Category Archives: Judaism

Review: The Gates of November

Chaim Potok’s The Gates of November is an extremely intense non-fiction book, written about a Jewish family. The book delves into the father/son relationship that Potok is well known for in his books.

Solomon Slepak is an old-school Russian Jew, a diehard Bolshevik. He became a Marxist when he emigrated to the America, and then returned to the Soviet Union. He was a stubborn and difficult man, and became a staunch and renowned Communist Party member, despite the fact that he was Jewish. Solomon Slepak resists the ideals of his son, Volodya, who is a “refusenik”, and basically disowns him.

Volodya sees what is occurring in the Soviet Union and wants no part of it. He wants to take his wife and two sons and emigrate to Israel. Thus he begins the process of paperwork and documentation. His bid to emigrate is refused, and he and his wife, Masha, become activists, working to try to help other Jews who are refused permission to emigrate, under Josef Stalin’s relentless rule.

Due to his activities, he is sent to a remote part of Siberia, where the conditions take their toll on his health. Masha asks for permission to be with him, and is granted such. He is exiled for over five years, under the harshest of conditions, not only weather, but food and daily sustenance and necessities (this articulation is putting it mildly).

Once he returns home, he tries to seek work, and finds menial jobs here and there, that don’t last for any length of time. He applies for permission to emigrate, once again. The process drags on for years, and we are given an overview of the social, political and diplomatic events and results during the years that go by, while he waits for a positive outcome.

I could articulate more on The Gates of November, but I suggest you read it yourself in order to grasp the depth of the story. The Gates of November is quite extreme in detail. Potok has shown us the degrees people will go to in order to manipulate others by leaving out none of the horrible events or descriptive word images.

Potok infuses the intensity of the time period under Josef Stalin’s rule. He details the depth of life under the most adverse and harshest of circumstances within the confines of the brutal Stalin reign. His book is based on personal accounts, taped and written interviews, videos, etc., in order to bring exactness to The Gates of November. It is not an easy book to read, due to the brutally detailed circumstances and events. But, it is a book most definitely worth reading, not only in comprehending the historical aspect regarding Jews under Soviet rule, but for the ongoing father/son relationship and family dynamics that Chaim Potok always manages to write so brilliantly about.

The Gates of November, by Chaim Potok,  is a masterful telling of Jewish familial life and dynamics under extreme social circumstances. It is both horrific and inspirational, and brings to the forefront the degrees of determination people have in order to obtain their goals. I highly recommend it to everyone.

All photography, writing, poetry, etc. is my copyright and may not be reproduced without my express written permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Immigrant Experience, Jewish History, Jewish Immigrant, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Non-Fiction

It Shouldn’t Be Necessary

The Jewish Book Carnival for August is up, hosted by Ann D. Koffsy, with many links for you to browse. DO stop by.

I have been lax in blogging, lately. There has been so much happening, worldwide, in my own life, and in the life of a dear friend, that I didn’t feel the motivation to write a post.

Tuesday’s news regarding James Wright Foley, crushed me. It is appalling, unfathomable, and heartbreaking on so many levels. The family statement is a beautiful tribute, yet through all of the anxiety they have been dealing with for several years, how can they overcome this? How?

When I heard the news, I immediately thought of Daniel Pearl, and his family. I pass by the Daniel Pearl Magnet School a couple of times a week, and each time I do, I pray for him and his family. Now, when I drive by, I will include James Wright Foley in my prayers.

It shouldn’t be necessary…

Here is a statement from Ruth Pearl, mother of Daniel Pearl: “Our hearts go out to the family of journalist James Foley. We know the horror they are going through.” Ruth Pearl – Daniel Pearl Foundation

It shouldn’t be necessary…

The world has turned against itself, it seems. Even within America, due to the events in Ferguson, the anger is prevalent and fueled with discord, and lack of harmony. Fighting, looting, bullying, and defiance are not, in any sense, the answer.

I abhor the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. My people are being held responsible for inflicting harm, yet, no responsibility seems to be called for regarding Palestine’s involvement. Many in the world see some of the events through lenses of cultural preference and/or religious foundations, and not through realistic actions that have been taken.

MH17 with all of its passengers and crew being shot down is a deplorable act, and one that is unimaginable. The families left behind…how do individuals go on from an act of this proportion!?

It shouldn’t be necessary…

So much discord, so many deplorable acts, so much horror is occurring. At times, I stay away from the news, yet, I return, because I want to keep up with current events. It is a lose-lose situation.

I turn towards my photography, towards hiking, towards writing and towards listening to ethnic music. It helps for a short while…

gazebo4

The Gazebo

The gazebo
is a harbor of reflection
of today’s issues
on the days past
the days ahead
on nature’s beauty
roses, petunias lavender
dogwood trees, weeping willows
a place of retreat
to nourish the body
sip a cup of tea
from a floral china cup
bite from a scone
infuse the soul
with quietude and calm
-LM

Shalom…

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Filed under Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Photography, poetry

Review: The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig

The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig is a combined study on human behavior and Austrian life. Each story examines behavior, with great detail within the boundaries of Austria’s social standards and mores.

The stories were not only period pieces, but social statements regarding ethics/morals, war and pacifism, and the living standards of the elite versus the poor. Most of the characters are depressed, stuck in a rote of life, and give off an aura of tragic lives lived. The stories are filled with melancholy and slices of drama. Drama played a major role in Austrian lives, and survival depended on roles played.

Pacifism is conveyed in the story entitled “Compulsion“. It involves an artist who receives orders to go to the Austrian consulate. His back and forth indecisiveness reflects those who do not believe in war, yet also feel they should do their duty to their country. Responsibility to his homeland is constantly questioned. Should he go, should he stay, should he go?

Religion factors into many of the stories, from Judaism to Catholicism. The individuals, family units and their beliefs are illuminated through Zweig’s writing. The treatment of Jewish individuals is written with insight and cognizance. Secular Jews were not necessarily considered part of the Austrian fold, depending on time frame and location.

The details within the stories are masterful and filled with perfection. The reader is exposed to the psychology of living in Europe during tragic and uncertain times. This psychology includes the poverty stricken individual’s struggle to survive in a world that looks upon them as less than desirable. Their very psyche is affected, in every aspect.

The bourgeois also strive to fit in. They feel somewhat above those who live in dire straights, but feel less confident than the well off elitists. They are the in between people. The elitists don’t necessarily fare better within their financial circumstances, as odd as that might sound.

Each story is a page-turner in its own right. Some of the characters have life-altering events, along with physical limitations, mindsets and philosophies, ideals, fears and struggles. The stories are not connected. Yet they share a time and place of prewar and war, and the situations that result due to war’s impact on citizens and their lives.

The stories cover the years from 1900 through 1935, with two additional stories having been unpublished until 1951 and 1987, respectively. This reader could see the author’s disintegration from society through the written prose. Zweig’s life was filled with disillusion, antiwar sentiment and a depressive state. So much is apparent in his writing, regarding his mindset, controlled by his dreary outlook on life. His work conveys much of his own thoughts, opinions and emotions, vividly. At least this reader thought so.

The film, The Grand Budapest Hotel is based on some of Zweig’s stories and novels. I can definitely see illuminations of that throughout this book. I have read two of his novels, but had not read this particular collection of works. The Post Office Girl is one of the novels, and the film is also based, in part, on this novel, according to the director, Wes Anderson (I saw it clearly).

Stefan Zweig is brilliant with his visuals, minute details, and in conveying emotional content. He was a masterful story teller, transporting this reader to Austrian life during the first three decades of the 20th century. The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig is a valuable collection of works within one book. The historical value is priceless, and I found the book to be a masterpiece.

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

Support for Kidnapped Teens and Their Families

I have added a lovely Illustration of a tree with three yellow ribbons inside my header. It was created by my friend, Leora. I saw it posted on her website, and asked for her for permission to use it.

I have put it as part of my header so it can be seen immediately upon viewing my website. I was initially going to put it in my sidebar, but changed my mind.

It is my way of showing support for the three teenaged boys kidnapped in Israel, and show support for their families and for all those individuals who are trying to locate them. I have a 19-year old grandson, and two teen-aged granddaughters (19 and 15). I also have younger grandchildren.

As a mother and a grandmother, I can not imagine the anxiety, worry and the unknown details that the families of the three teens are surrounded by. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of them, and to all those involved in trying to bring them back.

Thank you, Leora, for allowing me to use your lovely illustration.
~~~

Mothers of teens appeal for help.

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Filed under Judaism, Lorri's Blog, news

Jews and Kayaking

red kayak1

While walking at the lake, yesterday, I saw a man in a red kayak, gliding across the water. For some reason, I began to wonder if there were any Jews who were well-known in the kayaking world.

I know my father would often go kayaking at Prospect Lake in Brooklyn or Central Park in New York City. But, he wasn’t a famous individual. Famous to me, YES, to the world of kayaking, NO.

kayak2

I came home and did a search for “Jews and kayaking”. The Jewish Virtual Library lists four men who have earned world recognition for their efforts in the sport. Their biographies regarding kayaking include the Olympics and other world kayaking events, that put them at the top of the field.

This article caught my eye: Immanuel Braverman, a Holocaust survivor, also kayaked white-waters.

Did you know that about 8,000 Jews were smuggled out of Denmark, and many were on kayaks.

Please excuse the graininess of the photos. I had to zoom my lens in quite a bit in order to get the captures.

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

Sunday Scenes: June 21, 2014: Buddies

buddies2

The scene above was captured about two years ago at a pond located within an orange grove. My grandie, Logan, was with me, along with my grandie Emily. Logan was three at the time. Today is his fifth birthday!

Happy Birthday, Logan! Yom Huledet Sameakh!

I remember how the grandies stared in awe at the Great White Egret. I did, too, for that matter. But, then I saw the turtle looking up at the Egret. It reminded me of two old buddies talking about life.

It was a moment in time that is memorable to the three of us. Each time we wander through there, we talk about that scene, and we look to see if there is a Great White Egret conversing with a turtle.

Leora, you asked if there was something in nature we were grateful for. This particular adventure, with the grandies, is one of those awe-of-nature moments.

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Filed under Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Photography