ChabadNewOrleans Blog

A Southern Wedding with a Chassidic Twist

Last night many of us had the pleasure of participating in the marriage of Libby, daughter of Rabbi Yossie and Chanie Nemes to Zalman Groner. It was a wonderful affair and I am sure you all join me in wishing them and their families a hearty Mazel Tov. A bride from New Orleans and a groom from Charlotte, NC. You would think there would have been an abundance of seersucker suits and mint julips. Actually black hats & coats and vodka seemed to be the preferred male attire and beverage respectively. Aside from a few veiled references to some sort of football rivalry (anyone know what they may have been talking about?) and the weather, there wasn’t much about this wedding that was southern. (Unless you count the violinist sneaking in Dixie after the Chuppah.)

So why would Chassidic Jews choose to live in Metairie or Charlotte and have their wedding in New Orleans? Especially since both sets of parents are decidedly northern in origin (and accent). At the wedding reception Rabbi Yossi Groner (father of the groom) gave a toast during which he mentioned that the one truly rejoicing is the Rebbe. It is the joy of seeing two families who devoted their lives to Shlichus (the Rebbe’s emissaries to make the world a better and more G-dly place) marrying off their children to each other in the presence of beautiful delegations from both communities.

So the Rebbe inspired these two couples (among thousands of others around the world) to move to the South where they have both had a great influence of the development of their respective Jewish communities and on countless people that have been touched by the work of Chabad in those places. Now their southern born children have been united in marriage to the delight of the Rebbe and their families. We wish them all the best for a wonderful life in emulating the dedication of their parents to the Rebbe’s ideal of turning this world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

Mazel Tov to former New Orleanians Binyomin and Gittel Kaplan upon the engagement of their daughter Mushka to Mendy Drihem.

Have a good Shabbos
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Youngest Underwriter in the House

There is a well-known Midrash about Hashem demanding a guarantor before He consented to give the people of Israel the Torah. They offered the forefathers or the prophets but Hashem rejected the offer. Finally the offered the children and Hashem accepted. And so the children are our guarantors for all generations.

Interestingly there is no age threshold for this. We don’t say that the child must be of a particular minimum age in order to serve in this role. Indeed in another context our sages talk about the heritage of Torah belonging even to a day old child. The verse states, “The Torah that Moses commanded to us is an inheritance for the congregation of Jacob.” In Jewish law even a newborn can be a legal heir. So this inheritance belongs even to an infant.

Last Friday night, as we celebrated the birth of our son, Yosef Nadiv, our friend, Flora Radding, pointed out to me that he was born just in time be a guarantor for the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot. Indeed this little fellow will be the youngest underwriter our family has even had.

On Sunday morning as we read the Ten Commandments and re-experience the giving of the Torah, let’s make sure that every Jewish man, woman, and most importantly, child – even the newborns – are present to hear it. After all we need to have the relevant parties present, especially the guarantors. And by the way, the Kiddush afterward is pretty awesome too. Blintzes, cheesecake, ice cream and other dairy delights are all on the menu. You can start dieting on Monday. But on Sunday all Jews are lactose TOLERANT. Join us at Chabad Uptown or Chabad Metairie for this special occasion.

See y’all in Shul.

Congratulations to Torah Academy alumna Chaya Schreiber upon her graduation from Yeshiva University’s Stern College with a B.S. in Biology.

Have a good Shabbos and may we experience a meaningful and joyous Season of the Giving of Our Torah!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Brahms' Lullaby at 4 AM

Malkie and I were blessed by Hashem this week with the birth of a healthy baby boy. We are very grateful for the support and love from so many in our community and from friends and relatives around the world.

His bris will be held G-d willing on Tuesday afternoon, May 19 at 5:30 PM at Chabad Uptown.

Our son was born at Touro at 4 AM on Tuesday. Touro has a custom of playing Brahms’ Lullaby whenever a baby is born. So all night the PA system was playing the lullaby for each baby born.

When I accompanied the baby to the nursery it was packed with newborns. I looked around and marveled at the diversity – babies of every race and ethnic background. It occurred to me that each of these babies will likely come into a different situation. Some are born to single mothers who struggle to raise the child without an involved father. Some are born to a family with parents, siblings and grandparents who are excited to welcome and raise them. Some may be born to parents waiting for years to be blessed with a child, while others will have many brothers and sisters with whom to share their life. And everything in between. Each baby with its unique set of life circumstances.

Yet each of them is welcomed with the same Brahms’ Lullaby. How could this be? How can we have this automatic uniform welcome for each baby? True each of them is fashioned in the image of the Creator, but their lives have the potential to be so different.

The Rebbe once wrote to a young lady who, due to her excruciatingly painful life circumstances, felt that she was unloved and living a life bereft of purpose. The gist of the Rebbe’s message to her was, “Birth is G-d’s way of declaring that you matter.”

The miracle of birth reveals that the life of that child has infinite value in the eyes of Hashem. In fact every single person has a unique mission to fulfill on this earth, a mission that cannot be completed by anyone else. So at the moment of birth each child should be welcomed in the same way. From the vantage point of Hashem each one has meaning and an important role to play in history.

We hope that our little one will reach his potential and fulfill Hashem’s vision for his destiny, in good health, happiness and joy for all who are a part of his life.

Mazel Tov to Keren Gesund and Allen Newman upon the birth of their daughter, Aliza.

A deep message of comfort to Rabbi Yossie and Chanie Nemes upon the tragic passing of their niece Chaya Spalter. May there only be simcha and good things for the family for all times.

Heartfelt condolences to Adam and Michele Stross and the entire Stross/Covert family upon the passing of Mildred Covert.

Condolences to the Sarrett Family upon the passing of Judge Carl Sarrett.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

The Little Drummer Boy

Lag B’omer is celebrated in very special ways all over the world. The Rebbe first introduced the concept of a Lag B’omer parade in the 1940s and 1950s as a way of enhancing Jewish pride while celebrating the great sages associated with Lag B’omer, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Over the years (mostly when Lag B’omer fell on a Sunday) big parades were staged on Eastern Parkway (a major Brooklyn thoroughfare on which Chabad HQ – 770 – is located). Thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of Jewish children and their parents, teachers etc. would rally and then march in honor of Lag B’omer. (See a collage of photos here

The students of the Yeshivas and girl’s schools would create and build elaborate floats with various Jewish themes. Marching bands would perform. After hearing the Rebbe speak, the highlight of the event was the chance for each child to march past the Rebbe during the actual parade.

A majestic viewing platform would be built by the chassidim (they would not give this privilege to paid workers), from which the Rebbe would address the assembled, then view the parade and interact with the thousands of marchers. The US military and NYPD would send honor guards and marching bands to participate. One year a Jewish organization commissioned a skywriter to fly over the parade and write “a salute to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” (That was way before the skywriting of JazzFest 2015.)

The Lag B’Omer parade was unique. The Rebbe would enter as the band played Ani Maamin. The Rebbe’s talks at the parades were of a different nature. There was always a grand sense about them. The message was being carried further and broader than usual. In 1967, just a few days before the six day war, the Rebbe declared that a miracle would occur and Israel would be successful. In the 1970s the Rebbe spoke in Russian, addressing the Soviet government and their treatment of Jews.

I had the opportunity to be present at one parade – Lag B’omer 1987. My class was selected to be the marching band for that year’s parade. It meant marching and performing in front of the Rebbe.  I was given the role playing the base drum. We were all excited and also anxious. We were all decked out in our marching band uniforms. Ours was the first performance after the Rebbe’s talk and the military presentation. We marched right up to the Rebbe’s viewing stand and did a full presentation. Then we saluted and declared our wishes to the Rebbe for a long and healthy life. The Rebbe clapped to our beat and we were on our way. drumming lag baomer.jpg
You can see a photo of this event at

There is an expression “a moment frozen in time.” That moment that we had standing in front the Rebbe as 13 year olds and the Rebbe clapping to our drumming is frozen in time for me. It also felt like it took forever. In the moment itself one loses a sense that there are thousands of people watching (and tuning in by satellite TV from all over the world). It was just us and the Rebbe. My children have seen the photos and the videos and think it’s cool. But it is nearly impossible to convey the awesomeness (the proper definition of awesome) of that experience.

Happy Lag B’omer and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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