Friday, November 30, 2007

Back to the Tishing


If the Dushinsky Rebbe is not changing his mind today and goes up to Haifa, we are going to participate in his regular Jerusalem Tish.

Chanukkah is coming up and this means automatically that there will be plenty going on in the chassidic areas. I just hope that they do not divide the streets of Mea Shearim, as the Edah HaCharedit did during Chol HaMoed Sukkot. I am not really into any division mood and being told by private guards that women should go back into their kitchens where they belong.

Apropos women in Mea Shearim:
On Tuesday night my friend and I came back from a Shiur and were passing the Mea Shearim / Ge'ulah neighbourhood. It seemed that the Toldot Aharon women had a party somewhere, as many of them were on their way home. The streets were crowded with with Toldot Aharon.

While standing at Kikar Shabbat, we saw a rather strange looking Toldot Aharon woman. She cannot have been older than 22, she wore the usual black head cover and the black stockings. However, the woman did not really keep the rest of the strict dressing code.

Her neck was to obvious, she wore exaggerated high heels and her skirt was quite short. Okay, she can do whatever she wants and it is non of our business. Nevertheless, we were just wondering what the other group members say to this behaviour.

Sociologists could claim that every chassidic group has its own groups within. Apparently there are Toldot Aharon women starting to go their own ways which doesn't mean that they are dropping out or become rebellious.
If this particular woman finds other women like her in the group, so why not ? At least she won't be an outlaw.

I find it very interesting to watch the social behaviour and the attemps of certain chassidic women to modernize their female society. They still stick to their laws and Takanot but, on the other hand, try building their own little society according to their interests and views. This makes a group more flexible and can only be of an advantage. Whoever is against modernization does not need to participate. I am sure that also a person refusing any modern ways can find plenty of friends at Toldot Aharon.

Another thing we realized is that the Toldot Aharon women are always seen with each other. I have never seen one of their women with a litvishe woman or someone from a different Chassidut.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

David Salomon at the OU Center


OU Israel Center presents

Jewish History in Six Chapters

Back by popular demand!

Come and experience internationally renowned educator David Solomon present Jewish History in Six Chapters. In this dynamic but comprehensive series of talks, David makes sense of, and brings to life, all of the events, themes and major personalities of the entire span of Jewish history.
This series is an extensive and in-depth presentation, based upon the framework of David's popular lecture

The Whole of Jewish History in One Hour.
Not to be missed!

Thursday nights 7.30pm to 9pm
continuing on November 29 & December 6, 13 & 20
OU Israel Center
22 Rechov Keren Hayesod, Jerusalem
NIS 20 (members), NIS 25 (non-members), Students NIS 10

For information, please call the OU Israel Center at (02) 560-9100
or email me at

David Solomon has emerged in recent years as one of the most dynamic teachers and thinkers in the Jewish world. He holds degrees in several disciplines and is an internationally acclaimed scholar across the entire spectrum of Jewish studies. Best known for his In One Hour series, a catalogue of innovative and dynamic educational talks, each of which serves as basic introductions to a range of areas in Jewish studies, David provides fundamental, big-picture frameworks that immerse students in a total Jewish learning experience. David lives in Tel Aviv, but regularly travels to all parts of the Jewish world. For more information, please visit

Please send all emails to However, should you experience problems with this email, please send them to

Chocolate and Idol Worship


The Haredim are upset again and I am excited to see how the new issue is going to end.

The famous Israeli manufacturer Strauss - Elit is in trouble. They should have expected the upcoming haredi protests but, instead, they only looked at the profit side.
Strauss - Elit is famous for its ice cream, microwave food, cottage cheese, coffee and especially for its sweets and chocolates. Now before Chanukkah, the demand for chocolate is rising, as many Israeli parents tend to give chocolate products as Chanukkah gifts.

Strauss - Elit, however, plans to expand on the international markets as well and there, people are not too interested in Chanukkah but rather in Xmas. In order to meet all customer' s desires, the company had a "great idea".

Products for abroad would be wrapped into shiny coloured paper showing Santa Claus and the products for the local Israeli market would be wrapped into shiny coloured paper showing Chanukkah motives. This way, Christian and Jewish customers would be happy and buy a lot.

The only problem is that many of the products which should be sold abroad are also being sold in Israel. If you go into a supermarket in Tel Aviv you might find a Santa chocolate produced by Strauss - Elit. The manufacturer provides the Chanukkah products with the best Hechsher; Badatz Edah HaCharedit. This way, all the religious are going to buy their Chanukkah chocolate.
Chocolate for the export being wrapped into Santa paper has either no Hechsher at all or a less accepted one. Who cares anyway ?

The Haredim are going wild because their and other Jewish children will be confronted with shiny chocolate pictures showing idol worship motives such as Mr Santa. Let alone the missing Hechsher.

But obviously there is a local demand for these kind of products. Otherwise Strauss - Elit would only sell them abroad.
The great demand comes from the majority of non - Jewish Russian immigrants. They make Aliyah in order to leave Russia and as soon as they arrive in Israel, they continue practicing their former religion called Christianity. I cannot count the incidents anymore when those immigrants screamed for non - kosher food. "We want everything just like in Russia", so they claim. And pork etc. is on the top of their menu.

In Agrippas Street, right behind the Machane Yehudah Market, we already have three non - kosher Russian stores. Business is going well and also Santa Claus appears in the shop windows right before Xmas.

I cannot really blame Strauss - Elit for their products showing Santas but rather the Jewish Agency for letting in all the Gentile Russians. If I do not like the food in a country, I am free to move somewhere else. But only coming here in order to get financial support and Aliyah benefits but otherwise complaining about the Jewish religion and especially the religious is totally out of place.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Recipe for Sufganiot (Doughnuts)


Chanukkah is right around the corner and Jews all over the world start baking or already have been eating the famous Chanukkah sufganiot (doughnuts).

Jerusalem has been full of them for a few weeks already. You can buy them anywhere and for any price. If you are looking for the cheapest, go to the Machane Yehudah Market in the evening. Some stands sell them only for 1 Shekel.

Here is a great recipe from our bakery:

1 kg flour (also whole wheat)

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 tablespoons cognac

1/2 cup olive oil

60g yeast

That's all. You can bake the sufganiot for 20 minutes in a regular oven. The heat should be 160 degrees.

However, most people fry their sufganiot in a big frying pan or pot. Just fill either of them up with olive oil. The sufganiot should be covered by the olive oil.

Afterwards put in the filling: jam, date cream, honey, chocolate, etc. Additionally you can cover them on top with sugar, honey or olive oil.

We are very fortune to have the Internet and can thus look up all kinds of recipes. I still remember when I was in Germany some eight or nine years ago, no sufganiot were available at all. In my Bavarian home town you just did not find any kosher store let alone a bakery. When I volunteered preparing sufganiot for a children's party in the Jewish community, I had to look up a recipe coming from Australia. I think it was from Chabad.

Because there was no kosher food in Fuerth – Bavaria, I had to get it from Australia. Fuerth is still the same and maybe some people from there read this as well and prepare kosher sufganiot for the community.

Hope, you enjoy baking and the most important thing; enjoy eating.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Devil and the Jews


The medieval conception of the Jew and its relation to modern anti – Semitism

Anyone interested in Jewish history should never leave out the brilliant books of Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg. Rabbi Trachtenberg was born in London in 1904, and passed away in 1959. For thirty years, he was a member of the American Rabbinate and devoted his life long studies to the study of progress of human thought.
His most famous books are "The Devil and the Jews (1943)" and "Jewish Magic and Superstition (1939)".

Already in his introduction, Rabbi Joshua Trachtenberg comes up with an interesting question: How is it that men believe of the Jews what common sense would forbid them to believe of anyone else ? The negative conception of a Jew has nothing to do with facts or logic but because people want to believe it. It does not matter whether the rumors about the Jews contradict each other or are simply irrational. If people want to believe it they just do.

As long as Jews have been living in the Western European world, they were subject to anti – Semitism. The Jew has always been considered as a stranger. His religion, character, language (prayers in Hebrew), his customs and even his blood (see Nazis) raised suspicion. Eastern countries, on the contrary, were just the opposite. There, Jews could gain anything in life and were not restricted. After 2000 years of Jewry in Europe, nothing seems to have changed too much. There are still people believing in the old rumours and anti – Semitism never disappeared.

After the church "conquered" Western Europe, religious tolerance vanished. No doubt, people had to become Christians and the Catholic church put enough force into it in order to reach its goal. Anti – Semitism is much older than the church itself but only the church introduced the demonological character of the Jewish religion.

With the beginning of the First Crusade, thousands of Jews were slaughtered in the German Rhineland by the Crusaders. The doctrine of viewing the Jew as the devil reached its peak at the time of the Crusades. Wherever the Crusaders arrived, the Jews were killed first. Mass killings in the name of G – d. The church declared the Jew as the worst enemy to mankind.
The reason for banning the Jews is simple. The church wanted to secure its power and gain even more might. In the Middle Ages, the majority of the population was illiterate and people just believed what their priest said. No one, except for the clergy, really looked into Jewish literature and checked if the church claims were true. Those few Christians who did investigate started to convert to Judaism. There were already such conversions during the early Middle Ages.

In order to keep its power, the church had fake or add original writings. Otherwise too many inconvenient questions and contradictions might come up and people would start realizing that Judaism is a true religion. However, not all church fathers were excited to see original writings being faked and started criticizing their superiors. Not too successfully of course, as many church doctrines based on false literature are still valid until today.

The Jews, however, did not give up their religion and could not be converted to Christianity. Why should they when Christian doctrine is so contradictory compared to the logic Jewish religion ? Therefore, the church fathers got a new idea. They declared that Jews are not human but come from the devil himself.
In Judaism, we do not really have the concept of the devil (Satan). A devil is compared to something negative or bad called the Yetzer HaRah, and this Yetzer is not an independent entity but created and controlled by G – d Himself. Our task is to overcome the Yetzer and thus, turn everything into good. After the arrival of the Meschiach, G – d will slaughter the Yetzer HaRah and everything will go back to its original source.

In Christianity, the devil is a real person besides G – d. The devil reacts independently and tries to destroy the world. This kind of thought is completely strange to Jews. The so – called Christian "Meschiach" J. fought the devil and so do his successors, the church fathers. The only question is why J. had to fight the devil when he claimed to be G – d ?
The church anti – Semitism is nothing new and has its roots in the New Testament with Luke and John. John calls the Jews "the father of the devil" (8:44). It says in Revelations (2:9, 3:9) that "synagogues are the house of Satan".

Nevertheless, the first Christians were real halachic Jews who did keep the Torah and its Mitzwot. For them, it was out of question not keeping Shabbat, Kashrut, Jewish holidays, they fasted on Yom Kippur and ate Mazzot on Pessach. The only thing distinguishing them from the other Jewish population was that they viewed J. as the Meschiach.
Only Paul started the absurd idea that the Torah is invalid and that the laws do not have to be kept anymore.

In 1277, the church published pictures showing the devil sitting together in a Mikweh with a Jew. Furthermore, Jews were accused of praying for the destruction of the Christians. Jews would drink blood, another crazy invention by the church.
When Gentiles make the claim to know the Torah well, they probably missed out the passage where G – d commands the Jews not to consume blood. For a Jew, consuming blood is strictly forbidden and you only have to watch the complicated procedure of koshering meat in order to understand the importance.

During the 9th century, the church invented the legend of the anti – Christ who would be a messenger of the devil. The Jews would anxiously expect his arrival in order to destroy the world. This thought is completely ridiculous but people believe it until this day.

Another popular prejudice until today is that Jews have a horn on their forehead. This idea stems from a mistranslation of the Torah passuk when Moshe is coming down from Mount Sinai. It says that he had a KEREN which means that his face was shining due to G – d's presents (the Shechinah). People whose Hebrew knowledge is definitely to advanced translated KEREN as horn. Big translation mistake !!!
But also the Mezuza raised Christian suspicion. Was this a devil's object ?

Throughout the Middle Ages, Jewish doctors and scientists were advanced academics in Europe. Due to their many trips to the East, they learned from the Muslims in Persia and elsewhere. Furthermore, they spoke several languages such as Arabic and Greek. Gentile European colleagues became jealous and started spreading rumours.

Not to forget the Spanish Inquisition where Jews were either forced to convert to Christianity or leave the country. Those who converted just did this to the outside world. Inside the house they kept kosher and celebrated Shabbat.

Whatever Christianity did and does they will never ever succeed of getting rid of the Jews. G – d will always keep his promise to us and no one can ever destroy the covenant. As hard as they may try, it will never be hard enough.


Rabbi Trachtenberg wrote this book in the dark ages of the Nazis, and he therefore knew what he was talking about. The question which remains is why intelligent people until this day believe such ridiculous ideas and theories about the Jews. How deep can mankind fall although people claim to be sophisticated ?
Obviously Rabbi Trachtenberg is right when he says that people believe what they want to believe. It does not matter how stupid and senseless it is.

Worth reading !!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It being rich eternal ?


A friend of mine made an interesting point when he said that many young wealthy Americans come to Israel, go to a Yeshiva, get married and live of the money of their parents.

Many of those move to the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof (an outskirt neighbourhood). Har Nof is totally haredi where at least half of the population are Anglos. The houses are new, the streets are clean and quite a few famous rabbis live there, such as Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.

Har Nof always seems to me like a ghetto without too much green. You won't see too many trees or plants. It is rather boring and the way into the city center is far. Especially on Shabbat.
Less wealthy people do not necessarily live in Har Nof although it is not a posh neighbourhood. However, someone should have some money.

Many American youngsters move to Jerusalem and are only able to study in Yeshivot because their parents "at home" support them financially. They might have finished Yeshiva High School or college but now they study in a Yeshiva but not everybody is able to become a rabbi. Furthermore, the demand for rabbis is limited, as almost half of Jerusalem are rabbis.

How are such kids from rich families are going to support their families other than receiving support from their parents ? No profession, no job, no own money. This might work for a few years. At least as long as money keeps on coming in from the States. However, many young married Yeshiva students find themselves in a position of falling out of the system. The usual result is that they are moving back to the States.

Before making Aliyah and planning a Yeshiva life or just coming here to study, get married and simply build a life here, people should face Israeli reality Everything is expensive and if you do not work but only study in a Kollel, etc., life will be hard. Of course, Israelis do the same but they are used to this way of life and due to mentality reasons, get along very well. Unfortunately, new religious immigrants give up quickly and prefer to move back to the States.

Yeshiva study is great but what you should also take into consideration is getting a job. Money from the parents does not last forever and by working you might get adjusted to Israeli daily life instead of being in an Anglo ghetto.

Reality shows the same, as countless new high tech companies especially like to employ the haredi Anglo population. And many companies offer part - time jobs or shifts which still allow Yeshiva studies next your job.

Are Young Yeshiva Students Traitors ?


Almost every Erev Shabbat we face the same scene at Rabbi Mordechai Machlises house. The Rabbi enjoys to invite as many people for Shabbat as he can and if you are in Jerusalem, you should definitely go to his place. What you should not do is expecting a quiet Shabbat dinner with good manners. Rather prepare yourself for a few loonies and also some "normal" guests. In other words, prepare yourself for everything. However, the Rabbi's hospitality is unbelievable and people usually have a great unforgettable time.

I am not sure if I belong to the loony or the normal group of people. Some might claim that in order to live in Jerusalem, one has to be out of his mind. What I do admit is that I am one of the regulars at Rabbi Machlise's Shabbat table and so are others.

My friend and I thought about either making a movie about the meals in the Machlis home or, at least putting everything on Youtube. Unfortunately, this is all impossible on Shabbat.

One character showing up almost every Friday night is an American guy called Michael. You can imagine Michael as the "prefect" Zionist. Well, as a fundamentalist Zionist and only last week I had a wild discussion with him about the talmudic reasons against a State of Israel. Of course, none of these three oaths apply anymore today. Not according to Michael.

The real show only begins when Michael gets up to make a speech in front of everybody.
Anybody is allowed to make a speech at the Rabbi's but somehow the context should be in the atmosphere of Shabbat. For Michael it is absolutely in this kind of atmosphere calling Yeshiva students a kind of traitor because they do not go to the army. The Rabbi's living room is usually crowded with mostly young American Yeshiva students (Aish HaTorah and Ohr Sameach) and Michael starts telling them no to listen to their rabbis and rather go to the army.
Not to forget to mention, Michael is totally religious. Well, more or less.

The Yeshiva guys just sit quietly and stare at the speaker; the rabbi, on the other hand, calls him to stop his speech.
The question, however, is, if there is not a little truth in what Michael has to say ? He definitely says it in an offensive way but, nevertheless, I do sometimes think that he is right.

Israel is a country which always has to defend itself and does need good soldiers. Especially the national religious and even the haredi population (Nachal HaCharedi) have shown that they belong to the best soldiers the army has. Those of us who are not anti - Zionists and recognize the current State of Israel should also be prepared to fight for it.

One might claim that there are not only physical but also spiritual wars and that Israel also needs a "spiritual army". This is true but just look at the times of King David where religious people joined his army without asking questions or start quarreling.

Michael expresses his opinions in a violent pushy way but even his thoughts are worth of deeper thought. Joining the army does not necessarily mean giving up a religious life. The Israeli army has plenty of religious units.

The latest rather unusual case was that a Chassid from Toldot Aharon went to the Nachal HaCharedi. Not only him but many Haredim start doing so.

Obviously everybody expected the Toldot Aharon Rebbe to kick out the new "soldier" but instead he told the other members to be quiet. It goes without saying that this Chassid as well as other Haredim probably do face Shidduch difficulties. Nevertheless, going somewhere else and having new experiences does help in many cases to become even more religious.

If anyone of you is interested in seeing Michael's show should come to the Machlise's on Erev Shabbat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Parallel Universes" in Judaism


Who does not remember the popular series "Sliders" where some youngsters were traveling through different dimensions and parallel universes. I enjoyed watching "Sliders" very much and who of us does not sometimes dream about traveling through space or universes. If the "Sliders" - theory was correct, each of us would have his exact counterpart in a different universe. Imagine that you might exist several times. Each of your personality in another universe. Here you are rich and have a good job, there you are Mr President and somewhere else you are a mass murderer (G - d forbid).

Mankind has been and still is always curious and as soon as we watch a Science Fiction movie our imagination is running away. Wouldn't it be great to travel to another universe and meet our counterpart ? Our second personality looking exactly like me.

In Judaism, science and Torah go hand in hand and many rabbis were also famous mathematicians (Vilna Gaon), physicians, astronomers, etc. Just look at the Rambam and the Ramban. Orthodox Jews have not problem whatsoever with scientific facts or knowledge. On the contrary, as everything, including the Creation of the World, just shows G - d's greatness and uniqueness.

There is a video on Youtube explaining the universe and at the end, other galaxies are being shown. Only by just looking at the pictures, one is aware that there is a perfect creator of all this; namely G - d Himself.

Today there are even scientific orthodox websites available:

Our universe is infinite and why should there be no such things as parallel universes ? And why should we not have a twin somewhere else ? In case everything did exist and you decided to visit your second personality, your mission would be doomed to fail. According to the science magazine "Scientific American (May 2003), other universes are simply too far away and it is impossible to reach them during our life time.

Scientists regard parallel universes as possible but Judaism does not even consider such an idea. G - d does not "travel" from universe to universe in order to give people the Torah. There is only one unique Torah. Our planet is unique and so is each of us. Just look at your DNA.

Jewish scientists do not speculate. The universe is infinite but nothing was created as we are. The Kabbalah confirms this opinion. Each soul (neshama) was created individually and it is out of question that someone else being also me could have the same Neshama as I do. People usually do not share Neshamot (I am leaving out the reincarnation subject here). It is only the owner of that particular soul who can elevate his Neshama by keeping Torah Mitzwot.

