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January 6, 2012

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 6, 2012 Seekfrlg kin:/00n Israeli finds his American cousins By Hiilel Kuttler BALTIMORE (JTA)--JTA's new column, Seeking Kin, aims to help reunite long-lost friends and relatives. We are happy to report our first success story. As a genealogy enthusiast and author of this column, I can experience no gratification greater than facilitating a fam- ily's reunification. Less than two months after Seeking Kin debuted, we hit paydirt thanks to our readers. The column's first install- ment presented Eliyahu Fin- keistein, an 88-year-old Shoah survivor in Israel who sought his American cousins. Finkelstein's uncle left a Ukrainian shtetl in the 1920s, settled in Philadelphia and was believed to have changed his name to Sam Stone. The branches of his family have been separated ever since. Several details in the article rang a bell for Vermont's Zecil Gravitz, none greater than this: Sam's daughter was a hunchback. As a young girl in Philadel- phia, Gravitz took trips near and far with her parents, Sarah and Moses Kopeicka. Several times in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the family crossed the Delaware River tovisit cousins a towork in Camden's municipal offices, perhaps for the court- house, Gravitz remembers her father saying. Gravitz knows neither what became of the family nor precisely how the Ko- peickas of Philadelphia and the Steins of Camden were related, just that it was through her paternal grandmother, Zeisl Finkelstein Kopeicka. "I neverasked. Children don't ask," she said."Ali I know is that they were related to my father on the Finkelstein side." Circa 1931, Gravitz and her parents sailed to Palestine and visited several more Finkelstein relatives. One cousin she met was Wolf Finkeistein, but she didn't remember precisely where he lived. She also visited Miriam Finkelstein, who lived on Kibbutz Yifat in the Galilee. In my follow-up conversa- tions, neither Gravitz nor Fin- kelsteinwas sure of their precise connection. However, they mentioned the same cousins in Israel, which confirmed their being related to one another. Finkelstein volunteered the information that a Kopeicka relative from Ukraine was a doctor--apparently Gravitz's grandfather Michael. He also said that his own grandfather Shmuel often mentioned the name Kopeicka. Courtesy of Zecil Gravitz Zecil Gravitz's paternal grandfather, Michael Kopeicka, rear center with beard, poses with relatives. Finkelstein recalled that a Kopeicka relative immigrated to Israel and was killed dur- ing Arab riots in Jaffa after the United Nations approved the 1947 partition plan that ushered in a Jewish state. The victim, Gravitz explained later, was her father's brother, Binya- min, also a doctor, who had two daughters, Sima and Yehudit. Finkelstein also established how he is related to those whom Gravitz met during the 1931 visit. Wolf and Miriam were siblingswhose father, Avraham, was the brother of Finkelstein's grandfather Shmuel. Wolf and Miriam had three other broth- ers: Chaim, Aharon and either Shimon or Shimshon, who was the only sibling to remain behind in Ostroh, Ukraine, rather than make aliyah with the rest of the clan in the 1930s. He married butwas killed in the Shoah, Finkelstein said. Finkelstein remains in touch with cousins in Israel whom he met after making aliyah in 1948. In Gravitz, he now has found an American cousin-- just not the one he'd expected. Gravitz has visited Israel 12 or 13 times, but not since 2002. If she makes it back, she'll visit the graves of her parents on the Mount of Olives, and of her paternal grandparents in Tel Aviv. She'll also be glad to meet Courtesy of Zecil Gravitz Zecil Gravitz's father, Mo- ses Kopeicka, is pictured with his mother, Zeisl Finkelstein Kopeicka (1), and his sister. few miles away in Camden, N.J. Gravitz clearly remembers the hunchback daughter, but not the first names of the gift or her parents. She is sure, though, that Finkelstein's recollection is slightly offand that the rela- tives' surname was not Stone. "My father's cousins in Camden were the Steins. The daughter was a hunchback. That stood out in my 9-year-old mind," Gravitz, now 90, said by telephone from her winter home in Florida. The Stein daughter went on her"new" cousin, Eliyahu. The two have not conversed yet by telephone, but Gravitz plans to write to him. "It gives me the chills be- cause the history of the family is very interesting," Gravitz said of Finkelstein. "It's wonder- ful. His branch of the family survived because of him--the Finkelstein branch we were never told about much .... It takes courage [for him] at 88 to start looking. It's nice that I found out about him." Finkelstein described him- self as "satisfied" to discover anAmerican relative, and looks forward to communicating with Gravitz. He said he wishes he had launched his search 40 years earlier. If Gravitz and her husband, Sidney, visit Israel, "I'll provide them with the greeting a king would receive," he promised. He delivered a message for JTA, too. "I want you to know some- thing," Finkelstein said. "I very, very much appreciate this." Please send a message to if you would like our help in searching for long-lost friends or family. Please include the principal facts in a brief email (up to one paragraph) and your contact information. 