February 2018 -- Shevat-Adar 5778,  Volume 24, Issue 2

c2018 Shoreline Publishing, Inc.

629 Fifth Avenue, Suite 213

Pelham, NY 10803

P: 914-738-7869

hp@shorelinepub.com

shorelinepub.com

Visits to Holocaust Survivors Develops into a Book

During the Ruach program on January 10, author and photographer Michael J. Weinstein, spoke at Young Israel of New Rochelle about his new coffee table book that was inspired by his heritage and dedicated to the Holocaust survivors that he met on his journeys. He described the history and structure of the 180 beautiful synagogues throughout New York City that he photographed in Ten Times Chai: 180 Orthodox Synagogues of New York City, {Brown Books Publishing Group, 2017.}

After a family trip to Israel, Weinstein, a financial advisor from Syosset, New York, was looking to give back, “to make a difference.”

 

“So I prayed to the Master of the Universe,” Weinstein noted.  “To this day, I don’t know why but I googled two words, “Mitzvah” and “Brooklyn” and the result was www.themitzvahman.org. I watched a video as the organization’s founder,  Michael Cohen, an Owner of a Gym on Kings Highway, spoke about the importance of doing a single mitzvah and helping others, even if you are not wealthy enough to write big checks or smart enough to study Talmud daily.

 

“I had been reading Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, the transliterated version with English, so by then I knew that ‘Study is not the primary thing but action’ and ‘Great is study for it leads to action, ’he explained. “I sent a text to Michael and within a week I was sent to visit a Holocaust Survivor, Mr. Ludwig Katzenstein, who credits his father getting the family out of Nazi Germany three weeks before Kristallnacht, crossing borders until they got to the port in England, where the captain of the Queen Mary, Commodore Irving, held the ship for six hours until Ludwig and his family arrived. Prior to this, I had read books about the Holocaust and had a small DVD collection, but never met a Holocaust Survivor, face-to-face. This first visit changed my life in an immensely powerful way.

 

He went on to explain that “One mitzvah led to another as I signed on as a Volunteer with www.connect2ny.org, Friendly Visiting for Holocaust Survivors, a project of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island (JCCGCI), funded in part by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

 

“Over the next two years, I would drive many Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings to visit more than 22 Holocaust Survivors. I learned about perseverance, about “Emunah,” Faith in Hashem, and about good Jewish people, many religious, some not, striving to rebuild after the horrors of the Shoah. I learned about some of the children, grandchildren, even great grandchildren of these Survivors. And I learned of the loved ones lost and of those who never really rebuilt broken lives and live near poverty even to this day.

 

“Along the way to the Holocaust Survivors, I visited orthodox synagogues in neighborhoods from Brighton Beach to Borough Park, from Coney Island to Williamsburg, from Flatbush to Park Slope. At some point I was determined to make a book of the top 100 orthodox synagogues in Brooklyn, but one Shabbat, I heard an elderly man pledge “Ten Times Chai” or $180. So I decided to expand my journey to Queens, where I was born in 1963, to Manhattan, where I lived on the Upper West Side after graduating from Cornell University in 1985, and the Bronx, where my Grandfather once lived, after being born in a tenement on Cherry Street on the Lower East Side in 1901 (his parents, my Great Grandparents, were from Russia). I finally made it to Staten Island, where those same Great Grandparents, Israel and Rebecca Weinstein, rest in peace.

 

“I really enjoyed being in the different neighborhoods of the 5 boroughs. What I confirmed is that we are all one people, with faith in one G-d, whether Ashkenaz or Sephardic.

 

“In visiting 180 orthodox synagogues, some well off and full of members, some barely hanging on by a thread, I tried to find the “good points,” the beautiful aron kodesh, the sanctuary, the holy Torah, and most importantly, the people who built the synagogues, study there, and worship there.”

 

Ten Times Chai: 180 Orthodox Synagogues of New York City, has 613 color photos . It is available at Judaica stores in the New York area and on Amazon.com