Machberes: Inside The Chassidish And Yeshivish World

By Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

With great joy, the news of the establishment of an original and particularly needed chesed organization was received. The heartfelt function of the effort, known as Minyan, seeks to remedy the frequent need to have a minyan completed in such cases as shivah, for the homebound due to illness, etc. With a call to Minyan, a minyan of ten men will be achieved. If only four men are needed, the four men will materialize at the place and time needed, for Shacharis, Minchah, and/or Ma’ariv.

The need to have minyanim for those sitting shivah during the summer months, when many neighbors are away, accentuates the sometime difficulty in assembling the necessary ten men for required minyanim. Those in mourning, grieving the loss of their loved one, should not have the additional burden of begging neighbors and friends.

If six neighboring men come to daven, they at times must wait at Borchu for the rest of a minyan to show up. Two more may come but one must leave. The minyan might dissolve, to the chagrin of the mourners.

The value of arranging additional men to complement and join a minyan is immeasurable. In addition, the personal satisfaction that the volunteer will achieve is immense and Heaven will surely bless his effort. Minyan invites men to join. The volunteer will be issued a member unit number and will receive communications by text as to when and where a minyan is needed.

Volunteers will be able to respond indicating their availability. The participation of Minyan volunteers is unique in that a volunteer can only participate in one minyan per tefillah, as opposed to volunteer members of other worthy organizations wherein one could participate multiple times daily. In other words, 100 men can only constitute 10 minyanim for Shacharis. Therefore, to be truly effective, the organization appreciates the participation and potential availability of as many men as possible.

The organization will operate in the following manner. If someone calls in at 3:00 p.m. informing that seven men are needed to complete a minyan at 6:00 p.m. at a specific address, apartment number, etc., Minyan will issue a text message call with exact information to all of its members. Volunteers, if available, will respond indicating their hopeful participation and present themselves at the place and time designated.

Minyan stresses that those needing help must realize that a ba’al tefillah should be ready on time and that excessive preliminary or volitional prayers be completed in advance or avoided. Otherwise, Minyan volunteers will lose enthusiasm of further participation. Tefillos must be timely. In most shuls, the announcement continues, Hodu is ten minutes after Berachos, from Hodu to Borchu is 11 minutes, so that Shemoneh Esreih is 18 minutes after Berachos. On days when the Torah is read, the total time for Shacharis should be no more than 40 minutes until the final Kaddish after Aleinu. In order to maintain volunteer fervor, tefillos should not be prolonged. This applies to Minchah and Ma’ariv as well.

The directors of Minyan request that, in order to maximize its kiddush Hashem, all volunteers turn off their cell phones before each tefillah. Thus, they will dedicate themselves to Heaven and to the additional mitzvah of helping another in need, thereby doubling their mitzvah of tefillah.

Minyan’s phone number is 718-522-0088. Calls are invited from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. If someone needs a minyan for Shacharis, the call should be placed no later than 7:00 p.m. in the evening before. Time is needed in assembling the particularly needed number of men. For Minchah or for Ma’ariv requirements, calls should be placed at least two hours in advance.

The founders of Minyan hope to achieve full service to the community after the summer, when everyone returns from vacation. Initially, Minyan seeks to service Williamsburg. With their fully anticipated success, Minyan has set its sights on providing its unique service to Boro Park, Monsey, Flatbush, Kiryas Yoel, Lakewood, and the Five Towns, and looks forward to expand even further. The call is being issued for men in all endeavors, whether professionals, businessmen, or kollel members, to call in and submit their names and phone numbers. After 9:00 p.m., please leave your full name and callback number. No particular commitment is made in joining. Responding with intention of participation in any particular minyan-call is discretional.

The satisfaction that member volunteers will achieve is guaranteed by Heaven. Especially as we are in the month of Elul and in preparation for the Yomim Noraim, there is no other personal or community positive act that compares.

France And Its Jews

Jewish history in France dates back to before the early Middle Ages. France was once a center of great Jewish learning, but faded in the face of persecution during the Middle Ages. Recognition must be made in that France was the first country in Europe to emancipate its Jewish population, during the French Revolution (1787—1799). Technically, that was before full rights were explicitly granted to Jews here in the United States. However, the Dreyfus affair (1894—1906) is a historical testament to enduring French anti-Semitism.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906, the first settlements of Jews in Europe are obscure. In the year 39 CE, there were Jews recorded as being in Lyon. From 336 to 465, various church decrees mention Jews, principally as merchants as well as rabbis, physicians, sailors, and tax collectors.

The greatest Jewish figure dominating the second half of the 11th century, as well as the entirety of rabbinical history of France, is that of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki of Troyes, zt’l (1040—1106), known as Rashi. In addition to his transcendent contribution to Jewish learning, his incorporating French words in his Hebrew commentaries constitutes the oldest recorded written use of the French language.

Today France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, being the third largest Jewish population in the world, after Israel and the United States. The Jewish community in France, estimated as of 2010, is more than 600,000. The French Jewish community is found mainly in Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon, and Toulouse.

During the Holocaust, the majority of Jews deported from France and murdered were non-French Jews. Until severe pressure was brought to bear by Nazi Germany, the infamous Vichy sought in many instances to protect its native French-born Jews. In addition, France has the third highest number of “Righteous Among the Nations” (according to the Yad Vashem Museum, 2006). This honored recognition is only given to “non-Jews who acted according to the most noble principles of humanity by risking their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.”

According to the respected Pew Research Center, in spite of increasing anti-Semitic events being reported, France remains the second least anti-Semitic country in the world, with an 82% favorable view of Jews. The Netherlands has an 85% and the United States has a 77% favorable view of Jews.

A Jewish issue in today’s France. Since the French Revolution, laws prohibit sectarian cemeteries. Jewish graves located in public cemeteries belonging to the City of Paris have developed into a major challenge. The land for a grave is “rented” by a family in the municipality’s cemetery for a limited period of time, usually for 30, 50, or 100 years. Possibility of renewal is given at the end of this period, but only to a family’s recognized member, not to any community representative. Unfortunately, most Jewish descendants or living family members are not aware of the time limits, or simply are no longer residing in Paris, whether as a result of the Holocaust or migrations.

At the end of the time period, when the rental of the cemetery plot is not renewed by the family, the city is legally authorized to proceed to the exhumation of the bones from the grave. This is not because of anti-Semitism but because of lack of place in urban cemeteries. The remains are then placed in marked wooden boxes and kept in large underground storage caverns belonging to the municipality. The boxes are stored one atop another and indiscriminately mixed with all other French remains.

Very recently, because of the lack of storage space, new legislation has given authorization to the municipality to cremate remains after exhumation. Jewish representative organizations are seriously concerned regarding the estimated more than 10,000 Jewish remains which were exhumed these past years and which continue to be exhumed.

In the immediate past, French Jewish organizations have succeeded in the reburial of known important personalities, such as Rabbi Hershel Yehoshua Levine, zt’l (1814—1883), author of Aliyos Eliyahu and grandson of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhyn, zt’l (1749—1821).

Rabbi Levine served as Rav in Volozhyn, Prague, and in the Russian Jewish community of Paris. His remains were reburied in Israel. Efforts are presently under way in negotiating with Paris municipal representatives as well as consideration of initial steps towards an international lawsuit in order to oblige the municipality to grant the Jewish community the right to rebury Jewish remains, in recognition of the fundamental human right to be respected after death. v

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum is the Rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights in Boro Park and Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. Rabbi Tannenbaum can be contacted at


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