Reflections

Omaha3On Saturday, April 28, I marked my father’s 24th yahrzeit. Ordinarily I’d light a candle, place it on the kitchen island before going to services. Then each time I’d walk through the kitchen I’d see the flickering flame and I would envision and recall my father’s smile, his kindness, his intelligence, and his open-mindedness.

I’d say kaddish surrounded by others saying this same these same ancient and familiar words of praise and acknowledgement.

But I was not in Montclair, New Jersey; I was in Lille, France. There was no kitchen island but a counter crowded with the needs of a busy family.

But still in my daughter’s home we lit that candle just as I would have in my own home and told stories about my father to the great-grandchildren whom he never met. Continue reading

Time

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We are in the midst of our longest Jewish counting period, the counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot, from freedom to responsibility.

It seems to be part of human nature to count.

We are always counting. Continue reading

Beyond the Canon

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Passover has come and gone. Freedom is ours.

But the world intervenes. Many times in Jewish history freedom was snatched from our collective hands. There were the Babylonians, the Romans, the kings who separated Jews from others. And there were the Nazis who attempted to take not only freedom, but also, existence itself from the Jewish people. Continue reading

Work in Progress

Lampert libraryFor those who miss the little library in the Shomrei gallery, here’s an update.

The best information that I have says that the materials stored in the pods should be unpacked in about three weeks. We will need lots of help to sort and return the items to their proper rooms in the building.

Then later on, another crew will be needed to restock the library shelves.

Unfortunately, the library shelving will not be ready at the same time. We are still in the process of getting bids. So for the foreseeable future, the library will be in a state of suspended animation. Continue reading

Women Who Made History

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Laurel Ulrich, a historian of early America and not Jewish said, “Women who behave rarely make history,”

As we approach the end of March, Women’s History Month, and move towards the onset of Passover, it’s appropriate to highlight some of the unsung women of the Passover story and beyond-those women who helps to free the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus and later brought greater freedom to women and people in general. And who didn’t behave as they were expected to.  Continue reading

Jews and Resistance in France

w-oesterreicher-080612-1425717712Close to twenty years ago, my daughter Rebecca spent a semester in France. After college she returned to France, eventually meeting Jerome. Now a house, a husband, two kids and several cats later, Rebecca and her family live in Lille, a city in northern France, close to the Belgian border.

All this is prelude to sharing a program I attended just few days ago at Seton Hall University. Titled “Jews and Resistance in France during World War II,” this program investigated the role of French Catholic individuals in saving Jews during the war. It was presented under the aegis of the Jewish-Christian Studies Graduate Program with funding from the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust and Genocide Education and Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher Endowment. Continue reading

Purim: It’s More than a Happy Holiday

Purim20181There’s barely a week until Purim with its child-centered activities, silliness, drama and food. We think of hamantaschen-Haman’s pockets- but there are other Purim treats.

Gil Marks’s superb Encyclopedia of Jewish Food relates the origins of the iconic Purim cookie. Its triangular shape may have represented the pockets where Haman hid his bribes. The mystics said that the three corners stand for the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The filling is like the hidden presence of God who never appears in the Megillah. And the poppy seeds that traditionally went into the filling refer to Esther’s vegetarian diet.

Continue reading

Sydney Taylor Lives on

sydney1Many readers grew up with Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family, a series of books based on Taylor’s growing up in the Lower east Side of New York during the first quarter of the 20th century.

These books- there were five books in all- are a publishing Cinderella story.

According to an interview in Jewish Book News, Taylor, who had been a professional dancer with the Martha Graham Company said in an interview with The Jewish Book News that I writing a children’s book until, “my child said to me one day, ‘Mommy, why is it that whenever I read a book about children it is always a Christian child? Why isn’t there a book about a Jewish child?’ Then I remembered that this was the way I used to feel when I was one of the girls. I thought, ‘Somebody ought to write the book – why not me?’ . . . So I sat down and wrote it and felt very good about it.” Continue reading

Multi-Faceted Julius Lester

lester5Does anyone remember Julius Lester? – Civil rights activist, radio personality, professor of African American studies photographer, folk singer, lay leader of a synagogue, professor of Judaic Studies, and award winning  author of over 40 books for children and adults on both Jewish and African-American themes.

This protean personality died at the age of 78 on January 18.

Despite this impressive resume, Marjorie Ingall said, “He managed, at one point or another, to enrage everyone.” Continue reading

Lemonade from Lemons

Lampert libraryThat beautiful house that you moved into seems perfect, but after a few months you see the little flaws. That graceful landing with the two steps up or down to anywhere in the house, now is an impediment as the old dog struggles up the stairs.

That kitchen that you just renovated- -it’s so beautiful, but the cabinets are just a little too high. It’s so annoying to have to grab the stool every time you want something from that just-out-of-reach second shelf. Continue reading