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Moshiach Tzidkeinu Will First Appear In Teveria
Shaliach Rabbi Yosef Kramer is paving the way
By Shlomo Chaimson


As you travel down the slope of Teveria, you cannot help but sense the holiness of the city. The statement that Teveria is one of the four holy cities becomes apparent. The magnificent scenery surrounds you, with the Kineret down below and the mountains of the Golan rising in the distance.

You must stop to gather your thoughts. You know that this city is the burial site of many Torah greats such as Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Meir Baal HaNeis, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenus, Shmaya and Avtalyon, the Rambam, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and his students, the fathers of Chassidus, who began the Chassidic settlement in Eretz Yisroel, as well as many other giants of the spirit.

Anash and Chassidim frequently visit the grave of the Rambam, many because of the Rebbe’s directive to study Rambam daily. In fact, the Rebbe gave a special directive to hold the annual Siyum HaRambam near the Rambam’s gravesite.

I arrived in Teveria early in the morning to observe the work of shaliach Rabbi Yosef Kramer. He was just finishing Shacharis with about two minyanim of men at the local Chabad House. Many of them were elderly Russian immigrants who were not permitted to daven openly back in Russia. Little did they dream that one day they would be free to daven in the holy city of Teveria.

* * *

It all began twenty-four years ago when Yosef Kramer was learning in 770, and was one of the few bachurim selected by the Rebbe to join the first group of shluchim going to Eretz Yisroel in 5736. He had just returned from shlichus at the yeshiva gedola of Australia. The group of shluchim consisted mostly of families; there were very few bachurim, so it was a true honor to be chosen as a shaliach.

Rabbi Kramer moved to Tzfat, where he married. About ten years later he was offered the position of shaliach in Teveria. Rabbi Kramer relates, “There was a Chabad presence here already, with Rabbi Shmuel Gruzman, today the director of the Chabad House of Migdal near Teveria, being one of the outstanding activists. My job was to build and expand the existing activities, and to open a Chabad House.”

Fourteen years of tremendous work and accomplishments have passed since then. Though, the city, which was considered mesoratit-datit (traditional-religious), has been subjected to the constant influence of tourism, leading it very far from observant Yiddishkeit. “The tourist trade developed here at an astonishing rate,” explains Rabbi Kramer. But with the challenge of tourism comes the opportunity to have an impact on the tourists: “One of the things that sets us apart from other Chabad Houses is that we provide attractions for the tourists. We have special guestrooms where we host tourist groups from around the world. These groups can enjoy visiting the holy sites, as well as participating in a Chassidic program, including shiurim, farbrengens, and davening at the Chabad shul.

“Another attraction is the art gallery. Not many Chabad Houses have art galleries. In fact, ours may be the only one that does. “The Gallery for Jewish Art” is our way of bringing a Jewish message to the thousands of tourists who come to Teveria from around the world. The gallery is run by Zev Berg, and is located between two hotels in the heart of the tourist district of Teveria. A typical Chabad House is not usually a tourist attraction, but a gallery is something else entirely.”

As we spoke, we approached the Jewish gallery. Pictures and drawings grace the walls, all conveying a Jewish message. I watch as tourists curiously enter the gallery, and as they do, they are exposed to the wellsprings of Torah and Chassidus, the ideas of which can be conveyed in many languages.

In this sort of outreach, I guess you don’t get the opportunity to see the fruits of your labor.

“That’s true, because the people we reach out to inevitably return to their respective homes around the world. We often end up simply supplying the addresses of Chabad Houses to our guests. A Jew once came here who wanted to be in touch with the Chabad House in his city. How surprised he was to discover that the Chabad shaliach in his city was none other than his neighbor, who was a customer of his.”


The dozens of people who daven at the Chabad House put away their tallis and tefillin and then sit down for breakfast in the Chabad House dining room. Later, there is learning in the kollel, headed by Rabbi Furman, who works diligently with new immigrants.

Providing breakfast is Rabbi Kramer’s style. “At the Chabad House, we try to take care of every Jew’s gashmiyus. We see it as central to our work in hafatzas ha’maayanos,” explains Rabbi Kramer. “This was the Baal Shem Tov’s approach. You will see the gashmiyus’dik aspect of every activity we undertake, whether it’s breakfast or a hot drink and mezonos between Mincha and Maariv and before davening on Shabbos, or lunches served in the nursery school, etc.”

Just a brief tour of the Chabad House showed how it was hustling and bustling with activity. The building consists of the shul (where three tefillos take place on weekdays and Shabbos) and the kollel (where classes are held for immigrants, and then after they leave, classes for the general public, which extend all the way to the evening hours).

Another wing of the building contains a library of a thousand volumes. The library is the link to the religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews of the city, who know they can find proper reading material at the Chabad House.

The second floor of the Chabad House is where the guest rooms are located, a veritable hotel that can house up to 30 people. Rabbi Kramer emphasizes, “We are one of the few Chabad Houses, if not the only one in Eretz Yisroel, that provides achila, shesiya, and lina (food and shelter).”

What was the religious state of the city when you arrived?

“In the not too distant past, Teveria was considered a religious city, far more than other communities. The old settlement in the city, which consisted of Chassidim, such as the Karliner Chassidim, had been there for years. When I arrived in Teveria, there were still many religious Jews living here, but as Teveria became a tourist attraction, religious people began to leave. On the other hand, the teshuva movement of recent years, primarily among Sephardim, has had an impact on our city, too.”

* * *

The work began fourteen years ago in a tiny rented office on the outskirts of the city, but Rabbi Kramer soon felt that he had to solidify the connection between Chabad and the city’s residents. With this in mind, he opened a Judaica store in the center of town. Whoever wants to register his child at Chabad’s nursery school, comes to the store. Whoever wants to register for the successful Chabad day camps, knows the address of the store. “Many people come simply to write a letter to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh, or to talk,” says Dovid Peretz, who runs the store.

Rabbi Kramer adds, “The fact that the store is centrally located, where everybody works and shops, and where tourists pass through, is invaluable for outreach.”

When we visited the store, we could see how it is really an active Chabad House. It’s spacious and attractive, and is a draw for anyone looking for help in all things Jewish.

* * *

When Rabbi Kramer speaks about his nursery schools, you can see how proud he is of them. He is gratified by their success and their good reputation. “We are overbooked,” he says. “We had to ask for a special permit for one of the schools to be able to accept 40 children instead of the usual 35.”

The schools used to belong to Poalei Agudas Yisroel, but were transferred to Chabad, which expanded them, providing a Torah-Chassidic education. “We invest great effort to ensure that the education is fully Chassidic,” says Rabbi Kramer. “My wife runs the educational department, in addition to her responsibilities at home and in the general work of the Chabad House year-round. She visits the schools and ensures that everything is running smoothly.

“For example, once a month all the teachers assemble and we present to them the dates and themes of the upcoming month. Now that ten years have passed, even those teachers who aren’t from Chassidic homes educate the children with a Chassidic spirit and with hiskashrus to the Rebbe.

“The results speak louder than words. Most of the families who send their children to the school are not observant, and our job is to bring them closer to Torah and Chassidus. We see the impact of our work even among the parent body, as many families are becoming more observant.”

Where do the children attend school after your nursery program?

“We hope to start a Chabad school here. In the meantime, about 60 children go to the Chabad school in Yavniel, but obviously that isn’t a solution. In addition, each morning about 20 children travel to Ohr Menachem in Tzfat. They are from families who have become so involved that they now consider themselves Lubavitchers.”

All this is in addition to the usual outreach work?

“Of course! We do all the mivtzaim. Mivtza Tefillin takes place every Friday thanks to the bachurim of the Chabad yeshivos of Tzfat and Migdal HaEmek. We have a wonderful series of classes and make house calls, too.

“Then there are the seasonal activities. On Chanuka, for example, 45 Tmimim from Migdal HaEmek, led by my son, distributed hundreds of menoros in hundreds of stores and private homes, bringing the joy of Chanuka to Teveria. Each night we had public menora lightings in three locations around the city.

“I’d like to point out that we are in close contact with all the schools in the city. Their doors are always open to us. In fact, every child in Teveria receives literature from us for the various Yomim Tovim, as well as matza. Before Lag B’Omer, counselors from the school in Tzfat go to all the schools here and talk about Lag B’Omer and the parade. Over 1,000 children participate in the parade!”

Are you also involved with the Kineret area?

“Sure. One night of Chanuka we organized a boat trip for the children and parents who had participated in our summer camp. When the boat reached the middle of the Kineret, we lit a giant menora. And on Lag B’Omer, in addition to the actual parade on land, we have a “water parade”; the children board a boat for a trip on the Kineret.”

