Monday, May 30, 2016

At Touro Synagogue May 29, 2016

So many people were at shul when I arrived at 9:15 AM that I felt I was late, not early. Rabbi Mandel  mentioned how much Chicky Friedman will be missed when she moves to Florida. Chicky has been a regular at Touro since her marriage to Sam, z.l., in 1949. I don't know if Chicky likes herring, but if she ate three pieces of herring every Shabbat that she attended, that would be a large kettle of fish!

Today's parsha, Behar, spoke of our obligations during the Jubilee (50th) year. Rabbi Mandel called attention to a famous phrase in parsha Behar, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof," which is on the Liberty Bell. The Pennsylvania legislature commissioned the Liberty Bell in 1751 to mark the 50th anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges for Pennsylvania. The charter included a paean to religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The Abolitionist movement adopted the Liberty Bell as a symbol of freedom, creating the lasting association between the Liberty Bell and freedom.

The Rabbi based his sermon on another verse from the parsha, Leviticus 25:36 "... that thy brother may live with thee." He reviewed a famous Talmudic quandry. Two men are in the desert. One has a jug of water, enough to keep him alive. If he shares it both will die. Is he obligated to share it? One opinion by Ben Putra was to share. Is it up to us to chose who should live and who should die? Rabbi Akivah's dissenting opinion was accepted by the majority. He felt that we are obligated to save our own lives first, quoting "...that thy brother may live with thee" as a proof text. Rabbi Mandel noted that in life, as in the Talmud, we are compelled to prioritize.

Some thought that the command from Leviticus, "Love thy neighbor as thyself," is impossible to observe. Hillel restated it to be more achievable, "Do not do unto others what is hateful unto you." Although we may not be obligated to sacrifice our lives for others, there are  instances  of this being done in the bible and during Talmudic times that the Rabbis praised, so apparently it is not forbidden. In a famous essay Ahad Haam used the story of the jug of water to contrast Judaism and Christianity.  In two of the Gospels Jesus referred to the commandment to "Love thy neighbor." Ahad Haam claimed that Christianity emphasized loving one's neighbor including sacrificing one's life, while Judaism did not.

Rita Slom sponsored kiddish in honor of  her husband Aaron's yahrzeit. Their son Peter spoke about  his experiences at the Rhode Island State Training School, where he is now Deputy Superintendent. Peter is doing important and difficult work trying help young people reintegrate into society. This involves helping them complete their educations, arranging for medical and dental care, vocational training, and counseling. The Juvenile Program Workers (guards) must be able to stop a fight, but they also need to counsel and be role models.  Peter said that most of juveniles did not use hard drugs. The percentage of  child inmates  suffering  from mental illness has increased, often caused by difficult conditions at home. He also spoke about campaigning to enable parolees to vote as part of reintegrating into society.  Yashar koach to Peter Slom for his service to some of the most needy people in the community.

Near the end of kiddish we were joined by regular Memorial Day weekend visitors, the Arons family, David, Lynn, and Josh, of Sharon, Ma. I've known them for years and had just seen David and his son Josh at a regional men's club dinner at Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Newporters delighted with Touro Decision from The Rhode Island Jewish Voice May 27, 2016

Newporters delighted with Touro Decision from The Rhode Island Jewish Voice. The article was on the front cover. At the online print edition copy the entire issue is available. The first page also included an article about the court decision. The articles continued on page 7.  There was both an exterior photo of the shul (a file photo from the Voice) and an interior shot that I took in 2010 at the Rabbi Lewis Memorial. It was a pleasure working with editor Fran Ostendorf. I am grateful to the people who shared their thoughts when I called them out of the blue.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

At Touro Synagogue May 21, 2016

Rabbi Mark Mandel and family were away over the weekend for a family reunion. Thanks to Jonathan  Peyser of Teaneck, New Jersey for leading Shacharit and laining Torah. Saul Woythaler handled everything else. Saul probably felt like a one armed paper hanger trying to keep everything running smoothly. Things  stayed on track and we finished at the usual time, about 11 o'clock.

