Tag Archives: Orthodox Jews

Jew of the Week: Zelda Mishkovsky

Israel’s Hasidic National Poet

Shaina Zelda Schneersohn (1914-1984) was born in what is now Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, to a religious family of Chabad Hasidim. She was a first cousin of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. An only child, she made aliyah with her parents when she was 12. The family settled in Jerusalem, where Zelda went on to study at the city’s Bezalel Academy of Arts in the hopes of being a professional painter. She ultimately became a teacher and taught at school in Tel-Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. (One of her students was renowned writer Amos Oz). Meanwhile, she wrote poems and essays for local newspapers, and slowly gained a large following of fans. After marrying Hayim Mishkovsky, Zelda became a full-time writer and poet. She published her first collections of poems in 1967, blending themes from both Israel and Russia, infused with religious symbols and mystical concepts from Kabbalah and Hasidism, often mixing Modern Hebrew with Biblical Hebrew and Yiddish. The poems were hugely popular across Israel’s social, political, and religious spectrum. She went on to publish five more collections of poetry over the next two decades, each reaching bestseller status. She became affectionately known in Israel simply as “Zelda”, going on to win the Brenner Prize in 1971, and the Bialik Prize in 1978. Her poem “Each Person Has a Name” is publicly recited in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day (which also happens to be her yahrzeit). Like her cousin the Lubavitcher Rebbe (with whom she kept a regular correspondence), Zelda never had children, but had many devoted students and foster daughters that she took into her home. She is recognized today as one of Israel’s greatest poets.

Purim Begins This Saturday Night – Chag Sameach!

Secrets of Purim

3 Quran Verses Every Jew Must Know

Words of the Week

We are immersed in an evolving, ongoing conflict: an Information World War in which state actors, terrorists, and ideological extremists leverage the social infrastructure underpinning everyday life to sow discord and erode shared reality.
– Renée DiResta

Jew of the Week: Segundo Villaneuva

Prophet of the Andes

Segundo Zerubbabel Tzidkiya Villaneuva (1927-2008) was born in a small village in the Andes Mountains of Peru to a Catholic family. When he was 21, his father was murdered and Villaneuva discovered a Bible while going through his father’s things. He started reading the Bible and going to church regularly. However, as he went deeper into his studies, he found no good answers to his questions. He was puzzled by Christian observance of the Sabbath on Sunday instead of Saturday, as the Torah clearly commands. Villaneuva soon became a Seventh-Day Adventist. But the problems and inconsistencies persisted. He learned Hebrew and began reading Scripture in the original language. He then discovered that Christians had mistranslated the Torah to suit their needs, and twisted what the Tanakh really said about the concept of Mashiach, the messiah. After many years, Villaneuva decided to convert to Judaism. He started his own congregation with a group of like-minded individuals, called Bnei Moshe. The movement grew to some 500 individuals, many of whom also found out that they actually had Jewish ancestors—Sephardic Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity during the Inquisition (called Anusim or Conversos). It took many years, but in August of 1989 a delegation of Israeli rabbis came to Peru and converted Villaneuva and 160 others. Villanueva took on the Hebrew name “Zerubbabel Tzidkiya”. The following year, he made aliyah with a large group of Bnei Moshe. This motivated two more groups of Peruvians to convert to Judaism and make aliyah, including the Bnei Abraham and the Inca Jews. Villaneuva’s story inspired countless others in Latin America to convert to Judaism or explore their Sephardic Jewish ancestry. It is estimated that there are now some 60 communities in 14 countries across Latin America that have returned to Judaism. Villaneuva passed away in Israel and was buried on the Mount of Olives. He has been called “The Prophet of the Andes”.

Video: A Kabbalistic History of the World

Words of the Week

The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people, and… no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees… Other nations, when victorious on the battlefield, dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious, it must sue for peace.
– Eric Hoffer

Jew of the Week: Ishay Ribo

Israel’s Most Popular Singer

Ishay Ribo (b. 1989) was born in Marseille, France to a family of traditional Sephardic Jews from Morocco and Algeria. When he was a child, the family became more religious and made aliyah. At 13, while studying in yeshiva, Ribo began writing music and took up playing the guitar. A few years later, he formed a religious heavy metal band with friends. During his time in the Israeli military, he served in the Technology and Maintenance Corps and sang in the IDF choir. In 2012, he was invited to work with popular Israeli musician Idan Raichel, and in 2014 with renowned rabbi (and composer) Yitzchak Ginsburgh. That same year Ribo released his debut album, which was certified gold. His third album went platinum, with the song Lashuv HaBaita becoming the number one song on Israeli radio. He followed this up with Sibat HaSibot, which became the most-played song on Israeli radio in 2021. Ribo’s unique style combines modern sounds and lyrics with ancient Biblical verses and even passages from across Rabbinic literature. (His popular Seder haAvodah, for instance, weaves together verses from the Yom Kippur prayer service and Talmudic account of events in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple.) Last week, Ribo became the first Israeli ever to perform at Madison Square Garden, to a sell-out crowd of over 15,000. Ribo’s music is beloved by Jews around the world, and by both secular and religious Israelis. He has been credited with bridging the divide between the two. He also has the distinction of being the most popular Orthodox Jewish artist on YouTube (currently with 314,000 subscribers and over 400 million views). Ribo has five children and still studies Torah regularly in a kollel (a Torah-learning institution for married men).

Rosh Hashanah Begins Friday Evening! Happy 5784!

Why is Rosh Hashanah the New Year if the Torah Doesn’t Say So?

Words of the Week

The celebration of Rosh Hashanah coincides with the sixth day of Creation, the day when Man was created… For it was man who recognized the Creator within Creation, and brought about the elevation of the entire Creation to that recognition, and thus to the fulfilment of its divine design and purpose.
– Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe