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The fruit of Tunisia

Dear Friends,

It was at Menorah Lighting at the Legislature that I met Yosef for the first time, I invited him to come for Services at Chabad Family Shul.  He came once, and decided that he would make it part of his Shabbat schedule.  I noticed that Yosef was very fluent with the Service - I thought it might be a good story....

Finally, as we were preparing for the Kiddush I had a moment to chat with Yosef. When I heard that he had spent his childhood in Tunisia, I asked if he knew my great uncle who had lived there for many years. 

rabbi pinson.jpgRabbi Nissan Pinson, my grandmother’s brother, grew up in communist Russia, attending underground schools. His father, Rabbi Nachum Pinson, was exiled to Siberia for his commitment to Jewish education, where he ended his short life in great suffering. After World War II, Rabbi Nissan arrived in France, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the campaign of sending emissaries to strengthen Jewish life around the world. Rabbi Pinson and his wife Rochel accepted the Rebbe's plea and traveled to North Africa, where he became the Chabad Rabbi of Tunisia, serving the community for over 50 years until his very last days.(In the Picture: Rabbi Pinson and his sister, my grandmother, Mrs. Sara Kaplan). 

"Not only do I know Rabbi Pinson,” Yosef responds to my question, "his Shul was a block and a half from my home. This is a part of my childhood memories of Jewish life.”

Rabbi Pinson was of the greatest Rabbis of our time, he was a man of great statue on his own, a Torah scholar, devoted to serving his creator. At the same time he was loved and admired by Jews and non-Jews who knew him, and was able to build infrastructure of Jewish life throughout the country. I met Rabbi Pinson just a few times in my life, but he and his wife always represented for me and my generation the responsibility and the determination of a spiritual leader.

During a week when our eyes were on Tunisia, praying for the safety and well being of the community there - I met Yosef, who grew up with Chabad in Islamic Tunisia, now reconnecting with Chabad in Victoria, BC. 

I'm humbled by the opportunity to see, and perhaps harvest, the fruits of the toil of my great uncle, Rabbi Nissan Pinson.  

The power of a Mitzvah

Dear Friends,

David (pseudonym), a young Jewish boy from the States, was backpacking around the North West. A few weeks ago he was hospitalized in the psychiatric hospital in Victoria. His loving family was with him for some time, doing all that they possibly could to support him through this difficult time. During that time, I visited him a few times and managed to develop a relationship with David. 

When the family needed to leave, they asked me if I'd be willing to visit with David regularly and be a support for him.  I was honoured to do that.

I enjoyed these visits very much. David is a brilliant, kind and charming man, and the time we spend together was enjoyable and a great learning experience for me. I spoke to his family frequently, updating them on my observations.

Earlier this week I received an email from a man who I have never spoken to before, expressing his appreciation for my efforts.  This man, not even a blood relative to David, completed his letter with: "Thank you again for being so kind. It makes me feel very proud to be Jewish and I have not always felt that way.”

The Ripple effect of a good deed is beyond imagination; sometimes we get a glimpse into it. A Mitzvah in Victoria, BC made a man in Washington, DC proud to be Jewish. No wonder, that's the power of a Mitzvah.

"My Zeidy"

Dear Friends,  

Last Shabbat, as I gave the weekly sermon, for some reason, I ended the speech in an uncharacteristic way.  Hours later I was blown away by what happened.   

The topic of the speech was about the special grandparents-grandchildren link in Jewish tradition, which is the secret of Jewish survival. When I was about to finish, a song came to my mind called "My Zeidy" which talks about the Zeidy-grandchild relationship in our generation, so I shared it with the listeners.  I explained that it was written and composed by Moshe Yess, and at the spur of the moment I started singing the last paragraph of this beautiful song and that’s how I ended the talk.
  
At the lunch someone asked to sing the entire song, so we did, all together. Many of the people sitting around the table were deeply moved. For the rest of Shabbat my children didn't stop singing the chorus of the song over and over...
  
On Sunday chills ran through my body when I was told that Moshe Yess passed away on Saturday evening at the age of 65... Prior to this Shabbat I never spoke about Moshe, or sang any of his songs in Shul, and now, moments before Moshe's soul departed, we all sang "My Zeidy", perhaps the last community to be inspired from Moshe while he was still alive...
  
May Moshe be remembered for "My Zeidy" and his other songs which brought many Jewish people back home.

Please take a moment to watch Moshe Yess sing "My Zeidy" in Toronto in 1990.  May this be for his memory.

Scach in the snow

Dear Friends,

Some of you may have met Michael and Jo, a lovely couple from New York, who made it a habit to spend most of their summers in Victoria. When they come they are always willing to help and support, but this is not what I’m going to write to you about.

Earlier this week, Michael called me to tell me his personal story of the New York snow storm; I'll let him take over now...

"It was at the peak of the storm, there was about 2 ft. of snow. The city wasn't able to help us with clearing the street and there was a big mess. Outside my home there was a garbage truck that was turning its wheels in vain... The driver’s effort didn't seem to be productive, there was too much snow, the truck wouldn’t move.  For three and a half hours he was stuck there trying different techniques, but no luck.

"Watching the poor man, a strange idea came to my mind - my old Schach. In my storage there was a bundle of bamboo sticks, which used to be the Schach of my Sukkah. Not knowing precisely how this is going to help - I rushed to get them. I shleped them out and the driver and I laid them together under his wheels; within 20 minutes he was out of there. I got another Mitzvah done with my Sukkah..."

"I know it's not a major story," Michael adds, "but I thought you'd like it"...

He was right, I liked it. There is something to like when one sees a person in trouble and instead of being entertained by it - thinks of how they can help. There is something to enjoy when someone becomes creative not when they were in need, but when someone else was desperate. I thought you may like it as well.

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