How do you manage to run all these activities?

“It’s not easy, but a shaliach is granted the infinite powers of the one who sent him. Running all the programs, even with the help of our staff, is not at all simple. There are many more projects for the future, and we hope to bring out more shluchim.

“My best assistants are my family members. First and foremost, my wife, who is actually not only an assistant, but a full partner in running all the programs, in addition to the special activities of N’shei Chabad.

“My children take a great part in the shlichus, as well, in the daily activities, such as traveling long distances to school, and setting an example in nursery school for the other children. They get bachurim to come and help, and run the Tzivos Hashem clubs and the mesibos Shabbos.

“There’s no question that children that are raised in shlichus receive the best chinuch for hiskashrus to the Rebbe MH”M, and they are the most prepared to carry out his directives. Whenever the Chabad House has programs that require the help of boys or girls, the children of shluchim always stand out in their experience and talents in carrying things out in the best way possible.”

The view from every window is the glorious sight of the Golan Heights. Some say the Syrians will soon be your neighbors.

“Unfortunately, the residents here are apathetic, as they are everywhere else in this country. It’s just lately, following the most recent political events, that they are beginning to wake up and understand what’s going on. The old-timers still remember what it was like when the Syrians ruled the Heights, and shelled the Jordan Valley and the shores of the Kineret. Do we want to go back to that?!

“The protests don’t have to come solely from residents of Teveria and the area, because this affects the security of all Jews living in Eretz Yisroel. But when you see things from up close, you feel the need to protest strongly. As Lubavitcher Chassidim, we have to do all we can to wage the Rebbe’s war.”

* * *

Motivating all the unique projects Rabbi Kramer enumerated, is the firm belief in the imminent Redemption, which will begin in Teveria. As Rabbi Kramer put it, “You know that the first place Eliyahu and Moshiach will appear will be in Teveria, where the Sanhedrin will be. Eliyahu will appear in Teveria in order to reestablish the Sanhedrin.”

“In fact, the Rebbe himself said this when the chief rabbis visited him (11 Iyar, 5749): ‘It says in the Midrash that Moshiach Tzidkeinu (Eliyahu HaNavi) will first be revealed in the Galil, specifically in Teveria... But no one will mind if Eliyahu HaNavi first appears in the Diaspora, even in Brooklyn – and the following day Moshiach will arrive in Teveria.’”


Siyum HaRambam, With the Rambam

Each year, with the conclusion of the study cycle of the Rambam’s Yad HaChazaka, a celebration takes place near the Rambam’s kever in Teveria. This has become a tradition and is organized jointly by the Chabad House of Teveria and Tzach.

The Rebbe had a special connection with the siyumim made near the Rambam’s kever, and referred to them on a number of occasions.

For example: “A number of siyumim were made both outside Eretz Yisroel and in Eretz Yisroel, particularly at the tziyun of the Rambam in Teveria. If regarding every single Jew, whoever he might be, it is said, ‘their bodies are sacred,’ all the more so for the Rambam...who is the “guide of the path” to all future – surely his body is sacred. Thus, it is obvious why making the siyum at his tziyun is so significant.” (Sicha Motzaei 20 Teives 5749)

Then in 5751: “The main thing is that all this should actually happen immediately; that they should arrange the siyum of the study of the Rambam together with the Rambam, in the city of his resting place, Teveria, where “in the future [the Sanhedrin] will first return there and then move to the Mikdash,” especially since the 7th cycle at the Rambam’s tziyun has taken place. (Sicha Lech Lecha, 8 Cheshvan 5751.)


Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach in Teveria

A large percentage of the tourists are not Jewish. We are prepared. We make sure to have material about the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach on hand in all languages. In reaching out to non-Jews, we sometimes have surprising results, such as gentiles wanting to contribute to our work. The fact that we are in a tourist city enables us to fulfill the Rebbe’s directive about perfecting the entire world and preparing it for the Redemption.


Rabbi Yosef Kramer receiving a dollar from the Rebbe MH”M.
“It says in the Midrash that Moshiach Tzidkeinu (Eliyahu HaNavi) will first be revealed in the Galil, specifically in Teveria... But no one will mind if Eliyahu HaNavi first appears in the Diaspora, even in Brooklyn – and the following day Moshiach will arrive in Teveria.”


The only place in the world where the Lag B’Omer parade is on the water too!


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