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November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘home’

Henry Shaw & Names

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

What’s in a name? My late father had an only sibling called Henry Shaw. We loved our Uncle Hashy as we called him. He was huge, almost six-and-a-half feet tall, and had to stoop to get through the doors of our house. He had a deep but soft bass voice and a wonderful sense of humor. He was a marvelous raconteur, steeped in Yiddish culture and the intricacies of internal Jewish political warfare in Eastern Europe. His greatest impact on my life was the range of experiences he introduced me to, from Chazanut to Verdi’s Requiem, from Hillel Zeitlin to AJP Taylor, from Martin Buber to Bertrand Russell. He was less charismatic than my father, less combative, but a much more approachable person.

He qualified in social studies at London University and spent his life devoted to the Jewish Community, first in London in the Association of Jewish Youth, then running Hillel House in Endsleigh Street, London. He and his devoted wife, Sybil, provided a home from home for thousands of Jewish students from around the world for over twenty years. I saw most of him in my own student years and he was very supportive and encouraging. But then they ‘disappeared’ from my life and went off to Australia to take over the Hillel Foundation of Victoria which involved the Melbourne and Monash Universities. Five years later Henry switched to academia to help establish a Jewish studies program at Prahran College. His work eventually morphed into the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash. Sybil died in 1978, but Henry flourished until 1996.

I am writing this piece because this week is his Yahrzeit. But also because I am embarrassed to admit that I never found out why he adopted the surname Shaw. Which leads me to the issue of Jewish surnames. We Jews never really took them very seriously. Napoleon’s civil reforms insisted that everyone had to have a surname. Previously non-Jews had Christian names (yes, that’s what first names were called in Britain until the sixties) and Jews had Jewish names on to which occasionally one added a location or a profession. When the law of the land insisted on surnames Jews usually took their profession, the town they came from, or a Latin version of a Hebrew word like Benedict or Priest. Amongst themselves they invariably used only Hebrew names, until the process of acculturation took hold. This explains why Jews tended to be rather cavalier about changing their civil names or having them changed by others.

My paternal grandparents came from Radomsk. My grandmother was a Bialystock, the name of a Polish town. My grandfather’s family name was a more Russian, Rozrasowski . During the great migrations of over a hundred years ago, lots of migrants took or had simpler or more western names given to them as they came through immigration. You have heard of the old Jewish gentleman called, improbably, Shawn Fergusson because when he arrived at immigration in a state of exhaustion and shock and was asked his name he said in Yiddish, “Shoyn Fergessen“ (“I forgotten.”). Or the Chinese man called Moishe Greenberg because as he came through after a Jewish migrant and gave his name as Sam Ting, they thought he meant “the same thing”.

Seriously, when the Rozrasowskis came to London in the early part of the twentieth century the family simplified its name to Rosen. They must have thought it would sound more English! There were five girls and four boys. The boys decided that they’d rather be known by their first names, so as to differentiate themselves. That was how my Grandfather Shlomo came to be known as Mr. Solomons. Indeed his tombstone in Dublin (where he moved during the Depression) gives his name as “Mr. Sydney Solomons (Rosen)”.

My father was always known as Rosen, but his elder brother Hashy became Shaw. Was it to sound more English, or actually Irish? Shaw is a popular Irish name. When his parents moved to Ireland this was an era in which when getting a job or an apartment with a Jewish name was as difficult as getting one with an African name fifty years later. Or was it just a play on Henry’s nickname Hashy? One family tradition had it that he had lost his papers and got an Irish passport on the black market. The most improbable was that he had accidentally killed an anti-Semitic drunk in a fight and carried his name as a penance. Who knows? He never gave me a straight answer.

But if you think this story strange, let me tell you about my maternal grandfather, Moishe Yaakov Cohen, known as MJ. He was born Moishe Shumacher in Uman in the Ukraine. As a boy he emigrated to Tredegar in Wales. There he was taken under the wing of a relative whose name was Cohen, who had become the godfather of Jewish peddlers servicing the isolated Welsh mining villages of the Rhonda with haberdashery and other supplies that the miners paid for in installments. The peddlers went out on foot on a Sunday with goods provided by Mr. Cohen and did not come back till Friday to spend Shabbes together and make up the minyan. It was suggested to Moishe that if he had the same name as the boss it would inspire confidence. So Moishe Shumacher, the Levi from Uman, became MJ Cohen. Soon he did well enough to set himself up in business on his own in Manchester as MJ Cohen, General Draper (a fancy name for selling odds and ends). Later he transferred to Cardiff. One day he sent a letter back home on his notepaper inviting relatives to come and join him. When they read the invitation they had no idea who MJ Cohen was, but they did recognize the word “General” and assumed he’d been promoted in the army and had changed his name to Draper. Which explains why we once had relatives in Manchester called Draper.

All these people I have mentioned here only had one Hebrew name from the beginning to the end, names that linked them directly to their heritage of millennia. Their surnames were secondary, like a chameleon’s skin. But they, like my Uncle Hashy, were and are all proud and contributing members of the Jewish people. As far as I am concerned that’s what counts.

A Worried Wife And Mother

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I was pleased to see the letter from a reader titled “Not of This Generation” in your July 12 column, as well as your reply to her over the following two weeks.

I’m also one of those people who are “Not of This Generation.” My friends and I thought your response to the letter writer was perfect, so I thought you might just be the one to help my husband and I resolve our conflict.

We have five children who are all married with lovely families of their own. I know that is a great blessing. My friends always tell me how lucky I am, and I thank Hashem every day. But still have problems.

My husband has his own business. He worked very hard on building it and making it what it is today. In our younger years there were days he never came home. He actually slept in the office. Four years ago my husband started to turn over the business to our children. Two of my sons are professionals so they weren’t interested; our three other children – two sons and one son-in-law – became very much involved and are in the business today.

As you might imagine, there has been some sibling rivalry but my husband managed to smooth it all out. I just hope that (after 120, as we say) there won’t be any split in our family. I’m always frightened of that and my husband to some extent shares my sentiment; however, he does not think there is anything to really worry about. I think he is deluding himself because he doesn’t want to face such a possibility.

In one of our family conferences we pointed out to the children that there is room for everyone if they chose to live in peace but if they opt for acrimony and contention, not only will the business collapse but the entire family will be in jeopardy as well. They all nodded their heads and assured us it won’t happen. But I could see from their expressions that our words hadn’t penetrated.

When I mentioned this to my husband, he said I was getting carried away. Rebbetzin, I have seen families where cousins, aunts and uncles are not even invited to one another’s weddings. Several of my friends have this very problem and tell me that jealousy destroyed their families and businesses.

I have another problem. My husband is 69 and thinking of retiring and moving to Florida. I ask him, “What will you do there?” He replies, “I’ll do what other people do. I’ll play some golf. Maybe I’ll take on a hobby. I always wanted to paint but never had time for it. I’ll to the gym. I’ll play cards. I’ll go boating. I just want to relax and live my life without pressure.”

To make me feel better he tells me, “You can have a wonderful relaxing life. You’ll find many friends. You can learn new hobbies. And then there are things we can do together. We can go out to dinner, to lunch – you won’t even have to cook. There are so many great restaurants in Florida. The weather is good. We can join other friends and have a good time.”

It all sounds wonderful and under normal circumstances I’d love to move to Florida. My sister lives in Boca Raton and I could take a place right near her. Additionally, I have many friends in the area and I know I could have a nice social life. But I’m just so concerned about our children. Perhaps “children” is the wrong word because they are adults, but they will always be my children. My husband tells me I’m being ridiculous, that we can’t watch them forever.

We are not all that observant. We are not fully shomer Shabbos but we are traditional, keep a kosher home and go to synagogue. We support Israel. And we are regular readers of The Jewish Press who very much respect your views and opinions.

