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Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, revered haredi leader in Israel, dies at 100



(JTA) — Hundreds of thousands of mourners crowded into Bnei Brak Tuesday for the funeral of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, head of the Lithuanian Ponevezh Yeshiva and one of the most influential religious leaders in Israel.

In addition to running the yeshiva, one of the most prestigious in the haredi Orthodox world, for more than two decades, Edelstein was the spiritual leader of Degel HaTorah, a faction of Israel’s United Torah Judaism political party that played a key role in the formation of the current government.

In the last year of his life, after the death of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at 94, Edelstein was awarded the title of “gadol hador,” or “greatest of the generation.” He had succeeded Kanievsky as the leader of Israel’s non-Hasidic haredi community, and his death is seen as leaving that community without a clear leader for the first time.

Edelstein was considered somewhat moderate for his approach toward interacting with the secular Israeli world while still remaining attuned to the needs of his devout community, where he was revered for his humane approach to teaching.

“Rabbi Edelstein was a spiritual leader of enormous stature whose greatness in Torah and devout greatness influenced our generation and will influence generations to come,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a statement on Twitter. “This is a great loss to the yeshiva world and the entire nation of Israel.”

Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, head of the Ponevezh Yeshiva, and spiritual leader of the Degel haTorah party in Israel, in Bnei Brak, Israel, May 30, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Born to a family of rabbis near Smolensk in the Soviet Union, Edelstein and his father and brothers immigrated to pre-state Israel in 1934. Edelstein eventually settled in Bnei Brak, where in 1943, he became one of the first students of the Ponevezh Yeshiva when it was reestablished there after closing in Nazi-occupied Lithuania. He married Henya Rachel Diskin in 1947, the same year he took a top title at the yeshiva. In the 1990s, a disagreement between two leaders at the yeshiva led to a schism, and Edelstein became the top leader of one of the factions. (Both groups still meet in the same building.) He stayed in that role until his death, reportedly continuing to teach until this week despite having been hospitalized.

Edelstein advocated for Orthodox families to maintain ties with children who became secular, and attributed the non-observance of Jewish law by secular Jews to ignorance rather than the wickedness cited by more extremist haredi leaders. He also embraced Orthodox Israelis who chose to serve in the army, in an apparent rejection of the stance of some haredi leaders who characterize those who choose army service as rejecting Torah study.

Also unlike some other haredi leaders, Edelstein advocated caution during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first round of High Holidays during the pandemic, Edelstein pushed for outdoor prayer quorums that maintained social distancing or indoor prayers in a well-ventilated area, both with congregants wearing masks. When the COVID-19 vaccines were produced, Edelstein also recommended that everyone 12 years and older get vaccinated.

He had a heavily regimented daily schedule, waking up at 5:30 a.m. to make it in time to pray morning services by 7 a.m., with a full day of teaching, learning and praying until midnight. According to a 2017 profile in Israel HaYom, he also adhered to the so-called “Rambam diet” (named for the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides) and ate vegetables, cheese and half a slice of whole-grain bread in the morning and in the evening. While he would eat a cooked lunch, the profile explained, he had not eaten sweets in 80 years.

From his perch at the top of the yeshiva, Edelstein also served as president of the Council of Yeshivas, an organization that supports yeshivas in Eastern Europe.

Israeli president Isaac Herzog (right, holding microphone) visits Rabbi Gershon Edelstein (left) in Bnei Brak in 2021. (Wikimedia)

In his capacity as a spiritual advisor of the Degel HaTorah party, Edelstein is most recently known for demanding that the Belz Hasidic sect drop an agreement with the education ministry to teach more secular studies in exchange for increased government funding. His success in pressing the group to drop the demand preserved the United Torah Judaism ticket of religious parties, allowing the bloc to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government last year.

He also drew widespread attention in 2021 after the suicide of haredi children’s book author and alleged serial sexual abuser Chaim Walder, when Edelstein claimed that Walder’s victims who spoke up about his abuse were responsible for his death.

“It is clear that the great pressure he was under led him to lose his sanity and kill himself. This is called murder,” Edelstein said.

Edelstein’s wife Henya died in 2001. Among his survivors are sons who are rabbis in Israel, at least one of whom spoke at his funeral.

“Our father did not want to pressure us, or anyone else, into devoutness,” Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Edelstein said during a eulogy, according to Israeli media. “Make no mistake: He wanted us to be devout, but from within, not from without.”

The post Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, revered haredi leader in Israel, dies at 100 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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