Friday, August 27, 2021
Ninety people from across Orange County gathered for a Summer Social barbecue at the backyard of Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston, in Monroe.
Delicious dinner and desserts, fine wines and cold brews were served. The Burstons, directors of Chabad of Orange County, welcomed the crowd and the rabbi sounded the Shofar, a tradition during the month that precedes the High Holidays.
Pesach Burston then introduced the speaker for the evening – Hasidic influencer Shloime Zionce, describing him as an "out of the box Chasid."
"There are as many types of Chasidim as there are flavors of ice cream," the rabbi said, "and their perspectives and worldviews are just as many. It's refreshing to have a Chasid who breaks stereotypes as a Chassidic YouTuber, podcaster and travel writer."
Zionce, a 27-year-old father of two, is a travel writer for Ami magazine. He also serves as an "ambassador" of sorts to the Hasidic community, often appearing in viral YouTube videos and television shows, explaining Chasidic culture and traditions, with millions of views.
As he travels around the world, Zionce teaches about Judaism while learning about other cultures. He has visited more than 40 countries, many of which are not frequently visited by religious Jews.
Zionce described his travels to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries. He shared stories about finding kosher food in Afghanistan, explaining tefilin to airport security in Saudi Arabia and being mistaken for an Israeli spy.
He said that at times he encountered challenging and even dangerous situations. But he also shared the life-lessons he learned.
"We need to see the humanity in other people and try to interact with individuals who are different from us," Zionce said. "It will enrich both your life and the lives of those around you."
In many countries, Shloime was the first Chasidic Jew people met, and the positive and warm impression shaped the way Jews were viewed.
"As Jews, let's be proud to be Jewish," says Zionce. "I've walked around dressed as a Chasidic Jew in the heart of the Arab world and all I have received is love and respect because people love and respect someone who is 100% comfortable in their own skin."
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