Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beis Menachem Seeking Boys & Girls Programs Leaders

Beis Menachem is looking for Rebbe or older bachur to lead a boys davening program and a high school age girl to lead the girls program in shul on Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim.

For more information, please contact Miriam Zisman at or 347-992-0035.

Irene Damages Tzemach Tzedek Fence

Photo: Hirshel Rosenbluh

Birthright Program Attracts Students

By Liat Segal, Rockland Jewish Reporter

When J.T. Silverman signed up for Birthright, his main motivation was to have a good time with friends, a goal which the free trip to one famous country across the globe was bound to fulfill. Yet J.T. had more than just a fun time in Israel. In fact, he says, “it is probably the most amazing experience you can ever have.”

Silverman, a Rockland County resident who is studying criminal justice at SUNY Canton, explains that the trip “completely changes your perception about what’s important… really brought out [my] Jewish heritage, and just a different side of Israel that you never really see.”

Birthright has consistently proven meaningful for its scores of participants, according to Rabbi Dov Oliver, director of the Center for Jewish Life/Hillel at SUNY Rockland. He is a local coordinator of Birthright trips in the county and sees firsthand the positive effect they have on young adults.

“It is always a positive experience… a tremendous opportunity,” says Oliver. “Most of them don’t know what to expect; they think it’ll be just like going to Brazil, or any foreign country, but they end up having a very meaningful experience.”

And that’s what most students say is in store. For Birthright and RCC honors alumna, Dena Kopolovich, “It was most important to me in terms of spirituality. The whole place has a certain energy… magical, almost. You walk through the streets of Jerusalem and you feel that beautiful things are happening around you.”

Rockland Hillel has participated in Birthright for 12 years, and has an upcoming trip planned for December, for which applications are already being accepted. The trip will likely occur at the end of December, though dates are not firmly set until the best travel deals can be arranged, according to Oliver. The deadline for local participation is Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Alexa and Tyler Silver, Suffern, with new friend Nissim Ezra, one of eight IDF soldiers that joined the group for five days.
Young adults, age 18 to 26, are eligible to attend, and all Jewish Rockland residents in this age group are encouraged to apply. The 10-day trip is a gift for those who have never been on organized trips to Israel, and it is sponsored by the Birthright Israel Foundation, the Israeli government, and local Jewish Federations. In Rockland, the trips are largely coordinated through an organization called Maayanot, which, according to Oliver, is “a forerunner in Birthright sponsorships, with great recruitment and turnout.”

Oliver, who has been recruiting and accompanying Rocklanders on the trips for the past four years, says his goal for the participants is that they have a “meaningful spiritual experience in such an ideal place as Israel, and they should come back more actively involved in Jewish life.” His focus on the trips is to help participants “strengthen their Jewish identities” and admittedly, to raise their priority of “marrying a Jewish person,” in order to keep the heritage alive and strong.

Oliver likes to ensure that participants make the most of the trip. In Silverman’s case, Oliver arranged for what has become one of the most memorable rites of passage in Silverman’s life: a bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“Growing up I wasn’t really religious,” says Silverman. “I grew up in a part of Florida that didn’t have a lot of temples so I never got a bar mitzvah. So Rabbi Oliver approached me about getting a bar mitzvah, and got a bar mitzvah at the Wall… What could be better than that?”

Oliver has arranged many such bar and bat mitzvahs on Birthright trips. He says, “A lot of times, when people haven’t had a bar or bat mitzvah, they feel as though they aren’t as Jewish—which of course is not true. But to have that celebration is very meaningful, especially at the Western Wall. They get called up to read at the Torah, they make a speech, they often make a resolution… it’s very powerful.”

Birthright has been known to be a life-changing experience for many young people, as it was for Silverman. Dena Kopolovich, who grew up in Monsey and studied liberal arts in the honors program at RCC, agreed.

“As a Jew, you feel like you’re at home,” says Kopolovich “[The trip] definitely had a lasting effect… It gave me the right and passion to defend Israel. There’s so much negative attention on the country. People who haven’t been there don’t really understand.”