The usual regulars were joined by the customary visitors including guests from New York, Newton, Massachusetts, and Reno, Nevada. The gentleman from Reno said it was dry there that even the low humidity today was noticeable. One couple were seasonal visitors, and hopefully will join us regularly when in town. 

A friendly fellow from London got lost behind a  column (It's easy to disappear behind a column at Touro!). Fortunately he was located and was sincerely pleased to have an Aliyah. He observed that although many synagogues in Europe were designed by Christian architects and look churchy, Touro was clearly designed to be a synagogue. Kudos to our architect, Peter Harrison, for his yiddishkeit!

Radiant with sunlight, the synagogue today elicited a joyous spiritual feeling. 

Jonathan Peyser  made a lovely short talk about the Parsha Emor, which I will attempt to describe. The Parsha starts with instructions to the Cohanim about the sacrificial system. Then, abruptly, the instructions are addressed to all the Children of Israel.  אֵ֥לֶּה הֵ֖ם מוֹעֲדָֽי. "These are my  festivals" which we are commanded to observe, the Sabbath and  the festivals including Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkoth as well as Count the Omer. 

Why address all of Israel? Only the priests could observe holidays by making sacrifices. But all of Israel are  commanded to observe the holidays. Although the sacrificial system disappeared with the Temple's destruction, Israel's  obligation to observe continues. 

How do we observe? We pause from our daily activities, we wear special clothing, we eat special meals and foods such as challah and cholent, and we attend special Synagogue services as we are doing right now. 

We are commanded to celebrate the festivals joyously. In ancient times that included dancing and pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Nowadays it includes Hallel, six psalms of praise (113–118), which we recite with joy and with song. Although we don't recite Hallel on Shabbat, during Pesukei dezimra a mini-hallel occurs when we recite Psalm 136, the Great Hallel. And our joy on Shabbat and Hagim includes celebrating together with family, friends, and the entire Jewish people. 

May the joy of celebrating Shabbat in this beautiful sanctuary carry you through the week ahead. Shabbat Shalom! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bricks and Mortar, Silver and Gold

When I glanced at the brief first paragraph of Unitted States District Judge John H McConnell, Jr.'s decision, I thought I was reading the Declaration of Independence.  And it was for Congregation Jeshuat Israel! Here are the first two paragraphs. As Hillel said, "the rest is commentary."  If you a glutton for punishment the complete document is at Touro Decision.

     "Bricks and mortar of a temple, and silver and gold of religious ornaments, may appear to be at the center of the dispute between the two parties in this case, but such a conclusion would be myopic. The central issue here is the legacy of some of the earliest Jewish settlers in North America, who desired to make Newport a permanent haven for public Jewish worship. Fidelity to their purpose guides the Court in resolving the matters now before it.  
     After a thorough and exhaustive review of the evidence, determination of thedisputed facts, and application of the relevant law, this Court concludes that 1) Touro Synagogue is owned in charitable trust for the purpose of preserving a permanent place of public Jewish worship; 2) the pair of Myer Myers Rimonim previously owned by Newport's earliest Jews is now owned by Congregation Jeshuat Israel, which is free to do with its property as it wishes; 3) Congregation Shearith Israel of New York should be removed as trustee of Touro Synagogue; and 4) Congregation Jeshuat Israel of Newport should be appointed as the new trustee. " 

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Bells of Touro Monday, May 16, 2016

The Bells of Touro  Latest news about the rimonim At Touro Synagogue. CJI gets control of Touro Synagogue, and of the rimonim!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Jewish Newport: At Touro Synagogue May 14, 2016

Jewish Newport: At Touro Synagogue May 14, 2016

At Touro Synagogue May 14, 2016

Yesterday I was sitting at my usual spot during services at Touro Synagogue, on the right side, second row opposite the bimah. I keep an eye on the action both on the bimah, the ark, the ladies' gallery, and out the window to enjoy the view and keep an eye out for minyanaires. 
Not long after I arrived, two visitors sat in front of me, one short and one tall. The shorter gentleman turned around and introduced himself by saying, "I was bar mitzvahed here in 1963." I replied, "So was I!" It was Stephen Huttler, who was in class with me at the United Hebrew School. I didn't know him well. He lived in Middletown when he was a kid, and now dwellsin Washington, DC. Rabbi Marc Mandel led us as we warmly welcomed Stephen, his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. 

