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Chabad UW in the News

 

 

Shabbat for a lot…of students

Emily Keeler Alhadeff • Assistant Editor, JTNews

Posted: March 31, 2011

This Shabbat, the Chabad at the University of Washington is going where no other Shabbat has gone before — at least in recent memory. The destination isn’t physical, but rather spiritual, bringing all of the university’s Jewish groups together for one Shabbat dinner extravaganza. “It’s a program that’s done on a lot of other campuses,” said Chaya Estrin, rebbetzin at Chabad of UW. Campuses around the country have “from 100 students to 1,000 students celebrating Shabbat together.” Organizers expect a turnout of about 200 to this dinner, which will take place in Mary Gates Hall. Partial funding for the event comes from a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s Small and Simple Initiatives fund.
 

Shabbat for a Lot, also called Unity Shabbat, is an attempt to bring the diverse population of Jewish students on campus together. “One element is just to give a taste of what Shabbat is,” Estrin said. The other is to show that “we’re more united than we’re different.” Much of that unity comes from a relatively small Jewish presence on campus. “UW Jewish students feel like a minority. It will be very powerful to them,” she said. “The Jewish community is vibrant. It is strong.”
 

But getting them together is harder than it sounds. Estrin explained that students sometimes feel loyalties to particular organizations. With the Jewish community growing and strengthening on campus, Estrin feels that the time is ripe to promote unity among factions. Greek organizations AEPi, AEPhi, and ZBT, as well as Jewish sisterhood Banot, American Students for Israel, Hillel, the Seattle Kollel’s Jewish Student Experience, Huskies for Israel and Israel Forever are sponsoring the dinner along with Chabad. Groups are asked to leave their agendas at the door, and instead of students encouraging one another to join each other’s organizations and causes, each participant will take home a booklet with group descriptions, Shabbat songs and blessings. Estrin described it as the creation of a sort of Jewish UW directory. “We’re asking people to be respectful,” said Estrin.
 

Jaclyn Rubinchik, a junior, is involved with Chabad and Huskies for Israel and is helping to organize the dinner. She says that given the diversity of Jewish groups on campus, at first they didn’t know how the program was going to shape itself. “It’s going to be Hillel and Chabad and fraternities and sororities,” she marveled. “What does a Shabbat that has all of these groups together look like?” “To have 200 students singing ‘Shalom Aleichem’ together — this will be really amazing,” Estrin said. Estrin estimates that 60 to 70 students observe Shabbat on a regular basis, meaning more than half the attendees on Friday night will not be Shabbat-observant. But the Estrins’ goal is not, at least outwardly, to encourage the students to be more observant. “Our goal is to introduce people to Judaism, and let them take their journey where they’re going to go,” she said. “We just try to be there for people and give them a positive Jewish experience.”
To that end, students have the option to go to one of five different service options: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, meditative, or a “why I’m not in services” discussion. “I think it’s good for students to connect and find their place,” Estrin said.
 

The evening will commence with candle lighting at 6 p.m., followed by an hour of “shmoozing and food” and then services. After services, students are invited to a traditional dinner, much of which Estrin and 10 to 12 volunteers will be preparing themselves. Estrin, who regularly cooks for a crowd of 40 to 60 Shabbat guests, does not appear daunted by the task. Following dinner, participants can snack, play board games, and hang out. Students are excited for the dinner and its unity potential. “I’m a junior, In all the years I’ve been here there’s never been an…event like this,” Rubinchik said. “I’m really excited it’s actually happening.”

 

 

 

Jazz pioneer returns to Seattle for performance and master class

Gigi Yellen-Kohn • JTNews Correspondent

Posted: November 24, 2010

 

The Andy Statman Trio performs on Tues., Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Lakeside Events Center, 2501 N Northlake Way, Seattle. Tickets cost $54. Visit http://bit.ly/eLI1EN to purchase tickets. The master class will take place in the music building, room 213, UW campus, from 12:30–1:30 p.m. Space limited.

 

 

Without doubt, Andy Statman is the creator of a uniquely American fusion music — call it jazz, spiritual, multicultural, or whatever. For the first time since 1999, Statman performs in Seattle on Nov. 30 to benefit Chabad at the University of Washington. The show anchors a three-city Pacific Northwest tour for the Andy Statman Trio and includes a midday Tuesday master class for the UW Klezmer Band.
With 16 albums of his own, and decades of sharing stages with everyone from Itzhak Perlman to Ricky Skaggs to Bela Fleck, Statman, 60, reigns as a groundbreaking artist of both the “newgrass” American roots music movement and the American klezmer renaissance that began in the 1970s.
“I look at the Jewish music as just another part of the Americana,” Statman told JTNews. “Here and in Israel is where the Chassidic ‘klezmer’ developed, from Chassidic vocal music.”
Jewish readers of a certain age may recall being deeply touched by the 1995 album Songs of our Fathers, including its stately interpretation of “Adon Olam” from Statman and his former mandolin teacher, “dawg music” pioneer and Jerry Garcia collaborator David Grisman. The two later followed up with “New Shabbos Waltz.”
Statman’s visit to Seattle is thanks to his longtime friendship with the father of the resident rabbi at Chabad at the UW, Elie Estrin. Based a block north of campus, the Estrin family regularly hosts students for Shabbat and other learning opportunities.
Instead of having the usual fundraising dinner, Estrin said, “we wanted to do something after our own style…open, loose, enjoyable.”
“Music is a big passion of
mine,” said Estrin (whose talk to UW School of Music ethnomusicology students, “The Americanization of Niggunim,” is posted at
www.jewishmusicreport.com). Because the Lakeside Events Center, on the north shore of Lake Union, offers a club atmosphere on two levels, there will be room for music and socializing, Estrin said. A cocktail reception will precede the performance and continue during the music.
“Chabad” is actually an acronym: The initials chet, bet, and dalet for “chochma [wisdom], bina [understanding], and da’at [understanding],” an approach to mystical knowledge developed developed in the Russian town of Lubavitch. Indeed, Statman titled his 2004 album of melodies of the Lubavitcher Chassidim Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge. A Portland show on this tour is also a Chabad benefit.
The last time Statman played Seattle, he was at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island with a quartet, including piano, just after the release of his album Hidden Light. Statman said he decided to drop the piano because “I felt that the chords were too limiting,” he says. “It’s like what Ornette Coleman did,” he added, acknowledging a major jazz
influence.
Jazz, of course, is not the only improvisational tradition, as Statman emphasizes, bringing the point home: “Jewish music is mostly modal music. Chords can color the melody and convert it into something it isn’t. Modal music is powerful and fragile.”
As a teenager, Statman sought out mandolin maestro and new-acoustic pioneer David Grisman to teach him bluegrass. He later turned to learning klezmer clarinet and apprenticed himself to Dave Tarras, the last of the great European masters, who bequeathed his clarinet to Statman. That won’t be the instrument he’ll play in Seattle, though; he’s using a newer one by the same maker.
The Andy Statman Trio’s visit also offers a tremendous learning opportunity for some lucky UW School of Music students: He’ll hold a one-hour master class for the UW Klezmer Band. The public is invited to watch (the room holds about 85 people).
The band’s leader, graduate student and music major Ethan Chessin, heard about Statman’s upcoming visit from the ethnomusicology department, and arranged for the master class. The band is “a young group” of about 20, he says, including four Japanese exchange students. It’s early in their training, and they’ve been trying out the few klezmer tunes they’ve learned so far with field trips and sessions with local and visiting klezmorim.
Statman’s comfort with Klezmer doesn’t stray far from his roots. His spiritual life is as an Orthodox Jew, at home in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, not far from where he grew up in Queens. As a kid going to Hebrew school, he was hungry for music and roots, but not traditionally observant. These days, he doesn’t hide his observance.
“The way I dress is the way I dress,” says the man who now goes everywhere in a black velvet kippa, white shirt, black pants, dangling tzitzit, and the occasional black hat. “Just being a frum [traditionally observant] person, this is the world me and my family live in. I’ve never put on a costume for jobs that I played. I came up playing music in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The way we dressed offstage was the way we dressed onstage. I’m there to play the music and that’s what it’s about.”

 

 

 



Visit www.mandolincafe.com to see chatter about Andy Statman’s Northwest appearances or visit www.andystatman.org for more information about Statman.

Planning for the future

Nick Feldman • Special to JTNews

Posted: January 28, 2010

Students attend the first of three Leadership Tomorrow seminars on Sun., Jan. 24.

After six years on campus, Rabbi Elie Estrin and his wife Chaya — leaders of the University of Washington’s Chabad House — noticed two things. First, the Jewish community on campus has seen huge growth. Second, the Jewish student groups could accomplish far more if the students who led them were given the skills to achieve their goals.

With those thoughts in mind, Estrin began to work on a plan to provide students with top-notch leadership training. Through mutual acquaintances at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, he was connected with Jan Levy and her program, called Leadership Tomorrow, a local leadership development and community-building organization that counts dozens of CEOs and elected officials among its alumni.

“When it was suggested I speak with [Levy], that was what really pulled it into existence,” Estrin said. “She understood exactly what I wanted from the get-go and we had a really good meeting of the minds, and the format that we envisioned was really the same vision.”
Leaders were chosen from every major Jewish group on the UW campus, drawing on Huskies for Israel, Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity and Banot. Estrin handpicked some students he knew would be serious about the program and would be inspired to give back to the community as a result. Others came forward and requested to participate.

“I was looking for people who would, A, learn what vision is, B, implement their vision and not get distracted by pitfalls along the way, and C, have accountability,” Estrin said. “I felt that there were a lot of students with lofty goals but they didn’t know how to apply them. We’re hoping to eventually cause a greater number of students on campus to have a much more mature outlook, with much more knowledgeable and skillful projects.”

The program, a concentrated synthesis of Leadership Tomorrow’s nine-month program that combines the conceptual, skills and application training led by Levy and her colleague Bob Ness, culminates with a project stage where teams of four or five students select a project to work on and present progress at the end of the school year.

“This is designed to make the students take responsibility for leadership,” Levy said. “The students are learning things that are applicable throughout their lives. In the first session, we asked them to write their own life mission statement, and in each session we revisit it and talk about how it’s starting to evolve.”

The desire of the students to attend was evident through their willingness to contribute toward the seminars’ cost, ensuring that they had a stake in the process.

“I only had something to gain by going,” said Daniel Hirsty, a UW sophomore who is a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi and participates at Hillel. “I have a lot of different interests, and learning how to build coalitions and be a strong leader is important. I really just want to propel myself to be a better citizen.”

Estrin plans to continue the program annually, envisioning a competitive program that selects only the top students with greatest leadership potential—and desire to attend. If all goes as planned, he theorizes by the time the freshmen taking this course are graduating there will be up to 80 students who are trained with the same leadership skills and an ability to accomplish even bigger projects.

“We’re not doing this for our organization,” Estrin said. “We’re doing this for the community as a whole. This is not a project that we’re specifically benefitting from. This is a project the entire university community, and eventually the Jewish community as a whole, will
benefit from.”

 

Students bond in nontraditional houses and groups within the Greek community

By Celina Kareiva
The Daily, January 15, 2010


Photo by Patrick Riley.

Lauren Brown, Emily Levine and Jacklyn Liberman work on a flyer to promote a new Jewish sorority at the UW. The last UW Jewish sorority closed in 1990 due to a decreased number of pledges.

When Jacklyn Liberman rushed during her freshman year at the UW, few of the houses she visited knew how many Jewish girls lived under their roofs.

In search of a community that could mirror her own interests and beliefs, Liberman paired with fellow student Emily Levine to create the first Jewish sorority on campus. The idea had been in the works for a while but lacked the leadership needed to secure a house on high-demand Greek Row.

“When I rushed, I was asking houses how many Jewish people were in each house, just as a rough estimate … But nobody [could come up with a number]. Wouldn’t you want to know if the girls in your house were Jewish?” Liberman said. “How does that not come up in conversation?”

Many students “go Greek” hoping to create a more personable college experience, but for some, the mainstream houses on campus don’t provide the sense of belonging they’d hoped for. Those who don’t feel at home on Greek Row have the option of joining nontraditional fraternities or sororities that typically cater to minority students. These include Latino-, black- and Asian-interest houses, and a fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men.

Liberman and Levine have yet to hear back from the Panhellenic Association about the status of their sorority

Both girls agree that it wouldn’t be a strictly religious house. Liberman wants the sisterhood to recognize certain Jewish holidays and cater to the dietary needs of Orthodox members. Their hope is that the house will provide a safe haven for Jewish students of all degrees of faith.

Most nontraditional houses are rooted in a history of social segregation, when blacks or Asians weren’t permitted to join mainstream sororities and fraternities.

Solomon Robbins II, president of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, said their fraternity started in such an era. He said the UW chapter of the house was not recognized until 1978.

Because nontraditional houses sometimes lack the funding and alumni base to sustain themselves, membership is smaller and the recruitment process more challenging. Minority fraternities and sororities vary in size, ranging from five to 20 affiliates and rarely have their own house.

“We don’t have that strong alumni base to donate money to get a house,” said Jilberto Soto, a member of the Latino fraternity Omega Delta Phi. “But we share similar traditions to most of the mainstream houses. We also have house colors, hand signs, signals and chants.”

The United Greek Council (UGC) was established in 2002 to unify the historically underrepresented houses on campus.

“For the nontraditional houses, because of the way our system is organized, the bond is stronger, and it usually lasts a lifetime. It would be nice to have a house close to campus, but then again … it’s a different type of membership,” said Robbins. “It’s hard to leave a brotherhood. Once you’re in, you’re in.”

But while members benefit from shared heritage, religion and beliefs, their minority status means that houses lack the perks and privileges of being mainstream.

“It’s definitely a struggle being here on a predominately white campus, and it’s not that we’re exclusive – we are very inclusive – but it’s hard to reach out to people who aren’t people of color,” said Natalie Hart, president of the National Panhellenic Council and a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. “That’s why our numbers are so much smaller in comparison to sororities and fraternities that do have houses.”

The problem is one of visibility. Just as minority students struggle to gain recognition in all other areas of campus life, nontraditional houses struggle to find their niche. For them, the Greek community isn’t representative.

“I don’t think there’s much diversity in the Greek system,” said Levine. “Part of that just has to do with its predominantly white, Christian history. Houses are definitely accepting of minorities, but some students want closer-knit communities. That’s what we hope to gain with our [Jewish] sorority.”

Eating with meaning

By Katelin Chow
The Daily, December 3, 2009
 



Photo by Patrick Riley.

Josh Schwartz, a UW sophomore, has kept kosher since spending a month in Israel his freshman year.


Josh Schwartz really misses University Teriyaki. In fact, he misses it even more than he can explain, he admitted with a laugh.

But sating his cravings isn’t as simple as waltzing into the restaurant to order a dish of chicken and beef teriyaki. A month and a half ago, it might have been that easy. But now, this UW sophomore is keeping a strictly kosher diet.

It’s no question that the UW has students of different faiths and religious backgrounds. But with this diverse melting pot of religions comes a smorgasbord of something else that’s just as multifaceted: students who keep religious diets.

Some students on campus choose to observe — or not observe — religious diets because of personal reasons, family influences or tradition. Whatever the story, religious diets are a way that students show their dedication to their faith.

“[Religious diets] function to make people aware of eating as an activity,” said Martin Jaffee, a professor of comparative religion and Jewish studies at the UW. “Certain things that you eat will defile you.”

The kosher diet

Rabbi Elie Estrin said that keeping kosher means that Schwartz can only eat food that has ingredients that are kosher and is prepared with kosher utensils.

“The general idea [of a kosher diet] is to not mix milk and meat and to try to ensure that anything that goes into the food — ingredients and even utensils used to prepare it — are all kosher products,” Estrin said. “This is a simple and basic explanation, and there are a lot more details to it.”

After spending a year in Israel before beginning his freshman year, Schwartz learned that if he had the food available to him, it wouldn’t be too difficult to make a big change in his daily life.

“[Keeping a kosher diet] is another way to show who I am and that my Judaism is really important to me,” Schwartz said.

Although Schwartz now keeps a stricter kosher diet than his family members, he says his family is very supportive of his choice and that his mom even helps him shop for kosher products and cook kosher meals.

Adhering to his kosher diet while on campus might be a little difficult because many of the prepared meals have meat that does not meet the kosher rules. But at the end of the day, Schwartz believes that his choice to stick to a strict kosher diet is worth the effort.

“Every time I eat a meal now, it makes me think about being Jewish,” Schwartz said.

Ethnomusicology – the Americanization of Niggunim

This is the basic script of a lecture that was given recently at the University of Washington school of music, as part of a class in ethnomusicology. The Chabad shliach to the University delivered the lecture, all the while showing the audience clips of the music discussed.

In Chassidic culture, music finds itself in a central position. Every celebration, event and holiday, and even study, is marked with tunes. Today, our discussion brings us to the crossroads – secular American culture, and the devout Jewish piety of Chassidism.

As Chassidism developed over the 18th and 19th centuries, Chassidic dynasties were formed, mostly based on geographical areas. Each Chassidic dynasty focused on a particular aspect of serving G-d. Each also developed their own unique tunes and music, which resonated with their particular style. We’ll focus today most specifically on the interpretations of the music of the Chabad Chassidim, which was started by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, who died in 1813. This is both due to my personal allegiance to the Chabad movement, but also, and primarily because the tunes of Chabad in particular, more than virtually any other dynasty, have been interpreted by dozens of artists. This is partially due to the outgoing nature of Chabad, as we’ll see.

Now, a few words on niggunim in general: Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi famously described niggunim when he said, “Music is the quill of the soul.” Niggunim are composed with particular spiritual concepts in mind, and as a result, are very exact in their makeup. Songs are sung during prayer services, during celebrations, and especially during informal gatherings called farbrengens, where the participants talk about their spiritual goals and G-dly pursuit, and sing the songs that reflect the mood and atmosphere of the discussion. The tunes sung are used to evoke certain feelings or emotions, and to bring the singers to a spiritual awakening. Some of these songs are quite complicated; others extremely simple.

The more serious and complex niggunim have experienced far less public exposure than the fast, easy to sing niggunim. One of the few artists to experiment with some of these niggunim is Matisyahu, who has interpreted four niggunim, three of which have never been touched by artists before. However, in three of those cases, he did not interpret the entire tune – he only took one stanza in Niggun Dub, two stanzas in Short Niggun, and all but one stanza in Tzamah Lecha Nafshi. Only Father in the Forest is given full treatment.

That was a general introduction to our subject matter – what happens with the marriage of Chassidic music and American culture? Recognizing the holiness that Chassidim ascribe their music, how would American Chassidim combine their cultures?

So let’s take a look at this from a historical perspective. Throughout the 60’s, the closest thing Jewish music had to a star of its own was the famed singing rabbi – Shlomo Carlebach. Carlebach had spent some time in the Chabad movement. However, he sang his own compositions. So in the 60’s, there was no such thing – as of yet – as a Chassid interpreting niggunim. You did have folk singers such as Theodore Bikel and others who took Chabad and other Chassidic melodies and adapted them, but that was mostly for secular audiences. And you did have the Chabad choir, Nichoach. But Nichoach stayed very basic in its arrangements, with little in terms of harmonies and development. It was meant as an introduction to niggunim; not as interpretation of niggunim.

The second major star in the Chassidic world was Mordechai ben David, the son of cantor David Werdyger, who was, incidentally, saved during the Holocaust by his vocal talent, and then later, by Oscar Schindler. MBD produced his first album in 1972, and began his career singing his own compositions. It wasn’t until 1979, with his album “Songs of Rosh Hashana”, that he first began experimenting with older Chassidic classics, mostly in pop format. Throughout his career, he has interpreted many niggunim; both from Chabad and many other Chassidic dynasties, with one collection devoted entirely to niggunim entitled “Once Upon a Niggun”.

So Carlebach and MBD were the first “stars”. But the late sixties and seventies started to see a change in the Jewish world as a whole. Jews who had grown up secular were starting to return to their roots and become more observant. These were Jews, who, like my own parents, grew up in typical American homes with American parents. As a result, the culture to which they affiliated most closely was that of American culture. They grew up listening to Dylan and to Jimi, to the Beatles and to Flatt and Scruggs. And within the tiny Jewish music market, none of that kind of music existed. Musicians who had grown up musically in America now found themselves anxious to recreate the sounds they had grown up with, in the community they now found themselves. While Andy Statman and others were busy with the klezmer revival, these musicians wanted to stay in the genres that they had grown up with.

The first band to do that was the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, a country/western/folk-rock group in the mid seventies, which disbanded in 1983. They only interpreted three niggunim, – some country/western takes on a niggun from the Chassidic dynasty of Modzhitz and two from Breslov.

In 1976, Stan Getz, the legendary sax player, stumbled upon two brothers in Israel – guitarist Yossi and flautist Avi Piamenta. Yossi Piamenta has since been called “The Sefardic Santana and the Hassidic Hendrix”, while Avi can best be described as Ian Anderson with a yarmulke. Getz brought them back to America, and starting in 1981, the brothers produced a few albums of Chassidic wedding music, as well as Jewish music’s first true rock album. On each of their wedding albums, they experimented with lightly interpreting niggunim based on their calling – good ol’ rock ‘n roll. The Piamentas later produced an album of only niggunim called “Songs of the Rebbes”, but they also interpreted a handful of niggunim on their regular albums. Incidentally, some of their best interpretations are of Sefardi zemirot – the Jewish music of the Arab lands.

In 1980, a completely innovative album was released by an arm of the Chabad movement itself, called Chassidance. This would be Jewish music’s first all-electronic album, as well as the very first instrumental album of Chabad niggunim. In all honesty, it reeks of the eighties! The artist is Israeli pianist Yaron Gershovsky, who, while not a religious Jew himself, was pulled into the job by an American chassid named Shmuel Goldman. On this album, Chassidic niggunim first began to really match up with the sound of the time. Gershovsky later came out with three more albums of niggunim; two in classical and jazz solo piano style, and one klezmer album with Chillik Frank, a Chassidic clarinetist.

One might think, based on stereotypes of the Chassidim as sheltered, old-world Jews, that the Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, would not be interested in these “modern” adaptations. To the contrary; the Rebbe embraced adaptations, and encouraged musicians who consulted with him to explore their heritage through their personal medium. Within the Rebbe’s weltanschauung, the idea is simple – music is by itself, neither holy nor mundane. The job of the musician is to elevate the music by using it for good purposes.

As a result, many musicians began experimenting with Chassidic music. Also in the early eighties – a rock band was formed by returnees to Judaism, including the drummer and lead vocalist for the French Moroccan rock band “Les Variations”, Isaac Bitton. The first incarnation of the band was called “The Baal Shem Tov Band”, and later, Bitton reformed it as “Raaya Mehemna”, and produced two albums. The Rebbe not only encouraged his work, but even added lyrics to a song, and suggested a slight revision of the name of the band to “Raava Mehemna”.

The Rebbe also encouraged the introduction of the first English songs into the Chabad music repertoire. Most were songs that had been written in Chabad summer camps that became popular, particularly through the 1981 release of an album by the Tzlil V’zemer Boys Choir, called “Wake Up Yidden”.

Throughout the eighties, a few more albums of Chabad niggunim were released, including Moshe Laufer’s “Music of the Lubavitcher Chassidim”, which is a standard Jewish album, and Mona Rosenblum’s two volumes of “Chabad Melodies”, which have a few songs interpreted with a distinctive late-eighties classical pop feel.

Another important development in the eighties was Jewish music’s next pop star, Avraham Fried. Fried – who is actually a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement – was born to an American Chabad family, and was heavily involved with choirs and such as a child. In 1981 he released his first solo album, and on it was his interpretation of the classic niggun Ani Maamin, a song that was composed by a Modzhitzer chassid named Azriel David Fastag in a cattle car on the way to Auschwitz, and is now sung by Jews the world over. Over the next decade, Fried developed a number of niggunim, and beginning in 1994, began a series of full length albums of Chabad niggunim. As of today he has released four of those albums, utilizing various genres in portraying the niggunim – including pop, rock, and jazz. His most recent niggunim release, called “Yankel, Yankel”, was published just a few months ago.

The 90’s brought along with it a shift. Whereas until that point niggunim were produced with only slight variations, at this point the Jewish music world began to mature. Clarinetist and mandolin player Andy Statman, in particular, released his critically acclaimed collection of niggunim “Between Heaven and Earth”, which is an open-ended improv jazz/klezmer album, and possibly the most emotional Chassidic album in existence. His other productions brought depth and maturity to the adaptations, as well as brilliant virtuosity and collaborations with major world artists such as Bela Fleck, David Grisman and others. On the exact opposite end of the spectrum, David Lazzar produced three heavy metal albums, with a hardcore interpretation of the niggun Tzoma, Tzoma on his album Judah’s Fill. Whatever the case, niggunim were being married to different genres in very creative ways.

Over the past ten years, we’ve witnessed a golden age in terms of the Americanization of niggunim. The fusion band Groyse Metsie, the classic rock band Yood, Chassidic rappers Ta Shma, New Orleans funky jamband Merkavah, the trip-hop electronica Kabbalah Dream Orchestra, and most famously, reggae artist Matisyahu, have all taken and developed niggunim, using the latest in technology and oftentimes high levels of skill and creativity.

In summary, being that essentially we’re talking about soul music, it was only natural for Chassidic-American musicians to combine both sides of their culture. At the same time, adaptations of niggunim took time to really develop to a high standard. While there are certainly purists who reject these adaptations, there is no question that Chassidic theology and philosophy certainly support it, and the Rebbe himself gave support to musicians who asked his advice on the matter.

Sushi in the Sukkah, Pizza in the Hut, Hookah in the Sukkah . . . It's Holiday Time on Campus


 

Several engineering students joined Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm in building the 1,100 square foot Sukkah

by Dvora Lakein - New Orleans, LA

(lubavitch.com) Josh Zeldner has his work cut out for him.

The recent University of Colorado graduate will spend the entire Thursday and Friday assembling 300 rolls of sushi. “The numbers [30 pounds of fresh fish and several gallons of rice] are absurd,” laughs Zeldner, “but it will all get eaten. Definitely.” 

Zeldner’s sushi marathon is in honor of the upcoming holiday of Sukkot which begins Friday evening. His creations will be consumed by 200 students at UC Boulder’s annual Sushi in the Sukkah event. Though he graduated last year, and is currently employed at a local sushi restaurant, Zeldner still feels close ties to his alma mater’s Chabad.

“I just signed an additional year’s lease on my apartment here,” he says, “and I love being involved with Chabad and helping out. Many of my friends who graduated are also sticking around Boulder, and staying involved.”

Though Zeldner spent every autumn helping his father erect the family sukkah, he says there is something unique about this campus hut. Several engineering students joined Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm in building the 1,100 square foot structure and well over 300 students will dine, visit, and shake the lulav and etrog (“four species”) there next week. The wooden sukkah was painted with Jewish themed art last year to accentuate its importance and to deter rambunctious students from knocking it down after football games as they did for several years running.

“Throughout the High Holidays we emphasized to the students that immediately following the ‘days of awe’ come days of joy,” explains director Leah Wilhelm. “Everyone waits for this party of the year.”

New Orleans, LA

Passerby asked when the holiday begins and made plans to attend Chabad’s various Sukkot events. Next week, hundreds are expected to take a break from frantic midterms studying at a midnight sukkah party, complete with falafel and hookah. 

Rivkin, who has served the local student body for a decade, believes the holiday sells itself. “Students appreciate the chance to do a mitzvah in the sukkah,” he maintains. “And the matzah ball soup served hot all week is a big draw.”

Chabad on campus directors use different and creative means to attract students to their temporary dwellings. In conjunction with their individual schools, hundreds of campus rabbis are erecting huts of all sizes and hosting Sushi in the Sukkah events, Dinners under the Stars, and Pizza in the Hut parties. The place to be, for this one week, is the sukkah and Chabad centers are going all out to welcome students in. 

With a staggering 80 percent of Jewish 18-21 year olds studying on campuses worldwide, reaching out to them has become a dedicated endeavor. Undoubtedly, making the connection early in the semester is a key aspect to the success of that relationship. What better way than over a hot bowl of soup on a cool evening, al fresco. 

Davis, CA

The nights are barely chilly in Davis, where average temperatures are hovering in the high 70s, and Sorele Brownstein is looking forward to the sukkah her husband will construct for the students at the University of California. Since vandals sprayed Chabad’s sukkah with anti-Semitic slogans two years ago, university officials have been wary of allowing them to build on campus. Instead, explains Brownstein, they will have a sukkah at their home, a short walk from the school’s center, and an additional hut near student housing. She expects 40 people to join them for holiday dinners.

Seattle, WA

Further up the coast, Rabbi Elie Estrin is putting the finishing touches on his 12 foot by 18 foot sukkah located near the heart of the University of Washington’s campus. The first night of Sukkot coincides with the first Shabbat of the semester (school began on Wednesday) and Estrin expects 90 students to join his family for dinner. Friday also corresponds with his 30th birthday. Over traditional Shabbat fare and a massive birthday cake in the sukkah, Estrin plans to “do a lot of introspection with the students and figure out where we are headed over the next decade.” The lessons of the holiday, he says, are particularly poignant for students in this transient stage.

“During this time in their lives, students put up and take down with ease,” explains Estrin. “Every quarter they are somewhere else, doing something else. The message of the sukkah is to live permanently in a structure that is not permanent; you must make the most of whichever stage of life you are in.”

 
Yom HaAtzma’ut at the UW
Martin Jaffee • JTNews Columnist
Posted: June 12, 2009
 



 

 

Another reason to be proud of our kids
I could start by telling you about Helen. I’ve known her and her parents since she was a toddler and a favorite playmate of my oldest girl, Lilah. I can still see them walking their “babies” in miniature carriages, with Helen in her perpetually knotted tangle of hair and Lilah in a pair of high heels. Helen kept the hair, but it’s now in dreadlocks.
Or, I could start with Natalie, another playmate of Lilah’s, who in the pre-teen years would routinely leave half her clothing at our house after an overnight of constant costume swaps. Years later, when interrogating Lilah about a pair of girls’ underpants that turned up in one of my file cabinets, she replied: “Oh, they’re probably Natalie’s.”
I mused: “Well, I guess it’s too late to return them.”
Or Ben, the chubby little kid at shul who, eventually, grew up into a stunning, muscular six-footer, who just recently announced his engagement.
Or I could start with at least a dozen others, all of whom I’d known as kids in the Jewish community, and who, at college age, wandered into one or more of my classes at the University of Washington, seeking to enter more deeply (and from a rather different point of view) into the mysteries of Jewish identity that form such a rich mine of meaning at the center of their lives.
One of the great pleasures of being a professor of Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion here at the UW has been to see these young people, some of whom I’ve known for most of their lives, mature and grow into a committed, and highly articulate, Jewish selfhood. On the recent celebration of the 61st year of Israeli independence, I saw all of them — and many more whom I shall not name, but who are much like them — display a casual courage, cheerfulness, and delight in their Jewishness that both astonished and humbled me. Let me tell you a bit about it.
For years now, various campus Jewish groups have cooperated in throwing an on-campus celebration of Israeli culture on Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day. After all, “diversity” is a big deal at the U, and what society is more diverse than Israel’s? Usually the party involves setting up a few booths on the commons outside the HUB, playing Israeli music, and in a recent, brilliant innovation, serving up some fairly decent falafel for free. Now it has come to be called “Israelpalooza,” (not the name I’d have chosen, but whatever). Everybody, Jew and non-Jew alike, shows up for a schmooze, a bite, and for whatever else happens.
This year, what happened was a “counter-demonstration” sponsored by a group called “Democracy Insurgent.” This is a campus student organization, with an office in the HUB. Its mission statement represents it as a “Middle East Solidarity student interest group…animated by principles of anti-racism, democracy and Third World Feminism [whose] purpose is to engage the UW community on issues relating to Middle East Solidarity.”
On this particular Yom HaAtzma’ut afternoon, Middle East Solidarity was expressed in signs protesting “Israeli Apartheid,” “Racism,” and “Genocide.” It included encircling the kids celebrating Israel’s founding and hurling megaphone enhanced chants like “Long live the intifada” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
It included an attempt the break into and disrupt the Israel celebration that, were it not for the efficient action of UW campus police, would have surely yielded a violent confrontation. This is “Middle East Solidarity!”
Now here’s the story I want to tell: The response of kids like Helen, Natalie, Ben and many others. Instead of breaking and running from a threat; instead of responding in kind with idiotic counter-threats and taunts, what did they do? They ordered the little klezmer trio on hand to crank up the music. Then they gathered into circles and, hand in hand and arm in arm, proceeded to dance. Wildly, joyfully, full of the love of life and the optimism that is the privilege of youth. Am Yisrael chai! Od avinu chai!
When it comes to dancing, I like to watch. So I watched. In my mind’s eye, I saw in these glowing young adult faces the chubby baby-faced children I’d known, it seems, forever. But they were no longer babies, but real, adult Jews, taking up the freely chosen burdens and pleasures of being an American Jew in a new century. Free from the past, and also deeply connected to it. And telling all the world, “Love it or hate it, love us or hate us, we’re here to stay. We’re not going anywhere, except perhaps to Israel!”
I hope some of them get there. But I also hope many of them stay among us as inspirations to the rest of us. They are our treasures. And it’s great to know that, in the immortal words of The Who: “The kids are alright!”

 
Jewish musical chairs in the University District
Morris Malakoff • JTNews Correspondent
Posted: June 12, 2009
 

Growth among a number of Jewish organizations centered in the neighborhoods north of the University of Washington has put in motion a chain of relocations that will take place over the course of the summer.
The re-chartering of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at the UW last year has meant that the chapter will reclaim the house it owns at 4626 21st Ave. NE, currently occupied by Alpha Epsilon Pi. That sends AEPi to the Chabad House two blocks away at 4541 19th Ave. NE. As AEPi moves in, the Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder day school will depart the building it has called home for nearly 35 years, to a site still to be determined.
As complicated as it seems and all the energy that will go into moving established institutions, all the parties involved see nothing but a positive outcome ahead.
While the ZBT revival is putting the events in motion, Chabad Director Rabbi Elie Estrin is acting as the maestro, coordinating the musical chairs that will reshape the physical layout of the Jewish community in the U-District.
“I have had a good relationship with AEPi,” Estrin said. “When I heard that ZBT was moving back to the house they own, I worked with AEPi to find a way to put them in the Chabad House.”
Estrin said he imposed a set of requirements, including that they assist the day school when they are ready to move and that they strive to keep the kitchen kosher.
Also, AEPi will allow Chabad to hold its minyan in a room at the soon-to-be AEPi house. Other Chabad duties and functions will continue to function from both the current location or other locations in the neighborhood.
AEPi is excited about the move as well. According to chapter president Spencer Launer, not only is the growth of ZBT good for the Greek community at the UW, the move will allow for growth by AEPi.
“We have about 46 residents in the current house,” he said. “But as we get moved into the new facility, we will be able to eventually accommodate 50 to 60 residents.”
AEPi currently has 65 active members overall.
Launer says the move is revenue neutral for the chapter, but that being able to spread costs over more residents will result in savings for its for members.
He says he is excited about one other attribute of the building that served as a sorority before becoming the Chabad House: “If you look at a map of the Greek community, it puts us right in the middle,” he said. “That is a great place to be.”
As for MMSC, its search committee is in the final stages of settling on a new location.
“We have some strong possibilities,” said Tzviah Goldman, who serves on the search committee. “We are hoping to keep in the 98115 and 98105 ZIP codes.”
Those areas, which are in the general vicinity of the current location, are also home to 60 to 70 percent of the 90 students enrolled.
But a move will allow for growth of the school that provides early childhood education, and is home to a co-ed grade school and a girls’ high school.
“At the current location we have very little outdoor space,” she said. “We are hoping to have more outdoor space for the students.”
The board of the school is currently negotiating not only on a new building for the school but the funding as well. It had been operating rent-free at the Chabad House despite being a separate organization with common roots.
According to MMSC’s head of school Rabbi Yossi Charytan, a new facility will allow not only growth of the student population, but the possible addition of specialized classrooms. It will also allow for something the school has been working toward with its early childhood education program.
“We believe that we will be able to continue to transition it into a Jewish Montessori program,” he said.
Both Goldman and Charytan said that the school had been preparing for this move for more than two years.
“We knew we would eventually need to find a larger facility and we have been looking,” Goldman said. “We came close on a few places, but things didn’t work out. Now is the right time.”
She and Charytan both said this change is a tremendous opportunity for the school.
All the parties involved plan to be in place by the start of the next school year. AEPi moves on July 1 with ZBT returning to its house by August. MMSC hopes to announce its new location soon, with classes beginning in September in that location.

 
Kosher, halal deli sandwiches now available on campus

 
 
 
Kathy Sauber
Rachel Simmonds, a student coordinator for Housing and Food Services, stocks shelves at Etc., the convenience market in the HUB, with kosher/halal sandwiches provided by Nosh Away Inc.
May 14, 2009 - University Week (www.uweek.org)

For those looking for kosher or halal diets, a bit of change has come to the UW campus. Housing and Food Services (HFS) has begun offering deli sandwiches on campus that satisfy the dietary requirements of both the Jewish and Muslim faiths.

 

The sandwiches are from Nosh Away Inc., a family-operated kosher catering company in Renton, in partnership with HFS. Micheal Meyering, HFS project manager, said the sandwiches have been available since April 20 at two campus "Express Market" locations -- at Etc., located in the HUB and at Too Convenient, adjoining the Eleven01 Cafe in the Terry-Lander residence hall.

 

Meyering said the change came at the prompting of Rabbi Ellie Estrin and his wife, Chaya Estrin, co-directors of Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center, located at 5200 21st Ave NE in Seattle.

 

"(Chaya) explained that there are an estimated 3,000 Jewish undergraduate students, professors, grad students, doctors and staff on campus daily as well as hundreds of students of the Muslim faith who will eat only halal or kosher meat deli sandwiches, if we made them available."

 

Meyering wrote in an e-mail that HFS representatives met with those of Nosh Away to discuss product quality testing, packaging, labeling, pricing and delivery. "At our very first product sampling, we were impressed with the quality of sandwiches," Meyering wrote. He added that the company was able to accommodate HFS on the desire to use compostable packaging for the sandwich line.

 

Meyering said there are plans to expand the sandwich line to other UW locations, the next being Ian's Domain, in the McCarty residence hall.

 

For more information on campus dining, visit the HFS Web page.


 


Photo by Becca Pirwitz.

Kosher sandwiches are now being sold on campus



Photo by Becca Pirwitz.

Kathallya Pattaratuma stocks kosher sandwiches Tuesday in the HUB. The sandwiches have been popular since the HUB began selling them a few weeks ago.

A new line of sandwiches is being scooped up by customers in Terry/Lander Hall’s convenience store, 2 Convenient. They are considerably smaller in size, yet more expensive compared to other sandwiches. But for some, eating kosher is the preferred, and sometimes only, option.

The term “kosher” applies to dietary laws specific to the Jewish religion. It means that food must follow the dietary laws outlined in the Torah, known colloquially as the Old Testament of the Bible.

“Kosher is a pretty broad term, which means any food that fits under the laws of Jewish food preparation,” said Rabbi Elie Estrin from Chabad at UW.

In Seattle, the Va’ad is the organization that enforces those laws and gives its seal of approval. For example, kosher meat is slaughtered in a specific fashion.

For many students who try to keep kosher because of their religious beliefs, finding a decent meal on campus used to be an everyday struggle.

“[Before the sandwiches were available on campus], I wasn’t able to eat anything but fruit and soda,” said junior Joshua Newson. “Finally I can dine on campus.”

The visionaries behind bringing kosher to the UW campus were Estrin and his wife Chaya, who helped connect Nosh Away, a family-owned and operated business in Renton, with UW Housing and Food Services to provide the kosher sandwiches on campus.

“We do a lot of work with students at the UW, and I know there are a handful of them that try to keep kosher,” said Chaya Estrin. “I thought that it’d be a great way for the UW to support the diversity of the students that eat [kosher].”

Although kosher is a term that relates to the Jewish religion, the sandwiches appeal to students from a variety of backgrounds.

Katherine King, an employee at 2 Convenient, said the store started selling the sandwiches a few weeks ago.

“When we first got them, people tended to like them better and bought them out pretty fast,” King said.

The popularity of the sandwiches doesn’t seem to be affected by the price, which is slightly higher than other sandwiches.

“It makes sense that it’s a bit more expensive; kosher meat is more expensive in general,” said senior Helen Bennett, who has been purchasing the sandwiches since their arrival on campus.

Other students on a budget feel the sandwiches are not worth the price.

“I bought the albacore tuna on challah,” said freshman Mina Lohrasbi. “I’d say it was really fresh compared to the other sandwiches that are sold, but I wouldn’t buy it again because it was too expensive.”

A common misconception about kosher foods is that they are healthier than other foods; however, this isn’t always the case.

“Kosher doesn’t mean healthy, but a lot of people think it does,” Lohrasbi said. “It just means it [meets different standards]. They seem to taste more fresh, but it’s not like it’s organic.”

With the success of the kosher sandwiches on campus, talks of expansion are already underway. Right now, the sandwiches are only available at 2 Convenient and Etc. in the HUB.

“We would like to possibly extend it to the [UW] Medical Center for the residents and doctors,” Elie Estrin said. “Then if possible, actually open it up to the point where patients would be able to order in.”

Elie and Chaya Estrin make no profit from the sandwiches; they said they simply wanted to help their community.

“This is done purely as a service to students and faculty at UW,” Elie Estrin said.


 Vigil held for Mumbai victims
 
By Anthony Michael Erickson - The Daily Front Page
December 4, 2008


Photo by John McLellan.

Neeraj Korde protects his candle from the wind at the vigil last night in Red Square.



Photo by John McLellan.

Raj Paul places a candle after the Indian Student Association candlelight vigil last night in Red Square. About 75 students and members of the U-District community met to hear speeches from community leaders, pray and mourn the victims of the attacks.



Photo by John McLellan.

Senior Gauri Gupta and freshman Sima Desai hold candles while listening to a speaker at the candlelight vigil last night. The vigil was held to honor the dead from terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

 

Students and University District community members joined the UW Indian Student Association (ISA) in a candlelight vigil yesterday night to mourn the victims of the Mumbai attacks in India. Indian officials confirmed 171 deaths and 294 injured victims of the attacks yesterday afternoon.

There were 10 separate attacks in the city of Mumbai, India between Nov. 26 and 29, involving hotels, transportation centers, a Jewish center, a movie theatre and a café popular with tourists. One of the 10 terrorists was captured alive and claimed to be a member of a Pakistani terrorist organization known as Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“I was like, ‘Oh God, not again [when I heard about the attacks],’” said Shelini Briyadarshini, a foreign graduate student in the construction management program. “This has been happening in a lot of cities back home, so this was another one in a sequence of attacks. Only in 2008, we’ve had six attacks in different cities, which are very real and have cost a lot of lives.”

The ISA decided to hold the candlelight vigil to mourn the lives lost in the attacks spanning three days of violence.

“We wanted to convey a message of peace, especially to the campus, and to show that we are against terrorism,” said Rakendu Shukla, president of the ISA. “This is the time to unite, essentially, and it is not the time to look at race or religion or anything like that. We need to come together as one against terrorism.”

The vigil consisted of a nondenominational prayer, as well as a number of short speeches, including a speech from David Longnecker, a representative of the humanitarian organization Art of Living Foundation.

Longnecker stressed the importance of outreach and dialogue in preventing events like the Mumbai attacks.

“I think it’s important that we reach out to everyone and let them feel that we all belong together,” Longnecker said.

“As long as there is this separation of religion or country, we will continue to lose our big identity that we all belong to the human race. If we get to know people as individuals, then things like this won’t happen because we will see the humanness in each other, instead of an enemy or a foe.”

Another speaker was Elie Estrin, rabbi at the UW Chabad House. Estrin condemned those responsible for the Mumbai attacks and implored the crowd to respond to them with acts of kindness.

“I think the most important thing is in two parts, two parts of a whole,” Estrin said. “The first part is that first of all, we have to recognize that there is such a thing as evil, and wantonly killing people and just shooting and hurting people just for the sake of political or religious reasons is absolutely immoral and ungodly.”

However, Estrin encouraged positive actions to rise from the tragedy of the attacks.

“The second half is that from the perspective of all normal, decent human beings, our response has to be acts of goodness and kindness to the point that the entire credo of terrorism can be drowned out,” he said. “That should spur on even more acts of goodness and kindness to the point that terrorism doesn’t hold sway.”

 
 

 

Vandals Target Local Jewish Center Before Candlelight Vigil
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Turning tragedy into hope

By Allen Wagner
December 2, 2008 - The Daily Front Page


Photo by Daniel Kim.

Kenny Moffat, Solomon Waldbaum and Matt Varga quietly reflect on the Mumbai tragedy as they participate in the candle lighting. Each person shared their resolution to do something good as they lit their candle as a symbol to bring more “light” in the world.



Photo by Daniel Kim.

Rabbi Elie Estrin leads a group in singing a Jewish song of peace in memory of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah who were killed in the Mumbai terrorist attacks. The memorial was held last night at the UW Chabad House.

When freshman Matt Sackman turned on the television after the Thanksgiving holiday, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Indian commandos stormed the Mumbai Chabad House Friday in the hopes of saving several Jewish hostages from the terror of an organization identifying themselves as the ‘Deccan Mujahedin.’ Instead they found the dead bodies of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivkah and several others, bringing the events a world away in India closer to the UW Jewish community.

“It was something that happened very suddenly; something that I don’t think a lot of people expected,” Sackman said. “When something bad like that happens, especially involving rabbis and Jews, and especially when we’re all connected, it really hits home.”

Sackman is a member of Chabad at UW, a small chapter in a large network of a Jewish movement known as Chabad-Lubavitch. The hope for this community is for the healing process to begin soon and for good deeds to be performed in memory of the victims.

Part of that process began last night at the UW Chabad House during a memorial for the Holtzbergs, who dedicated their lives to service and enhancing the Jewish community in Mumbai and the world, said Director Rabbi Elie Estrin.

Estrin said that while all tragedies have a natural grieving period, he believes the events can be a springboard for positive actions, or “mitzvah.”

“[We try] to come up with ideas that will have a lasting impact on people so that Holtzberg and other victims won’t become another statistic, so their lives can make an impact on hundreds of thousands of lives around the world,” Estrin said.

The memorial began with a brief introduction of, and stories about, the two victims, in which Estrin recalled the multiple times when Holtzberg fed the hundreds of Indian Jews living in and visiting Mumbai.

This was followed by a candle-lighting ceremony in which each person lit a candle and proclaimed one good deed they will pursue to build a stronger community.

One student said she would plant a tree in remembrance, another said he would call his brother, while yet another said he would teach others about life and what it means to be Jewish.

“We don’t have to go to India to make this kind of difference,” Estrin’s wife, Chaya, said. “We want to be able to say, ‘I have the ability to make this oasis of kindness and learning and care.’”

Noah Cohen-Cline, a community member who spent time in India recently, said the idea of turning a disaster into mitzvah is a good one.

“It’s great to see Chabad framing [the tragedy] this way,” Cohen-Cline said. “All this means is we need to keep doing what we need to do to keep [making a difference].”

Freshman Rafi Stern, who attended the memorial, said the service helped him make the connection to Chabad around the world and agreed with the idea of turning the events in Mumbai into positive action.

“Obviously you can’t change what happened,” Stern said. “But if you do good things, maybe over time it can make a difference.”

Chabadniks show indomitable spirit

 
Belief Blog (View Blog) - Washington Times

POSTED December 02 2008 12:24 PM BY Julia Duin

    A friend of mine who belongs to the Lubavitch movement began sending me emails shortly after we all learned last week of how terrorists in Mumbai savagely tortured and killed the inhabitants of the Chabad Lubavitch center in that city. I am not sure why the U.S. media aren't reporting the torture aspect but the European and Israeli media are as you can see with this link.

   How has this group of very orthodox Jews reacted to the murders of an American man and his Israeli wife? By giving suggestions of how to keep alive the spirits of those who died by increasing in good deeds and lighting Sabbath candles in remembrance of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. One Florida rabbi revealed in an email that a couple has already applied to take the Holtzberg's place. "We must take the pain and turn it into action with an infusion of light and positive energy," he wrote. The Chabad House at the University of Washington in Seattle is sponsoring a week-long event in this couple's memory. "This has been the Chabad response to every tragedy - the lower the springboard dips, the higher it springs," their press release said.

   The Holtzbergs essentially ran a hospitality house for Jews visiting the area. One wonders how their Muslim killers found out about them. Since these terrorists were from Pakistan, what Mumbai insider clued them in to the existence of the Chabad house? As for the Holtzbergs, they had already endured their share of tragedies before this. Their oldest child died of Tay-Sachs disease and they had left behind a second child in Israel to get treatment there.

   The tragedy of it all keeps on piling on. Meanwhile, the Chabadniks are not giving up. People of all religions could learn from their tenacity. 

   And the chit-chat at Chabad's main site is quite instructive. The "ask the rabbi" feature is filled with theodicy questions from readers such as: Why weren't they protected? Where did all our prayers go? Why did God create evil? No one knows but basically, the rabbi says, whether God intervenes to protect or not, the Jews are not going to give up on Him. 

    "A person can decide one of two ways," the rabbi said. "Either there is no God and whoever is stronger or bigger wins. Or there is a God and He is good, only we are not so smart to understand all things."

   - Julia Duin, religion editor

Emerging from the silence
Joel Magalnick • Editor, JTNews
Posted: November 14, 2008

It’s only by luck that Dan Alon is alive today. Thirty-six years ago, at the age of 27, Alon looked up the barrel of a machine gun, straight into the eyes of a Black September terrorist — who himself was probably dead less than 24 hours later — then ran. Alon, as was the case with four of his fellow Olympians in Munich, West Germany, survived an attack that would eventually take the lives of 11 of his friends and colleagues.

Now 63, Alon came to Seattle on Nov. 7 to speak about his experience at Chabad at the University of Washington to a standing-room-only group of students from a few universities around the state.

Early on the morning of Sept. 5, 1972, a group of eight Palestinians scaled the wall of the Olympic village in Munich, about 10 days into the games. They broke into two of the three of the men’s apartments (two women who were competing were housed elsewhere in the village, and the two boating competitors were in the north of the country) and immediately took hostages. A coach and a wrestler who attempted to subdue the attackers were killed — one of them bled to death in the same room his fellow countrymen were held. The gunshots went through the wall near where Alon, an Israeli national fencing champion who had been eliminated prior to the Olympic semifinals, was sleeping, jarring him and his roommate awake.

For some reason, the attackers never entered Alon’s apartment, room number two. For hours, the two fencers and the two marksmen staying across the hall, all of whom were staying on the second floor, and a speed walker who had snuck up a problematically noisy staircase to join his teammates, argued about what they should do.

They were torn, Alon told the crowd. A clear, simple shot by one of the marksmen would have undoubtedly ended the life of one of their captors, but Alon said he argued that to do so would also have undoubtedly ended the lives of their teammates then and there. So they decided to make a run for it, to the West German police that had surrounded their building.

It took 20 long minutes for the group to tiptoe down the steps. Then, one after the other, leaving 10 seconds between them, they jumped down the balcony and began to run. A gunman shot at the first runner, who made his way to safety by running in a zig-zag pattern. Alon jumped second, and as he hit the ground he said he looked up, right into the face of his captor, then turned around and ran.

He didn’t shoot, Alon said, and the four remaining competitors all ran to safety.

Eventually, the captive Israelis and the Palestinians flew to a remote site, where they worked out a deal that would release the hostages and Black September would have their demands for prisoner releases met. But then things went terribly wrong: When the helicopters arrived with the hostages to release them, West German forces opened fire. The terrorists strafed one of the helicopters with machine gun fire, killing all of the hostages. Another Black September member tossed a grenade into the other helicopter, blowing it up. Five of the Palestinians died in the gunfire, but it brought their cause into the international consciousness.

Alon and his fellow survivors returned to Israel, carrying the bloody belongings of his dead teammates. But after that, for nearly 34 years, he kept silent.

“It’s hard to talk about it. I was a little shy,” Alon told JTNews. “We didn’t do anything, we just escaped.”

People, including his own family, would ask him about it, but he shrugged them off. “I went to another subject. I didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.

He gave up fencing after the attack. What had been, days earlier, one of the happiest times of his life became the most tragic. He did, however, coach the sport and his son was nationally ranked in Israel. He also briefly returned to competition while in his 40s.
But questions plagued Alon for decades after the attack: In particular, why Black September never entered apartment two and why the terrorist failed to pull the trigger when the five survivors escaped. They were questions that the survivors and their families would discuss when they got together each year to commemorate the attack. But nobody wanted to talk about it publicly.
“All the survivors, they didn’t want to make any waves,” he said.
Then Steven Spielberg made Munich, a film about the attack, and Alon decided he should speak out. He did an event for Chabad at Oxford University. Then he went to Yale. Now he’s working on a book about that chapter of his life, which he hopes will be released next summer.

Alon still feels anger — at the Israeli government for not protecting its citizens by providing security for the athletes as well as a Mossad operation that killed most of the surviving members of Black September —  and also at the attackers, not for doing what they did, but for doing it at the Olympics.

“The Olympics were something to me that were really special,” he said. “It was the first time in history that something like this happened at the Olympics…. How can people be not so human, and think about attacking something like this? It got very difficult to understand why they did it. They could fight or attack other places like they used to do, but not the Olympics.”

Rock Band Inspired by Jewish Teachings Develops a Campus Following

 
 
 
 
 
 
The Yood Power Rock Trio made their American debut at the University of Washington Chabad House in the spring of 2007.
The Yood Power Rock Trio made their American debut at the University of Washington Chabad House in the spring of 2007.

It isn't unusual for a late-night concert at a university to draw the attention of local law enforcement, so Rabbi Elie Estrin wasn’t too concerned when two police officers came up to him to ask when the Saturday night concert at his University of Washington-based Chabad House would be ending. After all, things would be wrapping up in 15 minutes, early for the Seattle school’s Frat Row.

Estrin, though, quickly realized that the inquiry wasn’t routine: The two policemen, their shift coming to a close, had simply wanted to know how much longer they had to enjoy Israel’s latest rock sensation, the Yood Power Rock Trio.

Like so many others who had walked past the bash on Estrin’s front lawn, the officers were mesmerized by the blend of classic rock sounds, heavily tinted with blues and the occasional country influence, combined with soul-searching lyrics.

Since that Lag B’Omer concert last year, the band’s American debut, Yood has made the rounds of campus-based Chabad Houses, most recently on a fall tour that culminated in their appearance last weekend at the Chabad on Campus International Shabbaton and Conference. (They’re also headlining the new Chabad Teen Network’s Shabbaton this coming weekend.)

