Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mayanot Souls on Fire concert in Australia a tremendous success!

Seder niggunim may never be the same again.
Before a full house at the Phoenix Theatre in Melbourne (Thursday night, 24 October 2013), a talented group of musicians and others delighted the crowd with an interpretation of a series of Chassidic nigunim, in support of Mayanot Institute in Israel.

It was apparent early that this would be a special night indeed. The stage was setup with a farbrengen table to one side, and a giant empty canvas to the other.

Before each of the niggunim, a short spoken word piece was delivered by David Werdiger and young local mashpi’im R’ Yirmi Caspi and Rabbi Dovid Tsap, to introduce and set the mood.

Throughout the concert, local Sydney artist David Asher Brook worked frenetically to deliver a masterpiece, inspired by the music.

From niggun sholosh tenuos to a magnificent finale of rachamono d’onei featuring all the performers, the interpretations were intense, innovative, and had the audience enraptured. The lechatchila ariber niggun of the Rebbe Maharash was a highlight, with a mandolin and bass clarinet prelude, then switching to high voltage electric guitar.

Brainchild of local musician Moshe Feiglin, together with his own band members and a selection of other guest performers (Naom Sender, Yoni Ryder and Zalman Werdiger), this production has brought chassidishe niggunum to a broad audience, and is sure to inspire others to adapt and renew.

Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, dean of Mayanot, presented a video about the outstanding work of Mayanot and acknowledged local and international supporters as they launched an appeal for their much needed expansion. It is intended that the work of art from David Brook will be auctioned online in the next few months with proceeds to go to Mayanot.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflections from a Mayanot Alumna

Written by: Ilana Ellison

In 2008, I began attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.  Being all alone in the big city, I was looking for a way to meet new people.  My search eventually led me to the FIT Chabad House.  What I ended up finding was a small 10’x10’office, and Mrs. Malka Werde. 

Throughout my first year at FIT, I became very close with Malka, other Jewish students on campus, and Chabad. Everyone was so nice and welcoming; it was like an instant family. Even though I had little knowledge of observant Judaism, the Chabad Club gave me a chance to ask questions and learn more about Judaism. I slowly started keeping kosher, lighting Shabbat candles, and learning more in depth.  In the summer of2009 I decided to go on the Mayanot Israel Links trip for a chance to learn more and go back to Israel.  I had been on Birthright and lived in Israel, but had never experienced it like this.  With the help of Yehudis Bluming, shlucha to UNC and Duke, I was able to stay in Jerusalem and attend the Mayanot summer program.

Mayanot was an amazing experience that channeled my passion for Judaism and gave me the tools that has helped me succeed post college graduation.

The variety of classes as well the lifestyle at Mayanot gave me the courage to explore my own relationship with Judaism.  It also gave me the confidence to talk to my peers about Judaism and being Jewish.  This was something I had never felt comfortable doing growing up.  I finally had the right vocabulary to discuss my feelings and ask questions that I didn’t know to ask before. Throughout my final year at FIT I continued to work with Chabad on Campus, increasing the number of Shabbat dinners we held throughout the year, as well as helped Malka Werde create new events and programs for students.

After graduation, I went on to work at Chabad of Midtown Manhattan, with Rabbi Josh Yehoshua Metzger and Mrs. Brocha Metzger.  My Mayanot education definitely came in handy while helping to plan holidays and Shabbat dinners that sometimes had up to 300 people attending. My responsibilities included planning these Shabbat and holiday meals, coordinating classes held at the Chabad House, and running the office.

I am now the Young Adult Associate of the Jerome Robinson Family Young Adult Division (YAD) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, a long way of saying Jewish Outreach.  Working at the Federation, my job is to reach out to Jewish young professionals between the ages of 21 and 39, and create compelling, impactful, and fun programming.  We have events such as a Jewish New Year’s party, a Business and Professional event, and even a community wide day of volunteering.

YAD reaches the affiliated and unaffiliated, the secular and the observant, and helps them to connect to the Jewish community in the most meaningful ways.  We try to have a program or event that reaches every type of Jew.  We also work with congregations and other Jewish non-profits in the community to get young people further involved in Houston philanthropic community.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston does a lot to include Jews from all walks of life, and supports Next Generation initiatives.  Our newsletter title, “Being Jewish Matters”, is a tag line that I think Mayanot embodies.  My education at Mayanot has helped me recognize why leading a Jewish life is important, as well as given me the tools to spread the message. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Follow Me: Avi-Natan, Sukkot in Jerusalem

Avi-Natan Zadeka is our newest Mayanot Men's Program participant. We asked Avi to write about his experiences coming to Mayanot, being part of the Jerusalem community, and growing with the Mayanot family. In the upcoming weeks Avi will share his experiences and provide a glimpse into the Mayanot experience both on his personal blog, and here. For regular updates follow the Mayanot Men's Program on Facebook, and Twitter



This is going to be a bit longer of a post – sorry! Instead of going into detail about each Hebrew word, I’ve made them all hyperlinks, so if you click on the word it will take you to the wiki page. Enjoy :)
This past week was spent celebrating the holiday of Sukkot. I have never sat in more Sukkahs or danced at more parties in my life! Instead of going into the nitty-gritties of each night, I’m just gonna give an overview of the crazy happenings which I attended and participated in.
Over Shabbat I went to the house of a man named Shmuel Moshe. He is a Chassid and follower of the Hornsteipler Rebbe. The way that he chanted the different brachas before Shabbat was truly an experience. Each word was said with so much Kavanah (intent) and care. He almost came to tears at each word, although as soon as he would finish saying a bracha, he would look up with a warm smile on his face. The meal was eaten in the SUkkah, and yes, it was delicious. After the meal we went to the Rebbe’s sukkah.
In Chabad the Sukkot are not decorated because it is believed that the Sukkah is beautiful in and of itself, it is not necessary to add pictures or fancy trinkets. Other sects of judaism do not hold by that though, as can be seen by the Sukkah at my parents house and by the Sukkah of the Hornsteipler Rebbe. His sukkah was decorated like a kings sukkah, bright lights, crowns, purple cloth and many pictures of other Rabbis and fruit. Being at the house of a Rebbe is very interesting. Everyone was very cautious to be doing the right thing, and not miss a word from his lips. After he finished eating, his plate was passed around and people would take a piece of his food and eat it (apparently this can give brachas). He spoke many words of Torah, more food was eaten, and heart-felt songs were sung. I didn’t get back to Mayanot until well into the night, but it was well worth it.
After davening I went with Mordie to his boss’s house. by the way, just a word about Mordie. If anyone comes to Israel and is interested in learning all about the history of different Chassidic and Litvak communities – ask Mordie. He may look semi-normal on the outside, but on the inside he is a geeky genius ;)
AAAAnyway, so we went to his boss’s house – a Belz Chassid. The meal was great (and thats an understatement) the Cholent was ALMOST as good as the cholent at Chabad UofM. Yiddish was the main language spoken at the table, although both of the parents were able to speak English to me when necessary, and Mordie was translating most things. After the meal we went to the Belz Shul. Many people call it the Belz HaMikdash because it is so huge and it resembles the Bais HaMikdash of ancient days. We went to the Bais Midrash to learn a bit. We learned from a chassidic text by Shlomo Hakohen Rabinowitz called The Tiferes Shlomo, which is a classic in chassidic literature. The chapter we learned about was drilling into the reader that we must be happy with the abilities in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom which have been given to us. We should not look at our neighbors level and say that is where we need to be. We need to work on ourselves, on our own level.
The mornings during the week were spent chilling in the Sukkah, going around town, and hanging out with Inbal and her kids. The evenings and nights were spent going to parties all around town for Simchas Bais HaShoevah! We went to parties right outside of Mayanot,KarlinToldos Aharon, and Marat Hamachpelah in Chevron. The craziest and most memorable of all the parties was a Tish with the Rebbe of Toldos Avraham Yitzchok. There were so many Chassidim dressed in golden robes and large Shtreimels dancing in unison. Everyone was trying to get a glimpse of the Rebbe. It really is powerful to be in the presence of a Tzaddik, the energy is almost palpable.
The whole week was a blur of friends, dancing, learning, great food, and morning headaches. Misha, Daniel and I went to the Kotel on Sunday . It was more packed than I had ever seen in my life. Everyone came for Birkat HaCohanim. It was a really cool experience.
I’ve only been in Israel for two and a half weeks, and classes haven’t even begun yet, but I feel like I’ve learned so much already. Thanks to Mordie and the guys in my Yeshiva for taking me around Jerusalem to see different sects of Judaism, or just by opening up a book to learn about our history. One important thing I’ve learned so far is to open up. We have so many misconceptions about distant people, and ways of life. It’s difficult to be open minded to different thoughts and morals, but it’s quite rewarding. They say ignorance is bliss, but I think bliss is knowledge. True, the more you know the less you REALLY know, but that’s whats fun with life. When you chase knowledge, you pursue an ever growing horizon of light.
I miss and love everyone back home, and a special person in Madison ;)
I’m off to Tzfat to backpack and camp under the stars for a few nights!
Much love,