Grossman,

a minority—then I would feed into all the negativity that

I had been accepted by Touro for the fall semester. When

people try to put with it. When I describe myself now it’s

I sat down and met with the rabbi, he asked how he could

from the inside out. I am a Jewish woman who happens to

help me, and I blurted out that I wanted an Orthodox

Orthodox and black (and Republican). But at the end of

conversion. (I had no idea what I was going to say, but

the day, I am Sarah Miriam bat Sarah Imeinu.

that is what came out.) I worked with Rabbi Grossman for a year on various aspects of Judaism and Jewish life,

In what ways could people be more sensitive and

and two days before Yom Kippur in 1994, I went to the

accepting?

women’s mikvah, and my conversion was complete.

What challenges did you have to overcome along your Jewish journey?

I think one way is to first take Hillel’s words to heart: What is hateful to yourself do not do to others. How would you like to be treated if you looked different than everyone else? I personally like when I go into a shul and people

Changing my lifestyle was relatively easy and my family,

say good Shabbos, and talk to me like they would talk to

especially my dad, was very accepting. For me, the

a friend. If you are going to ask personal questions of a

challenge was the culture shock. Even though I had lived

stranger, please be ready to reveal something personal

in New York City before, I did not live in the Orthodox

about yourself first.

Jewish area. Having come from Memphis’s very warm and open Jewish community, New York was very different. In Memphis, no one really batted an eye when they saw me at synagogue or Jewish functions. It was hard for me in New York. Maybe I was a bit naive, thinking that all those who say they believed in Torah and mitzvot truly lived it.

How have your challenges affected your emunah,

What are you most passionate about and why? Because I do not fit into any box or comply with others’ expectations, I am passionate about encouraging people to think outside the box. I want people to go beyond what their eyes can see. When people do that, they will not only connect to others but will also connect more with Hashem.

your faith? To be honest, I walked away from Orthodox Judaism for a number of years. However, I did not walk away from Judaism completely, and I made sure my children were in Jewish schools and camps when possible. But I did

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

Miriam is currently serving as the 3rd Vice President for the Maryland Federation of Republican Women (MFRW). When she is not volunteering in politics, Miriam spends her free time reading, working out and listening to music.

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CONNECTIONS

The Kosher Backpacker “‫”אין דבר העומד בפני הרצון‬ Nothing stands in the way of will - Chazal

Jewish backpacker. After dinner, we rested and acclimated to the high

Hashem provides us the “ratzon,” the will, but it is our

altitude for a few hours. My body felt drained from

choice if we use it.

the previous day’s Yom Kippur fast. Normally, to reach

My “kosher backpacking” adventures began at age 14 when I travelled to Guatemala with one of my best friends, Christa. I ate slimy, kosher canned eggplants as she indulged in lavish Guatemalan cuisine at the local restaurant. We laugh about that moment until this day. Though we had visited many places over the years, including Scotland, Portugal and Egypt, visiting South America was always a dream of mine. So I decided

the summit of the Huayna Potosi it takes three days. However, I needed to make it in time to La Paz, Bolivia’s main city, for Shabbat candle lighting, so I chose the twoday climb. Even the guides warned us that the chances to reach the summit in two days is very slim. But this was the only time frame that was possible for me because the following week was Sukkot. The climb began at midnight. As my crampons (metal, spiked

to endure a solo two-month backpacking trip this past fall that

included

Ecuador,

Peru,

Bolivia and Chile. Keeping kosher and Shabbat has not stopped me

from

traveling

to

unique

countries around the world. While it definitely has its challenges, it also definitely has its rewards.

Remembering his optimism and faith in me inspires me to help others reach their “summit” in life.

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

During my recent trip to Bolivia, I waited anxiously while

plates fixed to my climbing boots) crunched through the snow, I carefully gazed at my surroundings. For a moment, it felt as if it was a sandy desert. But instead of sand dunes there were vast hills of snow glistening in the full moon’s light.

munching on the banana bread and potatoes I’d gotten

By mid-journey, I was one of the last two standing out

from the Chabad House the night before, while the other

of five climbers, as the rest of the group descended the

climbers were eating the local meat soup with bread and

mountain from altitude sickness. As we prepared to

side dishes.

ascend the ice cliff, my fellow climber was scolding me

After a half-day trek, we had finally made it to the high camp of the Huayna Potosi in the Cordillera Real Mountain range of Bolivia, and were now preparing for our journey to the summit. There were seven people in our group, including two guides, and I was the only

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

because I was slowing him down. Then he demanded that I descend as it was my last chance to do so. I was in a dilemma because I did not want to spoil his chance to reach the summit, but a voice inside was telling me not to quit. I had already made it this far.

