While the Irish were wearing green on March 17, Atlanta Scholars Kollel celebrated its fellowship and soul at the home of Carrla and Jeff Goldstein.
Co-Rosh Kollel Rabbi David Silverman began by thanking the Goldsteins for so graciously sharing their home. He joked, “and not just for movies and TV shows. [The house is used for film shots and rap videos]. … May it continue to be open wide for spiritual things as well.”
Silverman shared the new programs that Kollel has added, especially the outreach to Israelis who “began as tattooed and secular and blossomed into 130 for a recent Friday night meal, and further, one beautiful marriage.”
University of Georgia student Megan Cohen, daughter of Edye and Lee Cohen, shared with the group the meaningfulness of her recent Kollel trip to Poland with Rabbi Shlomo Gelbtuch (sponsored by a Bernie Marcus scholarship fund). She recounted how they visited the five square miles of Auschwitz in six hours and will forever be altered by the trip. “My thoughts were searching for answers of how, and what. What would I have done had I been an American Jew during World War II? … I don’t know what was more compelling there, the graves of the children or the scratches on the walls from clawing.”
The group developed a bond with the big question to take home “What next? I had to go back home and see fraternity houses painted with swastikas and people saying that Israel was a Nazi state.” She concluded referring to Jews as a resilient people and her commitment to moving figuratively towards the land of Israel.
Guest speaker Gavriel “Rav Gav” Friedman, who teaches at Aish HaTorah in Israel, carried out the theme of the tree of life and clinging to and knowing the essence of its value. He told the story of sitting next to an atheist couple on a plane flight who peppered him with questions about Judaism. Then he asked them to estimate what the worldwide Jewish population was. Their guess was from 500 million to 1 billion because “every newspaper they read has a story about Jews.” He said, “I know from the Pew [Research Center] study (2013) that the number is 14 million. Their figure would erroneously mean more than the entire population of the USA.” Their ignorance aside, the Torah’s essence is “we must know our value and in what we are invested. … The tree of life is at our core to those who hold dear to it.”
The charismatic Kollel rabbis lined up for their traditional modernized annual skit. This year’s theme was Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” replete with Silverman sporting a yellow frizz wig (à la Garfunkel). The emes (truth) was that they sounded quite strong and melodic, especially on the chorus.
A most beautiful sight was the davening afterwards at the Goldsteins’ poolside.