content top

Parshas Chukas: Putting Family First

Parshas Chukas: Putting Family First

Have you ever noticed that often the people who have the biggest problems in their own lives are the ones who spend their lives fixing other peoples’ lives?  Social workers, therapists, and psychiatrists have a reputation of having the most messed up relationships and families.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make sense.  But then again, maybe it does.  After all, aren’t we all better at giving advice than taking it?  We have a better vantage point from farther away: When we are outside of the relationship, family, or life, we can tell what needs to be done.  The general finds it easier to lead his troops if he is watching the battleground from up above on a hill than if he is down in the fray.   But when we are the soldier down in the battle, we do not have the same clarity of vision to know what to do next.

Therein lies the solution to the “parah adumah” paradox.  The parah adumah is the red heifer whose ashes remove spiritual impurity from one who has had contact with a corpse.  Ironically, these same ashes render the priest who administers them spiritually impure himself.  It doesn’t make sense that something should purify one person but render another person impure.

But if we view it as a metaphor for the purity of our relationships with one another, it begins to make more sense.  A psychologist, for instance, can view another person’s relationship, identify the problems, and tell how to fix them.  But in doing so, the psychologist takes on a bit of those problems himself.  The stress of curing other peoples’ problems constantly can place a big strain on a person, leaving no resources left over for dealing with his own problems at home.

Perhaps this is why the rabbis had to specify an order for the giving of tzedaka (charity), starting with one’s own family and radiating out from there.  Often it is tempting for us to use our far-away vantage point to place all our energy into helping others, while neglecting the problems that are, literally, right under our noses.

Pirkei Avos tells us to bring the poor into our home.  But if we neglect our own families in order to help others, we will find that we become the poor ones.  Always remember, tzedaka begins in the home.

Shabbat shalom!

Read more on Parshas Chukas: The Fine Art of Persuasion

Read more on Parshas Chukas: Explaining the Unexplainable

Read more on Parshas Chukas: We All Get Angry Sometimes

Read more on Parshas Chukas: Learning a New Type of Logic

Share
Read More

Akiva’s 3km Birthday Walk

https://www.chuffed.org/project/akiva/

Hi,

My name is Akiva. I am turning three years old. I love walking and even running when my daddy can keep up with me. My third birthday is in May and I will take my biggest walk ever of 3km. So far the longest walk I have done is 2.4km.

I want to help someone else who can’t walk. They are missing a leg and need a new one.

https://www.chuffed.org/project/akiva/

For my birthday present, please give at least $3. If 110 friends each give $3 it will almost be enough to buy a new leg for a child in a poor country. But if you can give $5 or $10, even better.

(Cost of fitting a child with a prosthetic leg is $300 US)

Last year I walked 2km for my second birthday and we raised $180 for Clown Doctors.

https://give.everydayhero.com/au/akiva

Now I am older and stronger and ready for a bigger walk. You can count on me.

Thank you so much.

Love,

-Akiva

PS. You may be worried that my daddy is pushing me to do this, but really I love walking. We walk all the time. Whenever we come home from a walk, I ask to go ‘a walk’ again.

https://www.chuffed.org/project/akiva/

Hi,

- My name is Ben. I’m Akiva’s dad and I’d like to say hi. I am a passionate walker and it does not surprise me that Akiva has taken to walking. He is sad when I need to explain to him that he can’t join me on a 100km hike. Perhaps when he is older.

Akiva is, thank G-d, healthy and fit. He loves his carrots, spinach, and broccoli and goes to the creche at the gym three times a week.

Akiva may not fully understand that he is raising money for a great cause, but I am sure he will enjoy every minute of the walk. During last year’s 2km walk he even insisted on walking extra!

What Akiva raises will go to:https://www.limbsinternational.org

It costs $300US to fit a limb. So really we need to raise closer to $375AUD. Limbs International will select a child, help them walk again and then send Akiva a picture of the child he has helped.

Thank you for being a part of this,
-Ben

 

Share
Read More

Jewish Human Skin Bookmarks from the Holocaust

 

20140911_131851

Human Skin Bookmarks?