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by Sarita Weltman

Hashem, please give me the strength to do this, I

without trying how could we ever know what potential

whispered to myself. I refused to turn back, and the

really existed from our will? I was weak from the Yom

adrenaline kicked in as we climbed up the icy ledge. Our

Kippur fast and, while I was thankful for the kosher

guide, Ivan, encouraged me to keep going.

banana bread, it was not sufficient energy for the climb.

As the hours passed, I decided to keep focused on prayer

But I knew I had to at least try to make it.

to avoid the burning pain in my legs. Thank you, Hashem,

This trip strengthened my relationship with G-d as I

for giving me this opportunity to use my will. Please let

experienced many hidden miracles and felt His protection

me make it to the top.

the entire time. There may be certain challenges such as

The air was thinning and the temperature was dropping by the minute but I could not turn back. As the peak of the summit met my eyes and my body was slowing from exhaustion and lack of oxygen, I could see the sun rising in the distance. But our guide pushed us to move faster

not having enough food and energy for a trek, finding a safe place for Shabbat, eating a proper meal, and time constraints. Each of us face different obstacles and challenges in life, but when one’s will is strong, it reflects back on others and strengthens them as well.

because once the sun hits the snow there’s a risk of an

Sarita Weltman was born in Michigan and moved to

avalanche.

Jacksonville when she was nine. She learned in MMY

As I was trying to grasp each breath of air while struggling to catch the next, I used my ice ax as support to tread the extremely steep final leg of the climb. Then I collapsed on the snowy 20,000 foot summit. I made it! Once I was able to breathe properly I lifted myself up from the windy and freezing peak and gazed at the snowy mountain range above the clouds. I could not believe I had done it.

(Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim) served in Sherut Leumi (Israeli National Service) and graduated from the University of Florida. She enjoys playing basketball, soccer

and

tennis,

longboarding,

surfing,

hiking,

swimming, travelling/backpacking, and volunteering. Check out her insta #thekosherbackpacker. Note: Halacha, Jewish law, does not allow one to intentionally endanger his or her life, or to put oneself in a situation that might lead to the desecration of Shabbat.

After a few moments, we began our journey back down as Ivan, our guide, and I sang the song Baruch Hashem, Baruch Hashem! while the other climber, who had discouraged me, smirked. Ivan’s encouragement and optimism throughout that journey helped me reach the summit. Remembering his optimism and faith in me inspires me to help others reach their “summit” in life. I arrived back a few hours before sundown. It was such a peaceful feeling knowing Shabbat was nearing and that I was safe and sound in the backpacker hostel in La Paz. The light of the Shabbat candle glowed against my tired face as I recited the prayer. I was thankful to be alive. This experience for me was a testament that “external forces’’ may interfere with our inner thoughts and our will, but Hashem gives us free choice to at least try. In this case, it may have potentially been dangerous, but

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

SO HAPPY TO REACH THE 20,000 FOOT HUAYNA POTOSÍ

63


CONNECTIONS

Time Management w ith Esther Simon As a professional organizer, and having raised seven

a healthy snack before I greeted my kids. I exercised

children—five of whom are now young mothers—I

regularly and set time each week to have a date with my

understand firsthand the challenges of staying organized

husband. I tried very hard to set a good example of what

and managing your time.

was most important to me.

With household chores, carpooling, parenting, working

Self-care is so important and must not be compromised.

and spending time with our spouses and family, there

It is very hard with a large family, but I knew I had to make

may be little time left for self-improvement, exercise or

the time on my calendar for myself.

just relaxing. Proper time management and having enough energy to get through your day can make all the difference. Having

As a working mother, how do I manage all our appointments and schedules?

more energy comes from getting better sleep and

Create a family calendar that everyone can see and use.

choosing a healthy lifestyle, which you can read about in

Post it on the refrigerator or where everyone can see it

Nishei Ora’s Health & Healing section.

and use it. Write everyone’s schedule on the calendar.

When it comes to time management, here are answers to some of my most frequently asked questions.

Using different colored markers for each child can make for easier recognition. Start by having a family meeting once a week to

How do I make time for myself and not get burned

review family schedules, meal planning, activities and

out?

appointments. We had our meeting on Saturday night

I knew I needed to take care of myself before all others, or I would not have the strength or emotional well-being for them. Starting my day with davening or at least saying brachos

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

increased my focus and helped strengthen my emunah. I always felt better if I made time to daven even if it was a small amount. On the days it was difficult, I found myself talking to Hashem as I was driving. I would ask Hashem to be my partner in raising my kids.

after Shabbos. We would get so much planning and scheduling done all together.

How do I manage my time, and decide what to do first in the morning and throughout the day? Start by paying attention to each task throughout your day and note how long it takes. For example, how much time does it take you to make your bed, get dressed and make breakfast? How long does it take to get your kids ready for school, drive them there and get to work? If

I also knew I needed to sleep and eat well. I would take

you plan five errands to complete in an afternoon and

a short nap before carpool, and I would eat protein or

you only have time for three, you are setting yourself up

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64


for disappointment. Having a good concept of your time spent will help you determine how much you need to set aside to complete the task. Overestimate the time it will take you to complete a task. That will leave you room for the unexpected. After you have a handle on how long it takes you for a task, you will be ready to decide what to do when. You’ll also want to determine which days you are able to schedule your appointments. Next, determine what is the most important thing you need to do each day. Schedule that task first. As a busy mother of a large family, I thought making dinner was the most important. So after breakfast, I planned dinner and started the preparations. Next, I made sure my most important tasks for my family were on the agenda. After dinner, I made sure that I had homework stations and supplies ready for my children. Decide what your most important priorities are and attend to them first.

How do I get my kids to help around the house? At our family meetings once a week, I would offer ideas of how the family can work as a team to make the household run efficiently. I emphasized how we are in this together. I said we are building a family and a lifestyle that needs everyone’s participation and vote. I asked each member what they would like to do, what their abilities were, their strengths and what their time allotment was. We wrote it out on the calendar, and gave praise and recognition for a job well done. Please send your organization and time-management questions to share@Nishei.org.

Esther Simon, MSW, lives in the Los Angeles area and has worked for more than two decades as a professional organizer. She also has experience in social work, crisis intervention and counseling. She is the mother of seven grown children and has multiple grandchildren.

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65


CONNECTIONS

Gail Halpert: Finding Light in the Darkness by Mindy Rubenstein

Gail Halpert takes daily walks around her tree-lined Mandarin neighborhood, sometimes a mile or l o n g e r. She dresses b eautif ull y, put s on her ne ck lace and earrings, and carefully does h e r h a i r. She loves to cook, especially things like hearty soup and other favorites from her childhood in Romania, where her family grew fruits and vegetables in their small garden before the Nazis took over. “When you’re active like I am, you’ll live to be 120,” says Gail, who recalls swimming and jogging two miles a day when she was raising her children.

a recent interview. “But life goes on.” For decades, she has chosen to stay positive for her daughters. And she continues to remain joyful for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “I have to be strong for my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren,” she says. “I smile. Put on make-up. Dance. I put on a show. I’m very good at it.” When you make that choice, evil doesn’t win. “When I go out, I smile to everybody. I make an effort even though there’s pain in my heart.” Gail, or Gitu, was deported as a teenager from Romania to Auschwitz 1944 along with her parents, six siblings and 3-year-old nephew. Upon arriving by train at the

“I don’t feel my age. I don’t count the numbers anymore,”

camp, her nephew was taken from his mother’s arms.

she says.

They never saw him again.

Her mom, Chansa, would wake at 5 a.m. to make mandel

During her time in Auschwitz, starvation, illness and

bread, chicken and challah for Shabbos. She remembers

death surrounded them. From Auschwitz, they were

singing zemiros, songs, with her family around the

taken to a working camp deep in Germany towards the

Shabbos table.

end of the war. She spent 12 hour shifts at night making

She and her siblings attended government school in the Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

“The pain stays with you day and night,” says Gail, during

morning, then came home, had a snack and walked to the Jewish school nearby.

bullets for the Nazis along with her sisters. “I prayed to Hashem to take us out of hell,” she says. Yet, even in the darkness of Holocaust’s largest death

She remembers her childhood filled with love, surrounded

camp, there were moments of humanity, sparks of light,

by parents and siblings and other relatives, and a solid

hidden in the darkness there.

foundation that gave her strength throughout her life. The beautiful stories from her childhood run counter to some of the heart-wrenching pain she has experienced in her lifetime.

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

She got lost one night returning to her bunk. A female guard with a large dog told her where to go. “I told her the truth, and she let me go back,” she recalls.

66


CLOCKWISE: MOM & DAD; WEDDING PHOTO; MOM, CAROL & SHERRI; SFI DINNER

She saw a man throw a package over the barbed-wire fence to a girl inside the camp. It landed in a place the girl couldn’t get to it. Two guards helped her fetch it and sent her on her way. And in the working camp, when her sister was suffering from typhus, the guards allowed her to say goodbye. “I was holding her close to my heart and she closed her eyes. The Germans took her and laid her out, and said I could say goodbye. I started to cry, and they told me if I didn’t stop I would join her. They were maniacs.” Following a forced, days-long march to nowhere in the freezing winter of Germany, they were liberated in January 1945. She and four siblings survived. She lost her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. She says she lost nearly 100 family members. At a nearby farm, where she stayed until she could figure out where to go, two kind military boys spread out food for her and other newly released prisoners. When she and her sisters tried to pick cherries from a nearby tree and a local questioned them, those boys defended the girls. After the war, she and her surviving siblings returned to their home. Her parents and many other family members were gone. “When we got home, we were devastated because we were left all alone.” Her brother came home a month later and started to cry, she recalls. They had taken everything from their home. They even unburied their kiddush cup and candlesticks from the backyard, tore out the ceilings.

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67


CONNECTIONS

“That’s when you realize it’s just stuff,” she says. “If you’re healthy, you’re rich.” Gail came to the United States in 1949, to New York, married Israel, who lived in her Bronx, N.Y., neighborhood. They raised two daughters, Carol and Sherri. Losing her older daughter, Carol, to an illness is in many ways more painful for her than what she experienced as a teen in the Holocaust. But she loves to talk about Carol, including her kindness and generosity, and, of course, her beautiful grandchildren and great-grandchildren, whose photos sit perched along the mantle. “And when I see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, they ease my pain,” she adds. Sitting next to Sherri in their home in Jacksonville, Fla. mother and daughter

“That’s

when

look through photos.

you realize it’s just

“I’m a very lucky mother that Sherri and my son-in-law, Adrian, treat me royally

stuff,”

Gail.

she

says.

and accept me to live with them. I’m very thankful to Hashem for this,” says

“ I f y o u ’ r e h e a l t h y,

Her homemade cabbage soup cooks on the stove in the kitchen. Large silver

you’re rich.”

Shabbat.

candlesticks sit perched on a nearby table, waiting to be lit on the upcoming

“There are questions I didn’t get to ask,” she said of losing her parents. “All these things bother me so much.” “My Bubby helped me a lot. She would teach me and explain things to me about the Torah.” All these years later, Gail continues to try to share bits of her story, at schools and other places. But she admits, of course, that it’s difficult to talk about. “I hurt all the time. My heart is bleeding all the time from the family I lost—my daughter, my husband,” she says. “I have Sherri, and I don’t want her to be sad.” But she continues on, with a smile, asking warmly of others, “How are you? How are your children?” She says it’s so important for their children to know what it means to be Jewish because they are our future. “Hashem leaves me here so I can share my story,” she says.

Our Bubby has been taking care of her grandchildren for our entire lives. From babysitting us after school to having sleepovers at her house whenever we wanted, we knew

Design and layout by Sima Morgan Design

she was there for us as children.

Bubby by Donnie and Erica Phillips Esther and Ari Gottlieb Penina and Ari Roth

NISHEI ORA MAGAZINE

Now, she is here giving the same amount of love from a distance to her eight great-grandchildren, as she was when we were physically together. It is so special to see our children’s faces light up when they talk to her during their daily video chats. We truly look up to her to guide us how to create a warm, loving and supportive family.

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When I think of Mom, wisdom, courage, strength, energy, elegance and grace are just some of the attributes that come to mind. However, the quality that really shines out about my Mom is the positive outlook on life that she always exhibits, despite the atrocities she witnessed during the Holocaust. After surviving, she began anew in a foreign country, learning a new language, getting married and raising a family while working full-time. Her greatest joy is caring for her family and staying closely connected with her extended family. Her selflessness is demonstrated by how she always puts her family’s needs before her own. This gives her great joy in giving and doing for her family rather than for herself.

My Special Mom

Mom is always appreciative for whatever she has, never giving in to life’s adversities, especially after losing my Dad, Israel Halpert a”h, and my Sister, Carol Halpert Phillips a”h. No

by Sherri Halpert Goldfarb

matter what struggles my Mom encounters, she always views Sherri Halpert Goldfarb, originally from Long Island, N.Y., lives in Jacksonville, Fla.,

situations optimistically and always carries a smile. Her motto in life is always “if you have your health,” you have everything.”

with her husband and her mother. Prior to

Her warm, caring and outgoing personality endears her to

living in Jacksonville, she was a full-time

whomever she meets, always showing a genuine interest in

marketing research project manager, and

other people’s lives.

used to love to ice skate and ski. Currently, she does administration and bookkeeping for

a

small

public

company

working

from home and enjoys traveling, walking, swimming, cooking, baking and reading.

My Mom has so many special qualities, and in my mind, is the perfect example of how one should live their life. She has always been my life’s inspiration. I love you, Mom, with all my heart!

honor your loved ones in the next edition of Nishei Ora magazine Refuah Sheleima -

Yahrtzeit -

Mazel Tov

Include a personal message or simply his or her Hebrew/English names. For more information, email light@nishei.org or visit www.nishei.org.

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Yeshiva of Miami provides students with a customized Yeshiva experience, affording them the opportunity to grow and develop as B’nei Torah at their own pace and according to their own unique path.

Under the dedicated leadership of Rosh Mesivta/Head of School Rabbi Dovid Wechsler, enrollment con�nues to grow as young men both locally and around the country discover the warmth and dedica�on of Yeshiva of Miami's Rabbeim, teachers and administrators.

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