Category Archives: Jewish History

Remember…

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Another day is upon us.  Let us take a moment to remember what was, what is, and what might come.

Today we lost a woman of great strength and humaneness.  Yaffa Eliach has died.  She created “The Tower of Faces” in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“The Tower of Faces” is so profound.  Each time I have seen it, I am left speechless, filled with awe and deep respect for Yaffa Eliach’s tremendous efforts in creating the memorial.  The photographs speak wonders of the individuals, times gone by, a collective history, moments in living, lives lost due to hatred.

One cannot walk through the immense exhibit without it affecting them intensely.

Thank you.

Rest in Peace, Yaffa Eliach.

~~~~~

Today, I remember Kristallnacht.

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On November 9th and 10th, 1938, Kristallnacht (an intense series of attacks on Jews fostered by the Nazi party paramilitary) became known as the “Night of Broken Glass”. 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.

At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and a further 30,000 arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.  Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.  Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone), and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.”

Remember…

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

Review: Kaddish for an Unborn Child

Kaddish for an Unborn Child, by Imre Kertesz, was a difficult book, in the sense that the narrator was rambling, repetitiously, due to his stream of consciousness.

The novel opens with the word ‘No!’  It is an answer to a question asked him, the question being did he have a child.   He also answered his wife the same way, when she wanted a child.  From there the reader is led through the narrator’s bleak, dark and depressed outlook on life and living.

The narrator is a writer.  Within the ramblings the sentences run into each other, as his thoughts unfold on the pages.  He tries to illuminate all of his thoughts and feelings, often repeating what he has just stated.  This is due to the workings of his mind, and the fact he has an urgency to get it all out in the open.  This urgency is what keeps him alive, literally.  He has much to criticize regarding his life, including his childhood.

The narrator compares his abusive and restricted childhood to his existence in Auschwitz.  Rules and the oppressive environment almost seem normal to him, coming from his controlled adolescent upbringing.  Once liberated his perceptions regarding daily life continue in the same vein.  He encloses himself within the walls of isolation.

His routine continues to be a somewhat confined existence, as he transcends from being a Holocaust camp prisoner, to living for years sheltered from life in a rented room.  He compares his living arrangement to that of the camps, in the sense that he has been restricted and limited in space, and therefore in daily life.

Of course, much of his limitations have been self-induced repercussions and extensions of the Holocaust.  Once he marries, he ponders the issues of an apartment with his wife, and how he has never thought of spaciousness, furniture, this or that.  The rented room was self-contained, with all of the essentials provided.  His pen was his life’s companion.  He had need for nothing else.

I won’t delve into the story line any further.  It was enough to get through the novel in its entirety.  It was an emotionally, laborious read in many aspects, reinforcing the Holocaust and its mental and emotional effects and affects on those who survive, those who are generational survivors, and on those who are victims of a survivor’s bleak and dark mindset.  In this case, his wife was a victim of the narrator’s mindset and his demons.

Within the darkness, I found Kaddish for an Unborn Child to be an excellent resource on the philosophical and psychological aspects of humanity’s, Holocaust nightmare.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Novels, Uncategorized

Lithuania Holocaust Escape Tunnel

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The New York Times published this story. “A team of archaeologists and mapmakers say they have uncovered a forgotten tunnel that 80 Jews dug largely by hand as they tried to escape from a Nazi extermination site in Lithuania about 70 years ago.” Read the rest of the story at this NY Times link.

This article reminds me of Father Patrick Dubois and his extensive research into the Holocaust and genocidal practices. His book, The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews, is extremely compelling and important.

Here is a link to a New York Times article regarding Father Patrick Dubois and his unending endeavors.

Let us always remember the lives of those who came before us.

Shabbat Shalom!

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

Sunday Scenes: April 10, 2016

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Passover is almost upon us. I always enjoy spreading hummus on a piece of matzah. I do this throughout the year, but during Passover, matzah is significant to the Jewish population. To put it very simply, Passover signifies the the release by G-d of the Jews from slavery and captivity. There was no time to allow the bread they were baking to rise, as they had to leave quickly. So, this bread of ‘release from slavery and captivity’ is embedded in the Passover Seder meal ritual.

Here is a recipe for hummus, one that can be made quickly, and one where you can delete or add spices to your taste.

Ingredients:
1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed-save the juice.
1 clove of minced garlic (1 1/2 for spicier)
1/4 cup of olive oil-Keep more aside for serving purposes
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (or a bit more depending on taste)
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
2-3 drops of tabasco sauce (if you want spicier hummus)
2 tablespoons of tahini-optional

Directions:
Puree the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, ground cumin, kosher salt, and/or tabasco sauce and tahini if you are using them, until the texture is smooth and creamy. Add 1-2 teaspoons of water or the saved juice from the chickpeas to get to your preferred consistency. Some like a thicker texture, so go by your standards.

Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the hummus, and sprinkle the paprika over it. If you want, swoosh the olive oil and paprika very lightly with a toothpick or the side of a knife to give it a visual flair.

If you are not serving it immediately, refrigerate it, covered.

~~~

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Unleavened Pound Cake

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar (I use sugar substitute)
4 eggs (I use egg substitute for cholesterol purposes)
1 1/2 tsp.vanilla + a dribble more
1/4 tsp.nutmeg
2 c. flour (for Passover I used 5 /8 cup of potato starch for each cup of flour mentioned in unleavened recipe)
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
Cream butter, gradually adding sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time. Sift together flour, salt and nutmeg.

Gradually add dry ingredients to egg mixture and beat until thoroughly blended. Turn batter into greased loaf pan or bundt cake pan. Bake at 325° for 1 hour. Cool cake in pan. Check after 50 minutes to make sure it doesn’t overcook, as ovens vary. Makes one loaf or bundt cake.

Don’t be alarmed that it won’t turn out to be as high as normal, remember, it is an unleavened pound cake.

~~~
Please take a moment to look up to the skies, and to the nature surrounding you, and reflect on events that have transpired where you live, in your personal life, in the world, and within your family. Be well, stay safe.

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

Review: The Coffee Trader

The Coffee Trader, by David Liss, is a book of intrigue and an absorbing historical nove.

I became so wrapped up in the historical aspect that I felt as if I had traveled back in time and place. My senses were infused with Liss’ extremely detailed prose. With his strong word-imagery, Liss transports the reader to Seventeenth Century Amsterdam. It is the aftermath of the Spanish Inquisition, and the Dutch city is streaming with Jews who fled Spain. In fact, many others, from all over Europe have come to Amsterdam to try to make some money.

Much of the money is earned through scheming within the commodities exchange in the city. It is the first of its type in the world. The exchange is very active, not only with honest individuals but also with schemers and villains who try to scam those looking to invest their money securely and/or invest in an honest, yet, quick return (Does any of this sound familiar?).

Miguel Lienzo is a Portugese Jew, one of the refugees who managed to flee the Inquisition, and reside within the Sephardic Jewish community. He has invested his money unwisely as of late, finding himself in financial distress. Not only that, but he has gained enemies along the way, after encouraging others to follow suit with his advice.

There is also another person, a client of Miguel’s who feels he was unjustly sent into poverty through dealings with Miguel. He wants what he deems is his share of the money invested returned to him. Miguel avoids him whenever possible, and feels he owes him nothing. Investments are risky, and you take a risk when involving yourself in them.

Miguel’s financial status leaves him basically broke, and he goes to live in the basement of his brother’s home. Daniel, his brother, is married to Hannah, who seems to be a passive woman. Not all is what it appears to be.

Miguel has become friends with a Dutch widow named Geertruid Damuis. Together, he and Geertruid plan to gain the upper hand of the coffee market, a new offering in the commodities market in Amsterdam. They keep their enterprise a secret, as they want to succeed in their venture.

This is seemingly Miguel’s last chance at success, and if he fails he will become an outcast, not only within the market but the Jewish community and the Amsterdam commodity community.

Trust becomes an enormous issue within the commodities exchange. Many questions arise, lening themselves to today’s financial arena, with the ongoing elevator ride of speculations and the stock market. Drama is abundant, and deceitful practices are plentiful in Amsterdam.

Times and situations don’t seem to have changed much in the 350 plus years that have elapsed since then.

Does he fail? Does he succeed? It is up to you to find out, as I don’t want to insert any spoilers in this review.

Suffice it to say that Liss is brilliant in his writing, and his details to the most minute areas of life in Amsterdam are impeccable. Considering the time period, the fact that he manages to portray daily life so extensively is incredible, almost overwhelming. He read over thirty books in order to paint the setting accurately, and it shows in his masterful and beautiful prose. This reader became totally involved in The Coffee Trader due to David Liss‘ sense of time and ability to create imagery that depicts seventeenth century Amsterdam with perfection.

I was enthralled and recommend The Coffee Trader to everyone.

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

Review: The Marriage of Opposites

The Marriage of Opposites, by Alice Hoffman, is a historical novel, rooted in the social and cultural mores and importance of the time period.

Those standards begin with Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzaro, the mother of Camille Pissarro (Pissarro was one of the forefathers of French Impressionism). She was born in 1795, on the island of St. Thomas.

Rachel’s ancestors fled France due to antisemitism.  They eventually emigrated to St. Thomas.  Jews were permitted to practice their religion in St. Thomas, without fear of repercussions, and they could become citizens.

The reader is given much insight into the social standards through the voices within the novel, including Rachel’s, Camille’s, and Rachel’s second husband, to name three.

The characters are realized. They are varied, as far as religion, lifestyle, superstitions, and ancestral traditions. Yet, within that structure, every facet of life is determined by the laws of the land, so to speak. Certain societal rules can never be crossed or expanded. This is where the ‘opposite’ definition comes into play.

Jews could not mingle with maids, servants, slaves, or mingle with Blacks. Even when slavery was outlawed, the rule applied. There was a tier, a standard of living within each culture, and the boundary could not be crossed.

Those boundaries were crossed, a few times, by characters within the story. There were secrets kept by individuals who, in essence, turned their noses up on others wishing to lead a happy life. Their admonishment caused hardship and chaos within familial and romantic frameworks.

I enjoyed reading about the childhood of Camille Pissarro. His passion, from the moment of his birth, was an innateness within him. He could not function without his painting tools being carried with him wherever he went. His mind was always on nature, on his surroundings, and he saw life through color, meaning each object had its own aura surrounding it. The same went for individuals, in his mind’s view, each person had a color which was a part of their being.

Sketching was as much a part of his hourly and daily life as breathing was. Sometimes more so. He knew his “calling”, and even when family members tried to stifle his artistic passion, he persevered in fulfilling his potential.

His paintings speak to me on many levels.

In my opinion, the story line illuminated existentialism, in the sense that we are individuals responsible for our own development, and responsible for achieving our authenticity. We are all human, and within that concept, we are responsible for each other in the end, no matter a person’s background, religious, cultural, or otherwise.

Alice Hoffman’s prose was often poetic and breathtaking. I highly recommend The Marriage of Opposites, to everyone.

I apologize for the update-I had to correct a misspelling.

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