Tevet 5764

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Dear Alumnus,

In our Chanuka Alumni Update we offered you an encouraging look at the "eight highlights" of Ohr Somayach activity throughout the world. In this one we provide your with a few tidbits about some of the many hundreds of alumni who are having an impact on their communities through their outreach efforts, their families and the role they play as models for others to emulate.


A five-day-a-week half-hour radio program called "Talking Up" was recently launched in Philadelphia by Ohr Lagolah alumnus Rabbi Avrohom Goldman, head of Ohr Somayach Philadelphia. The program consists of themed conversations between groups of Jewish teenagers and Rabbi Eliyahu Kopel, who was a highly successful teacher at Ohr Somayach Jerusalem before assuming a position as head of the Gorin Center of Ohr Somayach and a major educational force in the Philadelphia community.


Alumnus Rabbi Joey Felsen, who heads a dynamic outreach kolel which he established in the Palo Alto area of California, visited the Yeshiva the other week to interview candidates for a new kollel he is establishing in San Francisco.

His Jewish Study Network is already servicing the Jewish communities in Cupertino, Foster City, Fremont, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Cruz and Sunnydale. The new kollel is being established in response to a demand that they extend their highly successful outreach efforts to the large Jewish community in the Bay area.


Many of our past and present talmidim have come a "long way", literally and figuratively, in order to discover themselves and Judaism. Perhaps the longest journey was that of alumnus Eliezer Dvash. A shepherd boy in Ethiopia, he was drafted into that countrys army and spent six years fighting against Eritrea. When he arrived in the capital of Addis Ababa he became friendly with Jews making aliya. A subsequent interest in Judaism led him to making the long trek to the Jewish community in South Africa where he completed his conversion process. His trip took him through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland. Crossing swirling, crocodile-infested rivers which had no bridges for vehicles, and walking for 20 miles in order to illegally cross borders, he also faced unanticipated dangers. Sleeping one night in a tree, he was terrorized by a pride of lions beneath the tree. He recited Tehillim and prayed to Heaven, and in the morning the lions departed.

Near the border between Swaziland and South Africa he was held up by a band of robbers who rummaged through his meager possessions until they came upon the Tefillin which he had already begun wearing in anticipation of his conversion. They demanded to known what was inside and Eliezer threatened them that if they touched the boxes they would die. They quickly let go and even gave him back some of his money to continue his journey. He was warmly welcomed by the Johannesburg community and eventually made it to Ohr Somayach Jerusalem where he spent a productive year in his journey "on foot" up the ladder of Torah knowledge.


When Hanhala member and senior maggid shiur Harav Michoel Schoen consented to serve as the mesader kiddushin at the wedding of our talmid Brett Weil and Blumie Drebin, daughter of alumnus Yaakov Drebin, he had no idea of what a return to old tradition he would be a happy part of. Brett, who is proud of his familys Ashkenazic background and is close to the Rabbi Hamburger who heads a shul in Bnei Brak strictly following Ashkenazic customs, asked that his wedding be performed according to those ancient customs. One of these was that the mesader kiddushin wear a tallis. Rav Schoen, himself a proud "yekkie", found no difficulty in reviving this custom of endowing the ceremony with greater dignity.


Alumnus Rabbi Oren Gelb and his wife Rena were the subject of a big write-up in the "Times Colonist" of Victoria, British Columbia. Oren is part of the Seattle Kollel but lives in the city which "Statistics Canada" ranks lowest in worship attendance of all faiths among 27 Canadian cities. In the hope of changing this picture in regard to the Jews in the heart of the WASP-y West Coast, the Gelbs have been successfully reaching out to the community through lectures and private talks in local schools and synagogues and in their home.


To finish off this Update we cannot resist reporting on an invitation we received the other week to the wedding in Monsey, New York, of the daughter of alumnus Rabbi Moshe Isser (Kenny) Kravitz. Enclosed was a picture of the proud father, the kallah and his married daughter and her husband. There was also a letter addressed to roshei yeshiva, Harav Nota Schiller and Harav Mendel Weinbach, which reads as follows:

"We hope you have nachas from this good news about your granddaughter. Our first daughter was married almost two years ago. Her husband is learning in Lakewood and our new son-in-law is headed for Lakewood after the wedding. I recently finished Mesechta Bava Metzia which I started in Ohr Somayach Yerushalayim where my life began. We are eternally grateful to you."

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