Two weeks ago marked seventy years since the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews. It saddens me that in a few years’ time there will no longer be any living survivors.

For thousands of years nations have risen up against the Jews, trying to destroy us. In the end, they disappeared while the Jews remained. That there is a single Jew walking this planet is one of the greatest miracles. May G-d continue to protect us bring the final redemption for all mankind speedily in our days.

Several months ago a women came to see me. She brought with her two book marks believed to be made of Jewish human skin. She was looking for audience what to do with them. Should they be buried in a Jewish cemetery? Should they go to a Jewish museum?

To cut a long story short, we are still researching the mater. I’ve shown the book marks to some art collectors who believe the skin is not human, rather it is pig skin. The book marks will need to undergo more testing to determine with certainty. If anyone has information that can help with this, please be in contact.

The following is a letter written by Mark about how the bookmarks came to into his mother’s possession:

 

Nina Redstone

Nina Redston

Towards the end of the war, in late 1944 I believe, mum was working with the British War Department as an interpreter when she was recruited into a special unit that was working with the Red Cross and working with a unit called the Jewish Brigade. From what I know, she was eventually recruited to Control Commission, a body set up to sort out the displaced persons the allies knew were in their hundreds of thousands across Europe. The unit she worked in was headed by a Col Bowring and her job was to help set up a new records system to deal with an unknown number of displaced persons and those held in concentration camps. At that time she and her staff thought they were internment camps and nothing else. 

The network of camps across Nazi controlled territory were mostly focussed on extermination rather than imprisonment although there had been plenty of evidence of murder, torture and disappearance on a massive scale which she later found was not made public.
 
As the allies entered Germany in 1945 my mother was assigned to work with the British troops that were entering North Germany. She inadvertently found herself with a team who were entering territory that was not being fought over. She told me that most of the Germans in the region knew the war was over so the fighting wasn’t really fierce at that time.  Various units were dispatched to forward positions and the one she was attached to went to a camp called Bergen Belsen. Colonel Bowring, who was the head of the unit and my mother’s boss, had sent her with one of the forward units as she was fluent in German.   
 
She told me that there was a column of vehicles and a couple of armoured vehicles and she was in one of those. She could smell the camp about a kilometre or so before they got there. She told me later that she was never able to get the smell of the place out of her nose. As they arrived, the forward soldiers were already through the gate and hundreds of very thin people poorly clothed were standing around or lying on the ground. My mother and the soldiers couldn’t believe what they had stumbled across. It was like walking into Hell.
 
My mother had to document who was there and worked with other soldiers in one of the buildings. She was told of the danger of typhus and to be careful. It seemed like a long time but within a few hours dozens of people arrived, army doctors, supply people with food and water and more people to help with the huge task of finding out who was there. 
 
I cant remember how long she was there but I think it may have been a week or two as there were thousands of people liberated and it took a while to process them and find many missing persons. I recall she told me about the difficulty of recording people who were still dying and keeping track of those who were being sent to other places (I think other camps for displaced persons). The records at the camp were not good and it seemed that many had arrived at the camp from other places not long before the camp was liberated. She did tell me that there were some records with lots of photos of people, presumed deceased. 
 
She gave me a fairly graphic description of the place and all the horrors that were there including bodies everywhere and stories of brutal guards who thought the inmates were expendable.  
 
One of those who was liberated, told mum of some of the horrors that had been perpetrated on the inmates. They were starved, beaten and routinely shot for no reason. It left a deep impression on her. Among the many things that the occupying forces found amongst mountains of belongings and Nazi paraphernalia were a range of bizarre items that seemed normal but were the product of the horrors of a number of Nazi camps. These included a few items that the inmate told her were made of human skin. There were lampshades and book marks and other items.  I don’t know exactly who gave the bookmarks to her but it was someone associated with Bergen Belsen camp and she told me they wanted to get rid of them. She had mixed emotions about them, wanting to bury them at some point, but eventually they remained in her cupboard with a lot of World War II material including Nazi items. 
 
