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Posts Tagged ‘Miami’

FDR and the ‘Voyage of the Damned’

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Miami Beach was certainly a fitting choice as the site for this month’s reunion of passengers from the ill-fated SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees that sailed from Nazi Germany in May 1939. As children, they gazed at the lights of Miami as the St. Louis hovered off the Florida coast, hoping desperately for permission to land.

In the 70 years since that tragic voyage, the story of the St. Louis has been told and retold, taught and studied, researched and pondered. It has been to Hollywood, in the 1976 film “Voyage of the Damned,” starring Faye Dunaway. It was the subject of a U.S. Senate resolution expressing remorse over what happened. It was featured in a full-page political cartoon in the Washington Post (by Art Spiegelman of “Maus” fame and this author). It was the focus of a project by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to trace the fate of each of the more than 900 passengers.

And it continues to fascinate historians – including an Israeli scholar who has uncovered a new document that sheds light on President Franklin Roosevelt’s attitude toward the St. Louis.

The Saddest Ship Afloat

Hans Fisher, today a professor at Rutgers University, grew up in the German city of Breslau. He still vividly remembers the torments he and other Jewish children endured there in the early years of the Hitler regime.

“When my friends and I would come out of our school building, members of the Hitler Youth would be waiting nearby,” he recalls. “They would chase us, and if they caught us, they would beat us.”

His father, George Fisher, was one of the tens of thousands of Jewish men arrested during the November 1938 Kristallnacht program and sent to concentration camps. After nearly two months in Buchenwald, George was released on condition he leave the country within two weeks. He secured a visa to Cuba and immediately upon his arrival there began making arrangements for Hans, his sister Ruth, and their mother to join him. They purchased tickets to sail on the SS St. Louis in May 1939.

Hans’s grandparents, Wolf and Emma Gottheimer, chose to stay behind.

“My grandfather was convinced that since four of his sons had given their lives for Germany in World War I, the Nazis would never persecute him,” Hans explains. “In fact, my grandparents had gone to Palestine in 1935, but then returned to Germany, to the shock and amazement of their friends.”

Hans’s grandparents would eventually perish in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The two-week voyage from Hamburg to Havana proceeded without incident. “I was young, I was happy that we were getting away from Nazi Germany, I certainly couldn’t appreciate how tenuous our position was,” Hans says.

“When we reached Havana, all of our suitcases were brought up to the deck as we got ready to disembark. It was a terrible shock to be standing there by the rail, our suitcases in hand, and told we could not get off the ship.”

All but thirty of the passengers held documents granting them entry to Cuba as tourists, which they had purchased in Germany, at the astronomical sum of $500 each, from an unscrupulous Cuban government official. Cuba’s authorities, furious at the backroom profiteering and sensitive to domestic anti-Semitism, refused to recognize the validity of the entry documents.

The St. Louis remained in the Havana port for several days as officials of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee negotiated with Cuban leaders. Meanwhile, relatives of the passengers rented small boats and rowed close to the St. Louis, hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved ones.

The Marlins’ Coming New Stadium And More

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

While there are great rates on fares to the Miami area this time of year, it’s not a place most people want to visit in the summer, unless, of course, they have relatives or good friends to visit or a simcha to attend.


Next year, however, baseball fans will have good reason to hit Miami. The Marlins, who have been playing in an open stadium that doubles for football and that offers late afternoon rain and a hot sun with very little protection from both, will have a new home.


The Marlins will be moving south, away from Hollywood to the site that formerly housed the Orange Bowl near downtown Miami. It will add more driving time to south Florida’s large Jewish population, but it will be worth it.


The stadium’s retractable roof will shield fans from sun, rain and oppressive heat. The ballpark will accommodate a cozy 37,000, and an operable wall in left field will provide spectacular views of downtown Miami. Colorful walking areas under the stands will allow baseball pedestrians to view many works of art.


            A large aquarium behind and on each side of home plate will remind spectators of Florida’s attractions. The big (51 feet high by 101 feet wide) high-definition scoreboard will keep fans informed and entertained.



Recent photo of the new Marlins ballpark

under construction in downtown Miami



Part art gallery and part shopping center, the ballpark will feature a very special room for us. According to Marlins vice chairman Joel Mael, the highest-ranking Orthodox Jew ever in baseball, there will be a room for davening.


