Category Archives: community info

Hanging out: Teenagers

A friend of mine alerted me to this letter that was recently published in Where What When in Baltimore:

To The Editor,

I would like to address the ongoing problem of teenages going astray in our community. The question is where are the teenagers supposed to “hang out”? Some families in our community think they have the answer, which is to open their homes as the “cool” place for teenagers to hang out. These families do not always have teen-aged children themselves but permit actvities in their home that the teens’ own parents parents would not allow. Why would their home be the ideal place for teens to be? Perhaps they have a big television, a Wii for gaming, and other home entertainments that might not be at the teen’s home. Is that really the only solution we can provide?

What about Shabbos afternoons? Once again, there are families that think they can provide the perfect opportunity for teens to be supervised in a “kosher” environment. My question is, is this really in the best interest of our teenagers?

The shuls in our community have activities for yough children, such as Bnos and Pirchei, but nothing for our teenagers. Why can’t we offer our teens organized activities? There are so many opportunities available: like visiting nursing homes as a group, learning programs, games, and other organized activities geared for teens.

It is time for the rabbis and community organizers to take action to protect our teens and direct them to use their time in a productive and true Torah way.


I’ve been sitting on this post for a few weeks.   I wrote a letter to the editor.  What follows is the basically what I sent in.
I realized that that the author is trying to address two issues:
1)  Kids hanging out in private homes
2)  Lack of organized Shabbos activites for teens

Regarding the first issue, what’s really so wrong with teenagers “hanging out” in a private home with parents supervising?  I know, as a parent, I would much rather have my children spending time at someone’s home instead of sneaking around with me knowing under adult supervision.  If a family doesn’t chose to have a television in their home and they don’t want their child “hanging out” with kids watching television, then tell you child “No”.  I understand the Yetzer Hara to condemn another family for making a “cool place to hang out” must be incredibly stronger than the Yetzer Tov to actually be a parent that is involved and has a relationship with their on child.  A relationship that allows a parent to say “No.  I don’t want you watching television or playing Wii”, has to be based on true respect and honesty between parent and child.  A relationship like that takes time and hard work.  Most of us can’t even find time check email mail, these days , let alone attempt to forge a relationship with our children.

However, would you rather have your teenager hanging out with other teens unsupervised behind your back?  Trust me, there are plenty of nice “frum” boys and girls who do things secretly that would make their mothers flip their sheitels.  I think it’s great that someone is opening their home to teenagers in a supervised way.  I take my kids to the “Shabbos park” and I notice groups of teenage boys hanging out without girls around.  I also see teenage girls chilling out without any boys around.  I also, every so often, see a mixed group.  If the teenagers are not at the park then they must be someplace else and doing something else.

Now, the second issue is something that seems like common sense.  Why not have organized programming available to teens is a community?  I think if NCSY, Bnai Akiva, or a local Agudath Israel or a community Kollel were to set up options like the letter writer suggested it would be awesome.  Of course, then we get into the issue of should the program be separate-gender.  I would suggest there be various tracks, so children and parents can choose.

My oldest uber-child is only 9 years old.  I’m not sure if a co-ed program would interest him when he’s a teenager.  I do know that unsupervised hanging-out isn’t the best option.  I spent plenty of years (pre-observance and after I became observant, as well) hanging out at homes when parents were not around.  I will only say that we hung out at these homes, dafka, because parents were not around.  If parents take the initiative to open their homes, the better off those teens are.

One nifty thing about using sitemeter is that I see the city where those looking at my blog are in. I know that I have over 30 readers in the Chicagoland area (I personally only know of about 5 that have come out and said, “I read your blog”), but I know you are out there. If you’re going online already why not check out ?

From their press release: has officially launched this Chanukah as the first email listserv connecting the entire Chicago Jewish community. The site features an interactive Chicago Jewish community email listserv, as well as user-updated event calendar, business directory, and real estate listing sections. Additionally, created partnerships to provide Illinois specific RSS feeds from,, and, and Kosher dining discount cards through, which was built by community members for community members, offers its users access to the email announcement listserv in three different ways: receiving each individual message that is posted, receiving a daily digest of all messages posted, or by viewing the messages directly on the site’s homepage. On the homepage, emails are archived in various categories such as advice, events, for sale, job opportunities, general information, business services, and mitzva (charitable) opportunities. Users may subscribe to a daily digest of the listserv by sending a blank email to

Those who read this blog know that I’m all for achdus. I feel that this new website and listserv is another way for those of us in the Great Chicago area, and even those who don’t live here, to connect. It’s another way to post an important message. Imagine how many people you could reach by posting that, for example, Tehillim need to be said for someone that is sick?

Just like Likutei Peshatim and the Achdus Bulletin provide important communication services in our community, I feel that will do the same. Yashar Koach to their creative team and keep up the good work.

The Brew-ha-ha with Starbucks

(Typical Iced Cappuccino made by me at home)

The Chicago Rabbinical Council recently posted a very informative article by Rabbi Sholem Fishbane discussing the kashrus issues involving lattes and your local coffee chain or coffee house. To see the article, click the cRc link and then click the photo of a latte. He states that the cRc policy currently is “not to recommend the consumption of the ever popular latte purchase from a non-certified coffee house.” He’s currently working on a follow up article dealing with other drinks at Starbucks. I, as a consumer, found this article very well researched and insightful.

Ah, I recall with joy the days when you could go into a Starbucks and watch them actually make your Frappuccino as they poured iced coffee, sugar, and ice into a blender that was only used for that product. Times changed, people wanted their drinks faster and a “hand made” Frap got replaced by a concentrated boxed liquid without hashgacha. Mocha syrup became an issue that needed t to be discussed with a Rabbi, and then new flavor syrups for both espresso drinks and Frappuccinos started popping up. A cup of anything besides coffee or straight espresso got problematic, as most kashrus agencies would say.

The truth is that I hope this article lights a fire for some entrepreneur to open a small coffee bar or even full service coffee house under cRc supervision in the greater Chicagoland area. If someone reading this is interested, I’d be happy to be a consultant. For additional info on what one might be able to drink at, for example, Starbucks, I suggest the following links, in addition to reading R Fishbane’s article.

Rabbi Fishbane’s article “The Kashrus Status of the Popular Latté
Dallas Kosher’s guide to Starbucks drinks

Missionaries and the Jedi Mind Trick

Recently, while leaving a kosher supermarket in Skokie, IL, I noticed a man putting out a stack of booklets titled “THE END IS NEAR” published by the “Assembly of God” near the entrance/exit of the store.

I was in a good mood and knowing that a lot of non-observant Jews go shopping at this store, I felt that I needed to do something. I approached the man and said, “Hi.” He replied back and then I looked him in the eyes and said, in my best Jedi voice (soft, yet sure of myself), “Please, give me all of your booklets, now.”
He told me that I could have one. I then said, “These are not the coverts that you are looking for. Please give me all of your booklets now.”
“These are not the…what?” he said.
“These Jews that go shopping here are not the converts that you are looking for. You’re better off giving your booklets to non-Jews”, I told him. Again I said, “Please, give me all of your booklets now.”
“I’d be happy to give you one”, was his reply this time.
“Nevertheless, you will give me all of your booklets. Do you not believe in your New Testament?” I asked.
“Sure I do”, he said.
“Are you familiar with Luke 6:30? I believe it says, “Give to he who asks…”
“Yeah, I guess it does,” he said.
“So my friend. I would like all of your booklets,” I said.
I got them!
As I walked away, I smiled to him and left with these words, “You serve your master well and you will be rewarded.”
Of couse, the booklets ended up in the garbage.

Jewish Rock 101

Note: The following was sent to me by Ruby Harris. While we are not related, we do share the same neighborhood.

The Inventors of Jewish Rock,one of the first modern Klezmer bands, Innovators at the turning point in the history of Jewish music,The band that started it all,The Diaspora Yeshiva Band

By Ruby Harris, Original member on Violin, Mandolin, Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals

Jewish music history can be divided into two periods: BD and AD, which stands for Before and After the Diaspora Yeshiva Band. The music before us was so different than the music after us. So many innovations and musical arrangements used daily in the Jewish music world are direct products of the influence of this band at the turning point. Most of your favorite music today is somehow a derivative of the DYB, the band that started it all. Several of today’s hottest acts are actually either composed of members of the original DYB or their children, and of course countless students, followers, and fans.

But it wasn’t always so…

If Rock n’ Roll was born in the 50s, and the 60s saw it be fruitful and multiply, then the 70s saw an interesting phenomenon when some of these musicians began to find that old time religion, and in the Holy Land of Israel in particular some of them gathered in a very musical and spiritual place on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, and formed a band that was called “The Diaspora Yeshiva Band”. From approximately 1976 to 1986 3 things occurred: 1) they became one of the most popular bands in Jewish music. 2) The Jewish music before this time was about to go through what can only be described as the same basic transformation that the world of popular music went through with the Beatles, and 3) The old Jewish/Yiddish music was re-discovered and became amalgamated with new worlds of music. Innovations, emulations, and revelations were suddenly overtaking the Jewish world, and the DYB can be viewed as either credited with or guilty of manifesting this transformation. Today of course, most Jewish music has some rock sounds incorporated within, but back then it was unheard of, and such a thing bordered on the taboo.

Almost parallel to the first Rock’n Roll stars and their society, the union of Rock with Jews didn’t come so smoothly, it was a rocky road at first, particularly in the years roughly from 1973-1982. Jewish music didn’t catch up with the rest of the world so fast. I remember one time we were doing a concert at the Jerusalem Theater and after the show someone comes up to us and emotionally expressed his disapproval of the Holy words being fused with rock sounds (Elvis and Ray Charles got the same reaction).

Also in that early gestation period, there was the sensation that the DYB caused at the Chassidic Song Festival. We won first place 2 years in a row, thus causing the voting committee to re-write the rules so that we don’t take over…

The great Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was also a victim, in those years and even earlier, of the old problem of being an innovator: the public simply was not ready. But we’re in good company-Mozart, Benny Goodman, and Bob Dylan also met with resistance until the world came around. We played many concerts with Shlomo.

Klezmer? The old Hebrew-Yiddish word had not yet even begun to be re-discovered and re-used yet, and we were continuously toggling with what to call our new genre: Yiddish Jazz? Chassidic Rock? Country & Eastern Music, Rhythm & Jews, Jewgrass, who knows? We took an old Jewish wedding standard, added a rhythm section, a hot clarinet, a seething guitar solo, a devil-went-down-to-Georgia-type fiddle breakdown, and some extended Kabalistic jams and it wasn’t long before the listening public took notice that that old Jewish music wasn’t so out of date after all. I remember a phone call and a visit from David Grey, one of the members of the new-genre group “The Klezmorim”, who came to my home in Jerusalem for an interview, plus, an early wedding involved sitting-in for some tunes at the old legendary New York restaurant Lou G. Seigles with Hankus Netsky and Don Byron of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, both bands being the first of the new “klezmer” bands in those pre-natal years. At a concert in Philadelphia, our opening act was the newly formed Kapelye with Henry Sapoznik. An early meeting with Andy Statman also found him asking me all about Jewish music as well as Jewish philosophy, quite some time before he “returned” to the fold. I convinced him to check out some Breslov music, and a few years later we found ourselves on stage together at a sold-out concert at the Metropolitan Opera House. He had quite a beard by then…

While Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention and Jefferson Airplane were taking old English & Irish nigguns (folk melodies) and suffusing them with the blues, we were doing the same thing in this post-Woodstock world with Jewish standards Dreydle dreydle, Dayenu, and Chasen Kala Mazal Tov. Plus, as with our favorite beloved Anglo/American rock heroes, we were writing and performing our own originals, one of which can almost be called the Official Anthem of the Baal Tshuva (returnee) Movement, “Malchutcha”. We had some fun, oy vey, doing a Hendrixian Hatikva, the Shma ala Doors (hey, the mezuza goes on the Doors!), a David Melech Squaredance, a liturgical Beatles medley, endless Grateful Dead-style jams on Ketzad Merakdim, or Gesher Tzar Meod per Santana, and so on. Another funny thing, at first, as antique ‘78’ records of Bill Monroe, Howlin’ Wolf and Jellyroll Morton started catching our interest among the Jolson, Cantor, and Sophie Tuckers in our grandfather’s attic, we started paying attention to the funny green-labeled Yiddish ones too, that revealed a virtually hidden and buried world of dusty stars like Naftulie Brandwine, V. Belf, Dave Tarras, Abe Schwartz and Aaron Lebedeff, now looked at as the patriarchs of Klezmer recordings.

The Torah predicted that in the days before the Moshiach, there would be a return of the exiles, a great influx of converts, and a movement of returnees to Judaism. I’m happy to say I was there at the beginning of that movement, and the DYB provided the soundtrack. We traveled around the world playing for a remarkable cross section of the people that range from the roots to the fruits of the movement: Holocaust survivors, Israeli soldiers, Yeshiva students, Hebrew school children, Chassidic dynasties, Kibbutz & Moshav celebrations, and a thirsty generation searching for the answer.Every Saturday night we gave a now-legendary concert called “King David’s Melave Malka” post-Shabbat celebration at his actual tomb on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, a central Biblical historic site. Once, Broadway star Pearl Baily and her husband jazz legend Louie Belson were on a pilgrimage to this site and the nearby ‘Last Supper’ room, and she just happened to be at King David’s Tomb during my wedding, and she came in and sang “Hello Dolly” to the newlywed couple. People come up to me all the time recalling those concerts and how special they were, and so many of today’s musicians tell me things like “when we first saw you guys, we decided that, hey, we could do that too!” I even recently met a mother of ten who confessed that she was about to leave Judaism altogether when at a last ditch effort she came to one of our shows and she stayed in the fold, got married, and the rest is her-story.

Before the 6 Day War, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Goldstein started the Diaspora Yeshiva which was the first Baal Tshuva Yeshiva. The location was Mt. Zion where King David is buried (down below in ancient catacombs). When David was a young shepherd from his home town of Bethlehem just south of Jerusalem, he used to take his sheep and graze them, and where would he go? A prophet and spiritual master of the highest caliber, he naturally was attracted to the center of the universe, the Temple Mount where his son Solomon was later to build the Holy Temple. He took his Harp and composed the most famous music in history, the Psalms as he, in symbolic parallel to G-d watching over his people, shepherded his sheep daily between his home and Mt. Moriah, the Temple Mount, the place where his ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had their prophetic revelations and grazed their flocks.His music, which is soaked into the architecture and the very earth of this location, drew people like us to David’s Holy Mt. Zion, which is the neighboring mountain to the Temple Mount. We played and sang and expressed the hope of the returning of Jerusalem, and the simcha (joy) of Torah learning. The mystical possibilities were incalculably inspiring. The music wasn’t so bad at first either, and it kept getting better, and with a few savvy people and some smart moves, we got some sound equipment and started recording, and we actually managed to not only lay down some extremely original material, but also expressed the lofty spiritual feeling of the moment.

From 1973 to 1976 can be called the early period, with many changes in personnel ranging from a few guys jamming to a big band, at which point in June of 1977 the actual “DYB” was formed and solidified, with the original 6 members being: Avraham Rosenblum on guitar, Ben Zion Solomon on fiddle and banjo, Simcha Abramson on Saxaphone and Clarinet, Ruby Harris (this writer) on Violin, Mandolin, Guitar, and Harmonica, Adam Wexler on Bass, and Gedalia Goldstein on Drums. Before and after this, many great and illustrious people came and went, such as Rabbi Moshe Shur, Chaim David, Rabbi Shimon Green, Menachem Herman, Beryl and Ted Glazer, Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig, Yochanan Lederman, and Rabbi Tzvi Miller. We played in a 2000 year old building resembling the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Getting electricity into these Byzantine and Crusader edifices was no small endeavor. The acoustics were amazing, though.

