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Zim Ola praises our ‘Travelling Rabbi’

Thank you Rabbi Silberhaft for this especially kind deed which has left such an impression upon me

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Letters/Discussion Forums

SHOSHANAH SHEAR

Appreciation to Rabbi Moshe

Silberhaft – The Travelling Rabbi

 
Shoshanah Shear of Beitar Illit, Israel, writes

I lost my father as a teenager, making me an orphan at a young age. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Since his death, I have had only one opportunity to visit his grave.

In the same cemetery where he is buried, my paternal grandfather is buried too. I grew up knowing only his name – the same as my father’s. Some years ago, I discovered that many graves of the Jewish cemeteries in Zimbabwe are now available online. Viewing his gravestone online allowed me to have what ever little connection I could have with him come alive. He was only 35 years old when he died, “a beautiful life cut short.”

Travelling Rabbi Silberhaft

RIGHT: Travelling Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft looks after SA country communities and Jews in a myriad of sub-Saharan countries

After the recent loss of my maternal grandfather and having read his memoirs of some 96 full years,

I found myself wanting to “reconnect” with my late father and paternal grandfather.
 
I considered the length of their lives – the brevity of my two father figures and it encouraged me to want to reach out to value who they were and what they did achieve in their short life, and what they possibly could have achieved had they too lived so much longer.

Found him on Facebook

I wondered how I could have some prayers recited at their graves or better yet, even have a letter of mine read out or left near the grave – my only “tangible” way of making some connection with them again. I thought this was an impossible wish but suddenly noticed on my Facebook page a link pop up advertising “The Travelling Rabbi’s” page. I was not sure what areas he travelled to, but decided to make contact and ask if he knew someone in Bulawayo who would be prepared to visit my father’s and grandfather’s graves.

TRAVELLING RABBI book cover
LEFT: Rabbi Silberhaft is the author, with Suzanne Belling, of a best-selling book on his travels and travails

Rabbi Silberhaft replied immediately. Not only did he know someone, but he himself would go on my behalf. Over the next few weeks Rabbi Silberhaft provided the most special guidance and support that I really never expected.

Not only was he prepared to recite Tehillim at these gravesides, but he agreed to take a letter to each. He was in fact prepared to read the letters on my behalf – but after having written so much of my personal story,
 
I asked him if he would simply leave the letters on the graves while he read Tehillim. Thereafter he would burn them.

 

His guidance was invaluable to me

He guided me as to what would be appropriate to include in a letter to a deceased parent / grandparent and the best way to use this to obtain the closure for myself that I needed. Rabbi Silberhaft offered kind words of encouragement and support, answering questions or just wishing me Shabbat Shalom.

Through connecting with Rabbi Silberhaft and seeing his posts of the communities he visits, he has enabled me to have some family history come alive, as both my families had a role to play in pioneers in various areas Rabbi Silberhaft travels too.

Finally, I received a message from Rabbi Silberhaft indicating the day and time he would be at my late father’s and grandfather’s graves and a suggestion to me to recite Tehillim at the same time if possible. By pure “coincidence” (aka Hashgacha Pratit – Divine Providence,) the day he messaged me to confirm final details, I reached the same age to the day that my late father had been when he left this world. Just a few days later, Rabbi Silberhaft not only carried out all he had agreed to, but also took the trouble to take photographs and send them to me.

Rabbi Silberhaft and his award
RIGHT: Rabbi Silberhaft is a past winner
of a
JEWISH REPORT ACHIEVERS AWARD

Such care, kindness and consideration I honestly never expected. I had hoped that Rabbi Silberhaft could find anyone to assist me with this, but received the honour from the Rabbi himself.

It was so much more special to have had the guidance, wisdom and kindness from a rabbi who is obviously both knowledgeable and sincere.

Words cannot truly describe the gratitude I feel for the kindness shown or the impact of this process in bringing closure to me, and enabling me to express the thoughts I had so often wanted to express to my late father, and to the grandfather neither I nor my father had ever met. Aside from discovering a very kind rabbi, I discovered once more the very powerful impact of the importance of proper Jewish burial in accordance with Torah Halachah. Thanks to my late father and grandfather being buried in a Jewish cemetery, I have been able to discover information I otherwise had no way to know, and to form a connection beyond the scope of visible relationships.

I feel humbled from the experience and deeply grateful to know that those of us who have come from communities that are dwindling, have such a special rabbi visiting, monitoring and taking care of these outside areas. I feel it is important that we recognise with great pride the type of rabbi we have who is attending to the needs of all the outlying communities in South Africa and the outlying areas close to SA.

Thank you Rabbi Silberhaft for this especially kind deed, which has left such an impression upon me.

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Tribute to a man who embodies Judaism at its best

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As the Torah observant manager of a busy food establishment and as a member of the Jewish community, I wish to give thanks and recognition to a pillar of righteousness.

Rabbi Yossi Baumgarten joined the United Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) kashrut department more than 40 years ago, and gave the prime of his life to serve the community.

No factory was too far. No mashgiach question was turned away, even if called at 01:00.

Baumgarten addressed kashrut matters with integrity and honesty, and with a zest and energy that motivated and inspired all those who had the privilege and honour to work with him.

I once had the privilege of going on a trip with Baumgarten. The man is utter Judaism. From the way he treats others, to the way he ties his shoes and walks. His greatness is in his kindness, humility, and truthfulness.

The UOS kashrut department has been internationally recognised for decades as a result of the sterling input of Baumgarten, and this is evident by the many calls and messages he would field throughout the day from people all over the world. Whether it be a call from the Orthodox Union or the OK or Star K certification agencies, or a mashgiach or local housewife, the Jewish local community and the kosher world at large owe Baumgarten a debt of gratitude.

On behalf of the Mashgiach Association, we wish Baumgarten much strength and success in all his future endeavours.

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Deafening silence about Afghanistan, hue and cry about Israel

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Tali Feinberg’s excellent piece in the SA Jewish Report (2 September) titled Africa4Palestine Compares Israel to Nazi Germany, offers sufficient expert academic opinion to totally discredit this narrative that is the backbone of the organisation’s campaign. That crusade together with the continuous use of the apartheid canard has one goal only: the total destruction and delegitimisation of Israel. Both apartheid and Nazi myths carry powerful emotive connotations.

While these falsehoods are somewhat over-played and over-used, Israel’s defensive operations are what elevates the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions organisation’s attack to a crescendo. Just months ago, the world erupted in a show of anger, with hordes filling the streets of capital cities, admonishing only Israel during a conflict with the Hamas terror group.

Contrast that to the recent get together in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad poured congratulations on the Taliban for the takeover of Afghanistan and broke bread together. These Sunni terror groups, including Al-Qaeda, share an ideology of gender violence and misogyny, and support each other in multiple ways. Of course, the Taliban’s unmentionable barbaric treatment of women has been well documented and condemned by most of the world.

Those throngs of protesters voicing thunderous support for Hamas, the blood brothers of the Taliban, now manifest a deafening silence. Where is “the squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib? Not forgetting Jewish college students on the left, who all had much to say in their condemnation of the only country in the region able to stand up to terrorism of this kind.

Are those protesters oblivious to the plight of Afghan girls and women?

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US left’s outrage over Kabul bombing smacks of hypocrisy

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As the deadline for the evacuation of those desperate to flee the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan approaches, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) detonated two deadly suicide explosions in the airport precinct of Kabul, killing more than 60 civilians together with 13 United States (US) military personnel.

This tragedy as the events in Afghanistan unfold bought home the reality of having to contend with these types of contemptable and despicable atrocities that aren’t foreign to the Middle East – not to forget where suicide bombing originated more than 20 years ago.

The untimely deaths of the 13 US servicemen has had a profound effect on the psyche of the American public, whose outrage is expressed in most prominent press reports, and is a stark reminder of the dangers of foreign assistance to unstable areas around the world.

Why should American boys die while defending freedom and democracy, is a question on everybody’s lips.

Most Americans, from Democratic liberals to the Republicans, are outraged and incensed – about the only time that the two agree on anything. Even those high-profile celebrities, with the likes of “The Squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. Not to forget Trevor Noah and the Hadid girls, and of course, the left Jewish college students, who all had much to say in their condemnation of the only country in the region able to stand up to terrorism of this kind.

Just a short while back, these good folk were singing the praises of another organisation, the actual founders and inventors of suicide attacks, in fact showing no remorse whatsoever that such attacks are perpetrated against other democracies. In those cases, the perpetrators are the heroes, and the victims condemned by this coterie. Would this set be accused of hypocrisy? Surely not, given the outrage demonstrated today in the US.

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