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Building a Chabad Spiritual Home for Anglos in Haifa Israel.

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I am sitting at The Dan Panorama Mall writing this post at my favorite café. The upscale mall houses high end clothing and jewelry stores. There are several restaurants, a beauty salon, and a pharmacy. The community Chabad center is located here as well. It is my spiritual home and favorite place to buy religious artifacts and handmade paintings and home décor. The Rabbi is named Levi Yitzchak. He is about thirty, razor thin, dark hair, and smiles consistently. He has six children ranging from eleven months to eleven years in age. My favorite is his eleven month  old daughter named Devorah or bee. She already beams her father’s smile. I visit the store almost daily in the hope that the kids will be there.

In the course of two years Levi and I have discussed the need to promote English language courses in our community in various topics of Judaism. Chabad is recognized throughout the world for the superb quality of its spiritual teachings. I chose to study at a Chabad center for a year before immigrating to Israel. My classes included Talmud, Tanach or Bible, and tutoring in Hebrew. They have my deepest appreciation for their support.

What is Chabad-Lubavitch?

Chabad-Lubavitch is a major movement within mainstream Jewish tradition with its roots in the Chassidic movement of the 18th century. In Czarist and Communist Russia, the leaders of Chabad led the struggle for the survival of Torah Judaism, often facing imprisonment and relentless persecution for their activities. After the Holocaust, under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak Schneerson and his successor, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Chabad became a worldwide movement, caring for the spiritual and material needs of all Jews, wherever they could be found.

Today, over 3,000 Chabad centers are located in more than 65 countries, with a new center opening on the average every ten days. In South Africa, South America, Russia, Australia, the UK, and many parts of the USA, and of course Israel. Chabad has become a dynamic and dominant force within the Jewish community.

This week Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and I decided to act on our dream of establishing a study center for English speaking immigrants and visitors in Haifa.

We visited the Habad center in Safed to meet their leader there Eyal Riess.www.tzfat-kabbalah.org). He has decades of experience in planning and administering programs for English speaking individuals. He speaks the tongue of Shakespeare wonderfully but sounds a bit British. He actually was born and raised in Israel.

He is housed at The International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah was founded in the Old City of Safed in 2007 by the Jewish Federation of Palm BeachFlorida, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the Jewish Agency for Israel to promote Safed as a kabbalah center.

The center has a “Visitors center on the history of the Kabbalah of Safed”, a lecture and study room, and a library. The center holds seminars and workshops in receipt of Safed rabbis, visitors, and local residents.


Eyal Riess (on the right), yes, with Paula Abdul!

Eyal Riess and Rabbi Levy Yitzchak have a list of English speakers from Haifa and the surrounding communities who have inquired about starting classes in our city. We added a team leader Zecharya Gonsher, who was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He made aliyah at the age of 28 where he met his Israeli wife through the help of a Chabad shadchanit (matchmaker). Zach earned his MSW in family clinical therapy in St Louis, MO, where he connected to Chabad. He lives in adjacent Kiryat Ata with his wife, Liat, who works as a doula, pregnancy and birthing coach, and newborn twins.

The Reform Jewish Movement has some classes in our community. My very close friend Rabbi Edgar Nof hosts a Pirke Avot group one day a week, for example. However, there are those Jews who are more oriented to other streams of Judaism. We are planning to have an open house in the fall to build a garin or seed of those interested in supporting this program. It will be sponsored by our Dan Panorama center.

On August 20th, we held our first activity. Rabbi Riess hosted and spoke at a “meet and greet”. He presented a spiritually uplifting lecture about Jewish values. We had more than two dozen participants. Most committed to attend and support further activities in our program. They did and our group has grown.

We added a crash course on Yom Kippur, our most holy day of observance on September 10th. Two days later we celebrated the holy day together. We converted the upstairs café in the mall to a bet Knesset or synagogue. Dozens of people attended prayer and thanked us for the convenience of a prayer site in our community. “Several of us are senior citizens or have medical limitations and came to pray by local homes” noted one of those attended our make shift sanctuary. Israel does not generally permit transportation on Yom Kippur. I loved the fact that my home is directly across the street from the new place of prayer.

The host also hosted a Party in the Sukkah on the 23rd at the largest Synagogue in our community. Thirty to forty of us sang, told stories about Sukkoth, eat lots of food and drank a bit of Jack Daniels. Kids danced and laughed to the joy of us all.

We now have a Parashat Ha Shavuah twice a month led by Zacharia. Women study together in a group hosted by Zach’s wife Liat. Our group continues to grow and share the joys of studying our faith, Judaism together. We host people from all streams of the Jewish world join together to learn and enjoy friendships new and old.

Come and join us this week for our first Hanukkah celebration together and share the joyous occasion together. Come all and bring a friend!! Special Mazal Tov to our friend and mentor Rabbi Eyal Riess and his Bat Mitzvah “student” Paula Abdul.

Zecharya for details – 058-545 4770 from Haifa!

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The Holy See and Israel: Building Bonds and Promoting Peace.

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Peace is Possible.

I just finished dining at the exquisite Hotel Dan Panorama buffet in my home of Haifa. One of the managers is a Catholic born resident of this wonderful city. His family came to Haifa nearly one hundred and fifty years ago from Italy. We talked about the recent headlines which referred to a proposed visit by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The purpose of this post is to inform the readers about the history of relations between The Holy See and Israel and some of the efforts to strengthen bonds between Rome and Jerusalem.

Relations between Judaism and Catholicism have experienced centuries of tension, strife, misunderstandings, and, sadly often, hatred and violence. The nature of communications between Israel and The Vatican has been no exception.

The state of Israel was reborn in 1948 after a prolonged and, at times, agonizing wait. Two thousand years in exile and often great suffering had taught us that Judaism cannot exist, let along flourish, until we have returned to our eternal homeland. “Next Year in Jerusalem” has been on the lips and in the hearts of my people for centuries.

The Vatican resisted the establishment of both a Palestinian and Jewish homeland in the years of The British Mandate for a variety of reasons:

The Vatican wanted control of the holy places to be in the hands of neither group. The strains between Islam and Christianity already existed and some followers of Jesus still saw Judaism as contradicting their faith. I have come to understand the passions associated with these sites during my six years in Israel. I am still thrilled each time that I visit Jerusalem which has been the bastion of my faith for three thousand years.

Jerusalem was a primary focus of those in Rome.

At the time of the proposals that culminated in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine of 1947, the Vatican, the Italian and the French governments, continued to press their own legal claims on the basis of the former Protectorate of the Holy See and the French Protectorate of Jerusalem. The world body made the city an international entity.

Formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel were only established in 1993 after the adoption of the Fundamental Accord by the two States. This was more than forty years after the rebirth of the Jewish homeland. The years between 1948 and 1993 saw the interests of the Catholic Church in Israel were looked after by the Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custodian of the Holy Land, all of which continue to function.

Papal Meetings, Visits, and Historic Changes

Pope John Paul II: Diplomacy for a New Millennium

In 1964, Pope Paul VI traveled to Jerusalem on an unofficial visit. His visit was the first of a Holy See to the Jewish State. The event lasted just eleven hours and was for the purpose of supporting followers of Catholicism in the region. The trip was applauded by the international community. Though the Vatican did not yet officially recognize the State of Israel at that time, the Pope did agree to meet with the Israeli president.
The visit was hailed by media throughout the world as a groundbreaking step in international diplomacy. Unlike the previous visit of Paul VI, this one had official status. In addition to visiting Christian holy sites, John Paul II visited the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. The Holocaust is always in the hearts and souls of Jews throughout the world. We must never forget the loss of six million of our brethren. Their only crime was to pray in a Synagogue or come from such a background.

The visit of John Paul II in 2000 cast the relationships between the Holy See and Israel in a new light.

Pope John Paul II arrived in Israel March 21, 2000, for a historic five-day visit. During his trip he visited the holy sites of the three major religions and met with Israel’s political leaders and Chief Rabbis. The trip focused on religion, but the Pope also touched on political issues. He blessed Israel, expressed support for a Palestinian homeland and apologized for sins committed by Christians against Jews. Sadly, many Jews still judge our Christian friends on the basis of acts that occurred long ago and by a minority of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Israelis view our nation as primarily a political entity. The Vatican of course is the spiritual center of Catholicism. The difference in perspectives in this respect can often create tension between the Vatican and Israel.

The Pope’s confrontation with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust excited the gratitude and admiration of Jews worldwide.

It the first time that any Pope had visited these sites that is central to Judaism. He left a prayer note at the Western Wall in accordance with Jewish custom, and this note was later enshrined at Yad Vashem.

The Papal visit of 2009
Without doubt, a positive highlight of Ratzinger’s Papacy was the May 2009 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Gestures that could mean upgrading relations with Israel were taken into account prior to his trip. Before entering Israel, the Pope made an unexpected gesture in his speech on Arab-Muslim soil on Mt. Nebo invoking Moses, the Promised Land and its link to the chosen people. Moreover, on the same occasion he stressed the inseparable link of Christianity to the Jewish people while invoking their common heritage of the Tanach (OT) and their common tradition of pilgrimage.

Pope Benedict XVI was the first chief pontiff to make a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity. I have rarely suffered this injustice but friends and family have endured this type of attack. Hopefully, people of all backgrounds will learn from this great leader and practice “The Golden Rule”. I was in Haifa during this historic event and was thrilled as were many Israelis by this wonderful act by a great leader.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis began his papacy with an expression of friendship towards the people of Israel when he met with Israeli president Shimon Peres at the Vatican on April 30, 2013. During a meeting with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin on June 6, 2013, the Pope announced it was his intention to visit Israel, but did not specify a date. His has promised the world to continue efforts to promote friendship and justice between our faiths.

“I would like to underline that the problem of intolerance must be faced in its entirety,”… “When any minority is persecuted and marginalized on account of its religious beliefs or ethnic origin, the good of society as a whole is placed in danger, and we must all consider ourselves affected.” Quote by Pope Francis on topic of religious intolerance.

Religious intolerance and lack of unity has been a primary source of conflict and war since the beginning of time. The Golden Rule should be a guide to followers of the major faiths and is an integral part of their teachings. In my opinion, Catholicism is making sincere efforts to promote peace and brotherhood throughout the world.

I urge everyone to learn about the efforts of The Focolare, to promote interfaith dialogue in the Middle East and throughout the world. During the past six years, I have been blessed to participate in many interfaith events with The Focolare in Israel. They have included a monthly study session in both the Old and New Testaments. We enjoyed interfaith youth sports events in both Haifa and Caesarea. There was a concert at The Technion in Haifa in the spring of this year. Youth from Israel, Palestine, and several nations shared these wonderful and inspiring activities. Below are some examples of their efforts to promote unity. I feel so blessed to consider these people to be my friends.

For further information, please view these websites:
www.waysofpeace.com
http://www.unitedworldproject.org/en/
United World Project – home
www.unitedworldproject.org
Kampala, August 2011From the 10th to 13th May 2013, the little town…
http://www.run4unity.net/2012/en/terra-santacesarea2/ run4nity Caesaria
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jhF6oRrbRU run4unity Haifa
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DaJoxj63Es Interfaith retreat in 2010 in Northern Israel
http://www.focolare.org/area-press-focus/en/news/2013/10/25/premio-…

My documentary showing a side in life in Israel/Palestine that will amaze you!

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Please view my documentary about my life in Haifa since I immigrated to this wonderful city in 2007. It has earned its title of “The City of Peaceful Coexistence”. 
Leaders throughout the world support these efforts.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws6kaH0EDUw

The Madame.

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I am writing this story from the Kapiot Café in Haifa Israel. My status in life is that of an oleh chadash or new immigrant to the land of Canaan. I moved here six years ago at the age of fifty nine from Western Colorado. Retirement has many advantages in this splendid city. The balmy Mediterranean climate, the beautiful beach and tiyelet or boardwalk make Haifa a wonderful place for hiking, swimming, fishing, and leisurely walks. There are many historical sites, three major universities, and spiritual shrines including the Bahia Gardens and Elijah’s tomb.

I was blessed to live most of my adult life in the beautiful woods of Western Colorado. Hiking, camping, fishing, and viewing wildlife made life a wonderful experience. My career was servicing the employment needs of people with disabilities for various government agencies. Blessings indeed adorned my life.

That brings us to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Life in the steel city of my youth was gray in the truest sense of the word. I often left for Taylor Allderdice High School in a white shirt in the morning. Many times I returned home in a grey shirt which was victimized by the infamous pollution of the era. School was either an hour walk in the cold and rainy climate or a crowded bus ride. The Pittsburgh Steelers were then the goats of professional football, but the Pirates blessed us with their 1960 miracle World Series victory and sadly little more than that.

Dad was a grocery executive and rarely home. Mom suffered from serious medical problems and was very distant from me and my two sisters. Life (except for golf) was bleak and dull. Thank goodness for the Madam.

Mom’s faltering health necessitated the need for nearly full time domestic help. Lulu was an African American woman in her fifties when she first came to our service. She was thin and walked softly. One of many joys that we enjoyed with the Madame was ongoing quips about her age. She was born and raised in Tupelo Mississippi in the late nineteenth century and refused to tell us her true age. We found out when her time came that she was born in 1870. She died in 1971. She was blessed to live a long and healthy life. She was still active at the age of 97! The good do not always die young.

Lulu (the Madam) was raised in a sharecropper’s family of nine children. She married an alcoholic mill worker who abused her physically and mentally. Life for a blacked skinned woman anywhere in America in those days was a disgrace. She ran away from her husband after nine years and settled in Memphis Tennessee where she worked as a seamstress and housekeeper. Pittsburgh became her home in 1955 when her family moved there to work in the steel mills. She came to us through a friend Mrs. Feldman and was a part of our family until the end.

She took care of mom’s health, served as a surrogate mom to us, cleaned our home, cooked, and served as the secretary of her church. Many of us go through life with frowns on our faces; she always had a bright smile on hers. I learned to appreciate Chili Stew with egg noodles, lemon meringue pie, Chicken Fricassees, and most importantly spirituality from this humble yet brilliant and talented woman. She was a wonderful public speaker and outstanding singer. Her greatest talent of course was her ability to motivate and bring joy to the lives of others. Dad often mused about her potential in a world with more equality and justice.

I left Pittsburgh at the age of eighteen and never returned. There were the wonderful visits with family especially Lulu. We spent hundreds of hours discussing the value of faith in life. She was a fervent Christian yet urged me to explore, understand, and adore my Jewish faith. “The Golden Rule should be universal”. She admonished me to live by it. Hopefully, I have not let her down.

Lulu was so humble that she rarely talked about herself. We discovered after her death that she was a passionate civil rights activist and traveled in very famous circles. She refused to fly and traveled by bus to confront injustices in America. “I want to be as far away from my maker when my time comes”, she explained to us often. The only time that she broke her sacred rule was to attend my wedding.

She was born Lulu Robinson but spent her last thirty years known as The Madam. How did this occur? There were many times during my high school years that a man only known as the Bishop called our home to speak to her. “Is The Madam there he would quiz in a deep apparently southern voice”. She was the secretary of his church and her title was Madam Robinsom. I never understood it but loved the title and never ceased to tease my friend about her name.

I think often about my best friend as I pursue my greatest passions in life that of promoting interfaith dialogue and peace in this trouble region. Is there hope for these goals? Who knows” I was blessed to have a great mentor and hopefully can do my small share to bring these blessings to our region.

Building a Spiritual Home for English Speakers in Haifa.

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Earl Shugarman

I am sitting at The Dan Panorama Mall in Haifa writing this post at my favorite cafe.  The upscale mall houses high-end clothing and jewelry stores. There are several restaurants, a beauty salon, and a pharmacy. The community Chabad center is located here as well. It is my spiritual home and favorite place to buy religious artifacts and home décor. The Rabbi is named Levi. He is about thirty, razor thin, with dark hair, and smiles consistently. He has six children ranging from in age from six months to seven years. My favorite is his six month year old daughter Devorah which means “bee” in English. She already beams her father’s smile. I visit the store almost daily in the hope that the kids will be there. Levi was born and raised in Tzfat the holy city where the Kabalah developed. His parents were “Chabadniks” long before Levi was born.

 

In the course of our two year friendship Levi and I have discussed the need for, and to develop,  English language courses in our community on various topics of Judaism. Chabad is recognized throughout the world for the superb quality of its spiritual teachings. I chose to study at a Chabad center in Pittsburgh for a year before immigrating to Israel. My classes included Talmud, Tanach – Bible Studies, and tutoring in Hebrew. They have my deepest appreciation for their support. 

 

So what actually is Chabad-Lubavitch?

Chabad-Lubavitch is a major movement within mainstream Jewish tradition with its roots in the Chassidic movement of the 18th century. In Czarist and Communist Russia, the leaders of Chabad led the struggle for the survival of Torah Judaism, often facing imprisonment and relentless persecution for their activities. After the Holocaust, under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak Schneerson and his successor, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Chabad became a worldwide movement, caring for the spiritual and material needs of all Jews, wherever they could be found. Their goal is to teach and promote spiritual growth without judging or changing their “students”.

Today, over 3,000 Chabad centers are located in more than 65 countries, with a new center opening on the average every ten days. In South Africa, South America, Russia, Australia, the UK, and many parts of the USA, and of course Israel. Chabad has become a dynamic and dominant force within the Jewish community.

Levi and I are now acting on our dream of establishing a study center for English speaking immigrants and visitors in Haifa.

We visited the Chabad center in Tzfat to meet their leader there Ayal. He has decades of experience in planning and administering programs for English speaking individuals. He speaks the tongue of Shakespeare wonderfully but sounds a bit British. He actually was born and raised in Israel. He is housed at The Tzfat Kabablah center in the old part of the city. He helped us to plan and organize our agenda. We recently added a new team leader Zecharya Gonsher, born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, made aliyah at age 28 where he meet his Israeli wife through the help of a Chabad shadchanit (matchmaker).  He earned his MSW in family clinical therapy in St Louis, MO, where he connected to Chabad, and has cherished this ever since. Currently, Zecharya helps the Chabad House in establishing programs for the English speaking Haifa area community. He lives in Kiryat Ata with his wife, Liat, and newborn twins.

Ayal and Levy have a list of English speakers from Haifa and the surrounding communities who have inquired about starting classes in our community. Judaism is a knowledge based faith. I can not imagine a greater bruchah or blessing than offering the opportunity to learn with others.

 The Reform Jewish Movement has some classes in our community. My very close friend Rabbi Edgar Nof hosts a Pirke Avot group one day a week for example. However, there are those Jews who are more oriented to other streams of Judaism or find the convenience of transportation to the Mercaz or center a big asset.  We are planning to have an open house in the fall to build a garin – a seed or core group of those interested in supporting this program. 

 

Here is the contact information again

 

Zecharya Gonsher, 0585-454-770

The Ways of Peace in Israel

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Is peace in this region possible? I wish that the answer was a certain yes. There are efforts made by tens of thousands of Jews, Christians, Muslims and others in our area to achieve this goal. I urge everyone to learn about the efforts of The Focolare, the largest Catholic outreach movement in the world to promote dialogue in the middle east. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others live together pretty well in my home of Haifa. I ask the readers to view the websites listed below.

waysofpeace.com

האם שלום במזרח התיכון אפשרי? הלוואי והתשובה לכך היתה חיובית באופן מוחלט. ישנם עשרות אלפים של יהודים, נוצרים, מוסלמים ואחרים באזורנו שעושים מאמצים גדולים להשיג את המטרה הנעלה הזו. אני ממליץ לכולם ללמוד על העבודה הנפלאה שעושה ארגון הפוקולר – ארגון הסיוע הקתולי הגדול ביותר .בעולם – לקדם דיאלוג במזרח התיכון

http://www.unitedworldproject.org/en/

Photo: Last few days in Haifa and Akko

Building Bridges for Peace in Haifa, Israel

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I immigrated to Israel five years ago from The United States at the age of fifty nine. I can think of no nation or place anywhere that has more spiritual significance than “The Land of Canaan” It is the birthplace of the three major faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is the place where King David wrote the 23rd psalm, where Jesus of Nazareth promoted ideas and values that have changed humanity. In the Quran, the inspired scripture that Muhammad brought to the Arabs, venerates the great prophets of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It speaks of Solomon’s “great place of prayer” in Jerusalem, which the first Muslims called City of the Temple.

Haifa is the home of the Tomb of Elijah the Prophet considered one of the holiest and most venerated shrines to Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze alike.

Haifa is a city dotted with gardens. The most prominent is at the world center of the Baha’i religion, with the tombs of the Bab (Mirza Muhammad Ali) and Abbas Efendi, son and successor of the founder of the abor.faith, Bahá’u’lláh. The presence of the Baha’i, for so long persecuted in various Middle East countries, is evidence of the tolerant social fabric of this city. The greatest challenge facing this small and brave nation is to promote the values of peace in an area filled with strife and hatred. “The Golden Rule” is a common link in the three major faiths that can and will draw us together to promote Shalom and Salaam. It is happening in Haifa the city of peaceful coexistence.

I have been blessed to participate in many interfaith efforts in the past five years to promote peace through dialogue in Haifa.This holiday season I rejoiced to participate in several activities in Haifa to promote harmony. My favorite was an interfaith sports event hosted by the local Muslim Ahmadiyya school in the Kabbabir community in Haifa.

 On Wednesday, Dec 19th, 2012, between Hanukkah and Christmas, 50 teens: Israeli Jews and Muslim got together in Games for Peace organized by a new association called GESHARIM LETIKVAH: BRIDGES FOR PEACE- HEALING THE WORLD BY BRINGING HEARTS TOGETHER.
The new President of the association, Prof Jesse Lachter emphasized on what is the motto and core value of this new NGO: “Love Builds Bridges”.
 Reform Movement Rabbi Dr Edgar Nof started the games by reciting a Prayer for Peace. Then the teen girls played a basketball game for peace, while the teen boys play soccer. The Jewish children came from the Open School in Haifa with their teacher Ya’ir Shachar. The game referee was Manar principal of the Ahmadiyya Muslim School in the Kabbabir neighbor of Haifa. Previous to every game the teens shook hands, and everybody wins by promoting Peace in Israel and by bringing hearts together. Imam Muhammad Sharif declared that their slogan is “Love for all, Hatred for none”. The Ahmadiyya are a world wide movement of more than one hundred million followers dedicated to peace and universal brotherhood. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has gone so far as to call them “Reform Arabs.” Most of the two thousand Ahmadis in Israel live in Kabbabir, they are leaders in the business, cultural and most importantly spiritual areas of our community.
 “You don’t hear about us because we don’t throw rocks at buses,” stated on Ahmadi leader. “We believe that nothing can be achieved through hatred and hostility.”
 All the kids said at the end of the games that it was too short and that they want to meet again. We have planned more activities for the spring. Below a Rabbi and Imam build bridges for peace.

photo.JPG