Tag Archives: Jewish history

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.



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

Easy Fast

This post was written two days ago. I hope everyone has an easy fast, today.

Remember those who came before us, and remember the breaching of the walls, and the destruction of the two Temples that followed. Remember Moses breaking the two stone tablets. Remember…


I miss and love you mom, more than words can say, not only today, on what would be your 94th birthday, but every day. May your memory be for a Loving Blessing. Zikhronah Livrakha.


Filed under Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Uncategorized

Sunday Scenes April 14, 2013 – Yom HaZikaron


Yom HaZikaron begins tonight (April 14, 2013) at sundown. It is a memorial day that commemorates the individuals who lost their lives fighting for Israel, and a day of reflection, memory and loss.

The Silver Platter, by Natan Altermann

…And the land will grow still
Crimson skies dimming, misting
Slowly paling again
Over smoking frontiers

As the nation stands up
Torn at heart but existing
To receive its first wonder
In two thousand years

As the moment draws near
It will rise, darkness facing
Stand straight in the moonlight
In terror and joy

…When across from it step out
Towards it slowly pacing
In plain sight of all
A young girl and a boy

Dressed in battle gear, dirty
Shoes heavy with grime
On the path they will climb up
While their lips remain sealed

To change garb, to wipe brow
They have not yet found time
Still bone weary from days
And from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue
And all drained of emotion
Yet the dew of their youth
Is still seen on their head

Thus like statues they stand
Stiff and still with no motion
And no sign that will show
If they live or are dead

Then a nation in tears
And amazed at this matter
Will ask: who are you?
And the two will then say

With soft voice: We–
Are the silver platter
On which the Jews’ state
Was presented today

Then they fall back in darkness
As the dazed nation looks
And the rest can be found
In the history books.

April 14, 2013 – 4 Iyyar, 5773

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Filed under Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog

Book Review – Wandering Stars

What an amazing novel, and what an incredible story! Wandering Stars, by Sholem Aleichem, and translated from the Yiddish by Aliza Shevirn, is a journey into Yiddish Theater unlike anything I have read on the subject. Jews are known as wanderers, and Aleichem’s novel not only evokes that theme, but also infuses the story with characters-turned actors straight from Holeneshti, a Russian shtetl, stars in their own right, shining brightly on stage. It is a sprawling love story spanning ten years and two continents, and set in the colorful world of the Yiddish theater.

Reisel is the daughter of a cantor, a cantor who is in dire straights, monetarily speaking. Leibel is from a wealthy family. Both Reisel and Leibel are intrigued and taken by the Yiddish Theater company, and its troupe of actors that come to their shtetl at the end of the nineteenth century. They sit next to each other during each performance. They plot to run off together and join the theater company, influenced and persuaded by the theater manager.
It is difficult to write a review of this 400+ page book without delving into the story too much, but I will give a brief synopsis.

Reisel and Leibel leave their homes, thinking they will eventually meet and run off together. Things don’t quite work out that way. They join the theater, but as it turns out, it is not together, because they become separated by greedy theater managers. They eventually make their own mark in the Yiddish Theater world, after being promoted and exploited by their managers and theater owners. Reisel becomes Rosa Spivak, promoted as a concert talent coming from Bucharest. Leibel becomes Leo Rafalesko, an acting genius. Their audiences adore them, and can’t get enough of them, wanting them to perform more often. Rosa and Leo wander through Eastern Europe with their theater company, through London, and eventually make their way to America. In America they become instant successes, each one not knowing the other is there, and practically under their noses.

Aleichem is strong in his ability to bring not only comedy, but rage to the forefront in Wandering Stars. He illuminates the characters with emotion that is illuminated so strongly, the reader understands that the humorous statements are actually superficially so, as they are in fact statements of anger, disguised as comedy. Comedy became a way of life, a form of survival, both physical survival and emotional survival. Sarcasm rules within the Yiddish acting troupes, as does greed, suffering, love and longing, deceit and desire.

Actors and actresses put on costumes, donned their stage outfits, and performed boldy, enticing the audience to crave more. They were audacious both on and off stage. They were bold individuals and were colorful, self-absorbed, comedic and tragic. The managers were just as daring in their feats to entice not only the audience, but the performers. They were bold, often reckless and ruthless. Aleichem demonstrates the backstage antics and manipulations with details that are brilliant. Yiddish theater, along with its dynamics is brought to the forefront, and all of the reader’s senses are filled. We are there, in the midst of it all, through all of the travel, performances, artistry, and through the changes of not only the theater, but also societal changes. Sholem_Aleichem brings Yiddish Theater to life!

The format might seem odd to some readers, as each chapter is approximately 2-3 pages long. There is a reason for that…the book was serialized in the newspaper, and each day, a different chapter was printed. Its length long enough to be published in the paper, and long enough to hold the reader’s interest, and make them want to come back for more.

Wandering Stars
is a love story, but also much more than that. It is both a tour de force, and a tour de farce. From moochers to shnorrers, shlimazels, nudniks, gonefs, to the honorable mensch, the book is filled with characters of all types, colorful in personality and ideals. Nothing is left unsaid, and the Jews in the book are often pompous and pretentious. The novel is infused with Jewish life, not only theater life, but life outside the theater. It is a novel rich with vivid word imagery, and rich with Yiddish euphemisms. In fact there is a Yiddish glossary at the back of the book. There are also meanings and interpretations that allude to the Bible/Tanakh. Aleichem has filled the novel with a vivid and amazing life tapestry.

Aleichem was a masterful writer, and Wandering Stars is a masterpiece because of that. Wandering Stars is a tribute to Yiddish theater, and to a way of life that once was, and one that no longer exists, both onstage and off stage. It is also a tribute to Sholem Aleichem and his consummate writing skills.
I highly recommend Wandering Stars to everyone, not only for the story, but for its historical aspect as well. It belongs in every personal library, and every university, college, high school, and local library.

Sholam aleichem to Solomon Rabinowitz, wherever he is.

November 19, 2012 – 5 Kislev, 5773

All writings, photographs, etc., are my own copyright (unless stated otherwise), and may not be used without my permission.


Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Judaism, Novels

Unexpected Result Browsing the TV Menu

The other night, Wednesday, I was browsing the TV menu, to see if there was anything of interest to watch. To my surprise, and totally unexpected, I saw a description with the words “Jewish refugees” on the screen, in regards to a show I have never watched, “Ghost Hunters“. Who NU?! The episode was entitled “Ghostly Refuge”.

Of course, I had to watch the show to see what it was about. Apparently one of the Ghost Hunters’ clients had received calls and information of sightings at Fort Ontario, located in Oswego, New York. Some had seen soldiers, some had seen individuals.

The copyright holder of this file photograph allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that a mention to “Ad Meskens” be included.

What is interesting and intriguing (through my research after the show ended), is the fact that Fort Ontario, built by the British in the 1700’s has not only been a source for enlisted men in the various wars, including the French Indian War, the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and others, but it also was a haven for Jewish Refugees from August 1944 to February 1946.

As a native New Yorker, who lived the first 25 years of my life there, I had never heard about the fact that Fort Ontario was used as a Jewish Refugee Camp. Below is an excerpt taken from the Fort Ontario website.

Between 1944 and 1946 Fort Ontario was used as an emergency refugee center, the only one of its kind in the country, for 982 victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Apparently, this was authorized by a special order from former president Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1946 the fort was transferred to the State of New York Initially used to house veterans and their families during the post-war period, development of the fort as a State Historic Site began in 1949.


The episode was interesting in the aspect of the Ghost Hunters trying to find some trace of ghosts. The equipment they used was definitely high tech, and they did come up with some intriguing evidence, but of course, no definite proof of seeing or speaking with soldiers or Holocaust Survivors.

Tonight, during Shabbat prayers, I will remember those 982 individuals who were transported from Italy to Fort Ontario, and remember all of those involved in their care and their transition from the horrors of the Holocaust to the safe haven at Fort Ontario.

Shabbat Shalom!


Filed under Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, TV Shows

Book Review – The Litvaks: A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania

The Litvaks, A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania, by Dov Levin, is intense, dramatic, and an amazing non-fiction book that belongs on every book shelf, especially the shelves of those who have Litvak ancestry.

This is a book, of not only history, but one of insight into the vibrancy and the demise of the Jews and of their geographical environment and culture, religion and fight for survival, within the ever-changing demographics of the country. From independence, to repressive rule, to Russian rule, to independence again, the book details the struggle of the Jewish people to maintain a place in history as a historical group of people, surviving with its religious tradition intact, surviving as a whole in the scheme of history.

The Litvaks is a poignant book, detailing the history of Lithuanian Jews, from the 1300s through the present, detailing the end of WWII, including the Holocaust, through the present, through witness and survivor histories. It is an extremely compelling and forceful read.

Levin manages to detail lifestyles, from banking to education, daily life and cultural practices, and how they apply to the governmental discrimination and restrictions imposed upon the Lithuanian Jews and, Jews in general.

Dov Levin undertook the research, dedication and the writing of this insightful and informative book. As a historian, he infused the pages of The Litvaks with minute details of Eastern European Jewry. The Litvaks, A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania has helped me learn about my ancestors regarding their Lithuania, where they resided, the hardships they endured (forced and otherwise), and the cultural background within their environment, life in their small Lithuanian Shtetl, and the Jews of yesterday.

I personally own and have read this book.

September 13, 2012 – 26 Elul, 5772


Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, Non-Fiction