On the other hand, there exist a theory in Kabbalah about G - d's spiritual worlds. Such spiritual worlds do not physically exist but only do so in our minds. It is said about Adam HaRishon that right after his creation, he contained all the souls of all the spiritual worlds. As soon as he sinned, most higher Neshamot left his body.

The kabbalistic book "Sefer HaBrit" mentions a planet called "Meroz". According to some opinions, there are people living on Meroz. (Do not imagine tiny green aliens now!!!)

"Sefer HaBrit" continues that even thou people existed on Meroz, they would not have a free will as we have. They were simply puppets of their creator (G - d). However, other sources on Talmud Moed Katan 16a and Shevuot 36a claim that Meroz is a people, a man or a constellation.

Honestly, I am not too keen on meeting my second, third or whatever personality. What would I gain from this and I don't think that I would be too happy afterwards. It is already enough to know that after I die, I am being confronted with my "perfect" personality. This perfect counterpart is going to show me how much potential I had and what I lost by not using it. Therefore, we should rather concentrate on our lives in this world. Although, sometimes, I do like to dream and travel through space. At least while watching "Star Wars" or "Star Trek".

Sunday, November 18, 2007

False Appearance


German orthodox communities face a serious problem. First of all, there are only a few orthodox communities to begin with. The vast majority of German Jewry is reigned by the reform movement. Although Chabad tries its best to educate more and more German Jews in an orthodox matter, the Jews themselves seem to stick to their old ways called Haskalah.

A Jew living outside Germany cannot imagine the amount of problems he would be confronted with if he was living there. The majority of German Jewry is totally uneducated in halachic matters. Haredim ? Almost none besides a few litvishe and Chabad rabbis. Chassidut ? Only Chabad.
Germans who have not been to Israel, Antwerp, Zurich, England or the States have never seen a real Chassid. Vishnitz, Toldot Aharon, Satmar, Skver, Munkatch, Kalov, Karlin ? Never heard of.

It is true that at some places like Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin you can find kosher shops and restaurants. The only question is, how kosher you are going to be. The only real kosher food is mostly available at Chabad. If you intend to eat anything else, check the Hechsher very carefully.

Another problem for German orthodox communities is finding an orthodox rabbi to employ.
Let's be honest: Who as a serious respected rabbi wants to work in Germany ?
Guess how many !!!
Right, not too many.
Those who are actually prepared are not the most respected people. Some of them come from Israel where they either had problems with the Rabbanut or simply were not able to find an appropriate job. Israel is full of rabbis and only the best have a chance. Nevertheless, German communities pay well and if you are looking for a job, take this country into consideration. Only temporarily, of course, because you will soon get fed up with the internal community policies.

In January 1998, I went back to Germany after having studied for quite a while at Israeli Yeshivot. Haredi, national religious, you name it. I have been around.
When I went back, I knew where I am going to. German Jewry would hardly understand what I had experienced in Jerusalem. How could they ?

As I did not know the exact time of my stay, I moved in with a friend. Thus, I got to know German community issues a little better although I did not officially become a member of this particular community. It was a small community anyway. At that time we had maybe 300 members, and more than 90% of them were Russians.
German Jews consider the Russian newcomers either as not Jewish or as second class. The Russians, on the other hand, see the Germans as arrogant and are not interested in getting to know the language but rather receiving the social benefit. At least in the community where I lived.
For the Russians in my town, the synagogue was a social meeting place and nothing else. However, there were a few interested in learning some Judaism and once I was asked about the meaning of the "Shema - prayer". I explained it but also asked the woman why she does not ask the local rabbi. "Well, she said, I did but he responded that I do not need to know that".

On my first Shabbat there, I went to the synagogue. After the service we had Kiddush with non - kosher Challot (in an orthodox community !!!) and the "orthodox" rabbi invited me for lunch. "In my home, everything is kosher", so he said, but without mentioning beforehand that the community Challot were not.

Every year in March, Jewish and Christian communities all over Germany "celebrate" the so - called "Woche der Bruederlichkeit - The Week of the Brotherhood". Usually some rabbis or leaders of the Jewish communities give lectures and Gentiles are invited joining the Shabbat service.
Shortly after my arrival, this particular week started and then I got to know our local litvishe rabbi from a different side. As soon as local politicians and some entrepreneurs arrived, he jumped on them. Although the rabbi was anything but learned, he wanted to be the center of the goishe attention. He just loved being in the newspapers and seen with important German gentiles. His ego was greater than his Jewish identity.
German politicians, on the other hand, loved it to be seen together with a "religious" Jew, as this is helpful for their consciences. It makes them think that the Holocaust is totally forgiven or even forgotten.

The rabbi did not care about "Kavod" in a religious way; he ran after the big money and the gentile press. He obviously just loved to be worshiped. Still in Israel, he hardly passed the rabbi's test and it was known that he is anything but a scholar. So he worked as a helper of a Mashgiach without much income. Once in Germany, the locals just saw him in his black suit and hat and thought that he is the greatest orthodox person. How should the Gentiles know that the rabbi is of low standard and the community itself did not have Jews to check on him.

First, I did not care too much about his wheeling and dealings with the Christians because I was not planning to stay forever. However, soon I was sick of his creepy behaviour; especially when he gave lectures about a "Jewish J." in Christian communities centers.
The rabbi seemed to check me out for some time. It did not escape his attention that I knew something about Judaism and he obviously was afraid that I might inform the Israelis Rabbanut. Soon he must have come to the conclusion that this would not be the case. A big mistake.

During the first year or so, I got used to the orthodox - non - orthodox rabbi breaking Halacha. Furthermore, I did not get an invitation to the Pessach Seder and no Mazzot. He did not care although I was upset.
You might say now that I should have gone to another Seder. However, in most German communities only the common community Seder exist and nothing else. So, I was alone at home.

The more members a German Jewish community has, the more additional money the rabbis receive. In my community was a slight problem with Russians leaving for the nearby town. The reason was that the nearby city paid more social benefit. Of course, the rabbi did not want people to leave, as this meant less salary for him. In order to avoid all this he got a "great" idea. He sent out curse letters to those Russians, who wanted to move to the other city.
As I mentioned to him that no one should ever curse people with talmudic, kabbalistic or whatever curses, he claimed that everything just happened according to his own private Badatz - rules.

In the meantime, two potential converts to Judaism were "creeping" around him. One of them used to support him with money and whatever he demanded from her, he got. If he had asked her to jump out of the window, she would have done so. A few months later, another family joined the mysterious conversion circle.
Although the family got fed up quickly, as they lend their car to the rabbi and he caused an accident. The car ended up being a ruin. One could think that therefore he was a kind of obligated converting them. Yes, this is right but the rabbi did not care.

Zniut (modesty) was a minor issue for the rabbi. The above mentioned woman from the conversion course (let's call her Mrs Moneypenny) run his household. She was always there and when I once came with a visitor from the States who just wanted to say HELLO, Mrs Moneypenny tried to get rid of us. "The rabbi does not have time for you". By the way, the rabbi saw the scene but kept quiet. Instead, him and her got into her car and drove away. Later on, he admitted that he does not want to loose Moneypenny's support.

They only people knowing something about religion were me and a young Chabad couple. As we dared to criticize the rabbi, Mrs Moneypenny hated us. She did her very best to keep us away from him and he did not mind her ruling.
Once, on the second day of Rosh HaShana, I was in the middle of the Amidah and the Moneypenny walked into the synagogue. As I did not say "Git Yom Tov" she came up to me and let me know that next time she would really appreciate me greeting her. The Machzor I was using was bought by her. I did not want to get into a fight in a synagogue and especially not on Rosh HaShana, so I responded nothing.

The Chabad couple got a baby and the matter of a Brit Milah got onto the agenda. A Mohel had to be arranged.
The rabbi hated the idea of a religious outsider coming into his "kingdom" (community) and he suggested to the couple that he could to the Brit. Well, he was not a professional Mohel but claimed however, that he had circumcised all his sons. "And by the way, he continued saying, I also shachted a few chickens in the past". This is a very nice thought; a guy who cuts chicken throats is going to be the Mohel of your son. Eventually, the further far away community of Munich arranged a Mohel and the whole Brit for the baby. The same with the Mikweh. The rabbi did not allow a halachic expert coming in to check if the Mikweh is kosher. Instead he reigned alone together with the money lady.

After a little more than two years I moved back to Israel on Aliyah. I was so glad to go and start a real religious all over again in Jerusalem. There, I could go and buy religious books (the rabbi had mostly refused giving me any) and I had kosher food everywhere. Just incredible when you compare it.

Many times, I told my Israeli friends about the experience in Germany until one day someone had told Yad Le'Achim about the rabbi's behaviour. Yad Le' Achim found out that the rabbi actually was a convert to Judaism. His father was born Jewish but his mother was a reform convert. Furthermore, he had problems in Israel and it seems that he already did his wheeling and dealing here but people found out. Yad Le' Achim asked me if his kids (who were then living in Israel) should be thrown out of their Talmud Torah schools. I refused because the kids are not responsible for the actions of their father. I hope that they use their chance in life to become something better.

At the same time, people came up with the information that the rabbi is planning to sell Giur certificates in southern Germany. According to the Jewish Agency in Frankfurt, false certificates had already appeared in the area of Augsburg.
The background was that the Rabbanut Jerusalem had appointed him as a member of a Beit Din in Konstanz - Southern Germany. Of course, not in order to solve difficult halachic issues but rather to check if the Russian Jews are halachically Jewish. The rabbi, however, used his position for criminal purposes and the Rabbanut in Jerusalem went berserk.

I was so busy with running from one place to the other and answer all the questions of the Jerusalem rabbis who had started an investigation. Rabbanut, Ministry of Religious Affairs, European Rabbi's Conference, and many more.
The Jewish Agency Frankfurt let me know that they got hold of a false conversion certificate with the German rabbi's signature and I asked them to fax it to the Rabbanut in Jerusalem. However, the Jewish Agency got cold feet and claimed that they cannot do so. The case would be "too hot" and might cause anti - Semitism in Germany. Furthermore, the Jewish Agency has no authority getting involved in German Jewish community matters.

This was the end. We could not get hold of a written proof.

The German conversion couple got cold feet as well and ran to Antwerp where they complained about the rabbi. The rabbi himself was asked to appear at a hearing in Munich but he did not show up.

To make it short, nothing happened because we did not have the written proof in our hands. Otherwise the Rabbanut would have taken away his rabbi license.

A year later, he left the small southern community in order to become "Landesrabbiner" in a bigger city in the southern region. There, he is in charge of a whole federal state.

If he changed his ways ?
No, not at all. He got fired by the community but re - employed by a new elected committee. Not because of his knowledge (which he lacks) but due to matters of internal politics.

Mrs Moneypenny converted and G - d knows how. Today she is the head of the small community where I used to live.

And myself ?

I am so glad to be in Israel. You cannot even imagine how much.

As long as no real halachic authority is checking on rabbis working in Germany, illegal wheeling and dealings will continue.



Once upon a time, I was a Yeshiva student.
A student of a well – known religious haredi school.
I hated this school.
I loved this school.

We had a firm schedule.
Studying in the late afternoons and in the evenings.
Torah, Talmud und Jewish law.
I hated the classes.
I loved the classes.

The pressure was enormous.
To dress modestly.
To behave appropriate.
To pray.
To think.
I hated the pressure.
I loved the pressure.

One day I had a nervous breakdown.
Caused by the pressure.
Pressure I put upon myself.
Now I have a free life.
Nevertheless, sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Where are the Rebbes ?


What can I say ? It is rather boring in Mea Shearim and other chassidic areas at the moment. There are hardly any Tishes, and Jews in New York probably have a better chance of finding a great Tish.

The Rebbes of Dushinsky, Toldot Aharon and Avraham Yitzchak are gone until Chanukkah. I just saw a picture of the Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Shmuel Kahn, in a haredi paper. He is in New York.

Tonight for Maariv I am going to Karlin and that is about it. Karlin might even have a Tish afterwards. Some people told me that they have a Tish after every Rosh Chodesh but others claimed that the Tish is on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh.
We will see.

Within the past few weeks, I tried to find out more details about the Edah HaCharedit. It is not so easy, especially when one is a woman.
What we do have in Jerusalem is the Jewish National Library at the Hebrew University part in Givat Ram. The Olam Gershom Sholem has one of the best Kabbalah and Chassidut sections. However, when I ask about books, writings or papers from or about the Edah, the clerks either look at me as if I am nuts or they just do not have anything.

It seems like no one is really used to people inquiring about an institution like the Edah HaCharedit, and many even let me know that I should rather care about Zionist movements instead. Or at least the Agudat Israel.
I find this kind of behaviour quite strange, as also something like the Edah is part of our society. Well, maybe I should not say this because the Edah wants anything but not being identified with the Israeli society.

The good thing is that even the "Zionist" National Library has the Edah newspaper "HaEdah". Unfortunately, Mea Shearim does not make too much public relations for itself. It would be of great advantage if also other Edah groups were putting some information on the net. Besides the Neturei Karta and their contexts, no one really can follow.

Here a little taste:

Mea Shearim Street

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Young Chabad" goes money laundering


Not for the first time, Kfar Chabad (near Rishon LeZion) was searched by the police. The head of the "Young Chabad Youth Movement", Yosef Aharonov and his deputies got arrested.

Yosef Aharonov is being accused of embezzling 60 Mio Dollar. The money was donated by all different kinds of people who thought they are doing a Mitzwah. The police confiscated boxes of documents from the Kfar Chabad office.

They suspect the heads of "Young Chabad" using the money either for their own purposes or paying salaries in cash in order to avoid the Israeli income tax.

It is not the first nor the last time that Kfar Chabad faces a financial scandal. Obviously their leadership should be more careful about whom to entrust with financial funds.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Out of Fear


Countless English – haredi Blogs write about it and I had the same experiences.

Many Haredim are only remaining haredi out of fear.

There are many reasons for remaining haredi even though, there are doubts if this really is the right lifestyle. Haredi society is very complex and you have to think very carefully if it is worth giving up your whole life. And what about the family, their Shidduchim, etc. ?

In most cases, people do not intend giving up a religious life but rather want to escape certain society rules and pressure. If you were born into a haredi society it does not necessarily mean that you really belong there. I met many people who do not, and either eventually decide to leave or just continue going together with the hope that everything will be all right. At least, sooner or later.

When I left a strict religious life style, I did not face any severe consequences. First of all, I was not born into a haredi society and secondly, I did not do any damage to the society itself. I am not going out, as other disappointed people do (just see FailedMessiah, etc.), and throw my garbage all over the world. Okay, if someone is disappointed so he has to deal with it but do not constantly accuse everybody else. Life goes on.

Of course, people who were born into certain societies, such as litvish, Satmar, Vishnitz, and other groups, cannot just leave. They need to consider future difficulties like: finding a job despite a limited education. Limited at least according to Western modern society, as no company really demands Talmud knowledge.

The worst ist always the feeling of one's own guilt. Did I do the right thing ?
When I left I always thought that other people stare at me and want to tell me "Hey, you are haredi, what are you doing here ? Go back".

What happens when someone comes to the conclusion that although he is part of a haredi group, he is unable to continue his life as such ? First of all, people push the thoughts away and just keep on going. With whom can you talk at all and who is able to understand those thoughts ? Yeshivot and parents might faint and see you as a troublemaker. Well, today there is the Internet and people write anonymously about their troubles. However, there are times when you need to talk in order not to explode.

Unfortunately until today, haredi society has not found any solutions or good counseling for the issue. It seems that the subject is too delicate and professional psychologists are missing. Haredi society lacks the understanding of its members leaving a strict society but not orthodoxy.

One thing for sure, remaining in the "Chatzer" out of fear is / cannot be a solution.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Great Demand for the Belz Tish


The Israeli summer is hot and dry. So far, we have not seen any rain since April. Maybe a few drops when the winter season started a few weeks ago, but the real rain showers have not yet started. As everybody can imagine, we desperately need rain and sometimes when it does not rain enough, leading rabbis announce special rain prayers at the Kotel (Western Wall). Nothing in Israel should be taken for granted and we always have to pray. Even for rain.

When I walked with my friend to Rabbi Mordechai Machlises Shabbat dinner last night, it started raining and we arrived a kind of wet. A Chassid told us that, again, the Rebbes of Toldot Aharon and Toldot Avraham Yitzchak are gone. Beit Shemesh, abroad, wherever.
"Well, they have money", added the Chassid sarcastically.

As the Rebbe of Chassidut Dushinsky is abroad as well (for another two weeks or so), we decided to leave the Machlis house earlier and go to Belz. At least, the rain had stopped when we started walking at 9pm. It is always exciting walking through haredi neighbourhoods on Erev Shabbat. Maalot Dafna, passing the Sadigora Synagogue, turning into Bar Ilan Street, Eli HaCohen, passing Czernobyl and Satmar, and finally standing in front of the impressive gigantic Belz Synagogue.

The Belz Tish was packed. Hundreds of people were there and we were lucky finding a good place to stand and watch Rebbe Yissachar Dov Rokeach and his Chassidim. Not all the participants were chassidic, as there were many national religious and litvishe as well.

To me, the Belz Tish sometimes appears to me a little boring. No songs and dances as at Toldot Aharon or Avraham Yitzchak. No real "action". Rebbe Rokeach sits, eats and prays, says "Git Shabbes" and that is about it. He has quite a few "servants" around him. One is moving his chair back and forth and others serve him wine and food. Everything is pretty organized. They even have guys watching over the people to be quiet. There is no talking when the Rebbe speaks.

The Ezrat Nashim was packed as well. It did not take too long and a group of Israelis showed up who wanted to see a chassidic Tish. As everyone was standing on each others feet, we speedily came into contact with other women. "Well, said one woman next to me, if her father had not favoured Zionism, she and her family would still belong to Satmar". Although she was anything but chassidic any more, she knew Yiddish and many details about Chassidim and their lives. While we were talking, four young Toldot Aharon guys walked into the Belz Tish. As you can surely imagine, this was a kind of unusual, as Belz has still some disagreements going on with the Edah HaCharedit. However, one Belzer Chassid once told me that the "war" is not as bad any more as it used to be years ago. "Everything has changed a little and the former Toldot Aharon Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kahn z"tl, died long ago and his sons are somehow less extreme.

The Toldot Aharon guys walked in very carefully. After less than a minute they left but came in again shortly after. It was funny to see them standing in the middle of all the in black dressed Belzer Chassidim (On Shabbat, Toldot Aharon Chassidim wear light brown coats). No one said a word to them and nothing exciting happened. I even think that Toldot Aharon was rather bored at Belz.

The only excitement at the Ezrat Nashim was the elderly Chassid coming in and shouting "Shshshsh !" He was in charge of the women's silence and it was quite funny see him walking and around with his "Shshsh". Especially the Israeli group had a great laugh and they even imitated him loudly. The Chassid got upset but kept himself under controll.

At 11pm, the Tish was over and as soon as Rebbe Rokeach gets up, all his Chassidim jump after him and sing "Shabbes Koidesh".
On our way back through Mea Shearim we found the synagogue of the almost unknown chassidic group "Mishkenot Ha'Roim". I wonder if they let anyone joining the synagogue service when he is not really anti - Zionist.

Next Friday, we definitely go to Karlin for Maariv and then we will see what else is on.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Kristallnacht Memories


Anywhere else it does not seem to be such a big issue but in Germany it is. On November 9, 1938, the Reichkristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) took place in Germany.

Every year on this date, German Jews and Gentiles remember this tragic event and hold memorial services. This year, the date falls on a Friday and the mourning issue is a little more complicated. Shabbat is coming soon and on Sunday it is Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

But can there be something like a mourning period according to the calendar ? The date is such and such and I have to mourn now.

Especially Holocaust survivors suffer from their painful memories in their every day life or even every hour. Unfortunately, people do not take this too much into consideration. They rather go to the memorial services, finish and go home. See you again next year.

Leading German Jews sometimes behave ridiculous anyway. Some rabbis, community leaders and the "Central Committee of German Jewry in Germany" (Zentralrat) many times misunderstand the meaning of Jewish history and mourning. I read on a German Jewish blog that a huge memorial service is taking place in Stuttgart (southern Germany) tonight. Local politicians organized the event and simply forgot about something Jewish called "Shabbat".

However, many Jews do not seem to mind and prefer going to see it, and especially to be seen. It is a disgrace that leading German Jews prefer to be seen with high ranking politicians instead of thinking about their roots and Jewish identity.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hachnasat Aron HaKodesh


Although the synagogue of Chassidut Toldot Avraham Yitzchak in Mea Shearim is still quite a mess, I really do admire their new Aron HaKodesh. The Aron stands there shining while everywhere else inside the synagogue renovations are still going on. Including the Ezrat Nashim.

The Aron HaKodesh was just put in recently and I found a great video of the Hachnasat Aron HaKodesh on Google. To be honest, the new Aron reminds me a little of the impressive one at the Shomrei Emunim synagogue.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Toldot Aharon


Toldot Avraham Yitzchak next to their synagogue in the Mea Shearim market

Beit Midrash of Toldot Aharon in Mea Shearim

Toldot Aharon

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Are Soccer Fans a Danger to Democracy ?


Beitar, Beitar and again Beitar.
The Israelis press is jumping on the fans of the Jerusalem local soccer club Beitar Yerushalaim. The day before yesterday, Beitar played in the Haifa soccer stadium Kiryat Eliezer against Maccabi Haifa. Before the game started, officials had called for one minute of silence to remember the brutal murder of a youth in Tel Aviv a few days before and additionally the former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The Haifa fans stood in silence while the Beitar fans started screaming phrases against Rabin. That he was "garbage", for example.

Since Rabin was murdered twelve years ago, left wingers have been exploiting the Rabin memorial for their own purposes. According to the leftists, right - wingers do not mourn about Rabin and furthermore, also have no right to mourn. Wasn't it the religious fundamentalist Yigal Amir who murdered the left – wing symbol Yitzchak Rabin ? Whose memorial is Rabin really ?

After the incident in the soccer stadium, the left sees a new danger coming up. The evil spirit of Yigal Amir continues crawling through our society. But who are really the Beitar fans and who was screaming in favour of Amir ?
It is well – known that many Beitar fans belong to the Sephardi haredi movement. Whether SHASS or not, most fans are right – wing, and do not allow the club owner, Arkadi Gaidamak, to buy an Arab soccer player for the team.
If you go to the Machane Yehudah Market today, you might hear different opinions. The market is a stronghold of the right and the traders say that only some youngsters at the age of 15 or 16 were freaking out. Not all Beitar fans should be seen as the new "Yigal Amirs" of Israeli society. They shouted, so what.

Is this a reason to punish a whole soccer team ?
The Israeli official soccer authority says YES and is planning to let Beitar play one game at home without any spectators.

The left – wing paper HAARETZ calls the Beitar fans "The 1000 children of Yigal Amir". Haaretz uses a play on words, as Amir just celebrated the birth of his first son. Is Haaretz exaggerating ?
Leading politicians such as Ehud Olmert see the same danger coming up as twelve years ago. Yesterday, posters were hung up in the religious Har Nof neighbourhood where Shimon Peres was called "Arab President" and a picture showed him with a Khafiyeh (Arafat's head cover). Responsible for the posters is the right – winger Baruch Marzel.

The left is afraid to loose. Daliah Rabin – Pelosof, the daughter of Yitzchak Rabin, wishes that Amir had faced the death penalty instead of rotting in jail. However, she and her followers have to accept that also a murderer has human rights.
The right and Amir himself consider the Rabin murder as a success. Fact is, that for the past years, Yigal Amir has been more present to us than the murdered Prime Minister. Amir is just everywhere. First the whole fuzz about his wedding, than about the birth of his son and now the newborn is the latest gossip subject. Amir is probably very proud of himself when he hears that thousand of Beitar fans obviously support his actions.

Everybody can have his own opinion but I think that it is disgusting that Yigal Amir together with his wife Larissa Trimbovler planned the birth of their son according to the memorial day of Yitzchak Rabin. Not only the press is establishing a new "evil symbol"; the hunt after the baby is also the fault of the Amir family. How cruel can someone be by using a baby for their own political statements ?

The Battle between Yad Le'Achim and Kibbutz Ramat Rachel


It has been going on for a few weeks now. The Israeli anti - missionary organization Yad Le'Achim is running ads against the Jerusalem Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. Yad Le'Achim accuses the Kibbutz of hosting different Christian missionary groups as well as messianic Jews. The Kibbutz, on the other hand, claims that they do not investigate clients who want to book the facilities of the Kibbutz.

Fact is, that Ramat Rachel has been hosting such events for the past few years and I do not understand why Yad Le'Achim is only reacting now after Sukkot. It is well - known that those missionary groups hold lectures where they announce that all the rabbis in Mea Shearim should be converted to Christianity.

Well, this must be a kind of a joke because no rabbi let alone Admor in Mea Shearim would ever do such a thing. No Torah educated Jew would ever take such a thought into consideration and only arrogant and ignorant Christian missionaries are able to believe their own words and imaginations.

Yad Le'Achim put a ban on Ramat Rachel. No Jew should book the facilities and celebrate a Bar Mitzwa or a wedding there. But it does not look like the Kibbutz is showing any regret. What they care about is the profit they make from all kinds of people using the facilities. It does not matter who it is and what is proclaimed. The main thing is that the rent is being paid on time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Who is afraid of Gur ?


When you ask people about Chassidut Gur (Gerer Chassidim), almost everyone is going to tell you the same things. Even the Gerer Chassidim themselves.

The Gerer Rebbe is the absolute number one in their society. What the rebbe says is law. No discussion about that.
Gur is like an army and they stand behind their rebbe. No matter what.

And, the Gerer Chassidim are very much into modesty (Zniut). Unfortunately, they do not allow women coming to the rebbe's Tish. Instead I was offered to come to the synagogue. The Zniut laws make it almost impossible to talk to a Gerer chassid in the street, and I am very lucky to know a few of them, as I sometimes buy in a shop run by the Gerer. They were very excited when I told them that I am writing about Chassidut and, of course, emphasized the importance of their rebbe. In other words, Gur is the most important Chassidut in the world.

Recently I asked them about the Gur - Satmar connection and one of the Chassidim gave me a long list of how the previous Gerer rebbes had all met with the Satmarer rebbes. Also when Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum lived in Israel (in 1946), he met with the Gerer rebbe at that time. Both sides keep up the connections until today but, as far as I found out, only the rebbes are in touch. The Chassidim are not although they see each other all the time in haredi areas in Jerusalem.

People sometimes wonder how a woman is able to get in touch with Chassidim such as Gur or others. Let me tell you from my experience that it very much depends on the circumstances. It is easy talking to Gur in the shop but it makes it even easier when the Chassidim see that someone knows something about religion and Chassidut. Especially someone female. Then they become curious and want to know more. And after that stage, they suddenly have friends who can add some more information and so on. And Gur is no exception.

Slow Changes in Chassidic Society


At the Shabbat meal last night, a chassid told us that the rebbes of the two chassidic groups Toldot Avraham Yitzchak and Toldot Aharon are back in town. Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn from Avraham Yitzchak had been to Beit Shemesh for quite a while. Within the past few years, the town of Beit Shemesh became something like the new Diaspora for many Haredim including chassidic groups. Especially newly married couples cannot effort living in Jerusalem anymore. And Mea Shearim might look neglected and full of garbage in the streets, however, it is actually very expensive to live there. On the other hand, Beit Shemesh is spacey and cheaper.

After the meal we decided to go to Chassidut Dushinsky first instead of running after Toldot Aharon and Avraham Yitzchak. We arrived rather early and there was nothing going on at Dushinsky. Never mind, we went a few meters further to Chassidut Kretchnif. Although Kretchnif has a large building right across Chassidut Karlin, inside it is quite small. When we arrived, the door to the women's entrance seemed to be closed but we were lucky. Kretchnif had a Tish and the rebbe was already in the middle of eating his "Gefilte". Kretchnif is always a good and popular place to go to and what I like most is the family atmosphere. Everyone is welcomed and the rebbe is encouraging anyone to sing and participate. This is a great advantage of smaller groups.

We stayed for an hour or so and enjoyed ourselves. However, we wanted to continue and kept on walking to Mea Shearim Street. Unfortunately, there was nothing special going on at Shomrei Emunim. It is always so funny when Chassidim pass by and just open the front door to the Shomrei Emunim synagogue. They look inside and ask: "Is there a Tish" ? No, okay, and they shut the door. In case there is, the synagogue is packed with people.
The Shomrei Emunim Rebbe lives in Bnei Brak and, therefore, not too many Tishes take place in Jerusalem. But if so, people just storm inside.

We decided to go to the Slonim. What else is there and we discussed all the possibilities, Jews have in New York. Probably at each corner a different Tish takes place. In Jerusalem we are limited which is really a pity. Especially the Holy City should have more events of this kind.

We passed the Great Breslov Synagogue and walked up to the Slonim. On our way we suddenly heard a great chassidic song sung by hundreds of loud voices. Wow, we thought, this must be Avraham Yitzchak. Who else ?

No Tish at the Slonim and we ran over to Avraham Yitzchak were the walls were already shaking. Avraham Yitzchak is our personal number ONE Tish in Mea Shearim.

The main reason for their enthusiastic Tish is definitely Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn. He was eating his chicken soup and conducting the Chassidim with his spoon. This is what he likes most: eating and singing. We had not seen him for a few months and in my opinion, he put on some weight. Never mind, he was in a good mood.
What caught our eye was that when he went out to the restroom, one of the Chassidim took his hand and helped him leaving. As we had never realized this before, we thought that he might not be too well. Today however, a chassid told us that they always lead him out this way and that he was fine. Well, I really hope that the rebbe is okay.

Hundreds of people were participating in the Avraham Yitzchak Tish. Also the womens' section was crowded but after a while we were lucky and found two seats. Some female members offered us some soda water and it is always easy to talk to the younger women.

I have read it on the Internet but we have also realized it "life" that a certain amount of young Avraham Yitzchak women try to be more modern. The same with Toldot Aharon but a little less obvious and more carefully.

It does not mean that the women try to run away from certain group traditions or their Takanot (internal laws). Just the opposite, they want to be group members but start changing a few strict laws. Maybe too strict in their eyes.

Members of such societies cannot just start changing traditions and have to be careful. So, what they usually do is start changing little things such as the head covers (Yasameh). Some of the women still wear the most modest kind, the Yasameh covering the neck and going down until the chest. However, I would say that the majority does not wear this kind of long head cover anymore. Half of the other women do cover their necks but many of them just wear a simple Yasameh which does not totally cover the neck.

As in every society, you can find different people and different groups sticking to each other. And it is almost impossible to keep up all the strict laws forever.

You do not have to change the whole society but in order to make women more comfortable and accepted, men should not be afraid of accepting slight changes.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rebbe Aharon Teitelbaum in Jerusalem


One of the two Satmarer Rebbes, Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, was visiting Jerusalem in August. You will be surprised about the amount of followers he has in our city.

Big Brother is always around


Pamphlets are everywhere. It seems that cars just drive by and throw out all the pamphlets with new rabbinic decrees mostly signed by Rabbi Nissim Karelitz from Bnei Brak.

Friends of mine picked them up in the streets of Mea Shearim and gave them to me. One pamphlet mentioned a certain chassidic man in the neighbourhood inviting guys for Shabbat and besides all the food, they had to listen to what was called "irreligious opinions". Additionally, the hosts full name and address was given. Another one of those "flying messages" mentioned two shops in Malchei Israel Street selling Tallitot with a seal of a company which has no connection with the shops.

It is not only those public messages. In religious neighbourhoods everybody knows everything. The worst what can happen is that someone lives on the ground floor and all the kids from the "hood" stare through the window. I have experienced it myself when I visited friends and many people complain about being stared at.
Someone chassidic and living in such a neighbourhood, of course, knows all society rules and the fact that everybody is watching all the others. Even if they do not intend to watch you on purpose.

After a while I would just go wild not having my privacy. Although we go to chassidic neighbourhoods every Shabbat and I have lots of friends from religious societies, I really enjoy my "freedom" during the week when I am somewhere else in town.

As we go to different Tishes, we also met many people of different chassidic groups, and as we are a kind of regulars, we realized that we are also being watched. No one at a Tish cares what exactly you wear. What I am trying to say is that, of course, one should be dressed modestly but when you only comes once in a while, no one is going to make a fuzz if you wear a skirt with many colours or a black skirt.

However, as soon as one goes regularly and meets people, things are starting to get very different. On Shabbat, I dress modestly and behave in a certain way but not only because I want to but also because I have to.