Whale Wars

Meanwhile, while we are lighting our menorah for Chanukah, there are brave people trying to stop Japanese whalers in the South Seas.


The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin closed in on one of the vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet at 0730 Hours GMT (1930 Hours Sydney Time) on December 26th off the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory north of the Mawson Peninsula.

The Kaiko Maru emerged from dense fog in front of the Steve Irwin. The Sea Shepherd crew pursued and delivered 10 bottles of rotten butter and 15 bottles of a methyl cellulose and indelible dye mixture.

“That is one stinky slippery ship,” said Sea Shepherd 2nd Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden.

The Japanese ship was ordered out of the territorial waters of Australia by Australian citizen Jeff Hansen from Perth, Western Australia. The message was delivered in Japanese.

Animal Planet has been airing a series on

last year’s Whale Wars. It is gripping and interesting TV, most of all because this entire drama is usually so far away. With the TV reality show, on TV, on YouTube, and online, the drama to save the world’s whales has never before been so tangible.

Seeing the carcasses of these majestic creatures dragged bleeding through the waters onto the Japanese ships makes a lasting impression.

We need to stop whale killing by commercial ships – it serves no purpose other than continued decimation of the largest mammal on Earth. Native peoples that consume small numbers of whales are not the problem – it is the Japanese. They are the ONLY country that refuses to ban whaling.

Chanukah Mix 5769

nice partyFrom England to Israel, and Warsaw to Long Beach, we make Chanukah parties. It’s kinda one of those things that me and Rachel just love to do. This year’s Chanukah House Party is sponsored by Beach Hillel. It’s one of our favorite things to do, the Chanukah House Party. And the Chanukah party is incomplete without a good, specially crafted mix. I mean you cannot just put on some whatever music in order to set the spirit right. Each year, a new mix.

Now that my kids have grown, I have the pleasure of working on the mix with Moshe, and he even sets up the speakers for me. Moshe and kids really had fun with the Klezmatics, Joshua Nelson, and Craig Taubman on the LIGHTS CD, from the PBS special of the same name, so we put some of that in. The LeeVee’s Hanukkah Rocks, not only the subject of my extensive treatise entitled Hanukkah Rocks Midrash, is there in its entirety. Diwon is on board this year with a set of mixes, including his remix of Y-Love and Erran Baron Cohen’s Hanukkah oh Hanukkah. We put there his Beat Guide to Yiddish too. There is some random song I put in to make the guests wonder. Rounding out this mix is Avrohom Rosenberg’s Yevanim IV from Hooked on Chanukah. Its a kids fav, and adults dig it too.

A whole batch of latkes is coming off the assembly line, so I better cut this short. Please remember that Y-love and Diwon will be rocking Jewlicious Festival again this year, and advance tickets are on sale at Brown Paper Tickets. And speaking of the music that rocks Jewlicious, MATISYAHU‘s Festival of Light tour is taking place as we speak in NYC. Peace, Love, Potatoe Pancakes. Chanukah Sameach. Spread the light.

Miracle in the Hood

Who says that Christmas stories about Holiday Miracles need to monopolize the giving spirit of the Winter Holiday Season? We have a genuine Chanukah Holiday Miracle waiting to happen in LA.

Yaelle and Nouriel Cohen and their 6 children are a family like no other. Every day from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep they dedicate their lives fully to serving and helping those who need it the most. Through their grassroots organization, Global Kindness (which they run from their own home), this amazing family provides food, furniture, clothing and financial assistance to individuals and families in need. They´ve changed the lives of hundreds of people!!

The operation does not leave them any funds to repair their home, which is in desperate need of repair. A group is trying to raise 175k to help rebuild their home. This group tried hard recently to get the home chosen for Extreme Makeover or some other makeover program, but no latkes. So get in the giving mood, and head over to Miracle in the Hood, and make a donation. Chanukah is big tzedakah time.

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My Heroic Friends Rivky and Gabi Holtzberg

Rivky Holtzberg z"l, Hillary Lewin (R), and 2 year old Moshe - who was saved by the nanny.Hillary Lewin (pictured on the right) is a PhD candidate at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology (Yeshiva University) and spent five memorable weeks in Mumbai with Yeshiva University on a Global Health Seminar. Rivki Holtzberg is pictured on the left. Thanks to Menachem Butler for helping bring this article to us.

To Rivky and Gabi: My Heroic Friends, Role Models and Family in Mumbai, I Will Miss You Very Much

Many of you first heard of the Holtzberg family three days ago when news of the Mumbai hostage situation emerged. I feel compelled to write this letter, because I want the world to know who Rivky and Gabi Holtzberg were in life and to tell you what I witnessed of their accomplishments in their brief 28 years on earth. While I am devastated by their death, I am thankful that my life and so many others were touched by their purity, friendship and spirit.

Before I entered the Chabad house in Mumbai, I thought, “What kind of people would leave a comfortable and secure life in a religious community to live in the middle of Mumbai; a dirty, difficult, crowded city?” As I got to know Rivky and Gabi over the course of this past summer, I understood that G-d creates some truly special people willing to devote their lives to bettering the world.
I was first welcomed by Rivky, who had a big smile on her face and her baby Moishie in her arms. She ushered me and my fellow travelers into the Chabad house and immediately offered us something to eat and a sofa to rest on. We quickly became good friends. We bonded with the Holtzberg family and the staff at Chabad, including Sandra, the heroine who saved baby Moishie’s life.

Like his parents, Moishe is a sweet, loving, happy baby. He was so attached to Rivky and Gabi. He got so excited to sing Shabbat Z’mirot (songs) every Friday night with his father, and I could tell by the light on Gabi’s face when they were singing together, that he looked forward to it too. It breaks my heart that I can still hear Moishie’s voice calling, “Ima, Ima, Ima”, and she will no longer be able to hold him or rock him in her arms.

On my second Shabbat at Chabad, Rivky told me there were two Israeli men staying at the house who were just released from an Indian prison. When I saw these men sitting at the dinner table, I was startled. One man had only a front tooth and a raggedy pony tail, and the other looked like an Israeli version of Rambo. I observed the way that Gabi interacted with them and how they were welcomed at the Shabbat table the same way everyone else was, and my fears melted away. Over the course of the night, I learned that these men were not the only prisoners or ex-convicts the Holtzberg’s helped. Gabi frequently brought Kosher meals to Israelis in prison, spent time with them, listened to their life stories, and took them in after their release.

I realized that Gabi and Rivky’s job was not only to run a Chabad house and provide warm meals and beds for weary Jewish travelers, it was much greater. The Holtzberg’s were running a remarkable operation. They took their jobs as shlichim (emissaries) very seriously. Their lives never stopped. There was no such thing as “personal space” or “downtime”. The phones rang constantly, people came in and out like a subway station, and all the while Rivky and Gabi were calm, smiling, warm, and welcomed everyone like family.

Rivky spent each day cooking dinner with the chefs for 20-40 people, while Gabi made sure to provide meat for everyone by going to the local markets and schechting (koshering) chickens himself. They also provided travelers with computers for internet access, so that they wouldn’t have to pay for internet cafes. They even took care of our laundry. Having spent much time abroad, it was clear to me that Rivky and Gabi were unusual tzadikim (righteous people).

On my last Shabbat in India, I slept in Rivky and Gabi’s home, the 5th floor of the Chabad house. I noticed that their apartment was dilapidated and bare. They had only a sofa, a bookshelf, a bedroom for Moishie, and a bedroom to sleep in. The paint peeled from the walls, and there were hardly any decorations. Yet, the guest quarters on the two floors below were decorated exquisitely, with American-style beds, expansive bathrooms, air conditioning (a luxury in India) and marble floors. We called these rooms our “healing rooms” because life was so difficult in Mumbai during the week. We knew that when we came to Chabad, Rivky and Gabi would take care of us just like our parents, and their openness and kindness would rejuvenate us for the week to come.

The juxtaposition of their home to the guest rooms was just another example of what selfless, humble people Rivky and Gabi were. They were more concerned about the comfort of their guests than their own.

The Holtzberg’s Shabbat table was a new experience each week. Backpackers, businessmen, diplomats and diamond dealers gathered together to connect with their heritage in an otherwise unfamiliar city. We always knew we were in for a surprise where an amazing story would be told, either by Gabi or a guest at the table. For each meal, Gabi prepared about seven different divrei torah (words of torah) to share. Though most of them were delivered in Hebrew (and I caught about 25%), his wisdom, knowledge and ability to inspire amazed me. Rivky and Gabi were accepting of everyone who walked through their doors, and they had no hidden agendas. Rivky once told me that there was one holiday where they had no guests. It was just herself, Gabi and Moishie. I expected her to say how relieved she was not to have guests, but she told me it was, in fact, the only lonely holiday they ever spent in India.

I remember asking Gabi if he was afraid of potential terror threats. Although his demeanor was so sweet and gentle, Gabi was also very strong-minded and determined. He told me simply and sharply that if the terrorists were to come, “be my guest, because I’m not leaving this place.” Both he and Rivky believed that their mission in Mumbai was far greater than any potential terror threats.

Everything Rivky and Gabi did came from their dedication, love and commitment to the Jewish people and to G-d. I cannot portray in words how remarkable this couple was. If there is anything practical that I can suggest in order to elevate their souls, please try to light candles this Friday night for Shabbat, improve relationships with family members and friends, try to connect to others the way that Rivky and Gabi did- with love, acceptance and open arms. There is so much to learn from them. May their names and influence live on, and inspire us in acts of kindness and love.