“Our new ballpark will have the first dedicated minyan room,” Joel says. “We plan to have a regular weekday minyan for Minchah and Maariv.”


Kosher food will also be available. So plan on taking advantage of those summer fares to Florida in 2012.


*     *     *


You’ll be hearing a lot about Paul Goldschmidt. Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the eighth round of the 2009 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft, Goldschmidt was signed and sent to the low Pioneer League to play first base for the rest of that season. In 287 at bats, Goldschmidt batted .334 with 18 home runs. Promoted to Visalia in the California League in 2010, Goldschmidt tore up the league (.314, 35 home runs and 108 RBI).


This year, Goldschmidt was promoted again to Arizona’s double-A affiliate, Mobile in the Southern League. Goldschmidt, a 6-3, 245-pound right-handed batter, became the first minor leaguer at any level to hit 20 home runs. He was on pace to hit over .300, over 40 homers, and over 100 RBI.


However, the Diamondbacks feel he may not need any more time in the minors. He’s that good. Now, I know what you’re thinking: a big right-handed hitting first baseman who can hit for average and power. Just like Hank Greenberg. You may be right over the course of time. However, there’s one difference. Greenberg was Jewish, Goldschmidt is not.


So adopt him if you will as a future star player – but not as a Jewish star player. Shel Wallman’s Jewish Sports Review is a good way to follow Jewish athletes on all levels. But, you should know that JSR identifies athletes as Jewish as long as they have one Jewish parent from either side.


*     *     *


The Red Sox started the season by losing their first six games. After 12 games they were 2 and 10. Some of you sent me e-mails asking if I still thought the BoSox would represent the American League in the World Series. I stuck with Boston then and am doing so even more now.


As I mentioned a few months ago, Detroit can beat the Yankees or any other American League team except Boston in the postseason. And when the dust settles in the National league, the Phillies will be standing on top.




Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and earned a World Series ring while working for a major league team. To read his illustrated autobiography on how an Orthodox Jew made it to the baseball field, send a check payable for $19.95 to Irwin Cohen.  Mail to 25921 Stratford Place, Oak Park, Michigan 48237Cohen, the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net 

Crossword Puzzle – Bad Guys

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011



1. Sprint competitor

4. Like a boat with no power

10. A Young Israel

14. Gun org.

15. Detector

16. Outside eatery

17. Rasha executed on July 17, 1918

20. Double reed woodwind instrument

21. Used Ivory

22. One from Sana’a

25. Bro’s kin

26. Yom Kippur, e.g.

29. Rasha executed on May 31, 1962

33. Iranian currency

34. Fusses

35. Rasha executed on May 2, 2011

41. Once follower

42. 1/24

43. Rasha executed on April 9, 2003

49. ___ mode

50. Dangerous squeezer

51. Attempted

54. Put into Word again

57. Done

58. Rasha executed April 28, 1945

63. Amongst

64. Blew out

65. Very long time

66. Execution items for 17, 35 and 58-Across, or black shapes on the sides of this puzzle

67. Convinced

68. Droop



1. Irk

2. Dan or Levi, e.g.

3. Third largest city in Washington

4. Japan’s largest active volcano

5. Marina ___ Rey

6. Genetic letters (pl.)

7. That ___ ___ cool!

8. ___ ___ long as ___  can remember….

9. Hot and humid locale

10. Large number (often pluralized)

11. Solo of note

12. ET mode of transportation

13. Asher of literature

18. Pay attention

19. Material for airy tzizit

23. Cheers! call

24. Mother of Remus and Romulus

26. Miami star

27. Soon, to the bard

28. ER workers

30. ___ Five

31. Former Secretary of State Root

32. Nuts

35. October birthstone

36. Pop or fountain

37. Also

38. Not yesses

39. Big drinker

40. 51, e.g.

41. Chant at the Mets vs. Phillies game on May 1, 2011

44. Assist

45. Car needs

46. Place for farm food

47. It might be graven

48. Nations’ warships

52. Italian city and province

53. Circular gasket

54. Ousts

55. Sneaker cat

56. Athletic award

58. Grocery freebie

59. Aussie bird

60. 90′s rock palindrome (abbrev.)

61. View

62. Unlike 2


The Crossword puzzle appears on this page the first week of every month.

