Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Best Wishes for 5768

To all friends of COS and readers of this BLOG
Best Wishes for a Healthy, Prosperous, New year 5768.

Please visit my other Blogs for facts and discussions on Jewish topics

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jewish Press on Cantor Sidney Selig


--Lessons In Emunah

By: Gemma Blech Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Story Of An Oleh
Sidney (once Siegfried) Selig was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1924. The years between then and now – his "golden years" in Jerusalem –were long and hard. From his childhood in Germany to his youth and adult years in the safe haven of America; then, after 32 years as chazzan at the Ohav Shalom synagogue in New York, Siggy (as I have long known him) made aliyah to Jerusalem in 1987. Siggy, now wheelchair-bound, decided that it's time to have pen put to paper and tell his life story.
Sidney's story starts before his birth. He was the second child born to David and Gunda Selig. A first-born son who mysteriously died after 36 hours preceded him. The result was that the new baby Selig was excessively protected, and when faced with the future horrors of his childhood, he was quite unprepared. He describes himself as having been an immature and lonely little boy.
His father was a prosperous shirt manufacturer in the days of stiff collars, cuff links and middle-class respectability. He left school at 14 to work in the shirt business, where he prospered as a result of hard work and being his own best salesman.
David Selig would leave home at 5 a.m. each Sunday and not return again until the following Friday. During the week, his wife and young son would stay home, and a local gentile merchant would deliver food and vegetables to the door. Young Siggy, meanwhile, was never allowed out of the home alone; thus he never adjusted to the rough and tumble of the neighborhood.
By the late 1920's, David Selig realized his precious son needed to be well educated. While Siggy attended a secular junior high school, his father engaged David Katz, a teacher at the respected Hirsch High School, to teach Chumash to his young son. Prophetically, Siggy remembers this faithful teacher focusing unendingly on Parshat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17). The story of Abraham leaving the land of his birth and uprooting for a strange land was to become a real source of strength in later years.
As the anti-Jewish ferment in Germany increased in the 1930's, Siggy was finally moved to the Hirsch High School, the big Jewish school across town. But it was while he was still at the junior high school that he learned something that he would never forget. His teacher, a violin player, taught his willing Jewish student that he must "learn to sing like a violin, so that no one hears your breathing." He learned that early lesson well, and it was at the Hirsch School that Siggy began his real love for Jewish education.
An early Frankfurt memory is the visit to the family home in 1936 by a gentile policeman called Peter Hörr, who had been at school with Siggy's father. One day, the policeman arrived at the family home unannounced. His job was to "pick up Jews," but this visit was to say, "David, make sure you get away from here, as I have already had to pick up too many Jews." Though this warning came in good time, it was not until long after Kristallnacht (in 1938) that young Siggy was finally able to escape to England – on one of the last of the Kindertransports.
In 1899 David Selig had received a letter from his uncle, Joseph, in the United States, telling him how well he was doing in his newly established cattle business. He encouraged the family to join him. The letter was proudly headed, "Buyer and Shipper of Livestock and Fine Horses – Ligonier, Indiana."
A letter from America in those days was quite an event, and David Selig kept that letter until it became a crucial aid in their escape. By the mid- 1930's, no one could leave Germany unless they could present to the authorities a documented invitation for them to come to the U.S. Thus the 1899 letter indeed became the passport to freedom and safety for the whole family.
Sidney Selig, the chazzan, in 1961
After a long wait, and with much anxiety, the young Siegfried was finally sent off – alone – to England on one of the aforementioned last Kindertransports. One important memory stays with Siggy about that traumatic departure. It was May 9, 1939, and the rules about luggage taken abroad were very strict. Siggy had been given a small portable typewriter as a bar mitzvah present, and the customs official suddenly heard about it. Inexplicably, Siggy's father was sent home to get the precious present, and that typewriter served Siggy for years.
There still exists part of a journal handwritten by young Sidney after their arrival in the U.S. In it, he asks (referring to the Shoah in Germany), "… How did all this start? Where were the original roots? The Christian religion takes its headline from Leviticus in our Holy Scriptures, 'to love yourneighbor as yourself.' The quotation is purposely in the singular, as each one has this responsibility on his or her shoulders. What suddenly happened in Germany, where this quotation was true for hundreds of years? A sudden change from democracy to dictatorship; and yet, wait, it's a fad, it cannot happen here. We, of course, are Jewish, but we are Germans – or so we thought. We live [d] very well with our non-Jewish neighbors in the truest sense of the quotation from Leviticus…"
Even as Siggy remembered and wrote some of the history of Hitler's rise to power, he could hardly have known then of the appalling depths of the "Final Solution."
Sidney also writes of the family journey from England to America – thankfully, by this time, joined by his parents. "The passengers had an eventful trip; not enough [that] a war had started (the waters were rough all the way from England), but being chased by a U-boat for its gold bars cargo was truly not a pleasure … At last security in sight – dry land! [It] turned out not to be so dry at all. There was lots of residue of a most recent snowfall visible all over the streets. On board, one could see young and old, parents, grand [parents], boys and girls, old friends, newly formed friendships [wondering] what to expect on this, their first trip to the free land… Many came from KZ [concentration camps] or prisons [who] had stayed in England until their time period of awaiting their visa to the U.S…"
It's clear that the whole experience was quite overwhelming. We can be grateful for these brief pencil notes from so long ago – and written in English, which was still a relatively new language for the once German boy.
By the time the family reached America, Joseph Selig had died, and his daughter and son-in-law had taken over their father's responsibility for the small family. The couple sent them three train tickets to travel to Minneapolis, where they were now running a roach extermination business. The tickets came with an explanation that they could work for him for free, until their debt for the tickets was paid off. It was Siggy, a now slightly more mature 15-year-old, who asked about work on Shabbat, and was told, "There is no Shabbat here." In reaction Siggy replied, "No Shabbat, [then] we don't come; I never work on Shabbat!" He returned the train tickets with thanks for all they had done – not least, in saving their lives.
Arriving in the U.S., the family decided to settle in Manhattan. Finding work in those pre-Pearl Harbor days was never easy; but despite the difficulties Siggy never worked on Shabbat, despite gentile pressures around him to do so. Once he worked at Orbach's department store, but when the High Holidays came that job came to an abrupt end.
In 1951, Siggy's father – at a relatively young age – died, leaving Siggy and his new wife, Inge, to care for his mother. She lived with the couple until she was 82, and it was only after her death that Siggy and Inge could make their longed-for aliyah to Jerusalem. Their belief had always been that the Moshiach was coming soon – to Jerusalem – and they should be there, not in the U.S. To their disappointment, so many of their American soul mates did not share their Zionist passion.
Sidney Selig in Jerusalem, Chol HaMoed Pesach/Yom HaShoah, 2007/5767.

Photo credits: Gemma Blech

Once Sidney settled permanently in Israel, he became a faithful volunteer and fundraiser. Both Shaare Zedek Hospital and the Jerusalem Yeshiva in Har Nof have honored him and Shoshanna, most recently on the occasion of their 55th wedding anniversary. When Sidney turned 80, the Jerusalem Academy of Dvar Torah honored him with a Keter Shem Tov [The Crown of a Good Name] award. The celebration was held in their splendid sukkah, in the presence of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.
Sidney is no longer too active; instead he hands out little message slips to all his friends and neighbors – and occasionally to strangers, as well. It reads as follows: "Say twice every day and learn by heart: At the end of each day, we can hopefully say, that we enjoyed the sun's ray, and brought smiles, all the way! A smile or two can never harm, surprisingly it will keep you calm!"

Kol Tuv- Best Regards,
Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rabbi Wolpoe NIshmaBlog Master

Rabbi Wolpoe is now the BlogMaster @

For more interesting articles please see this blog!

Good Shabbos
Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Friday, May 05, 2006

Article on COS in The Jewish Week

(A Dead Shul Lives Online)

This is the recent article in the latest Jewish Week and I thought
you would find this to be of interest.
Note there are several inaccuracies!
Rabbi Wolpoe

A Dead Shul Lives Online

The prayer books, tattered and yellowed, some bearing the hurried scrawl of those fleeing the Nazis, were the last link to a dead Washington Heights shul.

So Karen Franklin, a professional genealogist, recently found herself in the basement of the Bronx’s Hirsch & Sons funeral home on a rescue mission.

Franklin’s eyes went wide as she homed in on the gurney carrying her latest project, siddurim dating back to 1832, inscribed with the name and village of the German-Jewish immigrants who brought them here.

Already in small brown packages tied with string to be buried, the prayer books were an overlooked batch from a ragtag library Franklin collected from the pews of the Congregation Ohav Sholaum when the Conservative synagogue closed forever in January.

Splashed by transatlantic waters and inscribed with history-laden, and eerie, dates such as “the tenth of November, 1938, Kristallnacht,” Franklin shuddered to think of the stories, journeys of Holocaust refugees now mostly deceased, about to be buried. “The men in the funeral home were so respectful,” said Franklin, director of the Judaica Museum of The Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale. “They understood the power of what I was doing. They had no idea that books this old with these kinds of stories were among those that they were burying.”

Those stories, and the power they carry with them, are now keeping Ohav Sholaum and its congregants alive, in a manner of speaking, with the help of modern technology.

In the past few weeks since she listed the books’ owners on a Jewish genealogy Web site, Franklin has heard from many families who now have tangible pieces of their family history, and the history of a once-thriving shul.“It means so much to our family to have Julius’ prayer book,” wrote Sheila Adler of Ohio of the book belonging to her husband’s uncle. “Julius is the reason our
Adler side of the family survived the Holocaust. He gave an affidavit to his brother, my father-in-law, to come to the states in 1938 from Germany.”

Franklin, who collected over 100 of these books with the intent of returning them to the families, said she has since received e-mails from Mexico, Israel, Canada and Germany.

“These books have unleashed a flood of memories and family stories,” she said of the 20 items she has returned so far. “For us as Jews, the most valuable items are the items that tell stories that connect us. And it’s our Torah scrolls and the prayer books that unite us that are the ones that are the most valuable.”

Schelly Talalay Dardashti, organizer of the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy slated for August in New York, said projects like Franklin’s are becoming increasingly common as both amateur and professional genealogists use the Web to pool resources, compare notes and connect family histories.

“It’s the mystery of history,” said Tallalay Dardashti. “Everyone wants to know who they are and where they came from.”

Allen Spatz of Riverdale, whose late father Alfred Spatz was a founder of the Ohav Sholaum said he was “touched” by the return of his father’s book. In January, he had taken pictures at the closing of the temple where his parents attended the 1940 groundbreaking and where, as a child, he sat between his grandfather and father, refugees from Munich.

When he showed the book to his mother, Erna Spatz, she was “taken aback” by her husband’s familiar handwriting. She laughed at the trademark meticulousness Alfred displayed by including his phone number along with a bevy of other practical information “he would always include should someone lose something.”

As a child in Nazi Germany, Alfred’s survival depended upon such practicality. He learned early on from his mother, whose frequent trips from Munich to deposit money in Swiss bank accounts would later ensure her family’s financial stability when they arrived in New York.

Aside from recounting these few details, Allen said his father refused to discuss his childhood. Erna, on the other hand, enjoyed sharing her memories, and at age 93, she said, the value of the prayer book is that it “reminds her of things.”

Born in Brilon, a tiny town in northern Germany with about 27 Jewish families, Erna felt things change in 1931 when her former friends would spit at her and give her dirty looks as she walked down the street. She said the rising tide of anti-Semitism was especially heartbreaking because her Jewish neighbors had just finished construction on a new synagogue, which would likely be destroyed.

“It was already not good in Europe,” she said in a heavy German accent. “They knew something would happen but they wanted to invest the money in a new synagogue,” she added.

In 1936 Erna boarded a boat for America. Eventually her whole family would join her in Washington Heights, except for one sister who was killed in Belgium by the Nazis, just as she and her son were about to board a plane. Erna began taking night classes to learn English. When she met Alfred he was working factory jobs in the garment industry. They discovered a shared love of dancing and married in 1942, one month after they met.

Born in 1945, Allen was mostly unaware of his German history until he visited his mother’s hometown, at the end of his military service in 1967. He spent a week with Regina Hummel who once hid Erna’s family, across the street from Erna’s old house. Hummel showed Allen to a room she had dedicated to his mother’s family, explaining that she wanted to hold onto traces of neighbors she might never see again.

Another prayer book was returned to Steven Bachenheimer in North Carolina. The book belonged to his second cousin, Fred Ruelf.

Bachenheimer wrote that his sweetest memory of Ruelf was when they met in Germany, and Ruelf took him on a tour of his old haunts in their family’s ancestral village, Rauischholzhausen. They spent two days there, visiting the Jewish cemetery where his great-great grandparents are buried, and a nearby town where his grandparents are buried.

Bachenheimer said that Ruelf’s mother had died in 1930 and was also buried in the Jewish cemetery of that village. Ruelf landed in Europe on D-Day as a jeep driver in General George Patton’s Third Army, and he was the first Allied soldier into the village in 1945. He went promptly to the cemetery and ordered the mayor of the town, on threat of death, to restore the cemetery to its
original state.