My husband is convinced you will agree with him. If that’s the case, I’ll accept it. My husband acknowledges that many families have become divided because of money but he assures me this won’t happen with our children. They come from a good home. Their parents and grandparents (maternal and paternal) imbued them with love and family responsibility.

The children are encouraging my husband to retire. “Dad, Mom,” they say, “just go; we’ll be okay. We won’t do anything radical without discussing it with you. And we’ll come down to Florida a few times a year and you’ll come visit us here.” And then they turn to me. “It’s not like you’re moving to a different country Mom. It’s no big deal. It’s only a two-and-a-half hour flight.”

And yet I’m still very nervous, Rebbetzin. I do hope you can address my problem and that you’ll do so sooner rather than later because my husband is ready to go ahead with his plans.

I wish you a happy and a healthy new year. Your column and books have been blessings in my life.

The Advantages of Being in the ‘Israeli Bubble’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

The Forward has an article claiming that our “Israeli Bubble” is dangerous and shields us from reality.

Ironic, but also predictable. The effectiveness of the barrier is twofold: It has stopped terrorist attacks, and it also has made it possible to live in (West) Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv and pretend that the Occupation doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, this is a delusion — a bubble — with severe consequences. South Jerusalem, after all, is home not just to the German Colony’s liberals, but also to the neocons at the Shalem Center, now Shalem College, who for decades have peddled the idea that there is no hope for peace with the Palestinians, and (in the words of Daniel Gordis, one of Shalem’s most articulate spokesmen) we should settle in for 100 years of occupation. Regrettable, Rabbi Gordis says, but inevitable.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course. Claim that there’s no Palestinian partner, undermine those Palestinians who are, and lo and behold, soon there will be no Palestinian partner. If you will it, the 100-year war will be no dream.

But the real delusion is deeper still: that somehow, the rest of the world will sit idly by and allow this situation to worsen, year after year, decade after decade, without finally turning on Israel. In the bubble of southern Jerusalem, Israel is a complex but miraculous place where kids can play in the street, the Jews have a home and bus drivers read Shakespeare. The matzav, the “situation” with the Palestinians, is an unfortunate side-note to an otherwise complicated, fascinating, problematic, multi-faceted, beautiful, tragic enterprise in Jewish self-determination.

Outside the bubble, however, the Palestinian “situation” is not a side-note but the primary tune. It’s everything else about Israel that is merely secondary. To most of the world, Israel is defining itself by the Occupation, and all the rest is commentary.

I disagree.  I think we see things much more clearly from here.  There are no distortions.  When you look into a “bubble” from the outside you won’t get an accurate view.

Over twenty years ago, when one of my daughters was looking for a place to do Sherut Le’umi, National Service, she and a few friends went to a city they considered far from the then intifada and politics of the yishuvim (Jewish communities in YESHA, Judea, Samaria and Gaza) they lived in.  They just wanted what they imagined to be a “normal” place.  Imagine their surprise when the greatest topic of conversation at the Shabbat table was  happening in YESHA.  At home they didn’t hear as much.

Here in Shiloh we go on with our lives.  The parents of young children are worrying about who will be teaching their kids next year and rushing around to buy books, clothes and school supplies, just like everyone else.

In Yafiz, (and Rami Levy,) Sha’ar Binyamin, where I work, Jews and Arabs are jostling around together shopping.  We’re living proof that people like Jay Michaelson who wrote the Forward article haven’t a clue.  They’re letting their ideology distort their vision.

The calm here isn’t a lie.  The Left and all those who claim that the Arabs will explode in violence aren’t objectively predicting.  They are instigating and encouraging Arab violence by making excuses and rationales for the Arabs.

I’m on the inside.  I work with Arabs.  And if the world, including Israeli Leftists, media, politicians, academics and community workers would just leave things alone we would eventually achieve a true peace.  It will take a long, long time, but it can happen.

