Review: Hold on to the Sun

hold on to the sun2 Hold on to the Sun, by Michal Govrin is a compelling book of stories and essays, stories and essays bound together by themes of despair and hope, love and loss.

The author’s life as a young woman is depicted through some stories that are magical or fantasy-based. Other stories are compelling through their Holocaust-themed prose. All of the stories come full circle with Holocaust connections, and how that horrendous event formed the foundation of her life. Govrin is a first-generation, Holocaust survivor, family member. She is a woman searching for depth and meaning in life after the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was a secret within her familial life, as far as her mother is concerned. Yet, within those unspoken words, there was always a sense of something hidden. Children feel these things, instinctively, although they might not be able to put a name to it. Much of Govrin’s early life was formed through the unspoken, which in itself spoke resoundingly.

Her essays are strong, and deal with her travels to Poland. She traveled there to see the death camp her mother was imprisoned in, and where her mother’s first husband and their son perished. She did not know for many years that her mother had been married before, and did not know about her half-brother. Her journey there was a form of witnessing the site where they perished, and a form of remembering them. Her essays honor them.


Hold on to the Sun, by Michal Govrin is not an uplifting book, but a book that imparts the importance of remembrance. It also is a book that enhances the importance of hope in a world that does not seem to offer much in the way of illumination.
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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Earth Day 2014

hatchlings

It is Earth Day!

Nature can also be a state of mind, illuminating from your mental image, and your spiritual being. Torah and nature coexist quite comfortably, in my environment.

I found the book The Way Into Judaism and the Environment, by Jeremy Benstein, PhD, to be quite helpful in matters regarding encompassing Jewish practice and Jewish life. It’s an excellent book, informative on the issues relating to Jews and environmentalism, and their understanding of nature. The six chapters are formatted well, and here are the chapter titles:

1. Emet Ve’emunot: Environmentalism, Religion, and the Environmental Crisis in Context
2. Bereishit Bara’: Creator, Creating, Creation, Creatures and Us
3. Lishmor La’asot U’lekayem: Traditional Sources and Resources
4. Olam Umelo’o: Contemporary Topics and Issues
5. Chagim Uzmanin: Cycles in Time, Sacraments in Life
6. Ha’am Ve’Ha’aretz: The Land of Israel and a Jewish Sense of Place

As you can see from the chapter titles, the book doesn’t only deal with nature and the environment. Within the pages lie quotations, biblical references, time and place, Earth’s beginnings, etc., all incorporated within Judaism’s traditions. The Way Into Judaism and the Environment is an excellent resource expanding on the current, pertinent environmental and global issues. Benstein believes that “a sustainable society is one that integrates social, environmental, and economic concerns of health and justice, and can both sustain itself over time, living up to responsibilities to future generations…”

Benstein infuses Torah within the realms of today and tomorrow, and the human responsibility for the preservation of our planet for future use. His articulation is masterful, is message is strong in its expansion and enhancement of nature and Judaism. After finishing the book, the reader is left with much to ponder. Jeremy Benstein, PhD, shows us how we can root ourselves in Judaism and Torah, and how we can combine nature and our spirituality in our daily lives. It is a must read for anyone concerned with today’s “green planet” and environmental issues, and issues of society and humanity within the framework of the planet Earth.

For more Jewish-related environmental information, visit The Big Green Jewish Website.

I have posted this review in the past, but decided to post it in full, again, rather than link to my previous post. I find links to be excellent resources, but at times I feel the entire post should be repeated.

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River Reflections

Sometimes luck is with you, and sometimes not, but the important thing is to take the dare. Those who climb mountains or raft rivers understand this.
-David Brower

river scene

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.
-Margaret J. Wheatley

river reflections

Sit by a river. Find peace and meaning in the rhythm of the lifeblood of the Earth.
-Anonymous

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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

Review: Visible City

visiblecity2 Visible City, by Tova Mirvis, is a predictable story in many aspects, but I still am glad that I read it. I found the almost “voyeur” aspect to be interesting, and the thoughts that are dreamed up while one person stares out of their window, with their own set of passions, desires and loyalties.

Nina is that person, and stare she does, at every given opportunity. If it is during the night, she turns off the lights so as not to attract attention. What she sees happening in an apartment across the way, enhances her imagination, and her perception of what the individuals are like. As the reader reads on, they realize that not everything is as it appears to be. In fact, the couple who live in the apartment are not so different from Nina and her family, in the sense that their married life seems to be complacent. Nina desires more in life, yet doesn’t have the ambition to seek it.

The novel gives a wonderful overview of New York City, its brilliant architecture, some modern, some old and abandoned. We are given snippets of the exteriors and interiors of the abandoned buildings, as some of the characters skulk through them out of a passionate desire to learn about them. We are also taken into the world of stained-glass art and all of its illuminations. Through this examination, we are seen how the passions, desires and loyalties flare up from the deep-set goals that some of the characters hold.

Six individuals meet in various places where they normally go to spend some time away from their homes. Some of them end up living on the edge, merging their connections into areas better left undone.

Passionate moments are strong within the pages, and by that I mean passionate in every sense, including one’s drives, dreams and life accomplishments. What one views as important and a driving force is not necessarily so for another person. In relationships each person should accept the other for their own interests and goals, whether the interests and goals are theirs, or not. They should offer encouragement, and not discouragement.

The urban aspect is strongly illuminated. Mirvis’ word-images are depicted quite vividly. This reader could envision everything she painted with her prose. All of my senses were filled as my own imagination took hold.

I enjoyed how each character was somewhat flawed, as we all are, in reality. I enjoyed the city tour through their eyes, and enjoyed the human perspectives, and how we see people. We are not the sum of what others see in us, or think about us. In fact, most of us are usually much different than how a stranger might view us. This was quite true in Visible City. What Nina saw, is not the actual person, but a person who she encapsulated from a distance, from a view out of a window.

The emotional aspect was a major underlying issue, as most of the characters found it difficult to relate to their family members on a deep level. They also portrayed superficiality when in the presence of others, outside of their familial and friendship realm. Even within those realms, feelings were not always touched upon.

I did not like all the characters, but that is okay. In reality, do we all like everyone we encounter? I did like how life, seen through various city windows, was depicted, and how the characters were eventually connected. Mirvis was masterful in her depictions and her prose. I felt as if I was given a personal tour of various aspects of New York City and its urban character, from architectural exteriors to individual’s projections of themselves. It almost felt as if I were looking out of a window into the lives of others. Maybe that was one of Tova Mirvis’ intentions.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Lorri's Blog, Novels