Chabad women blend tradition and fashion

By Gil Shefler May 10, 2013

Ordained rabbi and former clothier Saadya Notik

Ordained rabbi and former clothier Saadya Notik


Last week, I wrote about Chabad men with a passion for fashion, some of whom are finding ways of incorporating new styles into the strict haredi dress code.

This week, the website Fashionista wrote about women in the same haredi group who are doing the same: Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik, the creators of MIMU MAXI, a skirt line for Orthodox women.

“We thought about something that we could put our energy into, to express ourselves and get some cool skirts out of it,” said Notik, who sells products in a range of colorful patterns.

Coincidentally, I interviewed Mushky Notik’s husband, Saadya, for my story last week. An ordained rabbi who used to work as a professional clothier, he had some interesting things to say on what people wear, why and what Judaism has to say about it.

“People often will ignore or neglect by default some of the outer sense of being, like clothing,” Saadya Notik said. “In almost all of humanity, people wear clothing. Even in the jungle people wear some clothing. You can get by with the very basics and just cover yourself, but in Judaism in particular, even the outer sense of self is important, and has to be enthused with a sense of mission.”

Holocaust survivor meets woman whose passport saved her
French family helped young girl get to U.S. and start new life.
By Meredith Moss
Friday, September 24, 2010


TROTWOOD — It wasn’t long ago that Cherie Rosenstein began sharing the story of her amazing childhood.

A Holocaust survivor whose parents were killed in Germany’s Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the Trotwood woman first began speaking to area school groups a few years ago, and eventually published a first-person account of her life in the Dayton Jewish Observer.

That heartbreaking autobiography, captured on the Web since 2007, led to a reunion this week between Rosenstein and Monique Valvot, the French woman whose passport allowed Rosenstein to come to America. The two had not seen one another or known each other’s whereabouts for 63 years.
“I was one of the homeless, tempest-tossed for whom Lady Liberty lighted the way through the golden door,” wrote Rosenstein, who remembers the flight to the United States in 1947 at the age of 5 on a “monstrous bird of steel.”

Valvot’s mother accompanied Rosenstein on that life-altering trip, delivering her to new parents in Cincinnati. Because Rosenstein had no official papers and the immigration office was closed, Valvot’s mother used her daughter’s name and passport to get Rosenstein into the U.S., bleaching the little girl’s hair blonde to match the document photo. Soon after, the families lost touch.

Rosenstein said she has vague memories of life in a Jewish orphanage in Paris.

She remembers high walls and being told never to venture outside because “the evil Nazis hunted for Jewish children to bake in their ovens.” She also remembers the kind French family who took her in and gave her candy, friendship, and the name of Cherie.

“You shared your room with me,” she told Valvot, as the two tightly held hands at Dayton International Airport on Thursday morning. Neither remembers exactly how long Rosenstein lived with the family.

Both women said they had tried to find the other through the years. Rosenstein and her husband, Stu, searched for Monique when they were in Paris last year, but to no avail.

When Valvot googled her maiden name two years ago, Rosenstein’s story in the Dayton Jewish Observer suddenly appeared. She learned that her childhood friend was still alive and discovered her married name, but mistakenly confused Dayton with Daytona Beach, Fla., and searched in the wrong city.

It was only last week, while Valvot and her husband were vacationing in New York, that a chance meeting led to the heartwarming reunion and the answer to some of those questions.

A French rabbi living in Brooklyn overheard Valvot and a friend conversing in his native language and stopped to say “Bon Jour!” Eventually, Valvot’s husband. Jean-Pierre, shared the story about a little girl who had lived with the family after the war.

Rabbi Levy Goldberg and his good friend, Saadya Notik, immediately became determined to find Rosenstein.

“When I want to find somebody, I go online,” said Notik, who prides himself on Google research.

After reading the Dayton Jewish Observer article, the two posted queries on Facebook for Rosenstein and her son.