According to Oliver, going on a Birthright trip often becomes a pivotal turning-point in the lives of its participants. “Many of them end up making aliyah—moving to Israel—and even joining the Israeli army.” While much of the effect that Birthright has on participating youths is usually thought to be purely spiritually-oriented, an emerging trend among participants is to gain insight and respect regarding Israel as a state.

According to Silverman, the trip is incredibly enjoyable on a social level as well. “I went with friends… and I gained friends.” Kopolovich, too, says that it was an opportunity to meet people from the community that she had not known before. “I met people I didn’t know, both from RCC and from Rockland in general… afterwards we would see each other at Hillel events.”

Birthright is famous for being a great time on many counts, yet its current popularity and demand make it more difficult to gain a spot on the trip. On a national level, nowadays only about 15 percent of applicants make it onto the trip, says Oliver.

“There are more applicants now and less funds, which makes it harder to gain a spot.”

Yet people should not be discouraged about the prospect of participating, says Rabbi Oliver. “If people go through the Rockland Hillel and contact me about applying, they have a better chance than if they do so individually… We have about 20-25 Rockland participants on each trip we’re involved in.”

The Hillel rabbi also emphasizes that the Rockland Birthright initiative is most certainly not limited to students of Rockland Community College. Rather, as the Hillel is not the Hillel of RCC alone, but rather the Hillel of all of Rockland, the trip is open to all Rockland residents who meet the basic eligibility criterion.

Oliver urges all to publicize the opportunity among people they know. “People should really stop and think about whom they know that is eligible, and encourage them to act on it. It’s an incredible opportunity.”

For more information contact Rabbi Dov Oliver at

Welcome Kaufmans!

Welcome to Avrohom and Channah Kaufman on their recent return to our community (Edison Court)!

Sofer in Tzemach Tzedek

As per the minhag to check Mezuzos and Tefillin during the month of Elul, Rabbi Nota Kuperman, a Sofer from Crown Heights, will be available to check your Tefilin and Mezuzos starting  this Sunday, 5 Elul, September 4, at K'hal Tzemach Tzedek.

Rabbi Kuperman will be available in the small minyan room from 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM every day for a few weeks.

Please make sure all items that are dropped off are in Ziploc bags and are properly labeled with your name and telephone number. There is a fee for his service.

Mazel Tov Silbers!

Mazel tov to Rabbi Zelig and Shaina Silber on the birth of a baby girl!

יה״ר שתזכו לגדלה לתורה לחופה ולמעשים טובים מתוך בריאות והרחבה בגו״ר און האבן אסאך חסידישע נחת! 

Shifra and Puah arranges homemade meals from people in the community for mothers of newborn children from our community. If you are able to cook a meal, please sign up on MealTrain or contact Karen Schild at or 845-354-4898.

An Angel in the Supermarket

By Anonymous,

It was Friday, on a balmy spring morning, and I was standing in line at the checkout counter in Rockland Kosher Supermarket. My cart was overflowing with groceries which would add up to a pretty penny. I was, however, the grateful recipient of food stamp benefits, and one swipe of my precious plastic card would cover the cost of my bimonthly food shopping trip. Nonetheless, I had chosen carefully, scanning the sale aisle for bargains, wanting to make the most of the government’s assistance. I loaded my items onto the counter and waited patiently for the cashier to add them up.

“Delivery, please,” I said. One hundred and fifteen dollars and sixty-three cents was my total. I confidently handed the cashier my food stamp benefit card. “Your food stamp balance is zero dollars and zero cents,” read the receipt. I stood there for a moment, not knowing what to do. “Please step aside while I put your order on hold and ring up the next customer,” said the cashier. I obediently stepped aside, racking my brain for a solution as to how to pay this bill. Please, G d, I thought, help me put food on my table.

Out of nowhere a well-dressed, kind-looking woman appeared. She smiled and said, “I can lend you the money, and you can pay me back at your convenience.” Thinking of my family’s wellbeing, I put my dignity in my pocket for later retrieval and nodded my assent. She handed her credit card to the cashier and waited while the transaction went through. I provided the delivery boy with my address and turned back to my benefactress to obtain her name and telephone number. Not seeing her, I scanned the store and the parking lot outside. She was nowhere to be found.

I walked out of the supermarket with a lump in my throat. Her kindness had opened up a torrent of emotions that for the past twelve months had been held in check. I quickened my pace as the tears began to flow, heading toward a quiet side street where I could cry in peace.

Exactly one year before, my husband had walked out on me, leaving me to care for my three children. He left me a note, saying that he no longer wanted to be tied down. From one day to the next I was thrust into a world of uncertainty. I had three beautiful daughters, ages three, six and nine, who were left fatherless and confused.

The years preceding this event had not been ideal. Soon after my marriage, I noticed that a large sum of money was missing from our joint bank account. When I asked my husband about it, he was evasive. That incident was the first hint that something was wrong. It took another few years to realize that I was married to a man who was addicted to gambling. He was slowly destroying his finances, himself and his family.

I consulted experts, did research and pleaded with him to go for help. But it was to no avail. When all our resources were depleted, he picked himself up and left.

I turned to government funds to help me stay above water and provide for my children. I turned to social services and became acquainted with Medicaid, food stamps and welfare. I enrolled in a part-time college program, and the kids—though saddened by the loss of their daddy, who wanted nothing to do with them—slowly began to heal. Slowly, my life returned to something resembling normalcy.

Although on the outside it appeared as if I was doing well, deep inside me there was an unbelievable rage which did not abate as the weeks and months rolled on. The abandonment of my husband meant the abandonment of my Father in Heaven. The losses of my childhood resurfaced and threatened to engulf me.

During the lonely silence of the nights, I would relive my childhood memories, picturing the day my parents were killed. I, an only child, was left an orphan. I was sent to be raised by an aunt. Although my aunt and uncle were well-meaning people, they were rigid and controlling. At the age of thirteen, my bedtime was still 8:00 PM. A sleepover was absolutely out of the question, and many of the privileges my friends enjoyed were foreign to me. My aunt would monitor my phone conversations and all my extracurricular activities. As I had an independent personality, this created friction, and I yearned for the moment when I would be set free.
As I moved through my teenage years, I secretly dreamed of the day when I would have a place I could truly call home. At the age of twenty-one, I was introduced to Leib. Leib was gentle and kind. He was loyal and principled, and we shared the same vision of building a fine Jewish home together. I was genuinely happy and looked forward with great anticipation to our future together. Nothing prepared me for the pain ahead.

When I first discovered that “Leiby” was addicted to gambling, I naively thought that we would work through this problem together. Little did I know that Leiby was not going to allow himself to be helped, and that he would fall into a depression and eventually leave me.

During those years of trial, I fervently prayed to my Father in Heaven to save our marriage. I desperately wanted my precious little girls to have a solid, stable home. The day Leiby left us, I began to function on two levels. While I marched forward, taking care of business and reconstructing our lives, my inner world was in turmoil and my faith was slowly eroding.

That Friday morning, in Rockland Kosher, an angel appeared out of nowhere, bringing not only a box full of groceries but a message full of love. It was that Friday that I renewed my relationship with G d, feeling strongly the sense of caring and security that accompanies the knowledge that He continues to hold me and my children in His arms.

I felt ready, at last, to move forward and reconnect with society. I accepted a longstanding invitation to the local rabbi’s house for the Sabbath meals. Friday, before sunset, I prepared the candles for lighting. The Sabbath table was covered in white, and my children were dressed in their Sabbath best. The candles shone bright, lighting up their innocent glowing faces and warming my soul. And as I stood there, I contemplated the day’s events.

A food stamp card that didn’t work, and a fellow human being who reached out to give without a second thought, combined to open my heart and reunite me with my Maker. G d has many ways of reminding his children of His loving presence. For me it happened at Rockland Kosher.