Monday, August 15, 2011

Yiddish making a comeback

Yiddish - alive and well in New York City

From Yiddishist:
As someone who grew up hearing and speaking Yiddish, it has been quite painful for me to see how the younger generation have almost totally abandoned the language of our forefathers.

The only remnants of Yiddish these days (by people under the age of 50) is in the Adass Shul and their school where - probably due to an influx of ex-Brooklyn and ex-Kiryas Joel Chassidish 'sons-in-law' - it seems to be thriving. And to give credit where due, the Adass Shul is, to the best of my knowledge, the only place left where all announcements, Aliyah 'auctions' and of course Droshos and Shiurim, are exclusively in 'Mameh Loshon'. It wasn't so long ago when this was the case in Caulfield, Yeshiva, Elwood, Mizrachi and of course Katanga. But no more. How sad.

(Admittedly, we have a few Chabad 'imports' who try their best to keep Yiddish alive in their homes, but with limited success. The Yeshiva - as a school - and the Yeshiva Gedola - seems to have given up on even trying.)

So it was with great pleasure that I read the following article in COL about a project to teach youngsters the basics of the language. I look forward to seeing our traditional tongue - the language spoken by all of our (and other) Rebbes - revived here in Melbourne and in Sydney. 
.א דאנק און א ברכה אוף אייער קעפ    
Sicha Program Becomes Popular
A program developed by a group of bochurim Shluchim in Yeshiva College in Melbourne, aimed to give high school students critical skills for learning the Rebbe's Sichos in the original Yiddish, has gained worldwide popularity.
The unique program, entitled 'Back2Basics,' gives students basic Yiddish skills as well as the tools to learn the Rebbe's Sichos, so they can continue to learn on their own in the future.

What began with students learning from copies of the Sicha and a list of Yiddish word translations and explanations of difficult concepts, soon evolved into participants receiving professionally designed booklets. The number of attendees at the program grew each week as well, with students steadily advancing in their skills.

The entire community of Melbourne took advantage of this unique opportunity and various schools and individuals began using the booklets. Many adults who never had the chance to learn Yiddish when they were younger, viewed the booklets as a resource to finally do so.

Word of the program's success soon spread to the school in Sydney, where it was implemented and became extremely popular as well. Soon, schools and Yeshivas across the globe found out about this new resource and also wanted to use it to the benefit of their students. Programs such as Myshliach, YSP, and various others have used Back2Basics to familiarize the students with the Rebbe’s Sichos and give them the unique opportunity to learn on their own.
As one student said, “Learning the Sichos in their original form is something that everyone would love to be able to do, Back2Basics has made it available for just about anybody.”
The program's booklet has several features:

Translations: A collection of translated words that someone with very limited Yiddish would find difficult.

Classical Concepts: An overview of the entire Sicha, broken down into summaries of each individual concept.

Getting Started: A selected piece of the Sicha with every word translated. This part is geared for the beginner that is just starting to read Yiddish, to familiarize him with how the words flow.

Show Off Your Knowledge: Review Questions, which generally cover the main ideas discussed in the Sicha.
If you would like to receive the booklet weekly through email, contact

And for anyone else interested in learning the language, here is a recently published book which should help:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bnei Akiva on the brink?

What about the Melbourne and Sydney branches?
Bnei Akiva in financial trouble            Ofer Petersburg

World's largest religious Zionist youth movement faces budget deficit of tens of millions of shekels, half of Jerusalem staff fired, educational departments shut down. 'There are some difficulties, but we're a strong movement,' says senior World Bnei Akiva official.

The World Bnei Akiva movement appears to be on the brink of collapse: Religious Zionism's huge enterprise is operating at a deficit of tens of millions of shekels, half of the movement's staff in Jerusalem has been fired, and educational activity departments have been shut down.

The movement is facing a cash flow problem due to cutbacks in the Jewish Agency, World Zionist Organization and Education Ministry. It did not receive NIS 700,000 (about $200,000) which should have been transferred from the Education Ministry and more than $1 million from the Jewish Agency, and was forced to find an alternative for the money from communal funding. But the movement's donors, mostly in the United States, have been affected by the global financial crisis.

"Our situation has worsened, threatening the performance of the enterprise which has been accompanying the State's activity throughout the years," says Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), co-president of the World Mizrahi Movement. "There was a time when the WZO and JA carried most of the burden of the Zionist youth movements, but since they're facing difficulties too, the movement is in a bad situation."

Orlev's biggest fear is that the movement's activity will suffer significantly. "Our offices abroad will be affected by the lack of budget and their existence will be questioned. The summer activities will be reduced. I call on the government to come to its senses immediately."

The movement's current secretary-general, Zeev Schwartz, will leave office ahead of the Jewish New Year. Due to the situation, the activity in Israel has been reduced and the number of emissaries abroad has been cut. At least half of the employees have been dismissed. Key departments such as training and PR have been shut down until the movement balances its budget.

Bnei Akiva is an educational enterprise which has trained many generations: 20,000 active trainees across the world, 100,000 people who have immigrated to Israel following the movement's activity, and 200 active emissaries in 70 main cities across the world.

The movement's representatives on the ground talk about a "total collapse". A movement employee told the Kipa website that "the situation has never been worse. The remaining employees are working around the clock to bridge the gaps created following the resource and manpower cutbacks".According to the worker, "The movement will have to minimize its activities. It's a shame that one of the only movements working for Religious Zionism must end its historic role this way."

A senior Bnei Akiva official told Yedioth Ahronoth in response, "It's true that there's a cash flow problem and that we need four million shekels immediately, but Bnei Akiva is a strong movement and is not on the brink of collapse. That's a malicious thing to say. The end of the secretary-general's term led to the recent reports, some of which are irresponsible."

Some comments posted on that site:

1. Bnai Akiva's gone haridi

Maybe now they will cut back on the Haridi tendencies of the last few years. The separation of boys from girls, the emphasis on fanatical religion, instead of pluralistic religious values.

Shlomo K , Rananna (08.10.11)

2. Bnei Akiva's badly behaved youth

If the end of the funding will bring an end to their Tel Aviv youth center, in which undisciplined screaming and shrieking frequently goes on several times a week until 3-4 a.m., we, the long-suffering neighbours will be crying no tears for Bnei Akiva's demise. 4 million shekels can be better used towards providing more desperately needed hospitals.

Glen , Tel Aviv (08.10.11)

3. Yeshivot Bmei Akiva
the shake up at Yeshivat HaKotel dealt a permanent financial blow years ago. Now Bnei Akiva is getting what it deserves

joe , usa (08.10.11)

4. Bnei Akiva must survive

It has done wonderful outreach work among Jewish youth in the diaspora and was a part of the Israeli social landscape as long as I can remember. However, as the previous talkbacker notes, there has been a strong Haredification in recent years which has caused many modern orthodox young people to look elsewhere for their social life. Personally I attribute this to the very marked increase in Haredi trained teachers in the Mamlachti Dati school system, which has also become sex-segregated from Kita Alef in many towns, and places heavy and often inappropriate emphasis on "modesty" as interpreted by the minority ultra-orthodox stream. I believe that the above is also contributing to the current desertion of religious practice by young adults today who have been taught outward forms instead of spiritual and cultural truths.

Israeli grandma (08.10.11)

5. The state can t let them fall.
The best youth Israel has, comes from this organisation.

ORA , JERUSALEM (08.10.11)

6. collapse

Anybody that falls into the hands of the haridi collapses.These pests are only there to thieve legally and have no intensions to further the aims of the Bnei Akiva principles.Hope the whole activity falls and then maybe people will realise the corruption of the HARIDI

colin (08.10.11)

7. Cause was too many ex BAniks sticking their hands in the pot

It was wonderful to know how many ex hanicha made aliyah, but what was disturbing was that instead of finding a proper job they ended up working for the organisation in Israel instead. They were given jobs that enabled them to return home to the UK on the pretence of a meeting when a phone call or Skype would surfice. They were given jobs as department managers in title but in reality were no more than clerks - grand titles for simple jobs. Thats where the money went - it is not like the days of yesteryear running on a shoestring so as to build up the State and being prepared to inovate instead of spend as if there was no limit. They failed because of constantly taking from the pot, especially those from the UK.