Bergen Belsen, or Belsen as It was commonly called, was a true horror camp and the sick mentality of those who ran it represented one of the lowest points in human history.
 
My mother spent another two years with Control Commission as the task of sorting out millions of displaced people was enormous and the units dealing with the problem were understaffed a lot of the time. She lived in various parts of Germany and for a time was based in Lemgo. Much of what she did she told me was secret and I never really delved too much into it. She seemed to think the Official Secrets Act was still in force!!

I still have her lapel badges and buttons and the Control Commission badge she wore as well as the CC magazines. I also have a photo album of the Control Commission people and I think some were attached to the Jewish Brigade like Mum. She met a Jewish man who she really loved whilst working there and she kept his photo, good looking guy. He asked mum to marry her and go to Palestine but at that time things were rough in Palestine and she was warned by her friends to keep away. So she returned to England in early 1947 I think, and later married Dad. 
 
It seems odd but all these years later there are still bits of information or artifacts that take us back to that horrible time.
 
Anyway I hope that whatever happens they stand as a reminder of that time.
 
-Mark

 

 

 

 

Share
Read More

THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AND FIRST WORLD WAR ENLISTMENT

By: Dr Klee Benveniste

THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN JEWISH COMMUNITY AND FIRST WORLD WAR ENLISTMENT

About 12% of our South Australian Jewish community served in the first World War, the highest proportion of any congregation in the Commonwealth of Australia. There have been national efforts in Australia to undertake what is proving to be a difficult process of compiling a list of all the Jewish men and women who served in the First World War for centenary events. For South Australia, Adelaide Hebrew Congregation archivist and Board Member Dr Klee Benveniste started with the Congregation’s Roll of Honour board and has been researching digital newspapers and war service records in the National Archives of Australia on South Australian Jewish servicemen and women as this is extremely difficult for anyone outside Adelaide who does not know the community. As work continues, other Jews who served from the same family are being found and added to that list. Service records almost universally list them as Jewish or Hebrew, but in some cases the examining person recording height, hair colour etc, recorded another religion.

So far, at 24th April 2015, the Jewish men and women who enlisted who were born in South Australia, were from the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation or enlisted from South Australia and declared in their service records to be Jewish totals at least sixty with others still being considered which may take the total to more than eighty:

WORLD WAR I SERVICEMEN:

ABLESON, Coleman;  ABRAMOVITZ, Alexander;  ASHER, Felix;  ASHER, Rudolph;  BARNARD, Lancelot Lee;  BARNARD, Sydney Harry;  BENJAMIN, Louis;  BENJAMIN, Mark;  BLACK, Emanuel;  BLACK, Ernest;  FRANKENBURG, Edward;  GILD, Samuel;  GOLDBERG, Joseph;  HAINS, Clarence Louis;  HAINS, Harold Joseph;  HAINS, Ivan Coronel;  HAINS, Morris;  HAINS, Philip;  HAINS, Sidney Joseph;  ISRAEL, Reuben;  JACOBS, Arthur Abraham;  JACOBS, Clifford  Arthur;  JACOBS, David;  JACOBS, Emanuel (or Martin Edward);  JACOBS, Sullivan William;  JACOBS Sydney;  JUDELL, Cedric;  JUDELL, Elias (known Jewish , but listed as another religion) killed in action at Gallipoli and buried in grave no. 6 plot 2 Row Z of the Walker’s Ridge Cemetery;  KURTZ, David Mark;  LEVY, Elias;  LIPERT, Louis (or Lewis);  LIPMAN, Alfred Emile;  MEYER, Reginald Victor;  MORRIS, Alfred Levy;  MORRIS, Lewis George;  MORRIS, Roy Albert;  NAPHTALI (in records as NAPTHALI), Walter;   NETTER, Henry;  PIMENTAL, Morton Parker;  RABINOVITCH, Elijah Hurst;  RAPHAEL, Keith Simeon;  ROSENGARTEN, Arnold Leslie;  ROSENGARTEN, Leopold;  ROSENGARTEN, Leopold Jabille Gersham;  ROSENTHAL, Samuel;  SALOM, Bertram Philip;  SAUNDERS, Samuel Archie;  SIMMONS, Israel;  SIMMONS, Leon;  SOLOMON, Albert Yuba; SOLOMON, Louis Victor;  SOLOMON, Sidney Gordon;  SOLOMON, Sydney John; SOLOMONS, Leslie Emanuel;  VICTORSEN, Albert Joseph;  VICTORSEN, Talbot George;  VICTORSEN, Louis Charles (or Charles);  WHITEHILL, Thane formerly WEISBERG, Thain;  WOLFSON, Heyman;  WOOD, Gus Raymond.

WORLD WAR I NURSES: BENNETT, Miriam Adelaide; DANIELS, Sophia

Research has added more recorded as Jews at enlistment:  ADELSON Isidore; ASCHMAN Robert ;  BEHREND Oscar;  BLOUSTEIN Maurice (discharged); BLOUSTEIN, Solomon;  BIRNBERG, Lionel;  GORDON Samuel Louis; HARRIS Joseph, as well as some who enlisted in imperial forces overseas such as JACOBS, Isaac Charles (in South Africa).

Some of the soldiers who appear on lists but whose status is still to be determined; ISAAC, Alfred Ernest;  JOSEPH, Coleman Henry – Major (religion not declared);  JOSEPHS, Cyprian James;   JOSEPHS, Walter Charles;  MARTIN, Felix;  MYERS, Isaiah Myer;  SOLOMON, Douglas;  SOLOMON, Lawrie recorded as Laurie;  SUSMAN, Harold Steinfeld (Lieutenant, religion not declared);  and Nurse: BENNETT Rosetta.

So the number of Jews who served is still being verified and may never be finally known. There are many personal stories behind the names in documents and newspapers:

- Mrs Camens (nee HAINS) who applied in 1967 to obtain the medals of her brother Morris killed at Gallipoli in 1915 wrote in her letter that her four Hains brothers including two doctors, enlisted for active service.

- Mrs Hannah JACOBS, formerly from London, who ran various hotels in Adelaide including the Saracen’s Head and the Colonel Light Hotel (which has only recently closed this year) was noted by a newspaper to have six sons serve as soldiers in the war, five enlisted in Australia, one of whom was killed in action, and a sixth who enlisted from South Africa and not heard from since.

 “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them”:

On Anzac Day (25th April, which falls on Shabbat this year) we remember the following South Australian Jewish men killed in action in World War I or II and other conflicts since:

Private Coleman ABELSON

- buried in Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, Nord, France;

Stoker John Samuel ASHER

- buried in West Terrace Jewish Cemetery, Adelaide, South Australia;

Private Sydney Harry BARNARD

-  buried in France, remembered at Villers Brettoneux Memorial, Somme, France;

Private Morris HAINS

- died at Gallipoli, buried at Lone Pine Cemetery, ANZAC, Turkey;

Sergeant Arthur Abraham JACOBS (buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West- Vlaanderen, Belgium;

Quartermaster-Sergeant Elias JUDELL (died at Gallipoli, buried at Walker’s Ridge Cemetery, ANZAC, Turkey;

Private Elias LEVY

- buried at Longueval Road Cemetery, Somme, France;

Private Eliezer Hurst RABINOVITCH

- buried at Suzanne Communal Cemetery extension, Somme, France;

Driver Samuel Archie SAUNDERS

- buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France;

Driver Samuel SOLONSCH

- Jakarta (ANCOL) Netherlands Field of Honour, Indonesia;

Also Commando Private Gregory Michel SHER who grew up in Adelaide, died in Afghanistan and was buried in Australia.

The work will be developed into a local Adelaide Hebrew Congregation Library display in our new ‘Hall of Fame’ museum so any photographs or further detail would be appreciated. Any financial support to Adelaide Hebrew Congregation Library Fund toward the project or the display materials or in memory of those who served, would be most gratefully received. The archivist is also planning to exhibit a never-before-displayed collection of photographs of Australian soldiers serving in Palestine donated to our AHC archives years ago by the niece of a local non-Jewish serviceman.

Share
Read More

Ten Things I Learned in Antarctica with the Unstoppables

Ten Things I Learned in Antarctica with the Unstoppables

20150129_182404

A l’chaim with some new friends

This past January-February, I was in Antarctica with over a hundred inspiring individuals. I went as part of the Unstoppables: a group of Entrepreneurial minded people dedicated to bettering the world. The trip was ten days of: learning, networking and collaborating. Here are ten things I learned on the trip:

  1. Spiritual Entrepreneurs:  I was surprised to find how many of the participants were interested in some form of spirituality.  Be it, meditation, religion, or even aliens. I found a lot of people to be looking for meaning in what they did. Many with money may enjoy spending it on physical pleasures, but they are seeking a deeper truth.
  2. Inspiration: I try to be inspired by everyone I meet. On the boat I was surrounded by people who were power- houses of inspiration. People who have done incredible things, not only in business, but in all areas of life.
  3. Humility: I enjoy meeting and surrounding myself with people who have done more than me. On the boat I met many individuals who have done things in certain areas well beyond where I am now, and it is humbling. With humility comes personal growth.
  4. Non-Judgmental: Amongst such a high caliber of people, I found a high tolerance for being non-judgmental and accepting. Some people live their lives with conflict and anger towards everyone and everything. To get to the top, you cannot waste energy fighting with others. Rather, through acceptance and understanding we can learn and grow from everyone and everything around us.

    Antarctica Penguins

    Contemplating the meaning of life

  5. No Nonsense: On the boat, I said something I should not have said, and someone called me out on it. I appreciated the high level of openness and brutal honesty, more so then I’ve ever experienced amongst the general public. If someone liked your idea they said so. If they thought it was crap they said so. Most people cannot handle brutal honesty and prefer being lied to. But highly confident people who really want to get somewhere in life prefer hearing the truth.
  6. Network Power: My network is very important to me, but at times I can forget that I must keep working on it. Surrounding oneself with good people is critical to success and converting them into your network doubly so.
  7. Going Blindly: The founder: Julio De Laffitte said at one presentation, something like this: “what do I know to be true which I am failing to see.” We can go through life ignoring things we should see until they hit us smack in the face. I believe we all do this to some degree. I will make this one of my favorite sayings.
  8. Strange Beliefs: As an orthodox Jew, sometimes I think some of my practices are strange. But on the boat I learned, there are people I respect who have stranger beliefs and weirder ritual practices.  If a belief or practice helps us become a better person while not harming anyone else, then it is usually fine to do.
  9. Montreal is colder then Antarctica: I thought it was going to be cold, but it was usually pleasant provided the wind wasn’t blowing. We had zero degrees there while it was -20 in Montreal.
  10. Alcohol on the Rocks: Tastes better with thousand year old ice chipped of an iceberg!
  11. Penguin Poo Stinks: Penguins may be cute, but they make lots of noise, and their poo stinks. I will not get one as a pet. (Note: the drunken British tourists fined for stealing a penguin from Australia sea world 2012…)
    Crossing the Antarctic Circle

    Crossing the Antarctic Circle

    I'm the one in the yellow jacket!

    I’m the one in the yellow jacket!

    Black ice and other ice

    Dave displays the difference in black ice!

Share
Read More

Keeping Shabbat in Antarctica

Sunset Antarctica

The Jewish day starts at night and finishes the next night. The question is, when exactly does the night begin? Does one day end at sunset and lead into the next, or does the new day begin only once the stars have come out – or perhaps at some point in between?

The Jewish Sabbath commences Friday at sunset and finishes Saturday at nightfall making roughly a twenty-five hour cycle. The Sabbath begins at sunset which is the earliest time we can recognize one day to have finished and the next day to have begun. The Sabbath ends, when the stars have come out because this is the latest point that we can say one day has ended and a new day has begun.

Before I left to Antarctica, I was concerned when would there be a sunset. It is often thought that during the summer in Antarctica, the sun does not set and during the winter the sun does not rise. This however is only true at the actual south pole and perhaps only for a short period of time. Outside of this, during the summer, the sun will dip below the horizon be it for a few minutes or hours etc. It may not get completely dark, but by the sun setting a new day is marked.

Some of The Rabbis of long ago, talk about lands where the sun does not set or rise for a period of time. They knew that such places existed and they debated over when the Sabbath would be observed. There are various opinions of what to do in these circumstances and a Rabbi should be consulted as what to do.

For me it was not an issue. Where we were Friday night there was a sunset. It was around 10.30pm and Shabbat was over at around 11.30pm. Because the boat was moving, I checked with the captain who was able to give the correct times depending on our given location at the moment.

One challenge was not being able to camp in Antarctica. There were thirty camping spots available and more than sixty people who wanted them. The camping spots were raffled off. I won a place and held on to it in hope that the camping excursion would not be on Friday or Saturday night. It ended up on Friday, so I gave away my place. The actual camping would not be an issue; the problem would be getting on to the boat on Saturday morning. According to Halacha it is permissible to be on a ship over Shabbat, but not to get on or off.

Perhaps on my next trip to Antarctica I’ll be able to camp.

Antarctica Iceberg

 

Share
Read More

Keeping Kosher in Antarctica

Antarctica Kosher

Words cannot do justice for what Antarctica looks like. Even photographic images and film can only give an idea. The magnitude and magnificence of a world of, ice, rock, and snow, some of it can be captured in an image. But what of the wind that bites into you regardless of how many layers you may be wearing – as you stand on the deck late at night while the ship breaks through pack ice. You hear the ‘crunch, crunch, crunch,’ and deep down you know you are secretly thinking, what if?

Antarctica is not a place where humans belong. G-d did not intend for us to be there and it is virtually impossible to survive for any lengthy period of time without product and support form off the continent. Perhaps this is a good thing? Antarctica is an incredibly fragile place and it would not take long for man to destroy it. Thankfully, today as people visit, there are many protocols and practices in place to preserve Antarctica’s ecosystem.

Rabbi in AntarcticaI feel blessed to have had the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Antarctica with over hundred fascinating people. I was part of a group of mostly Australian Entrepreneurs who gathered together to converse in, ‘how to get to the future first.’ Together, we brain stormed ideas of what the future would look like and what we collectively, and individually, could, and would do about it.

For me, one of my concerns prior to the trip was how I would keep kosher on the boat. I was sure there would be plenty of good food, but how much of it would I be able to eat. I brought along some energy bars, instant soups, oatmeal, as well as a box of matzo, just in case.

I figured I’d be able to sort something out with the chef when I got on the cruise. Nowadays, anyone working with sophisticated western tourists are usually inundated with all the diets and eating disorders we have: vegetarian, vegan, ovo- lacto-pesco phsycotarian, gluten free, Raw, paleo, low carb, diabetic, and in my case kosher. The challenge I find though with using the term kosher, is that I have come across countless interpretations of its meaning. The most common being, ‘kosher food is food blessed by a rabbi.’ Now I wish it was this simple. I being a rabbi, would never have a problem with food anywhere in the world and could happily order anything on the menu and bless it myself. However, kosher is far more complicated than this.

I don’t want to get into a long discourse now about what is, and what is not Kosher, instead, I prefer to speak about how I kept kosher on a boat in Antarctica. For starters, it was a lot easier then I had thought it would be. When I got on the boat and spoke with the head waiter Narandra, he seemed already versed in many aspects of kosher. He began showing me the kosher certifying symbols on many of the food products. Turns out, the company gets almost all their food in a container shipped from Miami. Anyone familiar with American kosher food products will know that a large percentage of available product is certified kosher. Things like peanut butter, jams, bolted milk, cereals, biscuits, and so on, are often kosher. Thus it was easy for me to find things to eat. Even the ice cream which was served every night was kosher. And strange as it were, and as cold as I was for some reason I still enjoyed eating the ice cream.

DSCF1411

Share
Read More
content top