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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spiritual Congestion

Traffic in Boro Park is one of the hardest things to explain. How can anybody rest on  Shabbos, speak with Hashem three times a day, give tzedaka and double park?

I was asking myself that question just before I ducked into Munkacz on Sixteenth Avenue last Wednesday. I had just spent twenty minutes attempting to single park a twelve seater van that wasn’t mine. I was very frustrated with Boro Park and very anxious to respond to the call of nature.

I was surprised to find that there was traffic inside Munkacz too. A bottleneck had formed at the stairwell and movement had come to a standstill. Unlike the traffic outside, I noticed that nobody was yelling, pushing, or even talking loudly on their cell phones. At the front of the line was a distraught man pouring out his heart to the Munkaczer Rebbe. The Rebbe was standing riveted to his spot and completely oblivious to the long and patient line of people waiting to go downstairs. This was a type of Boro Park traffic that I could appreciate.

Later on, I took my students to see the famous Shomer Shabbos shul. One minyan subtly pushed the other out as thousands of people rushed in to daven and get back to work. This happens for twenty-two hours a day. The carefully choreographed tzedaka collectors didn’t miss a beat. More Boro Park traffic.

We visited Hatzala where our gracious guide screeched into the tightest parking spot imaginable. His deluxe station wagon was decked out with a cherry light, a siren, and four car seats.

We spent some time at Hatzala, trying out expensive equipment, asking questions, and hearing about September 11th. We met veteran Hatzala members an even joined the Vizhnitzer Cheder in the dispatch room for a bilingual demonstration. The kids loved every minute, but my favorite part was the way the volunteers described themselves:

 “We may be machers, yentas, kuchleffels, busybodies and nudnicks – but we do save 10,000 lives a year”.

Out-of-towners love to express disbelief that Boro Park continues to exist. We claim that they are losing their youth, lost their integrity, and won’t show up when Moshiach comes. The Leshem writes that we need to look at the world as Hashem does: with confidence in everyone and an appreciation of the special qualities that distinguish every person and every community.

(written on my Blackberry while driving down New Utrecht) .

Posted on 06/10 at 04:42 PM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Sender Haber

Rabbi Sender Haber is the Rabbi of the B'nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk, VA. He is well known throughout Hampton Roads, having arrived over twelve years ago as one of the original four members of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel. In that capacity, Rabbi Haber was involved in community wide programming, teaching, and outreach. He has inspired many Jews to expand their Jewish identity and increase their love of Torah and commitment to its observance. Everyone who knows Rabbi Haber is touched by his breadth of Torah knowledge and his ability to convey the wisdom of the ages in such a way as to make those esoteric writings accessible to persons of all levels of experience and a variety of backgrounds.

Rabbi Haber has served in a number of capacities during his years in Norfolk. Since 2003 Rabbi Haber has been a teacher of Jewish Studies at Toras Chaim Day School in Portsmouth, teaching boys and girls of all ages, with a focus on Gemara, Halacha, and Chumash. He has also taught at Yeshivas Aish Kodesh and Bina High School in Norfolk, and served as Assistant Rabbi of B’nai Israel for 6 years. He also serves as the Rabbi of the “Lost Tribe,” Tidewater’s Jewish Motorcycle group! While handling all of these responsibilities, he has continued to participate in numerous Chavrusos (one-on-one learning partnerships) covering a wide range of topics and writings.

Rabbi Haber and his wife Chamie have been married for thirteen years. They have four children, Minna (9), Moshe (6), Ely (4), and Akiva Meir, born in August of 2012. They both come from rabbinic families steeped in Torah, Kiruv and Chesed. Rabbi Haber received his Rabbinic Ordination (Yoreh Yoreh) from Rabbi Sender Rosenbloom and Rabbi Mordechai Freidlander of the Jerusalem Beth Din. He was awarded a Teaching Certificate by Torah Umesorah Association for Jewish Day Schools in 2004 and again in 2009. In addition, Rabbi Haber has spent over a decade studying Talmud, Jewish Law, and ethics in some of the world’s most prestigious Yeshivos including Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, NJ and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted through the Synagogue office at 757-627-7358, or through e-mail at