Chabad Rabbi Sells Etrogs from Italy, Israel Bonds Affair, JNF-USA Israel Mission

Notable people and events in the Jewish LA community.
October 6, 2023
Rabbi Yanky Khan and his etrogim. Photo by Ryan Torok

Ahead of Sukkot, Chabad of the Valley Rabbi Yanky Khan sells etrogim out of his Tarzana home. Khan harvests the ritual fruit in Calabria, a coastal region in southern Italy, before having them imported to the U.S. 

Calabria etrogim are popular among leaders in the Chabad movement for a variety of reasons, including the history of the region’s farmers adhering to kosher practices when growing the citron trees. Additionally, the first rebbe of Chabad taught that God instructed Moses to collect an etrog specifically from the Calabria region.

Rabbi Yanky prepares a lulav, which he’ll give to a member of the community. Photo by Ryan Torok

Khan inspects each of the fruits with a magnifying glass to see what imperfections there may be on their surfaces. The number of flaws determine the price of etrog — which can range from $40-$100 — but, ultimately, the buyer determines what’s aesthetically pleasing to them, he told the Journal.

“It’s a very unique question as to what’s beautiful,” Khan said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Khan has been in the etrog business for nearly 30 years. The father of four travels to Italy multiple times a year to check in on the progress of the etrogs, which are grown on leased land. 

Along with the etrogs, he offers lulavs and sukkah supplies to members of the community. To those who cannot afford the cost of the objects, he provides them at no cost.

Jewish Journal Publisher David Suissa (center) presents awards to Holocaust survivors Pnina Sharf (left) and Joseph Alexander (right) at an event hosted by the Israel Bonds Western Region.
Photo by Linda Kasian Photography

On Sept. 13, Israel Bonds Western Region paid tribute to bravery in its different forms by honoring the members of Unit 669, the Israel Defense Forces’ elite airborne evacuation and rescue unit, as well as two local Holocaust survivors.

During the Prime Minister’s Club event in Los Angeles, participants had the rare opportunity for an up-close and personal conversation with the special operatives of Unit 669, which was formed because of the need to rescue pilots who abandoned their aircraft over enemy lines. Since then, the unit’s areas of responsibility have expanded significantly. The elite unit specializes in aerial rescue missions for soldiers and civilians, regardless of location and conditions.

The event’s attendees included Laura Stein, who serves on the national board of directors and on the national campaign advisory committee of Israel Bonds, as well as Israel Bonds President and CEO Dani Naveh.

Along with recognizing the accomplishments of the IDF’s Unit 669, Israel Bonds also honored Holocaust survivors Joseph Alexander, 100, who lived through 12 Nazi concentration camps, and Pnina Sharf, 82, who was born in the Demblin ghetto and grew up in different labor and concentration camps. Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa presented their awards.

“What better way to showcase a unit like 669 while as a backdrop to its story, we honor two Holocaust survivors?” Erez Goldman, executive director for the southwest region of Israel Bonds, said. “Ask yourselves, what is the meaning of one without the other? I truly hope that tonight’s event will keep all of us on the right track and reaffirm to us that we can never let politics of the moment overshadow the greatest moment in Jewish history we are all living through now.”

For more than seven decades, Israel Bonds has generated $49 billion worldwide, across all Bonds entities, in financial support for the building and development of every sector of Israel’s economy. The first Israel Bonds were issued in 1951 and have since played a decisive role in Israel’s evolution. 

Sinai Temple and JNF-USA’s mission participants at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Courtesy of JNF-USA

Recently, three generations of Los Angeles community members went on Sinai Temple’s mission to Israel, where the attendees reconnected with their roots and learned about their heritage while enjoying the classic tourist destinations the country offers.

The two-week tour took more than 40 Sinai Temple members, including several rabbis, on a “backstage pass” style trip throughout Israel. From praying at the Kotel to swimming in the Dead Sea, the trip balanced traditional experiences with visits to sites most tourists don’t even know exist.

“We are so excited to partner with Jewish National Fund-USA, showing our congregants both the historical and modern Zionist vision,” Sinai Temple Senior Rabbi Nicole Guzik said. “The organization really was the inspiration for this trip.”

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