In later years Bachenheimer would visit Ruelf in Washington Heights. One afternoon Ruelf took him to a nearby shul (perhaps Ohav Sholaum) where a memorial tablet of fallen World War I Jewish soldiers from Rauischholzhausen and nearby villages was kept. It had originally stood in the cemetery, and Ruelf had arranged for it to be relocated to New York.

Bachenheimer said he still thinks often of Ruelf, a link to his family’s past.

Franklin said that the gratification of connecting people like Bachenheimer to their past is addictive.

“People get extremely emotional,” she said. “For me that is so powerful. That’s why I do what I do.”

In March, Franklin held a reunion for a handful of Ohav Sholaum members who are still alive to recall their synagogue, a once-thriving home to over 600 German-Jewish immigrant families in the late 1940s and ‘50s.

For Larry Stein, 82, it was a bittersweet gathering.

“It’s very depressing,” Stein admitted. “I go in the synagogue and look around and there’s no one left. I was one of the very first and very last,” he said.

Stein said he missed attending services at the temple, which once helped his family make the transition from Europe to the United States.

“When we came here my father didn’t speak any English, and he had no trade,” he said. “But we had a base in Ohav Sholaum and it was a tradition that we were used to,” he added.

Still, Stein acknowledged that although the synagogue has died, its soul endures through relics like its siddurim.

“If the prayer books bring people together to talk about [Ohav Sholaum],” Stein said, “then it is not lost altogether.”

Currently, three of the prayer books from Congregation Ohav Sholaum are on exhibit at The Judaica Museum of The Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale. (718-581-1787) The names of the original owners of all prayer books found at the synagogue are listed online at on a discussion group of GERSIG, the German Special Interest Group.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

COS Landesgebet - Prayer for the Government

  • Who gives Salvation! -
  • Whose kingdom is an everlasting kidngdom.
  • Who delivered his servant David from the hurtful sword.
  • Who makes a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters,
  • May HE bless, guard and protect the Government of the United States of America.
  • May The Almighty in HIS Mercy Preserve and Protect it so that it may prosper in all its undertakings for the benefit of our Noble Country.
  • May HE inspire our Government with Tenderness to Act kindly towards us and all Israel.
  • May The Almighty bless the State of Israel,
  • May it flourish and progress, and it become once again the Home of the Jewish People and
  • May peace come to the Holy Land!
  • May we feel God's Mercy and blessings for our own community, for old and young alike.
  • May The Almighty protect them from illness, wan , and sorrow.
  • May HE give inspiration to the men and women who lead this congregation.
Let all of us uphold our religion and our traditions, and practice true philanthropy, as to honor The Lord and all of Israel.

U'vchein yehi Rozaun, we naumar Omein!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Listing of Mt. Sinai Class

Listing of My Shabbos Class @ Mt. Sinai, URL:
Note: that eventually the Chumash Shiur was switched to Sefer haChinuch

1 hour before MinchaChumashRabbi Richard WolpoeMount SinaiEnglish

Brief Online Bio of Rabbi Wolpoe

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe - Rabbi of Congregation Ohav Sholaum, ordained by Yeshiva University/Reits and graduate of Bernard Revel Graduate School, majoring in Jewish history. Rabbi Wolpoe is a pioneer on the "Jewish Internet" discussion groups such as UTJ-L and Aishdas Society's Avodah List.

Hebrew Home Museum Website

For more details on the Riverdale Hebrew Home Exhibit please see:


NY Times Obituary of Rabbi Neuhaus

Ralph Neuhaus, Rabbi, 81

Published: June 21, 1990

LEAD: Ralph Neuhaus, the rabbi of Congregation Ohav Sholaum in the Inwood section of Manhattan, died on Tuesday at Presbyterian Hospital. He was 81 years old and lived in Manhattan.

Ralph Neuhaus, the rabbi of Congregation Ohav Sholaum in the Inwood section of Manhattan, died on Tuesday at Presbyterian Hospital. He was 81 years old and lived in Manhattan.

Rabbi Neuhaus died of a heart attack, his wife, Betti, said.

He had been associated with Congregation Ohav Sholaum for 47 years. Earlier, he had studied social work at Columbia University.

Rabbi Neuhaus was born in Ostrovo, Germany, which is now part of Poland, and came to the United States with his family in 1941, after being interned by the Belgian and French Governments.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Miriam Mandelbaum of Philadelphia, and eight grandchildren.

Outline of Matnas Yad

Order of Matnas Yad @ COS
I. Individuals:
  • A. Rabbi
  • B. Board of Directors by Name
II. Groups:
  • A. Organizatinos:
    • Men’s Chevra,
    • Members of the Sisterhood
    • Members of the Men’s Club
  • B. Leaders of Services:
    • Cantors
    • Gabbaim
    • Choir
    • Minyan Men
  • C. Congregation
III. National - Our Brethren in Israel

Yizkor Outline

Yizkor @ COS
Order Of Special Prayers
I. Individuals:
  • A. Rabbi Ralph Neuhaus
  • B. Cantor Eric Neumann
II. Groups:
  • A. Four Soldiers of Our Congregation who Perished during WWII
  • B. Members of the Sisterhood
  • C. Members of the Congregation, and Family of the Congregation
III. National
  • A. Victims of the Holocaust
  • B. Defenders of Israel

Thanks for the Honors

Ramona and I wish to thank the President, the Board of Directors, as well as the entire Congregation, for the beautiful and thoughtful ad honoring me in the recent Mt. Sinai Journal. It was very considerate of you to participate in my honor and to support one of our “neighbors” as well.

“Yasher Koach!”

Passover 5765

From Purim to Passover

It would seem that Passover is a continuation of Purim. After all the first two of the four special Parshiyos take place BEFORE Purim and the last two take place AFTER Purim and Before Passover. And especially this year, a Jewish Leap Year, it would seem from the fact that we observe Purim during the SECOND of the two Adars, that Purim is again connected to the upcoming Passover. Indeed this is one reason mentioned for observing Purim during the 2nd Adar and NOT during the 1st Adar.

Nevertheless, we must remember that Passover takes place during the first month of the Jewish Calendar while Adar is the last month of the year; i.e. the 12th month during a regular year, or 12th and 13th months during a leap year. When viewed from this perspective, Passover is at the beginning of the year, and Purim is actually 11-12 months later.

Thus, Purim is close to Passover in the same way the END of one year is near the Beginning of the following. Recall that on Simchas Torah we read V’zos Habrocho at the end of the Torah immediately before we resume a new cycle by reading Breishis. Additionally when a Siyyum is done on a tractate of the Talmud Gmara, there is a tradition to begin the first few lines of the NEXT Tractate. One lesson we then learn is that ends are merely preludes to new beginnings.

Another lesson is about protection and salvation. Just as Hashem rescued us at the beginning of the year, i.e. during at Passover; so, too, HE rescued us at the end of the year during Purim. And just as Hashem rescued us at the Beginning of History during Passover, so, too will HE rescue us at the end of days with the Advent of our Moshiach and the reconstruction of our Beis Hamikdash.

Best Wishes for a Sweet and Kosher Passover !
From the Wolpoe Family

Passover 5764

Passover Message for 5764

The Mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashanah states that there are Four New Years. The most familiar one, of course, is at the beginning of Tishrei. There is another one is the beginning of Nissan, which co-coincides with Parshas Hachodesh.... So, as we see, there is a connection between Passover and the New Year as far as the calendar goes. How about regarding rituals?

The month before New Year we begin the process of Teshuvo by beginning with introspection and ending with Forgiveness. The month before Passover- in other words right after after Purim - we begin the cleaning process ending with an inspection for Chometz

Thus, before New Year we clean out our misdeeds while before Passover we clean out all Chometz. Chometz is considered by our Rabbis as symbolizing ego or arrogance. Just as yeast causes dough to rise and to “puff up” so does arrogance cause our egoes to “rise above” others in our mind and to puff ourselves up. Matzo, on the other hand, is symbolic for humility.

If so, then why not then rid ourselves of Chometz all year? Well, we cannot function properly without SOME ego! Never would we adequately assert ourselves to do our daily tasks. Nevertheless, periodically, we need to clean it out and start from scratch.

Similarly it is impossible for humans not to sin once in a while over the long run. Therefore, we ritualize repenting once a year in order to keep ourselves from sinning habitually.

Best Wishes for a Sweet and Kosher Passover !
From the Wolpoe Family


Welcome to the BLOG site in Memory of Congregation Ohav Sholaum - popularly called "Neuhaus" in honor of our late Rav - Rabbi Ralph Neuhaus, OBM.

It is conceivable that we will enventually support a full-sclase web-site. For now this is a first step.

Members and Friends are invited to contribute their own memorires or bits and pieces of memories from those no longer with us.

Best Wishes for a Sweet Passover!

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe