Friday, February 29, 2008

In Praise of

I want you to know that I stopped everything I was doing at my law office to respond to your email immediately. That is how much I love Rabbi Weiss as a tour guide.
He really made our trip. We had been to Israel before the trip that we used him, and decided at the last minute that at least for one of the days that we were in Jerusalem that we should have a tour guide. We contacted him, and he Thank G-d was available, and he did something that I had never experienced with tour guides and that is to really understand the type of things that we had previously seen, what we wanted to see, what we were hoping to get out of the experience, and then he sat down to work, and crafted a very unique itinerary for us on some out of the way places that we never would have known about, or seen. It was amazing. Then on the trip, he was so pleasant and funny and personable, and really know his stuff. He is a true mentch. How many times can you get a rabbi that is a tour guide? He loves his job, and it really comes out. He really wants to make sure you have a great time, and appreciate Israel. I am very honored that he is using me as a reference. Go with him, you will not regret it.
Please forward any additional questions to me, and also, let me know how the trip was after you go with him.
All the best.
Brian Lebensburger

We really appreciate all you did and for making our trip so enjoyable. Please feel free to use our name as a reference.
Leah and Harvey Paretzky

He’s a wonderful fun human being and bright, informed and interesting. We’ve known him for 20+ years. We toured with him primarily around Jerusalem. I’ve been to Israel almost 20 times and he still taught me a lot and kept my interest (and I’m a tough customer!).

Yoni and I had a wonderful time with you.
Shana Tova !
Michael Kram

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge of Jerusalem and Jewish history with the AACI February Pilot Trip group on Friday. It was an excellent way for us to finish off the day and begin Shabbat -- inspirational and interesting.
Wishing you all the best, and look forward to seeing you again.

I am now back home. I just wanted to write you to thank you for the wonderful and memorable day that you gave my family. Your help in choosing the sites to visit and your expertise were quite impressive. It was PERFECT for my family and their interests.I would be MORE than happy to talk to anyone that calls or emails me and I will gladly give you a glowing reference! The day with you was the highlight of the trip! Thank you for making our trip so much fun!
Best Regards,
C. Montrose
Chicago, IL

All five of us concur that we had a great time with you. We truly appreciate your efforts and valued your comraderie. Also please thank your wife for her warm welcome and the opportunity to meet at least some of your family.
A warm handshake,

Thank you very much for the tour you gave us. It was excellent. My girls have been to Israel a few times and at Masada 2 or 3 times and they both said that your tour was the best. You showed and taught a lot more than they experienced before.

Just wanted to say thank you. The family had a wonderful time yesterday and spoke super highly of you. They said they would recommend you in a second to anyone else.
so thank you!!!!

I had the most amazing time in Israel. I can definitely say that it left a huge impact on me that has changed my outlook on life.. So thank you so much. It definitely surpassed my expectations.

Got home safe and am back in the real world working. Thanks for everything. I had the best time ever and really learned a lot about myself.

I wanted to thank you again for a great trip, its something I will always remember.
I hope to stay in touch,

I wanted to tell you how pleased we all were while with you in Israel. The girls really had a great time and learned a lot. Looking forward to returning again in the near future.
Best regards,
Stephen Sugar

You made our trip very special.
Suzette Diamond

We wanted to thank you again for everything and want you to know that the kids said the best time they had in Israel was when they were touring with you. Thank you for helping to make the trip for us meaningful and fun.
All the best
Heather and Isaac Hagler

many many thanks for all you've been able to show us and teach us...pesach and was truly a fullfilling day for both of us.........all the best to your family.......and you will be highly recommended on teaneckshuls..........till we surely will meet again........shabbat shalom.....
bob and evelyn

We had a GREAT time while we were with you in Israel. Thank you again for being our guide while we were there. Right from the get go of meeting you on that first Monday morning it confirmed our feelings that we made a great decision in taking Gingy's recommendation to use you as our guide. We have mentioned your name to a few friends already. Whether something comes of it or not - who knows. Only time will tell. Definitely feel free to use our name as a reference. Thanks again for being our guide.
We have many great memories of our ten days in Israel with lots of pictures to keep it fresh. All three of our children really enjoyed seeing Israel with you. Whether it was the first, second or even third time seeing a site they still learned something new.
As for Giselle and me - we're doing well also. We had a great time with you and look forward to our next trip to Israel.
Steve and Giselle Lander
Cleveland, Ohio

Thanks for helping us make our trip to Israel so great! We had an amazing
time & hope to be back soon!
Allison & Elliott

Larry and I are continuing to relive our Israel experience. It was great having you for a guide.
Betty Goldblatt

Thanks again for an amazing time in was a truly life changing experience!
Ashley Sokol

Thank you again for the wonderful experience! You have changed my life forever. I will see you soon : )
Andrea Lederman

Thank you for showing us the state of Israel. It is so beautiful. I really miss everyone from our trip. Thank you for going above and beyond and welcoming us into your lovely home.
Josie Rosenbaum

