Monday, March 30, 2015

The Stories He Could Tell

I don’t think Chabad rabbis anywhere ever tell all the amazing stories of their lives, of people who they have encountered, of deeds they have done. Hundreds pass through their doors without hearing some of what we heard. Perhaps it is because most of their visitors are either visiting on business in a rush to get home, or are young and intent on their next port of call. Most are not religious but come to feel a need for home and if home is something you can’t bring with you, the connection to another Jew is readily available here in the warmth Chabad families offer their guests.

Most come for a meal, listen, eat, perhaps join the rabbi in prayer or song, and then quickly leave. By contrast, we stayed. On a warm and humid Shabbat in Bangalore, we stayed to talk Friday night and then the Rav Zvi Rivkin and his wife, Noa, and their three young children all walked us back to the nearby hotel – even the little two year old who loved the rare opportunity to go outside and see the world.
Bangalore is a thriving city but like most cities in India, attempting to cross a street is challenging; doing it with a two year old could be terrifying. When we thought to book the hotel across the street from Chabad, the rabbi guided us to another place – a bit further away, but close enough not to have to cross any large streets.

We came back Saturday for lunch – something the other Israelis who were visiting the city did not do. We normally nap on Saturday afternoon – this time, we were enjoying the conversation so much, we stayed. We heard about life in India and in particular, two stories that live in my mind. As they were shared with me, I knew they had to be written down, shared. It is very likely stories like this could happen in many countries. They are less typical of India as they are typical of the type of dedication and devotion Chabad rabbis bring to wherever they are stationed. And yes, stationed is the correct word. They are, in a very real sense, soldiers on the forefront of a war. Their goal is to provide that connection to home. They are like a very long line and all you have to do if you feel yourself getting lost, is to reach out and grab on, and they will pull you home.

To understand why these men put themselves and their families so far from their own comfortable communities, you have to remember that what a Jew cherishes above all, is life – whether his own life or the lives of his family, his neighbors, his community, another Jew, or simply another human being.

First, I’ll tell you the story of a Jewish man who died. I won’t tell you his name because though it a person’s name always matters, in this case it is less about who he was, as what was done to bring him home.

Then, I'll tell you the story of two babies in Bangalore.

And I'll try to share other stories as well. India is an amazing many stories...stay tuned.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Where there is a Need

People, Jews, who travel the world and go to unusual places know that where they have a need – for kosher food, for a place to spend the Sabbath, anything…they can call the local Chabad house and ask for assistance. While we were in India, we got a phone call and my husband went downstairs to see if he could help.

Two Israelis had arrived in India and somehow managed to get in the country without the appropriate visa. The visa had been issued but not given to them and so without certain forms, they were in limbo. Without hesitation, they went straight to the local Chabad.

The form they needed had to be signed by a hotel – and so, because the Chabad house has formed a special connection with the hotels nearby and often send them guests, the hotel where we were staying rushed to help the two Israeli travelers (even though they weren't even staying in the hotel).

We needed a place to eat on the Sabbath – without hesitation, this was provided. We needed to understand what things should cost – without hesitation, every phone call was answered and advice given. We needed a driver – they gave us numbers of people we could trust. We needed food – they gave us. Our British Airways flight from Bangalore to London, a nine hour flight, came with no option for Kosher food – Chabad packed sandwiches and salads for us.

Wherever there is a need – Chabad steps in. This is so well known, I don't really have to write about it. What isn't know, however, is that Chabad has needs too. A few days before we left Israel, a friend asked me if I had asked Chabad in Bangalore if they needed anything. And to my great shame, I had to answer that it never occurred to me to ask.

These are people who live where kosher food is not readily available. The comforts of having anything and everything are far off. Even getting milk is a story for them. Vegetables and eggs are plentiful, but kosher cheese has to be made; kosher bread has to be baked.

We had to be at the airport in the early hours of Sunday morning. Only on Thursday, did I get around to asking if they needed anything and within minutes it became clear they did…in a big way! The Chabad rabbi immediately said he did need us to bring something and asked how much space we had.

When I mentioned that we could each bring another full suitcase – he immediately offered to pay for it. Late Saturday night, a Chabad rabbi in Israel brought us 50 kilos of matzah and four bottles of wine.

While we were in India, the Bangalore Chabad rabbi kept telling us where "our" matzah was going – to other Chabad houses all over India! And what I learned from this is that just as we need Chabad, they need us. They live there with almost no kosher food readily available - even products that we know are kosher in the US, Israel or England cannot be trusted as kosher in India because many companies save money by "repackaging" or manufacturing their products in India. Much of Rabbi Rivkin's work involves kashrut supervision but without his knowledge, it's almost impossible to eat there. And with small children - our great treat was a simple bag of soup nuts thrown in to the suitcase for the Rivkin family at the last minute.

So, if you're ever going somewhere and you call Chabad to ask for help…ask them if you can help them, if you can bring them something. Take chocolates to their wives, bamba and the like for their children.

Not only can you have the honor of helping so many others and take a small part in the amazing work that Chabad does, you might even personally make a small Jewish child smile at the gift of something special that they can't get there.

According to the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, these families have built lives and homes in distant places, just waiting for Jewish travelers to ask for when you can join a bit in the amazing mitzvah they do.

A Special Place in Hell

...belongs to Marcia Freedman.

Listen to how she rewrites history. Listen to how she feeds the audience the nonsense that Palestinians are attempting to thrust into history as truth. It's not. We did not displace them. We did not take their land. Only the idiots at J-Street would applaud this absurd speech. And only a Jew steeped in the ghetto could come up with the nonsense she spouts. Clearly, she learned nothing from history.

It amazes me how ignorant this woman is, how blind, how incredibly moronic. She is, in many ways, the most dangerous enemy we have because she has the nerve to present herself as one of us...she has existed since time began...she is the Cain that murdered Abel, she is the Jew that questioned God and demanded more in the wilderness. She is the Jew left behind in Egypt because of her lack of faith, the kapo that joined the Nazis to persecute her brothers. She is the one who chose to save herself, causing the deaths of others. She is the one eternal ghetto Jew who is most threatened by the proud Jew, the proud Israeli of today.

She can't stand that Israel is an amazing nation of innovation, discovery and humanity. At all cost, she must deny the amazing life we have given to our Arab minority - more freedom, healthcare and respect than they get in any Arab neighboring state.

She is, above all else, the epitome of the self-hating Jew. Most of all, she is a dying minority as we awaken and arise from 2,000+ years of slumber.

True democracy is having more than 70% of the voters in a nation come forward without coercion and put forth their choice.

I thought of how to respond best to this drivel, and then, an amazing thing happened. YouTube responded for me. If you wait after watching a video, speechless and furious as I was, YouTube will automatically move to another video chosen by some algorithm that only it understands.

Without hesitation, YouTube offered me the full speech by Benjamin Netanyahu at the US Congress this month. What a brilliant answer to this idiot woman...

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