Category Archives: community info

Drasha in honor of Chicago Hatzalah

Drasha for Hatzalah Chicago – by Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.
by Hatzalah Chicago on Monday, May 9, 2011 at 8:37pm
On April 3, 2011, Hatzalah Chicago had a beautiful dinner to congratulate its first EMT-B graduating class and to honor the wives of Hatzalah graduates for their unyielding support.

Rabbi Matanky graced us with his presence and delivered a most moving drasha for Hatzalah Chicago:

I was thinking of beginning my brief remarks this evening with a story from Hatzola – one of the amazing but absolutely true accounts that have appeared in the press or on the internet – those selfless acts of compassion, daring deeds of rescue and split-second decisions that have saved countless lives.

I really was thinking of beginning that way… but then I realized that knowing so many of you – the best Hatazola stories are yet to be told – because Hatzalah of Chicago is yet to begin saving lives and creating those stories.
And so this evening – instead – I’ve decided to share with you a story that is more than 150 years old – a story of the terrible cholera epidemic which claimed the lives of hundreds of Jews in Vilna and the response of one of our greatest Torah luminaries – someone that Reb Chaim described as having the stature of a ראשון – the great Reb Yisrael Lipkin, or as we know him – Reb Yisrael Salanter, זצ”ל

The year was 1848, and not unlike our modern day organizers of Hatzalah, when Reb Yisrael saw the medical emergency of his time, he jumped into action, renting a hospital with hundreds of beds, enlisting the aid of volunteer doctors and organizing dozens of “yeshiva yungerleit” to serve the needs of those afflicted with that terrible disease.

Under his direction, people worked day and night – the doctors administering medical care, and the “yungerleit” supporting all of the other needs of the patients – whether chopping wood for fuel, lighting fires, or anything else, regardless if it was a weekday or Shabbos.

One Friday night, among those stricken was the grandson of one of the “g’virim” of Vilna, Reb Yosef Chalfan. And… as these “yungerleit” had done for so many others – they cared for him, doing melacha on Shabbos – until he was out of mortal danger.

Soon afterwards, the grandfather appeared before Reb Yisrael, grateful for saving his grandson’s life – but humbly and respectfully suggesting that perhaps… the “yungerleit” did a little too much, that maybe others – who weren’t the creme de la creme of the yeshiva community – should have been called upon to work on Shabbos.

Hearing this, and fearing that such an attitude could jeopardize his entire life-saving campaign, Reb Yisrael uncharacteristically attacked this “g’vir” – accusing him in the strongest of language of challenging his halachic knowledge, his judgement and his ability to lead.

In fact, Reb Yisrael’s verbal attack was so powerful –  that R’ Yosef Chalfan immediately removed his shoes, sat on the ground as if he was sitting shiva, and begged Reb Yisrael for forgiveness.

Tonight, nearly 162 years later we have gathered to honor and to celebrate – the very same mitzvah that Reb Yisrael defended so fiercely – a mitzvah that according to the חתם סופר is greater than שבת and greater than building even the Beit HaMikdash – or in his words –  עדיף מן ?הכל – greater than everything; and therefore it’s a mitzvah that WE – the frum members of our community should be proud to fulfill with our best and brightest…

Tonight we have the זכות to honor and celebrate the מצוה of SAVING LIVES – NOT when it’s convenient, but when it’s needed – 24/7 – on weekdays and on שבת and on יום טוב.

And on behalf of the rabbonim of the community I want each and every one of you to know – that when in a few months from now, Hatzalah actively begins it’s efforts – we are behind you every step of the way.

And therefore, while I pray that no one is ever sticken ill – if they are, and if I have the zechus to see one of you driving to respond to an emergency ON Shabbos – I and all of the rest of the רבני העיר will be cheering you on, proud that we have frum people who understand what הקב”ה truly wants from us.

Which is to be “partners” in His world, to recognize that true and lasting kedusha emanates, not from passive acquiesence – but active involvement.

For as Rav Soloveitchik, זצ”ל taught, Har Sinai, the site of the most sacred and exalted event of all time, is today bereft of any קדושה. While the most sacred site in the world is הר הבית. Why? Because at Sinai, G-d reached out us. While at Har HaBayit, WE reached out to הקב”ה – we because partners with the Divine.

And that’s the reason your work on behalf of Hatzalah is a true מלאכת הקודש, because you are partnering with הקב”ה.

Which is something that Reb Matisyahu Solomon, once taught – a lesson about the prayer of אבינו מלכינו.

Asked the mashgiach of Lakewood, what are we really asking for when we say – Avinu Malkeinu – our father our king, זכרינו לזכויות – remember us for merit?

Are we asking Him to give us credit for things we didn’t do – to give us merit that is undeserved!?

Obviously not. Rather, what זכרינו לזכויות means is that we are asking הקב”ה to give us the ability to DO great things – to give us the opportunity that not everyone has… to achieve זכויות.

And that’s what we are celebrating tonight – we are celebrating the MEN who will be given the זכות to save lives – and thereby are partnering with God. And we are celebrating their wives, who have not only stepped in so that their husbands could study, but are now ready to allow their husbands to sometimes leave them – on a moments notice – leave them and their families – for the sake of others and thereby THEY are partnering with God; and we are celebrating all those who have taught these men and who have organized this sacred effort – all the while creating זכויות –  – and thereby partnering with God and building the merit of our community – לשם ולתפארת – according to halacha and with the support and the gratitude of our community.

And so, on behalf of an entire community, and in the name of the rabbonim who have the honor to offer some assistance, I thank all of you – and I look forward to those stories of miracles and wonders, of lives that will be saved and lives that will be rescued.

May הקב”ה bless you with limitless זכויות, with boundless commitment and with the guidance to lead, serve and save.

Sent via Blackberry by AT&T

Starbucks turns 40 and I’ll be drinking…

This morning on Facebook, I posted:
Tomorrow is a big day, as Starbucks unveils a new cup size for iced drinks called the “Trenta”- 31oz. No, I don’t work for SBUX, but I find it funny that technology makes things smaller internally and Starbucks tries to educate us that we need more externally.

While I have been a fan of Starbucks since ’92, I am also aware that since January of 2008 the cRc has been, well, not as into Big Green as I am.

Without getting into links, pdfs, and checklists, my celebration of Starbucks’ newest iced drink size, all 31oz of it, will be low-key, as I run into a building that houses a kiosk.  While SBUX is telling us we need an even bigger sized iced coffee, those who are careful with what they put in their mouths kashurus-wise are using their research to let the public now how limited their choices might actually be.  

I will say, that I survived Starbucks switching from making Frappuccinos out of coffee, sugar, milk and ice to becoming a product I wouldn’t digest.  I survived White Mocha switching from a Kof-K D.E. syrup to something I haven’t ordered in a billion years, and I’ll live with the “checklist”.  I’m curious why the all important checklist hasn’t been circulated among shuls in Chicago, but I’m sure that day will come.  Meanwhile, I pray I have as much passion about my own religious lifestyle as those out there who are passionate about important topics of the day like the decay of morals in society, rampant drug use among teens and adults, sexual predators, kids at-risk, and, oh yeah, what can I drink at Starbucks and where can I buy it.

If your biggest problem is the location of where you can get a drip coffee or an iced Americano then you’re way ahead of me.

Rockin’ two of my favorite seforim on the iTouch

A few weeks ago I discovered that you can go to Apple’s App Store and get (for free) Mesillas Yesharim for the iPhone, iTouch, and iPad.

The Mesillas Yesharim app is pretty straightforward, letting you chose either Hebrew or English.  The English translation is fairly basic.  Of course, if you really want to learn the sefer in English, I strongly suggest finding a copy of R Yaakov Feldman’s excellent translation and commentary (I recently, after searching for a few years, found a copy at a reasonable price and it’s like I’m learning the sefer for the first time again).  A full review of this app is available at

I also, using the built in pdf reader in iBooks, was able to put the original English translation of Rav Hirsch’s The Nineteen Letters on my iTouch.  To upload it on your device, simply download it onto your computer, then import the pdf into iTunes (use the “add a file” option) and it will load and default under “books”.  Then just plug in your iToy and drag the “book” to your your decice (the same way you would drag a song, album, playlist, or shiur) and sync.

Hatzalah Chicago

Hatzlah Chicago isn’t active yet. To find out more see their website and read an article about them in Jewish Image.

Hatzalah Chicago is a non-profit volunteer emergency medical service that provides emergency medical response 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at no cost to all who need it, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. Hatzalah Chicago’s mission is to improve medical outcomes and save lives by enhancing existing emergency medical services in the Chicagoland area.

In emergency medical situations where every second counts, immediate emergency care can mean the difference between life and death. Hatzalah’s role is to stabilize patients until 911 arrives and then transfer care to them. Company Overview:Hatzalah Chicago was formed to enhance pre-hospital care and develop a higher level of emergency preparedness and support in the Chicagoland Jewish Community by augmenting the existing services provided by the municipalities. In emergency medical situations where every second counts, community members deserve to have access to the best possible care. Within the next year, Hatzalah Chicago’s goal is to provide emergency medical response 24 hours a day, 7 days a week within defined geographical boundaries in Lincolnwood, Peterson Park, Skokie, and West Rogers Park.

Hatzalah Chicago was formed as a branch of Hatzalah, the largest volunteer emergency medical service and ambulance provider in the United States, with over 90 ambulances, several thousand volunteers and numerous branches serving communities throughout the U.S. and the world. In the U.S., Hatzalah is in full force throughout Jewish communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Miami, Maryland and California. While each organization is completely independent, they share the same goal – to save lives.

Hatzalah has proven successful in communities worldwide and is needed in Chicago for the following reasons:

* TO SAVE LIVES. Hatzalah has saved thousands of lives in other communities because its volunteers are local and live and work in high population areas. Hatzalah volunteers will be in our schools, shuls, etc. and can quickly stabilize patients until medical emergency resources arrive on scene.

* TO PROVIDE THE BEST POSSIBLE CARE. Hatzalah volunteers approach each call with a fresh enthusiasm to comfort and save lives. They bring a sense of urgency and compassion that is unparalleled because their patients are also their friends, family and neighbors.

* TO ACTIVATE THE EMERGENCY MEDICAL SYSTEM. Hatzalah members may already be on-scene or called when community members initially hesitate to dial 911 because they are uncertain if medical attention is necessary or are reluctant because they are underinsured or uninsured. A quick assessment by an Emergency Medical Technician may encourage the patient to seek definitive care sooner than they would have otherwise. Better medical outcomes usually reflect faster care.

* TO PROMOTE SENSITIVITY AND UNDERSTANDING. Hatzalah members are trained in both emergency medicine and Jewish law, and with an understanding of the unique needs of the community, are sensitive to cultural considerations and can direct patients to go to the hospital when they may not otherwise. For instance, a Hatzalah member’s explanation of the severity of a patient’s symptoms may alleviate the fear of chillul shabbat and inspire keeping the mitzvah of hatzalat nefashot, a form of patient advocacy that can only be provided from within the community.

The (moving) Sign of the Times

Photo taken by me

I usually steer away from writing things that express my opinions, especially regarding the community I live in (which I happen to like).  However, yesterday was the last day of business for Rosenblum’s World of Judaica, which is moving out of my neighborhood to the suburb of Skokie, just about a 15 minute drive from me.

I understand why they are moving, due to the cultural change in our neighborhood’s main drag, Devon Ave.
Rosenblum’s was sort of the last great anchor on the street (which does boast a fish market, two all-kosher grocery stores, a bakery, a number of shuls, a certified Dunkin Donuts/Baskin-Robbins, and several shomer Shabbos businesses).

As I walked around the block from where I live to Rosenblum’s yesterday afternoon, I was sad.  Back in the day, well between 1998-2006, when we would come up from Indianapolis to visit friends, buy fresh meat, and occasionally eat out, Devon was different.  There was, at the time, also another seforim store, a pizza joint (we still have several in the greater Chicago area), another fish market, a sit down Chinese restaurant and more importantly, there was a feeling of a “Jewish” neighborhood.  For me, the main attraction was Rosenblums.  I love walking through the aisles and seeing both the newer seforim and older “one copy left” type books.  They have an extensive music section, gifts, kiddush cups, menorahs, kids items, etc.  They sell siddurim, chumashin, machzorim, etc to many instituions aross the country.  My father a”h was the one who arranged for his congregation in Wichita, Kansas to get their Artscroll sidduim and Stone chumashim from Rosenblum’s.  Each member of their staff, even yesterday when they were swamped, makes you feel you are their only customer.

In addition, they serve the greater community, meaning not just the Orthodox.  Many non-Orthodox customers came in to buy items and many gentiles, too.  Many a Sunday I would walk to their store, around the corner from me, and as I was looking for a Pirkei Avos or a shopping for seforim from the “school list” for my kids, I’d hear Mr. Fox giving a tour and having an intense question and answer session with groups of non-Jews or high school or college comparative religion students.  The store itself was/is a reminder that that we are, as clichéd as it sounds, a “people of the Book”.

We, as a family, pretty much split our shopping between Rosenblum’s and the other store in town (just a mile north), in hopes of supporting both Jewish businesses.  However, the convience of having a store so close to home is something that I will lament.  While it’s a loss that most people in my own neighborhood will probably feels bad about, I doubt that most will not talk about it until a store moves into their old location that doesn’t serve our Jewish community.  Then they will say, “I wish Rosenblum’s had stayed.”  

The good news it that their new store will be bigger, have free parking, is only about 15 minutes from me, and is more accessable for those in the suburbs.  Another plus, is that it seems a new pizza/itialian restaurant will be opening right next door to them before the end of 2010.

Rosenblum’s World of Judaica plans to be opened the first week of Novmember at 9153 Gross Point Road,
Skokie, IL 60077.  There phone number remains the same, (773) 262-1700, although I’m not sure how they were able to keep the same area code and phone number, even though they moved out of Chicago.

While the saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” certainly doesn’t apply for Devon Ave in Chicago, I can only hope that other stores in the area don’t close or move.

Now I almost feel like a Chicagoian

Ok, after almost 4.5 years I think I’ve begun to feel like a Chicagoian.  From my days as an NCSYer, learning in E”Y, YU, and then working professionally for NCSY I’ve always been friendly with people from Chicago.  Having a core group of families that we were close here was a major draw to our choice to move here.  That being said, many people from Chicago who move to the East Coast have an almost hypnotic tranced induced manta that “Chicago is the best city”.  I use to just shrug them off and smile.
I won’t even touch the inyanim involved in the machloches, but I will say that reading some of the comments regarding this post at Beyond BT, I am very proud to live in Chicago.  I still call soda “soda”, I only refer to Skokie “Yeshev’vah” as HTC, I have figured out what “kitty corner” is, and I know what a “gapers delay” is.

Base on the above linked post I’d like to offer a few local links that might be helpful to people.  These are in no particular order whatsoever.

Chicago Rabbinical Council’s Guide to Chicago
Chicago Chessed Fund (which also includes Job Link and Simcha Link)
Chicago Center for Torah and Chessed (they run a multitude of chessed programs and minyanim daily)
Yeshiva Migdal Torah
JET (Jewish Educational Team)
CTN (Chicago Torah Network)
TLC (Torah Learning Center of Northbrook)
YU Torah Mitzion Kollel
Chicago Community Kollel
Skokie Community Kollel
Lubavitch Chabad of Illnois
Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago
Walder Educational Pavilion of Torah Umesorah
Bernard Horwich JCC
Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metro Chicago
Jewish Child and Family Services
SHALVA (helping domestic violence victims )
Jewish Vocational Service
Midwest NCSY