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Who is the Most Famous Living Jew?

October 18, 2011

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Hamodia on 9/27/11, prior to the announcement of Gilad Shalit’s release. It was reprinted with author’s permission and ran on the homepage of the Orthodox Union’s web site (www.ou.org) during the Yomim Noraim. In hopes that our viewers would gain awareness of the Worldwide Gilad Shalit Tehillim Project and share the information with others, we promoted the flyer shown below, and requested that it be posted in affiliated synagogues.

Seven days later, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Gilad Shalit would be returning home to Israel. The Orthodox Union, together with the many other Jewish organizations that have also supported and promoted the Worldwide Gilad Shalit Tehillim Project, firmly believes that the heartfelt prayers of a unified Jewish people are a powerful force, both in heaven and on earth.

(Written Prior to the Announcement of the Release of Gilad Shalit)

Who is the most famous living Jew?

The answer is probably debatable but let me suggest a name – Gilad Shalit. Gilad Shalit is not a gadol hador. Gilad Shalit is not a leading Member of Knesset. But if a poll were to be taken to see who supports him, he would undoubtedly get the broadest range of votes among all Jews – religious or secular, left or right. So maybe he should get a publicist and put his name on some ballot and run for something. But as we all know, he cannot. He is being held hostage in some remote and inaccessible prison in Gaza by Hamas – the terrorist group that has committed horrific acts of violence to further their cause.

So what can we do about it?

Physically, we can’t do much. But we can do much spiritually. We can do acts of chesed in his merit. We can give tzedakah in his merit. And we can say Tehillim in his merit.

The Worldwide Gilad Shalit Tehillim Chaburah was created to help organize the recitation of all Sefer Tehillim every day until the day that Gilad Shalit is safely home, IYH soon. The Worldwide Gilad Shalit Tehillim Chaburah can be found on www.CholimList.org, a website that organizes cholim lists and tracks their status.

Let me briefly describe the site. www.CholimList.org was created in the merit of my friend’s son, Zev Eliezer ben Chaya Shaindel, who was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. Baruch Hashem, he is doing well. In the early days of internet email, people would often send around a request to say Tehillim for a choleh. This was a noble use of this new communication medium. However, it was difficult to keep track of when to stop saying Tehillim or to say more. Soon people found themselves with email overload and often these emails go ignored. www.CholimList.org was created to track the cholim that users enter

In order to enter a choleh on the site, a user must register with a valid email address so that an update can be solicited. Choleh names are entered in Hebrew for consistency. You don’t have to know how to type in Hebrew as lists of male and female names are provided. If a name is not found, it can be easily created on the site via an alphabetically ordered Hebrew typewriter bar of letters. Once a choleh’s name is entered, you will receive an email with the choleh name and a link to the choleh information page on the site. You could then forward this email to your friends so they could add the choleh’s name to their Tehillim list. The key feature about the site is that after 30 days, you will get a weekly automated email asking you to update the status of the choleh. If you don’t respond within 60 days, the choleh is automatically marked inactive. This assures that the status of the cholim on the site are up to date.

Then there is the Tehillim Chaburah. Often, a group of family and friends will divide all of Tehillim to recite daily for a choleh. It is a bit difficult to organize and maintain this group. People need to drop off at times and it is cumbersome to keep track without email chains crossing the globe. This site allows you to create a Tehillim Chaburah for any choleh. Tehillim is divided into small sections (240 in all) and users can sign up by clicking a section that they accept to recite. A link is also provided to the Tehillim with English translation to make it more meaningful. Users can resign at any time and the creator of the chaburah is notified so that another person can be recruited. The Worldwide Gilad Shalit Tehillim Chaburah is a special instance of this feature. It can be accessed via the special links on the sidebars of the site.

The site has another very important feature – Lists. Lists are designed for the gabbai of a shul or head of a Tehillim group so that he or she doesn’t have to manually keep a list in a spreadsheet or other document. A user enters the name of the choleh as described above and can email the gabbai or, if the list creator allows at setup time, the user can add the name to the list directly. All lists to which the choleh name has been added are automatically updated if a user changes the choleh status or if there is no update within 60 days, as described above. This saves time for the Tehillim list manager as he only has to print out the list rather than correspond with all the people that gave him names.

User feedback has been very important so if you can think of a way to improve the site or would like to suggest additional features or just have a question, be sure to email me at admin@cholimlist.org or via the contact link on the site. You can also email me if you do not have web access and wish to join the chaburah or add a choleh.

Please consider joining the Gilad Shalit Tehillim Chaburah. There are Chaburah members from over 15 countries and over 20 states. But the important thing is that Gilad Shalit comes home and that all cholim have a refuah shleimah – bimheira b’yameinu.

Post Script: The Orthodox Union expresses its sincere gratitude for the release of Gilad Shalit, for those who remembered him over the course of five difficult years, for those who prayed for his safe return, and for those who committed to the Gilad Shalit Tehillim Chaburah. If your Shul or Tehillim group would like to automate your Tehillim list, please visit the author’s site: