Category Archives: Jewish History

Sunday Scenes: Sir Nicholas Winton

Over twenty five years ago, on That’s Life, a BBC TV show, Sir Nicholas Winton was surprised by some of the Holocaust Survivors he helped save, and their extended families. If this video does not make you teary-eyed, I have no idea what will. I have watched it numerous times since I first saw it, a few months back.

nickfam This morning, I have the privilege of a seeing the documentary film, “Nicky’s Family“. I am a member of the movie theater’s “Sneak Preview Club”, and am attending a free screening. I am already feeling emotional, knowing about Sir Nicholas Winton’s story incredible. Since first seeing the BBC video, I have researched him and have become educated as to how he saved children from concentration camps and/or possible death, in what is known as the Czech Kindertransport.

Sir Nicholas Winton was responsible for saving 669 children! Imagine… And, his humbleness kept him from revealing his actions, his immense humanitarian efforts. Nobody in his family knew about his accomplishments, until his wife found his detailed scrapbook in 1988.

It contained lists of the children, including their parents’ names, and the names and addresses of the families that took them in. By sending letters to these addresses, 80 of “Winton’s children” were found in Britain.” (Wikipedia)

For him it was a responsibility, an obligation to humankind. His actions weren’t put forth in order to gain recognition. He accomplished what he did, and that was that.

Below are some links that will educate you regarding Sir Nicholas Winton and his story:

Nicholas Winton, Wikipedia

BBC News Premiere Re Nicholas Winton

ADL honors Nicholas Winton

Interview with Sir Nicholas Winton July 2013

Sir Nicholas Winton honored in U.S.

The Power of Good: The Nicholas Winton Story

I will most likely update this, after seeing the film.

Update: The film was extremely poignant and inspiring. Sir Nicholas Winton’s story touched millions all over the world, and encouraged them to contribute to humanity’s willingness to help others, no matter their cultural background.

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Filed under Films, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Uncategorized

Review: The Wanting

thewanting From the 1970s Moscow to Israel in the 1990s, The Wanting, by Michael Lavigne, is an intense and complex story line.

There are three main characters in the book: Roman Guttman, Anna, his daughter, and a Palestinian man. Each one tells their own sad story, alternately. Each one has a yearning, a desire for a semblance of peace and understanding.

Roman’s Moscow is filled with the terrors of the time. His relationships and struggles within a time capsule of war, rivalry and hatred lingers throughout the novel. His daughter’s naivete turns into judgements that go against the grain of existence. The Palestinian, Amir Hamid, has a bitter perception regarding the Israelis, and his desire is to inflict damage and pain, at all costs, is a strong dynamic within the pages. Lavigne is brilliant in his masterful telling of the events that take place. Historically speaking, the facts are forthright and told with extremely vivid imagery.

The conflicts in Israel and Palestine are also masterfully depicted. The characters bring their own history and baggage to the complex situations. Daily life and the struggles to endure the social quandarys and conflicts are told with a sense of knowing, and a sense of sadness for the peace that seemingly can not be.

Events that define those who become involved in suicide bombing are explored in depth through those who foster the desire to participate. We are given glimpses of issues that lead up to the suicidal moments. We are privy to the after effects and affects of the horrendous action upon others. Emotions run rampant, on both sides of the conflict. For some, emotional aspects are not necessarily shown from the beginning of the story line. They are slowly gained through crises after crises, and eye-opening moments.

Each side is victim to the whims of conflict. Not victim in the sense of one harmed, but victim in the desire to murder without forethought for the welfare of humanity. Each side is guilty of repression and harm.

The human struggle with each other’s culture and traditions are depicted vividly, and often times extremely harshly. The warring factions and their modes of engulfing others within their grasp are well told and defined. Lavigne is a master story teller, and at the core of The Wanting is a desire for peace, for the ceasing of the continuing issues of war, for a blending of two cultures in harmony.

The story encompasses not only the desire for peace, but also a desire for spiritual understanding and acceptance, acceptance respect for each other in the realm of religion. If we can be accepting, then the issue of a peaceful society is possible.

This is not to say that Lavigne is not cognizant of the issues at the forefront between Israel and Palestine. On the contrary, he is most definitely aware, and the novel displays that in every aspect, with sensitivity. He also brings a huge sense of sadness to the unfolding events and occurrences within the pages. The Wanting is a story of sadness. The longing, yearning, WANTING, is a continual aspect within the pages, displayed without prejudice, through Michael Lavigne’s incredible writing.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical Fiction, Jewish History, Lorri's Blog, Novels

Book Review: Snapshots

snap Snapshots, by Michal Govrin is a novel that examines Judaism, love, fulfillment, motherhood, zionism, war, and so much more. We are given not only physical photographs/snapshots, but descriptive prose that brings us a personal perspective of the issues and affairs in the state of Israel, through one woman’s often confused, determined, conflicted and blinded eyes.

The protagonist is Ilana Tsuriel, and we are given snippets and snapshots of her life through photographs, drawings, letters, and scrawled journal entries, most of which are written to her recently deceased father (her way of saying Kaddish for him), and is her way of staying close to him. Her father helped to build the state of Israel. She has a deep sense of social responsibility and a deep sense of personal fulfillment, and we feel the human element throughout Snapshots. Tsuriel is a mother, the wife of a Holocaust historian, an architect, the daughter of a pioneer of Israel, and she is also a woman who has had several affairs, including one with a Palestinian named Sayyid.

The novel takes place during the first Gulf War, and Tsuriel’s passion to reunite with her Palestinian lover, and her steadfast and determined passion to continue on with her architectural project, sees her moving to Israel with her two young sons (during the beginnings of the war), against the wishes of her husband. Her project is a unique monument, and is one with a serene setting, where Sukkot-like huts on a hillside overlook the valley, where one can go on sabbatical to reflect and feel free from life stresses, where those of diverse backgrounds can come together, peacefully. Tsuriel is trying to accomplish this during a turbulent and relentless time period, often appearing as though she is not fully cognizant of the ongoing problems surrounding her and her children.

Tsuriel, although seemingly aware of the situation she is putting her children through, feels it is important for them to understand the sense of time, place and Homeland in Israel. She doesn’t completely face the gravity and reality of the situation, the war and the ongoing devastation. The perils of war seem to play a minor role in her scheme of things, as they don’t sway her from her goals.

She is a strong-willed woman, and one who seems to want to fulfill her goals at all costs. Tsuriel is causing her sons to feel alienated from her, feeling the insecurities of war, and the insecurities of a mother who they feel is not often there for them, emotionally. They have food, shelter, clothes, yet what they crave is her full attention. They need to feel secure. And, she isn’t there to bring them emotional security and support, due to her overzealous passions for her project. She is a woman at odds with herself, her marriage, her children, and constantly in a state of confusion as to priorities.

Tsuriel feels Jewishness and its responsibility within her, and tries to convey it to her children. Yet, on the first anniversary of her father’s death, she doesn’t visit the cemetery, leave a stone, light a candle or say Kaddish for him. Her Jewishness has visions of grandeur, and it has boundaries, both emotional and political.

Govrin’s attempts to contain so much content in one novel, often whitewashing the moments, like a negative not completely developed, are realized. And, that is the foundation of the novel, the snapshots of life that we are given, in haphazard and scrawling script, bits and pieces of life written during time of war, in almost frantic and desperate fashion anywhere, everywhere, when the mood strikes her.

Snapshots, is a well-written book of imagery, both word paintings and actual photographs. Michal Govrin has the ability to bring vivid scenarios to our minds, filling all of our senses, through the depressing pages of Snapshots. The book is not a light and airy read, and it is not a quick read. I had to put it down and take a break from it, several times, before going back to it. It was almost a chore to finish (due to the dismal and non-uplifting content), even though it was well-written. It is insightful into the human condition, and its vivid presence in emotional and physical lives.

In my opinion Snapshots is a metaphor for confusion, both emotional, social, religious and political, confusion of the full spectrum of life.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog

Review: The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century

thefamilythree The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, by David Laskin, brings the reader a compelling look at the choices we make, and how those choices affect our lives, and the lives of our family members.

From the Russian Empire, Israel and America, the journeys taken are cohesively written, with word-imagery that fills all of the senses. The reader garners glimpses into the past that combine social, ethnic and familial aspects, including shtetls and the immigrant’s assimilation into new lands.

From revolution and war, striving to survive under extremely harsh and horrific conditions, emigrating and cultural differences, the details depicted are written brilliantly. Laskin’s arduous research shines through the pages. It is not just his family’s story, but everyone’s story, everyone interested in history.

The Russian Revolution, and how it affected Laskin’s family, is described in minute detail, with nothing left to the imagination. The struggles to begin anew in a harsh desert land is so descriptive, I could see the environment before my eyes. I could feel the intensity of the heat, and the wind blowing sand everywhere.

The family’s assimilation into American life is told masterfully, illuminating their struggles to earn a living, cope, and be seen as a part of the whole. Learning to act like American was not an easy task, from dress to speech to mannerisms, it took effort to be accepted. It took perseverance and determination to be successful.

One family member was so successful, and as a female in a world of male business professionals, she outshone them. the author’s Aunt Itel knew she was the best at what she did. She was confident and was able to achieve what others dream of. Her strength and fortitude led her to found the Maidenform Bra Company. Who would have thought that in 1922 this was possible!

World War II had a major impact on Laskin’s family. The events are tragic, and affected family members in ways that one would not expect.

There were times I caught myself teary-eyed through Laskin’s beautiful prose. His sensitivity to the subject matter was most definitely apparent to me. Yet, through the sensitivity, his forthrightness leaves the reader cognizant of events that they might not have otherwise been aware of. What an amazing writer and what an amazing story! The family/ancestral history is a wonderful tribute to those whose lives came before the author, David Laskin. Just as important are the profound historical facts depicted within the pages.

The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, by David Laskin,is a book of extreme historical importance, in my opinion. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Lorri's Blog, Novels, World War II

Festive Orange Flowers for Purim

africandaisy

Purim begins on Saturday, March 15, 2014 and ends the evening of Sunday, March 16, 2014.

I thought I would contribute some bright orange flowers in my post. The photographs were taken by me within the past few years. The first photograph shows a side view of African Daisies.

Aish has a variety of fantastic books regarding Purim.

poppy side view

The second photo, above, is a side view of poppies, taken at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve a few years back.


Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue, Washington DC

poppypower3

The third photo, above, was taken along a stretch of road in Lancaster, CA, a few years back.

Visit here to see links to Purim books for children.

floral duo

And, the last photo, above, is one of my own personal favorites.

Have a colorful, festive and joyous Purim!

Shabbat Shalom to everyone! Chag Sameach!

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Filed under Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Photography

Lorri M. Review: Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust

rutkasnotebook Rutka’s Notebook, A Voice From the Holocaust, by Rutka Laskier, is a personal accounting, taken from the diary of Rutka Laskier, a Polish teenager. She wrote her diary beginning at the age of 14, and it spans approximately three months of her life, beginning January 19, 1943.

Rutka describes, in depth, her fluctuating emotions during the time period, and her diary reflects the ups and downs, the roller coaster of emotions, that most teenagers feel. From typical feelings of love and jealousy, to familial discontent, to the German occupation, Rutka defines life during the Holocaust through her eyes and voice. Yet, those emotions and her thoughts are coupled with the fact that she is astutely aware of the what is occurring, of Holocaust and its ramifications to humanity. Rutka’s writing gives voice and witness to the realities of the Holocaust.

Rutka wrote her thoughts and emotions in her diary, and asked her non-Jewish friend, Stanislawa Sapinska, to save it, if and when, Rutka and her family were moved from their apartment in Bedzin to the Ghetto, or if they were deported. There was a predetermined hiding spot. After the war ended, Sapinska returned to the apartment, and located the diary. She held on to it for sixty years. Sapinska’s family convinced her to show its existence, reinforcing to her that it was a part of history, and told about a part of history, that should be shared with the world.

Rutka articulates her thoughts and emotions like that of a more mature person, and not that of a young teenager. She is aware of the consequences that could occur. She knows about the brutality of war, having witnessed some horrors within the confines of daily living.

I recommend this historical book to everyone, young or old, alike. Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust is an amazing accounting of daily life, of the struggles and fears lived every hour of each day, and of the knowledge that one may not live to see the end of war. It is a testament to Rutka Laskier’s strength and willpower, that she had the foresight to want her diary preserved for the world to see. She wanted the truth to be told (even if it was told decades after the fact).


Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust
should be on a bookshelf in every school classroom, not only for its extreme historical value, but also so that Rutka Laskier’s life will not be forgotten in the time continuum.

The introduction was written by Rutka Laskier’s half-sister, Zahava (Laskier) Scherz. A family biography at the end of the diary, itself, was also written by Scherz.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, Non-Fiction