Our history of performances is incomparable: Wartime shows for troops from Sinai to Lebanon, concerts and events for such public figures as Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and many other VIPs and statesmen, parties and banquets with Isaac Stern, Shlomo Carlebach, Abba Eban, President Herzog, (and later President Clinton & Mayors Giulianni and Daley), an early MTV video performance and interview featured in the Bob Dylan tour with Tom Petty, and ultimately, concerts at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and the Metropolitan Opera House. Somehow, Lynard Skynard’s drummer Artemis Pyle even played with us and donated his awesome drum set to the yeshiva!

The band broke up in the mid 80s and the members have all gone off in different directions, most notably: BZ Solomon does extensive recording and performances worldwide, Rabbi Shur is an executive with the Hillel Organization and also records and performs, Rabbi Green is the head of a Seminary in Jerusalem, Avraham Rosenblum keeps the Diaspora flame burning with his new band, Chaim David has become a Jewish music superstar, and I perform and record extensively in an eclectic range of styles from Jewish Rock and Klezmer to Blues, Jazz and Country, including other notable relationships, such as a series of recordings with members of the original Sun Records rhythm section, who’ve made history as players in the bands of Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison. Adam Wexler is a member of Reva L’Sheva, one of today’s finest Jewish rock groups, and finally, Simcha, Gedalia, Beryl, Ted, and Menachem have all advanced to the higher original goals of scholarship, spiritual mastery, and various lofty musical projects and endeavors.

But most charmingly, is the fact that many of the children of the original members of the DYB are among today’s hottest stars, as members of Soulfarm, Moshav Band, and oodles of other contemporary projects ranging from some of New York’s top wedding bands to fine art music recordings. Occasionally several of the guys get together for projects, such as 2 recent DYB reunion shows on Long Island and at the Catskills Homowack Hotel, and there are some real tasty dishes simmering in the musical kitchen. If you’re looking for the original members to perform these days, they all do so, emphasizing their newer compositions and styles, but most of the guys are still happy to give you the old tunes if you really bug ‘em. Keep listening!
Ruby Harris is an original member of the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, and since the close of that primordial period in the history of Jewish Rock, Ruby has been seen opening for Ray Charles, Marshall Tucker Band, and Little Feat, and he’s performed with Peter Yarrow, Mordechai Ben David, Buddy Miles, Avraham Fried, Pinetop Perkins, and members Jefferson Airplane, Klezmatics and Grateful Dead. He lives in West Rogers Park, Chicago and presently performs in concert, on recordings, and at someone-you-know’s wedding. His website is where, along with and, his latest CD “For Heaven’s Sake” is available, as is his CD “Almost Home”, featuring Pine Top Perkins and Sugar Blue. For recordings of any of the artists mentioned, see your local Jewish music store or look them up on line.
This article is the exclusive (copyright 2006) property of Ruby Harris

Samples of Ruby’s latest CD are available here.

A Letter in the Yated

Below is a part of a letter to the editors of the Yated. It is titled “WHEN THE CITY COMES TO THE MOUNTAINS”, and discusses the problems that sometimes come up when we go upstate.

The formula for this problem is more or less as follows: The people living here are not used to the ‘givens’ of life in New York City. Mix that with the frustrations of a massive increase in population, a measure of various preconceived notions, a dash of hatred, and a pinch of some really foolish behavior, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. (If a reader does not agree that a chillul Hashem is a disaster, then this letter is not for him.)
So it’s not hard to understand why it irks people waiting fifteen minutes more than usual in Shop-Rite to see someone in front of them continue to add items to their grocery cart. And it’s not hard to imagine the reaction of the year-round drivers when one of the thousands of extra cars crowding the streets stops in the middle of the road to let somebody on or off, (which itself is an issue that is a problem in many communities all year round and should be corrected).
It is probably a bit hard for a city person to have a feel for the problem because he doesn’t have an idea of how different it is when things are quiet around here. Thus, he does not know how much, what goes on during the summer, makes a difference to the country folk. It is well known to those frum Yidden living here year-round that the friendly faces that might greet them from behind a local sales counter during the winter months can be expected to become cold and unwelcoming in July and August. During the winter, you do not have to watch so that you are not accused of cutting the line, whereas during the summer, if you are not careful, it could easily happen.
If I were to try to compose a list of the possible situations where the danger of this problem lies, it would probably be too long for this column, let alone this letter; but I know that anyone who has a heart to care about it also has a head to know where to be careful.
Again, I’m not coming to write an essay about the gravity of chillul Hashem; I’m just trying my luck at helping raise awareness of the fact that there is a serious issue here during the summer which is worth bearing in mind.
I do want to share one final thought which I found to be powerful. Even though a person does not usually have control over anyone but himself (and possibly his family), it is very likely that with one genuine act of kiddush Hashem, he can make a positive impression upon an outsider which outweighs and outshines the negative ideas that may have been conceived thorough the actions of others – the same way a small ray of light can overtake a room full of darkness. May we be zoche to be the ones who reflect the light and the sweetness of the Torah to the eyes of the nations.Sincerely wishing everyone a great summer.
P.S. If any good comes out of this letter, it should be a zechus for the Yidden in Eretz Yisroel.
Sullivan County, N. Y

The suggestion highlighted above is so simple, yet powerful. I’m constantly reminding myself that I have no idea what impact I can make on another person. As the media and the world turns its’ eyes towards Israel we need to remember that our neighbors, co-workers, and people we see in the street are watching us, as well. If interested, I’ll be happy to email the entire letter to anyone interested. Good Shabbos and thanks for reading.

Oberserving the Mashgiach

(Pictured to the right: Rav Mattisyahu Salomon and Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, in a photo I took 3 feet away from them)

I had the incredible opportunity this past Sunday, May 7th, to join about 1200 other Jews to celebrate in the dedication of the new home of Congregation Adas Yeshurun Anshe Kanesses Israel (West Rogers Park, Chicago) and the Hachnassas Sefer Torah, of a Torah that has been in the family of the shul’s Rabbi, Rabbi Zev Cohen, for over 102 years. It seemed that for the Chicago Tribune this was the hightlight of the day, as evident here:,1,4753021.story
It was a beautful event that started with a five block procession full of music, dancing, and true simcha, and ended with words of chizuck from Rav Salomon. The Tribune, which did a great job covering the monumentous event, didn’t see what I saw. They did have a picture in paper of Rav Salomon (stating that he was venerated) but that was the only reference to him. The Tribune was kind enough to quote me, though. Sadly they opted not to print everything I said.

What they didn’t print was that as incredible as it was to see boys from Skokie Yeshiva dancing with boys from Telshe, as great as it was to see so many people come out to show unity for the one thing that unites all Jews, the Torah, it was just as great that Rav Salomon came to Chicago to attend the simcha.
My six year old and I were there right when he came outside to go under the chuppah and start the march up Sacramento towards Touhey. As Rav Mattisyah went under the chuppah, countless children, including my son, came up and gave him a Shalom Alechiem. He smiled at each child and extended his hand numerous times.

As the Mashgiach walked, flanked by Rabbi Cohen and Rabbi Stolper (Rabbi Cohen’s father-in-law), I could see true simcha in his face. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “How cool is this. I’m dancing literally 3-4 feet away from the Mashgiach of Lakewood. In his hands is a Torah that has survived our darkest hours in recent history. This Torah has been in America since 1906 and watched Torah Judaism blossom”. I watched how carefully he took each step, holding all that we all hold so dear in our hearts…the Torah. I watched him smile, shake hands, and speak of how important limud Torah is and how we must remember this day and what it mean to us and our children. A true Adam Gadol in every sense of the word.
To attend Sunday’s event was an honor. To have Rav Mattisyahu Salomon attend was a koved for the community. To attend it with by son, unforgetable.

A Special thanks to Blogger Rafi G, for linking my blog to his post on Sunday’s event.