Monday, February 17, 2014

GSN S1 E18 -Sephardic Shabbat!

This week is Sephardic Shabbat on Good shabbos Nebraska -America's favorite shabbos morning Talk show - featuring the world famous Sephardi Chazzan Rabbi Moshe Tessone.  

Rabbi Moshe Tessone is Director of The Sephardic Community Program at Yeshiva University and a distinguished faculty member at Yeshiva University where he teaches Jewish Studies. He is also a faculty member at the YU affiliated Belz School of Jewish Music where he is an instructor of Sephardic cantillation and liturgy.  

He also has released two CDs featuring Sephardic music.

Rabbi Tessone has toured extensively throughout North America, South America, Europe and Israel both as a rabbinic speaker on Torah related topics of Sephardic interest, Sephardic history, and Jewish education and as a cantorial concert soloist featuring Judeo Arabic and Judeo Spanish religious music and liturgy.

In addition to appearing on Good Shabbos Nebraska, throughout Shabbat Rabbi Tessone will introduce the Omaha Jewish community to the ancient and modern musical traditions of the Sephardic world through inspiring prayer and Shabbat songs. 

Rabbi Tessone will be joined by his wife Regine Monavar Tessone.  She was born in Tehran and at the age of nine she was forced to flee because of the revolution in 1978.  Her family escaped on the very same day that Khomeini arrived as the mobs were flooding the streets.  She is currently finishing a book about her experience.  Over Shabbat she will share her story and offer a unique perspective on the current situation in Iran.

In Omaha we have a dearth of Sephardic Jews, but according to studies there are anywhere between 500,000 and 800,000 Sephardic Jews in different communities throughout the United States.  They have held fast to the various traditions that they brought with them from North Africa and the Middle East.  Rabbi Tessone has been invited to speak in just about every Sephardic community in the country.  He also is involved in the education of the current and future Rabbinic and lay leadership of these communities as director of the Sephardic communities program at YU. Consequently he is arguably the foremost expert on the landscape and demographics of these unique communities.  

The recent Pew study did not ask participants if they were Ashkenazi or Sephardi.  Taken in isolation, the Sephardic community presents a very different picture of American Judaism - a perspective that could be valuable for a community like Omaha to learn from.  

Like every Shabbos, this will be a great opportunity to learn about something Jewish that is not readily accessible in our Omaha Jewish community - in a format that makes it exciting and engaging. 

So catch Good Shabbos Nebraska, this and every week ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue -  where every Shabbos is a shabbaton!

GSN S1 E17 - NCSY Shabbat with Israel Lashak

This week was one of the most important and serious episodes of Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show!

Our guest was Rabbi Israel Lashak from the NCSY youth organization of the Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Lashak has been in the informal Jewish education business for almost three decades.  He is based in Dallas but he lives in a plane.  He has racked up almost 7 million miles on American Airlines traveling to Jewish communities all over the world, inspiring kids and consulting communities on how they can grow their youth programs.

Rabbi Lashak is originally from Mexico city.  He speaks 7 languages fluently and has traveled to all but 26 of the world's 230 countries for Jewish programming.

Rabbi Lashak is a true professional.  Speaking to him for 10 minutes, anyone could tell that he knows the business of educating Jewish youth.

On the show he told us about the two Torahs.  The Torah of Moshe is the Torah that most of us are familiar with - Jewish texts like the Torah, Talmud, midrash, etc.  Many kids connect with the Torah of Moshe, but many do not.  The kids who do not immediately connect with Jewish texts tend to get left behind Jewishly.

That is where Rabbi Lashak comes in.  He introduces the kids to the Torah of Abraham.  Abraham did not come to the Torah by reading a book.  Abraham discovered God through nature, experience, and acts of kindness.  That is the Torah that Rabbi Lashak specializes in.

Rabbi Lashak organizes trips all over the world so that Jewish kids can see the beauty of Hashem's creations and engage in acts of kindness.  He does service learning projects in south America, historical journey's through Europe, and of course trips to Israel.  Rabbi Lashak has lead almost 70 birthright trips to Israel.

Rabbi Lashak is a serious scholar in the Torah of Moshe.  he spent over 15 years learning Torah in Yeshiva and to this day he continues to learn seriously every day.  It is because of his foundation in the Torah of Moshe that he is able to make the Torah of Abraham come alive.  The kids experience the wonders of the world and connect with Hashem on a deep level - and then Rabbi Lashak introduces them to serious Jewish content that enhances the experience and inspires the kids to follow up after the trip and engage in their unique Jewish heritage.

We got to experience Rabbi Lashak first hand over Shabbat.  Friday Night we had a dinner for NCSY families and Rabbi Lashak showed us how to make a Friday night dinner into an inspiring experience with singing and words of Torah.

Over Shabbos we had serious conversations about the sate of Jewish youth in Omaha.  We discussed it openly on Good Shabbos Nebraska and Rabbi Lashak gave us some candid and honest feedback on what he had observed.  Some of what he had to say was painful to hear, but he also gave us some constructive advice.

