Category Archives: Jewish History

Sunday Scenes: April 10, 2016

two copy

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.

~~~

pound3

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.

3 Comments

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.

2 Comments

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.

6 Comments

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

Those wishing to read an amazing and historical story, one that is compelling from the first page to the last, then Code Name Zegota: Rescuing Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942-1945, by Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski, is a must read for you.

In fact, it in my opinion, it is a must read for everyone, Jewish or otherwise, as the foundation of the book is based on factual events depicting both Christian and Jewish rescuers, and the rescued Jews in Poland during World War II.  From the moment I began it, I read straight through the pages, and then went back to absorb some more intense and dramatic pages and historical content.  The pages in the first half of the book deal primarily with the Zegota secret organization and its structure, including the Polish underground, the varied outsources, connections, political entities, well-known individuals, the cells, communications, etc., that composed the entirety of Zegota.  Zegota was the secret code name that was used for the Council for Aid to the Jews.  This was an organization with extremely courageous individuals that were included in the stronghold.

The primary founders were two women.  The well known writer, Zofia Kossak was a co-founder, along with Wanda Krahelska-Filopowicz.  Kossak was initially deemed antisemetic because of her negative reactions to Jewish organizations prewar, and was a conservative nationalist. Krahelska-Flipowicz was heavily involved in the Underground prewar and very influential in the art community, with the AK and the Delegatura. She helped hide Jews in her own home.  Kossak persuaded her own children to help save and rescue Jews, and emphasized the moral, ethical and humaneness of doing so.  She felt the Nazi atrocities and crimes were “an offense against man and God, and their policies an affront to the ideals she espused for an independent Poland”.  She used her published leaflet “Protest” to motivate the Polish people to come forward and help aid them.

From boy scouts to girl scouts, priests and ordinary Catholic citizens, Jewish individuals, members of the Home Army (known as the AK), political liaisons, railway workers, garbage collectors, printers, shop owners, estate owners, children’s homes, professionals, etc., the connections were incredible.

Zegota had connections through the widely read Jewish underground newspapers such as the the Biuletyn Informacyjny (BI), whose editor was Aleksander Kaminski, and Henryk Wolinski who headed the Jewish section of the Underground Bureau of Information and Propaganda, which was the main contact between the AK and the Jewish liaison of The Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB.  These two men who were with the AKI were instrumental in spreading the news throughout the underground, by using their foreign correspondents within Poland (especially in the Warsaw Ghetto) and in other countries, and spreading it to those other organizations and individuals connected to Zegota.

The worst of mankind spewed their hatred during a tumultuous period in time.  Gentile Poles, themselves were treated as subhuman, and forced into hard labor in work camps, murdered, etc.  With the help of Zegota, and the organizations within the organization, many Poles stood up for what was ethical and moral, what was at the heart of goodness, what was the humane action to take.

Irene Sendler was one such Gentile Pole. Her network within the Warsaw Welfare Department was a strong asset to Zegota. She helped smuggle 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, and hid them within the confines of Polish homes, Austrian homes, and other homes of safety.

The inidividuals were tireless, self-sacrificing, and devoted to the cause of saving Jews. Facts show that between 40,000-50,000 Jews were saved by the Zegota network which issued over 50,000 false documents.

Code Name Zegota is an extremely intense book, dedicated to the telling of the little known facts regarding Zegota. The educational aspect is invaluable, and the research that the authors, Tomaszewski and Werbowski dedicated themselves to, and endeavored to contain within the pages is strongly apparent. They forcefully and strongly illuminate Zegota and what it stood for in its structural capacity, and the willingness of Gentiles/Christians and Jews alike, to forge ahead and work together, at risk of not only their own lives, but the lives of their family members.

Code Name Zegota holds a wealth of statistics and facts. But, primarily, it radiates the hearts and souls of the individuals who helped rescue Jews. Their unwavering commitment is poignant, heart-wrenching, uplifting and inspiring, and Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski should be applauded for their accomplishment in bringing Code Name Zegota: Rescuing Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942-1945 to light, for the world to read, for the world to become educated, for the world to carry forth the teachings of the authors. I am stunned after reading Code Name Zegota. The story will linger with me for quite some time. This English edition brings knowledge and inspiration to those who read it, and keeps the candle of the past eternally lit, bearing witness to those who died, those who survived and were saved.

This is my second reading of it, as I recently read it for a book club.

Leave a comment

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

Review: The Heavens Are Empty

Avrom Bendavid-Val has written a concise, compelling and historically relevant book, regarding the town of Trochenbrod, Ukraine, with his compelling book, The Heavens Are Empty: Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod.

It is a work of non-fiction, written with fantastic prose that evoked vivid word-imagery in this reader’s eyes.  The initial description of the street was filled with in depth details that fascinated me.

The town/village had one street about two miles long.  It was an agricultural town, and, so, behind the houses and/or shop fronts, were acres of land, owned by Jews.  Those Jews had managed to carve out a living for themselves, and live totally unburdened by “gentiles”.  From leather goods and tanning, to produce and milk, the Jewish community fended for themselves, and managed to live decently.

The entire town was made up of Jewish individuals, except for one or two adults.  This was amazing, in and of itself.  Those adults were the ones who lit the lights during Shabbat, took care of the ovens, did the things that the Jews, due to religious traditions and beliefs, were not permitted to do on Shabbat and on the Sabbath.

The street was constantly filled with “mud”, as the reader is informed throughout the pages of witness statements.  It was almost comical how often “mud” is mentioned.  It left a deep impression, decades later, on those who had lived there, in more ways than one.  It also left an impression on me.

From documents and data, to witness statements, the foundation of Trochenbrod is detailed with information that needed to be told.  It is a poignant story, often heart-wrenching, yet one that is an important story in the realm of history.

For those of you that wish to understand the history of what once was, and no longer is, The Heavens Are Empty is the perfect book to educate yourself regarding the events that unfolded.  Not only were the events horrific and filled with contempt and the murderous rage of thousands of Jews, but they led to the obliteration of Trochenbrod off of the face of the planet, literally.

4 Comments

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

Sunday Scenes: October 4, 2015

dairy and vegg

In all actuality, this ‘Sunday Scene’ occurred on Friday evening the Synagogue. The first part of the evening saw a lovely ‘Shab-BQ’ dinner, as I stated in my previous post. Yes, our congregation had the dinner beforehand, unlike some synagogues where the dinner is held afterwards.

The above photo shows a small portion of the vegetarian and dairy dinner items. The beet salad was scrumptious, as were the barbecued potatoes, the latkes and applesauce, the dates and figs (not shown), the egg salad and other items not shown.

succah3

Once the dinner items were entirely cleared and cleaned, the tables were folded up and put away.

succah2

Then chairs were arranged in the Succah, for our Shabbat Service. During the service the addition of the Yaaleh Veyavo was sung by the congregants, as were other prayers related to Sukkot.

succah

All in all, it was a meaningful and lovely evening.

4 Comments

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