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HArvest-HAasif ✡ Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology

writing: Marcel Braitstein Esther Amrad Dagan Marsha Goldberg Margie Golick Vivianne M. Silver Noah Stevens Sophia Wolkowicz

photos and art: Aaron Eisenberg Dr Fred Leitner Harry Rajchgot Sophia Wolkowicz SEVENTH EDITION 5773-2012

HArvest-HAasif CONTENTS SEVENth EDITION 5773--2012

Words from the editors








Sophia wolkowicz



vivianne m. silver Esther Amrad Dagan

MY FIRST CLASS the alphabet

12 13

Sophia wolkowicz NOAH STEVENS


17 19

Marcia Goldberg marcel braitstein

DEPENDING ON THE LIGHT WE CARRY TO POSITIONS Where are the lights of yesteryear?

25 27



Temple Emanu-El-Beth SholomĘźs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

Dear Readers, The written word, in Jewish tradition, has a special significance. We attach great value to our ancient texts and to the many important works, deeply influenced by these texts, which have come down to us since. Allied with this respect for our ancient literature, Jews accept an historic task of memory, of passing our tradition on to our children. Since the Holocaust, many Jewish organizations have sought to collect the memories of survivors in written and other formats. As our readers know, many of our contributors have shared their memories of this period with us. Harvest-HaAsif anthology began in 2003 to tap into the literary aspirations of the congregation of Temple EmanuEl-Beth Sholom. Our synagogue, a centre of Montreal Jewish life, seeks to

fulfil the mitzvah of memory in all its dimensions, through worship, study and community building. It is our hope that Harvest-HaAsif can make a valuable contribution to this task and also find its place in the larger context of the Canadian Jewish world through a wider chavurah of readers and writers. Within our community, writing can be a important vehicle of communication, enabling us to know one another better, and perhaps to discover dimensions in one another that otherwise remain hidden. Harvest-HaAsif encourages those in our midst who write and those considering writing, and encourages our children to write as they see the work of their elders. This anthology is a mirror of our shared world, a record of what we have thought and felt. Our six previous editions have established the fact that we have writers with noteworthy stories to tell. We seek content with a Jewish connection, interpreted and defined in the broadest sense. We welcome work that intends to educate, move or even

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unnerve. Work in many genres have graced our pages, including poetry, fiction, memoir and photography. Other modes of literary communication, not in this list, would be welcomed. We are planning to bring Harvest-HaAsif to the world via a website in the near future and hope to be able to publish this, our seventh edition, in both a hard copy and an electronic format.

Zav Levinson Harry Rajchgot Editors

âœĄ Note from the editors: The current and past issues may be found on the web by entering the following URL: and shortly as a link from the Temple website.




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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After the Transit of Venus Marsha Goldberg “Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?””

--Yeats, “Among School Children”

Like the hip-hop/ break dance mixed with karate That wrapped up this evening’s late absorptions, June sixth Wednesday reached the apogee Beyond which I wonder what else might surpass Its highlights, starting early with a luminous And lovely book review, a raffle gift with wine And saunter to the library (despite a gimpy knee) to return the book and purchase wine. Gathering a carton of free books, I moved eagerly, left and right, a master of karate Reckoning how a twist or jerk would eclipse the sun’s luminousity Not to mention spoil my approaching mid-day garden pause. Splayed out, absorbed With The Beginner’s Atlas explanation of map projections which surpass My life-long understandings, I reached a career- end apogee Reading how the Winkel Tripel’s overall projection of the globe, an apogee For grasping all the continents, is less accurate than the azimuthal equidistant kind, as well of color codes from green to wine, Then met The Hermit with the whitened beard before our walk surpassing All those previous in April and in May; a forceful upward motion lifted us, a spin karate Can’t explain; we passed the sun together walking with our canes, absorbed At Atwater Market by giant yellow dahlias, hydrangeas on display, his face luminous




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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Picking up petunias and tomatoes I had bought. Thoughts of celestial arrangements, luminous, Spun as he tossed his blue sweater in an orbit, caught a hook a short while later in the yard, the apogee Of that spiral beyond the wide gazebo on the porch, gold-like absorptions flinging off The Hermit’s bead-wrapped hands like nectar mulled with wine. Across the sun with ankles high, karate Style, unhurt, I landed as I spun to plant new basil and surpass All guesses earlier of where the day would go. Surpass All guesses this day did, luminous With self-defense and deference, karate Spirit bouncing, flexing, beaming in an apogee gone off all maps, then without a drop of wine We bid goodbye and I, still wrapped in bright absorptions Waited at a neighbor’s gate admiring their absorptions Laying out new lawn behind a stockade fence, wild green surpassed All expectations of what change such changes cause; pink peonies and wine Already flowering in their dense black soil, their whole yard luminous Before the darkening of day, the remnants carted to fill in my garden too, an apogee To throw the worried heart over with their sense of pity, a trick centered in karate. Now, the light’s absorbed what earlier was luminous But hovers like a dream, surpasses a century of equinox, perhaps, a kind of apogee Unmapped, splotched with colors drenched with wine, from one perspective; mine, a day’s disarming boot, a belt, barefoot sure karate.


Transit of Venus- US National Aeronautics and Space Administration Š2012




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

Grandmother Margie Golick I just unearthed this memoir fragment written 20 years ago. I sent a copy to James (now 25). We were both amused. Before I got to be a grandparent I had heard about the joys of that state from other grandparents. A recurrent theme was the pleasures of having the little ones when they are cheerful and charming, and then the relief of returning them to their parents when they needed changing or consoling or discipline. I heard, too, about the special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren - the result of having a common enemy, they said. But these advantages are beside the point. I have just spent two idyllic weeks as the primary care

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taker of my five year old grandson, Jamie,

children quickly surpassed me in skill, and

and got a clearer picture of the delights of

preferred the play of peers.

grandparenthood - something you only find

Now, another twenty-five years has

out about when you don't have to relinquish

elapsed since I have had a real opportunity

them after a few hours. It has to do with

for a nostalgic trip to childhood. So I jumped

nostalgia - a double dose.

at the opportunity to have my five year old

I remember one of the particular

grandson, Jamie, who lives in another city,

pleasures of being a parent - an unanticipated

come and stay at the country cottage with his

pleasure, not even hinted at by Dr. Spock -

Nana and Poppy for a couple of weeks. We

was the chance to be childish again. I was

have developed a nice relationship since his

able to dredge up songs, games, childhood

birth based on visits every few months where

myths, and counting rhymes that I hadn't

we see each other for a two or three days,

thought of in twenty-five years, to join in

and on keeping in touch via modern

games of hide-and-go-seek, Run Sheep Run,

technology. I read books onto a tape and send

to play with plasticene, to draw with crayons,

Jamie a few chapters at a time. He does his

to cut out paper dolls, to totter on ice skates,

share too. He probably achieved a media first

to do all those good things that conformity to

by faxing me a drawing he had made in

adolescence demanded that I abandon. And,

Kindergarten. But brief encounters and long

because I have remained inexpert at nearly

distance liaisons, however charming, are

every sport I've undertaken, (I call myself the

nothing like the pleasures that come from the

most experienced beginner in the world), I

dailyness of life with a five year old. Not

could, once again, ski, skate, bowl, and play

only did I get to romp, and act silly, and

baseball, with companionship, and without

engage in endless conversations that

humiliation. Of course, the companionship

followed a different kind of logic than I was

lasted only a short time, as each of my three

used to, and play catch and Casino, but I




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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got to experience, once again, that grave

awake, and called him in to our room where

Swimming was a major part of life at

sense of responsibility, that single-minded

we were reading or drinking coffee. He was

what we came to call "Camp Nana'. At the

focus that is a central part of the life of a

still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, but

outset of his stay he would venture

young mother, or at any rate, the mother of a

was ready for the challenge of a country

cautiously into the Laurentian lake -

young child. I got to make Kraft dinner, and

morning - a breakfast picnic on the dock and

considerably colder than the Y pool where he

fish sticks, and Rice Krispie squares, to

a before breakfast skinny dip. We would

took his swimming lessons - and wade a

officiate at shampoos and teeth brushings, to

carry the cereal down to the lake. (He had

little, and come out after a few minutes and

be the recipient of the good night kisses, and

helped to buy the groceries for his stay.

huddle in a towel. After a couple of days of

to feel a little hand thrust into mine whenever

While we stocked up on All-Bran and Oat

acclimatization and exposure to the

streets had to be crossed. I also got to

Bran, he had picked out Pebbles. ("Next year,

neighbours' water babies, two little girls that

remember that special throwing down the

I want Cocoa Pebbles"). And we would sit in

spent hours jumping and diving and

gauntlet that five year olds do, between

the sunshine, and lean over the dock and

splashing and cavorting in the water - he was

activities, with the dreaded words, "I'm

count the little sunfish that loitered in the

right in there. I did the count down, and the

bored. There's nothing to do".

shadows. It was when we were gazing into

words came back to me "One for the money,

Though it was pretty disruptive of

the water that I got to tell him the story of

two for the show, three to get ready and four

the relaxed routines of two adults who are

Narcissus, the beautiful boy who fell in love

to go", and off the end of the dock he

used to spending their days at their

with his own image. Some mornings we

jumped, shouting "Geronimo", or

computers, or reading quietly by the lake, it

would wake up the Echo in the mountain

"Cowabunga", or "Bonzai". For the first day,

was an idyllic time. Each day began around

across the lake, calling the names of all the

he wore a life jacket for these flying leaps,

seven with the sound of Jamie getting out of

family members, and hearing the name

then opted for a belt with floaties that I

bed, running down the hall to check the

reverberate back to us. When we were nicely

bought him at great expense, and then, after

digital clock on the kitchen stove for the

warmed up, it was time for the swim. "Turn

about five minutes of experimentation with

time. At home he waits until 7:30 to wake his

around", I'd say to Jamie, "I'm going to take

that, there he was, with no supports, flinging

mother. But the semi-insomniac old folks

off my suit." "Don't worry, " he'd reassure

himself off the dock in the cannonball, or the

were already

me, "I won't laugh".

duck dive, or the scissors, and swimming like




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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Harry Rajchgot 漏2008

a pro. And, I remembered all the facets of

matched and had a good time. We

a grandmother. Rules are slightly different

lifeguard duty, which included vigilant

practiced pitching and hitting with the

from those in big league games. Women

counting of heads, and watching for blue

plastic baseball bat and ball. The first time

are allowed five strikes. Men switch hit.

lips, and chattering teeth, and hauling in

we did it Jamie wanted to be the starting

A hit outside the field is an automatic out.

shivering bodies and wrapping them in

pitcher. He pitched a ball, which went

Four and five year olds can hit from a T


behind me, far from home plate, which I

rather than a pitch, and their daddies can

In between swims we had other

sensibly ignored. "Strike one!", he yelled.

act as pinch runners where necessary.

athletic adventures. Poppy had bought

"That was no strike, " I protested. "That

Jamie and I were on opposite teams, and

Jamie assorted balls and bats and mitts.

was a ball". "Oh, " he said, looking a little

as first baseman, I had no intention of

We practiced basketball shots at a

sheepish, "I didn't know you knew about

trying to get Jamie out at his first time

neighbour's net. I had been a dud at high


ever at bat in a real live game, and was

school basketball and never made the

In honour of Jamie's visit I got

very annoyed when some outfielding

team, but with the junior size ball and the

invited to the neighbourhood multi-

Daddy came and grabbed his grounder

net at a lower position I had my first real

generational baseball game. It usually

and ran to first base to tag him out,

successes on the court. Jamie and I were

consists of children and parents - mostly

knocking him down in the process and

about evenly

daddies - but the game can accommodate

hurting his elbow "really bad". After that




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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Jamie elected to sit on the side lines and

with my children, "Oh we ain't got a barrel

(While lying down on the baseball

watch the rest of the game, but he took

of money, Maybe we're ragged and funny.,

field in the middle of play). "This is the

comfort in the fact that he had practically

But we travel along singing a song, Side by

seventh inning stretch. Sometimes the

hit a home run. The zealous player who

side". Soon Jamie was chiming in. Other

pitcher lies down on the grass when it's the

had decked him felt that the lesson for little

country customs I hadn't practiced in years

seventh inning stretch".

ones was that winning was always

surfaced. I taught him to pop the poppers

important. It turned out he had just sent his

growing along side the road, to find out

beginning to get tired, we caught sight of

three boys to an expensive baseball camp,

from daisies if she loves me or loves me

the car in the distance. I pointed it out to

and didn't want to set double standards for

not, to hold buttercups under your chin to

encourage him. "Maybe it's not the car. It

them, by letting, even a five year old, get to

see if you like butter.

could be a hologram" . "How can we tell?"

first base.

Jamie loves to talk, and

After a long walk, when he was

I asked. "If it's a hologram," he said, "we'll

We went bowling a couple of times

conversations generally dominated

on rainy days. I hadn't bowled since I was

mealtimes, walks, picnics, TV viewings,

12, and had no idea that alleys were all

card games, before bed routines, and jig-

computerized, with video displays and

saw puzzle activity. I began to remember

When he was complaining that

automatic scoring and animated figures

that the conversation of a five year old

there was nothing to do, I suggested he

that celebrate your triumphs and defeats -

often follows a different logic. It is rife

take his crayons and draw a picture, "No,"

like on the scoreboard at the Olympic

with non-sequiturs, personal associations,

he said, "I hate Arts and Crafts!"

stadium. I was as excited as the kids I had

Walter Mitty-like fantasies. I regret not

He told me how much he loved

with me - Jamie, as well as two neighbour

turning on a tape-recorder or writing some

one of my friends, enough to marry her, he

children, ages 4 and 7. I ended up with the

dialogues down at the time. A few

said. "Except, " he added, "when I'm old

lowest score, but nobody laughed.

fragments remain.

enough to get married, she'll be dead."

On our hikes, especially when he thought it was time to turn around, I found myself cheering us on with the song my father and I had sung together when we

"I'm not allowed to say 'damn', except if I say 'Saddam' it's alright". "How can you tell if you're Jewish?"

be able to walk right through it". "Did you ever get a Gram Slam in baseball?"

Mortality was one of his themes. He brought it up several times. "Can I have the country house when you're dead?" "I'm going to live until I'm a million".

walked on country roads, and which I sang




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

He is beginning to get

I remember that some of the

interested in riddles, though his

conversation reflected a little worry

versions are sometimes garbled and

about the challenge of going into

give away the punch line. But one or

Grade One in the fall. "You get so

two of his riddles nudged a dormant

much work that you're never allowed

compartment in my brain, and out

to play". I reassured him on that score,

came a barrage of knock-knock jokes,

telling him that the teacher knows just

and Little Audrey jokes and "What did

the right amount to give someone

one wall say to the other wall?"; and

who's almost six. He also expressed some concern about recess because the Grade One

how to move the pieces. He wanted

boys on the playground were big and tough.

desperately to play Scrabble, but

He seemed surprised when I said that the

acknowledged that he didn't know how to

Grade One boys were not going to be those

spell. I found that he had a mixture of wild

kids he had seen in the playground last year,

ambition to do all the things that he had

but all of his friends from kindergarten.

seen older children do, and realistic

We talked a lot on topics to which I

appraisal of his own skills and

was not much of a contributor - about Ninja

temperament. "I'll go blueberry picking,

Turtles and sewers and Super Mario II - but

but I'm going to eat them while I pick". "I

it was every bit as interesting as the endless

don't like videos. They take too long". "Are

conversations my friends and I have about

five year olds allowed to water ski?" "If we


go in the motor boat, go very slow. I don't

He insisted that he knew how to play chess, but when we got out the chess

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like when it goes fast. I can't look at the scenery".

"What did the carpet say to the floor?" Jamie can read! Not books. Books are for being read to. But signs, labels, greeting cards, ads, bumper stickers and T-shirts. He is always passing along surprising bits of information. "You shouldn't drink Diet-Coke", he says, examining the can, "It has NutraSweet and Aspartame." As the primary care-giver, I was careful about nutrition, making sure, like Jamie's mother does, that he ate something green every day (Pistachio ice cream doesn't count) and drank his milk, and had plenty of fiber. But as grand-mother and co-conspirator




Temple Emanu-El-Beth SholomĘźs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

I could not resist the urge to indulge us both in

But now he is gone and the house is

things we wouldn't get if we weren't together.

quiet, and there are no claims on our time, we

Besides, Jamie said when he arrived, "My

are back at our computers and getting lots of

mother said you're probably going to stuff me

reading done and eat serious meals with salads

with junk". So we did go out for ice-cream a

and fresh fruit. And the living room is tidy. And

couple of times, especially soft chocolate

it's boring. There's nothing to do.

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dipped in chocolate. We did put marshmallows in our hot chocolate after an icy swim. I did


bake a blueberry pie with blueberries Jamie helped pick. Once I bought him a box of Smarties (which we shared). And we had chocolate chips and potato chips in the house, and made pop corn and once, only once, I let him have a Sprite with his hot dog. I took bed time pretty seriously, and mostly saw to it that baths and stories got done in time for him to be tucked in by 8:30. But there were a couple of hot nights around the full moon when I remembered that our kids always begged for an A.S.S. (After Supper Swim), and Jamie and I went out to swim in the moon beams reflected on the water.




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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The Chuppah © Sophia Wolkowicz

Aaron Eisenberg ©2003

The procession started with a solemn figure leading the way The tall reed grass glinted in the light and rustled as the bridesmaids took their stations Then the grandmother paced towards the chuppah and she was flanked by past and future on her side. Next, followed the groom Linked arm in arm, he was led to the canopy. The setting sun peeked from under the fringed cover casting a golden glow on the lace floor aisle where the page, who just took his first steps, nestled into his mother’s arms. A song announced the bride’s entrance Linked arm in arm, she was led to the groom. The tall reed grass swirled to the fan of her gown’s skirt as she counted the turns around him. When the sun set behind the chuppah and the benedictions made, The tall reed grass merged into a solemn shadow taking a farewell bow to the procession A wave gently lapped into the edge of summer and clasped hand in hand, two people led the revelry.

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Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

MY FIRST CLASS Vivianne M. Silver My heart was racing, my palms were wet, my knees felt a bit wobbly, but with my head held up high, I walked into my first class. That was back in September 1969, at the opening of Dawson College, the first English CEGEP, at its original Selby Campus. Hired by Mr. Paul Gallagher, its first Director General, I was to teach French as a Second Language. About twenty five or so eager faces looked up at me, in disbelief that this pony-tailed, mini-skirted person could actually be their teacher. Their expectations gave me the confidence I needed to just “do it”. So, I began with what was to become my signature greeting: “Bonjour la classe. En forme? Allons-y.” Back then, it was followed by: “Je m’appelle Madame Silver et je suis votre professeur de français.” I haven’t looked back since for my journey as an educator has been a blessed one. True, it was not always an easy road but that’s what made it a challenging one. Back then, there were no maternity leaves, so, while I was busy raising my three sons, I lost quite a bit of seniority. Holding on to my job often meant accepting to teach at Dawson’s other campi –Viger, Lafontaine, the New School on McGill St., evening classes for Conted, Intensive courses for nursing students, to finally the much awaited Mother House on Sherbrooke St.

In my travels over the years, I was able to discern the many changing faces of my students, from the” flower children “of the 60’s, to the “techies” of the 21st century. Always passionate about my sincere belief in the potential of young people and always treating them with the same respect I expected from them. It seems that in retrospect the experience helped to strengthen the muscles that I needed when I was eventually transferred to John Abbott College in 1994. It was at that college that my professional life truly flourished. I was made to feel most welcome by the administration and by my colleagues of the French Department. My underlying philosophy of “I am my classroom” was serving me well. A couple of years later, I was appointed Coordinator of the Women’s Studies and Gender Relations Certificate. A position I held proudly for eleven years. In the letter from the Director of Human Resources, Mrs. Donna Yates, that I was given when I left, she stated: “Vivianne is a teacher who has stood out, she is a person who has performed her teaching duties with a remarkable degree of professionalism, energy and love for her calling.” There were other letters written on my behalf –from the Director General of the College, Mme Ginette Sheehy, from the Dean of Arts, Mr. Tom McKendy, from my colleague and former chair of the French Department, Daniel Gosselin. They were my medals when on December 15th of this year when I retired after fortytwo years of teaching.

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At the wonderful luncheon held in my honour, I shared my sentiments with all present. I felt that beyond the sadness in leaving behind what I have truly loved, I was comforted by two thoughts. One that I had done a “good job” and that with my departure, a younger member of my department who was just at the beginning of her career, now had a chance to hold a full- time position. So, my last day was just like my first day, I left with the words James J. Metcalf in the Teacher’s Prayer that I would recite at the beginning of every year: A gift from my dear husband Brahms when I began my career. I want to teach my students how To live this life on earth.. To face its struggles and its strife And improve their worth Not just the lesson in a book Or how the rivers flow But how to choose the proper path Wherever they may go To understand eternal truth And know the right from wrong And gather all the beauty of A flower and a song For if I help the world to grow In wisdom and in grace Then I shall feel that I have won And I have filled my place And so I ask Your guidance, God That I may do my part For character and confidence And happiness of heart. Indeed, I left with “happiness of heart.”

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Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

The Hebrew Alphabet An excerpt from the unpublished novel, Olive Trees

sharpen your pencil. Then come back immediately. I am waiting.”

Esther Amrad Dagan She was born on Purim day in the early 30s in Jerusalem’s old city. On the day she was born, her grandfather Mored-Chay named her Malka, Queen, after Queen Esther. She called him Sabaa; he nicknamed her Malka-ti, my queen. He used to pickle olives and sell them in jars at the Souk Muslim market. After kindergarten she walked to her home in the Jewish quarter and occasionally, against her parents’ advice, she would run to the Souk to sit in her Sabaa’s lap. When he bent his head to kiss Malka’s neck and his long beard tickled her, she would pull away. Before she ran off, he always slid his hand into his pocket, pulled out a candy and gave it to her: “Have a sweet day, Malka-ti.” The first pencil she was ever given was a gift from her Sabaa. “With this”, he said, “you are going to learn how to write our Hebrew alphabet.” He handed her a shiny new orange pencil.