Stephen made a point of going to Touro weekly for two years before his bar mitzvah, although his family went to the Temple. Stephen's grandparents went to Ahavas Achim. His grandfather Louis Huttler owned Broadway Tailor, which was across from Thompson Junior High School. Louis came from Husiatin, Galicia. It was in Austria when he left and is now in The Ukraine. 

Husiatin has an old Synagogue, partially ruined, which was built in 1670 of stone and brick to replace a wooden synagogue. The style was Italian Renaissance, and the design was as a Fortress Synagogue. The fortress elements of the design  were toned down when it was rebuilt after a fire in 1742. It appears to be waiting for someone to come along and save.  Learn more at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe

Friday, May 13, 2016

Elix Adelson lawsuit Over Spruce Street Property October 15, 1907

The article below is about a lawsuit involving Elix Adelson and James Keller. It seems the Kellers refused to sell Elix a house on Spruce St because he was Jewish. I am curious whether any of us or our families have had a similar experience in Newport or elsewhere such as Fall River for example.
Newport Daily News, Friday, October 25, 1907 page 9
Mrs. Keller Signs Agreement and Then Refuses to Sell
Court Says Defendant Should Fulfill Contract
Judge Brown presided in the superior court this morning. There was a hearing in the equity case of Elix Adelson vs. James C Keller et. ux., et. al., which referred to to property on Spruce street. Mr Burdick appeared for plaintiff, Mr Mitchell for defendants.
Timothy J Mulcahy testified. In 1906 he was in the real estate and insurance business. He identified certain papers. He received $100 and went with Mr. Levy, who made a tender to Mr. Keller, who refused it and referred them to Mrs. Keller, whom they saw, and she refused it. Mr Burdick read some agreements as to the sale and purchase of real estate. Witness learned that the Kellers wanted to sall and saw Mrs. Keller. She wanted to sell. After she signed the agreement she said she was opposed to selling to a Jew. Witness did not tell her the man he mentioned was a Jew. He told her the paper was an agreement to sell. It then contained a clause allowing him $100 commission for making the sale. She came to the office and said she had decided not to sell to a Jew under any circumstances. Witness was not sure then that the man was a Jew.
Mr. Mitchell said they were trying to show that the agreement was changed after it was signed.
Mr. Levy testified. He saw the Kellers, in company with Mr. Mulcahy. They met Mr . Keller on his wagon, witness having the deed, mortgage and money in his hand. Keller whipped up his horse and said he wanted nothing to do with him. They then found Mrs Keller, who said >I don't want anything to do with you at all-get out of here." They got out. Witness showed the money to Mr. Keller. Made a legal tender.
Keller testified. He can read some. Looked over a paper, an agreement and said the clause to pay Mulcahy $100 for making the sale was not there when witness signed it. Mulcahy said the agreement did not make a sale binding. Mulcahy was not acting for the Kellers, but for the man who wanted to buy. Another alleged agreement witness said he never saw before in his life. Knew nothing of any but the one he signed. Mr Levy said he had the money in his pocket. It was raining hard. Witness did not see the money.
The court said, "You signed the paper. Why do you refuse to carry out the agreement?"
Mrs. Keller testified, examining the agreement. She signed it. Did not read it nor did Mr Mulcahy read it to her. He said the man lived in New York and had to leave at 2 o'clock, and he could if he not do something there he would look elsewhere. The first paper she signed she read. She told Mulcahy she didn't hire him and she would not pay him in case the place was sold. He wanted a paper to show that he was negotiating for the place. Witness didn't consider it a sale until the man came to look at the place. Had no idea the first paper bound her to sell. Mulcahy said the man was a Swede. The man came the next week.
Mr Mitchell argued that is was necessary for some acceptance of the agreement by Adelson to be shown the Kellers before the contract was binding. The Kellers never saw such an acceptance. No tender of money was made and Mulcahy was not their agent. If the clause to pay him $100 was added after signing, the agreement was void.
It being admitted that Mrs Keller had a chance to read the paper before signing, the court said she was bound by it.
`Mr Mitchell said the Kellers had no promise and no money- no consideration whatever.
Mr Burdick argued. He thought it one of the clearest cases.
The court said the statue says that to hold a party to sell real estate there must be a written agreement. There is this agreement and in this matter there cannot be any question that complainant has a right to a decree to compel specific performance. The decree will follow.

Rabbi Lewis Memorial Service October 31, 2010

Today I attended a memorial service at Touro Synogogue for Rabbi Theodore Lewis, who was the Rabbi from 1949-1985, and died this month. It was an opportunity to see some familiar faces, and to learn about Rabbi Lewis. The most revealing story was by Rabbi Eskovitz, who gave some insight into why the Rabbi went to the Mir Yeshiva in the 1930s. Please share your memories of Rabbi Lewis, and of Jewish Newport. more photos 

The fun is just beginning. Can you identify the people in this picture of a bnai brith installation in October, 1956? Photo from the Touro Synagogue Archives. 

Sequel Our source says that, "The one on the left is Joe Dannin, next is Saul Schweber, can’t remember the middle, next to the end is Jerry Hoffman and the last is Mike Josephson.

Bnai Brith Bowling League, Newport, RI

The last posting was on the serious side so lets try something lighter. 

Here is the Championship Team 3 from the Bnai Brith League in Newport, RI in 1941.John J Dannin, Captain, Dr A Josephson, M(Maurice) Ginsburg, I(Irving?)Katzman, M(o?) Doroff, R Brown. I wonder how many teams there were and who was on them.

Passover Greetings April 22, 2016

a zisen Pesach to all my Newport friends where ever you are. I wonder if the Matzo Bakers Association had any influence on how we celebrate.
זאַלץ וואַסער און יעהאָשואַס תנ”ך
Seder salt water, Yehoshua’s Yiddish translation of the Tanakh and the Lehmann Haggadah.
Vaykira 23, 5-8 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at dusk, is the LORD'S passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD; seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work. And ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days; in the seventh day is a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work.

The United Hebrew School and the Newport Bus Company

What is the connection between the Newport Bus Company and the United Hebrew School? During the 1960s there were discounted tokens for rides to and from public school. It was 10 tokens for $1.25. Many of us were on the Kay Bedlow loop which circumambulated a large chunk of the town. Some of us were determined to use the tokens on the way home from Hebrew School which ended at about 5:15 PM. I beleive Robert Friedman may have taken the lead on this. It was a time when peopl e felt they could make a decision on the spot. We just explained to the bus driver that Hebrew School was school and that we were in fact on the way home from public school, and the matter was settled. Other people who might have been in the group could have been David Thomas and  Bruce L. Dorner. Am I missing anyone? Regarding the bus routes, on the way to High School a few years later, the bus when down Thames St from one end to the other, and I remember counting the barrooms. There were 20 to serve both the locals and the Navy...and that was when bars were bars. Do you remember the names of the other bus routes?

Sequel: Appanrtly Robert Friedman went home and spoke to his mother Chicky about the interaction with the bus driver.  Chicky went to the president of the Newport Bus Company the next day and let him know what she thought.  And we continued to take the bus home from Hebrew School.

At Touro Synagogue seventh day of Passover 2016

On the seventh day of Passover at Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI, visitors included Rabbi Yaakov and Kayla Lasson. Kayla is the daughter of Jackie and Rabbi Marc Mandel. After greeting the congregation, Rabbi Mandel turned the dais over to his son-in-law. Rabbi Lasson asked, "What do we learn from the exodus...from going from slavery to freedom?" On a basic level we learn that we never want to be slaves. Never again. But on a broader level we should learn that as a people, we should never put another nation or group in the same position. "Never Again" is a mantra we hear many times, usually in reference to the suffering of the Jewish people. But is this enough? On a more universal level, "Never Again" means not only that we should never be slaves, but we should endeavor that no one else is put in this position. As Hillel says in Pirke Avot, "if I am only for myself, who am I?" It's not just about us!