(Answers, next week)

I Want To Be Religious And My Wife Doesn’t

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Question: I am becoming an Orthodox Jew. I totally love what I am doing and the new meaning it is giving my life. I want to be become more strictly observant, but my wife does not agree and has become an unwilling participant. She refuses to consult with my rabbi because the one time she spoke with him she felt he wasn’t being sensitive to her needs. The more religious I become, the more irreligious she becomes. I really do love her but as far as I am concerned, when it comes to religious observance, things are black and white. I don’t want to live a non-observant lifestyle and yet, she won’t consider becoming religious. What do I do? I told her I was writing to you and she agreed to try whatever you’d suggest.

Answer: The pressure is on. While I am a big fan of a religious lifestyle, I am also a fan of a happy marriage. It is truly a wonderful moment when spirituality and marital love exist together. Your question, however, highlights the general issue of how do we make changes in our personal lives when we are married and expect to keep in step with that relationship.

Any union that will make it to the 50-year mark, and beyond, is going to face significant changes, because we will change as people. Those changes are often not the same for both halves of a couple, so the marital concept of growing together will often face a major challenge.

The answer lies in forming a loving spirit of cooperation by both spouses. First, the spouse who seeks change – in your case it is you wanting to become more religious – has the responsibility of including the other spouse in his/her desire to change. This means that you offer her a say in how to proceed. The fact that she did meet with your rabbi and is willing to listen to my suggestion means she isn’t closed to the process, but rather, hasn’t found a comfortable way to become a part of it. It might be a good idea to visit different synagogues with her, in the hope of finding one you can both relate to. This will also give her the feeling of having a say in the process.

You’re desire to lead a more religious lifestyle is admirable but it’ll be a far richer experience with the love of your life along for the ride. Toward that end you may have to go slower in making certain changes and give her time to “catch up” and join you on this journey. This doesn’t mean you each won’t have your individual thoughts, feelings and strengths. In fact, each of you will relate to different parts of what religious life offers because you are different people. This is wonderful because you will teach each other things you wouldn’t have related to on your own. But at the core, you will become closer to each other and reach a consensus on how to proceed.

The second part of cooperation is solely your wife’s job. Too many people discount any changes desired by their spouses claiming it wasn’t what they agreed to when they married. Of course not. How can we stay exactly the same throughout our lifetime? Others will think they are being good husbands or wives by telling their spouse to do what they want as long as they keep them out of it. This is a recipe for disaster.

What do you think happens when one spouse commits to personal changes and chases his passion without the involvement of his mate? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Either there is a mote of distance that quickly builds or the changed spouse finds someone else who loves these changes and gets on board (or both). Obviously, this doesn’t mean that a spouse can’t have some personal interests not shared with his or her mate, but it does dictate that there shouldn’t be too many and primary passions are best shared.

When your spouse feels compelled to discover new things, get in on it from the start. It may not be your choice or something you’d ever think of doing, but isn’t that what marriage and life is all about? We develop a complicated quilt of life experiences because of the people we love. If you’re child becomes a violinist, you’re going to learn more about Mozart than you ever cared to. Likewise, if your child is hearing impaired, don’t you think you will become an expert in sign language?

It’s My Opinion: Weapons

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Zenon Fernandez recently went to trial in Miami. A jury found him guilty of manslaughter with a deadly weapon. Fernandez had been shooting off a round of bullets to celebrate the New Year.  His revelry was short-lived. 


Fernandez fired into a discarded old couch that was by a garbage bin near his apartment complex. He did not know that an 11-year-old boy was hiding behind the furniture. The child was playing a game of hide-and-seek. He was hit by the bullets and bled to death. Fernandez never meant to hurt anyone.


Fernandez ruined many lives, including his own. He meant no harm, yet caused plenty.  Reckless disregard for the consequences of our actions can and does have terrible repercussions.  


Barbs can be lethal. They can come from guns and bows. They can also come from our mouths. Bullets and arrows can maim and murder. Words can ruin a reputation or destroy a friendship or kill a business deal. 


Shooting off one’s mouth can be as dangerous as shooting off a round of ammunition and it really doesn’t matter if the shooter meant “no harm.” He should have been more careful.   


We are told that to embarrass a person in public is a grave sin and that bringing blood to his face (making him blush) is tantamount to shedding his blood. Human nature makes it all too easy to disregard this warning.    


The effects of our speech can be far reaching. A child disparaged by an impatient rebbe can turn away from religion. A teenager teased about her weight can develop a life-threatening eating disorder. An employee humiliated by the boss’s tirade can lose all confidence. We have all heard horrific stories of youngsters who have been bullied and taunted, and who, in desperation, commit suicide.    


It is easy to blame Zenon Fernandez. His victim lay dead in a pool of blood. The injury of lashon hara (evil gossip) is on the inside. Its effects are not as easy to detect.


Yes, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can and do hurt me. We all need to be more careful and make sure there is no one in our line of fire.

It’s My Opinion: Reflections On A New Year

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, can be a time of optimism. The observances of the holiday are actually quite therapeutic. Engaging in prayer, charity and repentance clears one’s head, and sets us in a position to anticipate a clean slate. We hope for Hashem’s blessings for a good year.


            This period, however, can also be a time of apprehension, as we contemplate the unknown. No one knows what the future will bring. Life can contain unexpected twists and turns. Some of them can be quite disturbing.


            We all know that bad things sometimes happen to good people and good things happen to the bad. However, who is to say which of us are good or bad or if working through some dire problem will ultimately be in an individual’s best interest.


            Recently, visitors at the beautiful Jungle Island in Miami paid for a lovely day at the lush tropical attraction. They strolled happily through the park’s beautiful gardens, enjoyed the wildlife exhibits and watched the shows.


            They were in for a surprise. A 500-pound Bengal Tiger jumped the previously impenetrable high wall of his cage. Frenzied visitors ran in horror. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and they recaptured the giant cat.


            Yes, life is fragile and unpredictable and sometimes scary. How ironic that some emerge from dangerous war zones unscathed and yet a simple day at Jungle Island could turn so precarious. Go figure. That uncertainty makes life all the more precious. Jews are taught, “Ivdu es Hashem b’simchah – Serve G-d with happiness.” That plan, in reality, is the best that we can do.


I want to take this opportunity to wish my readers shanah tovah, a happy, healthy, sweet new year filled with much simchah.

And Then Came The Painter…

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Archie Rand: Had Gadya

Hung March 10 – April 14, 2007

Bernice Steinbaum Gallery

3550 North Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida




         Although Passover is no longer around the corner (11 months and counting until next year’s cleaning craze), Had Gadya remains a timeless song of Jewish persecution and triumph over generation after generation of anti-Semitism. But to Archie Rand’s brush, the song also somehow emerges as not only a deep meditation upon Jewish art history, but also feminism. In the 10th and final painting of his Had Gadya series, Rand casts G-d as female.


         This move sounds controversial at first, but G-d, who of course belongs to no gender in the literal sense, is often referred to with feminine pronouns. Most notably, Kabbalistic thought stresses feminine aspects of G-d (creating, nurturing, and child-rearing), as in the feminine Hebrew word Shechinah, which refers to G-d’s presence.


         But Rand always reminds me of James Joyce, in the sense that his work often contains so many layers of meaning and so many different collaged texts that the viewer who enters the work without a guide can hardly hope to uncover even a fraction of the content. Joyce once said, perhaps in jest, “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.” Rand’s work is not quite that presumptuous, but it does tend to throw a monkey wrench into many of my theories.


         For example, in the painting of G-d, the work is titled, “And The Holy One, Blessed is He [ital. mine], Came,” which suggests G-d is male. The woman in the picture, who holds her hands up to the lit (Shabbos?) candles, recites, via cartoon bubble, the Aramaic words for the title, “Asah Hakadosh Barukh Hu.” Thus, if the woman is a He and is reciting a passage about G-d, surely she is not G-d herself, and perhaps instead, is the Shabbos Queen or simply, a woman lighting candles. And yet, in all of the other paintings in the series, the image depicts the primary player in that passage of song, so the final one ought to depict G-d.


The Holy One, 2006. Acrylic and enamel on vinyl.



         I did not have a chance to see Rand’s series in Miami, but I’ve known about it for some time, having seen the works in Rand’s studio in Brooklyn. I also spoke about the series as part of a larger lecture on depictions of women in Hagaddah art at the I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection at the Gelman Library at George Washington University last year. The “catalog” to the Miami show arrived in my mailbox recently, a set of slightly larger than postcard-sized reproductions of the 10 works, in a cardboard box that evokes a Streit’s matzah box. The red oval, which typically features the Streit’s brand, contained the name Archie Rand, and the information on the exhibit’s whereabouts replaced the words “matzahs” and “unsalted.” Sure enough, Rand’s catalog was certified Kof-K pareve, and it was manufactured under the supervision of Bernice Steinbaum and marked “For Passover Viewing and Beyond.” The whole enterprise is perhaps best described as a Purim shpiel take on Passover.


         In the package, a single folded sheet of paper contains an essay on Rand’s work by Matthew Baigell, whose recent book on Jewish, American art was reviewed in these pages recently. Baigell, who is professor emeritus of art history at Rutgers University, provides the sort of reading guide for the works that one needs to engage Rand’s paintings (or Joyce’s Ulysses). To Baigell, Rand’s point of view “is not to duplicate the story line in pictures. Rather, he invents a parallel, visual universe that evokes aspects of the text and therefore in Talmudic fashion, invites the viewer to think about and to ruminate on the meaning of what is read and visualized.”


         Baigell goes on to explain that Had Gadya explores the history of anti-Semitism and violence against Jews, whereby the goat represents the Jewish people; the cat stands in for the Assyrians; the dog, the Egyptian pharaohs; the stick, the Persians; the fire, Nebuchadnezzar; the water, the Persians (who allowed the temple to be rebuilt); the ox, the Greeks; the slaughterer, the Romans or Turks; and the angel of death, European medieval anti-Semitism. For each image, Rand incorporates paintings by other artists, which he uses to shed light on different aspects of the song.



Kid, 2006. Acrylic and enamel on vinyl.


         For example, in “One Kid, One Kid,” Rand depicts a very unfortunate looking goat in the foreground, which looks like it might be an x-ray of a goat surrounded by a man holding a Torah scroll, and perhaps his son, who observes, via cartoon bubble, “Had Gadya.” The image, according to Baigell’s essay, derives from a work by Maurycy Gottlieb (Poland, 1856-1879). According to Baigell, the father and son in the work alternatively refer to G-d and Abraham, while the two zuzim used to purchase the goat perhaps refer to heaven and earth or Moses and Aaron. The image of a father and son studying Torah together (or at least embracing it in the literal sense) is very appropriate to the Seder, which carries, as a very important component, fomenting questions and dialogue between father and son (and presumably between mother and daughter, and all other parent-child permutations).


         “And the Angel of Death Came” is perhaps clearer. Rand’s image shows a man with a top hat and long black cloak, cowering in the corner (with a yellow star on his left lapel) as an enormous hand (perhaps divine) points accusingly at him, and skull with flapping red, blue and yellow wings hovers just below the hand. The image derives from a Nazi poster, which Baigell observes, “implies a world turned upside down by European medieval and modern European anti-Semitism.” Surely the writers of Had Gadya could not have had the Holocaust in mind when they referred to the butcher and the angel of death, but Rand adds that context, which is very much in the spirit of the song.



Angel of Death, 2006. Acrylic and enamel on vinyl.



         Another striking image from the series, “And the Dog Came,” shows a standing figure, admiring herself in a mirror, as a large, menacing dog hovers over her left shoulder. She looks as though she could be dressed for a Samurai duel, as a bubble emanating either from her or from the “god,” adds, “Asah Kalva.” The image is based upon a painting from the Qajar dynasty, which ruled over Persia from the late 17th into the mid-18th centuries. Thus, Rand depicts the character dressed to fit the ethnic and historical role she is meant to play.


         Rand’s series succeeds, though, not so much for its great meditation on different aspects of Had Gadya (were he not a painter, Rand could easily be a philosopher, and indeed he is a teacher), but for his use of paint. Crimson is used in the whole series as a background color, which at once evokes blood and perhaps pain, and also lends the images the look of old photographs. Each work is “framed” in paint by a gold rectangle, and in each corner of the work, Rand has painted a gold circle with a red dot in the middle – perhaps an eye.


         The works have a cartoony feel (I cannot help but think of “Beauty and the Beast,” and search for walking candlesticks and teacups when I look at “And the Water Came”), but of more importance, the series seems to me to lurk somewhere between a dream and reality, because of its coloration and style. And that has been, after all, the story of anti-Semitism and abuse of the Jewish people throughout the ages: How does one realize that one’s nightmares are reality, before it is too late?


        Menachem Wecker is a painter, writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. His painting, “The Windows of Heaven,” will be on exhibit at the JCC of Greater Baltimore as part of an exhibit that closes on June 10.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/and-then-came-the-painter/2007/05/02/

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