JewishBoston.com: Four Questions with Josh Ruboy of The Butcherie

Originally posted on JewishBoston.com.

created at: 2011-04-11Meet Josh Ruboy from The Butcherie. A member of the family who owns this Brookline institution, Josh has worked at the Harvard Street shop for twenty years. He’s a chef, overseeing the full-service catering arm of the business, with a hand in the prepared foods, the deli, and even the meat butchering in the back room. We chatted with Josh about Passover, the busiest time of year for The Butcherie.

Passover’s not here yet, but you’ve been surrounded by it for almost two months now. Are you sick of Passover before the holiday even happens?

You get used to it. We live it for seven weeks because we have to start producing matzah balls and knishes — we make everything by hand in our kitchens, and we need to supply everybody who comes to buy. It’s not just a quick in and out for us. We really start 10 – 12 weeks out with all of the foods coming in. We have to place our orders in December and January, and we start taking product in 8 – 10 weeks prior to the holiday.  Continue reading

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The Jewish Advocate: New Brighton Rabbi Aims for Inclusiveness

Originally published in The Jewish Advocate.

BRIGHTON – At first glance, Azriel Blumberg could easily be mistaken for a visiting yeshiva student. Yet in reality, this youthful man is the new rabbi of Congregation Kadimah Toras-Moshe, Brighton’s oldest Orthodox congregation.

This New York transplant takes on the leadership of the congregation from retiring Rabbi Abraham Halbfinger, who served the community for 39 years. Kadimah Toras-Moshe is Blumberg’s second pulpit, following Young Israel in Eltingville, N.Y., on Staten Island.

He arrived last week with his wife Michal, a social worker, and his four children, ranging in ages from nine months to 5-1/2. On Monday, he welcomed The Jewish Advocate into his synagogue to share his enthusiastic vision for the future.

“I want to build a sense of energy, vitality and focus,” he said. “I’m very impressed by the precedents set by Rabbi Halbfinger. He set up a shul where he never made himself into the be-all/end-all of the community. He encouraged the participation of all.” Blumberg noted that the synagogue’s motto, coined by Halbfinger, is “all are welcome.” He aims to intensify the message into “all are important.”

“Each person is counted on to be a vital part of decision-making and vision: practical aspects of the day-to-day as well as long-term goals,” he said. “One of the best compliments I know is to say, ‘We need you.'”

The goals Blumberg has set out for himself and his community are broad. He looks to enlarge the community’s reputation as an Orthodox synagogue where all Jews can feel comfortable, regardless of their individual level of observance. He also looks to further strengthen the congregation’s relationship with other Jewish institutions in the community.

But it is clear that Blumberg’s most important goal, the one he keeps returning to, is deepening his members’ investment in their own community at Kadimah Toras-Moshe. “There is no typical demographic of who belongs here – from the very educated to the not very educated, people who speak only English, or only Yiddish, or only Russian, people who would identify as right wing, as left wing,” he said. “The great thing about the shul is it doesn’t matter. We’re all here for the same goal: to get closer to God.”

Blumberg has launched himself into this endeavor at full speed. Barely a week since his arrival, Blumberg is opening his home to the congregation’s teenagers to foster the establishment of a teen program. He acknowledges the existence of a strong children’s program, and in the same breath he talks about formalizing and enlarging it.

Far from ignoring the needs of his adult constituency, Blumberg speaks enthusiastically about offering spiritual learning programs along with enjoyable community-oriented events. “People will feel this is not just a place to come and daven, but a nucleus of the Jewish community,” he said. “We want to be involved in all aspects of their lives.”

Looking at the task ahead of him, Blumberg sees both challenges and opportunities. But at the center of it all, he sees the individuals that make up his congregation. Summing it up, he said, “As we go forward, I’m going to make sure we take everybody along with us.”

The Jewish Advocate: Rabbi retiring in Brighton shows no signs of quitting

Originally published in The Jewish Advocate.

BOSTON – Rabbi Abraham Halbfinger, spiritual leader of Congregation Kadima-Toras Moshe in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, steps down this week from the position he has held for the last 39 years.

A New York native ordained at Yeshiva University, Halbfinger, 70, initially came to Massachusetts for his first pulpit in North Adams, in the western part of the state. After sojourns in Quebec City and Lawrence, Mass., the rabbi in the mid-1960s brought his family to Brighton where they have been ever since.

“I like Massachusetts,” Halbfinger told The Jewish Advocate on Tuesday. “As the children got older, we decided we wanted to come to the big city. My teacher and mentor, Rabbi Soloveichik, was in the Boston area, and I wanted to be close to him.”  Continue reading

The Jewish Advocate: Guide to Jewish Boston

Each year, The Jewish Advocate publishes a directory of Jewish organizations, institutions, businesses, and services to be distributed as a supplement to the paper, hoping to entice those new to the city to subscribe. While most of the content doesn’t change much from year to year, there was an effort to keep the guide fresh by publishing new introductory essays to the various sections each year. This was my contribution to the 2005 guide. I believe it ran as the general introduction to the guide as a whole. In retrospect, it feels like a little bit of foreshadowing to the role I’d take on half a decade later at JewishBoston.com.

Welcome to Boston. If you’ve made it far enough to be holding a copy of this guide in your hands, you’re already off to a great start. Inside, you’ll find listings of all sorts of businesses, organizations, and institutions that will enrich your time here in the Bay State. And, just in case addresses and phone numbers aren’t your thing, we’ve included a handful of helpful essays to point you in the right direction and tell you a little bit about our home.

The first thing to understand about Boston is our rather unique approach to geography. While Boston is itself a city with clearly defined borders, to locals, “Boston” can describe anywhere from Providence, RI to Worcester, MA. When a college student tells you they “go to school in Boston,” they’re as likely to be speaking euphemistically about Harvard or MIT (both in Cambridge) as they are to be actually talking about Boston College (in Chestnut Hill – technically not Boston) or Boston University (in Allston, which technically, is Boston.) Each area of Boston – and of “Boston” – has its own unique character and something different to offer.  Continue reading