Monday, August 8, 2011

Two-Day Matching Grant for Tzemach Tzedek

As is done every year on Tisha B’Av, an appeal was made tonight for Tzemach Tzedek where every family is kindly asked to contribute $180. This is done now, in the summer, when the shul’s income is at its lowest.

This year the shul finds itself in the worst financial situation it has been in the last 10 years. As such, Reb Avraham Hayman has generously agreed, for the first time for Tzemach Tzedek, to match funds donated to the shul over the next two days.

The terms of the matching grant are as follows:
  • Any family pledging from $180 to $999 will be matched dollar for dollar.
  • Any family pledging $1,000 will be double matched (i.e. the Shul will get $3,000).
  • All pledges must be made to Avraham Hayman at on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 9th and 10th of Menachem Av, only.
  • All payments must be made to the shul by this Monday, Tu B'Av.
Extra payment time will be allowed for donations being requested from charitable foundations.

If you daven or learn at Tzemach Tzedek during the week or on Shabbos or use the services of the Rav, please make an effort to participate in this campaign where you can double or triple the impact of your gift.

Rabbi Gancz Speaks at Mid-Atlantic Kinus

Rabbi Aaron Dovid Ganz speaking at the regional Kinus HaShluchim of the Mid-Atlantic states (New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware) which took place last Thursday in Manalapan, New Jersey.

Motorcyclists Spreads Judaism

By Gillian Mohney, The Brooklyn Ink

A few days before Passover last April, a stream of RVs decorated with Hebrew letters rolled down Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn. The caravan of 61 vehicles was not a trailer park gone rogue, but an annual parade of the so-called Mitzvah Tanks that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement uses to encourage Jews toward religious observance. This year, though, the tanks were flanked by the the newest and perhaps unlikeliest members of Chabad outreach, a group of Hasidic and Orthodox motorcyclists called Rebbe’s Riders.

Using a blend of horsepower and religious traditions, the members of Rebbe’s Riders are repurposing the biker gang for the fervently Orthodox set. While motorcycles may appear to be an odd choice for religious outreach, founder Jonah Halper was inspired by the followers of Chabad-Lubavitch. The 30-year-old Halper started Rebbe’s Riders with the hope of persuading unobservant Jews to “get closer to Judaism and closer to practice.”

Although the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has a relatively small number of followers, with the best reported estimates counting approximately 200,000 Lubavitchers globally, the reach of the movement is expansive. Under the leadership of the late rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, the global outreach of Chabad-Lubavitch grew exponentially during the last half-century, resulting in the opening of more than 4,000 Chabad houses.

The Chabad houses are run by young rabbis and their wives and are designed as outposts of Jewish culture where even unobservant Jews can get a kosher meal or be exposed to Jewish traditions. While Schneerson died in 1994, the followers of Chabad-Lubavitch continue to view Schneerson as their leader and practice outreach in the name of the rebbe. Halper says that the different Chabad houses will serve as the home base for the various chapters of Rebbe’s Riders.

Although Halper, an Orthodox Jew, is not a follower of Chabad-Lubavitch, he describes his admiration for the Hasidic group as the impetus behind Rebbe’s Riders. “It’s not affiliated in any official capacity, but rather it’s in the spirit of Chabad,” said Halper, who has had friends and family influenced by it. “I realized that this is the key to their success. They don’t treat Judaism as if it’s reserved for the select few.”

This desire to engage with all Jews, whether practicing or not, in the hopes inspiring them to become more observant is a major goal for the followers of Chabad-Lubavitch. Sue Fishkoff, a journalist and author of The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch, describes their objective in religious terms. “They’re trying to put Jews in touch with what we call the ‘pintele yid,’ the spark that they see inside every Jew that ties him or her to Jewish tradition,” said Fishkoff. “However they can awaken that spark, they will try to do it.”

This desire to inspire a religious awakening is echoed by Halper and by the Rebbe’s Riders website, which encourages people to join and start “Finding the Sparks on the Road.”

While a biker gang may seem an unlikely entry point for a secular Jewish person to turn observant, Halper found the niche an asset. Halper wanted to connect to people through an activity that was not primarily for religion but for amusement. In fact, with their bushy beards and yarmulkes hidden under their helmets, the members of Rebbe’s Riders can look like any other motorcycle group out for a joy ride.

The riders’ ability to be characterized by both their riding skills and their faith was key to Halper. “Any marketing person will tell you it’s very important to connect with people where they’re at,” said Halper. He hopes, for example, that riders will end a road trip by enjoying some kosher delicacies or by discussing the Torah over a meal.

Since the chapters of Rebbe’s Riders are set up through different Chabad Houses, Halper expects each chapter to reflect the needs of its house. The possible activities include having groups of riders come together to do volunteer work, planning a ride for charity, and hosting a weekly ride that encourages a discussion about religion.

Halper says his ideal outing means letting riders “do what they love to do most, which is riding and use that as a platform for Jewish learning, thought and practice.” This use of community in order to aid religious outreach is a trademark of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. As Fishkoff explains, “It’s directed at Jews, they should have a good time with other Jews, and then want to be closer to the Jewish community.”

For Eli Zisman, the head of the Rebbe’s Riders in upstate New York and a follower of Chabad-Lubavitch, using his love of riding to promote Judaism is a necessary part of his religious duty. “In Chabad you have to go with what’s popular and try and use any way possible—that’s allowed by Jewish law—to bring people closer to Judaism,” said Zisman. Both Zisman and Halper aim to use the Rebbe’s Riders as a means of breaking through the notion of Judaism as old-fashioned or stodgy. Zisman hopes that if people see a rabbi on a bike, it might help reshape their image of the ancien old religion.

Only a few months old, Rebbe’s Riders has grown quickly. Since its inaugural ride in the Mitzvah Tank parade, the group has opened chapters in Brooklyn, upstate New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii, with the largest chapter featuring 12 members in Monsey, N,Y. The group does not ask for any dues. Rather, it encourages members to support their local Chabad House.

Although Rebbe’s Riders may epitomize the changing face of Orthodox Judaism, they are also an embodiment of a new breed of bikers. According to Eric Gelia of King Cycles, a motorcycle shop near the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn, bikers have become much more mainstream in the past decade. “They’re more open, people embrace it wholeheartedly,” said Gelia. Although Zisman acknowledges that a few people have been skeptical of attaching the Judaism label to a motorcycle group, he maintains that the old biker characterizations are outdated. “The stereotype of the Hell’s Angels has gone already.”,” said Zisman.

In fact, Halper contends that the “wild and crazy” label given to most bikers doesn’t apply. Citing the many dangers while riding on the road, Halper insists that intense concentration is required when competing with cars and trucks at breakneck speeds. Halper reasons that by necessity bikers are some of the most disciplined people on the road. “You have to be so, so conservative and so, so proactive when you’re riding so you don’t end up as road kill,” said Halper.

Zisman agrees and finds a link between being an observant Jew and good rider. Acknowledging that being observant means constant discipline, Zisman finds that, along with his wife and children, his religion reminds him to ride safely.

“Our bodies are on loan from God,” said Zisman. “If we don’t take care of our bodies, how are we going to serve God?”

Seeking Co-Rider to CGI Montreal

Looking for a passenger to share a ride from Monsey to CGI of Montreal this Sunday leaving Monsey at approximately 5:00 AM and leaving camp back to Monsey at approximately 6:00 PM.

Late model Japanese car and iPod full of Chassidishe music and shiurim included. Or, if you like, I can ride with you. I'd help with the gas, of course.

Please contact Hershel (before Shabbos) at 917-755-4234 or

Hashavas Aveida - Lost Raincoat

If you took a black microfiber raincoat this past Motzoei Shabbos from Tzemach Tzedek that isn't yours please return it to shul or call Hershel at 917-755-4234.

It buttons right over left, has no lining, has a paint stain somewhere, and is slightly torn at the slit. It's either Ralph Lauren or Bill Blass (who remembers?) and is probably a size 46/48.

Tzemach Tzedek Tisha B'Av 5771 Schedule

For the Tzemach Tzedek Tisha B'Av schedule, please click here.

Commuters Fume Over Proposed NY-NJ Toll Hikes

Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — Although he lives in northern New Jersey, Raul Ramirez says his heart belongs to New York City.

He works at a hospital in Brooklyn, has lots of family in the Bronx and loves to watch New York's two major league pro baseball teams play, especially against each other.

But the 42-year-old Hackensack resident fears he won't be able to afford the commute if the Port Authority's newly announced plan to raise tolls by $4 next month on the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels comes to fruition.

"I'm thinking the only way I could pay for those (higher) tolls is to get another mortgage or take out a bank loan," said Ramirez, who takes mass transit whenever possible but frequently needs to drive his own car into New York.

Under the proposal announced Friday, drivers who come into New York City from New Jersey at rush hour will be paying $12 a day — even if they have an E-Z Pass. The off-peak toll will be $10. Without the pass, rush hour travel will cost $15. Trucks with E-Z Pass will pay $6 more per axle.

The Port Authority also announced a $1 hike in the fare on the PATH train that connects New Jersey to Manhattan. It said the average PATH fare will be $2 with multi-trip discounts.

And it gets worse for passenger cars and trucks — the tolls would rise by an additional $2 in 2014.

The increase would apply to all of the agency's bridge and tunnel crossings, which also include the Bayonne and Goethals Bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing between New Jersey and Staten Island.

"That's just crazy ... what's their justification for doing this?" Stacey Mahpour of Englewood asked Sunday while stopped at a gas station near the George Washington Bridge.

While Mahpour visits the city infrequently, her husband, an environmental engineer, travels there often. And she says mass transit isn't really an option for him because he has to travel to different sites throughout the area for his job.

"Fortunately for him, he's reimbursed for his commute expenses, but I feel bad for the people that have to do that each day and pay for it out of their own pocket. I don't understand the rationale for such a big toll boost, and I think it's unnecessary."

The Port Authority said that without a fare increase, it will be risking "240 critical infrastructure projects and thousands of jobs." It said the recession and security costs had left revenue $2.6 billion below projected amounts. The agency also said rebuilding the World Trade Center is costing more than $11 billion, and its security costs are nearly three times the pre-9/11 level.

The overall fare and toll increase proposal is subject to approval by the Port Authority's board of commissioners, which is meeting Aug. 19. If the board approves the plan, it is subject to veto within 10 days by either Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York or Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, said authority spokesman Steve Coleman.

The governors have issued a joint statement saying they would review the proposal but have "obvious and significant concerns."

Also concerned is Danielle Albert, a 36-year-old Teaneck resident who takes the Hudson River crossings into New York about two to three times a week, mostly to visit relatives and the city's various attractions.

Albert always drives in and says the overall trip between New Jersey and New York costs her about $20 in tolls each time, and any toll boost will likely force her to cut back on her travels.

"That makes me unhappy, because part of the reason why I live near (New York) is I can use what the city has to offer. My kids love it, they love to go there and see the museums, but if it gets too expensive, I probably won't go there as often," she said.

Ramirez estimates his overall travel costs — excluding gas — are about $1,500 a year, and says he'll definitely be spending less time in New York if the increase is approved.

"Where do they think people are going to get the funds for this (increase)," he asked. "Do they think I have hundreds of dollars in my couch or under my bed?"

3D Beis Hamikdash Presentations at Heichal Menachem

The Rebbe on Tisha B'Av