GRAPEVINE: Joy in the face of adversity

Max Borger, the son of Iris and Elie Borger of Teaneck, New Jersey, proved last Saturday that there is still hope for the young generation of American Jews.

July 10, 2019 20:19
3 minute read.
GRAPEVINE: Joy in the face of adversity

Rabbi Benji Levene. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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■ Pew Research Center reports of widespread assimilation in America’s Jewish community notwithstanding, Max Borger, the son of Iris and Elie Borger of Teaneck, New Jersey, proved last Saturday that there is still hope for the young generation of American Jews.
Max came to Jerusalem to celebrate his bar mitzvah. American Jewish boys who have had a reasonably good Jewish education read both the Torah portion of the week and the haftarah. But Max also did the whole Mussaf service perfectly – quite a feat for a young man his age, and it brought smiles to the faces of Hazvi Yisrael congregants.
After the service, a thoughtful lecture in English was given by Rabbi Zvi Engel, who heads the Or Torah congregation in Skokie Illinois. Engel recently led congregants on a heritage tour of Poland, where they learned about Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Szapiro, known by the compilation of his sermons, as Aish Kodesh (Holy Fire) which emphasizes faith and joy in the face of extreme adversity. The closely handwritten documents were among many that had been buried in milk canisters in the Ringelbloom Oneg Shabbat project, documenting Jewish life under the Nazis. A brilliant educator with many disciples, Szapiro continued to teach and lecture in the Warsaw Ghetto. In 1943, he was deported to the Trawniki labor camp near Lublin, where he met his death. The person most interested in what Engel had to say was Rabbanit Miriam Hauer, who for eight years had been his teacher when he was a boy in Montreal, Canada. Hauer who has a wealth of Jewish knowledge, occasionally lectures to the congregation.

■ OVER THE years, Jerusalem had several rabbis whose names became household words. One such rabbi was Rabbi Arye Levin, known as the Tzaddik of Jerusalem. During the British Mandate, he used to visit Jewish resistance fighters who had been imprisoned by the British in the Nahlaot neighborhood where he lived; he was known to have a kind word for everyone. Many stories have been told about him, one of which concerns a young man, who had strayed somewhat from religion and had stopped wearing a kippa. Once, while wandering around the neighborhood Reb Aryeh saw this young man, and moved to approach him, but the young man sped in another direction. This happened several times, until the two finally bumped into each other.
“Why are you trying to avoid me?” asked Reb Aryeh, who was somewhat short in height. The somewhat flustered young man explained that he wasn’t wearing a head covering. To which Reb Aryeh replied: “I can’t see your head. I can only see as far as your heart.”
Some years ago, Simcha Raz wrote a book about Reb Aryeh titled A Tzaddik in Our Time. It became a best seller. Now he’s written a follow-up volume A Tzaddik for Eternity. The new book will be launched at the OU Center in Keren Hayesod Street on Tuesday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m., with Rabbi Benji Levene, a grandson of Reb Aryeh sharing some of his own memories of his grandfather. As a boy, Rabbi Benji lived for a while with his grandfather and is the Rabbi of the Achdut Yisrael Synagogue, of which his grandfather became the spiritual leader more than 70 years ago. Rabbi Benji is a wonderful raconteur. Although he will be talking about his grandfather on this occasion, it’s fun and interesting to tour Nahlaot with him and listen to his tales about other rabbis who lived there, most of whom were in one way or another related to him.

■ WHILE JERUSALEM’s most famous celebrity chef, Assaf Granit, has spread his wings to restaurants in London and Paris, Meir Adoni, who has appeared with Granit on television, is planning to open a restaurant in Jerusalem, after having branched out to New York. Like several other celebrity chefs, Adoni has responded to the challenge of kosher gourmet and has found that it’s just as easy to prepare as non-kosher gourmet. He currently has two kosher restaurants, one meat and one dairy at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv, and is preparing to open his next restaurant at the Crowne Plaza in Jerusalem. Like most hotels, the Crowne Plaza has gone through a renovation process, and is now ready for a top-class gourmet restaurant. Originally part of the Hilton chain, the Crowne Plaza used to have a gourmet Indian restaurant, the Kohinoor, run by another celebrity chef, Reena Pushkarna. It was popular, but hotel managers and owners come and go, and a few years back, whoever was in charge at the time, simply didn’t fancy Indian cuisine, which unfortunately, was Jerusalem’s loss. Pushkarna hopes to eventually return to the capital but as yet, has no concrete plans.

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