Anyone who participates in a long-term chavruta knows that the focus of their time together rarely stays confined solely to the subject matter. The two or more people involved often develop strong personal bonds, which extend to their families. In some cases, the study partners prompt each other to do remarkable acts of chesed.
In 2018, Rabbi Moshe Silver and his wife, Dr. Reza Green, decided to make aliyah after living in Highland Park for 12 years. Rabbi Silver had run an intensive Jewish Halacha class a few days a week at
Congregation Etz Chaim in Highland Park, under the overall guidance of Rabbi David Bassous. One of the crowning achievements of the class was that it led to four students receiving semicha.
Rabbi Silver’s communal accomplishments were all the more notable because of his busy professional career. He is a partner in Hedgeye Risk Management, a Stamford, Connecticut-based independent investment research and online financial media firm. Even after making aliyah, he continued to serve as part of the firm’s executive committee, as an adviser to the senior partners and as the author of the firm’s quarterly research roundup.
Before his aliyah, Rabbi Silver blew shofar for 40 years for the Rosh Hashanah services at the Drisha Institute in New York City. In Jerusalem, he established a Rosh Hashanah minyan with over 100 people, focused around a core group of former participants in the Drisha Institute minyan. In 2020, however, as spring turned to summer and the COVID-19 pandemic proved persistent, he knew that his plans would have to change. And he began to think: What other ways can I serve the people of Jerusalem and share the mitzvot of the chag with them?
The result was an initiative to enlist ba’alei tokeiya (experienced shofar blowers) from across the city and organize their efforts so as to reach as many Jews who need to hear the shofar as possible. He first reached out in a Facebook group, which received 350 likes and 40 shares, and later spoke with Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. His effort received coverage in the Jerusalem Post on July 29, which helped spread the word much further.
Rabbi Silver reported: “At this point we have, Baruch Hashem, about 20+ ba’alei tokeiya who will be sounding the shofar at various locations, mostly in the southern neighborhoods—Katamon, Baka, the German Colony and San Simon. We have mapped out routes and set times for about seven of the team so far, and are coordinating with the local Chabad groups and other city-wide initiatives as we map the rest. Many of us will be reaching several hundred people at each stop; for example, my building complex contains a few hundred apartments around a central courtyard, and many of the other team members are identifying similar locations. Many local synagogues are starting to get into the act. We printed up flyers and are making the rounds, posting in building entrances where we plan to sound the shofar. From a seemingly slow and disorganized start, it seems we will have a shofar extravaganza across the city of Jerusalem!”
As the Jerusalem Post article reported, the shofar blowing efforts are being mindful of the social distancing needs of the current circumstances. Rabbi Silver stated in the article: “In all the announcements about the public shofar blowing, people will be asked to open their windows or come out on their porches and to not congregate or crowd around the shofar blowers. They can stay indoors and still hear it.”
When Rabbi Silver and Dr. Green made the move to Israel, he made sure not to sever some of the important bonds of Torah study and friendship he’d forged here. He maintained a twice-weekly chavruta on Halacha with Robert Himber, a part-time member of the Highland Park/Edison community who lives in Pomona in Rockland County, New York.
Himber learned of the efforts of his chavruta in Jerusalem and decided he wanted to be part of the action. He put out a call on his own Facebook page, asking if people were in need of shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah in Pomona. Thus far, Himber’s efforts have attracted 14 families from a one-block radius in Pomona to join him in his backyard for shofar blowing on the second day of Rosh Hashanah…“with appropriate social distancing,” of course.
Himber is no stranger to ambitious community chesed projects. He was the chief organizer of the “Sukkah Elves” project in Highland Park/Edison last year that enlisted a team of men to build the sukkot of people who could not assemble them on their own, a project that benefited dozens of families, and was covered by The Jewish Link.
People interested in participating in the shofar blowing initiative in Jerusalem are invited to contact Rabbi Silver at [email protected]
People interested in participating in the shofar blowing initiative in Pomona are welcome to contact Robert Himber at [email protected]
People interested in learning more about Rabbi Silver’s unique and optimistic approach to spreading knowledge of, and joy in, yiddishkeit are encouraged to look for his upcoming book, “The Weight of Gold,” to be published as an e-book and in print on demand this fall through Mazo Publishers in Israel.
As Rabbi Silver explained: “The book is an exploration of the Torah’s messages for self-knowledge, spiritual growth and social justice, and grew out of a year-long correspondence with a devout Christian in spiritual crisis who sought new meaning from a Jewish approach to scripture.”
By Harry Glazer