Sunday, May 6, 2018

Empty Chairs

At Touro Synagogue
April 28, 2018
Empty Chairs  
BLOG   FACEBOOK 


On  Friday morning, April 27, I received text messages from an unfamiliar phone number. It was Bernie Friedman, whose father Charles Friedman grew up in Newport. Bernie’s  grandfather was Dr. Bernard Friedman, a Newport dentist, and his great-grandfather was Rev. Nathan  Friedman was a Chazen at Touro Synagogue for many years.  

Bernie was on his way to Newport to attend the funeral of Dr. Anthony Caputi, a good friend of his father. Dr. Caputi served on the Touro Foundation board for many years. I went to services on Friday night to greet Bernie, who is very active in the Jewish Community in Hollywood, Florida.  

On Shabbat, our visitors included Bob and Hillary Zitter, from Stanford, Ct. Bob Zitter has been the President of a large Orthodox shul, and now leads the Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford. He is a retired superstar for HBO. For many years he was HBO’s CTO (chief technology officer). His job was to keep HBO ahead of the curve, and he did!

I had the honor of reciting the Haftarah, and then taking the Torah back to the aron. I went as fast as possible to cover any mistakes with the text and the trope. I doubt this fooled anyone. 

Rabbi Marc Mandel’s  brief sermon started with a newspaper story. A Jew in Germany told a gentile friend that it was dangerous to wear a kippah in Germany. The friend, an Israeli-Arab tried to prove that this was not true. The test ended badly and the friend was beaten up. The story could have ended there, but instead a perturbation of the force occurred.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, “Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Berlin public radio that Jews should be careful in big cities, after two men wearing kippahs were assaulted.

‘Mr Schuster said: "Defiantly showing your colours would in principle be the right way to go [to tackle anti-Semitism].
"Nevertheless, I would advise individual people against openly wearing a kippah in big German cities.”

Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, David Lau countered,  German Jews should wear the kippah and, “be proud of their Jewishness.” But many Jews have stopped wearing kippot in public after many years of attacks.

According to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, 

“One who is prepared to die for his Jewishness sanctifies God's Name. Conversely, denying that one is Jewish is akin to idolatry, since it implies a denial of our fundamental beliefs. Therefore, in time of danger, it is forbidden to save one's life by denying that he is Jewish. It is permitted to make an ambiguous statement, to act like a non-Jew, or to disguise oneself as such. It is forbidden to disguise oneself as a priest, however, since this is the same as an outright denial of one's Jewishness.“

In the parsha, Achrei Mot-Kedoshim, the subject was addressed. What does it mean? It depends on the interpretation.

Vayikra 18:3 says we should not walk in the ways of the other nations (don’t go bareheaded). 
כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֧ה אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְשַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֖הּ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ וּכְמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶֽרֶץ־כְּנַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִי֩ מֵבִ֨יא אֶתְכֶ֥ם שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵֽכוּ׃
You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws.


Vayikra 18:5 might mean, “Don’t risk your life.”

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה אֹתָ֛ם הָאָדָ֖ם וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃ (ס)
You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which man shall live: I am the LORD.

Since I was about to embark on a trip to several countries in Europe, Greece, Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus, I asked the Rabbi, “Are you suggesting I should wear a kippah during my trip.” He demurred, “That’s not necessary. The test has already been performed.”

During the last few days in Thessaloniki, Greece, the test has been going well. No one has called attention to me. However a visiting Israeli couple stopped me. During a brief conversation in Hebrew, they managed to explain that there were Shabbat services. 

The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki is very well organized. It operates schools, a youth group, an old age home, a cemetery, and a museum.

On Friday I visited the small Jewish museum. I paid the 5 euro admission to the indifferent clerk. The Jewish community is ancient, going back about 2000 years. The old community began to call  themselves, Romaniot , after the Byzantines, who considered themselves Romans, when many Sephardic Jews arrived in Thessaloniki after 1492 from Spain and parts of Italy after Judaism was banned. Each wave of immigrants created its own Jewish community, such as Lisbon, Aragon,Calabria and Puglia.  

At the Monastir Synagogue, built in 1927 by Jews from Monastir, Yugoslavia, I was welcomed with a smile by Lydia. Used by the Red Cross during WWII, it was the only shul, out of 60, to survive the holocaust. Recently restored after an earthquake, it is used for special occasions. The empty chairs are rarely filled.

Friday evening I attended services at the Yad Lezikaron Synagogue, which were followed by a dairy meal which included baklava for desert. I sat with a group of people on a Melton group tour of Greece. The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning sponsors educational programs world wide. Next to me was a visitor from New Jersey, born in Belgium. “Europe is full of Jewish cemeteries,” she said. She thought it was futile to try to keep the almost vanished Jewish communities in Europe, such as Thessaloniki’s, that seem to be on life support, going.

Saturday morning services started at  8 am. One reminder of the past was a ladino [judeo-spanish] prayer after the Torah was taken from the ark. 

After services I was invited by Rabbi Aaron Israel to his home for lunch. There were many salads, and I was surprised when plates of yams, rice, and roasted meat appeared after over an hour. There were other guests including an Israeli family visiting from Bulgaria. Roasted eggs were served both Friday night and at shabbos lunch. 


Amidst the food we sang zmirot. Rabbi Israel asked, “What do they sing in Boston?” I stretched my brain and came up with Mi Pi El, Hine Matov, and Ele Chamda Libi (This is the desire of my heart; please have pity and please don't hide yourself.)

Friday, March 30, 2018

A Little Piece of Heaven

At Touro Synagogue
March 30, 2018
Erev Pesach
A Little Piece of Heaven  
BLOG   FACEBOOK 

My day started at Zayde’s Market in Canton, Massachusetts.  Josh Ruboy and the team loaded up my car with the Passover order for the Seders at CJI. At the Levi-Gale house in Newport, Marcia Cohen, Eileen Kominsky, and Rabi Marc Mandel were waiting. 

Aaron Ginsburg with Josh Ruboy
If you didn’t sign up for the seder this year, I hope to see you next year. 

While I was in Newport, I had a chance to speak with longtime resident, Mrs. Namel Chadash

“So my kindele, I vant that you should know what happened to me this week when I was doing my Pesach shopping.

Eileen Kominksy, Rabbi Marc
Mandel, Marcia Cohen
"I had my hands on a beautiful bottle of schmaltz, you know, that lovely golden glob of cholesterol that's so good when its mixed into chopped liver. Lo and behold, next to me was my cardiologist. He looked at me, I looked at him. It was the last bottle of schmaltz on the shelf. 

"Vey iz mir, vat should I do? I knew my cardiologist wouldn’t let me forget my sin; I vould never hear the end of it. So my young ones, to make a long story short, I put the schmaltz back on the shelf. 
"So vat to you think happened? The second it got  back on the shelf, the cardiologist took it, and didn’t even look at me. 

"My children, I vant that you should think of me when you have chopped liver with schmaltz. And to my cardiologist, let me say, ‘You can count all the cholesterol you vant. You count, and I’ll enjoy the schmaltz.’

"Schmaltz, it’s liquid gold. Ok, maybe semi-solid gold. Life would not be complete if there wasn't schmaltz in this world.
Eileen Kominksy, Aaron
Ginsburg
, Marcia Cohen

"They say when the Ubershter, you know, that's the one up above, cried because his children, the children of Israel, were lost, those tears turned into schmaltz. So schmaltz is a little piece of heaven. And did I tell you, if we didn’t have schmaltz, we wouldn’t have gribenes.

"A gut yom tov!”

And a gut yom tov from Jewish Newport!

@tourosynagoguenewport @newportri 

Friday, March 9, 2018

The horns of a dilemma; the American Interest

At Touro synagogue
March 3, 2018
The horns of a dilemma; the American interest
BLOG   FACEBOOK 

Parshat Ki Tisa began with the command to have a census…Everyone who was counted was required (from the age of twenty) to make an offering… “the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel.” This was the biblical version of one man, one vote, thousands of years ahead of its time.

Although the bible spoke out for democracy, this did not mean that everyone had equal qualifications. Going against the modern trend where everyone thinks they can master everything and do without experts, the bible comes down on the side of the tried and true,  

”See, I have singled out by Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge in every kind of craft: to make designs for work in gold , silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood-to work in every kind of craft.” 

Obaoliab son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan and others also had this skill, and were also assigned to make the Tent of Meeting and its appurtenances.

Rabbi Mandel mentioned that Michelangelo misinterpreted the bible, and so his sculpture of David has horns. The parsha says Moses’s face was radiant after meeting God. 

Moses Michaelangelo September 2015-1
Moses by Michaelangelo
According to Wikipedia, the error goes back the fourth century Latin translation by Jerome, known as the Vulgate. It may have been a translation error, or it might have been Jerome’s way of saying that he was changed by meeting God. The Hebrew word “Keren” can be understood in several different ways. As the years went by our understanding did not reflect the nuances in Jerome’s interpretation.

In the Parsha, the episode of the Golden Calf took place. Moses lost his temper, and smashed the Ten commandments. Sometimes losing one’s temper can have unfortunate consequences.  

The Israelites were punished and many of the died. Rabbi Marc Mandel said that, “The lesson of the sermon was that we need to be careful to observe the Mitzvot of the Torah, because if we are not careful it could lead to things getting broken which is never good, even if Moshe did do the right thing.” 

We were joined by  Adam Garfinkle and his wife, Scilla Taylor. Scilla runs the Brookside Nature Center in Wheaton, Maryland. Adam Garfinkle edits a magazine called the “American Interest.” He was in town to speak to students at the Naval War College. He spoke briefly at the Kiddish at the request of Rabbi Mandel. He started by saying, “I’ve always wanted to be at Touro synagogue,  and I am happy to be here for Shabbat.” 

Adam taught in several universities, wrote speeches for George W. Bush’s Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He edited the “National Interest.” When that magazine changed its policies, he and others, Francis Fukuyama, being the prime mover,  founded the “American Interest.”

Francis Fukuyama is a political scientist. He has been labeled a neo-conservative, was involved with the Reagan adminstration and  supported the George W Bush in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003, but eventually opposed the war, and later, endorsed Obama for president. He is not someone that can be easily pigeonholed.  Mr. Fukuyama's grandfather was interned during WWII, like may other Japanese-Americans on the West Coast.

When Adam was asked if a biography was online, he said there was a wikipedia article. He would not vouch for its accuracy, saying it was probably submitted by his son.

In response to a question, he said that he had stopped reading Commentary Magazine years ago because its articles were all written from the same point of few.

He said that he is careful to included opposing points of view in the “American Interest,” sometimes having articles with opposite opinions side-by-side. This reminds me of the Talmud, which often mentions two sides of an argument. Today, many of us only read things that we agree with. It’s easier to just expose ourselves to things we agree with, but is it in the American interest, or in our interest? 







Friday, March 2, 2018

From Riga to Or Yehuda

AT JEWISH NEWPORT
Saturday, February 24, 2018

BLOG   FACEBOOK 

From Riga to Or Yehuda

by Aaron Ginsburg


It was nice to be home at Touro Synagogue after a long trip to Israel.

The parsha dealt almost entirely with Aaron, his sons, and assistants, and their duties as priests in the Ohel Moed…the Tent of Meeting. The topics ranged from the clothing a priests wore (it should be made by “all who are skillful, whom I have endowed with the gift of skill”), to how they should be consecrated, what and how to sacrifice and what incense to burn (the aromatic kind was preferred). We adorn our Torahs with breastplates modeled after the priestly breastplate described in the parsha.

Purim was coming up, and Rabbi Mandel said,

“When I was at Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence NY, Rabbi Kenneth Hain asked, why is it "When Adar comes in, we increase in happiness" (Mishenichnas Adar marbin b'simcha, משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה). Why Adar and Purim? Why not Nissan for Pesach or Tishrei for Sukkot? A rabbi ( I have forgotten whom ) said, because on Purim we created our own redemption, so that is real joy, when we initiate and create our future that is true joy. On the other holidays, it was God who did the miracles.”

It’s not our role to wait around for miracles.  We need to create our own opportunities both as individuals and as a community. We have the potential. Do we have the will?

The parsha began with instructions, “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly.”  That’s שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת shemen zayit in Hebrew.

During the Israel trip I met Michael Somin. He was born in 1966 in Dokshitz (where several Newporters trace their roots). Michael visited Dokshitz in August, 2017, for the first time since immigration to Israel in 1978. Michael asked if I had room in my luggage to take something back, and then gave me a gift of a two pound can of pure olive oil made in Omer, Israel, a suburb of Beer Sheva.

During my trip I met several relatives of Newport’s Friedman family. After a brief visit with Friedman family member Shai Viseman in Tel Aviv, I had some free time. I went to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. A special exhibit on display was about “Forbidden Music: X-Ray Audio in the USSR, 1946 - 1964.”  From the 1940s to the 1960s, banned music was produced by making recordings on X-Ray film, which could be played on a record player.  The exhibit focused on jazz and Western rock n' roll, immigrant music, and prisoners’ songs.

