web analytics
September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Sections » Books »

Like The Stars Of The Heavens


It happened a few days before Chanukah. I was driving home from the local mall, my trunk overflowing with games and toys for my three young children, when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. I nervously steered it on to the grassy shoulder of the highway and hit the emergency brake. The gas gauge registered empty.


This was back in the days before cell phones so there was nothing to do but pop open the hood and wait, hoping a good samaritan or the highway police would eventually stop. But when the cars continued to whiz by I grew increasingly impatient and decided to hike to the nearest gas station I had passed about a quarter-of-a- mile back on the Belt Parkway.


“My car ran out of gas on the highway,” I sheepishly confessed to the gas station attendant.


“Can’t spare anybody right now,” he said. Instead, he offered to fill a two-gallon can halfway and I trudged back down the road, like the Biblical Rebekah hauling her jug from the well. It wasn’t until I removed the cap from the can that I realized the spout was missing, so I had no way of pouring the gasoline into the tank.


As the sun started to sink, so did my spirits. Why me? Why today? Why here on this busy highway that was beginning to feel like a desolate stretch of desert? The answer would arrive shortly. I watched the battered car pull off the road. It was a red Chevy, just like the model my father used to drive. While a child peered out at me from the rear window, a young woman emerged from the driver’s seat. She walked purposefully over to the trunk, opened it and removed an object, then turned and came towards me, smiling broadly.


As she handed me the tin can with the spout, she said with an unmistakable Hispanic accent, “I bring this for you – you need this.” And that’s how it’s been for most of my life. Inexplicably, a stranger will mysteriously appear to provide me with exactly what I need at that moment, whether it’s a life-saving boat, a partner for life, a life-altering Shabbos meal, or a can with a spout.


Hash-gachah Pratis, Divine Providence, has brought extraordinary people into my life – like Mr. E. Edward Herman. The E. stands for Eliezer (G-d was my help) and that says it all. Like our Patriarch Abraham’s right-hand man, this Eliezer, who is well into his 80s, is a visionary whose wisdom, limitless energy and generosity of spirit continue to be a source of inspiration for those of us who have been blessed with his friendship.


As a young G.I., he influenced my life with his heroic deeds on behalf of the St. Ottilien Displaced Persons Camp in Germany where I was born and then he reappeared a half -century later to become my most enthusiastic fan. Not content just to read my articles, he encouraged me to “write a book.” The direct result of his gentle persuasion is Like The Stars Of The Heavens. The title comes from the promise G-d made to Abraham to make his offspring “like the stars of the Heavens” (Genesis 22:17). But unlike the fleeting stardom of celebrities who walk the red carpet, the essence of the stars that shine in this volume – including rabbis, doctors, educators, lawyers, entrepreneurs and writers – is their inner light which guides them to lead lives of purpose and meaning, illuminating the way for all of us.


Originally published in The Jewish Press between 1994 and 2005, the articles collected in this anthology reveal a parallel universe where Jews don’t kvetch, they kvell, about their meaningful relationships, their good fortune and their faith. Epilogues have been added to several of the original articles to provide you with the “rest of the story.”


As a ba’alat teshuvah, I have experienced the broad spectrum of Jewish life with friends and relatives who define themselves as Modern-Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, black-hat, convert and unaffiliated. So whether I’m writing about a Yale student battling against enforced co-ed habitation, or a follower of The Grateful Dead who becomes a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, their stories also reflect my own complex journey along our diverse contemporary Jewish thoroughfare.

 

 


Helen Zegerman Schwimmer

 

When my family immigrated to America in the early 1950s, the buzzword was “assimilation” and the strategy was to quickly integrate foreigners into mainstream society by housing us among the general population. Although there were no ESL classes, I was a voracious reader and ultimately excelled in my second language, earning my B.A. in English from Brooklyn College. When I had children of my own I took great pleasure in sharing with them the linguistic joys of the language with books like The Cat in the Hat.



A mere generation later, who could have predicted that the language of the shtetlwould become so trendy that this childhood classic is now available in Yiddish? Yiddish, once earmarked for extinction, like the people who spoke it, is not only alive and well but thriving on theater stages, across the pages of best-sellers, and in the streets of the most cosmopolitan city in the world. And now I even find myself explaining to my own non-Yiddish speaking children why I neglected such a meaningful part of their heritage.


A glossary appears at the back of my book to define unfamiliar words, which, unlike schlep, have not yet become an integral part of the American lexicon. Some words are Hebrew in origin, while others may be Polish or Ukrainian and still others German, reflecting the journeys of our ancestors, over the millennia, like the stars of the Heavens.


This story appears in Helen Zegerman Schwimmer’s newly published book,


Like The Stars of The Heavens, available from chosencouture.com, amazon.com and select bookstores. She can be contacted at hzs8@aol.com.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Like The Stars Of The Heavens”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh would replace Abbas chairman of the Palestinian Authority if elections were held today.
Poll: Hamas Would Rule Judea and Samaria in New Elections
Latest Sections Stories
LBJ-082914

What better proof do we need than the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” that transformed the pain and suffering of three families into a sense of unparalleled unity and outpouring of love of the entire nation of Israel?

Katzman-082914

So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them.

Astaire-082914

In addition to his great erudition, Rabi Akiva was known for his optimism.

Kupfer-082914-Chuppah

She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.

What can we do to help him stop feeling so sad all the time?

Children with dyslexia or dysgraphia frequently have problems in social relationships.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

The contest will include student-created sculpture, computer graphic design, collage, videography, PowerPoint and painting.

David, an 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, recently attended a Friendship Circle event. As he entered he told his Dad, “I love coming to the FC programs ‘cause everyone loves each other.”

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

Frank proclaimed himself Zvi’s successor and the reincarnation of King David.

You’re probably wondering why the greatest advocate of fast and easy preps in the kitchen is talking about layer cakes, right?

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

More Articles from Helen Zegerman Schwimmer
Ahuvah Gray

“When you are inexperienced and new to Yiddishkeit you figure, what do I have to lose? I think it’s called chutzpah!” With the honesty and good natured candor that have made her a much sought after lecturer across the Jewish spectrum, African-American convert Ahuvah Gray, recounts the remarkable story of her personal encounter with Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, z”tl.

Schwimmer-100512-Ocean-Pkwy

Picture it, a busy Sunday afternoon with traffic moving briskly along Ocean Parkway, a major Brooklyn thoroughfare linking the brownstones of Park Slope in the north with the beaches and amusement parks of Coney Island in the south. Suddenly everything comes to a halt.

As the members of the I.D.F. lined up for the daily flag raising ceremony held on the Tel Hashomer Army Base outside of Tel Aviv, Gloria Schreiber approached the flagpole with a mixture of pride and awe. Standing at attention, dressed in fatigues, she grasped the rope, pulled gently and watched the white and blue flag slowly ascend.

Levana Kirschenbaum, restaurateur, master chef, cooking teacher and author, has just published the ultimate cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple. This is her magnum opus, a book that takes kosher cooking to a whole new level; with everything we ever needed to know about preparing healthy cuisine from soup to nuts.

“What’s new?”

It was a casual question, posed to me by Irene Klass when we met at a Jewish women’s lecture during the fall of 1994.

When seven year-old Ariel tearfully ran into the kitchen complaining of pain it was his younger brother Shalom who came to the rescue. “Should I get you something to learn so you will feel better?” asked the six year old?

The idyllic countryside of Sobibor bears no resemblance to the large, efficient extermination camp once located in that remote corner of eastern Poland. Among the 250,000 Jews murdered during its 18 months of operation were the members of my mother’s family. I didn’t learn the details of their deaths until I was an adult, but I understood at a very young age that I had no grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins because someone called Hitler had killed them.

It’s a story that’s familiar to every student of American history. In 1620, the Pilgrims fled England aboard the Mayflower and founded the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, where they could freely practice their religion. A little known, but equally significant, historical event took place just a few years later in 1658, when another group seeking a haven from religious persecution sailed into Newport Harbor in Rhode Island and founded Congregation Jeshuat Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/like-the-stars-of-the-heavens/2007/09/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: