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Temple Mateh Chaim
Lieutenant Commander, Chaplain Corps
"It's a major paradigm shift," said Mateh Chaim Rabbi Fred Natkin.
"The highest ideal in Judaism is to preserve life. In many Christian denominations, the highest ideal is to be saved in order to have life after life." Then there's the matter of Jesus Christ, a deity in Christianity, but "a leader of a great religion which is not ours" to most Jews, Natkin said. They have just a handful of brick-and-mortar synagogues to choose from; Natkin said growth of religious centers has been slow in an area thick with older congregants. "The retirees who come to Florida are very 'been there, done it, don't want to do it again,' " he said, adding that a lot of time, money and hard work are involved in building a religious community from scratch. But leaders say snowbirds and transplants from crowded South Florida are boosting community numbers. Those folks will need somewhere to worship. Natkin and others say they believe that with a new building, Mateh Chaim can attract some of them. "It's a field of dreams," he said, referencing the popular baseball film.
Rabbi Fred Natkin of Temple Mateh Chaim in Palm Bay, said the Fleischmanns' radio show, provided Brevard County with an important new voice."In an area where the predominant religious thought is not Jewish, it provided a different way of looking at things," Natkin said."People would sometimes be amazed that aspects of Judaism had things both in common with the way they believe."Natkin said the format of the show, which will continue to be broadcast, "includes interviews with guests such as the United States Ambassador to Israel, interspersed with bits of Jewish liturgical music, and to be honest, some very bad Jewish jokes."Natkin said that in addition to lecturing about the Holocaust, Fleischmann taught English, Hebrew, Yiddish and German.Recalling Fleischmann's spunk, Natkin told a story about her arrival in New York from Israel with a suitcase full of ties, since the Fleischmanns were in the garment business.
Rabbi Fred Natkin, Lieutenant Commander, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy (ret.), Winter Haven, FL
"This means that for the first time in our congregation's history, we'll be able to read from two Torah scrolls instead of one," said Rabbi Fred Natkin, leader of M'Ateh Chaim, the 16-year-old Reform Jewish congregation where the new Torah now resides.The temple's first scroll, around 150 years old, has been with the congregation for more than a decade."The reason for having two scrolls is that certain holidays demand that you read from certain sections of a scroll," Natkin said.Because the scrolls are so large, finding a passage isn't like flipping through the pages of the Bible.It can take an hour to 90 minutes to unroll a scroll to the proper place."Now, we'll be able to read the portion of the week, which currently is in the book of Leviticus, from one scroll as well as the portion which is special for Passover, Exodus 12, from the other," Natkin said.From the latter Scriptures, members will hear the story of how the ancient Hebrews were delivered by God from slavery in Egypt during the first Passover nearly 3,500 years ago.Then they will meditate on how that passage through the Red Sea put the Jewish people on a centuries-long path filled with struggle, religious persecution and even genocide."Just as Passover honors our ancestors, the scroll will honor our ancestors.And just as our celebration of Passover makes the tradition come alive for us, the presence of the new scroll will make the experience more alive to us," Natkin said.Natkin said M'Ateh Chaim's new scroll has time-worn wooden handles with an inscription by the scribe.Many of the older scrolls, including ones decorated with unique artistic flourishes, were collected by individuals as heirloom pieces.Some ended up in synagogues as scriptural teaching tools for younger generations in preparation for bar or bat mitzvahs.Natkin said the scroll, which passed from owner to owner and survived water damage over the years, was purchased through a private intermediary in Germany.Natkin, a former rabbi for the U.S. Navy, secured the congregation's first scroll through the Jewish Welfare Board of the Jewish Community Council.
Rabbi Fred Natkin