“We said we had read the article she’d written and had something to share with her,” he recalled. “I was worried that the mother might be skeptical so I sent a separate Facebook message to her son, asking her to call me.”

Rosenstein, who received a call Monday morning, was finally able to speak to her long-lost friend two days later when Goldberg arranged a “surprise.”
He invited Valvot to a cafe for lunch, then handed her the phone.

Within hours, the Rosensteins had invited the French couple to Dayton. Welcoming their long-lost family at the airport were the Rosensteins, their children and a grandson. There are already plans for the Rosensteins to pay a return visit to Paris.

The visit has answered many questions both women have had through the years. Rosenstein, who always believed her rescuers were Catholic, was surprised to learn that they too come from a Jewish heritage.

Their Thursday reunion took place on Stu Rosenstein’s birthday and on the holiday of Sukkot, a Jewish festival of thanksgiving.

All agree there are many reasons to give thanks.

Levy Goldberg said he feels “humbled” by the role he has played in the heartwarming reunion.

“I myself lost most of my family in the Holocaust,” said the 24-year-old, whose grandfather survived by jumping off a train on its way to a concentration camp. “I don’t have the words to express how I feel about all this. It’s putting back the pieces.”

To read Cherie Rosenstein’s story, “Child of the Holocaust” in the Dayton Jewish Observer:

Holocaust survivor, rescuer reunited
Video: Friends reunite after 62 years

When Cherie Rosenstein penned her essay about being a 5-year-old orphan fleeing war-torn Europe for a new life in America, she probably couldn't have imagined that the story would reunite her with the woman whose passport secured her entry into the United States 62 years ago. But that's exactly what happened.

In 2007, Rosenstein, whose parents both perished in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote about her childhood experiences for the Dayton Jewish Observer. Her name as a child was Maria Helena Chuchnowicz, and in April 1947, she was living in an orphanage in Paris. As Rosenstein put it, "The war's end brought problems of staggering proportions: thousands of Jewish survivors with no homes, families or money." The Rev. Samuel Schmidt of Cincinnati visited the orphanage and returned to the States with photographs of the facility and the children it sheltered. A local couple -- Libby and John Moskowitz -- saw a picture of Rosenstein and decided to adopt her.

That launched what Rosenstein dubs "Operation America": the plot to get her out of France and into the United States. Officials moved her from the orphanage to the home of a Frenchwoman, Eleanor Bohne-Hene. During her brief stay there, Rosenstein befriended Bohne-Hene's daughters, Monique and Catherine. The family began calling her "Cherie," French for "dear" -- a name that would become permanent.

The next phase of the plan was for Bohne-Hene to take Rosenstein to the United States -- but America's quota system blocked Rosenstein. So the little girl posed as Monique Bohne-Hene, her hair bleached blond to resemble Monique's passport photo.

She boarded what she recalls as a "monstrous bird of steel," which deposited her in her new home in Ohio. There, the Moskowitz family taught her to speak English and worked to get her legally recognized.

Near the end of her essay, Rosenstein writes about some of the questions that still haunt her: "How did I get separated from my natural parents? Did they entrust me to strangers to ensure my survival? How did I get to the orphanage? Are there brothers and sisters or other relatives? Where are Mrs. Bohne-Hene, Monique, Catherine and the children of the orphanage today? I know I must find out the answers."

Fast-forward to the present day.

Last week, Monique Valvot -- the former Monique Bohne-Hene -- and her husband visited a Jewish museum in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood during a vacation in New York. A French rabbi named Levy Goldberg overheard the couple speaking in their native tongue, and he approached and introduced himself. As they spoke, Monique Valvot brought up the story of the little Polish Jewish girl who had stayed with her family after the war before immigrating to the United States.

Goldberg enlisted a friend to help him try to find information about the girl on the Web. That led soon enough to Rosenstein's article in the Dayton Jewish Observer, and the rabbi and his associate sent messages to Rosenstein and her son on Facebook.

And so it came to pass that Thursday, Cherie Rosenstein and Monique Valvot were reunited at the Dayton International Airport.

"You shared your room with me," Rosenstein told Valvot as the two embraced.

When The Upshot contacted the Rosensteins about the story, Cherie's husband, Stu, said that she had been worn out discussing the events of the past several days. He explained that the reunion represented the fruition of a decades-long quest.

"Cherie has been trying to find Monique for years, and vice versa," he said, "but nobody could put it together."

He said that Monique Valvot and her husband were only able to stay in Dayton for one day -- but that he and his wife have already made plans to spend five days with the couple at their chalet in the French Alps next summer.

When we asked how the recent revelations were affecting both his wife and himself, he said, "There's just no words."
(Original article appeared here:

Welcoming Shabbat with Notik

The young rabbi promised not to save our souls, so we came to a fascinating Shabbat dinner in Crown Heights

The Yediot Achronot
By Gil Shefler
February, 12, 2010

Rabbi Saadya Notik is the poster-boy for what Chabad wants to project to the secular world. On the one hand he is an ordained rabbi who travels the world to attract young Jews to Jewish tradition. On the other he is a 26-year-old guy who speaks in Brooklyn street slang and can quote not only from the Talmud but from hip-hop songs as well. As the young face of Chabad he managed to appear many times in the media. Last year, for example, Notik was the focus of a New York Times' article about the "Party Bus" that Chabad organized for Purim. When he's not traveling between Chabad Houses around the world or organizing parties on wheels, Notik likes to invite friends to Friday night dinners by friends in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Usually, I don't respond to invitations of this nature, for all sorts of reasons, but it's hard to say no to Notik. My friend Gadi met him at a bar, and after Notik persuaded him, he persuaded me to come along to the meal. "You know who he looks like? Matisyahu. He really reminds me of Matisyahu."

Gadi was right. The young 26-year-old rabbi resembles Matisyahu. Not only because both of them are tall, slender, wear a long black beard and dress in Chasidic garb, but also because Notik is gifted with the unique combination of charisma and calm, just like the famous Chasidic singer. "I started organizing these Shabbat dinners a year ago," he told me, "and since then we've been doing it once a month. Our aim is simple: To bring Jews together to meet one another and bond. That's it." And so it happened that I found myself making my way over to the Chabad enclave to welcome in the Shabbat together with another 32 invited guests.

The night began somewhat awkwardly when my friend Gadi accidentally rang the bell after the Shabbat began. But our hosts, Yossi and Yocheved Sidof, ignored the minor transgression and opened the door, which was, obviously, open all along.

In their modest apartment, the Sidof family had set up a long table filled with plates of humus, corn salad, garden salad, pasta, bread, and wine that stood in wait of the guests who arrived and introduced themselves one to the other.

B.J., a publicist, who moved to New York from Minnesota a week earlier, learnt very little about Judaism from his family growing up in a small town in Wisconsin. Last year he visited Israel as part of a program to rediscover Jewish roots and since then he likes to keep in touch with the Jewish community. B.J. said he came to the dinner hoping to make new friends.

Sari Ganulin has a deeper connection to Judaism. She loves to come to Notik's Friday night dinners despite identifying more with the Reform stream of Judaism than with the orthodoxy of Chabad. She hopes to study to be a cantor next year in Jerusalem and she speaks eagerly about living in the German Colony.

Two young Israeli girls arrived together. One works for a company that manufactures x-ray equipment and the second girl for El Al security, which in a way is the same thing. The rest of the guests were single Jewish Americans, many who have recently moved to New York and were looking for some sense of family, some friends and maybe even the beginnings of a life-long match, or at least a date.

So now that we've been introduced, we make the blessings. Sing. Wash our hands. And then on to the food. And the food just kept on coming - more dishes and more wine, while the hosts, the Sidof couple, were busy waiting on us, stuffing us beyond measure.

