Sundays may never be the same for Florence Katz or Andy Bedford — unless Rabbi Yossi Hodakov of New Haven finds another station to host his weekly radio program.

Rabbi Hodakov’s Jewish Radio Hour, broadcast on WYBC AM for four years on Sunday mornings from 10am to 11 a.m, has come to an end.

“The station is meant to be a training ground for broadcasters,” reports Hodakov, who explained that by law, the station’s broadcasters are given just a four-year, non-renewable contract.

But many listeners from around the state are disappointed that Rabbi Hodakov’s show will no longer be on the airwaves.

Florence Katz, an elderly resident of New Haven’s Tower One, remembers the 50 years when Beryl Howard had a Jewish radio program in New Haven. And she remembers the years when there was no Jewish radio program.

“Then Rabbi Hodakov came,” reports Katz. “Every week he would play beautiful Jewish music, tell us what the Torah portion was about on Saturday, and play the news directly from Israel.”

Katz found his voice to be “smooth and delightful. I’m legally blind-it was good for me! You get used to it. Now, it is not on. It is very unpleasant.”

Dr. Andy Bedford, a Woodbridge gastroenterologist and father of two, also enjoyed “The Jewish Hour,” broadcast.

“What a natural he was on the air,” reports Bedford, who particularly enjoyed the way Rabbi Hodakov, would teach, using examples from the Torah portion, Jewish history and real life. “It is one of his gifts-like a good attorney giving closing arguments and pulling it all together.” Bedford enjoyed the format of the show, with its musical opening, Hodakov’s talk about the weekly Torah portion, his interesting guest, and his sharing “something on his mind.”

Bedford said he looked forward to hearing the news from Israel, and Hodakov’s discussions of such topics as the war in Lebanon.

Hodakov, a Jewish educator and currently a teacher of Jewish Studies and Chasidism at the Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy and at the Beit Chana Academy, always wanted to host a radio program. He called many stations and was delighted to find the non-profit WYBC.

“To get a program, you have to apply to be a member, undergo training to know how to work all the machinery, and submit a demo show,” reports Hodakov, who notes that WYBC, which mostly features shows by Yale students, is a station where you “come in, and turn the lights on and off yourself.”

Hodakov publicized his shows by emails, word of mouth, and via ads in Jewish publications.

Hodakov talks with great enthusiasm about his loyal listeners.

“There is such a wide range-in age, observance, everything.”

What were Hodakov’s favorite moments?

“The most enjoyable moments were when we had live contact with a fellow in the Old City of Jerusalem on Purim-he was deep in his Purim Seudah (meal) and was talking to our listeners,” Hodakov recalled nostalgically. “And when we had a rabbi who was a New York City police chaplain.” Hodakov was particularly fond of the show’s variety-from music, to interviews, to talk about the Torah portion and upcoming holidays, and the Arutz Sheva hookup from Israel.

“If you listened long enough, you would hear something you liked,” he said.

Hodakov’s fans hope he will be back on the air soon.

“I never missed his show,” said Hayden Leventhal of New Haven. “He spoke a normal person’s language-he spoke my language.”

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Two young men from Connecticut recently celebrated their b’nai mitzvah in a special way – dedicated to Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Joshua Genn of Greenwich, and Adam Ehrman-Shapiro of Litchfield, chose to participate in the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous’ (JFR) Bar/Bat Mitzvah Twinning Program.

When Joshua was preparing for his Oct. 9, 2006, bar mitzvah during Sukkot at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, he began investigating ways to make his bar mitzvah more meaningful.

Joshua, a seventh-grade student at the Westchester/Fairfield Hebrew Academy, read through descriptions of many Righteous Gentiles on the JFR Web site and found them to be fascinating.

“I liked Irena Sendler,” he said. “Even though she was not Jewish, she got people out of the Warsaw Ghetto and smuggled weapons to people.”

The entry for Sendler on the JFR Web site notes that she was a health worker who had access to the Warsaw Ghetto and led hundreds of Jewish children out of the ghetto to safe hiding places. Sendler, a member of the Polish underground, helped smuggle children (sometimes sedated) in potato sacks and coffins. She was eventually arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to death in October 1943 – but she was saved when members of the Polish underground bribed one of the Germans to stop the execution. She is currently in her 90s, lives in Warsaw, Poland, and reportedly doesn’t think of herself as a hero: “I want the Jewish community to know that there was a resistance and a spirit among the Jews in the ghetto.” 
Joshua reported that friends came up to him to say, “We think we’ll do a twinning bar mitzvah as well!”

Joshua’s parents, Ireland-born Alan and England-born Michelle, were pleased with Joshua’s decision to support JFR.

“Even ‘Schindler’s List’ didn’t highlight how many Righteous Gentiles saved Jews. It is a bit of a forgotten cause, and the organization [which supports people who, by definition, are in their 80s and 90s] has a limited time frame and needs immediate help,” said Alan Genn.

Saving One Life
One month after Joshua’s bar mitzvah, Adam Ehrman-Shapiro shared the story of another Righteous Gentile, Vladimir Chernovol, at his Nov. 11, 2006 bar mitzvah at the Chabad of Northwest Connecticut-LitchfieldJewish Community Center. Adam’s mother, Judith, began searching online for organizations so that Adam could “do some type of community service and give back to the community.”

“I was deeply touched by the work and mission of JFR. It is a very Jewish idea – to save one life is to save the whole world,” she said.

This phrase appears on the cover of the personalized invitations that many families participating in the twinning program, including the Ehrman-Shapiro family, choose for their children’s b’nai mitzvah.

The Ehrman-Shapiros have celebrated the b’nai mitzvah of two sons in two years, and both have participated in the JFR twinning program.

“These Righteous Gentiles risked life and limb to save our people in Europe with full knowledge that they were risking their lives and the lives of their families,” Judith said.

Chernovol was a Ukrainian teacher out for a walk in 1942 when he encountered Gregory Lantsman, a Jewish pilot in the Soviet Army whose plane was shot down over the Ukraine. Chernovol learned that Lantsman was Jewish and that the Germans had already killed his family. Chernovol quickly realized that Lantsman would surely be caught and killed. He immediately offered to take him in. Chernovol worked hard to obtain Ukrainian identity papers for Lantsman, but the Germans soon began forcibly taking young Ukrainian men for hard labor. Though Lantsman was selected, he managed to escape and return to Chernovol’s home, where he hid until liberation in May 1944. Chernovol is in his 80s and still lives in the Ukraine.

Adam was pleased with his bar mitzvah and with the twinning program.

Said Adam, an eighth-grader who is home-schooled, “I thought it was a nice thing to do, and my friends came up to me and told me they thought it was cool.”

Following a dinner party and an evening of sports, Adam was back at shul early the next morning to put on his tefillin.

“Adam participates in the Tefilin Bank, where you received a free set of tefillin if you agree to put them on daily,” said his mother.

Both young men and their families agree that participating in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program of the JFR enhanced and gave meaning to their b’nai mitzvah.

JFR was created in 1986 to provide financial assistance to non-Jews who risked their lives and often the lives of family members to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Today, the JFR supports more than 1,600 aged and needy rescuers in 28 countries, and they run a Holocaust teacher education program for middle and high school teachers and Holocaust center personnel.

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You need a beautiful, up-scale kosher gift basket. What are your options? You can do-it-yourself, purchase a standard gift basket and hope there are enough kosher items to satisfy the recipient, or you can call or e-mail Sharon Salem, the New Haven entrepreneur, who is the founder and owner of The Kosher Gift Box. 

Salem, who has a background in engineering and manufacturing, started her Web-based koshergiftbox.com business in 2002.

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“During the summer, the entire Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England learned about Israel in our Jewish Studies class, we wrote and performed a play about “The Case of the Missing Water,” and we enjoyed getting to know 40 plus members of the mishlochot (Israeli delegation). We were also sad to learn of deaths of Israeli soldiers during the War in Lebanon. We were a little worried that the trip wouldnt take place, but we had faith. Some parents even handed me deposit checks DURING the war! The trip was a dream come true. This was my third Tikvah Ramah Israel Trip, and the 10th trip to Israel in the history of the Tikvah Program. We enjoyed seeing places of historical significance, davening in so many different placesthe Kotel, outside of our guest houses in the Negev and Galil, and at Reform and Orthodox synagogues, purchasing souvenirs for ourselves and friends, and supporting the Israeli economy. But, most of all, we enjoyed seeing our many Israeli friends. Our group was like a magnet, and the Israelis were like iron filingsdrawn to us everywhere we went. I am pleased that our campers and program alumni (age range: 17-31) felt comfortable in Israel and will return to their homes, schools and communities as great shlichim and hasbara members for Israel.

Who

Members of the Tikvah Program of Camp Ramah in New England

When

Dec. 20, 2006 – January 3, 2007

Highlights

  • Working in the toy factory, with therapeutic dogs and in the gardens at Kishorit Village (near Karmiel) for adults with special needs.
  • Meals in homes of Ramah Israeli Staff Members: Lunch in Haifa with Tomer Nachshon and dinners in the Beit Shemesh home of the Benstein family and in the Moshav Emunim home of the Tzivoni Family.
  • Making spice sachets, writing with a reed and special ink, meeting a sofer, and making zatar spice at Neot Kedumim.
  • Seeing the Chagall Windows, then giving presents to Israeli Jewish and Arab children in the Pediatrics Unit at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital
  • Seeing every possible weather pattern from sun in the Galilee, to rain and fog in the Golan Heights, to rain while on Masada and swimming in the Dead Sea.
  • Buying fruit, nuts and rugelach in the bustling Machane Yehudah market on a Friday afternoon (for a Camp Ramah oneg Shabbat)
  • Seeing ibex, deer, and hyrax at Ein Gedi, a fox in the Negev on the way to camel riding at Beertoyim, and two wolves in the Negev near Kibbutz Mashabe Sadeh.
  • Petting and feeding llamas and alpacas at Mitzpeh Ramon.
  • Sitting in actual Israeli planes at the Israel Air Force Museum in Beersheva.

Participants

Jason Belkin
Howard Blas (Group Leader)
Elisheva and Hannah Blas
Adam Brand
David Dalnekoff
Max Davidson (Chaperone)
Benji Garbowit
Jeremy Jacobson
Eric Levine
Gideon Pianko
Aaron Rudolph
Emily Sowalsky (Chaperone)
Marie Strazulla
Ortal Winterstein
Jacob Yellin

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