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“Sabaa,” she said, “I can’t write with an unsharpened pencil.” “I know, Malka-ti, my queen! Here is a mil, a penny. Go to the alley on the right and you will find, beside the Madrassa— you know where the Madrassa is?” “Yes, where the Muslim boys sing the Koran.” “Good girl,” he said. “Beside the Madrassa entrance you will find Saayid.” “Who is Saayid?” “He is my friend who has a new invention—a shiny little machine with a hole and a rotating handle attached to a wooden tripod. They call it a pencil sharpener.” “A machine?” “Yes. All you need to do is push the pencil into the hole, turn the handle and oops! A miracle! The pencil is sharpened. Just give Saayid his mil and he will

Malka faithfully obeyed her grandfather. She found Saayid next to the Madrassa, stood behind the long line of boys and waited her turn. Saayid recognized her with a smile, but when he saw that the boys were mocking and pushing her around, he pulled her out of the line, and said: “Give me your pencil.” Ignoring the boys’ protests, he pushed her pencil into the hole. Zzzzzzzzzzz. “Here it is.” She gave him the mil and ran straight to her Sabaa’s lap. Her sharpened pencil in his hand, he wrote on a piece of paper, saying out loud: “This… is… a-le-ph, the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Copy it. Here. Carefully.” She did. Glancing at her, he said: “This is nice, Malka-ti, but your aleph is limping.” “Limping?” “Yes,” he said. “Look, one of your aleph’s legs is much longer than the other. Imagine yourself with one leg longer. You would limp, right?” “Right.” “Try again, my sweetie”, he said, caressing her hair. He examined her second aleph, and softly whispered: “Malka-ti, this aleph is very sick.” “Sick?”




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

“Look at its two heads. One of them is all right, but the second is bending like a sick man.” He showed her again, saying, “The alephs’ heads should be stretched up like this, healthy and proud.” “Why proud?” “My sweetie, aleph is the first in our letters, the number one, the leading one. It has to be proud.” “Why was the aleph chosen as the leader?” “Let me tell you a story” he said. “Long, long ago, all the letters argued over who should be the first. They assembled to choose their leader. The debate lasted all night with no conclusion. At dawn, the letter shin declared: ‘I should be the first.’ ‘Why?’ everybody raved. The shin said: ‘I have three heads. I am the wisest. I should be the first.’ “The letter lamed interrupted: ‘I am the tallest. You can see me from afar. I should be the front runner.’ “‘Look who is talking,’ said the yod. ‘Although I am the smallest, I deserve to be the first.’ “‘Is that so?’ said the resh. ‘And why is that?’ “‘I am very important. I am the first in the name of God, Yehowa.’ “‘So what?’ said the beth. ‘The aleph is the first letter in the name of God, Adonay.

Although I am the first in the book of Genesis, Bereshit, in my opinion the aleph deserves to be the first. I’m ready to compromise and be the second.’ “‘ I still don’t understand why the aleph should be the first’, said the vav. “‘With two heads and two solid legs,’ said the dalet, ‘the aleph, in my opinion, is exactly what we need.’ “‘No way,’ said the letter hey, ‘I have to be the first.’ “‘You can’t!’ said the letter chet. ‘One of your legs, unlike mine, hangs in the air. I am for the letter aleph, too.’ “‘Why not me?’ yelled the samech. ‘The word sefer, book, begins with me. Imagine a world without books.’ “‘Yes, yes, the samech is right,’ said the aleph. ‘A world without books, sefarim, has no meaning at all. Imagine our life without our Sefer Torah.’ “‘You are a closed circle,’ said the dalet. ‘a prison, a cage. No one can get in or out. You cannot be our leader. We need someone with an open head, like the aleph.’ “‘Yeah! Yeah!’ jumped in the letter kof”. ‘Do you agree that our Sefer Torah is sacred, kadosh? See? It began with me, Ka-dosh. I should be the first!’ “‘Speaking of the kadosh, I am the first in the Torah’, chimed in the tav. ‘I should be

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the leader but if you don’t agree, my other choice is to be the last’. “‘We are wasting our time’, interrupted the letter bet. ‘If you do not agree with me about the aleph, let’s have a vote. The one who gets the majority will be chosen as our leader.’” All of a sudden Mored-Chay became silent. Malka, waiting, asked: “Sabaa, did you fall asleep? What happened?” “About what?” “About the election? The vote? How did it end?” “Oh, oh, yes. They did vote. Well, the majority voted for the aleph. Since then, aleph is the first —the leader, the number one—in our alphabet.” “That’s it, Sabaa?” “Well,” he said, “I forgot to tell you what happened after the election.” “What happened?” “That was something to remember. The aleph was lifted up to the stage and everyone was clapping hands and screaming ‘Aleph! Aleph! Aleph!’ When the commotion subsided, the aleph humbly spoke: ‘Thank you. Thank you for choosing me to be the first. But let me tell you what I think: in my opinion, you all are the first. Each of you appears first in many words. We are equal’. Loud applause. ‘Do we want to create meaningful words?’ All the letters chanted,




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

‘Yes, yes, yes!’ Then the aleph said ‘in that case, we should always cooperate’. The applause continued.” That night at home, Malka eagerly copied the aleph many times. Some were big, some were small; some long, some short. Some skinny, others fat. The next day, her grandfather was pleased: “This is beautiful, Malka-ti. I knew you were a fast learner. But we still have to put those letters in some kind of order.” “What order?” “Here. I have a gift for you.” “Another gift?” “Yes, a copybook for your homework. Each page you will devote to one letter. See those double lines? They will guide you where to start and where to end each letter. Look here. Your alephs seem like a bunch of savages. If you write them between the lines, they will be like soldiers. Here, try it.” Malka filled up the first line while repeating “aleph, aleph, aleph”. “See?” her grandfather said. “Now they look nice. Sit down, Malka-ti. Here is the letter bet.” A few weeks and many pencils later, Malka not only knew how to write the

alphabet, she also knew their names by heart. Her accumulated copybooks were full of well-controlled letters. Mored-Chay showed his customers his granddaughter’s achievement. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked, fishing for compliments. Energized by Malka’s progress, Mored-Chay had long-term plans to teach her, first the nikud, the signs for the a, e, i, o, u, then to teach her to read the Torah, the daily prayers and much beyond. One evening, while Mored-Chay was expecting to have supper with his wife Dina, Malka’s grandmother, he was surprised. Instead of serving the food, she put a jar of pickled olives on the table. “What is this?” he complained. “I am hungry!” Angry, Dina responded, “Many hours a week I beat the olives one by one to prepare them for you to pickle and what do I get? Nothing.” “What do you mean?” “You used to give me ten mils every week to buy our food. Right?” “Yes”. “How much have you given me in the last four weeks?” “I don’t know.” “You’ve given me nothing. I borrowed money from my sister to put food on this

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table. What happened? Aren’t you selling olives anymore? Or perhaps you are spending your money on a mistress? “Dina, Dina, you know I love you.” “So, what happened to your money?” Mored-Chay told her about buying the copybooks and the pencils and sharpening them for Malka. “You want us to starve because you are teaching Malka?” “What do you want me to do?” he said desperately. “If you want to continue spending money, you either increase your sales or reduce your costs.” “I don’t know what to do”, he said. “It’s your problem”, said Dina and she left without serving him dinner. The next morning, he made an agreement with the vendors of the copybooks and the pencils. Instead of paying one mil for each, he bought a dozen and paid only 6 mils. That same afternoon, hand in hand with Malka, he went to see Saayid. “Qif-halak, Saayid? How are you?” asked Mored-Chay. Saayid said, “How are you ya-achuy, my brother?” Mored-Chay went straight to the point: “Saayid, I paid you 35 mil to sharpen my




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

granddaughter’s pencils for the last four weeks. Am I right?” “If you say so.” “This is too much! It doesn’t even include the cost of all the copybooks and the pencils I had to buy.” “How much do you want to pay?” asked Saayid in a comforting voice. “I’ll pay you one mil per week. That’s it. If you don’t agree, I will sharpen her pencils with my razor. Here are four mils in advance for the next month. What do you say?” “God bless you! Of course I agree. We are friends, aren’t we?” said Saayid, who preferred to get four mils per month instead of nothing. They shook hands. On that day, although MoredChay did not sell a single jar of pickled olives, he was happy with his savings. After the first month, Mored-Chay brought Saayid a big jar of pickled olives to express his gratitude. Saayid, surprised, said “Shukran, ya-achuy, thank you, my brother. My wife loves your pickled olives. They are the best.” To express his gratitude, he said, “From now on, you don’t have to

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pay anything for Malka’s pencil sharpening, even if it will be one thousand a month!” They hugged each other. And so the story goes. Malka continued to sharpen her pencils with Saayid for free and by the time she reached Grade 1, she was reading fluently. Although Saayid continued to sharpen Malka’s pencils for free, he sharpened the pencils of many of her classmates at full price; one mil per pencil and, occasionally Mored-Chay supplied him with all the pickled olives that his family could eat. Dina received twenty mils per week instead of 10. Mored-Chay’s reputation as the best producer of pickled olives in town increased his sales. One day he surprised Dina by planting an olive tree in their courtyard.

Harry Rajchgot ©2011




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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Harry Rajchgot ©2011

When Nature Was Riopelle © Sophia Wolkowicz When nature was Riopelle, the leaves clung to their colors and the melancholy grey sky conceded to showcase the gold obliques flapping in the gust that tried to pry them from silhouetted branches When nature was Riopelle, The patches of light between the tree tops were interrupted by parts of the V geese formation

When nature was Riopelle, The apple trees were askew and the horizontal length of their jutting limbs was much longer than their trunk, halting walkers to step to the side and to crisscross backwards to capture the entirety in their field of vision Random lines rearranged by the viewer’s movement Mid autumn is like an abandoned table After a feast with

Sonic contact sounds bounced across the horizon

Remnants of devoured treats and

When nature was Riopelle,

When nature was Riopelle,

The rows in the apple orchard turned to chaos

air still warm from first love’s joy Moments defied gravity

Muddy paths merged with trampled patches of grass which was strewn with rotting crimson apples

and fragile twigs


Sophia Wolkowicz Š2011




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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Arbeit Macht Frei To recall. A face. The sound of someoneʼs voice over the telephone. A certain way the snow fell. The smell inside a personʼs home. The angle of a certain tree that I always passed on the way home from school. The way my father drank his beer.

(“Work Makes You Free” sign above the entrance to Auschwitz, and other concentration camps) Noah Stevens I The train finally stops, and opens its doors. We step out. Seconds turn into minutes, and then hours. Days become weeks. And then months. Years. A meal takes an entire lifetime. Sleep fills a century. We are forced to give up our possessions. Clothes. Valuables. Money. Watches. Rings. Photographs. It is forbidden to make a plan. To hatch it inside the brain, and then cast it, in the imagination, to a soft place inside the future. A fence is placed around the mind; barbed wire now presses upon the heart. A number is burned into my arm. I am defiled. I cross the threshold into nothingness. This makes them feel like something. They go home to their wives and kids and say: today I made a Jew feel like nothing. You should have seen their faces. We are going to kill them in a few days, anyway. But in the meantime, you

Harry Rajchgot ©2011

should see their faces. We make them give everything up. You should see the faces of people who have to give up all their money and possessions. We make them strip. You should see the faces of people who stand naked, and see each other naked, in public. We tattoo them – you should see how they file up and walk away like cows. Boy, you should see their faces. They are nothing. II Instants fall like rain, around me. The turning of a head takes forever. Greetings linger inside the air, floating. Conversations refuse to pronounce themselves finished, despite the absence of anything else to say. Suddenly, I can see my son has grown, and the years have passed. And it is still early afternoon.

I remember music. Rather, I remember being able to remember. I remember melody. It is the hearing of something pleasant. The way music, or any sound, touches the shapes of your face, and having done so, reproduces them inside my hearing. I remember believing in love. I remember saying things like…wait…I wrote it down somewhere…My hands are questions that your hands answer. The next second, a desert. Wander. Look. Smell. Rest. Wander. Stop. Gaze. Measure distance with your eyes. Spread the hand of your mind across the map of memory. How far have I come from the left, to the right side of my brain. From beginning to now. I no longer know for sure what it is I am searching for. Sand. Particles. Particles upon particles. An ocean of particles. Distance. Distance that displays itself before my eyes, as if to mock them, saying: can you possibly cover this? Heat. Heat that invades, and pushes everything else aside. Heat that leaves no room for the skin




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition! to retreat, no coolness for the lungs to take refuge in. Heat that banishes oxygen, and takes up residence inside everything that is, and is not, its residence. Arbeit Macht Frei. III It is the time before dawn, when the cold snakes in beneath my skin and sharpens its teeth upon my bones. What is left of my consciousness lifts itself into my eyes and says: I am still alive, I am not dead yet. The day is a precipice, and so is work. I must step into it. I rise. I stand. I march. I carry bricks. Each one represents another day in the life of this camp. I am a slave doing my captorʼs work. The bricks are loaded onto my back. There are now so many, that I cannot stand up straight. More still are loaded, until my already curving, breaking back cannot curve anymore. I must move. I try to walk. My feet slip in the slush and snow, they get stuck in the mud. I am an ant carrying an elephant. I am a year holding a century aloft. I am life carrying a load of death. But I must not fall, or waver, or stop, for even a moment. I cannot be seen to hesitate. They would think me weak: and you know what they do to the weak. Fear is a horse, and it rides upon my bones. All day, and all night. I try not to die. IV Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones. Perhaps not. Others are marched out of the

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camp every day, and back in every night, beneath a sign that says: Arbeit Macht Frei. They work in factories, foundries, mines, or open fields. They fill bags of cement, or pour steel, or mine coal, or defuse bombs. They fill their lungs with cement, or coal dust. They are burned by drops of molten metal. They are blown up by bombs that didnʼt defuse in time. They are underfed, overworked, exhausted, sick, in pain, and unprotected. They are beaten if they rest. They are attacked by dogs if they drop, or break anything. They are punished severely if they make a mistake of any kind. Once, I saw someone stumble, and fall. He was kicked, and then whipped. The ones that die during the course of the day must be carried back, by their comrades, for roll call. You see, we are not even allowed to die at the wrong time. Fear fills my mouth with sand. V I never have enough food. I think only of food, I want only food. I will do anything for food. My definition of ʻanythingʼ grows daily. I will fight. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Hate. Betray. Be inhuman. For food, I will forget God. Others. Myself. I will offer my body. There is not a second that is not filled with thoughts of food. Like a gravity within me, hunger pulls my cheeks together, and my eyes and my voice back into my head. It shrinks my steps. It robs each one of my desires of bone and muscle. It drains my will of its

Warsaw Ghetto Wall- Dr. Fred Leitner, ©2012


Harvest-HaAsifTemple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology!

Seventh Edition!

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vital fluid. It presses upon my soul, suffocating. It extinguishes my inner flame. It invites death over for visits. Longer and longer visits. VI I am afraid of the beatings. The ones I始ve had, and the ones I will have. They have become so frequent that I get nervous when too much time goes by without one. Sooner or later, some guard will find an excuse. I know that. My body is a cave, and I am having trouble finding my way out. My mind is shouting, but I cannot make out what it is saying. VII The smell of death is everywhere. The ovens. The victims are being incinerated, and their captors are incinerating themselves. barbed wire-Majdanek- Dr Fred Leitner 漏2012

Life. Death. They are becoming harder and harder to tell apart.


VIII Why are we here? Believing what has happened here will be difficult. Forgetting, impossible.

point, where it vomits the worst of the human past back into the present.

What is it that occurred over the course of the last two thousand years, what distortion in the course of human evolution, what perversion of the law of moral gravity, would bring history to this

What was our mistake, over the course of all these years: what tax did we not pay, to what potentate or well-born thug did we not genuflect, which country did we forget, for a second, to be exemplary citizens of. Which language did we not learn. Which laws did we not obey. Which system did we not play by. Which government did we




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

fail to serve, loyally. Which one of the sciences did we neglect to become experts in, which vaccine, or cure, did we forget to invent, which universe-explaining theory did we fail to propose; please tell us. Which symphony did we neglect to compose, which painting did we neglect to paint, which book was it, that you blame us for not having written. X

make them participate in the chain of command. They make them take orders. They make them carry them out. They make them participate in the killing.

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Jews are made to kill Jews. To them, this is their greatest success.

This is their sport. This is their satisfaction. The greatest perversion they can think of: Fathers witness the torture of their wives and daughters. Mothers participate in the torture of their children.