He made some really great connections with myself and other Jewish professionals over Shabbos and we plan to follow up with him and see if we can use his advice to turn around our community.

Many thanks to NCSY for making this Shabbos possible and of course to Yaakov Rosenblatt of Dallas who sponsored Rabbi Lashak.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rabbi Pesach Lerner to Speak about Women of the Wall

Tonight was incredible!  Rabbi Pesach Lerner is in Omaha on business and he ravened maariv at Beth Israel tonight.

I had asked him in advance if he would speak about the Jonathan Pollard case.

It was incredible.  He spoke about the facts of the Jonathan Pollard case.

Rabbi Lerner is very clear, Jonathan Pollard committed a crime.  The point that Rabbi Lerner makes, and is finally joined by many prominent Jewish leaders and American politicians, is that Pollard paid his debt to society and it is now time to let him go.

Rabbi Lerner has been advocating for Pollard for 20 years and he has spoken hundreds, if not thousands of times on this topic.  His presentation is fascinating and Rabbi Lerner's passion for the cause is infectious.  He recommended that for more information we go to

Rabbi Lerner is going to be back at Beth Israel tomorrow night at 6:15 pm.  I asked him if he would talk tomorrow about the women of the wall situation in Israel.  He is somewhat involved with a group called Women for the wall that was established to get out an opposing view point to women of the wall.

Rabbi Lerner has a very interesting perspective to contribute to the issue.

The Reform Synagogue recently had Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall scheduled to be here.  She was snowed out, but I was hoping to have an opportunity to hear her in person as I always go to hear challenging speakers, especially speakers who are public personalities.

Tomorrow is an opportunity for Omaha Jews to have their ideas challenged.  I really hope that the word gets out in Omaha about this rare opportunity for us to hear words that we may not agree with from a public personality.  That is what Torah is all about.

So be there tomorrow Tuesday, February 11 at 6:15pm!
You will not want to miss it!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Monday night at beth Israel - The Facts about Jonathan Pollard!

This Monday we have a special guest at Beth Israel.  Rabbi Pesach Lerner is passing through Omaha and will be davening with us on Monday night at 6:15 PM.

Rabbi Lerner is known for many things, among them he has never stopped advocating on behalf of Jonathan Pollard.

Jonathan Pollard is an historic figure who personifies a host of issues that confront American Jews.

Is there institutionalized antisemitism in America?  Are Jews more loyal to Israel than Amerca?  If the interests of Israel and America ever came into conflict, which side would we choose?

It also brings up the question of how Israel views the American Jewish community.  Does Israel have a responsibility towards all Jews or just towards Israelis?  If Pollard had been Israeli would Israel have done more to try to free him?

In the past Jewish organizations were reluctant to advocate on behalf of Pollard as many Jews saw it as a sign of disloyalty to America.

Rabbi Lerner never stopped advocating for Pollard for a minute.

Over the last couple of years, as Pollard's health has been in decline and as the Israeli government has taken a more active role in advocating for his release, it has become in vogue for mainstream Jewish organizations to speak out on his behalf.

This is a great opportunity for Omaha Jews to learn about this historic case and to ask questions from the man who has been directly involved all along.

So be here at Beth Israel on
February 10th Monday night at 6:15 PM For Rabbi Pesach Lerner.  Everyone is invited!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Episode 16 of GSN - Nebraska meets Iowa!

This week is a special episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska.  We are hosting a shabbaton with the members of Beth El Jacob - the Orthodox Synagogue in Des Moines.

Des Moines is the closest Orthodox shul to Beth Israel, and it is over 2 hours away.

We have always talked about getting together for Shabbos and we are finally making it happen.  This Shabbos we are going to talk about our communities, learn from each other, and give each other encouragement.  It is not easy being isolated communities in the middle of America and it is nice to get together to celebrate our achievements and talk about the challenges together.

The guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska this week will be the Rabbi of Beth El Jacob, Rabbi Elib Bolel.

Born in the UK received his ordination from the Ohr Lagolah Graduate Semicha Program at Ohr Someyach in Jerusalem – Israel. He received a second Semicha from Rosh Av Bet Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council - R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz. In addition to being an ordained Rabbi, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Judaic Studies, Master of Business Administration and is a certified teacher by the Israel Ministry of Education and member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC).
Rabbi Bolel with his warmth, enthusiasm, leadership and knowledge has attracted new families, young and senior to Beth El Jacob. In addition to his dedication and responsibilities at the synagogue, Rabbi Bolel has established outreach programs on three different universities in Iowa catering for the Jewish student, sits on various organization Boards, and is supervising Rabbi for the Mikvah and Chevra Kadisha.Rabbi Bolel is married to Devorah, who hails from Jerusalem – Israel and is a qualified cosmetician. Devorah oversees the running of the Shul Mikvah and arranges cooked meals for new moms, the sick etc in the community. Rabbi and Devorah are the proud parents of their two sons, Eitan and Yair.
Rabbi Bolel and I have known each other for some time and we are excited to spend Shabbos together finally.

So catch us this and every Shabbos at 10am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue where EVERY SHABBOS is a Shabbaton!