Today, the 17th of Tammuz, is the eighth yahrzeit of Archie Greenberg – Aharon ben Zalman z”l. As we begin to grieve on this day for the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, we cannot but remember our own personal churban, the loss of our husband, father and grandfather.
“Zeyda Archie” continues to be a source of strength and inspiration to all of us. His days were filled with acts of kindness and words of encouragement. His life was devoted to family, to community, and through his work, to quality of life throughout the world. Though successful and influential, he sought neither honor nor recognition. His satisfaction and reward was simply his selfless task accomplished. For the first time this year I have had the opportunity to be in my parent’s home leading up to the yahrzeit — almost every day one of our father’s friends reminds me of something that he did for others or for the community. I never cease to be amazed at how far-reaching his touch was in so many ways, both large and small.
We, his family, are trying to keep his light alive, both in his home in Berkeley and in his second home in Safed, Israel. Aharon ben Zalman z”l’s legacy certainly continues: eight years since its inception “Mateh Aharon” – the organization dedicated to his memory – is a beacon to attract and build and maintain a stable mainstream community in Safed.
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In ancient times, the city of Safed was a bustling center of international commerce, manufacturing, intellect, Torah study and mysticism. On the ancient trade route between Damascus and the port of Akko, the whole world passed through Safed. The city was a major producer of silk and linen – remnants of the silk trade remain today as the hills are still studded with mulberry trees. In Safed the holy Ari lived and developed his mystical teachings. In Safed Rabbi Joseph Karo compiled the Shulchan Aruch, basis to our present day codes of Jewish law.
Today’s Safed is a long way from being the important center it was 500 years ago. A neglected town in the north of Israel, Safed has been bypassed by modern industry and commerce. Employment is difficult to find and poverty abounds. Many families are actually hungry for food.
Children growing up in Safed look forward to being old enough to leave – opportunities in the outside world beckon – intellectual opportunities, economic opportunities elsewhere make Safed seem less than desirable.
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Mateh Aharon’s goal is to return Safed to its former glory; to build stability and dignity; to attract scholars and business opportunities; to re-create the atmosphere of Torah and holiness and the prosperity that has long abandoned this special city. By doing this, we are successfully encouraging and enabling Safed’s youth to remain in Safed; providing a venue for high level Torah study together with a modest livelihood and employment opportunities.
Mateh Aharon has partnered with Rabbi of the Old City of Safed, Rabbi Mordechai Dov Kaplan to support this important effort. Among Mateh Aharon’s projects are:
· The “Beth Midrash”: In the ancient tradition of Safed, ALL kinds of Jews toil together here in learning. Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Chasidim… all learn together under one roof. Kollel Mateh Aharon presently has about 40 full time post-yeshiva students.
· Talmud Torah, Kindergarten and nursery school: Two years ago Mateh Aharon opened a Talmud Torah; this coming (third) year the school will have close to 70 children in 6 classes – and will employ about 20 staff members!
· Girls’ High School Seminar: Rabbi Kaplan’s wife has a seminar that teaches more than 100 girls. Many of our kollel wives studied there and now teach there.
· Big Brother Program: Mateh Aharon sponsors a program of outreach for youth in Safed and its surroundings. Each day 20-30 children from underprivileged families come to learn and socialize with our students in a kind of “big brother” program.
· Vocational training”: Mateh Aharon is working to develop programs for vocational training in the schools here. Since many young people in Safed do not continue to higher education, it is critical that they should acquire a means of earning a living. Mateh Aharon is trying to address this need.
· Community classes: Mateh Aharon sponsors community classes for lay people. Our several Daf Yomi classes include a broad spectrum of Jews joining together each day to learn the daily page from the Talmud.
· Economic development: To help support our projects and to provide employment within the community, Mateh Aharon is working towards the development of local industry. We are forging contacts with sponsors and investors to bring businesses to Safed which will create work in the community.
· Free Loan Bank: Mateh Aharon has a free loan “bank” which makes small loans to families or businesses in need. We presently have about 100 loans out in the Safed community at large.
· Help for the needy: In the Safed community at large, we have been helping with some of the severe poverty cases – providing not only money and food but also counseling – to try to help people learn to fend for themselves. We also try to help needy families with limited budgets to acquire basic food necessities at reduced cost.
Just as Aharon HaCohen was the quintessential peacemaker and unifier; Mateh Aharon is a means to bring Jews of all kinds to the essence of peace – Torah and Chessed. Just as Aharon HaCohen’s staff (“mateh”) blossomed and bore fruit, so this new “Mateh” is already bearing the eternal fruit of Torah study and Tzedakah.
We all dearly loved my father. It would be most meaningful to me and my family that you, as our friends and community continue to share this project with us; bringing merit to my father (and yourselves!) by giving charity and fostering Torah study in his memory. For more information, you may see the attached literature.
We need your help – we cannot do this without you! Contributions to “Mateh Aharon” will be gratefully received. Tax deductible (U.S.) donations may be made out to Mateh Aharon and sent to Congregation Beth Israel, 1630 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94703. Contributions can also be sent directly to me in Israel (Rechov Tet Zayin 62, Safed 13213, Israel).
Thank you very much for your ongoing support.
With warmest regards,
Noah and the Greenberg family
Rechov Tet Zayin 62
US telephone number (it rings in Safed): (1) 646-682-0894