In 2013, musician-composer Stephen Coates found a recording for sale in St. Petersburg, Russia. He started the X-ray Audio Project  to gather information, and wrote the first history on the subject in 2015, “'X-Ray Audio’ The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone.” This led directly to the traveling exhibit.

When I visited Regina Zhuk, another Friedman relative and asked if she had heard of these recordings, she replied, “I’ve heard of them, and I have some.” They were a different type of banned music, Jewish music.

Regina Friedman Zhuk was born in Moscow, grew up in Riga, and immigrated to Israel in 1999. When I spoke of how one of my Kusinitz great-uncles who was a revolutionary was arrested in Moscow 1937 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, and then sentenced to a second ten years six months after being released, she had a similar story about her father. She had never told the story before, because her parents engrained it in her that she should never speak of it.

In 1937 in Moscow, her father, Abram Friedman, was visited by an acquaintance who was also from Dokshitz. The visitor wrote her father’s name and phone number in his notebook. When the visitor was arrested so was Regina’s father. He was sentenced to 10 years.

When he was released in 1947, he joined his family in Riga, where they had moved after the war. To help avoid being rearrested, a friend obtained a clean passport that did not mention the arrest. That was not enough. He and Regina’s mother, Mara Shulman Friedman, hid in the open by moving to Rostov-on-Don for several years to get away from the heavy but not so efficient hand of the KGB. Rostov-on-Don is a 23 hour drive from Riga today. Now that’s a long way!

Libyan Jewish Museum
I met another Friedman family member, Paula Shaham, at the Libyan Jewish Museum in Or Yehuda, where she is the education director. The museum’s website  is in Hebrew, English, and Italian. Most Israelis that I met have never heard of this museum. Just a few blocks away, the Babylon Jewish Museum, tells the story of the Jews from Iraq. Paula recounted how she lived in a tent after arriving in Israel, and how various members of the family in Israel were helped by their relatives in Newport. 

As I write this, the wind is howling, it’s raining, the electricity is out, and it’s a long way from Israel, Riga, Dokshitz, and Rostov-on-Don, but not so far from Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island.

Shabbat Shalom

#tourosynagoguenewport #newportri 






Friday, February 2, 2018

Jerusalem in my pocket

At Jewish Newport

Saturday, January 27, 2018

BLOG   FACEBOOK 

by Aaron Ginsburg

Jerusalem in my pocket 


Lehavim, Israel. I have been in Israel since January 22. I am here mostly to see my shetl (Dokshitz, where many Newporters trace their roots) friends. 

While writing this I learned that Newport native Bruce Dorner is also visiting Israel

Last Shabbat I went to Friday night services at Shira Chadasha, which met in a community center.  The orthodox minyan allows both men and women to lead. The curtain of the mechitsa descended from the high ceiling to split the  reading desk in half.  A women led Kabalat Shabbat, a man led Maariv. Can I be honest? The woman had a much better voice.

I walked with Howard Felson to his nearby home in Baka. Howard’s late father Stan was a holocaust survivor from Glubokie, which is just north of Dokshitz

When we arrived, the children, under the supervision of his wife, had a prepared a treat. Down the middle of the set dining table, which was set for the Shabbat meal, was a parasha specific display.  A blue table cloth represented the sea, small plastic figurines represented the people of Israel, there were soldiers on horses and charioteers...perhaps 100 figures altogether.  Some cotton represented the wall of water.  

Supper was on a nearby counter. The girls mustered all their strength to serve us without dropping anything. At bedtime, the lights were timed to go off for 30 minutes, which seemed like a good to depart.

I returned to the Bar-Zev Fuchs residence. Moshe Bar-Zev and his wife Carol Fuchs were at Touro Synogugue during Rosh Hashanah. They both immigrated to Israel in their youth, Moshe from the US and Carol from Tornonto. Moshe traces his roots to the Drutz family from Dokshitz.


On Saturday, I davened at  masorti (conservative) Kehillat Ma’ayanot. When I arrived an attentive congregant offered me a seat.  I felt at home immediately.

During the dvar, I joined a visiting Masorti group from the United States to learn about the history of the congregation. I learned that a growing number of Israeli Jews celebrate family occasions such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs at the congregation and other masorti souls. They were called the congregants who don’t go to services. 

Paul Shrell-Fox was kind enough to share his dvar with me. He discussed the process that made a complaining rabble, the Children of Israel, into a people. Miracles and plagues were not enough, making war against there enemies, which required team work and trusting each other were not enough. 

It was the creation of laws, and the body politic, that united them. This started with Moses, who set up a system of courts on the advice of his father-in-law Jethro. That brought the children of Israel together in a society where roles were specified and laws were made and administered.

This service was also in a community center. Everything had to be disassembled and put away and the chairs neatly stacked when services ended.  The portable Ner Tamid (eternal light) was on a timer which went off at 11:25 AM...which put a damper on a shaliach tzibur’s temptation to dawdle.  This would be a great innovation if roundly adopted. 

A Jewish educator, Dr. Susan Wall hosted a few people for lunch. I was very excited to meet Enid Wortman. Mrs. Wortman and her late husband were early activists in the Free Soviet Jewry movement.

Earlier in the week I had lunch with Jac and Diane Friedgut. Diane grew up in Fall River. Her parents were George and Sylvia (Tauber) Goldberg. They are both active in Jewish life. Jac is an economist, and a great raconteur of his days at Citibank in New York. Daine connected me with another Fall Riverite.

Saturday afternoon I visited Ira Sharkansky and his wife Varda. Ira’s thesis at Wesleyan was, “The Portuguese of Fall River: A study of Ethnic Acculturation.” A political scientist, he wrote 23 books in 39 years. I wonder if he had any time to sleep at night. We talked about the proposed Polish law that would make it a crime to blame Poland for the Holocaust. A lot of people in Israel are upset by this. Ira Sharkansky’s blog about the political situation in Israel is reprinted in the Jerusalem Post.


I concluded my first week in Israel with felafel in pita in Baka. It is amazing how much can be stuffed into one of those pockets!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Lights and Latkes




At Touro Synagogue December 16, 2017

Lights and Latkes

BLOG   FACEBOOK 

As told to Aaron Ginsburg

Now listen bubbele, I know you like to write things, and then talk about them, and hear other people talk about them, but, Mr. Ginsburg, step back. Now it’s my turn.
You’ve heard the expression, “The Mountain came to Mohammed.” I saw it for myself on Shabbos, but this time, Brooklyn came to Touro Synagogue. In addition to Brooklyn, Stamford, Albany, and London were represented.
At 9:15, I arrived at Newport's Touro Synagogue. (Honey, I like to sleep late on Shabbos.) Prayer was paused pending the imminent arrival of a minyan. Soon we began the Barchu, followed by singing Kal Adon, which is my arrival benchmark.
Vey iz mir, because of Hanukah we recited the full Hallel. I thought we would never get out of shul. Fortunately, our Rabbi, Marc Mandel came to the rescue after the Torah service, and we made up for lost time.
Have a told you about our rabbi? With a sweet name like Mandel..I can’t help it, I think of mandelbrot when I hear his name, he is a great guy. Most importantly, he knows how long a sermon should not be. When he gives a Dvar Torah, a word of Torah, he counts the words, and he doesn’t like high numbers.
Rabbi Marc Mandel began by reading from an article by Mrs. Chaya Batya Neugroschl, Head of School, YU High School for Girls. I think they call her “Mrs.” for short.

She quoted Ramban our magnificent sage with the distinguished beard. How can someone with a beard like that not be full of wisdom?

ִמִצְוַת נֵר חֲנֻכָּה מִצְוָה חֲבִיבָה הִיא עַד מְאֹד וְצָרִיךְ אָדָם לְהִזָּהֵר בָּהּ כְּדֵי לְהוֹדִיעַ הַנֵּס וּלְהוֹסִיף בְּשֶׁבַח הָאֵל וְהוֹדָיָה לוֹ עַל הַנִּסִּים שֶׁעָשָׂה לָנוּ
The precept of lighting the Chanukah lamp is exceedingly precious, and one should carefully observe it in order to acclaim the miracle, ever praising and thanking God for the miracles which he has performed for us. Hilchot Chanukah 4:12 
In Hasmonean times, the Mrs. said, Hanukah was one of many mini-festivals celebrating the victories of the Maccabees. After the second Temple was destroyed, only Hanukah remained. I guess someone decided those extra Monday holidays were taking up too much time. 
Why Hanukah? Perhaps because light represents wisdom and learning. Our Rabbis usually look for the spiritual aspect of things, and downplay the military side of the story. The Maccabees with their military prowess and tough guy approach were inconvenient. The Rabbis were following in the footsteps of the Prophets, who also were not fans of the Kings. 
Nowadays, the miracle of the lights shares the billing with a heavier event, the miracle of the latkes. Of course, my latkes are as light as a cloud, a cumulonimbus cloud. 
Alan Rosen, a visitor from Albany pointed out the special Haftarah’s famous phrase, “Not by might, but by my Spirit,” rebukes the Maccabees.
לֹ֤א בְחַ֙יִל֙ וְלֹ֣א בְכֹ֔חַ כִּ֣י אִם־בְּרוּחִ֔י אָמַ֖ר יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת׃
“Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit—said the LORD of Hosts.”
Rabbi Mandel described a famous debate between Hillel and Shammai on how to light the Hanukah candle, "Shamai said, look to the future, that's why he starts with 8 candles. Hillel looks to the present, that's why he starts with 1 candle."
I think Hillel and Shamai were kind of silly. What about you? Fortunately, Rabbi Mandel pulled a rabbi out of a hat.

In our lives, Rabbi Mandel said, we need to both take care of today, and plan for tomorrow. And we should let the light of Torah guide us in both!
How succinct! How wise! Oh, and did I tell that Rabbi Mandel knows how to carry a tune?
Visitor David Lipshitz said, “There are two days of our life that we have no control over, yesterday and tomorrow, so we need the best that we can today, and start the process over tomorrow.”
The Greenpoint Shul
At Kiddish, I overheard  Alan Perlmutter mention his shul, Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Shul. My ears perked up. 
The previous week at the Union of Reform Judaism URJ 2017 Biennial convention in Boston, I visited the vendor booths. I spoke with  Avi Zuckerman. Avi came up with a make your own Yad project for B’nai Miztvot. What a clever way to bring a memorable, tangible Jewish focus to a celebration which often is less than spiritual. One good Yad deserves another! Let's give  Avi a hand!

I told Avi how much I enjoyed Touro Synagogue, and he told me about his shul, the Greenpoint Shul.
I pulled out Avi’s business card, and of course visitor Adam Perlmutter knew him well.
Adam told me an Avi story. Avi went to a restaurant in Boro Park, which is noted for its large Ultra-orthodox and Hassidic community. He sat down, and asked the waiter if the restaurant had a hechsher (Kosher certification). The answer was, “Yes, of course.” Avi said, “ Nu, so where is it?” (the hechsher should be conspicuously posted). The waiter got a little exasperated, and said, “It’s right there on the wall.” Avi said, “It's hard to read.” By now the waiter was visibly upset. He took the hechsher off the wall. Avi glanced at it and said, “I’ve never heard of the Rabbi who signed this document. Are you sure this hechsher is valid?” What happened after that, I don’t vant to tell you.
I wasn’t going repeat the following, but I can’t resist. When I contacted Avi for more details, he wrote, “Adam is a dear friend so whatever Adam tells you cut 80% off and throw it away then divide the 20% left in half, than shrink the leftovers to minimal, and you got the truth. LOL.” When Adam introduced the story, he said exactly the same thing about Avi!
Talk about friendship!
The Greenpoint Shul was built in 1902. As Jews moved away, the shul managed to hang on thanks to a dedicated Rabbi. Times have changed, and Jews have returned. Recently the Greenpoint Shul was restored, and Touro Synagogue was the model that the Congregation kept in mind. Touro and Greenpoint are both small Orthodox shuls that make all feel welcome.
David Lipshitz is the son of the Dzirka Rebbe. The Djerkas are one of many Hassidic dynasties. Dzirka, Györke, Hungary, is now Ďurkov, Slovakia. David suggested I use the word “jerk” as a mnemonic device to help remember “Dzirka.” 
While walking in Newport, David recounted, “Someone came up to me and said, ‘Why are you wearing a Halloween costume two months after Halloween.’” David replied, “For me every day is halloween.” 
During a walk in Brussels, a man castigated David for being a f-ing Jew. He ran after him, and said, “Why are you blaming me for something I had no control over? My parents were both f-ing Jews, and I had nothing to do with it!”
At this point, I asked David if he had thought of becoming a comedian.
We all enjoyed the kiddish. David commented that Kiddish was to help people relax and communicate, and that G-d did not need the Kiddish, but we did. 
G-d does not need us to have minyan, nor our thrice daily prayers. These are for us, to lead us to live a better life.
So, bubbele, I want that you should go to many a Kiddish, pray three times a day, and live a better life. And, Mr. Ginsburg, don’t forget to visit me so you can enjoy my latkes! #greenpointshul #jewishnewportri #newportri #tourosynagoguenewport