True peace can’t be negotiated.  True peace comes from the inside and works its way out.  Faux peace, implemented by “treaties” is external and wears off, like the “democracy” of the “Arab Spring,” which has been proven a deadly farce.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Looking For God In Our Skyscrapers

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Over the last decade, Tisha B’Av, the day that we traditionally mourn the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, has been admitted to the pantheon of Jewish holy days that are not for the observant only: holy days that speak to everyone.

Yom Kippur has always been there. It is the private holy day, special to us all. A solid majority of the Jews in Israel fast on that day. Even those who do not fast feel something special: they respect the day and search for its meaning. Yom Kippur does not just pass us by like the holiday of Shavuot, for example.

Pesach is another holy day that has always been a holiday for all the Jews. It is the family holiday. The Seder night – kosher-for-Passover or not – is celebrated by Jewish families everywhere. It is a holiday that has not been separated from the nation by the walls of religion.

What we still lack is the national dimension, the dimension that retains a void not filled by banging on plastic hammers on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. Yom Ha’atzmaut always leaves us with a vague sense of emptiness.

The collective subconscious that pulls the young people of Tel Aviv’s trendy Shenkin Street to alternative lamentations on the city rooftops discovers something in Tisha B’Av. It longs for the spiritual national dimension. It searches for meaning and warmth.

Real Israeli culture, the authentic national creation that we are all looking for, the point that affords meaning and validity to our national existence, is there – in our Father’s house, from which we were exiled and to where we will return.

Return to religion enriches the returnee. But usually it is at the expense of the real achievement of the return to Zion, Israel’s rising and return from the dimension of community to the dimension of nation – at the expense of the return to reality and history.

Generally speaking (and yes, there are certainly exceptions), the returnee to religion is no longer interested in the news, politics or the state. He has found his personal happiness and leaves the rest to the Messiah. His God is not so relevant outside his home, study hall or synagogue.

The new generation, however, wants God to be relevant in all dimensions. It doesn’t want to escape into religion. It wants a grand message, rectification of the world; neither to go backward into pre-Zionism nor to be stuck in the place bereft of identity and meaning in which Zionism – which shed all regard for religion – finds itself today.

The new generation wants it all. It wants to go forward into religion, to a Torah that is also a relevant culture and to a God who is with us here, in our modernity. It wants to proceed in our multilevel interchanges, in our skyscrapers, and in our hi-tech. It is looking for a God who is with us in our most private moments, in our most national triumphs, and in our most universal aspirations. The new generation wants warmth, a sense of belonging and meaning. It wants to herald a great message. It wants a home: it’s Father’s home, the home to which we all belong.

It wants the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

At First There Was Chaos

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Chaos – that is how the world is described at its inception in the book of Beraishis (Genesis). Confusion. A lack of clarity and boundaries. Or, as I teach my kindergartners, “a mishmash”.

That has been my life recently, as I have grappled with the myriad of details that accompany moving from one home to another. There is an expression, “Go into chinuch (Jewish education) and see the world.” Our family has not had to crisscross the map too many times (we’ve lived in three out-of-town communities), yet somehow we’ve lived in nearly ten different homes in three decades. And for me, well, this has posed a great challenge. The first is remembering our phone number. I remember standing in a store and being asked what my telephone number was. Meanwhile I was trying desperately to remember what my new area code was. Once, when I was faced with a third move in five years, I felt it was too much to have to meet new people once more. One wonderful woman reminded me that as a result of the moves, I had been given the opportunity to meet a great variety of people, and deepen my ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jews).

The challenge of moving is to do it without losing all of one’s possessions, and one’s mind. Not long ago, I brought over a plate of cake to welcome a new family to our community. Though it had been but a few days, I will never forget how the house looked. All the curtains were hung and the kitchen totally organized. There was not a box in sight. Floating flowers were in a giant vase on the dining room table. I stepped out, bewildered at the site, knowing that this newly-moved into home was much more orderly then my own.

One of my daughters used to complain when she was young about her lack of talent. She believed that each sibling had something special, whether being artistic, athletic, musical, or even adorable. “But you’re so organized!” I said. She sighed. “That is not a talent”. “Honey,” I answered, “when you get older you’ll realize that it is the best talent of all!” And now she does, as she is able to keep her family and possessions organized while living in a small Israeli apartment. She works outside of her home, but never loses papers or searches for socks, because of her ability to stay organized.

My husband and I asked daas Torah (Torah advice from a scholar) about which neighborhood in our current city we should move to. Should we live where most of the shomer Shabbos people (Sabbath observers) lived, next to one shul or to the neighborhood with only a handful of families, next to the other shul?

There was not a kosher mechitza in the shul with the larger group of people, we told the rav, but my husband intends to daven in the other shul no matter where we live. “No,” the rav told us, “You cannot live near a shul without a kosher mechitza.”

So we moved far away from the shomer Shabbos population, until the day the mechitza was finally made kosher. Our kids were thrilled. Now they could live within the main community, and no longer have to walk a ½ hour each week to see their friends. Those Shabbos afternoons had been hard on us too, as we wouldn’t see the kids until we picked them up after Shabbos.

My husband agreed that we should move closer to the other neighborhood, but still felt obligated to help the minyan in the smaller shul. So, we moved closer, but not to the heart of the community; we stayed on the outskirts, but our kids were able to walk to their friends.

Unfortunately, it was time to move once again. This time we were desperate to find a suitable house, and grabbed the first one we saw. We were relieved there was the right amount of bedrooms and lots of storage space. However, once more we were a long distance away from any shomer Shabbos families. Once more our children would leave the house Shabbos afternoon and not to return till after Havdalah.

Time To Let Jonathan Pollard Go

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Jonathan Pollard’s long incarceration has taken its toll and he is now seriously ill. While he is not the first inmate to suffer in this manner, most are given consideration for compassionate early release. It in no way diminishes the severity of his crimes to suggest he should be sent home. His sentence was Draconian, as attested to by a growing number of former senior federal officials, including several from Congress and the intelligence community.

In this connection, we were disappointed that retiring Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who in the past pointedly refused to get involved with the issue, still does not seem interested – this despite his call for Congress to have “mercy” on United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who has been heavily criticized for her statements after the Benghazi attack. The circumstances are obviously very different but we were struck, nevertheless, by his compassion for Ms. Rice, which stands in such stark contrast to his disinterest in Mr. Pollard’s plight.

Several years ago his Senate colleague, New York’s Charles Schumer, said in an interview after being asked about his reported review of the classified Pollard case file:

Pollard should have been punished, he spied on the United States. But the sentence he received is disproportionate. When I got the top-secret briefing you alluded to, it didn’t teach me anything that I didn’t know from open sources.

Sen. Lieberman once told an interviewer that he had had “a classified briefing” in the matter and noted that “Pollard did some terrible things” – though he also acknowledged that “he’s been in a long time…but if you’re asking if I’m going to get involved, no.” When pressed further he said,

He’s been in a very long time. Our system of justice unfortunately sometimes produces results like this. Two people, even in the same state, can both be charged with murder and convicted of murder. One gets a life sentence for some reason and maybe that is commuted to 25 years; the other gets executed. I mean, that’s just the way it is.”

Mr. Lieberman’s words speak for themselves.

Morsi Back After Massive Protests Threaten Palace

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

After a night of protests threatening the presidential palace, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has returned home, despite national outrage over his attempts at constitutional reform.

Police held back tens of thousands of protests around the perimeter of the residence, citizens who came out to protest reforms which will strongly increase the powers of the president and severely restrict any judicial oversight.

A referendum on the new measures is expected to be supported by the MuslimBrotherhood in the parliament.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/morsi-back-after-massive-protests-threaten-palace/2012/12/05/

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