By Mindy Rubenstein / firstname.lastname@example.org
After reading and listening to Rabbi Ken Spiro’s books and classes, David Weinstein wanted to hear him in person. Learning that the rabbi would be traveling from Israel to the United States, Weinstein decided to try to bring him to Atlanta.
“I ran into some stumbling blocks,” said Weinstein, a gastroenterologist who lives in Sandy Springs with his wife and children. “I had never done anything like this before.”
After much planning and coordination, Rabbi Spiro will be speaking about “The Seven Wonders of Jewish History” on Sunday, Oct. 11, at Atlanta Jewish Academy’s Sandy Springs campus.
“I wanted to create an event that would be uplifting and inspiring. I strongly believe we have more cause to celebrate and more to be thankful for as a people today than we have cause to worry about,” Weinstein said. “We are, after all, called the children of Israel, after our forefather, Jacob, who wrestled with G-d and man and has overcome.”
Weinstein recruited his cousin Mitchell Blass of Sandy Springs to help “in the spirit of our grandfathers, who did so much for the Jewish community,” Weinstein said.
Fraternity brother Brian Statisky also helped, he said.
Nathan Blass, Weinstein’s maternal grandfather, lived in Atlanta all his life and died in 1973. A longtime dentist, he was a well-known figure in the Jewish community.
“He’s always been this mythic figure in my life,” said Weinstein, who was 4 when his grandfather died. “He gave us the blessing of a great name.”
Saul Blass, Mitchell’s grandfather, was born in 1916 with a twin sister, Annie (Mislowe), at home in Atlanta. He eventually started a grocery store. His father, Moses, was the first gabbai at Congregation Beth Jacob.
“My grandfather was one of the kindest men I have even known, second only to my own father, Allen,” Blass said.
For Weinstein, growing up Jewish was more cultural and Zionistic, he said. He knew he was expected to marry Jewish but said he wasn’t raised observant.
But he said his family used to go to his grandparents’ home every Friday night for Shabbat dinner until his grandfather died. About six years ago, he said he started becoming more religiously observant and learning about Jewish history.
“There’s this overriding sense of anti-Semitism in the world. Everything in the news is about the Middle East and Iran. Israel is either villain or potential victim. Both are negatives. I wanted to do something positive,” Weinstein said.
“I’m obsessed with the divisions in our community. I think about Iran, but I feel like the biggest threat to us is our own fractiousness. That’s why the Second Temple fell,” he said, noting that it wasn’t the Romans; they were just waiting at the gates. “We fought against ourselves within the city gates.”
He felt that bringing Rabbi Spiro to speak about the wonders of Jewish history could bring the community together.
“We can’t argue about our own history,” he said. “We should all know our own history. You can’t ignore the miraculous in it. You can’t ignore the fact that it’s inspiring. No synagogue can have an issue with it. History is unifying when it’s your history.”
He noted that Biblical Hebrew doesn’t actually have a word for “history.”
“It’s all about memory,” he said, noting that one of the common refrains in the Torah is to remember.
Born and raised in the United States, Rabbi Spiro has lived in Israel since 1982. He served in a combat infantry unit in the Israel Defense Forces and lives in Givat Zeev with his wife and five children.
Rabbi Spiro is known for his quick-paced, humorous style and his ability to clearly explain deep concepts. He is a lecturer and researcher with Aish HaTorah’s Discovery Seminar and a licensed tour guide with Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.
Who: Rabbi Ken Spiro
What: “The Seven Wonders of Jewish History”
Where: Atlanta Jewish Academy, 5200 Northland Drive, Sandy Springs
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11
Information: Email David Weinstein at email@example.com