We had fun, I learned a lot from you, and thanks for inviting us all for Hanukah, it was very nice. See you soon.
Robert Sedaghatpour

Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, you really made our experience that much better . Hope to see you soon. Shalom.
Alberto Corkidi

Thanks again for taking us on a wonderful trip. Going on birthright was a truly life changing experience for me and I have tried to bring some of it with me in my life at home. And thanks again for welcoming us into you home. It was a great part of the trip to have Chanukah with your family.
Thanks again!
Sincerely, Brandy Graff

Thank you so much for your guiding us. Everyone had a great time.
The Sheffey Family

I just wanted to thank you once again for the most wonderful trip. I learned a lot, even though it was my fourth time.. the kids
had a great time and BH many kids (much more that usual) are signing
up for classes and coming for Shabbos. This was really one of my most
"eidel" groups. Thank you for you dedicated "avoida".
Yasher koach for everything and much hatzlocho in the Holy Land!
Rabbi Eli Gurevitz
Chabad on Campus
Serving the Tri-Co Community and beyond
670 Dayton Road
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
p. 610.525.8672 e.
Where every Jew is family

A road map can guide you around Israel, But a real guide can teach and educate you as to what you are seeing as you drive around Israel.If you want to learn and gain insights as to where you are, then no one is better than Mordechai Weiss. We loved our visit and your willingness to share your knowledge and views of what you observed in Israel. As regular visitors to Israel,and committed Jews, we wanted to gain some insights as to what was occurring today and where you thought Israel was going in the future.You did that with care and diplomacy, we all gained knowledge by listening to your commentary We loved our experiences with you. Thanks again.
Peter and Susan Kolben
Wayne, NJ

Rabbi Mordechai Weiss was my group's guide for 1 1/2 weeks. He was outstanding. Not only was he totally knowledgeable of all aspects of Jewish and Christian culture and history, but his pleasant, enthusiastic demeanor made our short stay in Israel even more meaningful. We were very fortunate to have him as our guide and I would recommend him to others wholeheartedly.
Dr. Ed Friedland

I recently returned from a trip to Israel together with a family from my community. We used Rabbi Mordechai Weiss as our tour guide, and I would highly recommend using him. We were a group of 14 people ranging from 1 years old to 80 years old and he did an amazing job both in planning appropriate places to visit as well as in keeping everyone’s interest throughout the trip. Mordechai was a pleasure to deal with, and as I was, the family I was with was extremely impressed with his knowledge, warmth and mentchlichkeit.
Rabbi Mendy Lewis
Old Tappan, New Jersey

We can not thank you enough for making our Jerusalem family trip a once-in-a-lifetime event!
Your insight and passion coupled with your vast knowledge and unmatched enthusiasm, made the tour experience deeply personal and meaningful for each member of our intrepid (and disparate) group!

I have already recommended you, and Melissa and I will tirelessly sing your praises to any and all who will listen. My mother thought you were compassionate, brilliant and kind, and Henry will certainly have many flattering stories to tell!

Melissa and I will always remember how you "were there" for Michaela when she developed her medical emergency, and how you handled my mother's mobility needs with a gentle and calm patience. We all thank you deeply for leading us, educating us and generally putting up with us!

Please share this humble note with any and all interested individuals. Todah rabah!
Sincerely yours,
Bruce R. Kastin, MD

I just wanted to thank you again on behalf of the Muhlrad- Schuster gang for showing us such a wonderful time, for your kindness, and for sharing your vast knowledge of the Holy Land with us . The trip was exceptional and we will never forget how we were able to see so much of the country in such a short time. All our friends and family who have inquired about our trip are surprised about how much we accomplished. We hope it won’t be long until our next visit and we will certainly keep in touch. Thank you again!
Rachel Shuster

We just got home and it's 5:20 AM Israeli time and I am exhausted, but I had to thank you for such a wonderful trip. I couldn't ask for a better guide. Not only were you incredibly knowledgeable on the cultural, religious, historical, political and geographic aspects of Israel, but your easy going temperament was delightful to be with.
I know the Pollners and the Schwartz's share my sentiments as well.
I will definitely recommend you to my friends as well as to my travel agent.
Israel is such a unique place and we will cherish our memories of our time spent there with you.
Thank you so much again for all you shared with us. I'll forward you some photos of all of us with you when they are ready.
Sandi & Mitchell

The politics, history, religion, & culture of Israel are unequaled. The places we saw, the people we met not to mention the food and the night life are without equal. For us, our own personal Rabbi brought it together in a way that made it even bigger and better. I wanted to thank you for the wonderful experience you gave us. We loved every minute of it. I will value my Kippa and my nourished membership in the Jewish community. I look forward to my next visit to Israel and my next visit with Mordechai.


To be continued ...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I did it!

Not that I'm one to make excuses (usually), but I realize that it's been awhile since I've sent out a nice long juicy e-mail. I met a birdwatcher this past Sunday up in the Hula valley. She was keeping an eye on the 25,000 cranes who are there hanging out there until they make their way up north in a few weeks. She claims that neither animals nor humans are lazy (just smart!). Anyway, that would mean that my lack of communication would not be due to any laziness on my part. Yeah.

I guess the craziness began between Sukot and Chanukah. It was the usual stuff, plus dealing with our infant Menucha Rachel's whooping cough, making preparations for our son Mendel's Bar Mitzvah, when our community was struck with the tragic death of 4 of our children in a car accident, three of them 12 years old. In our entire community of 300 families, their were only 17 seventh graders to begin with. Now there are 14. I would like to say that it hit our family especially hard because of our closeness to the familie's who lost their children and because these were our son's very best friends, but everyone in our small close-knit community feels that way. Mendel's Bar Mitzvah, just one month after the deaths, was a rollercoaster of emotions. Ellie started to bawl like a baby when one of the mothers entered Shul during Mendel's Bar Mitzvah speach. What can I say? No words can describe the deep, deep pain we are all suffering as a result of this tragedy.

Ellie's father came from the States for the bar mitzvah, and then stayed on for our daughter's wedding. My mother flew in from Iowa and Moishy flew in as well for a too brief visit. Moishy needed to cut his trip short. His mother-in-law Neema Zazon of blessed memory, a very, very special person, passed away after battling cancer for years only a few hours after Moishy returned from his visit to Israel.

Enough with the bad news! The newlyweds are doing great. They are living in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot. Our children Yaakov and Mazal are expecting their first this summer. (That was another story. Mazal required surgery last month, during the Jerusalem snow storm. Baruch Hashem, baruch Hashem all is thank G-d well. But it was a scary moment for us all). The kids are doing fine in school. Bat Sheva successfully completed her first 3 bagruyot. These are the SAT like exams all High School students are required to take in order to graduate. Only 18 more to go! Mendel is having a difficult time. Both the school and the community are providing special help for him and for the entire 7th grade class from Mitzpeh Yericho.

Two years ago, especially with the encouragement of my father-in-law, I started a tour guide course in order to receive a license from the Ministry of Tourism. It is a difficult course, hundreds of classroom hours studying history, archeaology, religions, geomorphology, etc. in addition to visiting hundreds of sights around the country for in-depth studying. The truth is, I loved it! It was a great course with really great lecturers, the best people in these fields and a real learning oppurtunity. Our class of 25 students, made up of old and young, religious and secular, Jewish and not Jewish, congealed into a close-knit group of very good and close friends. It was a wonderful experience, albeit challenging. Besides all the exams and material that had to be digested and internalized, there was also the issue of time, and about making a living until the course would end. Here and there I did some unofficial guiding and some part jobs. But two years is a long time, and we thankfully received much assistance from our friends. And so with the final exams from the Ministry of Tourism looming, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The written exam, a very intense five hour exam, went well. I scored 94.5 the second highest mark in the course. In January, I took the even more difficult oral exam, and to the surprise of all, least of all myself, I failed. For almost one hour you are questioned by 4 examiners on everything under the sun. Crusader sights along the coast. Napoleon's invasion of 1799. Pagan Temple remains in Jerusalem. Instructions for entering the Dead Sea. In addition, you are required to present a 10 minute performance that you could give at a sight in Israel. I chose the Northern Palace of King Herod on Masada. Anyway, I flopped. My presentation was boring, and my answers were too bullet point; not enough depth.

If you fail the exam, you can retake it in 6 months. Absolutely no exceptions. Six months! I tossed and turned in my bed all night. My course director assured me that he would spend time with me to prepare for the next exam. In the meanwhile, I would lose out on the business I was hoping to generate before the summer.

The final set of exams in January were postponed due to the snow storm. On Tuesday February 12 (my birthday) my course director called to inform me that for his first time ever, he successfully appealed my exam and I could come back to take the oral exam again on the rescheduled day. For the exam, I dressed up as King Herod and performed for 10 minutes describing the Temple King Herod built. It wasn't boring. They loved it. The exam went great. I even knew abouut Muhammed's whisker which is kept in the Al-Jazzar Mosque in Akko. So now I am finally licensed. Full steam ahead!

More good news. Ever since making aliyah almost five years ago, with the encouragement of my good friend Adam Brown, I have sent out these regularly sent emails as a way to stay in touch with our close friends. Some of the fans of these emails have even suggested that I put it all together for a book. Easier said than done, but I found a co-publisher . The book is scheduled for distribution in the Spring of 2009. Among the nice things they wrote after reviewing my manuscript was; "I’ve read about half a dozen aliyah “diaries” over the last few years and I can say unequivocably that yours is one of the best I’ve ever read."

They will also handle all the marketing, which is crucial. The exposure should also be great for my tour guiding enterprise.

I am looking for a sponsor to dedicate book. Are you interested?

That's it for now. All our love. Please visit soon!