First, I wanted to share the thoughts of two rabbis, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, and Rabbi Reuven Gross, the Rabbi of my shul, Shaarei Tzedek Mishkan Yair in West Rogers Park. There have been many words spoken and written about what happened. I found these two particularly meaningful to me and hopefully they will be to you too.
Rabbi Goldstein, founder of the worldwide Shabbos Project, soon after Shabbat had finished in Johannesburgh wrote this: “As the powerful words of the Havdallah were being sung – “for the Jews there was light, happiness, joy and honor” – I looked at the faces of the crowd gathered under the stars. I reflected on the enormous power that human beings have to bring darkness into the world, to bring hatred and suffering. But, at the same time, I reflected on the infinite human capacity to bring light, hope and love into the world.
Havdalah is all about the forces of light and darkness in this world – forces locked in an eternal struggle with each other. Havdalah is about taking the light of Shabbat and spreading it to the days of the week so that it fills every aspect of our daily lives. At Havdalah, we rededicate ourselves to bringing the light of Shabbat to our lives and our world.
Our strongest and most powerful response to the darkness of the Pittsburgh haters is to boldly and courageously spread light in the world. We cannot be intimidated, frightened or paralysed by the darkness. We mourn and we pray, but we are not defeated or afraid. We have faith in G-d to work with us to ensure it is the light that will be victorious, in the words of the Havdalah itself: “I trust and will not be afraid.”
Let us go forward together with heavy, but resolute and confident hearts, to defeat the darkness with our light.”
You can read their entire messages at
You can hear his words at https://youtu.be/R-XTa9DAnZw
In preparation for the first Shabbat following the shooting, Jewish leaders encouraged everyone to attend services on Friday night or Shabbat day and to spread the hashtag #ShowUpForShabbat across social media as an invitation to all.
My day in Champaign that Wednesday was the highlight of my week, and possibly my entire kiruv career to this point.
On the Monday, Nate, the contractor, told me that the building had passed the occupancy inspection. That meant that legally the Rubins could move in. I did not want to get too optimistic because we have had so many delays the last few months. There was still so much to do when I visited just that Thursday before. Nate assured me the workers were doing all they could to get everything ready for move in.
When Mordi told me on Tuesday that he had scheduled movers and hired a moving truck for Wednesday, that was when I knew.
It’s hard to describe the feeling I had when I pulled up to the building Wednesday around 1 pm and walked in the door. The painter was still painting, there was another worker doing something to the flooring and there was a big box in the middle of the dining room. But for the first time, it felt like it was a livable space. And the Rubins were planning on staying overnight which meant that the JET Home was officially open!
The dream I had when we first bought the building four years ago was now finally a reality. All the setbacks and struggles were forgotten. Today was a day to celebrate.
Mordi and Nate, the main contractor were there and I’d brought along some Champaign for the occasion. I told them I was making a blessing and that they should say amen and I made a borei pri hagafen with such simcha and hakaras hatov (joy and gratitude).
The big box contained a new fridge that had to be moved into place. The ovens were in place but still needed to be connected to the gas line. The place was still dusty. Mordi was busy putting the beds together. But already I could visualize the dining room filled with students this Friday night, laughing and shmoozing and enjoying Shabbat together.
Rivki Cherrick went down with two of her friends to join the Rubins for their first Shabbat. Thirty AEPhi sorority sisters enjoyed Shabbat dinner together. A smaller group joined the Rubins for lunch. Students I spoke to are so excited that we are ready to host them.
B’ezras Hashem, (Please G-d) it should be a home away from home for them and thousands of students in the months and years to come.
The JET Home is open. Bruchim habai’im. Welcome.
Michelle Frenkel, JET student at U of I, with Mrs. Tehiya Rubin
JET Home ready for the first Shabbat meal