Category Archives: World History

Book Review: The Free World

thefreeworld

The Free World, by David Bezmozgis, is a captivating novel that entails the emigration of Latvian and Soviet Jews, specifically during the late 1970s, when some were permitted to leave. In 1978 the Krasnansky family has decided to leave, and their journey takes them to Rome, where they must wait for visas to continue on to the United States, or possibly Canada.

The elder Samuil Krasnansky is a diehard communist, and decorated war hero for his service while in the Red Army. The Russian Revolution had a profound affect on him, and the effects of war continued to define his life until his death. Emma, his wife, is also there, as are their two sons, Alec and Karl. The two brothers, are as different as they can be in their political and social spheres.

Alec is a roamer, a womanizer, married to Polina. He seemingly cares little about the circumstances surrounding their journey. Karl, on the other hand is a staunch capitalist, ever involved within the circle of individuals he encounters in Rome. Life is not always as it seems for the two of them. Through some humorous twists of fate, Alec feels he is being pursued by female interests, when in fact it turns out to be otherwise.

There are other laugh-out-loud lines and scenarious within the pages, such as Samuil’s reaction to a rendering of Fiddler on the Roof. Yet, withing the comic relief, the story line is one wrought with varied ideals, and varied perspectives of freedom, and what it actually means. Bezmozgis is brilliant in depicting the mindsets of the characters.

I didn’t necessarily like the characters, and found them to be flawed in many aspects. But, I still enjoyed reading The Free World, for its historical factor, and for how the author depicted the lives of the individuals. We are all a part of the whole, no matter our choices, our mindsets and our differences. We are all flawed, and no one individual is perfect in the scheme of things.

Due to Samuil’s health, the family is forced to stay in Rome longer than expected. Their visas are on the line during this time period. Their freedom to journey forward, physically, is hindered by his health. Yes, they could have forged forward, and he could have emigrated at a later point in time, but the familial hold was a strong one, despite the disparities and lack of similarities within the family members. This aspect is strong throughout the pages.

The story line reflects back and forth, and there are back stories of each of the characters. The book spans decades of familial uprising and social standings. The decades infuse the dynamics of revolution and war quite vividly. This brings into focus why they act the way they do, and also gives the reader a sense of their lives before departing for Rome, and the choices they made beforehand.

The roller coaster ride the family finds themselves on only enhances their feelings of suffocation in a city that they were supposed to be temporarily involved in, waiting for the chance to leave. Freedom takes on new meanings, from emotional stifling to physical stand stills. Their wait for visa approval is filled with frustration and the unknown.

The book had me questioning the defining of freedom and the “the free world”. Is there such a place on the planet where a person can be truly free? Does “the free world” exist, or is it just a euphemism for the areas that were located outside of the realm of the communist states. One might live a life in a non-communist environment, but does that mean they are free? Freedom takes on many forms, not the least being emotional constraints.

Before reading this book, I had no idea that there was a “way station” so to speak, in Rome, where emigres had to wait for visas. The daily interactions and emotional aspects of the waiting period is highly illuminated within the pages. The emotional struggles are brought to the forefront.

The Free World, by David Bezmozgis, is a well-formed study and metaphor for freedom and autonomy, within familial dynamics. The visuals are strong, as are the insights into the emotions of the characters. The historical aspect is an important one, in my opinion.

I would rate The Free World a 4 with 5 being the highest.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Jewish Immigrant, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Novels, Uncategorized, World History

Kristallnacht – 75 Years Ago

On November 9th, 1938, Kristallnacht (an intense series of attacks on Jews fostered by the Nazi party paramilitary) became known as the “Night of Broken Glass”. The coordinated attacks on Jews continued through November 10, 1938. The glass storefronts of the Jewish-owned businesses were totally shattered, by both the paramilitary and by local citizens. The interior of Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin was destroyed, along with so many other structures.

Seventy five years later, please remember all of the victims of Kristallnacht, and of the Holocaust, during your prayer and quiet time.

To learn more about Kristallnacht, browse these links:


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Wikipedia

Yad Vashem

Martin Gilbert’s Book – Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Making History)

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Filed under Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, World History, World War II

Tish’a B’Av

The Whole Megilla has hosted the July 2013 Jewish Book Carnival! There are a nice variety of posts to browse through.

temple destruction

The image above was found here.

Tonight is the eve of Tish’a B’Av – Erev Tish’a B’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. At sundown, the annual fast (approximately 25 hours) begins in commemoration of the destruction of the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, and all the tragedies that the Jewish people have endured.

An easy fast to everyone.

The Book of Lamenations is read in synagogue, and mourning prayers are recited.

July 15, 2013 – 8 Av, 5773

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

Book Review: The Almond Tree

thealmond tree2 The Almond Tree, by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is a brilliantly written novel of courage, loss and redemption in a world that constantly shatters the lives of those living on occupied land. The story is a haunting reflection on Ichmad Hamid’s family and the events that controlled their lives.

Ichmad is a brilliant boy, with a mind that is infused with mathematical genius. At the age of twelve his life and the lives of his family members are uprooted with the confiscation of their home, and with his father being jailed for terrorism. These events are the beginning of Ichmad’s emotional and physical journey to try to improve the condition of his family, although the odds are against his succeeding.

In a world where the Palestinians have no stronghold over their homes, their belongings and their lives, Ichmad’s father directs him, through correspondence, to take the more peaceful route, and not to harbor hatred in the face of extreme adversity. His mother, on the other hand, holds resentment for everything inflicted on the family, and never fails to verbalize her feelings. His father’s strength, even though he is behind bars, shines through, and his words of encouragement lead Ichmad down the path towards self-fulfillment, not only for himself (Ichmad), but also for his family’s welfare.

Ichmad is a survivor, a power of mental strength within the confines and restrictions set before him. His sense of selflessness is the force that binds him to his goals, and binds him to his family. He strives to overcome the adversity set before him, and works himself to the bone in order to provide for his family, while at the same time committing himself to his university studies.

His studies lead him to an Israeli teacher, a man who is consumed by events of the Holocaust. His hatred for Ichmad is apparent, yet Ichmad perseveres through all of the anger, and shows not only his strength of character, his brilliant mind, but also his desire for peaceful solutions within the realm of both sides of the border. His genius in the area of physics helps him complete his goals, and accomplish what nobody thought he could, including his teacher.

Corasanti is a Jewish American, and a person whose sensitivity to both sides of the Middle East conflict is obvious within the pages of her beautiful prose, and with her presentation of a story which is usually told from the Israeli perspective, and not the side of the repressed Palestinians.

She puts a compelling light on the events of the daily lives of the Palestinians who struggle to survive under harsh and often cruel forces. The book is a painful read, a poignant read, and an inspirational read. The messages are clear, and Michelle Cohen Corasanti vividly paints a picture of a family in limbo, and within the family, a son, named Ichmad, who strives for peaceful answers and for forgiveness under the umbrella of boundaries in constant conflict.

I was caught up in the struggles and events that the family went through. There were times that I was in shock over situations that were so graphically depicted, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The book was gripping, and the pages consumed me with a deeper understanding of the human factor involved with the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Humanity, at its worst, is portrayed, as well as human nature at its best.

The Almond Tree will stay with me for a long time…the story is so compelling and left me with so much to ponder regarding the human condition and regarding loss (in all of its forms) and regarding dignity and redemption.

Michelle Cohen Corasanti is masterful with her word-images. I highly recommend The Almond Tree to everyone.

January 31, 2013 – 20 Sh’vat, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Novels, World History

Book Review: Flower of God

flowerofgod Flower of God: A Jewish Family’s 3,000-year Journey from Spice to Medicine, by Herbert Ausubel is an incredible book, which takes the reader on the paternal ancestral road of one family over a 3,000 span.

The book holds a wealth of information regarding Dr. Ausubel’s family, which has been researched in depth, not only by him, but by others, including historians. The extensive research and familial stories take the reader around the world, literally. During times of Israel being conquered by Assyrians, to several places in Europe, to Australia, China, Siberia, back to Israel and to America, the tapestry of time is woven with extremely beautiful prose, prose that is almost poetic.

Dr. Ausubel’s research is intricate, and the stories reflect three millennium, generation upon generation of family members who lead peaceful and productive lives. But, within each situation, they had to flee their environment in order to survive, due to antisemitism.

There were so many fascinating and intriguing family accounts. The family story in the beginning of the book, entitled Azuvel, about Avraham and his son Moshe journeying to the Temple of Solomon, was filled with word imagery that filled my senses in every respect. The story was told with extreme detail and magnificent prose. I was stunned while reading it, and caught myself with my mouth open in awe, as I could picture the very essences that Dr. Ausubel’s prose described. The sacrificial aspect was extremely detailed, and the fact that Avraham and his son were privy to the innermost workings showed the respect bestowed upon Avraham. His “azuv” spice, derived from the blue-flowering hyssop plant was a necessary aspect of the ritual, used for cleansing of those entering the Temple, those who might have been in the presence of the dead. It was a masterful story, a story filled with the wonder of the Temple interior and wonder of ritual within its walls.

I enjoyed every story within the pages, and reading the book was an education in itself, both historically and familial. Dr. Ausubel described each era thoroughly, as far as word descriptions of clothes, food, the towns and cities and their architecture, and daily life within each era was exceptionally documented.

The section on the family journey across Siberia, the long and arduous way, in order to avoid the soldiers and authorities is extremely gripping. Throughout the centuries ancestors died from survival hardships while fleeing for their lives, and died of disease. Persevere, the ancestors did, through every hardship and horrendous situation, they never lost their faith, never gave up, and held steadfast to their religion, their beliefs and ideals.

The hardships that the generations of ancestors faced were magnificently stated, and each generation had its own compelling quilt to add to the family tree.

Dr. Herbert Ausubel’s writing is masterful, exquisite, filled with word-images that paint a beautiful tapestry of his ancestors and their struggles against all odds. Flower of God is a compelling read and one that will leave you breathless at times. It is a stunning book that is historically relevant and one that encompasses historical importance. I highly recommend it to everyone.

January 28, 2013 – 17 Sh’vat, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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

Holocaust International Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Please take a moment to reflect and remember.

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Recovered items on display at Israeli Holocaust Memorial.

Yad Vashem Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity

Wikipedia link.

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Silale, Lithuania, where some of my paternal ancestors lived, and where some were murdered in the Holocaust.

yarz
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I have not been blogging for almost two weeks. I have had a severe case of the flu or some virus. I am almost 100%, but not quite. It has been an exhausting several days. My body is still feeling the affects and effects.

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