Golden Beach definitely has changed considerably

Miami Herald, November 10, 1999
By Harold Kronstadt

The early residents of Golden Beach are probably turning over in their graves. Although it was basically ignored, the town's original by-laws contained a restrictive covenant prohibiting the sale of property to Jews or people of Mediterranean extraction. If executed today this covenant would almost eliminate the current population.

What would have disturbed the heavenly sleep of these early residents was the invasion of nearly 200 religious Jews to the town's beach pavilion one day. Returning from a late afternoon ocean swim, I found a beehive of activity. Bearded men wearing kipot (skull caps) and modestly dressed women were unloading barbecue grills, picnic tables and huge cartons of what later turned out to contain books and tapes.

They were well-organized. Every chair and lounge, even the broken ones behind the men's room, was utilized. They were placed in a long semi-circle, the full length of the public beach.

I stayed to watch what turned out to be the largest function ever staged at our beach.

Who were these people? I inquired and found out they were from the Kabbalah Learning Center in the Promenade Shopping Center of Aventura. The occasion was the celebration of a minor Jewish springtime festival called Lag Ba'Omer.

The Kabbalists attach particular significance to this holiday because it is the anniversary of the death of the author of the Zohar, the 500-year-old book of Jewish mystical teaching, the basis of the Kabbalah movement.

A stand was set up at the pavilion with credit card machines servicing buyers of volumes 1 through 24 of the Zohar at $350 per set. A lecture was to follow by the center's director, Rabbi Shimon Sarfati.

A full house packed the store-front auditorium for the following month's lecture, which I attended. (For a calendar of activities, call Rachel at 305-692-9223 or drop by at 20695 Biscayne Blvd., just around the corner from Circuit City.

The second Jewish invasion came as a complete surprise to me. I received an invitation from a Rabbi Chay Amar, director of the new Chabad of Golden Beach to attend a dinner in honor of the fourth anniversary of the passing the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson.

Hailed by some as the Messiah, the Rebbe led the worldwide movement from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

You cannot escape the Lubavitchers (named after a town in Poland). They find joy in their religion and they proselytize, using every modern marketing device. For example, Rabbi Amar offered to install a free mezuzah on the door posts of every Jewish Golden Beach resident. The mezuzah contains a parchment of the Holy Scriptures, expressing God's unity.

Rabbi Amar is the sponsor of "Me-Yad," a Chabad outreach program established to enhance the religious participation of all Jewish area residents. This dynamic, handsome, bearded six footer, dressed in the traditional black of his cult is hard to resist.

He came to my door one morning. Removing a 30-year-old mezuzah from my door, which he claimed was installed on the wrong side, he replaced it with a new plastic one. He then proceeded to force me to put on tefillin. These phylacteries are worn on the arm and head during the "Shaharit" daily morning services. They contain portions of the Torah.

Rabbi Amar completely ignored my protestation that I am a borderline agnostic and had not worn tefillin, since my bar mitzvah.

At this stage of my life, I have begun to rethink my religious beliefs. The Jewish invasion of Golden Beach may force me to join the Chabad and become a practitioner of the Kabbalist movement. You know, "nearer my God to thee."

Harold Kronstadt, a former columnist for a Scripps Howard newspaper, has lived in Golden Beach for more than 30 years. For more than 10 years, he was the town's ocean-front lifeguard. He now writes a regular column for the town newspaper.


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