When Tatyana fled the beleaguered eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk late last week, she felt relieved just to have made it out alive.
“It was a horror. We boarded the train under heavy bombing,” explains Tatyana, 50, who escaped together with her daughter, son-in-law and 7-year-old grandson. “It was relatively calm until July 13; there was some transport around the city, some stores were open. But then the real fighting began, and everyone ran to buy tickets to leave the city; we were lucky to purchase tickets for July 24. Anyone still there can no longer leave because the central train station was bombed, and trains cannot leave the city. People are dying in Lugansk, and it is getting worse each day.”
Tatyana, who declined to give her last name, and her family, are among the more than 250 Jewish refugees from Lugansk and surrounding towns slowly recuperating at the first Jewish refugee camp established in Ukraine. The site was secured on campgrounds owned by Chabad-Lubavitch of Zhitomer and is being organized by Rabbi Sholom Gopin, Lugansk’s rabbi and the director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Lugansk.
Since early July, when Ukrainian armed forces began closing in on the pro-Russian separatists who control Lugansk, the border city has been transformed into a virtual war zone. With artillery explosions and gruesome death quickly becoming a daily part of life, thousands of Lugansk’s citizens have fled, and together with them, an estimated 1,000 members of the Jewish community.
“This is the biggest Jewish refugee crisis in Ukraine since World War II,” exclaims Gopin, speaking to chabad.org from Zhitomer, where he is directing the camp as he attempts to help community members resettle, at least temporarily. Like so many of their neighbors in embattled eastern Ukraine, “the Jews of our community left everything behind,” he says. “They have no homes, no jobs, no money. Many still have family stuck in Lugansk. This week, five elderly people were killed in an explosion at an old-age home adjacent to our Simcha Jewish Orphanage, where close to 40 Jews are now staying.”
Chabad House in Colaba, one of the six targets of the bloody 26/11 terror attacks, will reinvent itself in less than six months as a restaurant, a community hall and a museum to the memory of those killed by terrorists at this Jewish outreach centre.
As the 26/11 attacks — that left 164 people dead and over 300 injured — complete five years today, Chabad House, where six people, including Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife Rivka were killed, has set into motion a project to transform the building into a monument of peace and hope. “When you want to fight darkness, you cannot chase it away with a stick or an AK-47. One can chase darkness away only with light and peace,” said Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, who assumed office last year.
As part of the $900,000 (Rs 5.6 crore) revamp, the entire ground floor of the building located in the narrow Hormusji Street will be taken over by Israeli security agencies. Though entry to the building will be heavily regulated and visitors will have to pass through two layers of security, the restaurant on the first floor will be open to people of all faiths. “It will be a Jewish speciality cuisine restaurant, but everybody will be welcome,” said a source.
The outer ring of security around Chabad House will be handled by the Mumbai police. The outer ring of security around the Chabad House will be handled by the Mumbai police.
The building’s second floor, which was earlier a prayer room, will now also accommodate a library, a small waiting area and the new Rabbi’s office. While the entire floor will be spruced up, a corner where Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife Rivka’s bodies were found will be left untouched. “It will be a small memorial to the couple. The wall in this corner is riddled with bullet marks. Nobody had the heart to touch it,” the source said.
The third floor, which earlier served as a guest house, will be turned into a community hall. Apart from community gatherings, the hall will also be used to host private events by local Jews.
Montana’s small Jewish population is scattered across a huge state that has more rodeos than rabbis, but one man is logging thousands of miles to seek out the faithful one doorway at a time.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk has set his sights on making sure each Jewish home in Montana has a mezuzah at its entrance— and that those already hanging are kosher.
Montana’s only orthodox rabbi sees the project as a way of connecting Jews to their traditions. He says the mezuzahs — small parchments of handwritten biblical verses, rolled into roughly 4-inch cases and fastened to door frames — are a reminder that God is the ultimate home protection in a state where many people believe that such security begins and ends with a gun.
“I’m young. I’m 31. I got a long life ahead of me — God willing — and I hope to get every house,” he says. “Montana should be the most protected state in the union. Not only because of our weapons but because of our mezuzahs. We’ll be protected by the Second Amendment and by the mezuzahs.”
After his grandmother died shortly before Passover this year at age 90, Bruk wanted to perform a mitzvah — a religious good deed — to honor her memory. So the co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Montana secured funding from a relative to purchase an initial 200 mezuzahs to hand out for free.
Bruk says he has visited hundreds of Jewish homes in Montana and noticed too often that they either didn’t have mezuzahs or that those hanging didn’t adhere to Jewish law. He says he found text written on paper rather than parchment and cases hanging with no verses inside.
His mission is an ambitious one in a state with more than 147,000 square miles and a Jewish population estimated at 1,350 by the 2010 Census. Bruk scoffs at that number, which he believes is actually more than 3,000.
The top echelons of the Chabad movement are on the verge of a once-in-a-generation leadership transition.
The Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement never replaced its spiritual leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, after he died in 1994 at the age of 92. Yet a coterie of gray-bearded rabbis picked by Schneerson continues to run the movement from its headquarters on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, sending thousands of missionaries to outposts around the world and providing services for its growing base of followers.
Now, Chabad’s leadership is once again aging, leaving open the question of whether the centuries-old Hasidic movement can choose a new top leadership without the input of a rebbe. The uncertainty comes as the movement’s central organizations face internal challenges from messianists inside Chabad and from increasingly powerful regional Chabad leaders.
While he was still alive, Schneerson appointed two head administrators, Rabbis Yehuda Krinsky and Abraham Shemtov, who have led the movement since his death. Both are now in their late 70s. First among their possible successors is Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, 65, a key movement fundraiser and a powerful figure in the outreach operation.
Kotlarsky’s influence is today limited to the movement’s outreach arm and its emissaries, who seek to engage Jews from their outposts around the globe. Krinsky and Shemtov’s power is broader, stretching over several key Lubavitch institutions.
Officially second in command beneath Krinksy within the outreach organization, Kotlarsky is seen as an heir apparent. What remains unclear is whether Kotlarsky, or anyone else waiting in the wings, could attain Krinsky’s or Shemtov’s level of influence without the Rebbe around to give his blessing.
“Transitions are difficult,” said Samuel Heilman, a professor at Queens College and the co-author of “The Rebbe,” a 2010 book about Schneerson. “If the Rebbe were still alive, the Rebbe would decide. But in the absence of the Rebbe, there’s no one who can say, ‘Now you’re retiring and someone else is going to take your place.’”
In an interview with the Forward, Kotlarsky deferred questions about formal succession within the outreach arm. The outreach organization’s board, he said, would make the leadership decisions. “I wish him tremendous, long life,” Kotlarsky said of Krinsky. “With inflation, at least until 180. And I’m sure that moshiach will come way before that.”
Born and raised in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, Kotlarsky, unlike Shemtov and Krinsky, does not come from a particularly large or prominent Lubavitch family. In style and temperament, he is the old-fashioned Brooklyn ward boss to Krinsky’s Boston Brahmin. While Krinsky is small and tidy, with a beard tucked up at the bottom so that it appears to be neatly trimmed, Kotlarsky is big, with a round belly and long and wild facial hair.
Read more at Forward: forward.com
Forward is wrong. It is totally going to be my son, see he is already up there with the big guys!
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin is suggesting that a vast collection of Jewish books and documents that is the focus of a dispute between Moscow and Washington be given a permanent home in the Russian capital’s new Jewish Museum.
A U.S. judge in January ordered that Russia be fined $50,000 a day until it turns over the so-called Schneerson Collection to Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement within Orthodox Judaism headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Russia claims the collection is state property. Putin on Tuesday criticized the ruling, saying “discussion of this problem has taken on elements of confrontation,” Russian news agencies reported. The collection is now held at the state library and military archives.
Putin said he would consider ordering the collection be placed at the Jewish museum, which opened last year.
Putin is offering a compromise, I think they should take it! A compromise from Putin is the same as a victory.
Rabbi Mendy Kasowitz, director of the Lubavitch Center of Essex County in West Orange, N.J., had been looking forward to the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries that began Wednesday in Brooklyn, N.Y., with intense anticipation. Focused all last week on relief efforts and community rebuilding following Hurricane Sandy, he needed the several days of workshops, classes and lectures more than ever.
‘I need to recharge my batteries at some point,’ said Kasowitz, one of thousands of emissaries who came to New York from points all across the globe. ‘It’s something I look forward to all year, something that gives me a spiritual boost and a lot of energy.’
Though Sunday’s gala banquet was switched at the last minute from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal to the New York Hilton in nearby Manhattan because of the hurricane, organizers reported that the program of both the banquet and the larger conference have remained largely the same.
It’s pay to pray at one Brooklyn synagogue.
Down-on-their luck panhandlers at the Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters in Crown Heights have to follow the 11th Commandment: Fork over $5 for the right to beg inside.
“If you want to collect, you have to pay. If you don’t pay, you go on the street. It’s very simple,” said one outraged panhandler. “Poor people collecting money have to pay? It’s like extortion.”
The beggars either position themselves by the stairwell, in the lobby, or inside the prayer area of the monolithic, four-story brick temple, which stands alongside the original Lubavitch synagogue.
All said they are unemployed, live nearby, and sometimes attend services at the bustling temple, where hundreds come to pray from morning until night every day.
They say their right to panhandle in the house of worship comes from a higher authority — Jewish law, which allows begging in synagogues and public events, including weddings, where food is set aside for beggars and uninvited guests.
Read more: nypost.com
I personally find these panhandlers very aggressive and intimidating, particularly when they attack in swarms. If you give even one of them a quarter, the others are on top of you like a pack of hounds!
Also, I don’t think it is fair of the Post to blame Chabad for trying to keep out packs of panhandlers. Do they allow panhandlers inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral or Riverside Church or Temple Emmanuel?
I just noticed that this article from the NY Post relies on information about Chabad from the hate blog Failedmessiah, which is the same as relying on information about Muslims from Pam Geller.
Holocaust memorial defaced in Hartford, CT
A Connecticut judge has ruled the city of Hartford cannot use its zoning rules to prevent a sect of Orthodox Jews from using a former church as their place of worship, a case observers say had anti-Semitic overtones.
Superior Court Judge Maria Araujo Kahn recently ordered the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to undo its decision upholding a zoning enforcement officer’s initial “cease and desist” order against Chabad Chevra.
The city has opted not appeal, recently allowing its 30-day filing window for the late December judgement to lapse, authorities say.
City officials, through a spokesman, declined comment Thursday.
In 2009, Chabad Chevra bought 100 Bloomfield Ave., which over the years had housed worshiping Catholics and later Baptists, to hold their worship, and to be a study and residence within walking distance of the University of Hartford campus.
“You have to question exactly why, all of a sudden, the ZEO and the ZBA tried to ban religious activities similar to the activities that had been going on in the same location for 58 years,” said Farmington attorney Coleman Levy, whose firm represented Chabad Chevra in the case.