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And the winner is...

I want to thank all of those that participated in this week’s raffle. And the winner of the raffle is… each participant for their support of Chabad’s work in New Orleans. Most of the winning tickets were sold in other communities – particularly Pennsylvania and California. We did have one here in New Orleans – Congratulations to Dr. Rebecca Begtrup – winner of a GPS Navigation System.

I would like to share a story about the Jewish section of a German cemetery in Kirkville, LA (near Osyka, MS and Kentwood, LA). Over the years it had fallen into disrepair. Before Katrina volunteer groups (like the one from Gates of Prayer) went on occasion to clean up. Since the storm it had been neglected completely. Cemetery before.JPGIt was brought to my attention several years ago by Bobbe Jacobs of California – who visits the region annually. She had also informed Jennifer Samuels, then with the Federation, and we talked about trying to get something done. We brought Sandy Lassen of Shir Chadash and the Chevra Kaddisha into the conversation and the two of them went to see the place. They encountered graves overrun by vegetation and branches, downed trees, broken headstones and an overall disaster. Subsequently we ran into a few dead ends including rejected applications for funding. About a year ago we revisited the issue with the intention of seeing it through to a resolution. In the course of her research, Sandy learned that Richard Cahn had an interest in this project as well. The ISJL also was aware but had no resources to dedicate towards this project. 

The cemetery required professional work to clear away the major branches and trees. It would then need teams of volunteers to bring it back to a state of respectability.  Sandy received some recommendations from the German Cemetery folks regarding the pros that could perform the necessary work. Facing a daunting estimate for the work, the project nearly sputtered again were it not for the generous support of the Cahn family.  Cemetery after.jpgLast week the work was completed and the results are amazing. More work and additional funds will be needed to see this through to the end, but a major part of the task has been achieved. I want to highlight the perseverance of Bobbe Jacobs, the dedication of Sandy Lassen and the generosity of Richard Cahn, all playing central roles in this accomplishment.  

If you would like to be involved in this project in any capacity, please contact Sandy or myself. There is much left to be done and we welcome any participation. One of the angles we would like to take is to track some of families whose loved ones are buried there. This cemetery project would be ideal for volunteer groups as well.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Imagine... A World

In John Lennon’s famous song, he calls on us to “Imagine” an ideal world. With all due respect to the great songwriter, I would rather not imagine a world without religion or Heaven, where we all live for “Today.” Instead I would like to offer an alternative “Imagine.”

Imagine a world without child abuse or molestation.
Imagine a world without sexual harassment or rape.
Imagine a world without greed and exploitation of others.
Imagine a world without cheating and stealing.
Imagine a world without cruelty and disregard for another of G-d’s creatures.

These five passages address societal ills that one encounters when opening any newspaper or news-site these days. Yet, this “Imagine” is not out of reach. The ideal world described is the world of the Torah.

Firstly, each of those problems is precluded by the observance of Halacha. Torah observance can, in some instances, help a person avoid even the potential for some of the issues listed. Furthermore, the very underlying philosophy of Torah renders a society that is free of these terrible conditions. Though there are many layers of significance to each passage and Mitzvah in the Torah, at its most basic level, The Torah and its Mitzvot are supposed to make one a “mensch.” Our sages teach that the Mitzvot were given as tools with which to refine ourselves. A world whose inhabitants live according to the ideals of Torah is free of all of the aforementioned societal ills.

So I hear the argument, “but what about the “religious Jew” who (pick one) molests a child, cheats, steals, exploits, harasses, disrespects, etc.”? And the obvious reply is that we should not judge a system based on the individuals who do not follow all of its rules. A religious Jew is not defined solely by ritual observance, dress code or communal affiliation, but rather by the entire body of the Torah and its Mitzvot. This includes our duties to G-d and our duties to our fellow man. I would argue that an individual that truly strives to live the Torah ideal, would inevitably be a “mensch” that is admired by all.

Imagine a world where all people are viewed as being created in G-d’s image.
Imagine a world where the boundaries of modesty and morality are respected.
Imagine a world where all things would be regarded as the handiwork of G-d
Imagine a world in which our G-d given obligation dictates the way we live.
Imagine a world in which all people strive to be more G-dly and less selfish.

Stop imagining and start doing… Begin with your little corner of the world and together we can turn this imagined dream into a reality.

Chabad’s raffle drawing for 10K and additional great prizes is only a few days away on Tues., Nov. 15. Seize the opportunity to participate and support our important work in the community. To purchase a ticket or for more info, go to www.chabadneworleans.com/raffle.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi Yochanan and Sarah Rivkin upon the birth of their son.

Mazel Tov to Allegra Marino and Arthur Shmulevsky upon their upcoming marriage.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Winning... is everything

Dear Friends,

Chabad of Louisiana is approaching its 36th anniversary. Established in late November of 1975 with a primary focus on Tulane University, Chabad developed over the years into a multi-faceted organization with a broad range of programs and services being offered from its three centers, Chabad of Louisiana (located in uptown), Chabad of Metairie, and Chabad @ Tulane.

Many people mistakenly assume that Chabad of Louisiana, as part of a global movement, is funded (all or in part) by Chabad HQ in New York. The reality is that the Chabad system is structured like a franchise, where each branch is financially independent and responsible. The only difference is that we do not even pay a franchise fee or dues to the movement. 100% of the funds raised by Chabad of Louisiana are applied to fund the local Chabad and its programs and services. As such one can be assured that every penny contributed to Chabad of Louisiana will stay in the community.

This also presents a challenge in that we must raise our entire budget from individuals who appreciate the work that we are doing locally. Chabad Uptown does not even have membership. All of our funds come from your generous contributions. The result is efficient use of limited funds to maximize our offering of quality programming at low cost. We are extremely appreciative of our many supporters – who recognize the value of what Chabad brings to the community. We are especially thankful for your continued support during these tough economic times.

Last year I shared this insight from my late grandfather, Mr. Mordechai Rivkin. My grandfather was a very charitable person, even during times of his life when doing so was very difficult. He often shared with me, his philosophy on giving when times are tough. He explained it by way of an analogy. Imagine, he related, that one's financial situation is like a trip on a horse and wagon. When the horses are too tired or the wagon is sinking due to the burden it is carrying, one looks to lighten the load. Usually one seeks to cast off the least important things on the wagon. Similarly, when economic times are tough we lighten the load by "casting off" certain expenditures. However, he explained, "casting off" the expenditure of Tzedakah would be akin to lightening the load on the wagon by casting off one of the wheels. My grandfather felt that Tzedakah is essential to the giver's financial survival, as it is the vehicle through which to receive G-d's blessing for success.

On November 15 Chabad is holding a raffle for $10,000 and a number of other exciting prizes. Each ticket goes for $100. In this raffle everyone is a winner! Your participation will allow Chabad to continue our important work in this community. Please take a moment and check out the raffle at www.chabadneworleans.com/raffle and buy a ticket (or a few). Now more than ever we need you support, and a chance to win 10K couldn’t hurt either. We thank you in advance for your participation.

Mazel Tov to Rachel (Kaufmann) and Mendy Traxler and the Kaufmann and Traxler families upon the birth of their daughter.

Mazel Tov to Sarah (Brum) and Sholom Mendelsohn and the Brum family upon the birth of their son.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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