Mordechai Weiss goes from Chabad rabbi to Israel tour guide

June 19, 2011

by Abigail Klein Leichman

In July 2003, Rabbi Mordechai Weiss arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv with his pregnant wife, Ellie, nine of their 10 children (another was already married and living in Israel), and 40 pieces of luggage. Two vans transported them to their new house in Mitzpeh Yericho in the Judean Desert.

“As we alighted from the vans in front of our still-under-construction new home, all we could see was sand, sun, and sky,” he writes in his recently released book, “You Come for One Reason but Stay for Another” (Devora Publishing, $18.95). “It was like entering the Twilight Zone. Goodbye civilization (Teaneck, New Jersey), hello Mitzpeh.”

For more than two decades, Weiss was part of the Jewish landscape of North Jersey, as rabbi of Teaneck’s Chabad House, director of the Friends of Lubavitch of Bergen County, and chaplain of the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps. His wife taught at the Yeshiva of North Jersey and welcomed untold numbers of visitors to the Weiss home. Yet the pull of their ancestral homeland brought the large family to a unanimous decision to leave all that and resettle in a 300-family desert community.

In the book, which presents five years’ worth of e-mail updates to friends and family, Weiss provides a frank look at why the family moved; the challenges, triumphs, and tragedies of the first years in Israel; and above all, the reasons most of the family chose to stay.

Now working as a licensed tour guide, Weiss told The Jewish Standard that the notion for the book came from several people on his distribution list. He envisioned his readers as falling into two distinct groups: those familiar with the concept of aliyah, and those “who might be interested in a true and honest family experience, a personal story to be enjoyed.”

In describing his children’s adjustment, Weiss often writes about the role of sports in their lives, particularly for Mendel, who was a third-grader when they arrived.

“Because baseball was an important part of Mendel’s upbringing, it was extremely important for him to be connected to baseball here in Israel,” said Weiss, “despite the difficulties of schlepping him to Jerusalem, Petach Tikvah, and Kibbutz Gezer on a weekly basis. Baseball was important for his self-image, particularly as school was difficult, with the new language having him at a disadvantage. Baseball gave him a way to excel; he was good at it in Teaneck and he was really good at it here!”

Though Mendel made the Israeli Little League national team and played successfully in a championship game in Prague, he gradually gravitated to Read the rest of this entry »

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It Takes a Shtetl

June 14, 2010
A Short History of a Tall Jew

A Short History of a Tall Jew

by Dennis Danziger

As American Airline Flight 21 lifted off from LAX headed toward New York City, my mind filled with numbers: a 5 hour and 25 minute flight, covering 2461 miles to deliver a 2-minute speech that could determine the fate of my novel.

I had practiced on my daily walk to and from Venice High School where I teach, standing in the check-out line at Ralphs, for my wife, for my dogs, when I showered, shaved, even when I flossed.

A week earlier I incorporated these two minutes into my talk at Village Books in the Pacific Palisades at my book launch party. But that was different; there my audience was 100 friends, colleagues and students, a welcoming crowd that had feasted at a dessert/wine table prior to my performance. And still I’d been nervous.
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Israeli in Training

March 18, 2010
The 188th Crybaby Brigade

The 188th Crybaby Brigade

by David Brinn

“Have you been in the army? Do you want to review this book?” the books editor asked me with skepticism in her voice, as if the burned out hulk staring at her could ever have been a soldier.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” I responded, recalling the four months of shlav bet basic training I endured many years ago, along with 100 other out-of-shape 30-year-olds. If that was the criterion for reviewing The 188th Crybaby Brigade by Joel Chasnoff, then I was up for the task.
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The Stage vs. the Page

March 18, 2010

by Joel Chasnoff

One of the biggest challenges I encountered in writing The 188th Crybaby Brigade was the switch from comedy written for the stage to comedy for the page.

I’m a stand-up comic by trade. Onstage, I have tools at my disposal: facial expressions, body language, the ability to speed up and slow down as I create a psychological dialogue with the audience. Best of all, if a particular string of jokes bomb, I can switch topics, or, better yet, pick on a funny looking guy in the guy in the front row.
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