The band’s recognition among Israel’s music scene, however, is a little more deep. Band members Lazer Lloyd (guitar, vocals, harmonica) and Yaakov Lefcoe (bass, vocals) formed Yood with drummer Akiva Girsh in the fall of 2005, just after the Israeli government expelled its citizens from the Gaza Strip. At the time, says Lloyd, “we just knew that we needed to do something to counteract what was going on in the country. Music has a way of bringing people together.

“We wanted Jews to connect with each other again,” continues Lloyd, who draws his inspiration from Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidism. “And we wanted to do something that would help connect people to their spiritual roots.”

For three years, the band has found success in an unusually diverse list of settings. In 2006, Girsh left Yood for other pursuits and drummer Moshe Yankovsky signed on. Since then, the three has played before a crowd of 10,000 at Israel’s Dead Sea Festival and before more than 30,000 people at the Israel Day Parade in New York. Yood also has the distinction of being the only band to have ever been invited back to the parade for two consecutive years.

Estrin, who’s work with students frequently puts him in contact with their musical tastes, says he’s not surprised by Yood’s growing success.

“There are a lot of bands out there that are just imitating a sound,” says the rabbi. “These guys are different. The sound is authentic. They approach it as an art, and students respond.”

The Seattle performance drew a lot of attention along the University of Washington’s Frat Row.

Spiritual Lyrics, Classic Sound

Though their long-flowing beards leads audience members to draw comparisons to ZZ Top, the trio’s sound invokes such legends as Cream, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Still, the band vigorously avoids categorization, its members preferring to just play from the heart.

For the most part, Yood’s songs are inspired by Chassidic teachings. “Set My Soul Free,” one of their most popular tracks, tells of the yearning of the Divine soul to break free from the constraints of the animal soul. Each of their albums also feature a traditional nigun, or traditional Chasidic melody.

“It takes a lot to impress me, and these guys impress me,” one student comments after a Yood performance. “I’ve been to concerts in London, in America; these guys could play at any of the places I’ve been to.”

After getting to know the band’s members, fans are usually more impressed, say people who work with Yood. At stops on their recent two-week campus tour, students got to interact with the trio; the band also keeps in touch by e-mail.

Yankovsky, a native Russian speaker who now lives in Rechovot, Israel, enjoys being able to reach out to other Russian-speaking Jews wherever the band plays. Lefcoe, who is currently finishing his Ph.D. in clinical psychology, has for years taught classes on Torah and psychology, and is focusing his doctoral research on topics connected to Jewish meditation. Lloyd is a professionally-trained musician who toured internationally with Reva L’Sheva and other bands.

“They’re not just great musicians, they are wonderful human beings,” says Estrin. “When they came here to play, they spent extra time with the students and really connected to them as people. One student needed someone to walk her home, and they got everyone to go as a big group, just so she would be safe walking home. They care about people and that comes through.”

Rabbi joins police chaplain program
Diana Brement • JTNews Columnist
Posted: July 11, 2008
 

Rabbi Elie Estrin, who runs Chabad’s University of Washington organization, has just finished training as a Seattle Community Police Chaplain. He’s the only rabbi of about 30 chaplains, a mix of clergy and lay people, and only one of two Jews.
The volunteer chaplain force assists police in giving tragic news to families of accident and crime victims, including death notification. Although they are accompanied by a uniformed officer, their work frees other officers to do more specific police duties.
Rabbi Estrin learned of the program in an unusual way — when he and his wife Chaya were woken at about 3 a.m. one morning by a loud pounding noise. Understandably confused, Estrin first thought the house was being robbed. He was relieved when he heard, “Open up, it’s the police!” until he opened the door only to be greeted by shouts of “Put your hands where we can see them.”
It turned out that the Estrins’ basement tenant had been involved in a slight altercation hours earlier.
“It took us about an hour to slow our heartbeats down,” Estrin says.
Looking for reportage on the Internet the next day (“After all, there were seven cop cars lined up in front of our house,”) he first saw a notice asking for volunteer chaplains on the UW police Web site.
“The training was fascinating,” says Estrin. It included a variety of speakers, a tour of the morgue and a future shift in a patrol car. “The purpose…is to establish a rapport between police and the chaplaincy,” he says.
A certain amount of police etiquette is taught. For instance, you don’t ask officers about their weapons.
Rabbi Elie found the diversity training especially interesting.
“It explained a lot of the struggles we have as a society trying to deal with so many different societies within the one American society at large,” he says.
No proselytizing is allowed, of course, but, “it’s good to have a rabbi on the crew and…be able to help a Jewish family [in crisis].”
The chaplains are trained to deliver bad news, including how to be aware of personal safety. (One officer reported being punched in the face when he delivered a death notice.) “People deal with grief in very different ways,” observes the rabbi.
It’s not a happy job, but essential, one the Talmud describes as chesed shel emet, true kindness, because “there’s very little gratification…and you’re not expecting anything as a result.”
Estrin, who’s been in Seattle four years, says things at Chabad UW are “awesome” and “phenomenal.” The organization has an office, but he says he really works out of his home, welcoming students of all different levels of belief and observance.
“We want kids to know that a Jewish home is a place of joy,” he says. “We approach every single person where they are, rather than what we want them to be.”
The Estrins, who have three children under the age of 3, have no summer vacation plans. “There are Jews on campus the entire year,” he says — but they hope to take day trips to explore local sights and scenery, like a recent trip they made to Bainbridge Island. They’re also hoping to visit family in Pittsburgh (where he’s from) and Cincinnati (where she’s from).

 

College Students Take to the Road to Raise Money for Cancer Research

By Joshua Runyan, Chabad.edu
June 4, 2008

A team of 20 American students and graduates took to their bikes on a 4,000-mile journey to heighten cancer awareness and raise money for cancer treatment and research.

Made up mostly of undergraduates from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Illini4000 team set off May 23 from New York City, where they spent the previous night preparing for their trek at the Chabad Resource Center of Columbia University. By the middle of this week, the effort had raised $50,000, which will be split between the American Cancer Society and Camp Kesem, a summer camp for pediatric patients and survivors of cancer.

Speaking from western Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Illini4000 co-founder Jonathan Schlesinger said that the trip is all about human compassion.

“I can’t tell you how many times complete strangers have gone out of their way to help,” said Schlesinger, an Illinois graduate. “When one considers the fact that we sleep on the ground and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to keep our costs down, this support – be it through shelter, food or a hot shower – not only allows us to increase our donation, but it also provides the invaluable moral support that we need to face the wind, rain and mountains each day.”

Referring to the Columbia Chabad House, where co-directors Rabbi Yonah and Keren Blum provided room and board to the riders, Schlesinger said that their night in New York “would have been a nightmare had it not been for the shelter, advice and moral support that they provided on the eve of [the] departure.”

The riders’ route has taken them through Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, Pa. Their journey will continue through Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis, Champaign-Urbana, Ill., Chicago, Madison, Wis., Minneapolis, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, Missoula, Mont., Portland, Ore., Astoria, Ore., and Seattle, where Rabbi Elie and Chaya Estrin will host a congratulatory barbeque at the Chabad House serving the University of Washington.

Recording Survivors’ Stories

 

Founded by two alumni from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illini4000 heightens cancer awareness through a team of bike riders who traverse the United States and catalogue the experiences of cancer patients and survivors.

Schlesinger emphasized that a prime component of the trip is to speak to cancer survivors and patients.

“Our interviews, conducted as part of The Portraits Project – a program we created to document cancer’s influence on American life in the 21st century – have shown us two things,” he explained. “First, cancer affects everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a truck driver in New York City, a wheat farmer in Kansas, or a Chasidic Jew living in the suburbs of Chicago, cancer transcends racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic boundaries.

“We hope to eventually interview hundreds of cancer patients, because we believe that every cancer patient has a story that should be recorded.”

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, the co-director of the Chabad-Lubavitch Center for Jewish Student Life at the University of Illinois who connected the students with the Blums, praised the example that Schlesinger and his teammates set for people of all backgrounds.

“Jonathan is a true leader,” said Tiechtel. “We can all learn from what he’s doing, which is a perfect example of how a few people can make a big difference in the community.

“We are very inspired by them,” added the rabbi. “We’re here to do anything we can to help them out.”

Keren Blum in New York agreed.

“We were honored to share in their tremendous effort by opening our doors to these students,” she said. “It is one thing to wish someone a refuah shleimah, or speedy recovery. It is another to go out there and fight for the cause.”

Police Chaplains View “Ministry of Presence” as a Supreme Responsibility


Not every rabbi uses his pastoral skills to counsel highway accident victims or prevent suicides. Fewer still are called upon to perform CPR or fire a weapon. But for Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis who serve their communities as volunteer police chaplains, such activities are a part of the job.

Affectionately called “Rabbi Cops” by officers and citizens alike, they have the primary responsibility of counseling and assisting both police officers and citizens in times of need.

“When something bad happens, people tend to look to an authoritative figure,” says Rabbi Elie Estrin, co-director of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center at the University of Washington and a new inductee to his local police force’s chaplaincy staff.

“Jews look to other Jews,” he explains, “so it’s very important that I’m there for them.”

The conversations chaplains have with victims of a crime – or even the perpetrators – can touch on life and death issues. Sometimes, when a call comes, they must stop whatever they’re doing that moment.

On one of his very first calls 22 years ago, Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein had to go to the employer of a garbage collector who fell from his truck and was trampled by the vehicle’s back tire. As the police chaplain on duty, he had to counsel the man’s coworkers and the waste management firm’s other staffers.

New to the job, Klein was at a loss for words when one of the workers spoke up.

“Aren’t you a rabbi?” the man asked. “Don’t you have words or prayers to say to us in the time of our grief?”

Klein answered that in times of grief, it helps to remember the happy times you shared with a person who passed away.

“More than anything, we in chaplaincy talk about the ministry of presence,” says Klein, co-director of the Tannenbaum Chabad House at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “The very fact that I was there was a comfort for those workers. We represent G-d in that moment, and ultimately it’s G-d that heals.”

Still, in retrospect, Klein admits that he was taken aback by the worker’s question.

“Typically, a person’s first reaction to tragedy is to be angry at G-d,” he explains. “So when you try to push prayer at that moment, you’re causing them more frustration. In Judaism, for instance, we don’t start davening just after the loss of a loved one. We say baruch dayan ha’emet, blessed is the True Judge.

“You have to deal with the anger first.”

On the Job

Informal ambassadors of the Jewish community, chaplains assist all people, regardless of their religion.

“As a chaplain, I can integrate within the community as a whole and be a positive presence in the community,” says Klein. “I am the de facto Jewish point person in Evanston. I am on the front lines to educate the community, students and the police department.”

“A lot of progressive police departments, as well as most large- to medium-size police departments, have a clergy component to their services,” says Commander Tom Guenther, a member of the Evanston Police Department’s community strategy team and Klein’s supervisor. “With Rabbi Klein, he’s very active with our officers here, and he also serves as a bridge between the police department and the community.”

Like Klein, Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz values his opportunities as a senior chaplain for three Los Angeles law enforcement agencies to interact with both Jews and non-Jews. He spends most of his time serving as director of the anti-missionary organization Jews for Judaism and lecturing at Jewish institutions across the United States, and looks to chaplaincy as a way to interact with his local community.

“In my usual work, I don’t have many opportunities to reach out to non-Jewish people, to introduce them to values that the Torah has for them,” says Kravitz, a graduate of the Lubavitch-run Rabbinical College of America and a 16-year veteran of police chaplaincy.

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, co-director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life serving the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joined the university’s Emergency Support Team to fill a void. For the past two-and-a-half years, he’s been the only Jewish member of the chaplaincy group.

“My entire goal is to make this world a better place,” says Tiechtel. “Helping those who help others is a tremendously important mitzvah.”

Klein has officiated at circumcisions for Jewish officers’ children, their bar mitzvahs, even officers’ weddings. Some come to pray at services between calls.

Just as important, Klein’s position allowed him to push for a change in policy regarding how local law enforcement handles dead bodies. Klein managed to get the police department to be quicker about releasing Jewish bodies so that they could be buried as soon as possible, in accordance with Jewish law.

Tiechtel calls being a chaplain a true act of service.

“People know where to turn when they need a Jewish resource,” he says. “Working in the time of need or distress is the ultimate kindness. There’s no better way than that.”

Intermarriage Book Offers Glimpse Into One Man's Struggle

Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Uruguay, leads a discussion of his book, Dear Rabbi, Why Can’t I Marry Her?
Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Uruguay, leads a discussion of his book, Dear Rabbi, Why Can’t I Marry Her?

As studies continue to report on the growing phenomenon of intermarriage and the decline of the Jewish population, a new Spanish translation of a book chronicling one rabbi's correspondence with a soon-to-be intermarried Catholic is causing a stir in South America.

Those who read the book's English edition, which hit stores last year, hailed Dear Rabbi, Why Can't I Marry Her? as an invaluable tool in conveying the dangers of intermarriage. It was that response that prompted the book's author, Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov, to commission the new translation.

"I didn't really set out to write a book on intermarriage," said Shemtov, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Uruguay. "The book is a result of correspondence that was generated in answer to an e-mail I received from a Catholic boy who wondered why the parents of his Jewish girlfriend rejected him just because he wasn't Jewish."

Shemtov, who hails from Brooklyn, N.Y., but has served Uruguay's Jewish community since 1985, first posted the edited e-mail exchanges on theChabad.org Web site. Hundreds of people posted comments on his back-and-forth with the young man, leading Shemtov to repackage them in dialogue form.

The result was an easy-to-read digest of Judaism's take on intermarriage. Its deeply personal subject matter also gives way to an evolving friendship between the author and his subject, who at the same time begins to rethink his relationship with his Jewish girlfriend.

Its pages don't burst with facts and figures, but instead discuss the basis of the Torah prohibition on intermarriage, the nature of Jewish identity, the seriousness of marriage, and the effects of a lack of Jewish education on rising rates of assimilation.

Though Shemtov conveys his religious perspective in an uncompromising manner, he continues to gain the respect of his correspondent, rather than frighten him away.

"Shemtov doesn't seem so obstinately radical as he does when he begins to discuss the topic," wrote Jose Gallo in his review of the book for Uruguay's Galeria Magazine. "From a firm posture, sometimes painful but not at all discriminatory, Shemtov defends with mastery … his absolute identification with the commandments of the Torah, and, based on them, the impossibility of mixed marriages."

 

The Spanish translation of Dear Rabbi, Why Can’t I Marry Her? The new title translates to “impossible love.”
Rabbi Elie Estrin, co-director of the Chabad House serving the University of Washington in Seattle, appreciated Shemtov's candid and atypical approach.

"It touches on extremely sensitive topics without skirting the issues, and rarely misses a chance to look at the issues from various perspectives," said Estrin. "I think that its true uniqueness is in its sensitivity to the raw emotions of someone who is going through this difficult experience."

The format of Dear Rabbi has its foundation in the question-and-answer style, but goes beyond, as both correspondents delve into emotionally and politically heated issues. But as the conversations progress, each begins to sign their e-mails with "a hug."

"Having lived through a similar scenario, and now watching as a sister struggles with her decisions," said one reader, who wished to remain anonymous, "I assure you that this will provide an objective and non-confrontational launching point for a much overdue family conversation."

Although the book's Spanish version has only recently hit the market, it is already attracting attention. Besides generating articles in the local press, the book has been discussed on radio talk shows. Now, Shemtov is working on Russian and Portuguese translations of the book, and is inquiring about the possibility of publishing it in French and Hebrew.

Though they are not Shemtov's focus, the facts about intermarriage are alarming, he said. According to the National Jewish Population Survey of 2001, the rate of intermarriage among American Jews increased dramatically over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. Before 1970, the rate of intermarriage among American Jews was 13 percent, but by 2001, had climbed to 47 percent. Further studies have echoed that trend and documented a decreasing Jewish population, as well.

"Intermarriage is the most serious challenge today to Jewish survival," said Shemtov. "It is probably not so much the cause, as a symptom of Jewish ignorance and lack of Jewish education."

Robert Leiter, literary editor at the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, wrote in his review of the book that Shemtov's work goes a long way in providing that education.

"Rabbi Shemtov's honesty may not make him many friends in today's highly secularized world," he asserted, "but his clearheaded explanations can hardly be refuted."


Shedding Light in Holiday Tradition

The Daily pic.jpg 

Dr. Carol Teitz, professor of orthopaedics and sports medicine, lights a Menorah in Red Square Thursday evening. Hanukkah ends Dec. 12 this year. (John McLellan)

[Front page of The Daily, Dec. 7, 2007]

 
Canned heat for Hanukkah
Diana Brement • JTNews Columnist
Posted: November 16, 2007
 
 

The brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the only Jewish fraternity at the University of Washington, will build a giant hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) made of food cans this Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 4. The project is being created with the campus Chabad, and the cans, as well as any monies raised, will be donated to the Jewish Family Service.

The hanukkiah will replicate one that was successfully built by Chabad at Binghamton University in upstate New York. (That would be SUNY Binghamton to you New Yorkers of a certain age.)

Rabbi Eli Estrin of the campus Chabad has been instrumental in this project, Josh Newson, AEPi’s philanthropy chair, told me. Estrin generated the idea and handled publicity, working with AEPi members Daniel Stochel and Gilad Bernstein. Chabad members will also help build the structure.

The Binghamton hanukkiah “was very successful in terms of getting…Jews excited about Judaism and getting the campus to ask questions about Judaism,” says Newson.

To complete the project, AEPi is asking for donations of cans, especially food-service size cans (#10), which are needed to construct the base of the menorah. It will be 15 feet high and eight or nine feet wide at the base. “We’re going to build a triangle,” Josh explained to me, “and on the very top we’ll have a wooden board with Tiki torches.”

Cans will be shrink-wrapped together to provide stability.

The giant hanukkiah will either be on display in “Red Square” at the center of campus, (if permission can be secured), or in front of the fraternity’s building at 4626 21st Avenue NE.

“If we do it in Red Square, we can’t leave it out all week,” Josh points out, “but if we do it in front of the fraternity, we can leave it up all week and light

it every night.”

The residential fraternity has about 40 members who live in and about 20 who live out. All denominations and levels of observance are represented, and there are even a couple of non-Jews. AEPi’s members actively participate in a variety of local charitable events.

“We’ll do whatever the Jewish community needs us to do,” says Newson. “Last year we helped with the Seattle Jewish Community School auction. A month or so ago we did the big food sort with JFS.”

The fraternity also participates in Greek System fundraisers, including sports tournaments and other activities.

To donate cans (you can get the large cans at Costco or order them from a food service company), or funds to purchase cans, contact Josh at 425-442-6818 (or newsonj@u.washington.edu), or call Rabbi Estrin at 206-523-1359.

 

 
New Digs
Leyna Krow • Assistant Editor, JTNews
Posted: November 2, 2007
 

Moving into a new house is never fun. But for the directors of Chabad at the University of Washington, Rabbi Elie Estrin and his wife, Chaya, all the packing and heavy lifting was well worth the effort.

After more than six months of operating out of a two-bedroom apartment in the U-District, Chabad has finally found a permanent home for its student center.

“We really needed a bigger place,” Rabbi Estrin said. “We needed somewhere with a large living room and dining room for Shabbat dinners. We were also looking for land outside for barbecues and outdoor activities. Mostly we just wanted room to be comfortable and not just to squeeze people in.”

Chabad purchased its new facility, a 3,800-square-foot home on 21st Ave. NE, for $870,000 at the end of August. The Estrins then made their move, furnishing the house with plenty of couches and chairs, and a large dining room table and library, just prior to the start of the school year. Chabad’s first event at the new location was a welcome-back barbecue for new and returning students.

“It was so great. We had about 40 people at the house and there was plenty of room for everyone,” Estrin said.

The house was purchased with the help of a $300,000 donation from the Rohr Family Foundation, a New York-based philanthropic organization that provides millions of dollars a year to Jewish groups around the world.

This isn’t the first time Chabad at UW has received funding from the Rohr Foundation. During Chabad’s first three years of existence, the foundation provided the fledging organization with grants of $40,000 a year. In honor of the foundation’s gifts to Chabad, the house has been named the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center.

As for where the rest of the money for the new building is coming from, “We’re still working on that,” Rabbi Estrin said.

Chabad has received a number of donations from parents and alumni as well to help pay for the house, but, according to Estrin, the fundraising process will continue for quite some time to come.

For students active in Chabad, the house seems well worth the hefty price tag. Val Loughney, a senior at UW, is a regular at Chabad functions. She said she is pleased with the new student center.

“It definitely feels like a house and not just a U-District rental,” Loughney said. “It has a very warm feeling to it.”

Loughney said she has attended Shabbat dinner a number of times at the new student center since the start of the school year and often stops by just to visit with the Estrins and other students.

“It’s a place I know I can go and hang out,” she said.

This is exactly how Estrin wants students to see the house. He hopes that, with the establishment of the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center, that the Chabad at UW will continue to grow. He stressed that he wants the new student center to be a place where all Jewish students, not just Orthodox Jews, can feel comfortable.

“Our purpose is to provide Jewish support and content, and we do that in a non-judgmental, family-type atmosphere,” Estrin said. “We want kids to know that this is a place where they are going to be accepted; a place where they can be Jews in the company of other Jews.”

 

On Campus with Chabad at UW: No Matzah Ball Soup Here


SEATTLE, WA -- (October 21, 2007)
EJ Tansky

Chabad on Campus at University of Washington has a new home, room for seventy guests on Shabbat dinner, a library and a joint project with a Jewish frat on campus coming up, but no matzah ball soup.

On Shabbat at the new center—a tall but cozy house, three quick blocks from U-Dub—Rabbi Elie and Chaya Rochel Estrin don’t serve “Jewish penicillin” or potato kugel either. Traditional Jewish foods, the mode of identification for gastronomic Jews in other eras and places, leave most Jewish UW students cold. The campus, in the statistical epicenter of the intermarriage epidemic, attracts students who – on the whole -  have grown up so far removed from anything Jewish that the standbys of Jewish culture are foreign to them.

“If we serve kugel, it just sits on the table uneaten. Students don’t know what to make of it,” said Rabbi Estrin.

Instead of mourning the demise of food as common ground for Jews from different backgrounds, the Estrins capitalize on it. Every month they offer a Friday night Shabbat meal based on a different international cuisine. Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Cajun, and Italian cuisine have all been on the menu. Chaya Rochel has received so many requests for recipes that she hosts cooking lessons each week.

“Some of the biggest crowds are at the themed Shabbos dinners. It allows people who normally wouldn’t bother, to get involved with Judaism,” said Gary Stute, who recently graduated UW with a degree in physics.   

Interest in the exotic Shabbat meals spills over into involvement in Chabad’s other events. Cosmopolitan menus also work because they mesh so nicely with the Jewish students’ interests. Of the 2000 self-identified Jews on campus, a hefty chunk of them are international studies or political science majors. Students’ investment in the issues of the day keeps discussions at the Estrins’ table lively.

The Estrins are “open to questions. It is an environment where people feel safe and secure to be themselves. Everyone feels comfortable,” said Stute.

At 1:30 AM, Shabbat morning, the Estrins’ children have been tucked into bed, and Chaya Rochel’s deftly spiced cuisine has been devoured. But the conversation is still bouncing around from the environment to goings on at AEPi to vegetarianism to the weekly Torah portion. Rabbi Estrin clearly enjoys the exchanges. “I get to spend time with good people and enjoy their company and have great conversations.”

Though the couple is new to formal Chabad on Campus work, which they began in 2004, both Estrins have backgrounds that have prepared them for their life among the Huskies. Chaya Rochel Estrin was born in Brooklyn, but grew up in Sharon, MA, and her parents now live in Cincinnati.  Rabbi Estrin was raised in Providence, RI. Most members of his extended family are proud but not practicing Jews.

“I had heard their opinions for so long, and their gripes about Judaism. From them, I learned how to approach questions. I can relate. It is not a foreign world.” (www.lubavitch.com)

Chabad Movin’ On Up at University of Washington

Jennifer Anne Perez
For Chabad.edu

Over past several years, Chabad-Lubavitch at the University of Washington’s housing woes had become practically legendary. One Seattle location had the windows nailed shut, making it an instant sauna when more than a few people showed up for programs. One had a faulty roof, greeting a pack of jovial students from a ski trip with a miniature flood.

But through it all, students and the Chabad House’s co-directors, Rabbi Elie and Chaya Estrin, made due with the lack of space through a system of almost military-like logistical planning.

That’s why returning students and staff are positively ecstatic over the newly-purchased Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center, which opened this week.

“The past three years have been quite an adventure,” says senior Avi Zellman, a native of Spokane, Wash. “The challenge we all shared was a lack of room. It was a weekly experience trying to create space for programs, dinners, services and speakers.

“We became so adept at dealing with an overbearing number of people that we actually had different floor plans that catered to the type of event, number of people and, of course, the creativity and flexibility of the people there,” continues the student, who besides his work with Chabad is an officer of the Huskies for Israel student club on campus. “Each building provided its own set of challenges.”

After trying to hold normal meetings in three different small houses – the last a combination of two apartments – the Estrins have found in the new center, which they purchased for nearly $900,000 with help from a Rohr Family Foundation grant, the space that can handle the burgeoning program.

“It’s a 3,800 square-foot building on a 5,000 square-foot piece of land, with a nice, open floor plan,” begins Elie Estrin. “It’s what we needed to host a lot of students.”

After things settle from the move and the start of classes, they’re thinking of “building a huge deck to have programs under the stars,” he adds. “We’ll probably do other things later, like update the kitchen.”

A Permanent Place

The new digs couldn’t be any more different than the last location, whose 160-square-foot dining room could just barely fit 25 people at a time, and that was with guests bumping up against the radiator. And thankfully, says Estrin, students will no longer have to go out the front door to make it around to the back entrance to go to the restroom.

“Shoulder to shoulder definitely describes the last place we were at,” confirms Valerie Loughney, 24. “The main living room could barely fit the two tables pushed together for Shabbat dinner, let alone the 20-plus people that sat around them. People who came in late were relegated to the end of the table closest to the door, and if you wanted to go chat with some people on the other end or grab something out of the kitchen, you would have to scramble across the sofa pushed against the wall and dodge whoever was sitting on it.”

Naturally, the Estrins have big plans for the new place.

“As far as the new space goes, we plan to expand our programming to touch the over-21 crowd with monthly socials, and further our relationship with Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity down the block,” attests Chaya Estrin. “We’re also focusing on the school’s new dorms, which are only two blocks away.”

In its first few days, students have been pronouncing the new location a hit.

“Yesterday was my first day at the new Chabad House and I was awestruck by the place,” says Loughney. “The living room alone was the size of the entire last house, with beautiful colors and high ceilings and, most importantly, space.

Like the Estrins, she’s already thinking of the possibilities: “We’ll be able to have three long tables set up easily with room to actually get up and move around,” she exclaims. “The kitchen is larger than the previous one and the whole place is just beautiful.”

Zellman, says the new space addresses an issue more important than a solid foundation, sound roof or adequate space. Unlike the previous homes, this one is not rented; it’s permanent.

“The often-asked question was ‘where’s Chabad?’ ” he relates. “With a stable location, that can finally be answered definitively.”

Reflections of Virginia Tech

Manny Frishberg • JTNews Correspondent

On the morning of April 16, Dr. Liviu Librescu, a 76-year-old Holocaust survivor and aeronautical engineering professor, blocked the door of his classroom in Norris Hall at Virginia Tech so that his students could escape through the windows.

One month later, on the shloshim of his death, the University of Washington Chabad brought Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe to the UW campus for a memorial lecture in Librescu’s honor that looked at, among other things, how his actions should be viewed through a Jewish lens.

Shlomo Yaffe serves as rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in West Hartford, Conn. and the founding director of the Institute for Jewish Literacy and the founder of the Connecticut Symposium on Contemporary Legal Issues and Jewish Law in Hartford. He is well known for his ability to make Jewish mysticism accessible to people to make use of it in daily life.

After studying rocket science and WWII history, Yaffe turned to Talmudic law and Hassidic philosophy. He has written and lectured on the Judaic perspective of contemporary, legal, scientific and social issues. Rabbi Yaffe is also an expert on secular law and legal ethics who serves as a legal consultant and lecturer for the New York Legal Assistance Group. 

Rabbi Yaffe began his talk with the question: “From the standpoint of Jewish ethics and law, did [Prof. Librescu] do the right thing? He put himself against the door, which someone could, and did ultimately, shoot through and kill him. Was he really supposed to give his life for others?

“This is not such a simple question,” Yaffe explained, “because if someone’s life is no less valuable than your own, then it’s certainly no more valuable than your own.”

He promised to answer that question, but first took an hour-long digression that began with the question of how German society, with its long traditions of scientific and philosophical leadership, could emerge in the 1930s as the author of the Holocaust, one of the most horrific moments in modern human history.

“How did a very large group of people from a highly developed society…engage in and justify such a pervasive, long term abuse of ethics? The Holocaust was not the passionate, vicious bloodletting of the mob that ultimately runs itself out,” he said. “It was a cold and calculated societal choice devoted to the extermination, destruction and utter and complete cruelty and disregard, first of all to Jews, but also many others.”

His answer was that the people making those choices believed that they had evidence that the Jews, the Gypsies, the handicapped, homosexuals and other outcast groups were a blight on the society and, that by removing them, they were improving the world as a whole. Then, like the teacher that he is, he led the dozen or so people that had come to hear him on a journey of exploration into the essential question of what makes a human life inherently worth preserving.

“There’s this premise that we have that people have a fundamental right to live, that people have a fundamental right to express themselves, that people have a fundamental right to equal opportunities,” he said. “The question is: is there really any quantifiable truth to them — can they be proved logically, or should we say scientifically?

“Scientifically, differences between human beings on a racial or national level are far less than their similarities. But that doesn’t mean anything because someone else might have a different way of looking at things and, like the German scientists of the ’20s and ’30s, come to the conclusion that the shapes of skulls and the colors of skin and the like may be terribly important,” Yaffe said. “And who’s to say that it couldn’t happen again?”

Once an idea becomes entrenched in the scientific or popular beliefs, he explained, the data tend to be read in a way that support that belief.

Making a case analogous to the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany, he said, “I could identify any one of five racial groups that have a much higher rate of indictment, convictions and incarcerations for murder. There are certain minorities that commit crimes and get convicted for them at a much higher rate than other minorities. It probably has nothing to do with race and a lot to do with history....These statistics do exist.

“Put yourself in the shoes of these German scientists,” Yaffe said. “Once you believe that this group contains a greater percentage of social pathologies and that once you get rid of them you get rid of the social pathologies ... I ask all of you, is there any reason why we should not exterminate this group?”

His comments counter the ethical calculus in Jewish tradition that the fundamental belief that human beings are made in the image of God and, as such, each and every one of us is imbued with an inherent value that cannot be reduced by the “greater good” for society as a whole.

“We can argue from today to tomorrow about God and religion and everything, but if you do not bring in a being that is the source of everything whose purest expression is in a human being, a being that assigns a special value to the human being, a being that says its most profound and indivisible irreducible expression is in a human being, then you can never, ever find a reason why I should not do something wrong to another person,” Rabbi Yaffe said.

“The only thing that would seem to guarantee such a thing is that there is a sensibility that assigns an absolute value as part of itself to the human being. That value says there’s nothing more precious than a human life, so I need to do everything I can to protect it and preserve it unless that other person forfeits its life by seeking my destruction.”

Under that precept, he said, one person cannot, under Jewish law, sacrifice his own life for another person’s, no matter how much better or more deserving they believe that other person to be.

“On the other hand,” he said, drawing back to where he began, with the sacrifice made by Prof. Librescu, “can someone risk [his] life to save someone else’s life? Yes, as long as it’s not a definite one-on-one sort of thing. Can someone risk [his] life to save many? It would seem the answer is yes — that answers the original question that we started with.”

Chabad Responds to Tragedy With Mitzvah Drive: "Hearts to Hokies" campaign to Begin Friday

Joshua Runyan
Chabad.edu

As a university and nation began the transition from shock to mourning one day after the deadliest shooting attack in American history, the network of more than 100 campus Chabad Houses declared a "Week of Goodness and Kindness" as a way to honor the memory of the slain. The goal of the effort, according to organizers, is simple: to translate the pain of grief into the healing of positive action.

For one week beginning this Friday, Chabad on Campus representatives will be handing out pledge cards at the campuses they serve. Students will be encouraged to pledge a good deed in the merit of those lost; the collected cards will be presented later to the students of Virginia Tech.

"Jewish tradition teaches that each person is created in the Divine image," stated Rabbi Moshe C. Dubrowski, director of operations for the New York-based Chabad on Campus International Foundation, in reference to the April 16 carnage at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., that left 32 victims dead and more than 20 injured. "All those affected by this tragedy are in our thoughts and prayers."

"The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught of the need to turn tears into action," explained Dubrowski. "After this horrific act, Chabad on Campus urges students to increase in acts of goodness and kindness."

In the immediate aftermath of an apparent rampage by a Virginia Tech student, two Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from elsewhere in the state - Rabbi Yossel Kranz, executive director of the Richmond, Va.-based Chabad of the Virginias and Rabbi Shlomo Mayer from the Chabad House of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia - traveled to the site of the attacks to assist with the needs of the students and faculty.

And as Mayer and Kranz were busy on Tuesday coordinating the care of a victim's body in accordance with Jewish law - Virginia Tech professor of mechanical engineering Liviu Librescu, a 75-year-old Romanian Holocaust survivor who was shot by Cho Seung-Hui while shielding his class from the assailant's bullets - and arranging its transport to Israel for burial, their colleagues as far away as Seattle were planning Chabad's national response.

"It's terrible and no one should ever have to know such a thing," said Chaya Estrin, who with her husband Rabbi Elie Estrin, directs the Chabad House at the Seattle campus of the University of Washington. "It's okay to mourn, it's okay to be upset, but after crying, we have to channel our grief into positive actions."

The University of Washington has had its own share of tragedy recently, following the April 2 murder of a 26-year-old researcher by an estranged boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.

In the wake of this week's news out of Virginia, "many students are in a state of shock, they don't know what to do," said Estrin.

All the more reason, said Chana Mayer, co-director of the University of Virginia's Chabad House, to give students a chance to positively affect the world around them.

"A little light dispels a lot darkness," said Mayer. "It doesn't have to be something complicated or expensive; simple good deeds are powerful things right at our fingertips."

Young Women Immerse Their Minds in the Idea of Immersing Their Bodies

Jenny Hazan, for Chabad.edu

University of Washington student Shira Rand-Lakritz never thought that once she got married, she’d be the type to use a mikvah regularly.

“I grew up really entrenched in the Conservative movement,” says Rand-Lakritz, 20, who moved from Kfar Vradim, Israel, to Seattle a year ago to study dance and psychology at the university. “The mikvah was not something that I knew much about, or ever pictured as a part of my life.”

That changed, however, when Rand-Lakritz went on an educational tour of a mikvah – a religiously-mandated pool of water that is meant to ritually purify a married woman after the completion of her monthly cycle – hosted by the campus Chabad House.

“I went mostly out of curiosity,” she relates. “But it turned out to be a really enlightening experience. The whole idea of cleansing yourself on a monthly basis, not just your physical body, but also your soul, is really compelling to me. I fell in love with the idea.”

Rand-Lakritz is one of many young Jewish college students across the United States learning about the mikvah and Judaism’s family purity laws, which dictate separation between husband and wife during and seven days after menstruation. Serving as instructors have been the on-campus shluchos, or the female Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries who with their husbands staff dozens of outposts in North America.

Although the Chabad Chasidic movement, based in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., has yet to universalize a formal program, several emissaries have begun to offer mikvah tours and educational programs to Jewish female students over the last few years.

Chaya Estrin at the University of Washington, for instance, began the “Brunch ‘n Mikvah” tour-and-talk program for students last year.

“The program was more successful than I anticipated it would be,” says Estrin, who took five students to a newly built mikvah in Seattle for a tour, followed by a meal and discussion about the purity laws. “I really wanted the girls to see what a mikvah is like, so that when they do get married, they will know about this beautiful mitzvah.”

Estrin anticipates enrollment in the program will more than double this year: “I didn’t realize that it would have such a great impact on the students,” she says.

At Washington University in St. Louis, Chana Novack reports a similar response to her mikvah program, which is geared primarily to seniors in serious relationships.

“Many seniors are at a point where they are about to embark on their lives in the greater world, and this program might be their last opportunity to gain exposure to this very special Jewish tradition, one that they should consider including in their decision to get married,” explains Novack, who for each of the past four years has been instructing around 10 students.

Miriam Lipskier likewise points out that college is a time when young women are making real decisions and forming real life-changing beliefs and traditions.

“A lot of people end up marrying the boyfriend they meet in college,” says Lipskier, who co-directs the Chabad House at Emory University in Atlanta and includes mikvah tours as part of a three-part program on Jewish women’s rituals she runs every semester for 25 students.

“The mikvah is a very special mitzvah for women,” she continues. “They should have a basic knowledge of what it’s all about. Every Jewish woman should be armed with the knowledge of their own tradition.”

Lipskier, who also runs private mikvah classes for engaged students, says the program is not just about the mikvah bath itself.

“It’s about sexuality and romantic relationships,” she says. “I feel very strongly that when it comes to this, every Jewish woman should be armed with the knowledge of their own tradition.”

The biggest obstacles to such knowledge, though, are prior-held misconceptions, say Lipskier and her colleagues. The fact that many Jewish girls end their formal religious educations with their bat mitzvahs doesn’t help.

“Even people who consider themselves to be fairly observant never learn about the mikvah, because Hebrew school teachers don’t teach 12-year-old girls about sexuality,”  says Novack.

As a result, many young Jewish women don’t even know about the existence of mikvahs, and those who do tend to have a mental picture of an old and decrepit, mildew-laden hole in the ground. While indeed, that may be the case in some older communities, the truth, says Lipskier, is that “nowadays mikvahs can be really beautiful and luxurious.”

According to Estrin, some of the girls she has taught in the past conceived of the mikvah as a big pool with a bunch of naked women swimming around in it.

“They were understandably terrified at the idea of submitting themselves to that,” she says. “I would be too. So when they saw a mikvah with their own eyes, and witnessed what a beautiful and peaceful, and largely solitary, place it can be, it really resonated with them.”

Rand-Lakritz says she was shocked when she first saw the mikvah.

“It looked like a spa,” she says. “It was so nice that I thought, I don’t care if I’m not married, I want to come back to use the mikvah.”

Her fellow student, 20-year-old Leah, finds the philosophy behind the purity laws the most interesting aspect of the mikvah ritual.

“The mikvah really inspired me, because there is so much beauty behind it,” says Leah, an economics major from California. “The whole idea of being on a cycle and purifying yourself after your period is really amazing.”

Rand-Lakritz sees a certain wisdom in keeping a husband and wife physically apart for several days each month. The night a woman comes back from the mikvah, the point at which they can physically touch again, can have a certain magical aspect to it, she says.

“Going to such great lengths to maintain the spark in your marriage is a really beautiful idea.”

For Lipskier, this part of the purity laws didn’t immediately resonate for her until several years after she was married.

“When I was first married, I didn’t really appreciate being apart,” she says.

She was inspired to maintain the laws because they made her feel as though she was a link in a chain of Jewish women who have been keeping the laws since the beginning of time.

“After a few years – and a few kids – you do come to appreciate it,” she says. “As it turns out, the laws are brilliant.”

Novack says the purity laws are full of surprises.

“People are surprised to discover that the mikvah is as mainstream as it is; they are surprised to learn how important it is in a Jewish context; and most of all, they are surprised to realize that they can actually imagine themselves doing it,” she says. “Before they come, it’s this curious, foreign thing, and by the time they leave, it is something that they are considering to do in the future.”

The proof is in the pool.

“At first I thought I wouldn’t want to go near it, but now I definitely would like to try using the mikvah when I get married,” says Rand-Lakritz.

Leah says she looks forward to going to the mikvah once she gets married: “That’s the thing about Judaism – whenever I learn something new about it, it makes sense to me, and people do what makes sense to them.”

Jewish heritage infuses HUB lawn

Garrett McCulloch
2006-05-16

Using everything from parchment to music, UW Jewish groups hope to clear up some of the mysteries of the religion this week.

"Basically, the concept is we want people to see how Judaism has different aspects to it, and how it's a living religion," said Rabbi Elie Estrin, director of Chabad at the UW.

The focus of Jewish Heritage Week, Estrin said, will be on things most people outside the community don't generally associate with the religion.

"There's so much there, so we hoped to give people some of the fun things," he said.

Scribal arts were yesterday's attraction, with a professional scribe demonstrating the painstaking process and giving away complimentary translations of people's names on tiny pieces of parchment.

Estrin said the events of the week are intended to provide a better understanding for students, even those who aren't Jewish.

"A non-Jew can come over, because it's interesting," he said.

Jewish traditions require scribes to reproduce Torah scrolls by hand with traditional materials - using quills to exactly reproduce the ancient Hebrew-language text. Each scroll can take up to a year to reproduce and sells for as much as $35,000.

"I actually never wrote a Torah scroll in my entire life," Rabbi David Krantwirth said as he repaired the writing on a deteriorating scroll section. He said he repairs parchments, most of which are owned by synagogues.

"You write with a quill and ink - the old-fashioned way," Krantwirth said.

Students also demonstrated the Tefilin, which is used for prayer. The apparatus, containing Biblical verses, is symbolically wrapped around the head and upper arm.

The groups mostly hope to get the word out about themselves and Judaism.

"There is a Jewish presence on campus and that's important," said Sarah Lawson of Hillel at the UW.

 

A week of Yiddishkeit on campus
Joshua Rosenstein
Editor, JTNews

Last year, Jewish groups at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus hosted a concert with Hassidic reggae superstar Matisyahu, which, according to Rabbi Eli Estrin of UW Chabad, drew over 500 students.

“It was the biggest Jewish event we had on campus,” he said. “Everyone loved it, and not just for the music, but because it had a pull on many of the Jews on campus and it had never been done before.

“Obviously, we can’t get Matisyahu every year,” he said.

So Rabbi Estrin struggled to come up with an idea that would have a similar effect: drawing students together for something they would be able to relate to Jewishly and enjoy.

“Classes and small campus programs are great,” he said. “But especially in terms of self-esteem, we need to think in terms of bigger programs.”

Estrin had heard about a small event on the East Coast called Jewish Heritage Week. So he took the idea to Hillel at UW and suggested some additional components. Working together with the Jewish Studies Program, they came up with a full week of creative kosher programming to celebrate Jewish identity at the UW.

So on the week of May 15, Jewish students at UW celebrated their heritage with Jewish related events and programs.

Sophomore Avi Zellman of Spokane served as student liaison on the project.

“I set up the [klezmer] concert, made reservations throughout the week and worked with both Hillel and Chabad to make it happen,” he said. “I think many of the things we presented showed a unique element of Judaism, one which is available to others, that they can relate to and enjoy, and that isn’t threatening. The other great part was that it brought together all kinds of Jewish groups, regardless of their religious standing, and showed that there is a Jewish voice on campus and that it is exciting, growing and ready to move forward next year.”

The goal of the program, according to Estrin, was twofold. On one level, the program sought to help Jewish students feel comfortable with their identity.

“For the students who are knowledgeable about Judaism, we want them to feel that Judaism has its place on campus and that they can feel comfortable ‘doing Jewish’ on campus,” he said. “There are around 2,500 Jewish students at UW, out of 40,000. I think one of the issues students have is feeling drowned out, like there isn’t much Jewish voice on campus. So, it’s nice for all the Jewish groups to get together to do something big.” The other goal of the program, Estrin said, was to reach out to those students who don’t know much about their heritage.

“It shows them it isn’t a dead religion,” he said. “Whether they connect via the arts, social justice or through food, there are many ways to connect to Judaism.”

The program began on Monday, May 15 with students learning about scribal arts from Scranton, Pa.-based scribe Dovid Krautwirth. Participants learned how tefillin, mezuzot and Torahs are made, and had their names written by Krautwirth on pieces of parchment.

The next day, a klezmer concert and barbeque took place near Kane Hall, featuring the Fishel Bresler Trio, best known for playing with klezmer virtuoso Andy Statman. The concert preceded that night’s Stroum Lecture on “Yiddish in the 21st Century.”

That evening, students attended a Lag B’Omer bonfire with guest entertainer Dr. Ardent Nuthatch. According to Zellman, the bonfire drew over 75 students over the course of the evening.

On Wednesday, May 17, students gathered in the sunshine with local Judaica artist Rainer Waldman Adkins to make mezuzah covers.

“Mezuzot are fun and simple to play with,” said Adkins. “Also, I have an eclectic approach to Jewish culture and hopefully I helped liven up and diversify the Chabad style.”

Shara Lozott, 21, found out about the program through her involvement with Jconnect. She said having a Jewish heritage week was a good opportunity to see who’s who in the Jewish community as well as giving Jewish students some exposure.

Lozott said she had cut class in order to attend Adkins’ mezuzah session because she needed to make one for her house.

Thursday was designated Tikkun Olam day. Students helped feed the poor by making sandwiches for the Aloha Inn, a local transitional home for the homeless, as well as supporting the student-run “Save Darfur Coalition.”

The week concluded with students receiving “Shabbat in a Box” kits on Friday that included challah, candles, grape juice and an instructional guide on how to do Shabbat by yourself.

Rabbi Estrin said around 70 students visited with Krautwirth for the first event and that the week seemed to build in energy with each event.

Lozott said she thought Jewish Heritage Week was important because it gave Jewish students a chance to appreciate their background.

“It is easy on campus to hide your heritage,” she said. “This is an opportunity to get out, meet people and celebrate it, as well as serving to educate others.”

Should you be my Valentine?
Joshua Rosenstein
Assistant Editor, JTNews

On February 14, people around the world will exchange cards, buy chocolates and flowers, wait in line at restaurants and in a variety of other ways seek to glorify love and romance.

The celebration is so ubiquitous that Jews often wonder if this holiday is safely secular or whether it has roots in Christianity. JTNews contacted rabbis, Catholic clergy and community members in an attempt to learn more about this peculiar holiday...

The general Jewish consensus seems to be that while the day is not treif per se - there are some problems with the concept of the holiday.

Rabbi Elie Estrin of Chabad at the University of Washington says the holiday represents "mass marketing of romance run amok.

"Romance has its place and time, a framework that is special and holy and should be held sacred and not fooled around with," he said. While he does not celebrate the holiday, Rabbi Estrin said it does come up on campus. He will hold a discussion group for UW students on Judaism, intimacy and sexuality in honor of the (non)holiday....

Questioning the effectiveness of volunteer efforts
Joshua Rosenstein
Assistant Editor, JTNews

Katrina relief volunteers coordinated by the Jewish Federation of New Orleans worked on a variety of different projects. Whether they came to the destroyed city under the auspices of Chabad or their Reform congregation, the experience had a profound impact on the volunteers.

"When I came, I didn't think it would affect me," said Rabbi Chesky Rothman of Chabad. "That has not been the case. It's not just people cleaning up, it's people saying goodbye to part of their lives."

Chabad brought over 100 undergraduates to New Orleans over the month of January, including five from the Seattle area...

A Hanukkah hope: Defeat the darkness

Times Snohomish County bureau

The USS Ford, a guided-missile frigate, may be a high-tech "total warfare system," but for the past few days, it has been host to a symbol more than 2,000 years old: a menorah.

The 9-foot electric menorah stands on the deck of the ship at Naval Station Everett, being lit each night during the Hanukkah holiday, from Dec. 25 through Jan. 1.

Large, public menorah lightings are nothing new to Chabad Lubavitch of the Pacific Northwest. The Jewish outreach organization sponsors humanitarian, educational and social activities and is part of Chabad centers worldwide.

When operations Spc. 2nd Class Eric Sanders, the Jewish lay leader of the Ford, asked for a menorah display, the group produced "a beautiful, giant, 9-foot electric menorah that's standing on the deck," said Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky. The rabbi is director of the Northwest Friends of Chabad, a support group to Chabad Lubavitch, and host of a radio talk show. Sanders trucked the menorah up from Seattle and set it up with help from friends on the ship. The menorah sits on the deck, on what used to be a missile launcher.

Bogomilsky and Rabbi Elie Estrin, director of Chabad at the University of Washington, gave a blessing on board Thursday night that Sanders, Lt. Cmdr. Kristin E. Jacobsen, chaplain Gregory McCrimmon and Aaron Arky, the ship's public-affairs officer, attended.

"There's a concept that was expressed by Isaiah to turn your swords into plowshares," Estrin said. "We believe that this is what it's all about."

The rabbis believe this is the first Navy ship in the region to have a menorah lighting.

"It's good that we can recognize all the different faiths that we have on the ship," Jacobsen said.

Another part of the ship had Christmas decorations, and each year, the Navy ships have a competition for creating the most interesting displays.

The menorah, a candelabra, represents a miracle that dates back more than 2,200 years, when Israel was under Syrian rule. Judaism was under attack, with prohibition of dietary laws and the burning of sacred scrolls of the Torah. Thousands were martyred for practicing their religion.

"The miracle was a small group of Jews stood up against an army and gained control over the temples that were desecrated," Bogomilsky said. "They found one jug of oil they could light, and the miracle is it lasted eight days, until they were able to produce more oil."

The enduring message is that "one little light can remove much darkness," he said. "The message of Hanukkah is that each day we add another candle, to increase the light and brightness and freedom in the world."

During the Holocaust, Jews would make menorahs out of potatoes in the concentration camps; in Russia, where religion was repressed, people would risk their lives to gather friends together for Hanukkah. The Hebrew words persoma nisa mean to proclaim and broaden the miracle, and, "it's really a holiday for the entire world," Bogomilsky said. "Hence, these giant outdoor lighting displays to illuminate the universe."

The lighting ceremony, which took place at 5 p.m., also featured a treat for those participating. Michael Morgan, the culinary specialist on duty, cooked up latkes — potato pancakes, a traditional Hanukkah food — his first ever.

In the clear night waters, a blessing followed the lighting, "to bring light and gratitude for what they do for us, keeping our waters safe," Bogomilsky said.

The Ford heads back to sea Jan. 6 for six months in South America.

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

 

A Quick Fast
 

As we all fasted for Yom Kippur, I'm sure not everyone had the pleasure of Rabbi Estrin's Turbo Service. Those of us who did, appreciated the deft time management and had an easy and light fast. Usually, there's a moan and a groan at 5pm as the traditional service drones on and on. The bellies grumble and the eyes roll back into our heads as the lack of food finally hits us hard.

At the Chabad UW service, we had the pleasure of 6 Yeshiva students to help us with Spirit and Speed as we glided skillfully through the many mini-sermons instead of a long-winded Mega-sermon. The constant rotation of fresh, lively voices that skipped melodically over the pages kept the service interesting, and the anecdotal diatribes by various students and Rabbi Estrin were very informative.

The Turbo service really kicked into high gear when we realized we had another section of the service to add in, and Rabbi Eli and his younger brother, Suli, teamed up to light our ears on fire as we listening to the lightning round of the Neilah service.

This Yom Kippur was truly special as I was surprised yet again by what I read in the prayerbook, and inspired by the tales of traditional chicken-swinging while we all cleansed ourselves of this past years sins.

Hag Sameach, L'Shana Tova, and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for the upcoming year.

posted by Captain Neil @ 10/13/2005 10:33:27 PM

 

The top 7 reasons why you should go see Matisyahu:

On May 26, Matisyahu will return to Seattle and play at the Husky Union building at the University of Washington at 8:30 p.m. I know, you are sitting there wondering why you should give up a May sweeps Thursday night in front of your cherished TV to go see the Hasidic Reggae superstar. Well, if seeing the Hasidic Reggae superstar isn’t reason enough for you, here are seven more reasons to catch Matisyahu live:

7. Matisyahu is one of the few performers of his generation classy enough to perform in a suit. So what if he doesn’t wear a tie?

6. Admit it, whether you like reggae or not, reggae shows are fun, and the supporting band is tight. The happy music just makes you want to dance, and Matisyahu lets you know when to jump up and down like a pogo stick.

5. A Matisyahu concert is a great place to people-watch. His shows draw a diverse crowd — Orthodox Jews, secular Jews, non-Jews, reggae fans, non-reggae fans that are curious, and countless others across the boards of society.

4. Matisyahu stage dives. Okay, so he doesn’t always crowd surf like he does in his “King Without a Crown” video — sometimes he just jumps into the audience and does a Hasidic Circle Hop with the males in the audience. It’s kinda like a primordial mosh pit.

3. Matisyahu does a mean beat box. Not only does he throw down a mean beat that could rival the Fat Boys in their heyday, but he simultaneously layers a melody over the beat.

2. You can impress all your friends by telling them you saw the artist who ranked #2 on MTV’s Dean’s List.

1. He’s the Hasidic Reggae superstar for crying out loud!!!

(JT News)

Miracles Reported in the JT News

Baby Estrin has been getting plenty of attention - media attention, that is! The JT News, Washington's Jewish newspaper, has written a beautiful article on the Pidyon Haben and experience of Little Guy Estrin. To read that article, entitled "Living a Modern Day Miracle", click here.

Baby Estrin Stars on PBS Show

Yehuda Estrin, aka Lil Guy, was one of the stars of "Pulse", an award winning PBS program that talks about medical issues. The program, which aired on April 19th, dealt with premature babies. It will be rerun occasionally on KBTC TV and Comcast 12, on Sunday mornings at 9:30 and 12:00. The Estrins have a copy, and if you'd like to see it, give us a call! 206-523-1359.

Daily Reports "Confessions of a PLO Terrorist"

The Quote of the Day in the Daily for Feb. 11 was from Walid Shoebat at our program: "True occupation is not the issue of land, but occupation of minds."

Click this link to read the article that appeared in the Daily about our Confessions of a PLO Terrorist program.

(Note: A letter was written to the editor noting the fact that neither Chabad at UW nor Huskies for Israel were mentioned as the co-sponsors, along with Hillel at UW, of this event.)

Chabad on the Air!

Rabbi Elie and President of Huskies for Israel Joey Katz spent an hour talking on Shmooze Radio with Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky on KKOL, on Sunday, Jan. 23. Rabbi Bogomilsky inquired about student life on campus, and was very interested to hear about that various Jewish programs that are running at UW. The program was taped live, and then repeated on Monday, Jan. 25. If you'd like to hear the animated discussion, drop as an email! We'd love to share a copy with you.

Chabad Headlines in The Daily

Chabad's Menorah at Red Square made headlines in The Daily on Dec. 8. Thousands of University of Washington students and staff saw a picture of the 8-foot Menorah standing proudly under an arch of Kane Hall. Check out the article by clicking here.

 

 

 

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