Thursday, October 30, 2008

Avraham Yitzchak Tish in Beit Shemesh

Far Right: The Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe.


Due to a Bar Mitzwah, the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe Yaakov Shmuel Kahn has been in Beit Shemesh this week. He will also give a great Tish for his Beit Shemesh community this Shabbat (Parashat Noach).

Oldest Hebrew Inscription found

Archive Photo from the Israel Museum / Jerusalem


South of Jerusalem, near the town of Beit Shemesh, archeologists found the oldest Hebrew inscription so far. 3000 years old and the Hebrew University archeologist Yossi Garfinkel claims that these written five lines are prove enough that the kingdom of King David was indeed a powerful mighty kingdom and not just a village of an meaningless tribe.,7340,L-3615309,00.html

Whoever has had doubts so far and thought that the Tanach couldn't serve as a precise history book, should start reconsidering his opinion. Not only this latest found proves it but already all the others before. And just look at the remains of the Second Temple. Israel was and is a Jewish country and no Palestinian nor other foreigner has the right to make any claim.

Good to have a Break !

Beach in Tel Aviv


Jerusalem always means plenty of work to me whereas Tel Aviv is more relaxing. Not that I don't work in Tel Aviv but everything is much more relaxed. Especially my life. One of the reasons may be the beach and another reason may be the totally different mentality of the people. Furthermore, Jerusalem is always so full of tension. Politically and religiously.

As soon as I pass religious neighbourhoods, I have to be careful that I won't meet Haredim I know. I am mostly wearing pants during the week, but many Haredim know for a long time that I am not too much into their society. Not from the outside and more from the inside.

However, also my inside needs a break and in the middle of next week, I am going back to Tel Aviv for quite a while. Having a break from the religious, pressure and tension but not from G - d. I am really looking forward to it and thus, already travel to Tel Aviv today; although I will be back in Jerusalem for Shabbat. I have the constant feeling that in Tel Aviv I can be whoever I am but in Jerusalem, I am limited. Not only according to a religious lifestyle but especially according the whole Jerusalem mentality. Sometimes it can be like prison and then it is always good to leave and see something else. Meet other people and get a clear mind.

Adam HaRishon, Part 2


Note: Please find "Adam HaRishon, Part 1" here:

The subject "Adam HaRishon – The first Man" an important issue before Rosh HaShana. Of course, not only before Rosh HaShana but especially then, as Adam was created on the sixth day of Creation with comes out on Rosh HaShana.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 38a asks why G – d didn't already create Adam on the first day of Creation. Why only at the end ? One of the various answer the Talmud suggests is if G – d had created Adam on the first day, heretics could claim that G – d didn't create everything alone but had a partner. On the other hand, one can argue that not everything was created on the first day. How should Adam have been able to live; without plants, sustenance and everything else a human beings need to survive ? But didn't G – d create and put him into Gan Eden (Paradise) on the sixth day of Creation ?

Until today, no one in this world is fully able to explain the concept of "Gan Eden". Is Gan Eden a physical existing place or just an unbelievable high soul level ? It says in Midrash Rabbah that Paradise (Gan Eden) was already created on the third day and thus, Adam could have been created earlier.

There are different interpretations regarding the "Tree of Knowledge – Etz HaDa'at Tov ve'Rah"; what kind of fruit exactly did Adam and Chava (Eve) eat ? One thing is for sure, it wasn't an apple but otherwise, many opinion exist. In the Talmud as well as in the Midrash. Some commentators say that the tree actually was a wheat tree, other say a grape tree. Adam and Chava ate grapes representing the concept of drunkenness. Were the two of them drunk ? Furthermore, figs and Etrogim (citrus) are being discussed.

When Adam and Chava ate from the tree, they did so without saying any Beracha (blessing) for the food. How could they, as they weren't feeling too comfortable with breaking G – d's rules ? G – d had commanded them not to eat from the "Etz HaDa'at" and if the two first human beings had done so, they would have been allowed to eat from the tree on Shabbat anyway. G – d's plan was to give them anything on Shabbat. But, as it usually is, humans mostly want what they cannot have. However, Adam was supposed to be on the highest level a human being could ever be. As soon as he sinned, most of these high levels disappeared and until today, we spend our lives with Tikunim (soul rectifications) in order to bring the world back to its former high spiritual level. Those Tikunim our done by prayer and Mitzwot.

One of the most famous questions deals with the snake. Was it a real snake or just a concept for something else ? If the snake was just a concept, then why did it speak ?

There are two main definitions:

1. The snake was real. It says in Midrashic literature that in Gan Eden, snakes still walked on two legs and had a mind similar to ours today. Including speech.
The snake wanted Chava for sexual purposes to itself and, therefore, planned to get rid of Adam. Chava was to be convinced to eat from the tree; then Chava did the same with Adam an, as a punishment, G – d would kill Adam. The result would be that the snake has Chava to itself. The plan failed and the snake lost.

2. The snake was not real but stands as a symbol for something else. Gan Eden never existed in the physical but only in the metaphorical spiritual world. The snake rather represents the "Yetzer HaRah – evil side" of human beings. Chava stood in front of the tree and fought with herself if she should eat or not. She lost her inner conflict and ate. And, until today, this is the "snake" in each of us. We want to do the right thing and follow G – d's Mitwot but suddenly all these little doubts enter our minds. Maybe we should fulfill the Mitzwot later and first sit down and have breakfast. Maybe eating a cheeseburger is not that bad. In other words, we are able to find any justifications concerning our missing the Torah goal.

Chava could have been convinced as follows:
The snake (or whatever it was) came and wanted Chava to eat from the tree. Chava claimed that G – d had told them not to eat from the tree. The snake then pushed her against the tree and said that it doesn't do any harm touching the tree. And if she can touch the tree, she can eat its fruit.


The whole story of Creation as well as Adam and Chava are the most complicated subjects / topics in our Torah. Nevertheless, Adam afterwards regretted his action und today, we can read his Teshuva prayer in many kabbalistic books (e.g. "Sefer Raziel HaMalach").

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wedding and Politics

A wedding in Gur


The Gerrer Rebbe (Gur), Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, decided today to change his granddaughter's wedding date. Formerly, the wedding of the oldest daughter of the Rebbe's son, Rabbi Nechemiah of Ashdod, was due to take place on 16th Shevat (10th February 2009).
And as we know since today, February 10th will be the date for the new Knesset elections.

The Gerrer Rebbe attending a different wedding.

The Gerrer Rebbe doesn't want to interfere with the Knesset elections, as his Chassidim are supposed to go and vote for "Agudat Israel". How can they all do this while celebrating at a wedding ?
Thus, Gur decided to separate the two dates and the wedding of his granddaughter is now supposed to take place on the Tuesday before the Knesset elections.

The Gerrer Rebbe has the custom to celebrate the weddings of family members on Tuesdays, as it says in the Torah: "Ki Tov - Because it is good".

From a Female Point of View: SUKKOT IN MEA SHEARIM


I had already described some of the Sukkot events in Mea Shearim during the holiday. However, there are further additional details I would like to point out. Chassidim themselves as well as the Israeli online magazine YNET have already reported some peculiar incidents and therefore, I would like to describe some events rather from a female point of view. The gender here is very important, as Mea Shearim is well – known for its restrictions concerning women.

I am already used to it but outsiders may regard it as totally fundamentalist or even absurd. Every Sukkot, the main road in Mea Shearim, the Mea Shearim Street, is divided between male and female. This only takes places on Chol HaMoed Sukkot (the intermediate days of Sukkot), and particularly in the evenings. The main road, the area around the chassidic group of Toldot Aharon and their Synagogue are divided; as well as the area around the Satmarer Synagoge on Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum in Yoel Street (opposite Karlin – Stolin).

For women, the Toldot Aharon Synagoge was divided into a female entrance and exit. The women entered in the back of the building and left in the front. Already in front of the stairs outside the Ezrat Nashim (women's section) was a huge line – up. Countless visitors were anxiously waiting to get in: Toldot Aharon (TA) women, Litvishe, national religious as well as chassidic women from other groups. People were just storming the TA building. From the inside, we heard chassidic music played by their own band. Whoever listened to the music outside couldn't resists of sneaking inside and having a look of what is going on.
Once I got inside, I had to make my way through the long corridor into the Synagogue. Two young Israeli girls were employed as private modesty guards. Not from Mea Shearim but total outsiders wearing yellow vests. Basically the security girls were there to watch that each of us wore modest clothes. The same happened outside. An Arab suicide bomber could have come with a bomb but the security staff just if the clothes were modest enough.

After entering the Ezrat Nashim, I only saw women's legs standing on the metal benches. There was no space left but the women kept on climbing up in order to look downstairs into the men's section. There, the Chassidim and their visitors were dancing wildly. The whole scene looked like a rock concert and the last time I had seen such masses climbing on top of the benches was when one of the two the Satmarer Rebbes, Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum, was visiting Jerusalem in August 2007. There are times when I simply think that all the metal benches are about to collapse. However, some women were quite successful in climbing up and were really able to see.

Was a woman turning into Mea Shearim Street on the right (outside the TA Synagogue), she was supposed to walk on in the left side. The men walked in the middle of the road and the women were sharing a narrow sidewalk. The sidewalk was terribly packed and the worst was when there were women coming with their baby carriages. According to YNET, 15,000 visitors found their way to Mea Shearim on each night of the Sukkot holiday.
The area across Toldot Aharon, right in front of the Breslover Synagogue, was one of the busiest, as people were walking through the main road or crossing into the local market to the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak. The whole main road divided the genders by a white plastic curtain, so that no men could see the women. The question was what happened when you had to change directions I order to get inside the Mea Shearim market ?

It was definitely a men's idea setting up this wooden bridge in front of Breslov. The men were walking over the bridge and the women passed underneath. In the end, the bridge proved itself as completely useless because at the crossing, everyone saw and passed each other. Despite all the metal fences and plastic curtains, the genders met and saw each other. The whole Mechitzah (division) caused just chaos and I didn't really get the reason for the bridge. Last year, everything worked fine without it.

And with the bridge, speculations and facts were just starting.
I heard that the Toldot Aharon as well as the Mishkenot HaRoim had organized the division. The proof is that many Toldot Aharon Chassidim were watching the private security guards who were actually watching the modesty. The TA Chassidim even ruled the ongoing traffic (buses and cars). There was a certain rumour that the whole modesty chaos was only caused in order to block the entrance to the Mea Shearim market or in other words, the purpose was to make it as hard as possible to get into the market. Why ? Because the TA split – off, the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak, are located in the market. Their Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn is the older brother of the TA Rebbe David Kahn. The relationship between the two brothers is unknown or at least, hard to describe. On the one hand, they appear to be friends; at least publically. On the other hand, there are obvious disputes what we could see during Sukkot.

A Chassid told me that the present fight on Sukkot was caused by Cholent (stew with meat, beans and potatoes). The TA Rebbe had decided that visitors of his group should receive regular food in the Sukkah and no Cholent. The Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe, however, decided that visitors and Chassidim would receive the regular Cholent. It is unbelievable that a pot full of Cholent could cause such trouble between two chassidic groups.
Additionally, there was a further argument between the Toldot Aharon and the Neturei Karta. I still haven't found out the reason, and so far only that the dispute between the TA and the Neturei Karta has a longer history. Furthermore, the Toldot Aharon were accused of beating up Yeshiva students.

The secular press and other outsiders always consider such incidents as a sensation and jump on it. The Chassidim, however, don't seem to care about the public opinion but just about the orders of their Rebbe. "My Rebbe is right and yours is wrong". Nevertheless, the question is, how far the Rebbes really influence what is happening. Are they giving the orders or is it just their Chassidim acting in a certain way ? Who turns out to be against whom ?

I am always more interested in how the women feel. As a woman, you walk behind a metal fences covered by a white plastic curtain. Such pictures we only know from Iran or Afghanistan and not from the modern State of Israel. At the beginning the whole Mechitzah and all those male ideas went on my nerves. Who can think of such restrictions at all ?
In the end, I got used to the Mechitzot (divisions). One of the reasons may be that I don't live in a haredi area and thus, Iam not facing all this throughout the entire Sukkot. Moreover, the division only takes place during Sukkot.
I met women who thought that the division is just absurd and I met those welcoming the Mechitzah. The latter enjoyed walking around without men starring at them. Those people complaining had not other choice but accepting the rules in the end. Either you go with it or don't even come. There is no third way.

My personal dilemma began when I had to cross the men's section. I intended to go into the Synagogue of the Mishkenot HaRoim and had to cross the main road used by men. One of the security guards let me pass quickly and no one complained. I jumped into the Synagogue where a chassidic woman tried to get her baby carriage upstairs. As soon as I jumped in, she smiled at me and nodded. Well, I had made it.

All the divisions of the gender in haredi society – I am already used to all the rules. The Litvishe are less strict but most Chassidim are. As a woman, I am limited in my movements. Going to a chassidic Tish is the best example. Women sit upstairs and usually don't get any Shirayim (food) from the Rebbe. Nothing. Unless you go to Kretchnif in Jerusalem, where the women may get some cake. Women sit behind a glass Mechitzah and hardly hear the words of the Rebbe's Derasha (teaching). The Toldot Aharon Rebbe even made a decree that women have to leave his Tish at least 15 minutes before it officially ends. Otherwise all the genders would gather in the streets and this automatically causes immodesty.

Someone from the outside probably thinks that all those divisions are just totally out of place and have nothing to do with today's world. Whoever deals a lot with Chassidim is not surprised about anything anymore and get used to many things. There is hardly a woman who desires to rebel because no one will change society anyway. In case there are innovations, they are going to come slowly and step by step, and not because someone is starting a rebellion.

For the next visit at a chassidic Tish, I am going to wear my modest clothes and try to show a proper behaviour. One gets used to anything and all this doesn't mean that chassidic women do behave the same way at home. In your home your can do whatever you want and the neighbours don't need to know everything !

The Sky over Jerusalem


The sky over Jerusalem -
Oct. 27th, 2008,
at approx. 3pm.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hungarian Jews and the "Kastner Train"


Despite of being born in Germany, I have never felt a real interest in investigating the fate of the German Jews during the Holocaust. Of course, I learned more than enough about the whole subject at school and in my private time. However, any Holocaust interest seemed to disappear as soon as I entered Yeshiva. Then I was busy with studying the Jewish religion and I had more than enough to do with that.

But even religion is no escape from the Holocaust. On the contrary, as countless Jews ask the famous questions if there is a G - d and how could He let a Holocaust happen. Most people completely forget that the Holocaust was only an tiny little part within Jewish history and that there had been former pogromes. Let alone the Crusades and the mass killings during the Middle Ages ?

Jewish religion deals a lot with the Holocaust and, as you can imagine, there are plenty of opinions. Kabbalah claims certain Gilgulim (reincarnations) and Chassidut emphazises the "Meshiach Concept". Does collective suffering stand for a Tikun (soul rectification) ? Can a soul have a Tikun by undergoing all this suffering and thus, lead us into the Messianic era ?

The concept includes various opinons and is extremely complicated.

For some years already, I have been intensely dealing with chassidic subjects and my blogs are full of Rebbes, history, customs, etc. Nevertheless, my importance have always been the Jews of Eastern Europe and not those in Germany. How did Chassidut deal with the Holocaust and how is the issue regarded today ?
Hundred of thousands of Chassidim were brutally murdered; a subject not too much noticed in today's worldwide press.
Dealing with chassidic history automatically means dealing with the Holocaust. During the past months, quite a lot of e - mails have reached me demanding to write about the "Kastner (Kasztner) Train". Before, I had never really dealt with Kastner and his train. I only got to the subject when I started investigating the history of Chassidut Satmar. Usually we only hear about Oscar Schindler or Raoul Wallenberg but who knows about Kastner or Hannah Senes if not rather professional historians or history freaks ?

Rudolf (Kasztner) Kastner is still of importance in Israel and not at all forgotten. His positive or negative (whatever you like to call it) myth is still very much alive. He was plead guilty for Nazi collaboration and in 1957, shot as an act of revenge. Kastner, himself a Hungarian Jew, was accused of "having made a pact with the devil" by dealing with Adolf Eichman. Due to immense amounts of money and diamonds, Eichman agreed that approx. 1700 Jews would be allowed to leave Hungary for Switzerland. All the other hundreds of thousands of Jews ended up in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. It looks like no one has been warned before the Germans started their invasion. Why not and what had happened if they had been warned ? Why did the rich pay so much money in order to save their lives and why were others left behind ?

Was Kastner a hero or someone who acted in a selfish manner or to become rich ? Rich and mighty ?
What was the role of the religious Zionists and the Chassidim ? Did the Zionists only think about rescuing themselves ? What was the role of the Rebbes and did they tell their Chassidim the truth ?

The "Kastner Case" is highly complicated; also because different Israeli parties liked to use Kastner for their own purposes and intrigues.

The Holocaust Museum "Yad Vashem" still deals with documents and facts.

I am still collecting material and any kind of information, and I even founded a group on FACEBOOK:

"Hungarian Jewry and the Kastner Train".

Whoever has helpful reliable information is welcomed to send them to me. Especially about Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov Weissmandl or Rabbi Yissachar Teichtal.

Nevertheless, one point has to be made very clear:

Neither Rudolf Kastner nor the Jews caused a Holocaust !
Never forget that it were the Germans (including their beloved allies as well as Austria) starting a Holocaust and a war . Only Germany and its Allies are responsible for the mass murder of six million Jews and there will never be any verdict of not being guilty.



"Rebbe Teitelbaum and the Kastner Transport"

Do we have the right to question the Holocaust ?

Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal changed his mind

The Chassidim and the Holocaust

For those readers who are not too interested in the Holocaust: At least this gives you an opportunity looking into the history of Hungarian Jewry.

Hakafot in Gur


Thanks to one of my readers who sent me these two amazing photos from the "Hakafot" in Chassidut Gur. The pictures were taken in the Gerrer Beit Midrash in Jerusalem.

Gerrer Chassidim encircling their Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter.

Monday, October 27, 2008

EGGED and its Commercials


The state - owned Israeli bus company EGGED decided not to use any further commercials or advertising posters with women appearing.
No more commercials with women on Israeli buses. Only male models are allowed to be seen.

With this decision, EGGED wants to avoid further vandalism on its buses. In the past, haredi extremists had ripped off advertising posters or destroyed even the whole bus.

Of course, this kind of vandalism has not being carried out by all Haredim but rather by a very tiny extreme minority.

Is EGGED giving in too much ?

The Rude Christian Missionaries


Every time you come for a Shabbat meal at Rabbi Mordechai Machlise's house in the Ma'alot Dafna neighbourhood in Jerusalem, the participants are given the opportunity to make a speech. First, the Rabbi is teaching and then every participant can say whatever he wants. Not really "whatever he wants", as Rabbi Machlis gives three restrictions beforehand:

1. The teaching shouldn't be longer than three minutes !"
2. No politics on Shabbat !"
3. Not offending anyone and not quoting sources from foreign ideologies such as Christianity. Or in other words, NO MISSIONIZING !"

Last Friday night, a Christian woman from the States, calling herself "Israel" sat down at one of the Machlis tables. Everyone knew that she is Christian because she very much looked like it. Moreover, she put the New Testament right next to her plate and honestly, I just knew that she is up to something.
However, she was very quiet and waited until Rabbi Machlis called up people for the teachings. As far as I remember, she was the second person getting up, and then started quoting two sentences; one from the Torah and one from Isiah (Yeshayahu). She obviously thought that by quoting a sentence (taken completely out of context), she can awake the Jews and convince them that the context would fit into the Christian Meshiach ideology. However, Rabbi Machlis explained her the real meaning of the concepts mentioned in the Tanach.

My complaint is that Christian missionaries are walking around in Jerusalem, are not ashamed of stuffing themselves with Jewish food and then later get up in order to make an anti - Jewish speech. The missionaries think that only they know the truth and that the Jews are stupid and just don't get it that "Mr. J. is the Meshiach".
Who do those people think they are ?
There are many Jews who have studied the Torah and further writings very intense; from the day they were born, they learned Jewish law and anything you can imagine. And then a Christian missionary is coming to a Rabbi's house and thinks that he can convince Jews with his stupid remarks and confused concepts.

Is there any human logic behind it ? And are the missionaries not ashamed of themselves ? I would never get the idea of going into a church, stuffing myself with Christian food and then talking about Judaism. Going to churches, priests, etc. would never even occur to me !



There are plenty of times when I don't understand the Israeli government. As if anyone could understand our bribed politicians anyway. However, we Jews should have all learned from our own past; Inquisition, Talmud burning, Crusades, Holocaust, the Nazi Pope Pius, the present Nazi Pope Benedict (as many Israelis like to call him) and from the ties between the Muslims and the Vatican. Nevertheless, all these facts don't upset many Jews, as they only run after their own reputation and greed. Just look at President Shimon Peres getting knighted by Queen Elisabeth. Isn't the President aware of the anti - Semitism of the Windsor family ?
But never mind because the present Pope is a much more serious issue. How can any Jew still speak to him and, let alone, invite him anywhere. A Pope who is against the Jews, still keeps on hiding Jewish Temple artifacts and writings in the Vatican, who served in the German Nazi army and who is anxiously defending an anti - Semitic former Pope.

By Barry Chamish

      On Yom Kippur, the former Nazi, Pope Benedict XVI, announced that he would approve Pope Pius XII as a saint. Pius, the Holocaust Holy See, could have done much to stop the slaughter of the Jews if at one Sunday sermon, he had warned the murderers that they would face an eternity in Hell. But he would no more do that than the popes would have warned their monasteries that enslaving and working to death millions of American Indians was a crime against his God.
      His apologists insist that a fascist gun was put to his head during the war, so somehow, he was innocent of the charges of aiding genocide. These same apologists have no answer to the post-war Vatican ratlines, which saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Nazis by hiding them in Vatican monasteries, providing them with fake passports, and liberating them worldwide. Yes, Pius knew and approved.
       Everyone, but one in Israel, objected to Benedict's plans to raise the butcher pope to sainthood. Unfortunately, the one who did not object was Pres. Shimon Peres. He was too busy planning the pope's visit to Israel for that.
       And then, on Nov.4, the anniversary of the Peres' murder of Yitzhak Rabin, the Vatican will be mending its ties to the Moslems in Rome:

ROME 4-6 November 2008 Catholic and Muslim scholars initiate formal talks,8599,1848707,00.html
On Thursday, Benedict put his moral weight (though not yet his signature) behind the cause for sainthood for Pope Pius XII.
At a special Mass on Thursday marking 50 years since Pius' death, Benedict praised his wartime predecessor's actions to save Jews and called on Catholics to "pray that the cause of his beatification goes forward smoothly."
Peres on Sunday told reporters the issue should not be a barrier.
"The visit to the holy country is nothing to do with anger or disputes," Peres said. "It's holy all the time, it's holy for all of us."
Benedict has repeatedly defended Pius, saying he worked "secretly and silently" during World War Two to "avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews possible.." \
At an Oct. 9 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Pius' death, Benedict said he prayed the process which could lead to Pius' beatification "can proceed happily."

Pope Benedict made Peres very jealous when he named his plotter buddy, 'Rabbi' David Rosen, a Papal Knight. Not to be undone by his pipsqueak co-conspirator, Peres is pushing hard to be made a knight himself, this time by Queen Elizabeth II of the British Commonwealth.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jewish Enough ?


People who are planning to convert to Judaism in an Orthodox way or already have converted and are now thinking of making Aliyah, should definitely read this article:

Israels secular "Misrad HaPnim - Ministry of the Interior" suddenly decides about the Jewishness of a convert. Aliyah is denied to many Orthodox converts whereas the reform or conservative hardly face any problems.

Who is Jewish enough for our secular government ? Definitely not Ruth the Moabite but rather the Gibeonites from the times of Joshua.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chassidic Clothes - A brief History


In 1764, Russia, Prussia and Austria divided Poland, Latvia, Reisin and the Ukraine among each other, and for the next 120 years, the local Chassidim were forced to adjust to Russian, etc. rules. When Russia, Prussia and Austria divided the four other areas, the governments didn't take all the thousands of Chassidim into consideration. Suddenly there were all these Chassidim in countries not really used to them. And especially the Christian population feared the spreading of Chassidut (Christians may convert to Judaism, etc.).

Very early, Russia introduced new laws concerning chassidic life and clothing style:

1. Jews were not allowed to spread all over the new ruling countries but had to live in certain areas only.

2. Jews had to follow a special clothing style.

3. Example: Jewish traders were forced to wear German or Russian clothing style and not anything chassidic.

Especially religious Jews have always kept Jewish traditions and, throughout history, have tried to keep a special clothing style separating them from Gentiles. And didn't most of the Jews (Israelites) in Egypt keep three important Jewish traditions:

1. The Hebrew language.

2. Giving Jewish names to their children.

3. A Jewish clothing style.

In 1827, two years after Czar Nicolas I. came to power, he introduced a fatal law: Every Jewish child (young man) had to join the Russian army. Rabbis and families feared to loose many religious young man to secularism. In the army they wouldn't be provided with kosher food and get into contact with Gentiles and their customs and religion. How should these Jewish young men resist all the temptations and, furthermore, loose time to study Torah ?

The chassidic Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshis'cha stated: "Every Jew has to be extremely careful not to adjust his clothes to Gentile clothes because our Jewish clothes give us Kedusha (Holiness) and this is where we depend on".

There are opinions considering chassidic kaftans as something kabbalistic and mystical. So far, I haven't really had the time to find out more but, for now, let's put it this way: The chassidic groups Toldot Aharon, the Toldot Aharon Yitzchak as well as parts of Breslov, sometimes wear two kaftans on Shabbat. Mostly a brown kaftan over their first regular one, and this second kaftan represents the kabbalistic "Or Makif – A shining light".

Especially the Russian and the Austrian governments introduced many rulings concerning the Jews and their clothes. They should look "normal" and dress as everyone else did. Even the Peyes (side curls) were supposed to be cut off. However, religious Jews refused to give in to the new rules and rather preferred paying a high tax to the above governments in order to keep their traditional style and the Peyes.



Among others – An article written by Rabbi Amram Bloi (Blau) and published in the chassidic magazine "Heichal HaBesht".

Rabbi Amram Bloi (1894 – 1974) used to be the head of the Neturei Karta in Mea Shearim.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rebbe Teitelbaum and the Kastner Transport


The following details about the Satmarer Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum are taken from Esther Farbstein's book "Hidden in Thunder".

When the Nazis occupied Hungary, also the Satmarer Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum (1886 – 1979) was in life danger. Until 1944, the Rebbe helped newcomers settling in Budapest. Furthermore, he worked in cooperation with Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandel as well as with his father – in – law, Rabbi Shmuel David Ungar of Nitra.

His Chassidim tried to smuggle the Satmarer Rebbe into Romania but his car was caught by the Hungarian police. The Rebbe then was taken to the Klausenburg (Cluj) Ghetto. At that time, the Kastner (Kasztner) – Eichmann negotiations were already in progress and later on, Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum left with the train.

Many people claim until today that the anti – Zionist Rebbe Teitelbaum was actually rescued by the Zionists, as it was them organizing the train. Nevertheless, the train was financed by various groups and the passengers came from all kinds of different community backgrounds.

From Cluj (Klausenburg), the Kastner train ended first in Bergen Belsen and on December 7, 1944 (21 Kislev), Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum finally reached Switzerland. There was lots of grief when the Rebbe left Klausenburg, but, on the other hand, there was also plenty of relief, when the Rebbe was finally saved. The Satmarer thought that now, maybe the Rebbe can help them and these thoughts gave them strength.

The Kastner train was loaded with almost 1,700 Jews who, in the second half of 1944, escaped from Nazi occupied Hungary to Switzerland. 450,000 members of the Hungarian Jewish community were deported to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Rudolf Kastner had made an agreement with the SS Officer Adolf Eichmann to let a number of Jews escape when they pay a certain amount of money and diamonds.

I am planning to write a separate article on the "Kastner Transport" as well as why 450.000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz and didn't escape before the Germans occupied Hungary.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Guest Posting by Yisroel - Voices of the Admurim and Ben-Zion Halberstam of Bobov


I have always been very anxious to know how it is to visit a chassidic Tish in New York and, as I am not there myself, I am very grateful that Yisroel is willing to write some guest postings on the subject.

This is his first guest posting and I hope that the readers of SHEARIM enjoy it !


Voices of the Admurim and Ben-Zion Halberstam of Bobov:

It would be hard to argue that there is a sweeter voice among the Rebbes of today than that of Ben-Zion Halberstam. Just to introduce myself, my name is Yisroel, and I'm a ba'al teshuvah living in New York. I'm an avid reader of shearim. I work as a chazzan, and over the past three years or so I have taken to a love to chassidus.

It began in a shtiebel in Lakewood, New Jersey, where I had been visiting for shabbos. As soon as Lechu Neranena began I was transported. Never before had I heard people daven out loud. I knew of modern orthodox shuls, the very litvishe shuls of Lakewood where chas veshalom one would even sing lecha dodi too loud, and the conservative shuls. Here for the first time people were not only saying the words out loud, but exclaiming the words! Singing them out from lechu neranena until es menuchasi. Every word was said with passion and intensity. When we got to lecha dodi, and I heard my first chassidishe niggun I felt like I had come home. Everyone sang, the little kids sang.

It was this experience that finally led me to examine the words I had been saying for a few years working as a chazzan, and davening occasionally during the week. Finally, I delved deeper into the davening, and found new meaning. Ever since this first experience of davening with chassidim I have used virtually every one of my weeks off as a chazzan to visit chassidic communities for shabbos. I have never found greater religious inspiration than in the chassidic niggunim I continue to discover and in the time I spend in such communities as Satmar, Skver, Bobov, Belz, and Stolin.

For chol hamoed Sukkos I attended the tisch at Bobov, 48th st. Waiting and waiting in the sukkah for some time I decided to wander into the shul only to discover that there was a pre-tisch taking place inside. The shul was pakced to capacity (perhaps almost 1,000 people), and the women's galleries were full, as well. The interesting thing about Bobov is that if one looks up to the second and third floors, one can see the women in full view if they are standing, and they usually are. There is no glass window, no peephole to look through, no hole in the floor (and I spotted a very dangerous one in one shul, which a crowd of women were to gather around, and try to get a gaze of what was going on with the men). Bobov seems to be a bit more liberal with these things. The singing and dancing on the forenches (bleachers) was intense and very moving. I managed to push my was to the front to get on line to shake the Rebbe's hand. He gave me a gut yontif, a warm smile, and even followed my gaze as I walked away.

Soon the tisch in the beautiful Bobov Sukkah began, and there was lots of food to go around. In fact I was very full from the kugel and salads by the time the Rebbe arrived. The Rebbe began by singing shir hamaalos three times, and as is the Bobov custom, the chassidim interject a melody after every few lines that the Rebbe sings. Everyone sings right on cue. That's the one thing that I realized about Bobov after going to a couple of tischen. There's no real degree of spontenaity. Everything seems to be set in stone, every niggun, every note at its proper time. But the set up is wonderful, and listening the the Rebbe's voice as he sang shir hamaalos I was completely transported. For the first time I heard him with a microphone (he has a very small voice without it), and the sweetness rang out. I imagined bright colors coming from his lips accompanying these sweet sounds. Of all the admurim I have not heard sweeter. The other Rebbe, Mordechai Dovid Unger is not too far behind. He seems to put a little more stress on the words as he enunciates them. Some might call it more kavanah, but whatever it is, it is a sweet voice in itself.

Another unusually beautiful voice is that of the Kaliver Rebbe. Yes, it's a bit frail, but it is very unique. He seems to be greatly respected, and was even asked to sing some songs at the big Belzer Bar-Mitzvah last year. Another favorite is Rav Gerstner, a chassidishe Rabbi, but I don't seem to have any more information on him. If anyone could tell me more about him it would be greatly appreciated. On the DVD bechatzrot kadsheinu he seems to be treated like a gadol. He too has an unusually sweet voice. I've heard him sing the famous song Ilan, and make a few brachos.

But back to the tisch at Bobov. The sukkah was packed beyond capacity, and finally the violinists took the stage behind the Rebbe as is the Bobov custom every year. About a dozen violinists played some famous songs such as kol rinah (in which the crowd tried to join in, but were shushed), and some other songs, not known to me. Again people tried to join in, but were shushed immediately. The playing was nice. In classical standards they really could have used some work, but for the occasion it was a delight. Certainly about ten grades better than the Kretchnifer Rebbe's playing or the Zutchka Rebbe's (I believe) playing at Chanukah, as is their custom. I believe that the Rebbe of Premishalem plays as well, and seems to have taken a few extra lessons than the other admurim.

Bobov has an interesting custom when they have people from out of town (perhaps it's done in other places, but I haven't seen it). They pass out large bottles of beer, coors light, and each bottle is designated for a particular person from out of town. The gabbai will scream out "Yossele Green aus London," and the bottle will go all around the room until it gets to Yossele Green from London." He then shares it with the people around him. The same is done with some of the sheerayim. "Yosef Baum aus Bnei Brak," and it will go around until it finds him. Somehow I ended up with a good deal of beer that ended up in front of me, and I drank my share until I was almost buzzed. The singing continued, the Rebbe spoke for about twenty five minutes, and all in all it was a wonderful tonight. The Bobover tisch is an experience, but for me personally never seems to reach the intensity of a Skverer or Stoliner tisch, my two most memorable experiences. In the coming weeks I will be going to Satmar and Skver, and look forward to writing again.

Jewish Artifacts found after 70 years

Germany after Crystal Night (the Night of Broken Glass)


Israeli journalist Yaron Svoray found stolen Jewish artifacts:,7340,L-3611527,00.html

Money makes the Breslov World go round


Someone once asked me if it is true that Rabbi Eliezer Berland is asking for 1000 Dollar in order to arrange a meeting with him.

For those of you who have never heard about Rabbi Berland:
He is the biggest Baal Teshuva Rabbi within the Breslov movement. At least in Israel. Rabbi Berland lives right next to Mea Shearim - Shivtei Israel Street and built his "Shuvo Banim Yeshiva" in the Arab Quarter. He never really got accepted by the original Breslover Chassidim of Mea Shearim and they even told him not to sit on Rabbi Nachman's original chair in the great Breslover Synagogue.

After not being accepted by the original Breslover (the descendants of the followers of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov), Berland decided to found his own little movement. He was and is quite successful but started asking for money. 1000 Dollar for a meeting !
Well, this is a way to make money on the back of the humbled Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. If he just knew ...

I asked a former colleague of mine if the 1000 Dollar price is true. Her husband is one of Berland's students and they live very close to the Breslover Rabbi.
My colleague, however, immediately admitted that this is true. But, she added, Rabbi Berland would use the money for his Yeshiva etc.

I asked her what would happen if I call him up and tell him that I don't have 1000 Dollar but would like to meet him.

She said that I have to pay the money but I shouldn't misinterpret the situation. This is mostly for people who need a Tikun (soul rectification).

Tikun ? What if I need a Tikun but don't have the 1000 Dollar ? What is going to happen to me ? Am I becoming a Dybuk ?

She and I almost had a big fight and in the end she said that I just don't understand Rabbi Berland.
Well, this is very true, as I don't understand the money issue.

After Rabbi Eliezer Berland became more and more successful, one of his students, Rabbi Shalom Arush started his own Yeshiva and movement. I don't know if he is also asking for a 1000 Dollar meeting but Arush is making money by selling his books. Not selling them on his own but sending his students to the Ben Yehudah Mall.

And, last but not least, a student of Rabbi Arush started his own movement as well. Rabbi Lazer Brody saw a new career coming up.

Rabbi Berland started the career movement. Rabbi Arush saw that there is money and then Rabbi Brody learned from Arush who had learned from Berland.

Who wants to be next ?

Poor Rabbi Nachman, as I really like his Chassidut.

Better to Shut Up ?


There are things which make me really upset. Especially when it comes to the religious world. And what drives me crazy there is when some people think that they are so holy, religious, pious, whatever, that hardly anyone else can compete with them. Especially not me because I am just someone walking around in pants and having all these "rebellious" ideas. I am not spending lots of time of my day praying. Tehillim (Psalms) or all the prayers. I do pray but not so obvious for others that they, on the other hand, think that I am so great.

But my intention is not to give the impression that I am disappointed of not getting accepted. This is not the issue.
The issue is that people who think they are so holy behave worse than many totally secular or even heretics.
As soon as some Jews (or potential Jews) see the light and either convert or become Baalei Teshuva, they think that from now on, they are only full or justice, Kedusha (holiness) and Chesed (kindness). Only some Jews and I am not generalizing.

Being a Baal Teshuva doesn't only include doing Mitzwot and praying regularly; it rather means changing your personality to the better and into the direction of Torah. Many people don't even understand this basic principle and don't stop telling others what their particular rabbi has taught them. Only the rabbi counts and the newcomers quote you anything which prooves them right.
On the other hand, when you look at their behaviour, something else comes out; and this is definitely nothing religious. And I am going that far to claim that some converts to Judaism should have rather stayed Christian instead of now bothering Jews with their Torah quotes in a Christian drill sergeant style.

Not only in the litvishe society but also in the chassidishe Welt !
And by the way, where are all the true pious Chassidim from the past ? If we only had the Baal Shem Tov coming back today and looking at all the mess. Chassidic groups are fighting with each other and believe it or not, even a pot full of Cholent is enough to start a fight (as it happened last Sukkot between the Toldot Aharon and the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak).

I do have more to say about the subject but still have to figure out if I want to use names or just put it into a short story. Not Mea Shearim but this time, it is the litvishe Americans driving me crazy.

Well, some of them and not all.

Some people told me that even if there are problems in religious society, we should try to get over it and rather not mention them publically. Who cares anyway and what can you change ? Maybe some people care but there won't be changes. So what ? Why not keep quiet and get over it. Don't bother and continue your own life. Why wasting time and energy ?

I tried to think that way but the whole behaviour seriously bothers me. I cannot just sit and forget. Tomorrow is another day and let's start something new. There are topics which definitely have to be made public. The only question is: How far should we go ? Are there any people involved who could get harmed ?
These questions are very important to me and thus, it is not always easy to find the best solution or a solution at all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Simchat Torah in Zanz


Photos of the SIMCHAT TORAH celebrations in Kiryat Zanz / Netanya (north of Tel Aviv).

The Zanzer Rebbe at yesterday's Simchat Thora.

Who took the pictures at all ?
Maybe they were only taken on today's "Isur Chag", because otherwise taking pictures on a Chag is forbidden. Or was maybe someone cheating ?

All photos can be viewed here:

GUR against Me'ir Porush


The elections for the new mayor of Jerusalem are approaching. On 11th November, we will see who the new mayor is going to replace the present one Uri Lupolianski.

The secular Nir Barkat as well as the Haredi Me'ir Porush are having the best chances. The SHASS representative Aryeh Deri is out, as a court decided that he cannot be elected as a mayor. Aryeh Deri has a crime record and was in jail a few years ago.

The haredi candidate Me'ir Porush has been having an argument with the head of the Litvaks in Israel, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv. Furthermore, Chassidut Gur apparently made a decree not to vote for Porush. It is all haredi politics, as usual. I don't like you because you don't like me.

Men's power games and nothing else !

"No votes for Me'ir Porush", says the Gerrer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter.

The Gerrer Rebbe sent out messages to Chassidut Zanz, Belz, Vishnitz and to Rabbi Eliezer Berland from Breslov. Any support for Me'ir Porush would be considered as an assault against Chassidut Gur.

Great ! So, who is going to be the new mayor ?
A secular guy called Nir Barkat ?


Website Me'ir Porush

Website Nir Barkat

Interview with the SPINKA Rebbe - Jerusalem


The weekly haredi newspaper "HaShavua Be'Yerushalaim - This week in Jerusalem" published an interesting interview with the Rebbe of Chassidut Spinka. Chassidut Spinka has different Rebbes (e.g. in Bnei Brak or New York) and it was the Jerusalem Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai David Kahana, giving this interview.

Rebbe Kahana criticized today's Chassidim that they are not too serious anymore. Instead the Chassidim are interested in modernization and more into the modern world in a whole. All these changes are weakening the Chassidut.

Chassidut Spinka has a long tradition and comes from various chassidic Rebbes or directions: from Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, from Koznitz or Sidichov, for instance. As expected, they also have their own traditions and customs:

On Rosh HaShana, the members don't say all the Piutim written in the Machzor but only those written through Ruach HaKodesh.

Nussach Spinka - Sidichov:
Praying with emotion and the Niggunim need to go to the heart. According to Rebbe Mordechai David Kahana, this kind of Nussach is accepted from Heaven.

Of course, the question of how all the different Spinka Rebbes get along with each other, came up. The Spinka Rebbe of Jerusalem claimed, how else could it be, that all the Spinka Rebbes get along very well and are best buddies.

The Spinka Rebbe of Jerusalem

However, his criticism impressed me most. It is well - known that today's Chassidim are much more modern and even if they live in their own little backyard, at least the guys are being more and more confronted with technology and modern society as a whole. And, of course, this influences even the most pious people. Some manage to resist certain ways of modernity and others don't. The worst enemy of today's ultra - orthodox society is, according to my opinion, the Internet. Unfortunately, not too many Chassidim are able to resist all those virtual temptations.

Rebbe Mordechai David Kahana's Mitzweh Tanz at a wedding

Excavations in front of the "Mughrabi Gate"


Does anyone still remember the riots almost two years ago ? First, the Palestinians caused the whole word to feel sorry for them and look at the Temple Mount (Har HaBeit). The Jews would dig right in front of the "Mughrabi Gate" located next to the Kotel (Western Wall) and those digs are nothing else but a camouflage. The real truth is that the Jews try to storm the Temple Mount in order to throw the Muslims out. Already at that time, not too many people believed these idiotic accusations !

Originally, the dispute started after an earthquake causing the bridge, leading from the Kotel Plaza up to the Temple Mount, to collapse. Thus, the Jerusalem Municipality planned a new bridge but soon archeologists had to be called in because construction workers found antique ruins; obviously from the Byzantine Period. The archeologists started their digs and the Muslims were upset. For many years, the Muslims have been trying very hard to get rid of any proof that there once was a Jewish presents in Jerusalem and that there were any Temples at all. Instead the Palestinians claim until today that the Jews were never in Jerusalem and later stole the land from them. Most Jewish history would be nothing more but a legend. The Muslims keep on announcing that Jerusalem had always been Islamic, despite the fact that history proofs the opposite and despite the fact that the Koran doesn't even mention Jerusalem once, and that Mohammad had never been in Jerusalem.

What happened to the excavations, the new bridge and the conflict ? Two years ago, almost all foreign TV stations (e.g. BBC) broadcasted live from the Kotel and the Arab riots on the Temple Mount.

The digs are still taking place and a whole Byzantine settlement has been discovered. The Palestinians are still upset about the archeological digs and keep on making ridiculous claims. The new wooden bridge is only temporarily set up and a new firm bridge is going to be build after the excavations are ending.

So far, about the subject "ridiculous claims, Arab riots and the Palestinian history lie".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Striped Coats

The blue - white striped coats of the Toldot Aharon


Especially the Toldot Aharon, the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak and certain parts of the Breslover Chassidim in Jerusalem wear them: the long chassidic coats with the blue and white stripes. On Shabbat, all of those groups don't wear the regular blue and white stripes but a kind of shiny gold. On Shabbat, also Karlin - Stolin as well as Karlin - Pinks wear those shiny gold coats. On weekdays, however, they wear black coats.

During Chol HaMoed (intermediate days) Sukkot, I participated in a special tour through the Arab Quarter and our guide, a student of Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim, told us the history of these rather strange coats. As soon as you see a Chassid appearing in such a striped coat, the clothes seem either old fashioned or even out of place. Even Chassidim wear mostly black and white today. Especially the Chassidim from Polish chassidic groups. Some groups try to make a personal difference by placing different amounts of buttons onto their coat (Kaftan). But basically the Chassidim walk around in black coats. Romanian, Hungarian or Ukrainian Rebbes may wear colourful shiny coats on Shabbat (e.g. Nadvorna, Kretchnif, etc.)

The Toldot Aharon as well as their split off, the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak, also make a difference during the week.
Where does their custom come from ?
The founder and first Rebbe of the Toldot Aharon (their former name was "Shomrei Emunim"), Rabbi Aharon Roth, explained that when he first came to Jerusalem and settled here for a few years, he saw the Sephardic Jews of Jerusalem wearing such blue white striped coats. According to his opinion, those were the original Jewish clothes. Rebbe Roth wanted to be as authentic as possible, and thought that this is the right way. Thus, he ordered his Chassidim to wear those coats. The old original Jerusalem style.

On my trip, however, I also heard a different story about the origin of this particular clothing style. First, only the Sephardic Jews wore those coats. Later on, towards the end of the 19th century, the local Arabs in the Arab Quarter refused to let Ashkenazic Jews into their quarter, let alone allowing them access to the Kotel (Western Wall). They preferred the Sephardic Jews and the Ashkenazim could only pass through if they bribed the Arabs.
In order to get in without paying huge amounts of money, Ashkenazic Jews started to dress up as Sephardic Jews. They put on the blue white striped coats and tried to look Sephardi. The Arabs didn't realize the difference and let them pass without asking for bribery.

Slowly, slowly, this way, Ashkenazic Jews took over a Sephardi clothing style whereas the Sepharadim slowly left their old style. Today, you can hardly find a Sephardic Jew dressing up in stripes, and only some Ashkenazic Chassidim do so.
There are some Breslover Chassidim who also wear this kind of coat but they are easy to locate. The Toldot Aharon as well as the Avraham Yitzchak usually wear white sox (on Shabbat and holidays) and black sox during the week. The length of their pants only reaches the knees and the rest consists of long sox being put into the pants.
The Breslover following the blue white striped coat custom, however, wear long pants.

Special remark:
During the week, all Toldot Aharon and Avraham Yitzchak wear black sox.
On Shabbat and during the holidays, the married Chassidim wear white sox and the singles wear black sox.

The striped Shabbat coats

Visiting the Neturei Karta


None of you should ever deny that the Neturei Karta has the most beautiful synagogue in Mea Shearim. Even more awesome than the local Mea Shearim Shtieblach.

During Sukkot, I finally succeeded in getting to the Neturei Karta Synagogue "Torah ve'Yirah" in the Mea Shearim market. There were still the Simchat Beit HaShoeva celebrations going on and Mea Shearim was so packed with people. Locals and plenty of visitors stepping on each others feet.

I mostly ended up with the Toldot Aharon but only succeeded once in seeing something. Once, I moved on to the "Mishkenot HaRoim", a tiny rather secret member of the anti - Zionist umbrella organization "Edah HaCharedit". The men's entrance is easy to find but one has to know the women's entrance. The women's section is long and narrow. However, the Mechitzah consists of windows and the women are able to watch everything going on downstairs in the men's section. And one thing for sure, the "Mishkenot Haroim" know how to celebrate.

A few days later, I went to the Neturei Karta. "Torah ve'Yirah" is considered to be more moderate and not as extreme as Rabbi Israel Hirsch and his clan nearby. Torah ve'Yirah is a relatively new synagogue with a dining room downstairs and a big roof. Well, the women don't climb onto the roof but the women's section is rather high. Take many stairs into consideration when you enter. The cleaning staff is doing a good job and the place is spotless.
The women's section (Ezrat Nashim) itself consists of at least two rooms. One room with chairs, benches and an Aron HaKodesh (Torah Shrine). The second section is full of metal benches where the women are able to look into the ground floor. A gorgeous synagogue I have to say with colourful pictures hanging on the walls and a great architecture. Much nicer than on any picture.

The men were dancing and the male participants were anything but only chassidic. Actually there were more Litvishe but also Toldot Aharon. The whole building was packed that night and everyone was just streaming in. Seminary girls, national religious maybe less than litvishe girls. Americans or Israelis, anybody was there. Someone completely opposing the Neturei Karta said to me that probably most people didn't know that they were at the Neturei Karta's. This could be but everyone seemed to enjoy himself and politics were put aside.

New Anti - Missionary Site


During Sukkot, I met Benjamin Kluger from the Israeli anti - missionary organization "Yad Le'Achim" downtown Jerusalem. According to him, this year's Christian parade on Sukkot taking place in Jerusalem, was less missionizing. Apparently the organizer, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, chose the participants more carefully.

Someone else informed me that the Israeli government seems to have agreed that Christian missionaries build a "missionary center" in northern Israel. If this is really the case, our government is ready to give in to more and more missionaries. American Evangelists donate millions of Dollars to the State of Israel and our politicians should be more careful from whom they take money.

Further, Benjamin told me that until today, Jerusalem has 22 messianic communities (including Maale Adumim). I complained that "Yad Le'Achim" needs to update its present website much more than this has been the case so far. He told me that sometimes this isn't too easy, as there is also lots of red tape within the organization.
Nevertheless, they are planning a new website and soon, I am going to publish a link. For the time being, the new site will only be in Hebrew.

Jews in the Arab Quarter


During every Chol HaMoed, the national religious Yeshiva "Ateret Cohanim Jerusalem" offers free trips through the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. The goal is to make Jews aware of that there is actually plenty of Jewish life in today's Arab Quarter. And not only today, Jews in the Arab Quarter have a long history. More than a hundred years ago, hundreds of Jews lived there. Especially near the Kotel (Western Wall). When you are at the Kotel today and leave the area through the tunnel into the Arab Quarter, after a few meters you can see to your left the former Chatzer of Chassidut Vishnitz in Jerusalem. Right across used to be a Mikweh and if you turn to the left, corner Vishnitz, after another few meters you get to the Breslover Yeshiva "Shuvo Banim" run by Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

I joined the tour together with another twenty people or so. Our guide Avichai, a student at Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim, explained the former Jewish life in the Arab Quarter. A hundred years ago, this part of the Arab Quarter near the Kotel (Western Wall) wasn't called Arab Quarter but "Mixed Quarter". Only due to the pogroms starting in 1929, Jews started leaving the area in order to move to other places. Whoever decided to stay, was killed by the Arab mob. Already in those days, the Arabs (today Palestinians) showed their true character and one should look into this history in order to come to the conclusion that there can never be peace. Today's Palestinians have the same goal getting rid of the Jews in order to occupy the Holy Land alone. No matter what, they don't want Jews and they do anything to get rid of them but, at the same time, lie to the whole world about peace. What peace ? Just learn from history !

Our tour continued visiting previous Jewish places in the Arab Quarter. Only a few meters far away from "Shuvo Banim", we reached the "Kotel HaKatan - the Small Western Wall". When you stand in front of the Kotel, you think that this is it. However, the Kotel itself is far longer than you think; it leads until the Christian Quarter near the Via Dolorosa which is hundreds of meters further than the actual Kotel area we know. The "Kotel HaKatan, is very close to the Azarah of the former Temple (Beit HaMikdash) and, unfortunately, not many people know about it. Our group got there and to its right, you can find the entrance onto the Temple Mount (Har HaBeit) guarded by Israeli soldiers. It is an unbelievable feeling seeing the Arabs walking in and we cannot do so. Not only due to the present impurity, but also due to security issues. The Arabs, on the other hand, feel at home in an area they have nothing to do with and not belonging to them at all.
Everything is up to G - d, what else can I say. It is Him deciding when the Meshiach comes and the Arabs are being kicked out.

Avichai showed us all the houses bought by Jews. There are plenty of especially national religious Jews living in the Arab Quarter. Protected by private security guards and cameras all over the place. But the inhabitants are brave and according to their ideology, we have to show the Arabs that, first of all, we are not afraid and secondly, that we Jews are still around and won't give up.

Ateret Cohanim tries to buy as many houses as possible and settle more and more Jews in the Arab Quarter. There are plenty of people who are willing to live there but not enough housing. It is not so easy convincing an Arab selling his porperty to Jews, as he then needs to go into hiding. Hamas and other terror groups might kill him and thus, Ateret Cohanim has to provide more than only money.

We stood next to a church and Avichai explained us the huge stones we were walking on. Those were from the Second Temple period. Suddenly three groups of Christians started marching and each of them were carrying big crosses around. Praying and singing, whatever. It was obvious that they felt bothered by us and an Arab Christian guard got really mad. We Jews should stand somewhere else and not here. And, by the way, he yelled, the world only belongs to Christians and Muslims and the Jews can go to hell. Who needs them ?
Those Christians tourist from all over the world who were watching the scene said nothing. This told me a lot about the Christian character and apparently they forgot that their false Meshiach Mr. J. was Jewish himself. The whole scene meant that they kicked out their own Meshiach. Isn't that ridiculous ?

We kept on walking and got to a small alleyway with plenty of Hamas flags and graffiti. I was one of the first in the group and didn't pay attention about what was going on behind us. However, some tour group members complained that some stones fell on them. Thrown by Arabs living in the houses around. Avichai made an emergency phone call and asked if we want to continue the tour. As we are Isarelis and have our own mentality, of course, we were ready to continue. And this is exactly what we did. Without further disturbances.

To Ateret Cohanim it is extremely important that people from the outside know that there exists an active Jewish life inside the Arab Quarter. One thing is very obvious, one has to be tough in order to live there and I admire those inhabitants who do.

One last questions remains:
Why doesn't buy Ateret Cohanim more houses in the Christian Quarter ?
Although there were hundreds of Jews living in the Arab Quarter, Jews were never really interested in moving to the Christian Quarter. Today each of us is aware of the threat of Islamic terrorism but when we go back, even into the recent past, the worst enemies of the Jewish people were actually the Christians. And it was the Christians who didn't want any Jews living in their quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. The churches did anything to prevent Jews from coming, let alone, moving there. The same today although Ateret Cohanim succeeded in buying a huge building complex right next to a busy square in the middle of the Christian Quarter.

Wireless Rip - Off in Jerusalem

Don't trust any cafe downtown Jerusalem telling you about their great wireless Internet connection. The AROMA CAFE in Jaffa Road does so as soon as you enter their facilities. You make an order, sit down, try to connect to the wireless and then it doesn't work. No connection.
If you complain to AROMA, only then they finally tell you that the wireless is not their own connection but from the municipality. Or in other words, you spent your money in vain.

Even worse is the COFFEE BEAN also in Jaffa Road, across Cafe Hillel. The COFFEE BEAN is much more expensive than the AROMA but offers its own wireless connection. Many times, however, it doesn't work or the connection is so weak that you need to complain all the time. Furthermore, there are plenty of days when it doesn't work at all but the staff couldn't care less to tell you.

Be aware of all the wireless rip - offs in Jerusalem !

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Photos from Hebron

The "Ma'arat HaMechpelah - Tomb of our forefathers and foremothers in Hebron".

Rivka's (Rebekkas) grave

As Jews and Arabs more or less share the visiting hours, the Arabs used the time and added a new illegal hall to the Ma'arat HaMachpelah.

The Jewish area in Hebron protected by Israeli soldiers.

The curtain at the place where our Sages consider the entrance to Gan Eden (Paradise).

The border between Arabs and Jews in the city of Hebron.

The grave of Sarah Imenu.

The grave of Avraham Avinu.

The Ma'arat HaMachpelah from the outside.

All the photos you can find here:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Simchat Beit HaShoeva in Vishnitz


Yesterday's "Simchat Beit HaShoeva" in Chassidut Vishnitz / Bnei Brak.
The followers of Rebbe Menachem Mendel Hagar !

See all photos here:

The "Birkat HaCohanim"


Yesterday morning (Thursday), the traditional "Blessing of the Priests - Birkat haCohanim" took place at the Kotel (Western Wall)

I didn't go but, instead, went to Tel Aviv and had a good time there. Who says that Tel Aviv is not spiritual ? I found an open library, walked in and found a great book on Chassidut. I was so glad that I went and just found this book by accident. If you want to call it an "accident", as there are not such things and everything is from Heaven. I know.

The Birkat HaCohanim at the Kotel.

In the evening, I was back in Jerusalem, and, as a Toldot Aharon addict, I went to their Simchat Beit HaShoeva celebrations. It was packed but I succeeded in climbing up a metal bench. And, surprise, surprise, I was able to see the men dancing on the ground floor. The Toldot Aharon really know how to throw a party but I am unable do jugde who was better. Them or the "Mishkenot HaRoim" where I went afterwards.

It wasn't easy to get to the Mishkenot HaRoim building in Mea Shearim Street, as everything around is divided by a Mechitzah. However, I asked one of the private guards if I can quickly run through the men's section in order to get to the building right across. I was allowed and nothing happend while I passed.
No stoning or bad looks.:-)

I really enjoyed my time at the Mishkenot HaRoim and, as far as I saw, I was the only non - chassidic (although I am but not according to my clothes) and non - Mea Shearim inhabitant.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach (Yom Tov) to all of you !!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Little Break


Sorry, but I am taking a little break at the moment.

After Sukkot is over, I am giving a fully report about my visits at different chassidic Tishes and groups (among others, the Toldot Aharon, Mishkenot HaRoim, Karlin - Stolin, etc.). Furthermore, an updated Christian missionary report from "Yad Le'Achim", as well as a report about a tour through the Arab Quarter.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom !!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Belzer Rebbe fell


The Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, had an accident on the first day of Sukkot. He fell in the early morning hours and, at that time, there wasn't any help around. It took half an hour until someone came and helped the Rebbe to get up.

The Rebbe was injured at his leg but didn't go to a hospital. Today, the Belzer Rebbe came to the Synagogue in a wheel chair. However, it is also said that the Belzer Tish is going to take place as usual tonight.

The Belzer Rebbe Yissachar Dov Rokeach

The "Modesty Bridge"


Last year I wrote about "The Modesty Street", now I am publishing an article called "The Modesty Bridge". The ultra - orthodox neighbourhood Mea Shearim underwent slight extreme changes and since yesterday, the "Modesty Bridge" found its official task.

Mea Shearim is not the only ultra - orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalen but apparently the most famous one. Who else has ever heard about Ramat Shlomo, Ge'ulah, Kiryat Mattersdorf, Kiryat Belz, Romema, Beit Vagan, Bucharin, Kiryat Zanz or Makor Baruch ? But it is definitely in Mea Shearim where most Sukkot events are taking place. At least for the religious population. There is no other place like chassidic places and even the national religious and countless Litvishe come to Mea Shearim in order to dance with the Chassidim.

Usually the main Mea Shearim roads as well as the local market are divided by a Mechitzah during Chol HaMoed (Intermediate Days) Sukkot. As a woman it can be extremely difficult to get around, as some alleyways are blocked and only allowed to men. This means that I have to go around and thus walk far until I finally get to the market with its Neturei Karta and Avraham Yitzchak Synagogue. Furthermore, there are private guards standing at certain junctions screaming in the megaphones that all visitors have to stick to the modesty rules.

Before, secular papers announced a ban on all Mea Shearim visitors and that even the local women wouldn't be allowed in anywhere. This was due to a Fakshivili (news poster) hanging on the Mea Shearim walls. However, I checked out the Fakshivili and as it has no signature, I knew it would be from the Sikarikim. And the wide masses don't really listen to them. Or frankly speaking, everyone Jewish and modestly dressed was allowed in. Christians, on the other hand, would face a serious problem and last night, a Christian tour bus passed me and the passengers got so excited "Happy Clappy" that they raised their hands and greeted us. This was in vain and no one greeted back. There is only one answer:
"Missionaries Out !!!!" We don't need fanatic Christians whose goal it is to convert Jews to Christianity and run around in haredi areas in order to pray for a mass conversion. This is just disgusting and such people are simply evil and nothing else.

Despite the rain, the Mea Shearim atmosphere was just great. By the way, we have rain on Sukkot this year; very unusual but the holiday started later this year. Nevertheless, lst night, thousands of visitors walked through Mea Shearim and stormed into the Toldot Aharon as well as the Avraham Yitzchak Synagogue. Those chassidic Tishes are the most popular and everyone should see it. Not only once but every Shabbat. A must for every Chassidut fanatic like me !

The Toldot Aharon were totally packed and when I walked in with a friend, we saw a sign written in Hebrew and English that women wearing wigs (Peot) are not welcomed. Instead they should at least put a Tichel onto their wig.
The Toldot Aharon are known for their strong opposition against haredi women wearing wigs. Well, Satmar and Dushinsky shouldn't face such a big problem, as their women always wear a Tichel on their wigs during Shabbat and the holidays.

The metal benches were packed but, somehow, we climbed up and succeeded in seeing everything going on at the men's side. The Chassidim were dancing to loud chassidic music. The Toldot Aharon and the Avraham Yitzchak also have the best bands. As I mentioned before, the streets are divided according to the genders. One sidewalk for women and the opposite sidewalk for men only. Right in front of the great Breslover Synagogue you can find the greatest attraction this year. A wooden bridge whose sides are covered by plastic. Men are walking over the bridge and women underneath. A real "Modesty Bridge" or some might call it a "Bitch Bridge", as this is a totally crazy and useless idea. At the end of the bridge, men and women get together anyway and I seriously don't understand the whole bridge purpose. Whoever made this invention has definitely a problem with women or his own Yetzer. I am not always a fan of the "" but many times he has got his points. However, the Mea Shearim women seem to be used to many things although I would really like to know the thoughts about slight inventions. Some women told me that in public, they go according to the rules but at home, they do whatever they want and the neighbours don't need to know everything.

The private security guards in the Mea Shearim streets were a catastrophy. They had no idea when you asked any questions. One didn't even know what Avraham Yitzchak is when I asked him for the right modest way to their location. The next wasn't sure if I could walk through the gate next to the bridge. He said that I could try but he doesn't know for sure. Well, it was save and many women walked around there.

As a Mea Shearim, and especially a Toldot Aharon addict, I am going again tonight. But rather to Ruzhin - Boyan, Dushinsky, Kretchnif and Karlin - Stolin. Maybe also to the Toldot Aharon. Who can resist anyway ?