Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
An unshaven man stumbles onstage, clad in a raincoat covering his pajamas. He is barefoot and shuffles among the dried leaves that litter the stage area, a long rectangular set with the audience on either side. It is a most intimate performance area, uncomfortably so. He tells us he was a Red Cross representative, stationed in the Berlin suburb of Wansee, during the war, and had been sent to inspect a civilian internment camp in Nazi Germany. Now, he is guilt ridden, confused and sleepless. A tortured soul remembering what it was like to play-act to do his job, unaware he was but a manipulated audience himself. As he describes the entire visit and the episode unfolds before us. He cannot sleep.
Next, boys play with a top and quarrel, a couple argues over a gift, each actor perfecting his or her lines, cueing each other to get the dialogue right. We notice they all wear a yellow star. The young woman complains of constantly hearing trains in the night.
Finally, Gottfried is brought in and sits before the Commandant. He is a prisoner, powerless to resist the orders of his captor. He must become an actor, learn his lines and collaborate, in order to give outsiders the impression of a benign internment camp. His play-acting seeks to convince them that conditions are relatively good and, considering the war, humane. As for the ramp from the railway station to the infirmary, well, everyone just calls it the “way to heaven.” The play has begun.
The Nazi Commandant attempts to beguile us with his assurances of European civilization, the books he has in his library, how he distains war and how once it is all over, we will all speak one language and celebrate one culture. His monologue constantly slips between past and present, chilling our confidence in the distance of the past horrors. Suddenly all the lights go out and in the pitch-blackness the Nazi asserts that all of the killing camps are gone now, “There’s none of it left now, but they’re still here. All of them, every single one.” The ghosts of the murdered Jews remain because, “Every train in Europe terminates here.”
Further into the past, we are plunged into the complex and tortured relationship between Gershom Gottfried, the “mayor” of the Jews, and the Commandant who is both the author and director of the little piece of theater that will convince the Red Cross that there is no mistreatment of the prisoners. Gottfried’s role is to make sure everyone acts his or her part exactly as the script says, that they understand that their lives depend upon their performance. Gottfried says the people want to know what to expect. The Commandant answers, “Focus on one thought, Gottfried. ‘I’m not on that train. As long as I’m here, I’m not on that train.’” The play-acting becomes instantly clear; their performance is a bargain with the devil himself.
Gottfried is told that one scene is too crowded, “Cut them down to a hundred.” He is told to take them to the “infirmary,” that closed shed at the top of the long ramp, at the end of the “way to heaven.” Gottfried balks, he can’t choose which of his fellow Jews will be condemned. He rebels and spits out, “What if we refuse?…[what if] He arrives and there’s no one there Or we tell him the truth “ The Commandant calmly reminds Gottfried that the Red Cross man may not understand the gesture or the symbol. Jewish rebellion would hardly make an impact, and would only result in more death.
Sitting so close to the actors, finally understanding their dilemma, understanding that Gottfried and his Jews have no choice, understanding that no one wants to assure their own death, I still ask myself, what would I do? What would I do?
Finally Juan Mayorga’s stunning play brings it all home. Gottfried and his Jews resume practicing their parts, reassuring fellow actors, “we’ve all had to pretend some time, haven’t we?” The little girl with her doll enters and is comforted by Gottfried. “If you do it well, we’ll see Mummy again. She’ll come on one of those trains. If we do what they ask us We’ll do it as many times as we have to, until Mummy comes back.” She softly sings her haunting song again. Ani Ma’amin. Yes, I believe, I believe with a perfect faith.
Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at email@example.com.
About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
You must log in to post a comment.
Dear Dr. Yael:
Do you really believe that the Internet is the reason why the divorce rate is so high among young couples? This may be so in some cases, but what about the fact that many singles are pressured to get married at a young age despite not having any idea what they are looking for in a mate? And add to that the fact that many are pressured to make a decision about marriage after dating for a very short period of time.
From the moment they stand under the chuppah, newlyweds have two years to enjoy the special bliss that new love brings. This new finding, reported by the New York Times, is based on a study undertaken by American and European researchers. 1,761 people who got married and stayed married over 15 years were followed. The research shows that after two years the couples moved into a more companionable state in their relationships.
Shel Silverstein’s 1974 poem “Where The Sidewalk Ends” is intended to paint a magical picture of a world of peace and serenity far away from the “black and dark streets.” At the time, perhaps the end of the sidewalk was a place that was “measured and slow.” Today, however, for many parents, where the sidewalk ends can feel like a scary place.
The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
Florida is famous for sparkling water. We have the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico surrounding our coast. We have bays, lakes, canals and, of course, an incredible abundance of swimming pools in homes, resorts, apartment complexes and city parks.
The buzz is back as Camp Gan Israel Florida Overnight gears up for another fantastic summer, CGI Florida style. What makes CGI Florida so different from all the other overnight camps? It’s all in the details.
Leah Katz, a TeenZone camper at Oorah’s TheZone summer camp and an 11th grader at Midwood High School, read her winning essay about how TheZone changed her views on Judaism at the Jewish Heritage Awards Ceremony held at Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes’s office in April. The purpose of the Jewish Heritage Essay Contest is to acquaint public school students with Jewish history and customs and to help foster a deeper understanding of Jewish culture. The contest is open to students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Leah’s essay is reproduced in full below.
Moshe Sharett, the head of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, visited Egypt in 1945. In Cairo he met a most remarkable young woman, a beautiful journalist who was the darling of Egyptian high society – from high-ranking military brass, to culture icons and Muslim sheikhs, to the court of King Faruk.
The two proceeded to talk about everyday things and surprisingly her mother-in-law did not find anything else to criticize. This occurred a few more times, with my client changing the topic every time by complimenting her mother-in-law or mentioning something positive about her.
There is always a lot of confusion surrounding sensory processing disorder – mainly because there are many different diagnoses that fall under the catch-all phrase sensory processing disorder (SPD). Among them are three specific subcategories:
The doctor had warned us that even if we did everything right and followed the protocol after the follicle was of the right size, there was no guarantee of success. Fertilization still had to occur, and just like couples do not necessarily become pregnant every month, we had no way to know if we were actually expecting for two full weeks.
The next chapter of the award-winning novel.
In the eyes of the ram lies the artist’s commentary on the Rosh Hashanah piyyut “The King Girded with Strength.” From the Tripartite Mahzor (German 14th century), this illumination simultaneously echoes the piyyut’s praise of God’s awesome power and expresses the terror of actually being a sacrifice to God. The ram is but a reflection of Isaac. It is all in the eyes.
Reaching back in time to reclaim a family for herself and, in a yahrzeit moment, to rekindle lives snuffed out, Diana Kurz’s paintings stand as testaments to victims of the Holocaust. After a successful 20 year career as an artist and teacher, (with a strong feminist bent), in 1989 Kurz happened upon a few surviving photos of her own relatives “who disappeared during the war.” Suddenly her past opened up and possessed her. This spring (April 4 – May 2, 2012) a series of these paintings was shown at the Art Gallery at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY.
Examining a choice selection of drawings done by Itshak Holtz over 30 years ago is a rare pleasure that allows for the appreciation of his unique sensitivity and insights. I was afforded that pleasure at the inaugural exhibition of the Betzalel Gallery in Crown Heights this past May. Although this modest selection of 25 drawings and watercolors of this paradigmatic frum artist ranges from 1963 to 1999, the majority of the works is from the 1970s and reveals a special aspect of his inner artistic soul. The selection of images could easily narrate the fabric of ordinary Jewish life.
Earlier this year I was presenting my survey of Jewish art, “A Jewish Art Primer,” in a West Hartford, Connecticut synagogue and during the intermission a local artist, David Holzman, introduced himself to me. He relayed his rich and fascinating artistic background and then produced a portfolio of 8 black and white prints that he generously gave to me as a gift. As a tantalizing glimpse into recent work, they are truly amazing and I would like to share them with you.
Boris Schatz (1866 – 1932) had a revolutionary vision. He believed that the creation of a new modern Jewish visual culture would become a major force to both articulate a Jewish national identity and sustain the Zionist enterprise. In 1904 he approached Zionist leader Theodor Herzl with the proposal to establish a national arts and crafts school in Palestine and got his blessing. Tragically Herzl died later that year, but the Zionist leadership in Vienna assumed responsibility for the project and its funding.
The exhibitions that precede Judaic auctions are rather special events for anyone who has a feeling for the fabric of Jewish life as it has been lived for the last 500 years. Not only is one afforded the opportunity to see a wide variety of Judaica, books, manuscripts and Jewish art of considerable historic importance, but if something strikes your fancy; intellectually or acquisitively, you can actually handle the objects. For most artwork the thrill is in seeing it up close and judging the brushstrokes and details of a painting or watercolor. One stands in the exact proximity as the creator did.
The auction at Christie’s in Paris this May 11 of a Tuscan Mahzor, created and illuminated in the 1490’s, will be an extraordinary event. This rare example of illuminated Jewish art has not been seen publically in over 500 years and, aside from tantalizing internal suggestions, lacks conclusive identification of the scribe and illuminators. Because the gold-tooled goatskin binding was made about 50 years after the manuscript and has a different coat of arms than those found in the machzor, it is assumed that this prayerbook may have quickly changed hands.
One thing is certain about Robert Feinland – he has shuls on his mind. His career has spanned over 40 years, exploring landscape, cityscape, sculpture and abstraction. For many of those years he has focused on the relentlessly changing urban landscape of New York, feeling the necessity to document and, in some way preserve, the physical fabric of the city he loves. A selection of recent paintings, most concentrating on the Crown Heights community, is currently at the Chassidic Art Institute. Many of the images are of shuls.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/way-to-heaven-by-juan-mayorga/2009/05/20/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: