Tzidkeinu Will First Appear In Teveria
Rabbi Yosef Kramer is paving the way
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
this sort of outreach, I guess you don’t get the opportunity to
see the fruits of your labor.
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
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.
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.”
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
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
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).”
was the religious state of the city when you arrived?
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.”
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.
Kramer adds, “The fact that the store is centrally located,
where everybody works and shops, and where tourists pass through,
is invaluable for outreach.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
do the children attend school after your nursery
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.”
this is in addition to the usual outreach work?
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.
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.
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!”
you also involved with the Kineret area?
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
do you manage to run all these activities?
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.
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
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.
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.”
view from every window is the glorious sight of the Golan Heights.
Some say the Syrians will soon be your neighbors.
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
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.”
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
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.’”