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News and Views For NOLA Jews

Malkie & Lee Rittvo.jpgAs mentioned in last post, the Kinus Hashluchos – Conference of Chabad Women Emissaries was held this past weekend. It was a wonderful and uplifting experience for all that attended. In addition to seeing family and friends, Malkie ran into some people with New Orleans connections.Malkie & Rachel Fertel.JPG Running simultaneously with the conference was a 3 day mini-camp for the girls – young Shluchos. My daughter Basy attended for the first time and had a blast. She met girls her age from all over the world. She is still singing the songs that they learned and talking about how much fun it was. Here is a link to some video highlights of the conference – www.chabadneworleans.com/1776339.

This week I had the opportunity to welcome Ofir Levy and his parents, Yaakov and Tamar to New Orleans. They live in Rosh Ha’ayin so there is an inherent association with our city. They are the sixth Israeli family to come to Ochsner Hospital for a liver transplant. Thank G-d and through the dedication and skill of the surgeons and medical staff at Ochsner’s Transplant Institute, four of them have gone home with new leases on life (see earlier blogposts, A Medical Miracle and Brought Together by Caring and Love). Number 4, Igal Yellin just returned to Israel last week as a new man. Besides the care by Dr. Ari Cohen and his colleagues at the facility, they also experienced the love of our New Orleans Jewish community. I would like to single out two individuals who have gone above and beyond in helping Igal and his mother Nina during their months long stay in New Orleans. Uzzi Kehaty and his family have literally adopted all of the Israelis that have been at Ochsner this year. Linda Waknin of Casablanca has also taken a very strong interest in their welfare helping out in many different ways. We wish Ofir Levy as well as Shulamit Pinto (number 5) well and the best of Hashem’s blessings for a successful process and a complete and speedy recovery.

Mordechai Upshernish.jpgOn Sunday our family will be celebrating our son Mordechai’s Upshernish – first haircut. In addition to having his hair cut and leaving the peyot, Mordechai will also begin wearing Tzitzit and a Yarmulka full time. In Jewish tradition a three year old is initiated into Jewish education. As parents, Malkie and I realize that this is a serious responsibility. Hashem has entrusted this child to us and we will endeavor to bring him up according to the ways of our Torah. Like a sapling that requires watering and care, our little son has been nurtured physically and spiritually for three years. He is now ready to begin bearing fruit. We look forward to celebrating this milestone in his life.

Purim preparations are well under way. This year’s grand celebration – Purim in the Wild Wild West – will be one of the best ever. Check out this Purim Promo video featuring the past two Purim celebrations at www.chabdneworleans.com/1779756. The deadline for early-bird registration is March 1. For more info go to www.chabadneworleans.com/266000.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Adar!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Winfrey a Hasidic last name, who knew?

Winfrey a Hasidic last name, who knew? This week the Oprah show did a feature on the Chasidic community in Brooklyn. During her time in Crown Heights (Chabad Central), she was interviewed by Chabad.org’s Rabbi Motti Seligson. The interview can be seen at - www.chabadneworleans.com/1764563. She signs off by declaring “there’s more Hasidic Jew in me than I knew.” She spent time with a family and interviewed four women about their lives.

Speaking of Chasidic women, this weekend is the Kinus Hashluchos – conference of Chabad women emissaries. It is arguable, that the most misunderstood, pre-judged, summarily dismissed Jewish subgroup is Jewish women from religious (sometimes referred to as Orthodox) communities. They are misrepresented as second class citizens who are relegated to the background by a patriarchal system.

A peek into this weekend's conference would go a long way in debunking this myth. Over 3500 Jewish women, each one, a leader in her respective community where she and her husband direct Chabad activities, are gathered for their annual weekend of women's empowerment.

The conference was founded by the Rebbe in memory of his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, whose yahrtzeit was this week on the 22nd of Shevat.

As I play Mr. Mom (or is it Rabbi Mom?) this weekend, I look forward to greeting Malkie as she returns with an invigorated sense of inspired renewal and with tons of new ideas. One of the most exciting elements of the conference is seeing friends and family from around the world. When I think of my close relatives (first cousin or closer) that Malkie will be seeing, they hail from: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Germany and Israel. So it will be busy and fulfilling.

In the meantime, back at the ranch, feverish preparations are underway for another spectacular Grand Purim Celebration. This year’s theme is Purim in the Wild Wild West. Purim is on March 8 and the event will kick off at 5:30 PM @ Chabad Metairie. One this year’s exciting features is Sam Glaser in concert. For more info, go to www.chabadneworleans.com/266000. From there you can link to an RSVP page as well.

Mazel Tov to Rabbi David and Jesse Posternock upon the birth of their son.

Mazel Tov to Allen Samuels upon the upcoming marriage of his granddaughter, Helena Seidenfeld.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Gratitude to NOPD Blue

This week I had the honor of attending the NOPD swearing in ceremony, to watch my good friend Brian Weiss assume the position of Commander. It was a fairly short and business-like event in which new commanders, lieutenants and sergeants were presented with their new badges and the oath of office was administered by Chief Serpas.

I watched these men and women take the oath and accept their badges as their families looked on, and several things crossed my mind. My first thought was a sense of gratitude to a fine group of people who put their lives on the line to protect us and our city.  I was struck by their dedication and the look of determination on their faces.

Seeing the officers with their families also made me contemplate the fact that they are regular people with families whom they love and who love them. Too often we see “cops” as part of the scenery in a city, or worse, as the ones who give out tickets. When we see police on the scene of a crime or cruising around the streets, we generally think of them as entities rather than people. It is important to remember that the officers have feelings; they have concerns about their children and finances just like each and every one of us. This attitude shift will do us all some good.

The ceremony came against the backdrop of some pretty hefty controversy regarding the NOPD this week. While there is undoubtedly room for improvement and there are certainly some officers that are not worthy of the position, I still think it is important to be mindful of the gratitude we owe the individuals who maintain the rule of law in our town, even as they risk their own safety in the process. I invoke the words of the Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers, “pray for the welfare of the government, for if not for rule of law one man would swallow up his fellow.” Until the world reaches a state of perfection and redemption, we will need the rule of law to ensure that anarchy and chaos are not the norm. Law enforcement officers are an integral part of preventing “one man from swallowing up his fellow.”

All of the complaints aside, we have much to be thankful for that we live in a country and city where we are free to observe our religion and that we live in relative safety and protection (notwithstanding all of the things that have been going on in New Orleans recently). This does not happen in a vacuum. There are many “parts” in this machine of freedom and democracy and the NOPD plays an important role in the local process. Next time we see an officer, think of him or her as a husband, wife, parent, sibling or child. Be grateful for their dedication and sacrifice.

I, for one, am thankful for their service and was honored to be amongst them.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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