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September 17, 2021 10:24 AM

Dear Reader,

The Chassidic masters compare the Tishrei holiday season to a cosmic bazaar. Like the marketplace of old, where shoppers and vendors would gather from diverse and exotic cities to sell and buy their wares, stocking up on all the necessities for the coming season, the holidays are a time when we pack our spiritual bags with the awe, love and joy we will use for our Divine service throughout the coming year.

When all is done, we declare “Jacob went on his way.” Like our forefather Jacob, who traveled from the Holy Land in service of his Creator, we enter into the mundane world to uplift it and change it for the better. Powered by the inspiration we “packed away” during Tishrei, we look at our daily lives and say, “How can I make my life, my relationships, my work—everything I do—more integrated with my Jewish self?”

Many of us spend a lot of time on social media. It’s where we talk, share, socialize and learn. And these spaces can and should be used as tools for uplifting the world.

We at Chabad.org have built an active and exciting presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok. If you are on the social networks and haven’t checked us out and followed us there yet, take a look! We hope the articles, videos, images and more that we share on these platforms will teach and inspire you, and give you the fuel to share Jewish inspiration on your own accounts as well.

With blessings,

Mordechai Lightstone and
The Chabad.org Social Media Team

With Covid Yizkor Book, Congregations Remembered Losses

On Yom Kippur, Yizkor book memorialized those lost to the pandemic

September 14, 2021 5:08 PM

Yom Kippur, the holiest and most solemn day of the year, offers not only an opportunity for forgiveness and a new beginning, but is also a time to remember loved ones who passed on, especially during the Yizkor remembrance prayer. This Yom Kippur, standing among the rows of veteran Yizkor-sayers, some first-timers recited these unfamiliar lines for their family members who passed away during the coronavirus pandemic.

While individuals grieve personal losses, the Yizkor service pays homage to communal losses as well, as the time-honored prayer reads, “Remember with mercy the pious, the upright and the perfect ones, the holy communities who gave their lives … .”

With the wholesale destruction of Jewish communities large and small during the Holocaust, a new take on an age-old tradition arose: Each shtetel’s martyrs would be inscribed in a Yizkor book, name by name, to be read aloud at the Yizkor service by the survivors. Thus, the names of thousands of victims of the Nazi horrors have been preserved and remembered.

Last August, Chabad.org published “Each Person a World,” the most comprehensive list of Jews lost as a result of complications due to Covid-19, then comprising more than 1,200 victims from around the world. The project continues to this day with new names added to the list each week and published in batches periodically. The list stands now at more than 1,800 souls.

As this Yom Kippur approached, Chabad.org published the list as a Yizkor book, available to download as a customizable PDF, that was used in congregations around the world. Whether from Sydney or Berlin, Chicago or Calgary, those who passed in the pandemic were remembered by congregations in prayer, never to be forgotten.

Collective Commemoration of an Age-Old Tradition

In March 2020, as Covid began its deadly march across the globe, no community was spared. Chabad.org, the world’s largest Jewish website, felt a responsibility to record each and every victim that succumbed to the coronavirus. A mammoth task, it took a global team—all working from home—based in Australia, New York, Jerusalem and elsewhere to liaise with colleagues around the world and scour hundreds of news outlets in several languages to gather the names.

In those early days, Tzali Reicher and Mendel Super, both locked down in Australia, worked with a team halfway around the world, gathering the necessary information.

Reicher and Super wrote hundreds of biographical sketches and brief obituaries, scouring for information online and talking to families, friends and loved ones. This effort was joined by Chabad.org staff editors Menachem Posner and Dovid Margolin, who penned longer obituaries for figures as diverse as the former chief rabbi of Israel to the leader of an underground network aiding Soviet Jews. Other contributors include Eli Rubin, Mordechai Rubin, Motti Wilhelm and Aharon Loschak. The hundreds of obituaries were edited and published by Carin M. Smilk and Chabad.org’s News Editor, Yaakov Ort.

The brainchild of Rabbi Motti Seligson, director of media relations at Chabad.org, the project has given a name and face to more than 1,800 covid victims to date. From Morocco to Paris, Los Angeles to New York, each soul has a story to tell.

‘The Somber Feeling of the Work’

“When we started the project, unfortunately, we had no idea how large it would become,” says Reicher. “At first, as every death from the coronavirus was unusual; it was relatively easy to find names and information about those who had passed. As the number of lives lost to the pandemic rapidly rose and victims were just presented as a statistic, it became increasingly difficult. We searched online, researched funeral-home websites, sifted through Facebook posts and newspaper obituaries, and, of course, heard word of mouth through the global Chabad network.”

The quest to include as many Jewish people as possible through interviewing their families about their lives was difficult, but rewarding, says Super: “People were definitely touched when we reached out to them and moved by the fact that we wanted to hear about and remember their loved ones. It’s always sensitive when interviewing someone for an obituary, but for the most part, people were more than happy to provide us with information.”

The team worked around the clock to keep up with the deluge of names flooding in.

“With the whole house dark at 2 a.m. in Melbourne, I was speaking to people from New York to Amsterdam, learning about souls lost to the pandemic who had lived full lives until weeks before,” said Reicher. “The quiet in which I wrote only added to the somber feeling of the work I was doing and turned these people from nameless victims of a raging pandemic to real people who lived and touched others—a feeling that only grew and developed as the months went by with no end in sight.”

“This project was to remember all Jews—everyone that we could find information about, even if it was just their name,” adds Reicher. “In order for families to ensure that their loved ones are remembered and included in our tribute, we incorporated a page on the site for people to submit the names of their family members and friends.”

May the memory of those who have passed be a blessing for the Jewish people and all humankind, and their stories a living legacy for all.

If you have lost someone dear to you to Covid, or know someone who has, we invite you to share their story here.

Our Readers Share Their Yom Kippur Tips

September 14, 2021 12:16 PM

What's one tip you'd share that makes fasting on Yom Kippur easier?

That was the question we posed to members of our community - on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

And a whole bunch of you shared your answers with us! Of course, none of the comments take the place of medical advice - so please speak to a doctor and knowledgeable rabbi about any health concerns - But you all had a lot of great ideas!

People focused on what you should eat

“Eat pasta before fasting.”

“Eat a few dates before the fast begins”

“Watermelon”

““The best way to make fasting easier is by eating a good thing of oatmeal right before fasting. It'll be a lifesaver for you later.”

““Hydrate for a few days ahead of time. Eat complex carbs for the pre-fast meal. Eat a normal-sized meal to avoid stretching out your stomach. Eat only a normal-sized meal at the break-fast.

Be grateful that your fast is voluntary and that you are healthy enough to fast.”

“Eat a bowl of hummus, or hummus and falafel as your last meal before the fast. Chickpeas are really filling.”

“Protein and carbs in your pre-fast meal (eg. pasta with chicken. Very plain. Little salt).”

Especially the importance of hydrating before the fast

“I load up on orange juice. Seems to help.”

“Drink a lot for the previous two days. Not just one—two.”

“Lots of coconut water starting 2 days before.”

As well as what you shouldn’t eat or drink

Eating light and healthy and staying well hydrated and rested a few days in advance. Also, when breaking the fast, start with fluids and build back to eating normal foods very gradually—starting with fresh fruits and vegetables, vegetable soup, etc., for the first few hours at least, after the fast. If you go from pizza to fasting to pizza or other heavy meals, you are gonna regret it!

There was a focus on coffee (which clearly, you guys drink a lot of)

Have a cup of coffee right before the fast starts—avoid the caffeine headache.

Taper off the coffee a few days ahead—helps prevent the no coffee headache.

Of course, you also shared loftier tips . . .

“Focus on praying. Ignore the clock. Amazing how fast the fast goes!”

“Immersing oneself in Tefillah

“Go into the chag with joy. We were judged already on Rosh Hashanah. This is the great day.of Hashem's staggering rachamim - compassion. Go into the chag with the goal of reconnecting to the person you've always wanted to be and to reconnecting in the most amazing way to Hashem your Creator. Cry your heart out with love and in Neila - for one hour a year, we get to reach the highest part of our soul. When you are in this state, you are in such a spiritual high, you could care less about food and actually want Yom Kippur to last even longer.”

“Print out all of the interesting Yom Kippur articles from chabad.org to read during breaks at services. It helps me focus on something else besides being hungry - and is so uplifting!”

And some funny ones

“In college I fasted in shul standing next to a "buddy" of mine who would turn to me at 4:00 and start saying things like, "Roast beef." Don't stand next to that guy.”

No matter how you prep, the main thing is:

“Don't stress.”

Instead:

“Remember the purpose of the fast.”

What’s something you would suggest that makes fasting on Yom Kippur easier?

Let us know in the comments!

Wishing you a gemar chatimah tovah, a meaningful Yom Kippur and a wonderful year ahead!

High Holidays Are Coming, and We Got You Covered!

September 2, 2021 2:51 PM

The High Holiday season begins with Rosh Hashanah, starting at sundown on Monday, Sept. 6. Jews around the world are hard at work with the physical, spiritual and emotional preparation for these holy days.

Many of us, vaccinated and healthy, are ready to go to Chabad’s outdoor services for the first High Holidays since the pandemic began. So, after finding services near you, what should you do next? Chabad.org has prepared guides for all the holidays!

You can know:

For those who are unable to join the community due to local quarantines or personal health needs, Chabad.org has prepared a series of guides for celebrating the holidays at home:

No matter where you celebrate, may the new year be filled with blessings and health!

Shanah tovah!

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