Monthly Archives: April 2014

Review: Litvaks and Lithuanians Confront the Past

zagare As the great-granddaughter of Lithuanian grandparents, both on my maternal and paternal side, Zagare: Litvaks and Lithuanians Confront the Past, by Sara Manobla, is a book that I had wanted to read when I first found out about its publication.

I felt it would offer me historical information regarding the Jews of Zagare, and therefore, the Jewish communities throughout Lithuania, during World War II. I was not disappointed. I can not say that I enjoyed the book, because the subject matter is a sober one, a somber one, with facts that surfaced pointing to the horrors of the Holocaust. I am most definitely appreciative that I read the book and the historical information.

The shtetl was small, yet antisemitism was great. Non-Jews spewed their hatred in ways that defied sensibility. In 1941 local Lithuanians, along with the Nazis, murdered Jews in Zagare. Resentment over the horrendous acts were prevalent throughout the successive decades.

One man remained, Isaac Mendelssohn, the last of the Jews of Zagare. And, after meeting that man, Sara Manobla’s life took a sharp turn in her journey of discovery and illumination. She encountered people and heard testimony regarding events that she was not expecting. Her journey became a different one than when it had begun.

And, still, today, resentment continues on both sides of the issue. There is a small quota of those who try to acknowledge the detrimental actions of the past. Through those individuals a sense of acceptance has emerged.


Zagare: Litvaks and Lithuanians Confront the Past
is a book of hope, a book that was inspiring, in my opinion. I applaud Sara Manobla for her frankness, and her ability to let the past be the past, yet let it be remembered without bitterness and anger. That she was able to move forward into acceptance and combine that acceptance with reconciliation of the facts in a positive manner is a tribute to her strength and determination to unfold the truth of her ancestry within the truth of the past.

Brava!

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

Yom Ha’Shoah – International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Let us remember all of those who came before us, all of the victims of the Holocaust, by taking a moment to pray for those no longer with us. Our thoughts and prayers will keep them with us.

yahrzeit2

The first few lines of this poem were written during WWII, on the wall of a cellar, etched on the wall, by a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, in Cologne, Germany. The rest of the lines were written by the composer Z. Randall Stroope.

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent
.

I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace….“

– Unknown

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Horse of Course

horse and pond

I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.
-Ronald Reagan

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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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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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