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These Bronx 8th-graders traveled 4 hours to pay a shiva call to the family of 2 Israelis murdered by Hamas

(New York Jewish Week) – Alyssa Halpert, an eighth-grader at SAR Academy from New Rochelle, had never met, nor even vaguely knew Maurice Shnaider when she traveled 100 miles to his house to make a shiva call.

But it wasn’t a hard decision for Halpert, along with two dozen of her classmates from the Modern Orthodox day school, to get on a bus after school on Wednesday to make the trip from Riverdale to Shnaider’s home in Kingston, New York. They knew his sister and brother-in-law, Margit Shnaider Silverman and Yosi Silverman, were among the 1,400 Israelis murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7.

“After I heard what happened, I just thought it would be a good thing to go,” Halpert told the New York Jewish Week. “He’s going through a really hard time. If we went and made him happy for even two seconds, it’s worth it.” 

Alongside the murder of his sister and brother-in-law, who lived in Kibbutz Nir Oz, Shnaider’s niece and nephew, Shiri and Yarden Bibas, and their young, red-haired sons Ariel, 4, and Kfir, 10 months old, became early faces of the hostage crisis after a Hamas video of Shiri and her sons became public on the day of the attack. Kfir, who was using a pacifier in the video, is believed to be the youngest hostage.

The family’s kibbutz in southern Israel was especially hard-hit during the Hamas attack; between a quarter and a third of the kibbutz’s 350 residents were killed or kidnapped. The Bibas family is thought to be among more than 220 people held hostage in Gaza; the Silvermans were initially thought to be among the hostages, too, but their bodies were later identified and they were buried in Israel on Monday.

SAR Academy has a tradition of showing support for Jewish community members in need, especially when it comes to Jewish mourning rituals. Recently, when the father of an eighth-grader died, all the kids in the class visited while the family was sitting shiva, marking a seven-day period of mourning after a funeral

The school had learned about Wednesday’s gathering in Kingston the day before from an SAR parent, who had been in touch with Shnaider’s rabbi at Chabad of Ulster County.

“We got the message out to students about this opportunity, and when they understood the significance of what was going on, they knew immediately it was worth it,” said Rabbi Zev Hait, the middle school’s director of Jewish life and learning who chaperoned the students on the visit.

At Shnaider’s home, the students were able to sit and chat with the grieving brother for about 20 to 30 minutes, Hait said. Their group was among hundreds of people who came from around the state and beyond, from different Jewish denominations and backgrounds, after an announcement was distributed around WhatsApp groups. “It was an amazing sight, ‘Am Yisroel B’Yachad’ — the Jewish people being together,” Hait said. 

Hait said that while it was important for the students to understand the importance of showing up for fellow Jewish people in need, he wasn’t convinced about how much comfort the young teens could provide, especially amongst a sea of mourners.

But as Halpert described it, “a lot of students went up close to talk to [Shnaider]. He was appreciative that we came in, really happy and very surprised. He asked other people to move out of the way,” so he could talk to the students. 

Halpert added that she had worried it might be uncomfortable with the stranger in mourning, but it turned out to be much easier than she thought because “he was a very friendly person.” 

The students gather around Maurice Shnaider, in blue, for a shiva call at his home in Kingston. (Yael Baker)

“It was sweet in the way only kids can be,” Hait described. “A few of them sat in front of him cross-legged, in a way that an adult never would. He spoke about his sister as someone who never got angry, something for us all to learn from her.” He added that Shnaider emphasized to the students and other shiva attendees that they were here for each other just as much as they were here for him. 

The following day, at a public event in front of Kingston’s Chabad synagogue, Shnaider spoke about the outpouring of support from his community. 

“I stand before you today deeply moved by the overwhelming outpouring of support from hundreds of people who have reached out to us,” Shnaider said, according to a report from the Daily Freeman. “People from all over and from all walks of life, your presence here, in person and in spirit, has been a source of immense comfort and strength to not only myself but to my entire family, whether they are here with us in the United States or in Israel.”

On the bus ride, which lasted two hours each way, the students discussed the mitzvah of making shiva calls, both to respect and honor those who have passed and to provide even temporary relief of the pain of the mourners. 

Shnaider insisted that the kids take some cookies with them for the road, according to people who were present. But what struck Halpert the most was that Shnaider was adamant that they would all meet again soon — when there is good news to celebrate and his family is returned. “He has a lot of faith in Hashem,” she said. “Right now you just have to hope for the best and do all you can to stay positive.”

Hait said the visit was in line with SAR’s “action-driven” values, which he said were themselves in line with the spirit of the moment. 

“Since the war broke out, you see this desire to help,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on, if there’s a test the next day or a basketball practice, if the moment calls for it, we’ll show up and support.” 

Halpert, who has cousins and friends in Israel, said that in addition to the shiva visit, the school has been teaching about the war; organizing prayer services and recitations; packing duffel bags of supplies and writing letters of support to IDF soldiers.

“The message that we’ve been giving our kids for the last three weeks has been that the things that you do matter,” said SAR Academy’s principal, Rabbi Bini Krauss, who spent the last week in Israel meeting with the more than 75 SAR alumni who are serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as with former teachers and parents. 

“When you get a position to do something, you try to do it,” Krauss said. “We don’t want to scare the kids, but we want to appropriately introduce them to the realities of the world. They had a job to do and they chose to do it.”


The post These Bronx 8th-graders traveled 4 hours to pay a shiva call to the family of 2 Israelis murdered by Hamas appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’

Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Unfrosted” at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

Jewish comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld roasted an anti-Israel protester who tried to disrupt his comedy show in Sydney, Australia, at the Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday night.

Videos from the scene showed a male heckler in the audience repeatedly shout, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that has been widely used as a call for the destruction of Israel.

While the disruptive audience member continued to chant in support of Israel’s extermination, Seinfeld ridiculed him, sarcastically telling the audience:  “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen! He’s solved the Middle East! He’s solved it: It’s the Jewish comedians, that’s who we have to get! They’re the ones doing everything.”

“Go ahead, keep going,” Seinfeld told the anti-Israel heckler as the audience laughed and cheered. “They’re gonna start punching you in about three second so I would try and get all of your genius out so we can all learn from you. It’s a comedy show you moron, get out of here.”

The heckler was eventually escorted out of the arena by security personnel and as he walked out of the venue, Seinfeld mocked him some more by sarcastically saying: “You’re really influencing everyone here. We’re all on your side because you have made your point so well and in the right venue. You’ve come to the right place for a political conversation. Tomorrow we will read in the paper: ‘Middle East, 100 percent solved thanks to man at the Qudos Arena stopping Jew comedian.’ They stop him and everyone in the Middle East went, ‘Oh my god, let’s just get along.’”

The “Seinfeld” creator then jokingly suggested that to solve issues with “indigenous Aboriginal people and the white people” maybe he should harass Australian comedian Jim Jefferies during a comedy show in New York because “if this works, that will work.”

“You have to go 20,000 miles from the problem and screw up a comedian. That is how you solve world issues,” Seinfeld quipped.

Seinfeld had a number of his comedy shows recently disrupted by anti-Israel activists because of his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University was also interrupted by similar protesters, who staged a walk-out shortly after he was introduced on stage.

During an interview last month, Seinfeld addressed protesters by saying: “It’s so dumb. In fact, when we get protesters occasionally, I love to say to the audience, ‘You know, I love that these young people, they’re trying to get engaged with politics … we just have to correct their aim a little bit.”

The post Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews

As an expert (self-proclaimed) in the female heterosexual gaze, I took note of the trend of the “hot rodent man.” Does this mean you’re attracted to the friendly mascot from Orkin Exterminator Co.? Maybe you do, maybe he’s tremendous, but no, “hot rodent man” refers to what is essentially the male equivalent of jolie laide, […]

The post Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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