This post is very tardy!
But, hopefully, its tardiness will work out for the best. You'll see what I mean below!
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of the Jerusalem Soul Center's new space.
The Jerusalem Soul Center previously held events in the Old City, and then in founder Ezra Amichai's home in Jerusalem's Nahla'oth neighborhood.
The Jerusalem Soul Center's home is now a 400 year old, renovated building from the Ottoman period, located at Rabbi Akiva Street 20. It sits right on the edge of Independence Park, at the top next to the pergola. It is hard to believe that such a serene location is only a few blocks from the bustle of Downtown's Hillel and Ben Yehuda Streets.
But, what exactly is the Jerusalem Soul Center?
The Jerusalem Soul Center is an accredited non-profit organization dedicated to creating community here in Jerusalem. Located in a historic and beautiful building in downtown Jerusalem, the Center is based on Zionist ideals and strives to enable spiritually enhanced religious growth. Our events include the regular hosting of Shabbat and Festival meals, musical gatherings, lectures, growth workshops, photography tours, Shabbatonim and day trips, ethnic food nights and much more....Early in the evening, Ezra recounted the story of when he was traveling in Poland. He was in the town of Tarno, now absent of Jews. Standing with his companion, he tried to make out the sign explaining an historical, Jewish site. In front of him was a women doing the same, a non-Jewish, Polish woman. After reading the history of the Jews of Tarno, who had long since gone from the town, the woman turned around to see two Jews. Ezra described her as appearing white as a ghost. For apparently she had just caught a glimpse of two of the ghosts of Tarno, two Jews, and at least one them a real Polisher!
The point of the story was to expound upon the perseverance prevalent throughout the history of our people. Through the middah (attribute) of perseverance, the Jerusalem Soul Center will accomplish its goals of bringing Jews closer to HaShem, closer to Torah, and closer to Eretz Yisra'el.
Ezra explained that the name he shares with his wife Malka Chana, Amichai is not just Hebrew for "My people live," but is an acronym for Am Yisra'el Hai - "The People of Israel live." From the evening of Torah and music, I gathered that life to mean spiritual as well as physical.
We were joined by Radio Free Nachlaot broadcasting live, Ben Bresky host of The Israel Beat, Jeff Seidel of "Shabbath Hospitality," and Zev Stub, founder of JANGLO.
The evening of Torah and song was brought to an even higher level with the musical accompaniment by one of Ezra's close friends Yitzchok Meir from the Jewish Unity Project, also known as Isaac Shiraz.
Ezra and the Jerusalem Soul Center's mission have been influenced greatly by the Torah, song, and life's work of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z"l, as well as the wellspring of Ezra's Torah learning, the Bat-Ayin Yeshiva.
It is written in the Holy Torah...
Many commentators teach that the "good" which God has given us, refers to the Land of Israel. The joy derived here is from the Land, and the rewards which come from dwelling within it.דברים כו,יא
וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְכָל-הַטּוֹב, אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ--וּלְבֵיתֶךָ
And you will rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you, and to your household....
The evening of Torah and music was clearly a reflection of this, connecting with HaShem, love of Torah, the good of the Land, and sharing in this experience with fellow Jews from diverse backgrounds.
The word "soul" is in the middle of the Jerusalem Soul Center's name for a reason.
Over the years I have made my home in Israel, I have learned a very important lesson, one which I learned the hard way. I share it with you here, so that perhaps you will not have to learn it like I did.
Our Sages z"l teach us that...
Many new immigrants from Western countries, perhaps one could even say from English-speaking countries, experience difficulties with a new language, a new culture, a new standard of living. Whether it is filing a form at a government office, getting a good deal on phone and internet service, finding the right school for ones children, or just figuring out the local bus schedule, one gains a life in the Land of Israel through a little (or a lot) of suffering.תלמוד בבלי ברכות ה,א
תניא רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר שלש מתנות טובות נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל וכולן לא נתנן אלא ע"י יסורין אלו הן תורה וארץ ישראל והעולם הבא
Babylonian Talmud Berakhoth 5a
Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai taught that The Holy One, Blessed Be He, gave three good gifts to Israel, but they were given only through suffering, Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World To Come....
The lesson I learned is that with a community, or even a sense of community, we can do anything. We can not only survive life in Israel, but also grow and prosper in Israel, and then help the next wave of Jews to do the same when they arrive and get of the plane, just as we did.
The Jerusalem Soul Center has been providing Jews with that crucial sense of community for years now. With its new space, its new location, Ezra and crew hope to provide that sense of community even better, and to more people.
This Grand Opening was a great start in the next chapter of the Jerusalem Soul Center community!
Now that Sukkoth is only days away, and you will have another opportunity to check out the Jerusalem Soul Center's special events and activities!
Find the complete Sukkoth Schedule here on Facebook!
Referring to Ezra Amichai as Ezra, and not as Rabbi, was not to dishonor him, but rather to emphasize how approachable he is. The Almighty only knows how much we need rabbis who are approachable in this day and age!
It is through your generosity and support that the Jerusalem Soul Center is able to thrive and strengthen the community it is at the heart of. In order to make a tax-deductible donation through the P.E.F. Foundation to the Jerusalem Soul Center, Amutah #580457380, please recommend that it be used for the Jerusalem Soul Center and please mail it to:
P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds Inc.
317 Madison Avenue, Suite 607
New York, NY 10017
To make a donation through Paypal, make the contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org.