Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rabbinic Perspectives on Gun Control

As many of you may know, we are fortunate to have a brilliant Yeshiva University rabbinical student, Daniel Fridman, who teaches our Sunday morning shiur each week after Shacharis at 8:00am. This week, Daniel gave a fascinating talk about gun control. I will try to recall the main point of his presentation, and will also include his source sheet (in Hebrew).

For an audio recording of this shiur, please go to

Daniel opened by discussing Asara be-Teves and the different calamities that befell the Jewish people on this day. Then he explained a thematic connection between the Torah portion and the topic of gun control. He noted that in Parashas Vayigash, Jacob could not believe that Joseph was alive until he saw the wagons that were sent to retrieve him and his family. How did this convince Jacob that Joseph was still alive? The midrash teaches that Jacob and Joseph were studying the laws of the eglah  arufah (a calf whose neck has been broken) when Joseph disappeared. The eglah arufah is a ritual performed where a body is found outside of a town and the elders of the town perform a sacrifice in which they avow that they were not responsible for the death of the deceased and that they ask God to absolve them of their guilt. This ritual was done over a wadi (stream) and the wadi and the area around could never be used - it had to be a memorial to the dead person who was found. The term eglah (a calf) is similar to the term agalah (a wagon). Hence Jacob saw the wagons as a message from Joseph.

Daniel said that practice of the eglah arufah teaches to take life seriously, and homicide seriously. He said that while the 2nd amendment has different interpretations, for us as religious Jews, we want to know what the rabbinic tradition has to say. For Daniel, this means the sanctity of human life - the fact that man is created in the image of God, that man is a tzelem Elokim - is paramount. He said the the situation with guns now in the country is unacceptable, and he pointed out that in other industrialized countries that do have gun control, the mortality rate from guns is a fraction of what it is here. Finally, as citizens in a democracy, but based on Jewish sources (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 54b), we have the obligation to speak out and advocate for what is right.

Daniel went on to say that Judaism recognizes the right to self defense, but that this is not an unlimited right.

Daniel brought up the verses in Genesis about Lamech, who was criticized by his wives for teaching his son, Tuval Kayin, how to make copper and iron implements. According to Nachmanides, these are implements of war, and Lamech's response was that while these weapons cause more damage, it is people who kill people, but not the weapons themselves. Of course, according to Jewish tradition, Lamech himself was an inadvertent murderer. He accidentally killed his ancestor, Kayin, and also his son, Tuval Kayin. Since he did not intend to commit murder, he asked that his punishment be delayed for seventy-seven generations.

Daniel then raised the case of the maakeh, the railing that a property owner is obliged to construct on the roof of his building to prevent people from falling off. Based on this idea, as well as the mitzvah of lo ta'amod al dam re'ekha (lit. "Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow"), Maimonides explains that we are forbidden from creating dangerous situations in which someone become injured or die. Although Daniel  did not have a chance to review the Sefer Ha-Chinuch, Mitzvah 546 in the shiur  (but on the source sheet), in it the author of the Sefer Ha-Chinuch notes that the Torah commands us to keeps our dwellings and places safe so that no no one will die because of our sins and we will not endangers ourselves and say that we are "relying on a miracle."

Daniel continued to say that the tradition criticizes those who think that weapons are somehow ornaments. Judaism, Daniel observed, is not a pacifist religion, and it understands that war is sometimes justified, but it is far from the ideal. King David, whose war were largely righteous wars, was prohibited from building the Temple because he had blood on his hands. The sages look forward to a messianic time when swords will be beaten  into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4), but one who wears weapons now as an ornament is disgracing himself.

To sum up, we as Jews should promote a society where holiness of human life is championed. Those things which specifically endanger human life need to be removed or fixed so that they are no longer a danger. If we allow a dangerous situation to exist, we transgress the mitzvah of  lo ta'amod al dam re'ekha - not standing idly by our neighbor's blood.

If I may add my own two cents, I found Daniel's presentation persuasive. The stand that Daniel proposes should be seriously considered by religious Jews and for that matter by religious Christians as well.

Here are Daniel's sources....

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chanukah at Old Broadway in 1941

Berish Broyde, the grandson of Rabbi Shepsel Broyde, sent us this program from a Chanukah celebration at Old Broadway when Rabbi Broyde was the rav of the shul. This Chanukah celebration took place a little less than two weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, so the memorial service undoubtedly had those who were killed in that attack in mind. Over the four years that the United States was engaged in the war, dozens of men associated with Old Broadway served, and five, Arnold Kranis, Herman Rapaport, Bertram Starr Stanley Rudnic and Philip Buchdrucker, lost their lives. May their memory be for a blessing. Rabbi Fischel Goldfeder went on to become the rabbi at the Conservative Adath Israel in Cincinatti, OH (Kerry Olitzki and Marc Lee Raphael, The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook, p.279). I have not been able to find out anything about Cantor Lekochowicz. If you know anything, please let me know.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Women's Rosh Chodesh Group Challah Making Workshop

Two weeks ago Laura Radensky conducted a challah making workshop at the Old Broadway Synagogue for the members of the Women's Rosh Chodesh Group, pictured below. L'hava and Anna made two beautiful challahs  also pictured below.Yashar koach to Laura and Rhonda Taylor-Ramsuer for organizing another great event!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hoshana Rabba at the Old Broadway Synagogue

The Hoshana Rabba service, which takes place on the last day of Sukkos, is one of my favorite moments in the holiday season. It falls on chol ha-moed, yet the davenning is similar to that of yom tov, including the many hakafos (revolutions) around the bimah. It is also a fascinating blend of Sukkos, which is a time of joy, and Yom Kippur, a time of introspection. Before Hoshana Rabba, we wish one another a "gut kvitl" a"good note" submitted to God on our behalf. I have included some photos below of Hoshana Rabba this past October at Old Broadway.

Hallel on Hoshana Rabba

 The Hakafos

More Hakafos

 Beating the hoshanos... symbolically removing sin.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Other Old Broadway

It is with mixed emotions that we say zay gezunt (be well!) to Itay Zutra. After spending his years as a graduate student with us, and also a year after graduation, we share his joy in his landing an exciting position as a professor of Yiddish in Winipeg, Canada. At Old Broadway, Itay brought his warmth, his calm spirit, his generous spirit, lots of candy for the children and other treats. Of course, we would like to think that we at Old Broadway influenced Itay as well. Indeed, we would like to think that the warmth of our community, the seriousness of our Yiddishkeyt and our sense of history all had their impact. So much so, in fact, that we see in Itay as a shliach, if you will, for the way of Old Broadway. As you can you imagine, these hopes received a confirmation when we saw that Itay posted the photo below on his Facebook page.

Yes, there it is, another Old Broadway, in Fargo, North Dakota, of all places. We were. of course, thrilled that there is another orthodox shul with the same name is Fargo! I was so surprised and delighted by this find that I decided to learn more about this special shul. Alas, my joy was not to be for long. "Old Broadway" in Fargo, ND is not a shul, but a bar!!! Itay must not have realized since he was only on the outside (at least that's what we see from his photo) and besides, who would ever confuse a shul with a bar - gevalt! I don't think it even has a hekhsher!

In any event, New York's loss is Winipeg's gain. We know Itay will do great things in his new position and we wish him hatzlakhah rabba be-khol ma'aseh yadekha ("much success in all that you do").

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Remembering Rabbi Shepsel Broyde for his 25th Yahrzeit

Rabbi Shepsel Broyde, 1946
This year marks the twenty-fifth yarhzeit of Rabbi Shepsel (Shepard) Broyde, the rabbi of our shul from 1940 to 1950. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Rebbetzin Eleanor Broyde, Rabbi Broyde's widow, Rabbi Broyde's son Heshey, and two grandsons, Berish and Shloyme. I used the opportunity to learn more about Rabbi Broyde so that we could have a better sense of the rabbinic leadership of our shul during the decade that he was here. Rabbi Broyde's grandfather, R' Tzvi Yaakov Broyde, brought the family over from Dvinsk (Daugavpils) Latvia, around the beginning of the twentieth century. R'  Tzvi Yaakov became involved with the Jewish community and was the first gabbai of the Adas Yisroel Synagogue (later called the United Hebrew Community of New York). Rabbi Broyde's father, R' Yitzchok Yosef was five years old when the family left Latvia and moved to New York, where he grew up. Heshey Broyde explained that his grandfather was deeply involved in communal affairs and that his home was a bais chesed ve-rachamim - a house of kindness and mercy. As an example of this, R' Yitzchok Yosef filed affidavits of support for European Jews so that they would be able immigrate to this country before the start of the war.  Rabbi Broyde was born and raised on the Lower East Side, where he attended the Yeshivas Rabbi Jacob Joseph (RJJ). From 1932 to 1937, Rabbi Broyde studied (and presumably received his semikhah) at the famed Mir Yeshiva in Mir, Poland.

The Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai, 1942,
five years after Rabbi Broyde left.
In 1937, Rabbi Broyde returned to New York where he worked in his father's real estate company. In 1940, Rabbi Broyde became the rav of the Old Broadway Synagogue, a position he filled until 1950. During these years, the shul held gala 30th and 35th anniversary dinner celebrations. Isador Thornschein and William Joachim were the shul's lay leaders during these years. After leaving Old Broadway, Rabbi Broyde moved to Brooklyn where he continued to work in real estate. Later, he did kashrus supervision for the OK. Rabbi Broyde died in 1987.
!יהי זכרו ברוך May his memory be for a blessing!

Heshey, Eleanor, Berish and Shloyme Broyde

Thursday, February 23, 2012



Shane Baker
Aron Gershman
The festivities will begin on Wednesday, night, March 7, 2012 at 5:30m with Minchah followed by children’s Purim parade. At 6:38, we will continue with Maariv and a Megillah reading by the renowned David Lerner. Following the Megillah, we will have an awesome Purim party with hamentashen, a magic show by the incomparable Yiddish magician, Shane Bakerand then the magnificent music of the maestro of Odessa, 
Aron Gershman.
$15 contribution requested

On Thursday morning, March 8, 2011, at 8:00am, we will have Shacharis and a Megillah reading with the usual guys. Afterward we will have a festive breakfast and  a lively shiur on Purim with Daniel Fridman.

!משנכנס אדר, מרבים בשמחה


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cholent Review: Exploring New Horizons

As I have written previously on this blog, I have come up with a good recipe for a modified Moroccan cholent called dafina which is easy to make, vegetarian and tasty. I have made it now many times but as much as I like it, I have had to also explore other slow cooker recipes for Shabbos kiddush. One week I tried a veggie minestrone soup. It was very tomato-ey and good but not compelling. Most recently, I have been making a pretty flavorful vegetarian chili. I must confess that I cheat in that I throw in SmartLife ground meat substitute (that's not exactly what it is called, but that is the idea). The SmartLife product is some sort of soy, but like the manna of the Torah, it can take on a number of different flavors. I have been making my chili with the fake ground meat, soaked kidney beans (using canned beans doesn't seem right), crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, wheat berries (for texture) chopped onion, a little olives oil, some salt, pepper, a judicious amount of cayenne pepper (I used about a third of a teaspoon for a whole six quart slow cooker), and lots and lots of cumin. You might think that chili should have chili powder, and to tell the truth, I have been looking for chili powder, but I have not have found any that has met my needs. A small bottle from Fairway might be enough for a single slow cooker worth of chili, but at $3 or $4 a pop, it is too much. Then I tried a bottle of chili powder from a 99 cent store. It was quite orange and super spicy. I think it was mostly or wholly cayenne. In any event, the cumin seems to do the trick. After I mixed all the ingredients, I put it on the fire for 18 or 19 hours. The tomatoes take on a certain tanginess and cooked cumin infuses everything with a rich flavor. The cayenne gives it some heat. It's been a big hit at the Old Broadway Synagogue. Serve with schmaltz herring and scotch.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ethiopian Jewish Performer Alula Tzadik at the Old Broadway Synagogue

This past November 26th, Dr. Eliott Kahn brought the Ethiopian Jewish performer, Alula Tzadik from Los Angeles to perform the final concert of the year for the Upper Manhattan Jewish Music Series. Alula is a dynamic, lively performer who played a guitar, something that looked like a lyre as well as a keyboard. He sang Jewish standards to a kind of a reggae beat and also sang Ethiopian Jewish songs. And he showed us an unusual "shoulder dance" that was like nothing I had ever seen before. Eliott arranged all the music, hired a keyboardist and sang together with Jemel Asten. We were pleased that Beejhy Barhany, the president of BINA (Beta Israel of North America) Cultural Foundation spoke as well. A great time was had by all. Eliott will be having his Jewish music series in 2012 as well. We look forward to continuing to explore our rich Jewish musical heritage. Below are a few photos from the November 26, 2011 concert.