Friday, June 23, 2006

Trivia question - Jewish communities

I am trying to post every day - we'll see how long that lasts! =-)

One of my interests, especially since we first did our research before moving, is hearing about Jewish communities where you wouldn't expect them. In a recent article about cities that are growing, I was surprised by one of the cities named and looked up whether there was a Jewish community there. I found a great article about the Chabad family who moved there in 2005, starting the first Chabad in that state. The article said that there are only five states left now with no Chabad.

Can you guess which five states do not have a Chabad, and what the sixth one was?
(It's not a trick question - it's really just the places with almost no Jews.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

P.S. About Our Rabbi

My husband came home tonight with a great encounter with Rabbi B (from previous post). He came up to my husband and said, "I have something to show you." He pulled out a piece of paper which was a to do list, and one of the items was to call my husband. Then he asked how he was doing and how his parents were doing, and apologized again for not having the chance to call them. He explained specifically the things with which he has been involved (including 4 upcoming weddings that he will be officiating.)

Can't help but compare to our former rabbi who would always say "I was just going to call you" if my husband called him. Only he wasn't just about to call. It was said in a very insincere way, like the kind of thing you say to make conversation. Other times he would promise to call - he even put it in his palm pilot once - and of course no call came. Then eventually my husband would call him and, what a surprise, "I was going to call you."

Anyone can be sincere. Even if Rabbi B wasn't so attentive that he actually followed up with people, I am sure he would sincerely say "I am sorry I have not been in touch," rather than putting on an act.

I really try to focus on people who are doing the right thing rather than go off on what could be endless stories of people doing the wrong thing, but the comparison just had to be made,

Thanks to everyone who is reading and/or commenting. Especially those of you whom I don't know in person.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How a rabbi should act

I still have way too many thoughts of things I want to post, but this will tie in to both my previous post and my comment on a very thought-provoking post by Shifra. I wanted to start profiling people who act the way we should, so I want to start with the rabbi at our shul.

I first met Rabbi B when he appeared at our doorstep with te welcome basket from the shul. Yes, our community does welcome baskets, and Rabbi B delivers them personally. And not just to "prospective members" -- he was very concerned about getting one to our friends who live in a different neighborhood and wouldn't possibly be joining the shul. He also brought a welcome basket to my husband's parents when he found out they moved here.

But making "first contact" is just the beginning of Rabbi B's attention to his congregants. We have frequently received phone calls from him "just to say hello and see how you're doing." He apologized profusely to my husband when he was not able to be at our daughter's naming at the early minyan. He apologized again for not calling my husband's parents more often - and they have never been to his shul. He then followed up by actually calling them. When he noticed my husband seemed upset about something, he inquired about it and made time to meet with us to basically be a sympathetic listener. He offered a few possible solutions but didn't attempt to solve the unsolvable by giving standard advice like "just have emunah and bitachon."

Rabbi B doesn't only do things to be nice, though. When there are halachic issues in the community, he will address it directly rather than do what will make him popular. One incident that stands out is when he lectured the congregation for allowing teenagers to hang out on the streets on Friday night. He specifically said that it is the parents' fault and it needs to stop. He didn't worry that his wealthy members would take away their funding or fire him -- it is a problem and he spoke out because that's his job. On another occasion, my husband asked him a question regarding an issue that is political in this community -- the status of a particular hechsher (kosher certification). He directly admitted that it was simply a political issue, and told us the truth about the status. We were newcomers, and he could absolutely have just told us "don't use it," but instead gave us all the facts.

Rabbi B is a big contrast to a number of other congregational rabbis who unfortunately do not act in this way. There were a number of rabbis across the "spectrum" who hesitate to rebuke their community because they are afraid of losing the donations. There are too many times that someone feels that their rabbi doesn't care who they are because they are not a big donor. Certainly it is difficult for a rabbi in a large congregation to keep up with all his congregants. But when someone approaches them, do they make the time to talk or brush the person off? Do they allow a more "important" person to interrupt your conversation with them, or do they make sure to give you their full attention? Do they take the time to at least learn the names of the members? (We have a friend who was called ten different names by the rabbi - "I've been Dave, Steve, Leonard, Richard, Ronald, Frederick and Franklin" - and his name is not even close to any of these.)

Making people feel that you genuinely care about them, while also caring enough about their neshamas to rebuke when necessary - instead of just criticizing the behavior of other communities' members....That is how a rabbi should behave, and we greatly appreciate Rabbi B.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thinking about chesed

I hope some of you are still reading - it has been quite a while since I blogged. Partly this was because of feeling a bit ill and having several out-of-town visitors including a brief visit from my parents. But mostly it was an old problem that has kept me from ever regularly keeping a journal - having way too many topics I want to write about and not just sitting down to write! (At the moment I have about six articles/posts that I want to comment on saved as drafts.) So I am just going to start with the following:

Renegade Rebbetzin had a post that expressed so well a topic I have talked about before and one which led my husband and I to move across the country a year ago. What does it mean to really help people?

Cool Yiddishe Mama wrote about her friend (whom I know) who is struggling to get help with finding a job and having a place to live and food in the meantime. I have another friend, "Jacob", who has also struggled with extreme financial difficulties for quite some time. A small number of friends have repeatedly helped him out, but he could not seem to find support and help from the community at large. What do these two people have in common? They are both gerrim, not long-standing members of a specific shul community, and have the kind of financial problems that people don't connect to their fellow Jew sitting next to them in shul. Poverty is something that happens to people in Israel or some widowed mother with ten children (chas v'shalom), not to the guy who I see in shul but have never introduced myself to. The rabbis who were involved in the conversions basically abandoned them after a few months. Jacob practicallly begged his rabbi to help him meet people at shul. The rabbi e-mailed about five guys to ask them to invite him to meals. He got one or two invitations, then nothing - even the rabbi only invited him once, and when they got seperated during kiddush he went home for lunch without his invited guest! As Jacob cannot afford to move to the more expensive area near the shuls, he was walking over 2 miles to get to shul. With no invitations, he then turned around and walked back home. Then he was seriously injured and could not attend shul for a long time, and no one noticed.

I could go on -- I could write ten posts about how I was treated as a newcomer when I married my husband and went to NY for him to continue in yeshiva, how we were treated when we tried to get $3000 in pay that was owed to my husband from a rabbi at the yeshiva, how we lived in a building owned by the rabbi of the shul across the street and with a frum manager but neither treated us as fellow frum Jews -- but instead I will try to cntinue tomorrow with examples of things that DO represent how Jews should treat each other and help each other. (There are at least three of my readers that will find their actions in my post!)