ChabadNewOrleans Blog

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Dear Friends,

Last night Malkie and I attended a unique celebration, a birthday party for Moish Pomeranc who turned 60 this week. Who is Moish and why was his 60th unique?

Moish and his wife Kochava live in Ofrah, an Israeli settlement. Two years ago Moish was diagnosed with a life-threatening liver disease. His long journey to finding treatment brought him to New Orleans on Purim day 2011. Ochsner Hospital’s transplant team has made the institution an international destination for people seeking a new lease on life. Just this year three Israelis, Shmuel Katz, Yehudah Peretz and Moish Pomeranc, underwent successful liver transplant surgery. (See an earlier post entitled A Medical Miracle.)

Each man’s path was different. For Moish, his first trip to New Orleans would not prove to be the decisive one. They were sent back to Israel after one month after being told that he was not a transplant candidate at this time. Things began to deteriorate and in July, Moish and Kochava returned to New Orleans. Within a very short time he went through the surgery to be given a new liver and a new life. At his 59th birthday Moish looked upon the upcoming year with uncertainty. Last night, at his 60th, he and Kochava expressed their thankfulness to G-d for the miracle He had shown them.

Gathered around the table at the celebration were a group of wonderful people that got to know the Pomeranc family during their time in New Orleans – and were devoted to helping them in many ways. As the least significant person at the gathering, I was in awe of this diverse group who were united in their performance of Chesed - loving-kindness to Moish and Kochava. They were: Sandy Seelig, her husband Stanley and their daughter Avery; Shirley and Ralph Seelig; Rivka and Uzzi Kehaty; and Linda Waknin along with Malkie and me.

Each of these people had done so much and in so many ways to be there with a sense of Ahavat Yisrael – love for a fellow Jew. It really felt like a family gathering. As I reflected on the gathering, I realized that it was a most fitting way to spend some of the final nights before Rosh Hashanah. As we show Hashem, who is a Father to us, how much His children care for and love each other, He is turn reciprocates with the greatest blessings from His infinite reservoir of abundant goodness for the coming year. Indeed, may Hashem repay the kindness of these wonderful people many times over.

May each and every one of you individually and all of us collectively be blessed with a happy, healthy, sweet and meaningful new year of 5772.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Who Let the Jews Out

Izzy Nathan attended Shul every day of his adult life until his 95th birthday. When he abruptly stopped coming, the Rabbi came to see him and asked, “Izzy, why have you stopped coming to Shul at the age of 95 all of a sudden? Aren’t you grateful to G-d for blessing you with such long life?” Izzy replied, “Rabbi, I am very thankful, but I am avoiding Shul so as not to remind G-d that I am still alive.”

It is widely known that many more Jews attend Synagogue for High Holiday services than for a regular Shabbat service. There are numerous sociological explanations for this; and I am certain that they are all plausible and applicable to some extent. However, the Jewish mystics offer an alternative explanation. They explain, that during the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur there is a phenomenon called “Kiruv Hamaor El Hanitzutz” – The Light Source approaches the spark, thus causing the spark to become enlivened and be drawn back to the Light Source. In simple terms, G-d brings Himself closer to us and consequently we are drawn back to Him, consciously or subconsciously.

The challenge is, that once “they” come to the Synagogue it is the task of the Synagogue leadership to make them want to come more often. I always say that, if asked which two days to attend Shul, I would reply Simchat Torah and Purim. In other words, we must make Shul attendance a meaningful experience rather than one they cannot wait to be done with until next year comes around.

In a similar vein, a Jew once approached the fourth Chabad Rebbe with a query. He only has 30 minutes a day to study Torah. Should he study Halacha or Chassidic texts? The Rebbe replied Chassidic texts. When asked by his Chassidim, “doesn’t Halacha take precedence so the Jew should know how to live as a Jew?,” the Rebbe replied, “yes, but if he studies Chassidic texts he will suddenly discover more time in his day for Torah study, including Halacha.”

We need to make the most of the High Holiday shul experience so that our fellow Jews, especially the youth, will view it not as burden but a joy.

Mazel Tov to Bleama (Shaffer) and Yisrael Kamen upon their wedding this week. We welcome them (back) to New Orleans as they join our community.

Mazel Tov to Fruma and Mendy Schapiro upon their son Schneur’s Bar Mitzvah.

Mazel Tov to Shayna and Shaya Gopin upon the birth of their son.

Condolences to the Berman family upon the passing of their brother, Nathan J. Berman.

A warm New Orleans welcome to our newest Shluchim, Rabbi Mendel and Chaya Mushka Ceitlin and their daughter Zelda. They have just moved to town to join the staff of Chabad of Metairie.

Regards from Southern California (here for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah) and Shabbat Shalom

9/11 @ 10

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we mark 10 years since that fateful September 11th day, which changed our lives. Everyone remembers where they were when it happened. Our perspective, our worldview and our sense of security would be markedly different. While the people of New York, DC and rural PA, along with those that lost loved ones on the flights, would be personally impacted more than the rest of us, it was certainly a national tragedy. Our country came together, at least for a short time. Then the question of how to react and deal with those agents of hatred arose and divided us once again, or perhaps even more so. Our lives have become demarcated by the Pre-9/11 era and the post 9/11 era.

The crew has put together a very meaningful 9/11 @ 10 website with articles old and new as well as multimedia, including a new video. Please take the time to commemorate this eventful day with some Jewish insight and perspective by visiting

This past Sunday our family and 80 guests braved the rains of Tropical Storm Lee to celebrate our daughter Sara’s Bas Mitzvah. It was a beautiful affair and we are very grateful to those that made the effort to come. It is events such as this one that allow parents to enjoy the Nachas of the hard work of raising a child. As always, Alex Barkoff captured the event with his camera and some photos can be viewed at

I would like to highlight three events that are coming up at Chabad.

·         Next Friday, September 16, Chabad Young Jewish Professionals is having Ladies Only Shabbat. Malkie Rivkin will be hosting Shabbat dinner in her home for Young Jewish Professional Women. For more info or to rsvp or

·         On Sunday, September 18, Chabad is teaming up with Winn Dixie and Casablanca for Kosher Day at Uptown Winn Dixie. From 11-1 there will be live music, kosher sampling and an info table. Come by and enjoy. For more info

·         On Tuesday, September 20 – 12-1 PM, our second monthly CBD Lunch N Learn will take place at New York Camera – 705 Canal St. The topic: The Call of the Shofar – Insights and Inspiration into the tradition of the Shofar. [email protected]. Lunch is served.

Wishing you a good Shabbos and a happy, healthy and sweet new year!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Women of Valor

Dear Friends,

Every Friday night before Kiddush we recite the passage from Proverbs known as Eishet Chayil – a Woman of Valor. King Solomon composed this lengthy poem as an ode to the Jewish woman. Interestingly he uses the term valor, which connotes something different than one would associate with the role of women in those days. Valor implies strength and bravery, things we relate to soldiers in battle. Back then the role of conqueror or warrior was generally reserved for men. Yet it is precisely this term that Solomon chooses to describe the “ultimate Jewish woman.”

This week my family celebrates our women of valor. Our daughter Sara’s Bat Mitzvah will take place on Sunday. Two days later we say goodbye to her older sister, Mushka, as she spreads her wings to attend Yeshiva High School in NY. Both of these milestones convey the element of valor necessary to be a successful Jewish woman in our times.

Back in the old country it was accepted that girls did not need formal study or to attend school. All life skills could be learned from their mothers and bubbies at home. (There were pockets of Jewish society, such as the Rebbes of Chabad and their families who educated their daughters – see our blog entry entitled, What’s in a Name? – our daughter Devorah Leah.) However, as new winds began to blow across Eastern Europe, and even more so in our times, Jewish leaders recognized that girls needed to be educated as much as boys, in order to give them the tools to combat these assaults on their Jewish ideals.

Fast forward to the post-WWII era. The Rebbe was at the forefront in encouraging women, especially his Shluchos – emissaries, to meet the challenges that modernity brought to Jewish womanhood, by embracing the leadership roles needed to guide the women of the 20th and 21st centuries. The idea behind this approach is not to be just like a man, but rather to be a “woman of valor.” A strong woman is not a woman who does “guy things” but rather a woman who is strong and displays valor in her role as a woman.

My daughters have good role models in their mother and grandmothers, of what an Eishet Chayil – a woman of valor - is. They are women who have taken on leadership positions in their communities while simultaneously maintaining their focus on and giving priority to the traditional roles of Jewish womanhood. To help Sara upon her entry into the world of Jewish women, her women’s only Bat Mitzvah celebration will be centered on the special Mitzvot of the Jewish woman. It is our hope that she absorbs the lessons, and the example of her role models, as she successfully matures into a woman of valor in her own right.

I would like to welcome Anshe Sfard’s new Rabbi David Polsky and his wife Mindy to New Orleans and wish them Hatzlacha in enhancing our New Orleans Jewish community. A similar welcome to Hillel’s new associate Rabbi Binyamin Yitzchak Shem-Tov and his family. I would also like to welcome back Sarah and Zev Attias and their children who are returning to New Orleans after a post Katrina six year hiatus.

Speaking of the weather, I wish us all a peaceful Shabbat and a safe rest of the summer and fall. As is customary, we conclude letters during this month with the greeting of “May y’all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year.”

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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