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Kayaking Adventure in the Noosa Everglades, Queensland Australia

Kayak Noosa Everglades Queensland

Thirteen years ago I organized a canoe trip for teens from around Australia. We paddled for three days around the Noosa Everglades. I remember it being scorching hot and getting badly sunburnt. Aside from the sunburn, I have pleasant memories of, beautiful lakes, rivers, and birds.

My Friend Rob and I had been talking about doing a two week long canoe or kayak trip somewhere in Canada. I suggested we first try a three day kayaking trip and see how we go.Ben Kayak Noosa Everglades Queensland

We met in Brisbane, and with a rented car drove north, stopping at the Glasshouse Mountains for a walk. For both of us, it was our first time there, and we can see there are many more interesting trails worth exploring.

The next day we headed out from Boreen Point in a two person sea kayak. We had a weeks’ worth of food to last three days and we ate like kings. This was pleasant change for me. Usually, I would just take a few pieces of fruit, some energy bars, oatmeal, and pasta. However, Rob and I shopped together for the food, and because Rob likes good food, we had eggs, vegetables, and quinoa to name some of it.

The weather aside from being chilly at night (below 5c), was beautiful. We comfortably kayaked wearing long sleeved shirts. And at some points even wore lightweight jackets.

We met other people along the river mostly on the first and third day. But on the second day when we went further up, we sow no one. Both nights where we camped we were the only people and camping at night was peaceful: millions of stars, fresh crisp air, and the rustling of leaves.

Rob Kayak Noosa Everglades Queensland Rob being the adventurer he is, wanted to explore the river to its source, which we did. When we got to the point where we could go no further, Rob bush-bashed his way through the foliage while I relaxed on a sand patch.

I’m glad to say; aside from debating the most efficient timing the stroke and how it hits the water we got along well and are planning our next adventure.

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How To Get kosher Food Almost Anywhere In The World

For the Kosher Jewish traveler, finding food can be an issue. In some places, like in the United States it is not to hard to find plenty of kosher products in any major super market but what about in places like Japan or in Russia?

David, founder of Kosherwhere David Looking for Kosher foodDavid Avital, a 32 years old software engineer and entrepreneur has the answer. David lives in Israel, where kosher food is readily available. But David for a number of years worked at Marvell semiconductor as Marketing Manager. “My job, says David, “had me doing so much business travel around the world that I had to change my watch 3-4 times a month. At that time I was traditional Jewish and I found myself drawing closer to my origins while away from home. While being abroad I started to visiting local Jewish centers around the world and started to connect with my Jewish roots strongly. As I began learning more, I started to follow Shabbat and become a stricter kosher observer.”

David then had to make sure he had kosher food arranged along with his travel plans: Tokyo, Delhi or Las, he would get his kosher meals. “However, the process of ordering the kosher food in advance was a big hassle,” explains David. “I had to find the a kosher supplier in the destination, send an email, receive an email back, select meals, send back again and confirm that it will get to my hotel on time. I spent so much time on this, I had to buy kosher food products prior to my trip and carry an extra bag of luggage with me, just in case.”

After a trip to Brisbane Australia, and a headache of organizing kosher food, David decided to create a website, to solve the problem. It would connect the travelers to kosher suppliers anytime, anywhere. It would make the order process simple. David called the site KOSHWHERE a combination of Kosher and Where. The site now has more than 100 kosher suppliers around the world and growing every day. 

Click HERE for more information.




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Parshas Mattos-Masei: Refinement Through Travel

Parshas Mattos-Masei: Refinement Through Travel

It seems that we have spent most of our life on the road.  And although we have been parked here in Adelaide for a few years now and love it, we still make travel a part of our lifestyle.  Even if we can only take a day trip, or a trip for a few days, we love to travel.  Rabbi Ben and I each spent years traveling on our own before we met – and continued traveling after we got married.  Maybe it’s just ingrained. Maybe it’s just part of who we are.

Sadly, many people accuse chronic travelers of running away from something.  Surely we keep on the move because something is chasing us or because we don’t want to face reality!  Well our time in Adelaide has proven to us both a few fundamental truths – especially these: we are capable of facing “reality”… and we still love travel.

You see, travel is a process of internal refinement.  I remember my first solo journeys in Europe at age 19.  I stayed only in hotels or very nice hostels, places I felt were safe for a teenage girl traveling alone.  By the time I met Rabbi Ben 5 years later, I was a much more savvy world traveler.  Female and alone in South America, I didn’t book my hotels in advance. I stayed in hostels for $5/night, with no hot water and no heating, even in the bitter cold.  I had toughened up.

India, which I traveled with Rabbi Ben just a couple months after our wedding, is the ultimate destination if you are seeking personal awareness and growth.  Whatever your mishegas is, India will rub at your sore spot until it is red and raw, until you can stand it no more.  Even little aspects of your personality that you did not know about will surface, blazing, for the world to see.   If you want to know yourself and have the chance to grow as a person and work on yourself, I recommend you go to India.

So it is no surprise to me that this week’s parsha focuses on the journeys made by the Jews.  Travel is a process of internal growth and refinement.  The Jews spent 38 years in one spot – which means that in just 2 years, the Jews moved 41 times.  How grueling and uncomfortable that must have been! To pack and unpack, to wander in the desert, unsure of when and where you will arrive… and, once arriving, to never know when you will be told to pack up and hit the road!  Imagine how tired they must have been, hot and cold, hungry and thirsty from the way, the diverted routes, the lost luggage.  It sounds a lot like some journeys I have taken!

But imagine also how they must have grown.  Being tired, hot, and hungry, their worst middos would have surfaced, making them aware of their own limitations, pushing them to improve themselves.  So many times I have been in that position, hot and sweaty, tired, hungry, and thirsty, sitting on a dusty train or rickety bus, feeling grouchy, but consciously restraining myself from saying a mean word to a fellow passenger, or to my husband.  Noting my discontent and maintaining an awareness that I must not say what is on my mind because it is not rational, not fair, not just, and just plain not the Torah thing to do is the way I can grow as a person, improve myself, and stretch myself to higher spiritual heights.

Because that’s what personal refinement is, a working to become closer to G-d.  In Judaism our goal is to emulate G-d, to become more and more like Him, in whose image we are spiritually created.  It is striving to meet our potential.  But if we are never stretched, if we are never challenged, we will never know who we truly are deep inside, and so will not be able to overcome our own personal issues to become better people.

This week, let us all work on our own journeys of personal and spiritual growth.

Shabbat shalom!

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Gay Pride, Jewish Gay Pride and the Torah’s View

This week gay marriage was approved as a constitutional right in the United States.  Homosexual couples can now get married and divorced, adopt children, get tax benefits, and inherit from one another just like heterosexual couples. Reactions to this news have been mixed.  Many people are in the streets celebrating their “gay pride.”  Yet many people are also protesting and calling these same people sinners and abominations.

Judaism specifically prohibits homosexual acts not only to the Jew but to all mankind. It is one of the seven Noachide Laws, included under the prohibition immoral sexual behavior.

Consider that of all things G-d felt important for mankind to live by, a proper code of sexual conduct was one of them. The Noachide laws include: do not murder, do not steal, and do not be cruel to animals. Thus, from a G-dly perspective homosexuality is a serious issue.

However, in reference to gay acts the Torah uses the word toeva which means an abomination. The Torah also uses the same word referencing a man who divorces his wife of a second marriage and returns to marry his first wife – this too is an abomination to G-d. However, using only our own logic, we could say it is beautiful how he realized the depth of his love for his first wife and returned to her.

It is also important to realize that G-d’s commandments are for us, not for G-d alone. What difference would it make to G-d if we stole from each other or killed one another?

If a person and animal are happy together, a brother and sister, parent and child, minor and adult, and any polyamorous relationships, it is easy to ask what harm is being done. Why can’t they be together if they love each other?

Also, why not allow death duels if both parties are happy? Who are we to intervene with intertribal stealing that has been going on millennia? Why should we stop someone from committing suicide? It’s their life after all!

But it is the deeper unseen realm that can have catastrophic effects on man, which only G-d can see. Sometimes what we see as progression is regression. We all want to believe we are living in an advanced society and no longer holding to backward codes of practice. We no longer stone criminals or conduct public hangings. But are we truly an advanced society when we can give a murderer like Martin Bryant a 1035 year sentence for killing 35 people and injuring 23 others in a shooting spree in Tasmania?  Maybe it’s a good thing people don’t live to a thousand years.

I’m not advocating we stone people or suggesting whether or not gay pride is going forward or backwards, but we must be aware how true our progressive thinking is.

So how should we as Jews handle the news from America?

There are several points to consider:

  • Science currently shows that homosexual attraction is biologically different in the brain.  Science suggests that like the color of one’s skin, it cannot be changed.  But unlike skin color, which has no bearing on anyone’s actions or nature, homosexual attraction can and does lead to homosexual acts, which are explicitly forbidden by Torah law.
  • In Judaism, we are meant to show compassion for others and to judge them favorably.  Yet, we must actively discourage Torah violations.
  • Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) teaches that we cannot understand another person’s struggles unless we have lived their life.

The conclusion we can draw from these somewhat conflicting points is that we can neither condone such behavior nor should we condemn the individual.  Judaism cannot endorse gay pride any more than we could endorse kleptomaniac pride.  Yet even while we are clear on our moral standards, we should approach gay people with compassion and a willingness to help them overcome their own personal challenges should they choose, just as we would with any individual, no matter what they feel challenged with.

In turn, homosexual Jews (and non-Jews) should not flaunt their homosexuality.  It is the difference between a Jew who says, “I eat pork even though I know I really shouldn’t,” and the Jew who says, “I’m a proud Jew attending a Yom Kippur Lunch where roast pig on a spit is being served.”

The problem with embracing and celebrating gay pride goes beyond just supporting others in their violation of a biblical commandment. Once we begin to actively support something that is morally wrong, suddenly other morally wrong actions don’t seem that bad.

Take this week’s parsha for example.  The Jewish men sin sexually with Moabite and Midianite women.  That seems bad enough, but they actually do it fully in public view – they are not ashamed.  From that immoral behavior, they then begin to worship other gods.  One act of immorality in which they took pride eventually led to other sins, as well as to a massive plague.

As Jews, it is our obligation to be a light unto the nations and sometimes that means standing up for what the Torah teaches is right even if the rest of the world is against it.

With the above all said, there is a deeper underlying issue which is not about gay pride celebrating their marriage rights. The question is, what does marriage mean?

One upon a time marriage was a sacred act performed as a religious ceremony. It still is today for many people in diverse cultures. But in the West, marriage for many has become more of a formality than anything else.

After we married in Israel and returned to the United States, rather than a lengthy and expensive process of translating our Israeli marriage certificate and going to court to have our marriage recognized, we paid a marriage celebrant in Virginia $50, and with a fifteen minute ceremony we were married again. If we were in Las Vegas perhaps we could have done it in five minutes at a drive through ceremony.

Perhaps what is going on is: those who see marriage as a sacred union under G-d between a man and a woman, are against gay marriage. Those who see marriage as a mere formality are fine with gay people marrying, and in a way they are right.  If two people regardless of their sex or sexual orientation want to inherit one another and receive tax breaks and the like then why not?

Please G-d may we merit divine revelation and truth in our time.

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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!

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Akiva’s 3km Birthday Walk


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.

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.

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

Thank you so much.



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.


- 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:

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,


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Jewish Human Skin Bookmarks from the Holocaust



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.





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