Sid , Jerusalem (08.10.11)

8. I am sure that Bibi will find money for them!

No doubt he will take something that was earmarked for hospital equipment or children in distress because of family violence, so he can enure their vote in the next election which might not be that far off! Netanyahu will find money for anything that will serve his political career and his ego. However, we must also recognize that Bnei Akiva is strongly Zionist and supports serving in the IDF.

David , Karmiel, Israel (08.10.11)
9. As a former Bnei Akiva Rosh Snif I say "Good!"
This movement, which I was once proud to serve, has become an extreme Rightist disgrace. I hope they collapse!

Dovid , Los Angeles (08.10.11)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bobblehead rabbi: The ultimate honour?

Posted by "American Reader"

Here's a one-year-older-than-God's-parents joke about a rabbi who nodded his head a lot:

In a small Russian town, people brought their complaints to Rabbi Korsunsky to settle their differences. This day, two men were before the rabbi. He listened to the first and said, "You are right." Then he listened to the second man and said, "You are right." When they left, his wife, who was listening in the next room, said to him, "You're supposed to be some kind of judge? How can they be both right?" He listened to her and said, "You're right, too."

On August 8, the San Francisco Giants unveil a rabbi only slightly less agreeable — a nodding headed doll of San Francisco's Rabbi Yosef Langer, who serves as the team's "Rally Rabbi" on Jewish Heritage Night.

So far, more people seem to be bobbing their heads vertically ("cute!") than horizontally ("it's bad for the Jews!") with regards to the Orthodox bobblehead. One senior official with the team told me that he's received only two letters of complaint compared to oodles of "Can you save me one of those?" queries.

Either way, it's hardly the oddest bobblehead doll out there. In fact, it's not even the first rabbinical bobblehead — Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has been nodding for a while.

While once simply a charming accessory, bobbleheads have truly taken a bizarre turn in recent years. (link)
Could be a fundraising idea for Chabad Houses - a bobblehead doll of their rabbi.

And here's another idea that won't take long to be replicated on our shores:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Media release from Rabbi Yosef Feldman

Hat tip - SBA list

Following on the AJN's shameful front page report last week - we have just received the following:

Media release from Rabbi Yosef Feldman

On 27 July 2011 and on 29 July 2011, a series of false and defamatory allegations were published by the Australian Jewish News concerning Rabbi Yosef Feldman .

The article, published under the byline of the AJN’s senior Sydney journalist, Joshua Levi, imputed that Rabbi Feldman was in favour of covering up acts of paedophilia by not reporting those acts to the police.

Those statements in the Australian Jewish News were false and are highly damaging to the Rabbi's high reputation. The Rabbi is presently considering the commencement of legal proceedings against the Australian Jewish News, its editor Zeddy Lawrence and Joshua Levi for defamation.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman has, at all times, publicly endorsed the unanimous view of the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales under his Presidency - that all acts of abuse must be reported to the police.

It would appear that the AJN obtained, by means unknown, an internal email exchange among Rabbis in which there was academic discussion of a range of views held by international scholars on how to deal with situations not subject to mandatory reporting. The AJN took extracts from that exchange and constructed a story and an editorial which attributed to the Rabbi views and opinions which he simply does not hold.

The Rabbi does not wish to speculate upon the AJN's motivation in publishing such a scandalously false piece of journalism. His only concern is to repair the damage done to his good name.

The true position is that Rabbi Feldman, like all other right thinking Australian citizens, believes that acts of paedophilia should and must be reported to the police for investigation and, if warranted, prosecution. It is not, and has never been, his view that criminal conduct of this kind should be covered up. The Rabbi's stance is that suspected paedophiles must face the Australian legal system.

There is no suggestion that any abuse has occurred in any Jewish establishment in New South Wales. However, the unanimous view of Rabbi Feldman and the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales is that suspected paedophiles must, if discovered, be reported to the police.