Tag Archives: Jewish Culture

Book Review: In the Image

In The Image, by Dara Horn is one of those books that evolves through the characters’ coming of age, journeying towards peace and acceptance, and sojourning towards spiritual identity. One young girl (Leora)l learns to accept the death of her best friend, through the slide images of her best friend’s grandfather. Leora learns to overcome her fear of loss and allows herself to fall in love.

“Accidents of fate are rarely fatal accidents, but once in a while they are.”

The grandfather (Bill Landsmann) learns to accept his own life, which is built frame by frame, upon his slides, through the images he has photographed during his travels. His life has been preserved on film slides. Landsmann has to learn to leave his past behind, including his childhood and his abusive father. He must learn to accept, and to let go, and not just assimilate within the fabrics of New York City. For him the images represent his life, concrete proof of his childhood in Europe, and proof he existed (We all want validation of our existence). Landsmann has to learn to move forward, in order to find the spiritual identity and peace he is searching for.

Bill’s frames are also subjects that entwine good and evil entwine within the pages, as Bill recalls incidents of his life through his slides.

Leora and Landsmann lean on each other, each one helping the other to overcome their fears, each one helping to free the other from their self-imposed emotional isolation.

I will not write any more on the story line, as you should read it for yourself.

The symbolism and undertones within In the Image are strong, and leave one amazed at the masterful writing and story line. The word visuals and images are clearly defined through Dara Horn’s words. The novel is brilliant and vibrant with imagery. Age is a state of mind, a number we define ourselves with, but one can be 70 and still be coming of age.

In the Image, by Dara Horn, touches on coming of age, for all age groups, as most of us are in a constant state of growth and coming of age, no matter what year or stage of life we are in.

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

Skirball Cultural Center

The Skirball Cultural Center in Beverly Hills, CA, is a place I frequently visit. I go there for special events, exhibits, and to just feel surrounded by an atmosphere devoted to Jewish history and cultural arts.

This is the front entrance to the Skirball.

Near the front entrance.

The pathway to the parking lot as you exit the Skirball.

For updates on upcoming exhibits, events, etc., visit their website.

All photography is my copyright and may not be reproduced without my express permission.

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Filed under Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Uncategorized

Lorri M. Review: The King of Schnorrers

The King of Schnorrers, by Israel Zangwill, is quite comical. The bantering back and forth really cemented the schnorrer aspect, and gave it an in depth perspective on those who were schnorrers and how they defended and justified themselves, verbally. It also portrayed the territorial aspect of the schnorrer, and how strongly they had to discuss issues in order to gain money.

Attitudes are definitely illuminated. How one perceives themselves in regards to others is depicted vividly. One with airs is really no better than any other schnorrer. A schnorrer is a schnorrer, no matter what, although some tend to eke a better living than others.

De Costa, a schnorrer, was extremely confident, clever, sly, sharp-tongued, quick with responses. Yankel, was the same way, but had to struggle against the verbal strength of De Costa. And, so it went, on and on, almost nonstop, and the witticisms were brilliantly written by Zangwill.

Schnorrers used guilt in order to gain favors from those whose doors they knocked on, or those who they met on the street and managed to stop and corner. The wealthy Jews were hounded, and the poor were hounded, also, to “donate”.

Donations ranged from the monetary to clothes to household items. Usually the schnorrer sold whatever was donated, as far as material/tangible items went. This upped his financial ante for his household. Whether a family man or a bachelor, money was the link to survival.

The King of Schnorrers
is written with a large portion of it in broken English, or English written phonetically with an immigrant’s accent, as spoken by a Jewish man. Such words as “with” are pronounced “Vid”, or the word “will” is pronounced “vill”, for example. I am always mindful of the time period and the individuals speaking, so for me it was not an issue. This book was published in 1894, and I kept that in mind while reading it.

Also, euphemisms that are not used often in today’s world were used then. Some Yiddish is within the pages, but the reader is given an English translation. One must take the variables into consideration, when reading this masterful novel.

I found myself laughing out loud while reading this book. Yet, within the humor, there is a serious undertone regarding Jewish society and its financial diversities. Responsibility for others is a strong theme.

Another thought that came to mind was the fact that the schnorrers of long ago are not so different in interactions than those who we see begging, holding up signs, and/or entertaining on the street in order to gain a coin.

I enjoyed The King of Schnorrers immensely.

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

Lorri M. Book Review: Doublelife: One Family Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope

Doublelife2 Doublelife: One Family Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope, by Harold Berman and Gayle Redlingshafer Berman, is a book that is inspiring and paints a vivid portrait of the religious journeys the authors took within their interfaith marriage.

From the moment they met, Harold and Gayle knew they were meant for each other despite their different religious outlooks. Harold was a secular Jew, Gayle was Christian. They did not let that deter them in their relationship. Once they decided to marry, their plans included a ceremony that would include aspects of both religions.

Their story is told through letters written to each other, letters that include the year leading up to their marriage. The letters written in that first year are filled with questions, hesitations, apprehensions regarding religion and religious life, and emotions that ebb and flow. Their letters are infused with their thoughts, blending logic and emotion, yet, always trying to come to a resolution that is shared.

For Gayle, Christmas was a big issue. For Harold it meant nothing in the realm of religion or Christmas trees. For Gayle, whose music career was important, church attendance was primary in her life. For Harold, renewing his Judaism and attending a synagogue was becoming a primary factor.

They had both decided that they would attend a local synagogue. Gayle did not want Harold to feel excluded from Judaism, and also wanted to learn more about the service and celebrations. From there, Jewish ideals took root in Harold, and the reader can see him change from one written correspondence to the next. He was beginning to ask questions, ponder issues, and he became involved in Jewish practice from baby steps to large strides. The building blocks were in force, and each step cemented his beliefs and caused him to seek more knowledge. He set a religious foundation for himself. Gayle followed along.

And, with that act of following, we see her grow and come into her own regarding Judaism. She fasts on the first Yom KIppur that they share. A small step for some, a large step for her. She becomes knowledgeable on various Jewish holidays, and the more she learns the more she wants to educate herself. She slowly evolves, and at one point even questions how she can be involved in a church music program when her Christianity beliefs are beginning to fade.

In the beginning of their marriage, they did not want children. That eventually changed, and it was Harold who initiated that change. Once they decided to have a child, they knew that an interfaith religious background would not suit them. Gayle was receptive and supportive of that concept.

I enjoyed Gayle’s transition over the years. And, more so, once she and Harold adopted their first child. They had decided that their son would be raised Jewish. They both felt that one religion should be a dominating factor, and that two religions might be confusing to him. From that moment on, the change in Gayle was dramatic. Her searches lead her to question more. They also bring her discomfort with herself, as she flounders within a religious realm, not realizing who she is or what she is.

Harold also transitions, and we see him evolve as, not only a person, but also as a man of religious depth. Orthodox Judaism becomes his choice, and within that choice, discussed with Gayle, their child will be raised as such.

Doublelife is a story that shows the determination of two people to accept each other’s religious backgrounds, and work towards an understanding that will blend their views together. And, through that acceptance, they remained in constant communication with each other regarding their fears. Communication was the cement that bound them together.

There is so much to glean from reading Doublelife: One Family Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope. It is a story whose journey has religious depth and meaning, and has multitudes of questioning on Judaism. The reader can learn a lot from this family, who began their married life as an interfaith couple. The trials of keeping a Jewish home, especially for Gayle, shows the religious force depicted in great detail. Her spiritual outlook became defined in ways she could not have imagined. The story unfolded, and this reader was swept away by the frankness, and the sense of love that sparked two individuals to change, not only for themselves, but for each other and those around them.

I highly recommend Doublelife: One Family Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope. There are lessons within the pages that everyone can find meaning in. It is not simply a story regarding Judaism. There are many more aspects to it that will appeal to everyone. From acceptance and understanding to hope and inspiration, the messages are ones we can all learn from and appreciate.

Mazal Tov to Harold Berman and Gayle Redlingshafer Berman for bringing their story to the forefront.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Lorri M. Review: The Rarest Blue

therarestblue Have you ever wondered how “Tekhelet” is created, or where it originated? Do you know the meaning of Tekhelet? Baruch Sterman, with Judy Taubes Sterman, have brilliantly written about “Tekhelet”, or Tyrian Blue in their book, The Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered..

The story takes the reader on a journey, not only through time, but through thousands of miles, literally trekkiing to find sources of a particular snail, the murex snails. These snails are the foundation for the dyeing process that produces the particular Tyrian Blue color.

Think about it, where in nature do you normally find a blue color? The sky, certain seas or lakes take on a blue tone, and even a few flowers have blue tones to them, but it is not normally found in nature, never mind the particular Tyrian Blue used in Tekhelet. It was also used in the High Priest garments and in the Tabernacle’s tapestries, and a few other items. Blue, surprisingly, is not normally a color found in nature’s environments.

I enjoyed reading about the adventure that was undertaken in order to find the murex snails and in order to find documentation of the dyeing process. It was fascinating to read. It was also inspiring on several levels. For me, it was especially intriguing and inspiring concerning the precious Tzitzit threads, the knotted fringes that are attached to the corners of the Tallit/Jewish prayer shawl, and how Tekhelet, the biblical blue dye, is created and used in the shawls.

The authors are brilliant in their descriptions, and the word-paintings within the pages are masterfully depicted. Other than the scientific and the technical inclusions, I found the pages infused with beautiful prose, almost poetic at times. The scientific blends perfectly with the religious within the story line and the historical factors. Torah and science coexist on this adventure through time and place.

The biblical references that were mentioned reinforced the ancient use of Tekhelet, but also conveyed the deep-rooted Jewish tradition of using the color that was considered to be sacred.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Discovery of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered. I learned so much about Tekhelet, and the historical factors that went into producing it centuries and centuries ago. I will look at my Tallit with more profoundness, and will never take Tyran Blue for granted.

Bravo to Baruch Sterman and Judy Taubes Sterman for their extreme endeavors and devotion to uncover the mystery of the ancient knowledge of Tekhelet.

March 18, 2013 – 7 Nisan, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Jewish Roots in Southern Soil

jewishrootsinsouthernsoil Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History , by Marcie Ferris and Mark I. Greenberg, is an incredible and long overdue work of historical relevance to the Jewish community as a whole, and not just the Jewish community of the south. After visiting Congregation Mickve Israel, in Savannah, a few years back, my interest in southern Jews began to engage some of my reading. This book has fostered my interest further. The book is vividly detailed with thirteen intellectual and fascinating essays. Some historians feel there is no significant definition of “southern Jews”, and others feel there is definitely a defining factor that differentiates “southern Jews” from the general Jewish population.

In the first essay in the book, the Jewish community of the south was first founded in Savannah, Georgia, by forty-one Jews who sailed there in 1733. The southern Jews incorporated a more lenient practice, as far as food and other cultural experiences. Seafood was the primary staple, and the Jews incorporated it into their daily dining, as far as dining in public. In private it was often (but not always) a different matter. There was no way for the regulations of kashrut/Jewish dietary law to be conformed to within the community environment. Distance was a factor in adherence to the eating habits of southern Jews.

The first Jewish communities in the south chose the Reform movement. This is probably due to the many variances: food, demographics, economics, race, assimilation within the environment/cultural identities, respect from the other religious entities, etc.

Within the pages of the various essays, the reader is given a lot to ponder. Race, for instance, played a major role in the way Jews tried to assimilate. They felt akin to the African Americans within their community, due to the underlying prejudices that they both encountered. And, within that framework, food, once more, was also an integral factor, as the Jews began spreading their taste buds to incorporate southern African American fare into their dining. Recipes were even created in Jewish kitchens to satisfy the family at dinner time. The Jews felt a camaraderie with their African American neighbors and often spent time in each others’ homes.

Economics was a major issue for the Jewish immigrant. Upon arrival, the immigrant was faced with the difficulty of providing for themselves and/or their family. Many of the men, in fact a majority, started out as peddlers, roaming the countryside, buying wares and selling wares to the outlying communities. They did this for quite a while, and became friendly with their customers, even lodging with them as they went from town to town. After a while the peddler gained enough money to start a store in the town he resided in.

This is a primary factor in how the Jews became friendly and developed relationships with the African Americans. They often stayed overnight at one of their homes. They were welcomed there, respected, greeted with sincerity. There was a bond between them, one that crossed racial divides.

Life in the south, in my opinion, after reading Jewish Roots in Southern Soil, was definitely a cultural experience, unlike the Jewish communities in the northeastern states. The need to fit in, religiously and gain respect was a primary force for the Jews. Even the Rabbis had to learn to incorporate and alter some of the traditional practices in order to gain a place in the southern circle of life. Many traditions were abandoned in the synagogue, such as separate seating for women, not using prayer shawls during services, choirs, and even services in English. Social status was of prime importance, and the need to be recognized as a member of southern society caused Jews to set different examples for themselves.

The underlying antisemitism was rampant. Jews were often seen as uncooperative, weak, greedy. There was a lot they had to overcome, and in reality, they did not realistically overcome perceptions by others. There was a facade presented to them by the general population, and behind closed door the reality was a different story.

I learned a lot from reading this intense book of essays. History definitely has downplayed the southern Jewish community as being a culture in and of itself. It has downplayed what the Jewish individuals had to endure in order to assimilate and survive under extreme circumstances of the immigrant experience. They found themselves in a land so far removed from where they came from, culturally. Yet, they persevered and survived the obstacles set before them.

I highly recommend Jewish Roots in Southern Soil: A New History, by Marcie Ferris and Mark I. Greenberg, to everyone interested in Jewish history, and specifically the comparison of southern Jews to northeastern Jews. It is a book that will fill you with many thoughts to consider, and a book of historical importance.

January 3, 2013 – 21 Tevet, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Non-Fiction