Thursday, December 27, 2012

Save the Philby Partridge - Save the World!


The Philby partridge (alectoris philbi) is a partridge which is indigenous to Northern Yemen. It was at one time imported by the San Diego Zoo, and there were quite a few hobbyists who had success raising the bird. Unfortunately, this bird is not beautiful or cuddly. For unknown reasons, the San Diego Zoo stopped raising this bird around a decade ago, and most hobbyists have likewise moved to more interesting exotics. At the same time, the situation in Yemen has become rather hostile. Although the bird is not listed as endangered, the collapse of the Yemenite government combined with the rampant poaching does not bode well for the future of this species.

Yemenite Jews collecting Philby Partridges for a visiting doctor from Italy
From the book Mesoret Haof by Zohar Amar

The Philby partridge is unique because it is one of the few historically kosher birds, which are not readily available. Most of the birds which we eat are the classic domesticated chicken, turkey, duck and, if you are lucky, goose. The Talmud in the third perek of Chullin explains that the majority of avian species are kosher, however, the Rama (SH”A YD 82:3) notes the tradition is not to eat any birds whose kosher status can not be proven via a mesorah, tradition of permissibly. All said, of the ten thousand recognized avian species, there are only three dozen species which are proven kosher. The Philby partridge could likely qualify for this short list. There is photographic evidence that the Philby was consumed by the local Yemenite Jewish community. There is scientific data that the Philby will hybridize with the kosher species of partridge.  All said and done, the only reason why the Philby partridge may not become a recognized kosher bird, is because this bird is just too rare.

After approaching a few zoos, it was discovered that there are so many species in danger of extinction that the institutions are forced to prioritize. This rare bird, from a remote part of the Arabian Peninsula, was not considered a priority. To this end, a few rabbis are trying to save this bird. We have already acquired a foundation stock, and are now looking to breed this bird. If our breeding efforts are successful, we hope to establish three breeding colonies. Additional birds will be distributed to schools, camps, and other institutions which appreciate both the mitzvah (Rambam MA 1:1) to differentiate between the kosher and non-kosher species and the importance of conservation.

How much is this all going to cost? We are looking to raise five thousand dollars. This will cover the equipment needed to raise and maintain the three colonies, as well as food, vitamins and medication. We will work, b’ezras Hashem, to save this species, your contribution will be a major factor in determining whether or not we succeed. Join the campaign

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Save a Kosher Bird!!!

Rabbi Chaim Loike is the Orthodox Unions's expert on Kosher birds.  In his research he found that the Philby Partridge, indigenous to Northern Yemen, is subjected to unrelenting hunting pressures.

These birds are not found in zoos and their population is dwindling rapidly.  

Rabbi Loike is their only chance of survival.  He has already acquired a small flock, which he intends to start raising. His goal is to raise a sustainable captive population of these birds to prevent them from becoming extinct!

All the money goes to the birds!!!!

The money raised will be used to pay for food, vitamins, and equipment needed to breed and raise these birds. If the opportunity arises we will also purchase more foundation stock to diversify the gene pool.

All that is needed is $5,000!!!

$5,000 can save an entire species from extinction!!!

Here is the link to his website.

Please consider donating and passing this along.  Hopefully we can raise this modest sum and save the Philby Partridge.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Travel Blog #2

Miriam and I just returned from a trip to New York for a family wedding.  (check out travel blog #1)

On Friday night we davened at the shul where Miriam group up.  Tifferet Yisroel in Baltimore.  The Rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, is a magnetic leader who attracts Jews of all backgrounds through his sensitive and insightful Torah and his beautiful music.  For Licha Dodi we sang one of Rabbi Goldberger's original tunes that has become quite popular around the world. The davening included beautiful singing and dancing as we celebrated the welcoming of Shabbat.

Shabbat morning I woke up early to walk to daven at a shul about 20 minutes from where I was staying.  I wanted to daven at Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim where my fellow YU graduate Rabbi Shmuel Silber is the Rabbi.  On the way, I passed at least half a dozen other shuls and the streets of Baltimore were teeming with people going to daven at the variety of choices that the Jewish community there has to offer.

I went early to Suburban to hear Rabbi Silber's class on the parshah.  A few hundred people come to daven there on Shabbat and during davening Rabbi Silber comes around and welcomes everyone with a hug and a warm "good shabbos!"  I was really impressed with the warm welcoming feeling of the congregation.  At least ten people recognized that I was a guest and came over to introduce themselves.

When I returned home after shul I went to visit Miriam's neighbors and oldest friends who had just celebrated their sons bar mitzvah.  They hosted a private service in their backyard and invited family and friends from the neighborhood.  The bar mitzvah boy read the Torah like an expert.  The backyard was decorated beautifully and the food was delicious.

The father of the bar mitzvah boy is Miriam's father's old friend Simcha who started an organization called Call of the Shofar.   I had the privilege of attending one of the workshops last year and I would recommend it to any Jewish man who is interested in that genre of program.

On Shabbat afternoon, I took my kids to visit their cousins who live near Miriam's parents.  Last year they tragically lost their father, my cousin Mark.    When I came in my cousin said, "I have to show you something!"  She went into her room and came out with Mark's old Betar uniform!  She read that we had started a Betar chapter in Omaha.  Mark was a very active member of Betar and Betar had inspired his strong love of Israel and activism.

In the afternoon I went shul hopping.  I attended a lecture by Rabbi Dovid Katz, the rabbi of Congregation Beth Abraham Hertzberg's.  Rabbi Katz is a noted Jewish historian who teaches at Johns Hopkins and U of Maryland.  He spoke about some of the history of Chanukah and what made Chanukah more special than other Jewish victories over the centuries that made it a holiday.

After the lecture I davened minchah at Beth Abraham and then went to the Agudah shul to see if I could hear Rabbi Moshe Heinemann speak.  rabbi Heinemann is considered one of the leading Rabbis in America.  Unfortunately I when I got there he was not speaking.  So I went back to Rabbi Goldberger's shul for a beautiful shalosh seudot and maariv.

After shabbat we lit the first chanukah candle with Miriam's family, piled into the car, and drove 4 hours to my parents in New Jersey.

Sunday morning I davened at Bnei Yeshurun, the shul in Teaneck where I grew up.

My sisters from Florida flew in with my niece and nephews for the wedding of our cousin.  The bride is the daughter of my uncle Mark Honigsfeld, famous for having the idea to sell Chametz to Warren Buffett.

The wedding was a true simcha. The bride and groom looked so happy.  He is currently studying for Semichah at Yeshiva University and all of his friends came to the wedding and danced and sang harder than any wedding I have ever seen!  It was almost dangerous for an old guy like me to get into the circle.  Fortunately we formed a separate dancing circle for 21 an older.  The band at the wedding was lead by Eitan Katz, possibly the best contemporary Jewish musician in the world today!  I happen to be a huge fan, I have all of his CDs and listen to them all the time.  He was fantastic.  It was so nice to celebrate a family simcha.  I had a chance to see my grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and hundreds of cousins.  I hope we all have a chance to celebrate more happy occasions together soon.

My cousins is from Long Island and their neighborhood was devastated by Super storm Sandy.  The wedding hall had made a complete recovery just in time for this wedding! At the wedding I saw another Long Island cousin, Rabbi Heshie Billet.  I asked him how his community  has been coping in the aftermath of the storm.  He told me that families have lost an average of $200,000.  Six hundred families, including him, have been moved from their homes and have still been unable to return.  Aid organizations have been giving away thousands of dollars to individuals, but the damage was so devastating that it is hardly making a dent.  He continues to have an optimistic spirit and thanks God all the time that nobody was hurt.

Overall it was a great trip, and as always it feels great to be home!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Travel Blog #1

My family and I have traveled east to celebrate a cousin's wedding this Sunday.
Yesterday evening we flew into Baltimore where we will spend Shabbat with my in-laws.

When we arrived on Thursday evening we were greeted by my in-laws and by an old friend of theirs, Sara, that was visiting form Milwaukee.  Sarah knew my father-in-law since they were 18.  They met in a geology class their freshman year in college.  Neither of them were affiliated Jews at the time.  They went their separate ways and subsequently both of their lives paths lead to Torah and Mitzvot.  Years later my father-in-law was learning Torah in Israel and came back to the states for a wedding.  While he was back he had Shabbat lunch at his friend Sarah where he met a nice young lady named Shoshana - my wife's mother.  It was really nice spending time with her and hearing stories about my wife when she was younger.  

We left the kids to play with their aunt and grandparents and we went out to enjoy one of Baltimore's many kosher restaurants.  We went to a place called Kosher Bite - one of these eclectic Kosher places that serves everything from Sushi, to Chinese, to Middle Eastern, to Deli, to "American Cuisine" (which I thought somehow sounded like an oxymoron) and more.  We ordered some burgers which were excellent, but made us a bit homesick for the Star Deli in Omaha.

At the restaurant I ran into my good friend Rabbi Ian Baily who was picking up a Shwarma laffa for him and his wife.  Ian wrote a book called The 7 Ways where he developed a system similar to the Myers Briggs personality test, but Ian incorporates Kabbalah and Jewish philosophy.  He gives seminars on the topic all over the country.  

I learned another amazing thing about Baltimore.  In the restaurant there was a lady who's car had stalled.  She was waiting for "Chaveirim" to come and help her out.  "Chaveirim" is a Jewish volunteer core that stands ready to help a Jew in need.  They will help you start your car, shovel you out of the snow, make a minyan for a shiva, and a host of other things.  Check out their website.  It is absolutely amazing.  After 9/11 Chaveirim groups formed in many Jewish communities across the country.  Maybe we should start one in Omaha.

After dinner I stopped by the Agudah Shul where i love to daven in Baltimore.  They have minyan's running around the clock starting early in the morning and going until late into the night.  I love davening there.  One day I hope Beth Israel in Omaha will also become a minyan factory.

The next morning I woke up early to learn with my father-in-law and his chevrusa.  Every morning at 6:30am he learns with his friend Dovid Krafchow.  Dovid is an incredibly interesting man.  You can visit his blog at He served in the Navy during the Vietnam war and since then has traveled all over the world.  He published a number of books including a book about his theory that Tarot Cards were invented by Jews as a way of learning Torah in secret during times of Greek persecutions, similar to the way that Jews would play dreidel.  The pictures on the cards would incorporate Jewish themes and ideas and the players would discuss these deep concepts as they "played." David also points out that the word 'Tarot' backwards is 'Torat' which means "the Torah of." Together he and my father-in-law study the book "Pri Tzaddik" written by the famous chasidic master Tzadok hakohen.  

After learning we davened at a shul around the corner from Agudah.  I like Agudah because most minyanim (but not all) at the minyan factory have a nice upbeat pace to them.  The davening at the shul that David likes to daven at goes at a slower pace and is more meditative.  Morning minyan that most places finish in 30 minutes took almost an hour.  

After minyan I went to the Jewish book store, Shabsi's, to wait on line for the opening.  The Friday before Chanuka is black Friday - people doing last minute chanukah shopping and all sorts of great sales.  We got their a half hour before the store opened and were close to the front of the line.  I bought a whole bunch of books for myself as well as two CDs for my girls.  I got them Uncle Moishe vol 5 (featuring one of my personal favorites "Shabbos is coming!") and Yeshiva Boys Choir (they are kind of like N'Sync but made up of 10 year old Yeshiva Boys).  

After shopping we came home and Miriam's brother and his family just arrived.  The kids are so happy to see their cousins.  The kids are playing, Miriam and her sister are cooking, and we are getting ready for a great Shabbat.