Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My First Rebbe

As a fledgling baalat teshuva more than 40 years ago, I was nurtured by many kind-hearted people. However, the very first religious frum family I came in contact with was that of Rabbi Aahorn Reuven Rappaport. A "simple" hardworking man who held down several jobs, he raised a family in Flatbush, Brooklyn and journeyed up to the Catskill mountains to be chazan at our tiny Spring Glen Synagogue for the Yamim Noraim (High Holy Days.) Sadly, that shul now stands deserted as all who prayed there have either died or moved away.

I quickly became close friends with one of his ten (plus) children who today is Mrs. Ella Adler. She is a one woman kiruv project who just this past Tisha B'av gave an hour and a half long lecture to group of Russian Baalot Teshuva. The Adlers' table on Shabbat is packed with all manner of people.

Last year I spent a memorable 4 days there on my way to visit my Dad. Ella stopped her car near a young man (sans kippa,) and shouted, "Yuri! Why don't you come any more? How about this Shabbos? Please! We miss you!" Honking horns forced her to drive on yet the same dialogue was often repeated that week. (Result? The Adlers never know exactly how many guests they will host for meals.) In addition, they have a "gemach" named for their son Michael who tragically died merely 2 months after his Bar Mitzva. Yankee and Ella, far from wealthy themselves, fund tefillin and clothes for needy Bar Mitzva boys.

Rabbi Rappaport had endless patience for the standard queries of a non-religious girl barely Bat Mitzva, such as "How can the Torah say the world is only 5000 years old, when modern carbon dating processing shows otherwise?" I was invited to share Yom Tov meals behind the Shul and later spent many Shabbatot and holidays at the Rappaport household. They treated me like a daughter and theirs became a home away from home during my studies at Touro College.

Rabbi Rappaport raised outstanding children who do kiruv work throughout America, from Phoenix, Arizona to Atlantic City, N.J. (Yes, I wish that all American Jews made aliya, but sometimes there are extenuating circumstances such as parents that survived the Shoah who are unwilling to live in Israel.)

Today this humble Jew, whose grandfather fought in the Czar's army yet remained Shomer Mitzvot throughout those turbulent years, is undergoing extremely life threatening surgery. In addition, he is in danger of having a limb amputated. Widowed several years ago, he has continued to work until recently. Please pray for him: Aharon Reuven ben Hinda. May the zechut of helping me and several others to become frum aid his recovery from this crisis. Tizku La'mizvot!


Shtuey said...

Refuah shlema! May his healing be swift and complete!

Batya said...

Refuah shleimah
netivotgirl, you're very lucky to have had "been adopted" by such a wonderful family.

Netivotgirl said...

Thank you for davening for my first Rebbe! I am awaiting word of his health. Today I am trying to fast, as Rav Shlomo Amar suggested (as a taanit tzibur against this new flu.) The minute I hear anything I will post, B'H.