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Reflections on the Oil Spill

Our region is just beginning to digest the magnitude of the negative impact that the oil rig explosion will have on so many facets of life - environment, economy, health, food, recreation and much more. The Baal Shemtov (whose 250 Yahrtzeit is on the upcoming Shavuot festival - more on that later) taught us that we need to derive a lesson in our service of the Almighty from everything that we encounter in life.

Kabbala teaches that single acts of goodness and holiness can have positive cosmic reprocussions. If this is true with regard to single negative incidents (e.g. the oil spill) how much more so with regard to the positive. This is a very empowering notion. That each one of us, a relatively insignificant individual, can have an impact of historical proportions on the future of the universe in making it a G-dly place. Let us sieze the moment and the lesson and do our part to transform the world into a welcoming dwelling for Hashem.

Speaking of Kabbala, this coming Sunday is Lag B'omer, the day that we celebrate the life of the Father of Kabbala, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Join Chabad of Metairie at the annual Lag B'omer Fest, being held at the Goldring-Woldenberg Community Campus in Metairie from 12:30-3:00 PM for food, fun and music.

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of visiting the Gates of Prayer Religious School to present the Torah Factory. We had a very engaging session culminating in the children using a quill and ink to write their Hbrew names on parchment. Photos, courtesy of Michelle Bassham, can be viewed here. To have the Torah Factory visit your school or group please contact me - mendel@chabadneworleans.com.

On Monday night we enjoyed the Kabbala Seminar presented by Laibl Wolf at the Chabad Student Center. The audience received the presentation with enthusiasm. One of the participants phrased it so " I just wanted to thank you for bringing Rabbi Wolf to New Orleans.  I found his talk very inspirational and I have in fact already utilized something he spoke about. " Photos can be viewed here.

Since this Shavuot marks 250 years from the passing of the Baal Shemtov, both CHabad Uptown and Chabad Metairie will be dedicating the Shavuot night learning to the teachings of the Baal Shemtov. If you'd like to be a part of it as a teacher and/or a student please let us know.

We wish a hearty Mazel Tov to Uzzi and Rivkah Kehaty upon the birth of their new grandson. And a hearty Mazel Tov to George and Elaine Haas upon the birth of their new grandson. May they all have much joy and Nachas from their families.  

A New Chapter In Chabad of Louisiana History

A new chapter in the history of Chabad of Louisiana and the New Orleans Jewish community was started this morning, as renovations on the original Chabad House, located at 7037 Freret St, are now officially underway. I have uploaded a few photos of the demolition which can be viewed here . I intend to document the progress and keep you up to date with these occasional photo uploads.

Chabad House opened its doors on Purim in February of 1976 as a Jewish Student Center for Tulane University. Since then the organization has expanded considerably, serving not only the Tulane population out of the Rohr Chabad Student Center, but also the New Orleans and Metairie Jewish communities with Chabad centers in each location.

We were very proud that the Rohr Chabad Student Center (located next door to the original Chabad House) was the first Jewish institution that was built after Hurricane Katrina, as phase I of the Chabad Uptown construction project. As we enter the final phase of the project, we are looking for additional supporters from within the ranks of the Jewish community, who appreciate the important role that Chabad plays in New Orleans and the entire Gulf-South region.

I want to remind you about the upcoming Kabbala Seminar this Monday night with Laibl Wolf entitled, Think Right, Feel Right, Do it Right - Five Powerful Tools to Develop a New Mindset. It promises to be a wonderful event. To pre-register and receive the advance payment discount  click here

As Lag B'Omer comes around on May 2, the annual Lag B'omer Fest will be held at 12:30 at the Goldring-Woldenberg Community Campus in Metairie. Please see www.jewishlouisiana.com for details and registration. 

The Jewish Community will be commemorating the 5th anniversary of Katrina and celebrating where we are 5 years later, with a Havdala celebration at the Uptown JCC on Saturday, August 28 @ 9 pm. 

Reflections on the Holocaust Memorial

This past Sunday night I attended the Holocaust Memorial event at the JCC. It was a well developed program that had many inspiring elements. The ceremonies, the readings and the featured speaker all contributed to the overall experience. As with most Holocaust related events, there was a strong emphasis on Zachor - remembering and maintaining the memory of what happened, as well as trying to ensure as much as we can that "Never Again."

I have always felt that there is one extremely integral element missing from most events, writings and talks about the Holocaust. The extermination of six million of our brothers and sisters resulted in a major void, one third of the Jewish people was gone along with all of the good that they would have contributed to the world. While we cannot restore their lives (though we need to have a stronger sense of responsibility with regard to repopulating the Jewish people), we can do our part in filling the void of goodness and spirituality that was left after their destruction.

Imagine, six million people worth of Mitzvot. Six million poeple worth of Torah study. Six million people worth of goodness and kindness. That is a major void that we can fill, one Mitzvah at a time. In doing so we also assure that we have the last word over those who sought to destroy, not only Jews but Judaism (which are really inseperable). We need to take this task seriously - because if we will not do it, nobody will do it for us. 

A colleague from Chabad of Uraguay produced a short but powerful video clip that addresses this point. It can be viewed at www.chabadneworleans.com/1180316.

I want to remind you about the great opportunity to hear from one of the most respected teachers of Jewish mysticism in the world - Laibl Wolf - who will be conducting a Kabbala Seminar here is New Orleans on Monday, April 26. The topic, Think Right, Feel Right, Do it Right. For more info  click here.

This coming Thursday is our class of the month - this month's topic: The Kabbala of the Aleph & Aleph Meditation.

It is with great pleasure that I wish Rabbi Yossie and Chanie Nemes a hearty Mazel Tov upon the engagement of their daughter Chaya Mushka to Mendel Ceitlin. We look forward to celebrating with them at the wedding.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate Beth Israel upon their upcoming groundbreaking this Sunday. 

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