'Jewish Jordan' la00ks basketball, Judaism and giving back By Karina Grudnikov JUF News Tamir Goodman played basketball at Stetson (but not on the Sabbath) before playing pro basketball in Israel and the United States. series of injuries caused him to retire from basketball in 2009. Since then, he has been "Jewish Jordan" that's the nickname Sports Illustrated gave Tamir Goodman when he was merely 17 years old and a high school junior at the Tal- mudical Academy of Baltimore. Ranked among the best 25 high school basketball players in America, Goodman seemed set to become the first Orthodox Jew to play for the NBA. Things didn't go as expect- ed--plans to attend the Uni- versity of Maryland fell through because the basketball schedule would have forced him to play on the Sabbath. He attended Towson University instead, but only played basketball for two seasons. Despite the setbacks, Good- mandidbecome apro-basketball player, playing in Israel for six seasons on teams such as Mac- cabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa. He also played for the Maryland Nighthawks, but eventually a focused on inspiring the next generation through a variety of initiatives aimed at connecting children with sports and their Jewish identity, both in Israel and the United States, Question: How would you say Judaism and basketball intertwined in your life? Answer: Basketball and Ju- daism have always been one thing to me. I always played basketball for the Jewish people and Israel, because when I had that in my mind, it gave me extra motivation.., to come back from injuries or to practice harder or play harder, t succeed. Because itwasn'tabout me--itwasabout something nnuch bigger than me....It gave rne a strongerwork ethic than if I had just played for myself.... There were other players who would say, "I played well today, I can take it easy to- morrow." I was never like that. I could never be satisfied with my performance; I always had a need to move forward...and many things we learn from Judaism you need for basketball, such as the value of a work ethic. Q: How do you feel about be- ing called the "Jewish Jordan?" A: Being called the "Jewish Jordan," I always used it as a tool to inspire or help other people....I would think, "Wow, maybe someone looks up to me because they call me the "Jew- ish Jordan." How am I going to take that media attention and inspire people? I was never really comfortable with being called that, so I tried to use the media attention that came along with the nickname to do as much good as possible. Q: You didn't end up playing college basketball at the Uni- versity of Maryland because of scheduling that conflicted with your religious practices. You also didn't end up making it into the NBA. Do you lament the way things turned out, or do you think everything happens for a reason? A: With everything in my career, I feel so fortunate and blessed and believe that every- thing that happened was for a reason. The challenges I faced have prepared me for the work I do now. I can relate to kids and their struggles in a way that I would not have been able to had everything been smooth sailing. Even with the chal- lenges, I was able to live out my dream. I played basketball in college and pro-basketball in Israel and the U.S.--all without playing on Shabbat. It was an amazing experience, and I feel so fortunate. I also did military service in the IDF service and was awarded the "Outstanding SoldierAward." Itwasamiracle that I was able to reach so many of my goals without playing on Shabbat, and I'm grateful to my coaches and everyone who helped me along the way. Q: What do you ultimately hope to inspire in young people by being so involved with youth programming?. A: I hope to inspire them to be proud of their Jewish identity. Uniting the physical and spiri- tual is what Judaism is about. If you want to be a professional athlete, you shouldn't see it as hindrance thatyouare Jewish .... It's the opposite. Judaism is a blessing...Judaism teaches us to embrace our talents and channel them in the rightway .... This concept directly relates to sports, such as in the ideas of team building, work ethic, reaching goals, being organized, being positive....We bring out all these Jewish values through sports because it resonates with the kids....We talk to them in a language they understand to teach those values. We teach them that even before you step on the court, you need to un- derstand who you are and what you represent. You represent more thanyourself--asaJewish athlete,you represent the Jewish people and Israel. For more information about Tamir Goodman and Coolanu Israel, visit www.tamirgood- Samoa cale00 dar change poses a question for Jews By Adam Sodof NEW YORK (JTA)The Pa- cific island nation of Samoa is taking 186,000 citizens through a national time warp by moving west of the international date- line, forfeiting the last Friday of 2011andjumpingstraight from Thursday into Saturday. For Samoans, this solves a practical question: Why remain 18 to 23 hours behind chief trade partners Australia and New Zealand? For Jews, it poses a question of a different sort: When does Shabbat start in Samoa? And are there really any Jews in Samoa? A country adopting a new stance vis-a-vis the international dateline is nothing new. In 1995, the island nation of Kiribati also shifted westward. Even in Samoa, this isn't the first time they have dateline-hopped: In 1892, the country jumped east to betteralignitselfwithAmerican trade interests.Thatyear, Samoa made the adjustment by repeat- ing July 4. Alaska also adopted an extra day when it switched from Russian to American hands in 1867. RabbiDovidHeber, anadviser to the Baltimore-based Star-K kosher certification agency and a lecturer on halachah and astronomy at the Net Israel Rab- binical College, said he fielded two questions last week about when one should observe Shab- bat in Samoa and neighboring Tokelau, which is also participat- ing in the change. "Neitherwas traveling there," Heber noted of the questioners. While the Star-K does send kosher supervisors to the Pa- cific to inspect fish and food oil factories, he said none has been to Samoa or American Samoa, which is not adopting the time change. Nevertheless, Heber for- mulated a two-page halachic opinion on the issue. The upshot: Sabbath-observant Jews should avoid traveling to these areas. If they must travel to New Zealand, Japan or other areas in the Pacific over the weekend, they were to consult their local rabbis. "In Samoa it is 'safek Shab- bos' (questionable as to when Shabbos begins) every week," Heber's opinion said. "Shabbos would begin every Thursday night at sunset and end when it gets dark on Saturday night---or 49 hours of Shabbos." With lastweek's clock change, the 49-hour period would have commenced Thursday, Dec. 29 at sunset and end Sunday night, Jan. 1, "No wonder nobody comes here!" joked resident Samoan Jew Max Lapushin in response to the notion of a 49 -hour Shab- bos inApia, the Samoan capital. Lapushin, a 25-year-old American citizen, lives in Apia and has called the Pacific island nation home for nearly four years. A Jewish day school gradu- ate from Atlanta, Lapushin first arrived in Samoa as a Peace Corpsvolunteer in October 2007 to teach computer classes. He was on the ground when the devastating 2009 earthquake and tsunami hit, killing more that 180 people. Lapushin re- cently returned to Samoa after a few months overseas to work as a computer consultant. "This place is so disconnect- ed," Lapushin said. "Judaism withoutasense of community-- it's something, but there's no community." "I don't think there's any island in the world that has no Jews," Rabbi Menachem Mendel Goldstein, a Chabad emissary in New Zealand, told JTA.''We have had an inquiry from Samoa, but every indication was that there's basically no Jewish community of any kindwhatsoever,"he said, noting that the inquiry was an email from a group of curious Protestants a year ago. Previously stationed in Christchurch, Goldstein was reassigned to Auckland after the ChristchurchChabadhouse was damaged beyond repair in a massive earthquake in Febru- ary. Although Goldstein recalls sending emissaries to Fiji and French Polynesia, he said he had never heard of Chabad emissar- ies traveling to Samoa. In 1951,JTAdubbedArnoMax Gurau, a member of the Legisla- tive Assembly of Samoa, "the only Jew in Western Samoa." According to infomation from the cemetery in Apia, Gurau married two Samoans and one half-Samoan and passed away in 1961. "[The clock change] would certainly be relevant for any Jewish tourists or humanitar- ian volunteer personnel--who obviously now I am aware exist in Samoa," Goldstein said. At present, Lapushin only knows of two other Samoan Jews--both Peace Corps vol- unteers-who were on vacation lastweek.Ifheiscorrect, itwould make him the only Jew present on the Samoan mainland when the island nation turned the clock forward. While The Associated Press reported that the Seventh Day Adventist parish in Samatau village will continue to observe Saturday as the Sabbath, Radio New Zealand International in- dicated that most Seventh Day Adventist churches will adopt Sunday as the new day of rest. "I will follow their lead and light Shabbos candles on Sat- urday night," Lapushin told JTA. In away, Lapushin's decision seems fitting. "When you talk about being Jewish," Lapushin explained, "people say, 'Oh, you're Seventh Day Adventist!"'