At one point, a guest arrived: Saadya Notik's brother-in-law, the soul-singer Moshe Hecht, had come for a visit. At the crowd’s request Hecht sang a song from his soon to be released album. Hecht may be dressed like a Chasid, but he sings rhythm-and-blues as though he lived his entire life in Mississippi.

At one point a meditation was introduced on the word “Haiti.” "Imagine the letters of the word Haiti. H-A-I-T-I," suggested a young fellow, a friend of Notik's. "Try to feel the letters, and sense their colors." That was a bit too much for me, as was the numerical analysis of the word “anochi.” Aside from that, the evening was authentic and enjoyable. If I was expecting a sermon-laden evening, well, I was wrong. With Notik and his friends I found real common ground. They didn’t try to save my soul, and I didn't try to open their eyes to the wider world. There was no need. They know it just as well as I do.

A rabbi in Massachusetts has created a Purim party bus, in which students from various local colleges can ride around and celebrate the Jewish holiday. Because when I hear “rabbi”, I think “someone who knows how to put together a party bus”.
— Seth Meyers on SNL about our Purim party bus

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. — “Are you ready to get on the Purim party bus?” Rabbi Saadya Notik screamed Tuesday to a group of women, many in costume, standing on a sidewalk at Mount Holyoke College.

The party bus experience also included readings from Hebrew scripture.

The women rushed to the charter bus, a virtual nightclub on wheels, where neon lights pulsed, smoke billowed from underneath the seats and music blared.

“Party people, can I get some noise?” Rabbi Notik, 25, shouted as the women whooped and threw their hands in the air. “This party’s got wheels.”

Welcome aboard the Purim party bus, a mobile festival conceived by rabbis of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement as a way for students at the Five Colleges — Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst — to celebrate Purim. It is a holiday observed with fanciful costumes, plenty of food and copious drink (although the party bus served only iced tea and water, because many students are under 21).

Purim celebrates a story in the biblical Book of Esther, also known as the Megillah, in which Queen Esther saves the Jewish people from a plot to destroy them hatched by Haman, an adviser to the king.

Tuvia Helfen, a bus organizer, explained to students: “We were supposed to be annihilated. Instead we came out on top, and we celebrate with a party bus.” Mr. Helfen was dressed as Gene Simmons, the bassist from the band Kiss, complete with high-heeled black boots.

“It’s awesome. It’s so much more fun than I expected,” said Kira Disen, 20, a student from Smith who danced on the bus.

Rabbi Shmuel Kravitsky of Chabad of the Four Colleges, an affiliate of the Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement at all of the colleges but UMass, said the bus was a way to spread the story of Purim, as well as fun and good cheer on the campuses.

“The point is we’re trying to inspire people,” Rabbi Kravitsky said. “If we inspire one person today, it was worth it.”

Rabbi Kravitsky was dressed in a white suit, black wig and gold chains. “I’m a cross between Tony Montana and John Travolta,” he said, referring to the lead character in the gangster movie “Scarface” and the actor from “Saturday Night Fever.”

The men passed out small gift bags of food, a Purim custom, to anyone who came within walking distance of the bus. The back of the bus was filled with chips, hummus and guacamole.

“Go out, meet, greet, say, ‘Happy Purim,’ ” Rabbi Kravitsky said to the Chabad-Lubavitch men who helped run the bus. “If they’re black, white, Jewish, Muslim, whoever is out there, say ‘Happy Purim.’ ”

The bus spent about an hour at each of the five colleges, with about 10 minutes dedicated to the reading of the Book of Esther in Hebrew. Many students were happy they could hear the reading without having to venture off campus or miss class.

“It’s wonderful that Purim is coming to us,” said Sarah Shapiro, 20, a Mount Holyoke student.

The rest of the time was spent recruiting students on the bus, where revelers ate and danced, mostly to Matisyahu, an Orthodox Jewish reggae and hip-hop musician, as lights pulsed.

“Where is the smoke coming from? This is so funny,” said Clara Kahn, 19, a Mount Holyoke student who wore a yellow goatee and dressed as Mugatu, a character from the movie “Zoolander.”

One student at the University of Massachusetts said he was not Jewish and tried to walk away from the bus. “There’s free food,” Rabbi Kravitsky said. The student hopped aboard.

And as often happens with epic parties, the police showed up. Officer Juan Ramos of the Mount Holyoke Department of Public Safety approached the bus in a cruiser, lights flashing. He ended up taking photos with Rabbi Kravitsky and leaving with food.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 11, 2009, on page A18 of the New York edition.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — “Are these going to be high enough, Mayer?” Saadya Notik asked of the potted palms that had just been wheeled in on a trolley to the Phnom Penh room at the Hotel InterContinental.

Rabbi Mayer Zarchi, 25, from Brooklyn in New York City, leaned back to assess the situation. He squinted and finally nodded his approval.

The potted palms would suffice to divide female worshippers from males on Friday evening and Saturday during Cambodia's first-ever organized service for Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, the holiest of all Jewish holidays.

“It's for concentration,” explained Notik of the palms.

Notik, a 24-year-old rabbi who also lives in Brooklyn, was wearing the black felt hat that resembles a wide-brim fedora and is commonly worn by those, like Notik, who adhere to the Chabad Lubavitch movement, an offshoot of Orthodox Judaism.

Some additional alterations needed to be made to the luxuriant, carpeted, Phnom Penh room before it could house services accommodating devout Lubavitchers.

The sandstone apsara dancer near the doorway, for instance, had to be covered, as did the wall of mirrors on the eastern side of the room.

“We don't pray to shapes and forms,” Notik said, adding that Lubavitchers believe the focus should be on the soul and not on the body.

Chabad Lubavitchers observe many Orthodox Jewish tenets, such as not shaving your beard if you're a man, abstaining from premarital sex and keeping kosher-which means following a set of dietary restrictions perhaps most well-known for its stipulation that dairy can't be eaten alongside meat, Notik said.

The movement, influenced by Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism, takes an intellectual approach to their holy book the Bible and the idea of God, and followers believe that all people are bound up in unity with God, according to Zarchi. Judaism is among the oldest of the world's monotheistic religions, or those that invest faith in one God.

“It's a very cerebral approach with an emphasis on action,” he said, referring to the mitzvot, or good deeds, that Jews are obliged to perform.

The hundreds of thousands of Lubavitchers around the world are mainly concentrated in the US and Israel, but on Thursday evening-at the behest of The Cambodia Daily publisher Bernard Krisher and at their own expenses-three Lubavitchers landed in Phnom Penh.

“We believe the quintessence of God finds deep expression in Cambodia as well,” Zarchi said.

Beginning at sundown Friday, Notik, Zarchi, and Moshe Goldstein, a 22-year-old Israeli rabbi-in-training, led more than 25 people, the majority being expatriates, in the Yom Kippur service.

The service was conducted in Hebrew, the language spoken by most people in Israel, with occasional English explanations.

Services continued all day Saturday, a traditional day of fasting for Jews, starting at about 10 am and ending at sundown.

There aren't too many Jews in Buddhist-dominated Phnom Penh, let alone Orthodox Jews who dress in dark suits and hats-both extensions of the town in Russia where the Lubavitch movement originated in the late 18th century.

On Friday afternoon, Notik said a quick visit to the riverside drew a crowd of curious Cambodians.

Notik said he's heard stories of a Cambodian man living on the outskirts of Phnom Penh who considers himself Jewish and keeps mostly to himself; but other than that, it is an expatriate minority-though not one to be overlooked.

“Jews here are doing the real tikkun olam,” he said, using the Hebrew phrase meaning “repairing the world.”

“Just because you are geographically isolated, doesn't mean you are isolated from the larger community.”

As a general rule, Jews do not proselytize, said Notik, though Lubavitchers engage in a lot of outreach worldwide, with Chabad centers serving as gathering places for local Jews of all denominations in places as far-flung as Bolivia, Nepal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are now centers in Thailand and Vietnam as well.

Lubavitchers have been seen hitting the streets on holidays in communities where there are large populations of Jews, offering fellow Jews the opportunity to say blessings and take part in traditions.
They are also known, somewhat infamously, for their “mitzvah tanks” or vehicles equipped with megaphones which broadcast music or announcements.

“We have a responsibility to educate our brothers. How are we supposed to rectify the world if we stay within the confines of a synagogue?” Notik asked.

Despite their outreach and their worldly bent, Notik said that they, like most Jewish denominations, are skeptical at first of those who wish to convert.

“We are suspicious from the very beginning. It's very difficult to live a Jewish life. We even discourage it,” he said, adding that if and when would-be converts display the necessary devotion, they then undergo extensive Jewish educational training prior to conversion.

“You don't have to be a Jew to serve God. Be who you are. Everyone has a divine mission,” Zarchi said.

One curious Cambodian sat in the back row for Friday's service, with a makeshift yarmulke, or head covering, fashioned from a handkerchief.

Sok Sidon, 23, works as a peace trainer for the Khmer Youth Association and said he came, simply, for the exposure to new culture.

He said he thought it would be a learning experience that could help him figure out “how to keep ourselves at peace.”

Sok Sidon said he is looking forward to traveling to Svay Rieng province come October to celebrate Pchum Ben, the Buddhist Festival of the Dead.

Ariella Cwikel, 23, a former Phnom Penh resident, was passing through town on her way home to Israel after a stint in India, and said she was surprised and overjoyed to hear about the Yom Kippur service.

“I thought I'd be the only Jew in town,” she said.

Zarchi said he can envision a Jewish community coming together in Cambodia in the future and a synagogue being established one day, mainly to serve the transient expatriates who work with various aid organizations.

Other parts of the world are being prioritized based on the fact that more Jews live there, but as far as a Chabad center in Cambodia, he said: “we're working on it.”

UPDATE: There is now a full-time Jewish center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. See for more information.

Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson, left, watches Chabad Rabbi Saadya Notik, from New York blow the shofar, a ram's horn, as a call for spiritual preparation for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, in front of synagogue in Novi Sad, some 80 kms (50 miles) north of Belgrade, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007, as a part of marking European Day of Jewish Culture. The shofar is being blown here for the first time since the 1942 Holocaust of over 800 members of the Jewish community in Vojvodina province. New York Rabbis are visiting countries of the former Yugoslavia as a part of Chabad-Lubavitch's global Jewish enrichment program. Rosh Hashana this year starts on the evening of September 12. (AP Photo/Srdjan Ilic)

Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson, left, watches Chabad Rabbi Saadya Notik, from New York blow the shofar, a ram's horn, as a call for spiritual preparation for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, in front of synagogue in Novi Sad, some 80 kms (50 miles) north of Belgrade, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007, as a part of marking European Day of Jewish Culture. The shofar is being blown here for the first time since the 1942 Holocaust of over 800 members of the Jewish community in Vojvodina province. New York Rabbis are visiting countries of the former Yugoslavia as a part of Chabad-Lubavitch's global Jewish enrichment program. Rosh Hashana this year starts on the evening of September 12. (AP Photo/Srdjan Ilic)

The Jews of Novi Sad, Serbia, got an emotional infusion of Jewish inspiration on Sunday when two Chabad-Lubavitch "Roving Rabbis" presided over a ceremony to affix a mezuzah to the door of the town's synagogue. The last time the building had one was before World War II.

With tears flowing down the cheeks of Holocaust survivors, whose country suffered once more in a series of wars in the 1990s, a crowd of a few hundred Jews gathered in confirming that Judaism had not yet departed Novi Sad and is, on the contrary, strengthening.

It being the Hebrew month of Elul, the rabbinical students, who were dispatched to Serbia by Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, also took the opportunity to blow the synagogue's shofar for the town. As with the mezuzah, the last time the shofar had been blown was more than 60 years ago.

"The people in this community have never seen such an event before," said Dr. Ana Frankel, the devoted and energetic president of the Novi Sad Jewish community.

"These doors once saw joyous children before the war," said Rabbi Motti Seligson at the event. "The affixing of the mezuzah on the door here is a sign that the Jewish community will once again walk through these doors for more joyous events."

Emotions reached a crescendo when Seligson and his partner, Rabbi Saadya Notik, led the crowd in covering their eyes and praying the Shema, which proclaims the unity of G‑d and forms the scriptural passage written on the mezuzah's parchment.

Seligson, who came to Novi Sad as part of a Lubavitch summer program that sends pairs of students to far-flung locations across the globe to strengthen Jews wherever they may be found, found in the Serbian town 50 miles north of Belgrade a "young community that has a great thirst for Judaism."

It's also a community rich in history, bearing the traumas of the Holocaust and a spate of civil wars: Elza Farkas, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, reminded everyone of the community's past when she revealed her tattooed arm to the rabbis before Notik blew the shofar.

Before World War II, 4,500 Jews called Novi Sad home. In the infamous Novi Sad Raid of January 1942, just months after the Nazi invasion established a puppet government loyal to Germany, Hungarian police murdered more than 1,200 Jews over a period of three days. The Nazis rounded up the town's remaining Jews in 1944, sending most of them to Auschwitz. Few survived; fewer still returned.

But even after the period of wars in the 1990s, which set in motion a steady decrease in Novi Sad's Jewish population year after year, today, "Judaism is on the rise," said Frankel, who has led the community of an estimated 630 for three years. "We have a Jewish club here, we care for the elderly and we have lectures on Jewish topics."

A Shabbat to Remember
Before the Sept. 3 ceremony, which also commemorated the European Day of Jewish Culture, the rabbis hosted Shabbat services and a dinner in the synagogue, a grand building dating back to 1909 that today serves as the Jewish community's headquarters.

"It was very good," said Pavle Sosberger, 87, who lost his entire family during the war and reputedly is the oldest Jew living in Novi Sad. His grandfather donated the synagogue's stained-glass windows.

"We have no rabbi here, and the nice and enthusiastic Chabad boys made a very successful Shabbat," he said.

The services and dinner "were interesting," said his granddaughter, Dinah Sosberger. "They explained the prayers and people enjoyed it.

"A lot more than usual came, and there were a lot of young Jews," she continued. "Everyone left with positive feelings; they felt comfortable as Jews here. That is important."

Frankel pronounced the rabbis' efforts at educating the community a success, and expressed her wish that a more permanent rabbinical presence might yet be established in Novi Sad.

"What we need most is education," she said. "These two young rabbis gave fantastic lectures.

"We need someone like them," she added. "And the best thing is that Chabad will be sending two rabbis for the High Holidays to lead the prayers."

Link to article:
More links:
AP: Concert at Serbia Death Camp Stirs Anger

DPA: Cyprus revives centuries-old Jewish community

This is the Sept. 2007 file photo of Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson, and Chabad Rabbi Saadya Notik, left, from New York visit the World War II Nazi concentration camp Sajmiste in Belgrade, Serbia

This is the Sept. 2007 file photo of Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson, and Chabad Rabbi Saadya Notik, left, from New York visit the World War II Nazi concentration camp Sajmiste in Belgrade, Serbia

This is the Sept. 2007 file photo of Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson, and Chabad Rabbi Saadya Notik, right, from New York look at a monument in the World War II Nazi concentration camp Sajmiste in Belgrade

This is the Sept. 2007 file photo of Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson, and Chabad Rabbi Saadya Notik, right, from New York look at a monument in the World War II Nazi concentration camp Sajmiste in Belgrade