Original Article Published On The Chabad.ORG

Two young Israeli boys were riding their bikes along Manhattan’s East River Esplanade near Carl Schurz Park at 84th Street. They looked up, smiled, and called to their father in Hebrew: “Abba, look! A sukkah!

Inside, a young couple with daughters 2 and 4 years old were enjoying a late-afternoon Yom Tov snack as runners, bikers, families pushing strollers and pedestrians walking dogs enjoyed the esplanade outside. The sukkah offers an amazing view of the Triborough Bridge and Roosevelt Island.

In a neighborhood where an apartment with a balcony or private rooftop large enough to host a family sukkah costs about $4 million, public sukkahs are a must for just about anyone who wants to spend time and eat in a sukkah.

About a 10-minute walk from the esplanade—at the sukkah just outside the John Jay Playground and tennis practice wall at East 77th Street and Cherokee Place (East of York Avenue)—a curious mother, father and two kids peeked in, asking “What shul put this up?” They admired the paper chains and art crafted by a group of schoolchildren, and the hanging evergreens of the sechach—the roof, made of materials grown from the ground—and read the sign saying that it was a Chabad sukkah. They also recited the “Leshev” and “Shehecheyanu” blessings as a family, noting that it was their first time observing the mitzvah of sukkah this holiday season.

Chabad sukkahs in public spaces on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, including the ones along the Esplanade (East 84th Street), John Jay Playground (East 77th Street and Cherokee Place), Rupert Park Playground (91st Street and Second Avenue), Samuel Seabury Playground (96th Street and Lexington Avenue), as well as the five sukkahs on roofs and balconies at the Chabad House (419 East 77th St.), answer an issue all too familiar to Jewish urban-dwellers.

The Chabad school's gimmel class made paper chains and other decorations. (Photo: Howard Blas)

“We have a unique challenge here, where even the wealthiest can’t easily put up a sukkah since they don’t have spaces that look up to the sky,” Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski, director of Chabad Lubavitch Upper East Side in New York City, tells Chabad.org. And so, he says, “it is more critical than ever to build sukkahs in public spaces.”

In Manhattan, few people live in homes with backyards, courtyards or porches with an unobstructed view of the sky. Residents wishing to fulfill the mitzvah of sitting and eating meals in a sukkah usually need to visit a local synagogue. While some shul sukkahs are open to the public, they are only accessible at certain hours.

The Chabad sukkahs and a special pedi-sukkah (attached to the back of a tricycle)—parked at 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue when not being used around the neighborhood—make it easier for Upper East Side residents to observe the mitzvah. Insists Krasnianski: “We need to make sure that no Jew is left behind!”

A pedi-sukkah meets neighborhood needs. (Photo: Howard Blas)

Chabad’s public sukkahs are not limited to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, of course. Dozens of public sukkahs dot New York City and thousands more are erected globally—in every city, town and country in the world with a Chabad center, as well as in small, remote Jewish communities where Chabad rabbinical students, known as “Roving Rabbis,” travel for the holidays.

Shaking Lulav: ‘A Positive Jolt’

Local rabbis say they appreciate Chabad’s efforts to bring the holiday of Sukkot to residents and visitors in the city.

Rabbi Ben Skydell of Congregation Orach Chaim, at 1459 Lexington Ave., near two Chabad sukkahs in the parks, notes: “In a city where people often feel that they have no spiritual home, these sukkahs provide a place not only for the holiday’s mitzvot, but also a place to call home.”

Rabbi Elie Weinstock of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, at 125 E. 85th St., says “having sukkahs available is a nice, friendly touch in a busy and often anonymous city. The phrase, ‘Let all who are hungry come and eat’ isn’t just for Pesach!”

Add to that 30 yeshivah students who walk the streets of the Upper East Side during Sukkot, giving people the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of lulav and etrog. Krasnianski says the Chabad sukkahs in the park are also staffed to help with the mitzvahs of Sukkot and to teach about the holiday.

“For some people, this is the first time in their life holding the lulav and etrog, and sitting in the sukkah,” he says. “Waving the lulav gives a positive jolt—to stand tall and erect with Jewish pride.”

While now in the midst of the intermediate days of Sukkot, Upper East Side rabbis are also looking forward to the annual Simchat Torah celebration on Oct. 12, held jointly with Kehillat Jeshurun.

“Thousands come to the fair, filling the streets,” says Krasnianski. “We bring the joy of the holiday right out to the people!”

Chabad Public Sukkahs in Manhattan, 5779 (2018)

Here is a list of public Sukkahs in Manhattan sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitchduring Sukkot 5779 (2018):

Chabad of Upper East Side

East River Esplanade (enter at E. 84th St.)

John Jay Park (E. 77th St. all the way east)

Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side

Ruppert Park (corner of E. 91st St. and 2nd Ave.)

Samuel Seabury Playground (corner of E. 96th St. and Lexington Ave.)

Chabad of Lower East Side:

104 Delancey St. (between Essex St. and Ludlow St.)

Chabad of Washington Heights:

Chabad of Washington Heights, 50 Overlook Terrace (side entrance)

Chabad of Harlem

JCC Harlem, 318 W. 118th St.

Chabad of Battery Park City

Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl. (behind)

Chabad of Midtown Manhattan

New York Public Library Porch (corner of 5th Ave. and W. 42nd St.

Chabad of F.I.T.

340 8th Ave. (between W. 27th St. and W. 28th St.)

Chabad of Tribeca / SOHO

Chabad of Tribeca / SOHO, 54 Reade St. (between Church St. and Broadway)

Chabad of Beekman Sutton

Chabad of Beekman Sutton, 336 E. 53rd St. (between 1st Ave. and 2nd Ave.)

The Chabad Loft

Union Square Park (sukkah is located in SW area of Park, next to fountain – open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Chabad at Columbia University

Chabad at Columbia University, 625 W. 113th St. (between Riverside Dr. and Broadway)

Chabad House Bowery (Serving NYU)

Chabad House Bowery, 353 Bowery (between E. 3rd St. and E. 4th St.)

Chabad of Hamilton Heights

Chabad of Hamilton Heights, 635 Riverside Dr. (corner of Riverside Dr. and W. 141st St.)

City College Quad (corner of W. 139th St. and Amsterdam Ave.)

3647 Broadway (between W. 150th St. and W. 151st St.)

The Chelsea Shul & Rohr Center for Jgrads

The Chelsea Shul & Rohr Center for Jgrads, 236 West 23rd Street (between 7th Ave. and 8th Ave.)

Chabad of Roosevelt Island

North of Firefighters Field, 405-425 Main St.

Chabad of the West Sixties

Chabad of the West Sixties, 310 West 75th Street (between Riverside Dr. and West End Ave.)

Chabad Center For Jewish Discovery

E. 20th St. between 1st. Ave. and 2nd. Ave.

Jewish Latin Center

South of E. 20th St. along East River

Chabad Young Professionals

Madison Square Park (at corner of E. 26th St. and 5th Ave.)

The sukkah in front of Chabad of the Upper East Side (Photo: Howard Blas)
The sukkah at the East River Esplanade at East 84th Street (Photo: Howard Blas)
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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

Lia Kes is involved in every aspect of the design process, visiting factories, meeting with customers, and selecting dyes and recycling materials for garments.

NEW YORK – Lia Kes’s fashion show threw guests for a loop during a recent New York Fashion Week event at the Beekman Hotel in Lower Manhattan. Instead of the glitz that industry insiders have come to expect of NYFW exhibitions, Kes’s show, KES SS18 – which stands for [Spring/Summer 2018] – presented guests with a low-key subterranean vibe.

There were no famous models, no elegant runways, no DJs spinning electronic music – instead, Israeli-born Kes featured 28 original designs, modeled by seven mixed-age, multi-ethnic models: Yuliya in a black Augustine double- wrap slip dress, Tierra in a macro mosaic top, Hartje in an asymmetric cow-neck top and harem pants, and Qi Wen in a high-low halter dress with reverse monk top.

“There is a subtlety and spirituality to Lia,” observes Meredith Berkman, a writer and customer based in Manhattan who wore a Kes-designed outfit to the show. “That is what makes her so intriguing.”

Berkman discovered Kes’s Upper West Side store several years ago because of the big Hebrew letters and pictures of Israel in the window. She was immediately attracted to the label that promoted its Jewish and Israeli background.

Kes grew up on the 1,300-person Kibbutz Afikim, just south of the Kinneret. She reflects fondly on her first sewing teacher and mentor, Ahuva Gottesman.

“I still think about her frequently – her professional qualities were some of the highest I came across in my whole professional life.”

After two years in the Israel Air Force and a bachelor’s degree in fashion design from Shenkar College in Tel Aviv, Kes relocated to the US, settling in, doing a brief stint in California and then returning to New York where she launched her namesake collection.

“I feel like it took me a while to combine who I am now,” Kes said.

“I am an immigrant, an Israeli American, a sort of a hybrid – not completely Americanized and not completely Israeli.”

With boutiques located at 463 Amsterdam Avenue at 82nd Street in Manhattan and in Southampton in Long Island, New York, Kes has found success catering to the locals.

“It is the mix of the right people with the right community to create something so amazing,” she said.

She is involved in every aspect of the design process, visiting factories, meeting with customers, and selecting dyes and recycling materials for garments that can require up to 40 pieces of fabric.
At home, Kes is an involved mom to her two daughters – ages 10 and 13 – and is active in their Jewish day school, Heschel, and Jewish Community Center.

Last fall, during a spate of stabbings in Israel, two Heschel mothers who are also customers and philanthropists approached Kes with an idea – to produce a desirable object that could raise funds for Israel. Together, they created Project AHAVA, a conceptual messenger tote from which all proceeds would go to charities that support Israel.

Customers purchased $180 denim messenger bags – funky, unfinished objects with words describing Israel (eternal, radiant, innovative, lush) printed on the inside. All proceeds went to support the Israel Trauma Coalition.

“Working with her on the Ahava Project was amazing,” said Stacy Helfstein. “Lia is a shining star. She gives 100% and is not happy until the product is perfect.”

Kes continues to leave her imprint on the New York and fashion worlds, building community one outfit at a time. At her Upper West Side store on a recent weekday, shoppers included young hipsters, 80-year-old women – and, of course, a group of Israeli ex-pats.

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

The young tennis player, who now ranks 28th in the world, brings a lot of pride to the Jewish athletic world.

from Argentina sat with a curious Jerusalem Post reporter in the Media Center of the US Open. Despite his at-the-time recently-achieved career high ranking of No. 61 (he is now ranked 28th in the world), few reporters were interested in Diego Schwartzman.Schwarzman, then 23, was engaging, polite, always-smiling and happy to speak about his family, Jewish upbringing in Argentina, love of soccer and, of course, tennis.

Schwartzman stands 5-foot-7-inches (1.7 meters), and is known affectionately by the Argentinian Jewish community as “el Peque” (the small). He started playing tennis and soccer at seven years old at Club Nautico Hacoaj, a Jewish sports club in Buenos Aires.

Schwartzman and his three older siblings – brothers Andres and Matias and sister Natali – all played soccer, attended Hebrew school and celebrated their bar and bat mitzvas.

By the age of 13, Diego focused exclusively on tennis.

“I did not have time for Hebrew school because of tennis,” said Schwartzman, though he noted that he and his family “respect Jewish traditions” and occasionally attend synagogue.

In many ways, Schwartzman is a typical Argentine young adult. He enjoys sports, hanging out with friends, listening to music and going to bars on the weekends. But unlike friends who have already attended university, Schwartzman’s desire to study management and public affairs will have to wait.

His professional tennis career is really taking off.

By the end of this year’s extraordinarily successful US Open, the 25-year-old Schwarzman was a household name among tennis fans, and members of the press from around the world filled a large interview room almost daily to ask questions – both in English and Spanish press conferences – about his stunning come-from-behind victories against top players – and about being the shortest player by far in the top 50.

What a difference three years and a tremendous two week run at a Grand Slam tennis tournament makes.

Schwartzman arrived at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, a few days before the August 28 start of the US Open.

In a post-practice interview with The Jerusalem Post in the player’s garden, Schwartzman discussed his past year on the ATP Tour, some changes to his team, and what it might take to “go deep” in a major tournament.

Schwartzman clearly had no expectation of advancing to the quarterfinals of the impending major.

“I think I have improved a lot in many things. I am really focused, both inside the court and outside the court,” he said.

He is pleased with his recent progress.

“This year was really good so far. I played really good. I made lots of quarterfinals and some semifinals, but I still need to improve a few things, like the physical and recovery after matches.”

Schwarzman lost a high-profile five setter to Novak Djokovic at the French Open earlier this year.

Then came the US Open, where Schwartzman surprised even himself, taking out a number of giants in rapid succession, including fellow countryman Carlos Berlocq (6-2, 6-1, 6-3), Serbian Janko Tipsarevic (6-2, 6-4, 7-5), fifth-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia (4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4), and No. 16 Lucas Pouille of France (7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2) in his first career Grand Slam fourth round.

Schwartzman remained a gentleman throughout the tournament, consistently sharing kind words about his opponents. Following the Cilic match, Schwartzman shook hands and apologized.

“I just said nice words for him, because he’s a big-time player as well as a really good guy.”

Prior to facing Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals, Schwartzman noted, “It’s going to be really nice for me. I am really happy to be in the quarterfinals this year. I am excited to play Pablo since he’s my friend off the court. We have a good relationship in the locker rooms, and we share a lot of things outside the tennis life.”

Schwartzman ultimately lost to Carreno Busta (6-4, 6-4, 6-2) before an enthusiastic capacity crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium, chanting “Vamanos” (let’s go”) and the soccer chant, “Ole Ole Ole.”

Shwartzman’s storied run in New York earned him $470,000 and raised his profile and popularity in the tennis world. (Prior to the US Open, he earned $828,051 in 2017 and had total career prize money of $2,221,962).

Now, he is off to Kazakhstan where he will be a member of the Argentinian Davis Cup Team as it squares off against Kazakhstan in the September 15-17 World Group Play-Offs.

A long-awaited first trip to Israel will still have to wait.

“I am good friends with Dudi Sela and I really want to go to Israel. I almost got to go for the Maccabiah this year!” Whether or not he makes it to the Holy Land in the near future, the future is bright for Schwartzman, and with his play and attitude he is sure to garner more fans and admirers in the Jewish world and beyond.

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

NEW YORK – Three weeks of US Open tennis – from the qualifiers and the finals – drew to a close Sunday evening in New York City. Even with the absence of big names like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Serena Williams, the tournament generated a great deal of excitement.

Four American women met in the semifinals for the first time since 1981, when names Austin, Navratilova and Evert graced the hallowed grounds of Flushing Meadows. Juan Martin del Potro knocked out Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, making a much anticipated, first-ever Nadal/Federer US Open meeting impossible. And the success of Denis Shapovalov reminds us there are many up-and-coming young players to watch.

As players from around the world return home for rest, family time, additional training and the Davis Cup, it is a good time to reflect on the state of Israel tennis.

As always, Dudi Sela was a crowd pleaser, always willing to sign one more autograph or pose for a selfie, even after a disappointing loss. And Yshai Oliel proudly represented Israel in juniors singles and doubles, though the 17-year-old, highly seeded in both, was knocked out earlier than expected.

Overall it was a very poor turnout for Israeli tennis players at this year’s US Open.

In past years, cheering Israeli and Jewish fans might have caught a glimpse of Shahar Pe’er, Julia Glushko, Jonathan Erlich, Amir Weintraub, Andy Ram (long retired) and such rising juniors as Shelly Krolitzky, Or Ram-Harel, Bar Botzer and Valeria Patiuk. In 2011, lucky fans even got to see top blue-and-white wheelchair tennis player Noam Gershony in action.

I long for those days. More than a few fans at Sela and Oliel singles and doubles matches saw my media credentials for The Jerusalem Post and wondered “Where are the Israelis?”

This year, Glushko and Erlich did not rank high enough to qualify. Krolitzky seems to be focusing on rising from the lower echelons professional tennis; during the US Open she played in pro tournaments in Ricany, Czech Republic and in Antalya, Turkey. And most of the Israeli juniors who once competed at the US Open have been lured away from Israel and are playing for American college tennis teams: Patiuk at Michigan, Botzer at Wake Forest and Ram-Harel at University of Tulsa.

Sadly, Israel provided the same number of males in the men’s singles draw (one!) as Barbados, Cyprus, Korea, Moldova and Tunisia. Even Paraguay had one woman in the draw; China and Croatia each had five.

When will fans of Israel tennis have something to cheer about?

That is a tough question to answer, though Israel Tennis Centers serve over 20,000 Israeli children every year and even offers a high performance program. And the David Squad, which boasts that it is “building the future of elite Israeli tennis” though its massive support of Oliel and others, only managed to produce one player at this year’s US Open

Hopefully, the upcoming September 15-17 Davis Cup tie will give fans of Israel tennis something to cheer about. Look for young hopefuls like Edan Leshem, 21, and Mor Bulis 20, as they play with more established teammates Sela and Erlich as the blue-and-white battles Ukraine in the first round of the Group I Europe/ Africa Relegation Play-Offs.

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