Category Archives: Jewish History

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.


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.


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


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.


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


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

Sukkot Dinner Pre Shabbat

sukkahnby rochelle blumenfeld copy

I love the painting, above, Succah, by Rochelle Blumenfeld.

Tonight will be spent at the synagogue celebrating Sukkot with a dinner in the synagogue’s Succah.  The Brotherhood is preparing the entire dinner, and doing all of the cleanup before Shabbat service begins.  How nice of them!

The women can sit back and enjoy the fare, without having to lift a finger, except to eat the food.  It is a rare occasion!  But, we are extremely grateful for this moment in time.

honey pot


The honey pot and the plate above were mine.  I treasured them for years.  I lovingly let them go to the next generation before moving back to CA, by handing them over to my daughter.  I know she will treasure them, as I did, with love.

For those who celebrate-Shabbat Shalom! To everyone, enjoy your weekend.


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

Sunday Scenes: Synagogue Simplicity

mickve israel

I have attended many Shabbat and holiday services in synagogues, some have been architectural wonders, like the synagogue in Savannah, Georgia, Mickve Israel, pictured above (photo taken by me a few years ago).


The exterior is grand in appearance, much like the interior, which houses an old Torah brought over on a ship, and other antiquities from the 18th century. Do not get me wrong, I loved the interior, with all of its flourishes, opulence, columns, vaulted ceilings, etc. To be able to pray within the walls of magnificent architecture holds its own place in my heart.

interior syna

But, my heart feels at home, in simplistic surroundings, like in the photograph above, which I took, recently. The exterior and the interior speak to me, and illuminate my experiences while praying and mingling with the congregation. The euphemism, “Home is where the heart is”, holds true for me, while within the simple architectural environment with its basic chairs, understated Bema/Sanctuary around the Torah Ark, etc. (The screen is not a normal part of the interior, and is only used for special screenings.)


My sense of being a part of the Jewish community, a community that has endured so much struggle and hardship, horrific moments and perseverance, through the millennia, is heightened by the subtle and toned-down architectural interior, and the simple Judaica accessories, paintings, etc.

Prayers are elevated within the context of the interior, and resound through me immensely. I am home, each time I attend service or events. My heart fills with the many emotions that prayer reflects, such as sadness, strength, candor, joy, and so much more. I treasure my moments spent within the walls of synagogue simplicity.


“(Proverb) People long to be at home.; Your home is whatever place you long to be.”


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

War and Art

I have read two books that involve the restoring/returning of stolen art, during wartime, to the rightful owner/s. One deals with art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The other book tells a story of a journey to find whether a work of art was stolen during World War I.

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Anne-Marie O’Connor, is a true story, and it is the book that the recently released film, The Woman in Gold was based upon.

The book is a vivid depiction, not only regarding Adele Bloch-Bauer, the woman who posed for the artist, but also a compelling story of a work of art, and how one woman’s passion and perseverance led to the finding the provenance of the painting. The trials and tribulations in order to ascertain provenance, in order to prove that the work of art belonged in her family, and that it was stolen, outright, by the Nazis, lasted for a decade.

The Austrian government did not want to release the valuable painting, claiming legal ownership. Maria Altmann, the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer, claimed otherwise, stating she was the legal heir to the painting.

The story is illuminating in many aspects. The reader is given snippets of life in Austria, life of the wealthy and how they lived, where they lived, and what the valued. It also is the story of the intricate and minute details involved in trying to gain proof of ownership or provenance. Word of mouth does not work. Documents do not often work, either.

I saw the film, and it was well-done. If I compare it to the book, I would have to say the book was more detailed, whereas the film encompassed dramatic visuals of the time period. I enjoyed both the book and the film, and give them equal share on my enjoyment scale.

The second book, entitled, The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel, by Jojo Moyes, depicts one family’s struggle to survive during World War I, in a small town in the outskirts of Paris.

Sophie Lefevre’s husband Edouard is a painter. He painted a portrait of Sophie, which is stunning. He eventually must leave in order to fight the Germans. Those Germans eventually occupy the town, and take over the small bar/cafe enterprise that Sophie and her sister operate. The Kommandant and his soldiers are to have dinner prepared for them every night, no questions asked. It is a command that can not be refused.

Fast forward to the present, and Liv Halston, a widow of four years, has the painting hanging in her home. From there the story begins to move quicker.

She is quite insistent that the painting, bought by her husband, for her, is legally hers. She involves herself and others in a battle for ownership. From the living heirs to Liv, herself, the story line unfolds with intensity, and with incredible details of search methods and documentation.

The historical aspect is well-done, and well researched. I was surprised by some of the facts, and did not realize that during World War I, the Germans stole artwork, furniture, silver items from homes, anything and everything they felt useful, was taken. That was revealing for me.

How does the story end? You will have to read the book to find out.


Filed under Book Reviews, Films, Historical Fiction, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, World War II

May Jewish Book Carnival

Blue Beginning

The May Jewish Book Carnival is up and hosted by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod! There are many links to browse through, from a podcast interview, to book reviews, to insights, and to so much more! There is something there for everyone!

Visit Write Kids Books, to see all of the links. Thank you for hosting, Jennifer!

I am sorry for the update-I felt this article to be of importance: Nazi Art Trove: Matisse Painting Returned to Jewish Owners


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