April 12, 2024
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Ahavat Achim’s Unique Weekend: Scholar-In-Residence and Crockpot Kiddush

During the weekend of November 21-22, Congregation Ahavat Achim held a weekend where both the spiritual and physical hunger of its congregants were quenched. The shul hosted Rabbi Dr. Alex Mondrow as a scholar-in-residence, and also held a “crockpot Kiddush” where dishes cooked in slow-cookers were served.

Rabbi Mondrow, well known in the Bergen County Jewish community, is the Middle School psychologist at Yeshivat Noam, and also works at Heichal HaTorah as a consultant. He has also worked at Camp Shalom in Teaneck and was the Rabbi of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Synagogue, Congregation Birkat Shmuel.

On friday night, Rabbi Mondrow gave a speech at a congregant’s house during an Oneg Shabbat. Entitled “Don’t worry, be happy?! Depression and its treatment in rabbinic literature.” Rabbi Mondrow also discussed some strategies for coping with depression, such as distracting oneself fully from the issues depressing him.

Rabbi Mondrow’s speech in the main sanctuary titled “Psychology and Torah: Yaakov Avinu and Personal Change.” His aim, he said, was to show the congregation how to look at the Torah from a more psychological view.

Rabbi Mondrow’s final speech was during Seudat Shlishit, where he gave a talk entitled “To Walk or To Flee: Anxiety, Depression, and Faith in God.” It looked at the correlation between one’s faith in the Creator and his emotional well-being. Those who have more faith, it has been found, are more likely to be less depressed, and faith-based intervention can help with depression in the Jewish community.

When asked about what he thought of Rabbi Mondrow’s discourses, Ahavat Achim member Steve Plotnick said, “It was refreshing to hear Rabbi Dr. Mondrow remind us that one must have faith in order to struggle with it.”

The Crockpot Kiddush, also did not disappoint. This kiddush served up five hot crockpot foods, as well as various chicken, deli, and salad platters. There were two varieties of chulent: a Persian Chulent, which packed some spice, and a Moroccan Chulent, which contained different ingredients than the norm. The hearty vegetable soup was perfect for warming up in the cold weather, and the smoky braised chicken and fennel, was earthy and unusual. Last but not least was pulled beef succulent and stringy, which appeared to be a crowd favorite.

When asked which dish was his favorite, David Garfunkel, a shul member and one of the heads of Kiddush/Seudat Shlishit setup, knew what to say. “Being married to one of the chefs for 33 years, the answer is easy: my wife’s vegetable soup was my favorite dish.”

The unique weekend was a part of Congregation Ahavat Achim’s efforts to boost its special programming. In December the shul will host the Yismechu singers to enhance davening. On December 13th, the shul will host Rabbi Elli Fischer. On Shabbat Chanukah, the shul will have the Pella Singers, an a cappella group, serenade the congregation during a special Friday night dinner. And in February, the shul will be hosting its annual Yavneh-Yachad Shabbaton.

By Oren Oppenheim

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