Grapevine: A New Year mitzva

Though basically a secular party, Yesh Atid has its own in-house modern haredi rabbi, Dov Lipman.

rabbi dov lipman (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
rabbi dov lipman
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Whether in the role of finance minister or just an ordinary MK albeit a leader of a political party, Yesh Atid founder and chairman Yair Lapid, as a second- and third-generation Holocaust survivor, is always concerned about the welfare of Holocaust survivors, and has inspired Tze’irei Yesh Atid, the young adult division of his party, to do the same. In advance of Rosh Hashana, and conscious of the fact that many Holocaust survivors live alone and have no family, they organized a festive luncheon which was held in a banquet hall in Emek Hefer, only a few hours prior to the start of the festival.
Though basically a secular party, Yesh Atid has its own in-house modern haredi rabbi, former MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, who presided over the luncheon and told guests about his grandparents who, like them, were Holocaust survivors.
In wishing all present a year filled with health and happiness, Lipman told them that he was gaining much inspiration from hearing their stories and the way in which they expressed their love for Israel and Judaism.
Tze’irei Yesh Atid spent many months soliciting donations and organizing the event, which is part of the party’s general quest to improve the quality of life for Holocaust survivors in Israel. Through intense investigations talking to survivor organizations and municipal welfare departments, they found 300 Holocaust survivors who had no plans or the financial ability to have a holiday meal. Waiters, bartenders and staff were all young Yesh Atid volunteers, who also made sure that those people who did not have food for the duration of the holiday period were given sufficient food to take home with them.
■ ONE OF Israel’s more colorful rabbis is Israel Prize laureate Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Grossman, the Jerusalem-born chief rabbi of Migdal Ha’emek, who will unite supermodel Bar Refaeli in wedlock to businessman Adi Ezra later this month. Grossman is famous for rescuing youth at risk and, notwithstanding his overall haredi appearance, has no trouble in frequenting bars and nightclubs in his efforts to persuade wayward youth to return to school and make something of their lives. Once it became known that he will be officiating at the celebrity wedding later this month, he was inundated with offers from people from all over, including some who are celebrities themselves, to drive him to the wedding venue. All in all he received more than 500 offers. It appears that no matter on which rung one stands on the social ladder, most people still want to touch a little stardust.
■ STUDENTS AND friends of the late Prof. Gerald Bubis, who died this past August 21, 2015, will hold a shloshim event to honor his memory on Monday, September 21, 2015, at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel Hai Street, corner of Rahel Imenu Street, Jerusalem, at 10:00 a.m. The event is being organized by Terry Cohen Hendin and Uri Regev, who will welcome all those who want to share personal reminiscences of Bubis, who was founding director of the School of Jewish Communal Service (now the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management) at the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. He also served as the Alfred Gottschalk Professor Emeritus of Jewish Communal Studies and is widely regarded as one of American Jewry’s leading conceptualizers of Jewish community service.
Bubis was a visiting scholar at Hebrew University, Brandeis University, American Jewish University, UCLA and the University of Haifa. He acted as consultant, trainer, and teacher for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Israel, Europe and Argentina and served as a lecturer, adviser and scholar-in-residence to synagogues, Jewish community centers, federations, and national and international organizations in more than 100 communities throughout North America and abroad.
He was courted by many major organizations around the world, and frequently served as an officer and board member. He was a prominent figure in Israel’s peace movement, and already way back in the 1980s advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many of his students live in Israel and say that with his death they lost a surrogate father.
■ MANY PEOPLE who want to do some good in the world select a favorite mitzva, and no matter what the prevailing circumstances may be, they do their best to continue performing that good deed.
The famed Rabbi Aryeh Levine was known as the Father of Prisoners due to his visits to members of the Jewish underground who had been incarcerated by the British Mandate authorities. He was also known for visiting the sick, especially those with no family and no other visitors. He fed the poor and he had a kind and encouraging word for every child with whom he came into contact.
A grandson of the rabbi, Rabbi Benjie Levine, lived with his grandfather for a time, and Reb Aryeh always impressed on him the importance of showing a benevolent face to anyone who knocks at your door or who asks you for a favor. To Benjie Levine, this was one of the more important lessons that his grandfather taught him, and he himself became known for receiving others with a smile.
For some years now, the prison in the Russian Compound has served as a museum of the pre-state era.
Nearly all the museum guides are women, but because yeshiva boys prefer not to be guided by women, especially those whose attire does not conform with the modesty standards of the haredi community, there is a tendency to send an SOS to Benjie whenever a haredi group of any kind is due to visit.
A marvelously entertaining raconteur, with a never-ending treasure trove of anecdotes, Benjie, who is related to at least half of the great rabbinic authorities of Israel, and has a fund of stories about each of them, happily takes over as guide, literally following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who trod the corridors of the prison so often.
Recently, a few days after taking on such a group of young, prebar mitzva age students, Levine felt very tired and, contrary to his usual practice, took a mid-afternoon nap. His wife, Edna, was also tired, and she, too, decided to catch up on her sleep. Suddenly, just as Levine was dozing off, there was an insistent knocking on the door.
In Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, where Levine lives, there are people knocking at doors all the time and asking for money, but if no one answers after two or three knocks, they go away. In this case the knocking just continued and Levine, who is usually very even tempered, got annoyed.
When he opened the door, there was a young boy on the other side.
Although Levine didn’t lose his cool, he did give the youngster a lecture about disturbing the peace, telling him that maybe someone inside the house was tired or sick, or a mother was tending to a baby, and to just keep on knocking was not the way to behave.
“And because you disturbed us and kept on knocking, I’m going to teach you a lesson and not give any money to your yeshiva,” he concluded.
The boy sheepishly turned around and left, and Levine felt terrible, because that is not the way he usually talks to anyone. Even if he wanted to teach the boy a lesson, he should not have hurt his feelings, he told himself.
The following day Levine received a phone call from the head of a yeshiva who asked him how liked the special placard that the boys had prepared in appreciation of the tour he had given them.
“What placard?” asked Levine.
“I didn’t get any placard.” It transpired that the boy who had knocked on his door had been sent with the placard, but after being told off by Levine, he left without delivering it. If Levine had previously felt uncomfortable about humiliating the boy, he now felt awful. He found out the boy’s name and where he lives and went to apologize to him, taking with him a book about Reb Aryeh. The boy wasn’t home, and Levine explained to the boy’s parents why he had come. “I told him that it was wrong to keep knocking,” said the mother.
Levine inscribed the book, stating that although he had wanted to teach the boy a lesson, in the final analysis the boy had taught him a lesson about wrongly jumping to conclusions. The next day the placard arrived with the inscription “To Rabbi Benjie Levine, who always shows a kind and pleasant face to everyone.”
By the way, Levine often takes groups on walking tours through his grandfather’s neighborhood near Mahaneh Yehuda during Succot.
Whoever misses out on any of his tours can catch up with him on You- Tube, and if people are sufficiently patient there’s a book of anecdotes in early stages of preparation.
■ WRITERS FOR newspapers and magazines have always written in a vacuum, never knowing, beyond their own social circles, who reads the publications in which their writings appear. In a digital era, this vacuum becomes ever larger because readers often include people who had no intention of reading a particular online story, but downloaded it when looking for something else, or when accidentally pressing a particular key on the keyboard. Of course, there are also Internet surfers who are curious to know what is being written about their country or their fellow countrymen and women in overseas publications. That may account for the email sent last Friday by Donna Rasmussen of Queensland, Australia, who read what was published about Australian olim in Grapevine.
Other than the Shabbat and Rosh Hashana greetings at the bottom, it has been left intact.
“My name is Donna Rasmussen and I live in Queensland, Australia.
I just read your Grapevine article on Australian olim and I thought you might be interested to know about my daughter, Yiska Rasmussen.
Yiska made aliya four years ago and is currently serving with the Iron Dome [air defense system]. Last week she also received a commendation for service above the call of duty for her performance during [Operation] Protective Edge. Yiska is a lone soldier. We have no family in Israel and, sadly, we were not able to be there to see her receive her award. She will be finishing her army service at the end of October and as yet hasn’t decided what she will do. She is planning a trip home to Australia to spend some time with us. Then she will return to Israel as that is her home.
We are incredibly proud of all she has achieved, especially as she has done it entirely on her own.”
■ WITHOUT IN any way detracting from the accomplishments of Yiska Rasmussen, the writer of this column, along with many other alumni of Mount Scopus Memorial College located in Melbourne, Australia, could not help but be proud of a photograph in Israel Hayom of 12 old collegians who came on aliya and are currently serving in various units of the IDF. This particular group comprises eight girls and four boys. Two of the girls, Dahlia Schwartz, 21, and May Gutman, 19, are officers.
■ IT’S ALWAYS dangerous to mention names, because people who are left out feel slighted and insulted.
Emails received after the listing in last Friday’s Grapevine of some of the Australian achievers in Israel registered complaints about omissions.
So for those who are interested, here are a few more names: prolific author Dvora Waysman; hi-tech entrepreneur Gary Leibler; senior vice president of the Technion Prof. Paul Feigin; entrepreneur, manager, business owner, academic researcher, patent attorney and litigation specialist Dr.
Robert Vasl; lawyer and former honorary consul for Papua New Guinea Daniel Lew; and Hebrew University political scientist Prof.
Peter Medding.
■ TEL AVIV, the secular city that supposedly never stops, is developing a growing interest in its Jewish heritage. Whether increased knowledge will lead to greater observance remains to be seen, but it’s also important to have a good grounding in one’s traditions. To help toward this aim, Rabbi Doniel Katz, who is a much sought after educator with deep insights into Kabbala and Hassidism, will be delivering a lecture on kabbalistic insights into Yom Kippur this coming Sunday, September 20, at 8 p.m.
at North Central Synagogue, 126 Ben Yehuda Street. The lecture is under the auspices of White City Sessions. Entry is free of charge and those attending will be given a glass of wine with which to toast the New Year. Katz is yet another Australian, and a former award-winning filmmaker and theater director.
■ THE ANNUAL memorial service for American and Canadian olim who fell in military action or were murdered by terrorists will be held this Sunday, September 20, at 4 p.m. in the AACI Memorial Forest.
The names of too many young people appear on the memorial plaques, including one added this year – that of three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem last October. Other victims of terrorism whose names will be added to the plaques were Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Kalman Ze’ev Levine and Rabbi Moshe Twersky, who were murdered in the Har Nof massacre last November.
A fourth victim of the terrorist attack on a Har Nof synagogue was Rabbi Abraham Shmuel Goldberg, who made aliya from England.
Goldberg’s family and friends, together with the Liverpool Jewish community, decided to honor his memory by contributing a threebed unit to the emergency department of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. A large proportion of the sum required for this project has already been raised.
■ EDUCATION MINISTER Naftali Bennett, at the conclusion of the shiva mourning period for his father, Jim Bennett, tweeted thanks to the many people who had sent condolence messages and then asked them to “take five.”
No, it wasn’t the five subjects for matriculation that he had been talking about in the days prior to his father’s death. What he was asking from everyone who follows him on Twitter was to take five minutes each day to call their mother and their father.
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