Amira's Posts

I am honored to present “Inclusion and the Jewish Tradition” at the Limmud “Global Day of Jewish Learning.” Watch at 10 am ET on November 7th!     

 The Global Day of Jewish Learning – Limmud North America Hundreds of communities, large and small, join together for one day of intercontinental Jewish learning, powered by Limmud. Launched in 2010 as an effort to connect Jews around the world in mutual appreciation of Jewish wisdom, the Global Day of Jewish Learning is inspired by the vision and leadership of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz z”.

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Original Article Published On The JNS

When Jonah Adelsberg completed the last of his 10 half-marathons in Miami, he considered his future running options. “I was thinking ‘that’s it,’ then realized I had more gas in the tank,” the 28-year-old Long Island native reports. He decided that he would apply to run in the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon. He was accepted, but the race was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This Sunday, Nov. 7, Adelsberg, along with an estimated 33,000 runners, will finally have his chance to run 26.2 miles through all five boroughs—from Staten Island to Central Park as the race itself celebrates 50 years in the making.

Adelsberg’s journey to this year’s marathon started nearly 20 years ago to the day when, at 8 years old, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgins lymphoma. He recalls, “My battle came with lots of physical and emotional trauma, and my childhood was defined by constant therapies and checkups.”

He also notes the toll his illness took on his sister and feels that having “a real support system for me and for my family really helped get us through it.” He attributes much of this care to Chai Lifeline, which “supported me and my family in every way possible.”

He says that at that time, pediatric cancer wasn’t something really talked about publicly. Chai Lifeline helped his parents find the best doctors and helped rally the community around his family.

Adelsberg, currently in charge of Strategic Partnerships and Marketing at Safe and Sound Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y., has dedicated his marathon run to raise funds for Chai Lifeline, the international health network that provides a network of support services for children and families facing serious illness and other challenges. “You hear stories these days that funds are spread really thin because of COVID-19. There is a real need to help children and family members now,” reports Adelsberg, who is sensitive to the financial burden that having a serious or life-threatening disease can have on a family.

As a child, Adelsberg attended Camp Simcha, Chai Lifeline’s summer program for children with cancer and other serious illnesses. He and his sister also worked at Camp Simcha as counselors.

Over the years, he and his father have run numerous half-marathons with Team Lifeline, Chai Lifeline’s endurance-training program, raising more than $100,000 for the organization. “I was one of the lucky ones to be able to get to this point,” says Adelsberg. “If I’m able-bodied enough to raise money by doing something I love, that is an honor for me to do this.”

Adelsberg says he will be thinking of those kids and his journey as he winds the famed course through the entirety of New York City. “My experience reminds me that it could always be worse, and that’s important to remember others—not just for those of us who’ve fought cancer but for everyone. When I run, it’s not because I love running, even though I know how important exercise is. It’s because I know that I’m doing this because, in life, we are truly warriors and fight whatever struggles are thrown our way.

“That’s why I’ll be there,” he emphasizes, “and that’s what I hope will push me forward towards that finish line.”

‘A way to express my gratitude’

Californian Yitzi Teichman, 24, will also be running in this Sunday’s New York City Marathon, and he, too, will support Chai Lifeline.

After the diagnosis of a brain tumor at the age of 17 and a complex 14-hour surgery, he eventually attended Camp Simcha. After that summer experience, Teichman spent three months in treatment and therapy in Boston, saying that within a year, he was “pretty much back to my pre-cancer self.”

Always an athlete, Teichman viewed running as a way to prove mentally and physically that he was well on the road to a full recovery. In January 2015, he completed a half-marathon in the Miami Marathon with Team Lifeline.

Teichman, an administrator of a 185 resident psychiatric facility in Los Angeles, credits Chai Lifeline with giving him and many others like him the tools and support to get through illness. “When you are diagnosed with a serious disease, you kind of become an outcast or some sort of foreign creature. People treat you differently; it’s as if they’re always scared to say the wrong thing. I know that doesn’t come from a bad place, but it leaves you feeling that much more helpless, and the truth is, then you feel even sicker. With my Chai Lifeline friends and at Camp Simcha, I was treated normally again.”

Teichman notes that much of his motivation to take part in his first full marathon comes from recognizing how blessed he has been with his recovery. “My experience with cancer has exposed me to so many friends who have passed away or lost their ability to walk, and others whose diseases messed up their lives physically and mentally. I feel so lucky to be where I am, and running for this organization is a great way to express my gratitude.”

‘One of the ultimate athletic events’

Rabbi Simcha Scholar, CEO of Chai Lifeline, is proud of Adelsberg, Teichman and everyone connected to the Chai Lifeline family.

“The New York City Marathon represents one of the ultimate athletic events in the world today, and it is heartwarming to see how some of our past Chai Lifeline kids have reached this point and are able not just to run the race, but to dedicate their experience to helping others,” he says. “We are deeply grateful to all those who join and support Team Lifeline, and help enable us to better the lives of countless children and families.”

The 2021 TCS New York City Marathon kicks off at 8 a.m. with the professional wheelchair division, followed by the hand-cycle category and select athletes with disabilities. They are followed by professional women who take off at 8:40 a.m., professional men at 9:05 a.m. and five waves of runners. Participants start in Staten Island, proceed north through Brooklyn and Queens, west across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, up to the Bronx and then south into Manhattan and Central Park.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the number of competitors this year has been limited to 33,000, significantly fewer than the 53,639 participants who completed the 2019 race, the last time the marathon took place. That year, participants came from 140 countries, completing the course in an average time of 4:33:52 and raising some $45 million for charity.

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

Max Weinberg will perform at three fund-raising events for ITEC titled “Playing for Peace: Featuring Max Weinberg’s Jukebox.”

NEW YORK – Max Weinberg, the drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, is lending his famous name and talents in support of the Israel Tennis and Education Centers Foundation (ITEC). Weinberg will perform at three fund-raising events for ITEC titled “Playing for Peace: Featuring Max Weinberg’s Jukebox.” The galas will take place November 9 in Chicago, November 16th in New York and December 7th in Florida.

The three events will include alumni of the 14 Israel Tennis Education Centers throughout Israel sharing personal stories. Following a scholarship auction, Weinberg will perform his Juke Box Tour, in which will auction off various items as well as the opportunity to play drums and sing with him. Attendees view two screens exhibiting 200 songs – from such music legends as Springsteen, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Lauren Rabner, ITEC director of Mission and Special Events said that a donor connected to the drummer’s agent suggested that the organization approach Weinberg about participating.

“I am delighted to be able to participate in these several fantastic gala events to both raise funds for and promote the ideals of the Israel Tennis and Education Centers,” Weinberg told The Jerusalem Post.

“The work they do is so impressive and their mission to bring children of differing backgrounds in Israel together on neutral ground to engage one another through sports is a refreshing endeavor in the world today. As we all know throughout the world sports, as well as music, have the unparalleled ability to transcend barriers of language, politics, and religions. The ITEC maintains sports activities for Jewish, Arab, Druze, and Bedouin children and in doing so absolutely brings a engaging powerful energy to the task of peaceful coexistence.”

When Weinberg isn’t behind the drum kit for the E Street Band – a job he has had almost continuously since 1974 – the proudly Jewish drummer spends his time living by the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world. He has successfully drummed up donations for local New Jersey, national and international organizations through playing music and donating memorabilia for charity auctions.

He grew up in a Newark, New Jersey, Jewish family, celebrated his bar mitzvah and confirmation and was very involved in the life of the synagogue which his grandfather helped found. Weinberg’s Russian great-great-grandfather immigrated to mandatory Palestine in the late 19th century and is buried on the Mount of Olives.

Weinberg said that he was proud to carry on his family’s connection to the Holy Land.“I am proud and humbled to bring the music to help with the mission of the ITEC. My great-great-grandfather, Lev Mindlin, buried at the Mount of Olives and a lifelong Talmudic scholar, would expect nothing less from me!”

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

The gregarious 44-year-old owner of the Casa Del Barbero barbershop, located in a charming alleyway at 82 Keren Kayemet St. in Beersheba’s Old City, is a proud Jew and oleh by choice.

For barber Yosef Maldonado, the journey from his native Puerto Rico to Beersheba via Miami, Buffalo and Beit El wasn’t nearly as long, complicated and full of adventure as the ordeal he and his wife encountered on their way to Judaism.

The gregarious 44-year-old owner of the Casa Del Barbero barbershop, located in a charming alleyway at 82 Keren Kayemet St. in Beersheba’s Old City, is a proud Jew and oleh by choice. Maldonado and his family – which now includes his wife, Rachel Yehudis and six children ages two to 20 – have faced many challenges, including the COVID pandemic, which has forced long shut downs of his barbershop; difficulties with Hebrew mastery; and Israeli bureaucracy. But they couldn’t be happier with the decision to live in Israel and in Beersheba.

Maldonado realized his dream of opening his own barbershop last year. His Facebook page and website advertise that he speaks Spanish, English and Hebrew, though he admits that Hebrew has been the most difficult language to master. “It if has to do with a haircut, I understand. I can manage. If it is a regular conversation, it is very hard,” says Maldonado.

His language skills, kind demeanor and nearly 30 years’ experience as a barber make him an ideal destination for Israelis of all backgrounds, Spanish speakers and US soldiers stationed at a military base nearby.

Maldonado has a particular fondness for servicemen and women. His father served in the US Army and was stationed in Panama for three years. As a result, Maldonado spent his first through fourth years of life in Panama. The family then returned to Puerto Rico. He fondly recalls growing up there. “I had a very nice childhood. I played baseball from age five through high school, was in the Boy Scouts, went to the beach and did all of the normal activities.”

Yosef Maldonado is seen with a sign to his barbarshop. (credit: Courtesy Yosef Maldonado)

When Maldonado was 16, he visited his uncle, a soldier stationed at Fort Benning, on the Alabama-Georgia border. Maldonado recalls making a playful comment which would impact on his professional career. 

“I made fun of his very bad haircut. I said, ‘You paid for that?!” He replied, “You think it is funny? Next time, you will cut my hair!” Maldonado did! 

“When I was a child, I paid attention to haircuts. They take a very long time giving haircuts in Puerto Rico. I always watched the whole time. I had the idea of what to do. My father said, ‘You have a real skill’ and encouraged me to go to barber school.”

Maldonado had always planned to go to college but his father said, “Why not go to barber school then college? If you don’t like college, you will always have the skill.” The always respectful Maldonado playfully reports, “I always listened to my dad and mom.” On the day of his high school graduation, he took a tour of the barber school and two days later, while still 17 years old, he enrolled. When he graduated, he returned to a very familiar barbershop. “I worked in the shop I used to go to for 12 or 13 years. My boss was my barber!

”After two years, Maldonado left for college to study computer science. “I didn’t like it. It was not for me. Haircutting was my thing.

”MALDONADO married in Puerto Rico and soon relocated to Florida where most of their families lived. He worked at various jobs, including maintenance in a resort, and commercial plumbing. He continued cutting hair each day from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Maldonados were soon blessed with three children and wanted to save money. Yosef took a pilot trip to Buffalo, where other family members lived. “I was pretty confident in my skills. I could do construction, plumbing and more.” He had heard the cost of living was better in Upstate New York. He also heard it was very cold. “I figured I would go in January for six months. If I could survive the cold, I would come back in six months and bring my family.

”Approximately 45 minutes into our interview, Maldonado shared the story of his family’s path to Judaism. “Hashem obviously has it all organized. We just have to find it.

”The deep-thinking Maldonado grew up an evangelical Christian and was always wondering, “Why is it that Christians are right and the Jews are not when He chose them (the Jews) as a nation?” Maldonado recalls that he began researching Judaism, and came across an older cousin who was asking similar questions (he also converted to Judaism). Maldonado and his wife converted to Judaism while in Miami. He would soon learn that this conversion would not be considered acceptable in his Buffalo Orthodox community.

“I thought I was Jewish already and wanted a Jewish education for my children,” says Maldonado, not sounding the least bit angry or resentful with his Jewish status being called into question. He notes that the rabbi of the school (“my spiritual father”) took him aside and asked a series of questions. “He respectfully asked for my [conversion] papers and said they weren’t legit.” He was given the option of working with the beit din in three larger Jewish communities, each one to several hours from Buffalo. “I just want to do it right, so there will be no questions. I have daughters and want to make sure it is all legit.

”Maldonado becomes animated. “That’s where the journey really started! The process was very long.” He continued attending synagogue daily, his daughters were in a Chabad school in Buffalo, though he felt he was carrying around a secret – and narrowly escaped numerous uncomfortable situations. “The rabbi accepted the kids to the school. And sometimes in minyan, there would be 10 men (presumably a minyan already) and the rabbi would say, ‘We will wait for one more. Mr. So and So said he’d be here.” Maldonado remained determined.

“I wanted to do it right. I didn’t care how long it would take. At the same time, my wife was learning with the rabbi’s wife.” He reports that the “final exam” was a multi-day 500-question test, and they kept offering “outs” – the opportunity to not go forward with the conversion process. “I can see why they do it; they want to see how much we want it.”

At the end of the process, the beit din suggested a day to go to the mikveh ritual bath [part of the conversion procedure], followed by a new Jewish marriage ceremony. “In addition to asking about our following the laws of family purity, kashrut and other things, they asked, ‘Do you promise to give your kids a Jewish education?’ ‘Yes, I promise,’ ” Maldonado replied.IN 2014, to celebrate this conversion experience, the rabbi offered an opportunity to join him on a trip to Israel. He was about to visit children and grandchildren in Beit El. “My wife gave permission, and I went.”

Maldonado’s love affair with Israel started once they arrived in Beit El. “I remember walking and looking around. This is how I grew up – kids walking around, free. This is the place I want to be! I didn’t even want to see other places!

”When he returned home to Buffalo, Maldonado shared Israel trip stories and videos and said, “I think this is a good idea.” His wife was less certain. The second intifada was raging. “She was afraid of the conflict.” Maldonado’s rabbi wisely advised him to not pressure her and “not mention it; it will come.” That day came sooner than expected.

“One day, she was sitting in the back of my barbershop, working on her computer and said, ‘You won’t believe what I did. I put in the application for aliyah.”In August, 2015, the Maldonado family made aliyah to Beit El, where they lived for three years. Yosef started off in Israel by cleaning the streets and offices. “I had the idea to open my own barbershop, but Jerusalem was too expensive. We had five kids by then. I was afraid.” A friend from Buffalo who had made aliyah to Beersheba invited the family to spend Shabbat in their home. “I really liked it. My wife was excited too!” The children were less happy having to give up their good friends in Beit El. At the time, one daughter was in Sherut Leumi, serving in Beersheba.

Maldonado never lost hope of opening his own barbershop. In January, 2020, he opened the shop. “It was a dream come true. Then, a month and a half later, we had our first lockdown due to COVID. People were afraid to come. I was nervous. We opened, and then there was a second lockdown. We had no customers. And I had a big family – six kids by then. The three COVID lockdowns hurt a lot, but thank God, we have been able to reopen and build more customers.”

Maldonado now cuts hair for many US soldiers from a base 20 minutes from his shop. “People from Chicago, Tampa, Utah – they all come here for haircuts.” The Spanish-speaking community also comes. “Cubans, Argentinians, Chileans, Brazilians. I feel like I will have to learn Portuguese! I also cut hair for Bedouin, Arabs, everyone!

”Maldonado thanks God that his wife has been so supportive and patient, though “there were times she thought I should close the store and get a paycheck.” She has continued to contribute to family finances by working at a local kindergarten.

The six children have adjusted well to life in Israel and Beersheba. “I thank God every day that they have adjusted so well.” Two years ago, the Maldonado’s welcomed their sixth child and first Sabra to the family.

Maldonado is pleased that he has realized his dream and persevered. “If you don’t just do it, you will always wonder… I have so much hope. It is how much you want it.”


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