About David Kleiman

Curator David Kleiman
Ambassador John Loeb wrote a nice memorial to David Kleiman, zl. David and his wife helped with the Loeb visitors center and also training the guides to the synagogue. He had a passion for Jewish Genealogy and for history and many other things. When the Iternational Assosciation of Jewish Genealogical Societies had it's annual convention in Boston in 2013 and I saw that David was speaking, I made it a point to meet him. David was very cordial and we hit it off. At the time he was getting involved with the congregation's archives. He encouraged me to get interested. Newport seemed to me to be a transplanted shtetl; I mentioned that my family and many others in Newport came from the same place. It did not take him long to put this in succinct language, "More than 50% of the Twentieth Century Newport's Jewish community came from Dokshitz." David's interest in history was not limited to colonial America. He understand that today's experiences are tommorow's history. Picture source "Newport Seen"

Monday, May 9, 2016

At Touro Jack Reed Spring Breakfast May 2, 2016

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being the guest of  Rabbi Mark and Jackie Mandel with other Newporters and friends  at the 27th annual Senator Jack Reed  Breakfast at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston . Rabbi  Mandel, of Newport's Touro Synagogue, delivered  the benediction.  There was some perfunctory speechmaking but the event was extremely low-key. No major announcements, no impassioned pleas for support. Mostly we heard what a hard worker and inspiring leader Jack Reed is as the senior member of the Rhode Island congressional delegation. It was a good chance to meet and greet the Democratic  political leadership in Rhode Island. The entire congressional delegation was there as well as Jorge Elorza, the mayor of Providence and sundry other officeholders. Our table, number 45, was probably the only table where  the potatoes were not cooked in bacon. As I walked to my car in the parking lot a couple of people smilingly greeted me. They saw a yarmulke on my head, and assumed I was Rabbi Mandel.  I don't know how they could have made that error; the Rabbi is not known for wearing a green kippah!

Rabbi Marc Mandel, Jorge Elorza mayor of Providence, David Leach, Rita Slom.

Add caption

At Touro transitions Mimi Lasky

I am sad to have to report the death of a member of our group, my cousin, Miriam Lasky. To her husband Charlie, her children their spouses and grandchildren and other family members, "May you be comforted with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."  Mimi knew me from the time I was born and I feel like she was always there for me and she is still with me.
...She read every posting to this group until last weekend.

Miriam J. "Mimi" Lasky

At Touro seder 2016 in the Rhode Island Jewish voice

Around the Seder table in Newport

At Touro first Seder April 22, 2016

On Friday I attended a community Seder at Touro synagogue's Levi Gale house opposite Touro Synagogue. I will always think of it as the Jewish Community Center.  About sixty  attended. Many  were visitors, mostly from New York with one from Fairhaven. There was also a table from the Navy Base. Jackie Mandel organized and did the cooking ably assisted by her husband, Rabbi Marc Mandel.  Thank you Jackie! There was plenty of food to go around, and although we had the bread of affliction, in no way were we afflicted.  The Rabbi led us in a spirited Seder with lots of singing. He said rasha should not be translated as the evil son. Children are all different and the story needs to be tailored to the recipient. The rasha sets himself apart. We  were as diverse as the four sons, and Rabbi Mandel  was careful to tailor the Seder  to the attendees.

  When the Rabbi went into the kitchen to assist his wife, he asked two of the attendees to speak. An OCS (Officer Candidate School) student described the early strict part of  training as slavery. Freedom came when the cell phones were returned and it was permitted to relax at the dining table.  But is it really freedom? Or is it slavery to our devices, especially our cell phones with the ever present need to keep people apprised of our whereabouts and wellness. The paradoxical conclusion: the strict training phase was itself a kind of freedom.

  We also heard from a South African student at the Naval War College. He started by saying in his culture, it's disrespectful to wear a hat indoors. He was saddened that his children, although urged to choose,  are not speaking either one of their parents' native languages, Zulu, or Xhosa. They speak mostly English at home.  He joined the navy at 20, and is now 44. He went from a patrol boat to a frigate, the SAS Mendi. It is named after the British troop ship SS Mendi, which had about 800 South African troops who were on their way to France to man the trenches during WWI. The Mendi sank after a larger ship traveling at high speed and without proper warning signals collided with it in the fog 10 miles from the English coast on the way from Cape Town, South Africa to L'havre, France, on February 21, 1917. The ship went down in about twenty minutes, with many trapped below deck.

Thirty crew and 626 mostly black soldiers died, most of whom had never been to sea before and could not swim.  Thay went down heroically as a chaplain declaimed, "Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers. Zulus, Swazis, Pondos, Basothos and all others, let us die like warriors. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries my brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais back in the kraals, our voices are left with our bodies..." assegaais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies. "

"And so those left on board removed their boots and stamped the death dance on the slanting deck of a sinking ship, far from Africa but united together as brothers and comrades in arms."There were about 200 survivors. The SAS Mendi dropped a memorial wreath at the site on its maiden voyage.  February 21 is now observed as Armed Forces Day in South Africa.

  When Rabbi Mandel reappeared( we were about to send out a search party), he  led  Achad Mi Yodea? (who Knows One?)  as a rap revival song. It was lots of fun and perfectly appropriate.

   At shul the next day the Rabbi used audience participation to deliver his message.  It was a clever way to avoid interruptions by encouraging them. He asked, "What are the themes of Passover?" The replies included matzo, the exodus, slavery, the transition from slavery to freedom and more.  Two major themes  took some prompting.  One was Mishpacha.. Family...that we should tell the story to our children; another was Zachor, Memory...that we should remember who we were and what happened to us.  In context it was our history from Abraham to Moses. After consideration, I think it means the entirety of the experiences of Am Yisrael, even unto today.

At Touro April 16, 2016

Yesterday was Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Shabbos.  The only thing we did differently is recite a special Haftorah from the book of Malachi. In his sermon Rabbi Marc Mandel mentioned that the reason it is called Shabbat Hagadol is unknown. Since nature and Judaism abhor a vacuum, there are various theories.  Perhaps it is from the tradition of a major and long sermon on this day. This goes back to times before a weekly sermon became obligatory.  Rabbi Mandel preferred a verse from the special Haftorah, which links the Haftorah to Pesach,  [Malachi 3:23]: “Hinei Anochi Shole’ach Lachem Et Eliyahu Hanavi Lifnei Bo Yom HaGadol V’hanorah,”, or "Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord."  Rabbi Mandel's talk was great, but concise.  The mention of Elijah led to the Seder, which Elijah traditionally attends. And to the great(gadol) treasures that the Egyptians willingly gave to the Israelites when they left Egypt.  I wonder if the Egyptians were eager to be rid of us after the ten plagues. The treasures were not very useful in the desert, due to the lack of shopping centers. But Hakadosh Baruch Hu came along soon with a greater treasure, one that we still benefit from, the Torah.  Have a zisn Pesach!

At Touro April 9, 2016

At Touro synagogue yesterday Rabbi Marc Mandel spoke briefly about the Torah reading. First he reviewed last week, when the focus was on preparations. In the parsha it was about preparing for the Temple Service. Rabbi Mandel stressed the importance of preparation and education throughout our lives. On Saturday among the readings we learned about Passover.  TheRabbi drew attention to the Seder. We do things differently to encourage questions, and of course the Seder attempts to answer the Four Questions and any others that we ask.  The Rabbi referred to a short-named philosopher known for questioning. The names of philosophers flew across the shul from Plato to Kant and from Aristotle to Hume but the congregation was stumped-he was referring to Rene Descartes. Rabbi Mandel suggested that we should ask ourselves, "Why do we do the things we do?"