What is the nature of suffering? To be a witness. Just because a friend is dead, does not mean you don始t hear his voice anymore. Just because a family member has been killed, does not mean you don始t see her face right in front of you, or that her hand no longer rests upon your arm. Just because in this instant there are people all around you, does not mean the absence of others does not pull at you, with all its gravity, like a falling tide does at your ankles. To be an accomplice. To be forced to make others suffer. To get blood on your hands, and on your soul. The guilt will eat you from the inside, like gangrene. This is their plan. They divide us. They give some authority over others. They give them small, insignificant privileges, which consist in making their misery slightly less. Like having cigarettes to smoke. Then they perimeter fence-Majdanek- Dr. Fred Leitner, 漏2012




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom始s Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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XI Where is G-d? Perhaps He is observing us from a great distance, and asking Himself: who are these people I created. Why did these humans descend to the form of animals, no, worse than animals, and slaughter their innocent brothers. Perhaps He is with the guard who is pointing his rifle at someone, or with the one who is herding a group of people to the 驶showers始. Perhaps He is trying to save their souls. Perhaps He is in the mud beneath our feet, overcome with sorrow and remorse for letting this happen. Perhaps He is in the last remaining shade of colour in the sky above us. Perhaps He is in the bunk next to me. Perhaps He is the thin soup I eat. The shovel that I lift. The liquid inside my veins. The doubt inside my mind. Perhaps He is in the gas chamber, right now. Being murdered for the fourth time today. XII I cannot be sure of anything, anymore. Not love, not hate. Not absence, not presence. Not loyalty, not betrayal. Not the earth beneath my feet. Not the fact of my existence. Not the fact of the end of my existence. Not meaning. Not the meaning of meaning. Not possibility. Not the possibility of possibility.

Majdanek- Dr. Fred Leitner, 漏2012




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition! Not myself. I am not sure the person I was still exists. I donʼt remember how I used to greet guests at the door, or friends in the street. Was I the jovial sort, did I tell a lot of jokes? I can no longer find my thoughts. I cannot retrieve my own secrets. I cannot recall the things I used to like, or dislike. Ice cream. Movies with sad endings. Seeing my cousins. Not seeing them. I once used to write, but Iʼm not sure I still remember how. Write, I mean. My voice sounds like it was so long ago; I am given to simply repeating, repeating, repeating. Repeating, repeating.

My feet, I canʼt find my feet. I must have left them behind on another continent. Or perhaps in another lifetime. XIII I can no longer be sure of the conversations I once had with God. I thought weʼd resolved them. If so, what does he want now. Does he, or does he not, want us to struggle. If so, whom does he want us to struggle with.

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XIV Can the soul determine its own residence. A foot of earth becomes a continent. Motion and immobility meet, and separate, and meet again, within me. If I take this step, what will happen. What kind of Self will emerge on the other side. What changes will distance – distance engaged, distance crossed, distance conquered – impose upon me. Will my heart learn how to re-conquer itself. Are thoughts just interested bystanders, or are they precursors to action. Are emotions natural phenomena that are meant to be endured, or are they internal winds that are meant to fill internal sails. Will I still be recognizable to light. Will the words of others still be able to find me, and leave me touched.

✡ Photos by Dr Fred Leitner were taken when he went on the March of the Living, 2012.

The enemy? Ourselves? Him?




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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Depending on the Light We Carry to Positions for Pnina Cohen-Gagnon* Marsha Goldberg !              I. The teacher comes out of her first floor flat awash with books, as if pushing a pebble, a river stone; she drags out the suitcase on wheels,  taking in the recycling bins, getting the key to the door, and her feet leave the entrance in breathless haste as she looks up to a woman with an umbrella, thinks she must go back and get her own, turns and returns en route to the metro, feet paddling, nudging the book cart several meters further.   II. The photographer takes no wages but asks for free transit on a steam liner, a trunk ship to Australia on which she will generate a thousand snapshots of the way the wake catches flotsam, churns the sea froth in broken patterns and nets the sunlight, scatters and gathers skeins of gray and red, strands of kelp colored black in deep blue water like oil spattering and spilling over a trail of split and splintered shards, like wake water.  III.  The teacher has a full fifteen minutes to study thirty-four desk tops turned hither and thither before class, a puzzle left by the group in the class before hers, fixing her eyes as upon river stones or waterfalls, like an acrobat suspended athletically from a copter about eight meters from the surface of the deep where she can observe surfaces in the room like waves pushed by rotor blades, recapture in the play of the mind that hub in Pninaʼs vision with its set of radiating surfaces, in her own case unwinding, like airfoils spinning backwards in indirect daylight, the noisy energy before the class arrives, the wake of the pool of humanity approaching.

Harry Rajchgot ©1970




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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IV. Pnina has to sleep on a scaffold on the side of the tramp liner for days, eat there, too, until exposure to sun makes her light headed, gives her skin such a ruddy texture it peels while she records the play of shadows on the white bulkhead, blindingly lit and rusted over, at dusk seeming melted into charcoals and black under the clouds. The camera she holds records the “talk” printed on the retina in a sense, but in a sense the space never could talk of what the flushed face finds under her sky-whipped hair etched over the pageant of sea beds stirred with phosphorescence as sharks slip past in the darkest hours. V. She locks the office, thirsty as usual, wheeling the black suitcase along the curb like a little eddy, drops the keys in a pocket heading to the elevator, noticing the overhead light lacks tubes of fluorescence, the glass vastness where potted plants weave a tropical fringe against the setting sun beams with a Colorado gold and a Pittsburgh red and black, hoping sheʼs done her subject and subjects justice, recalling the brown and blue of the St. Maurice where thousands of chopped logs spin past a tent flap in the booming ground, daybreak, she remembers, being the best moment to swim. *Pnina Cohen-Gagnon is a prolific Israeli artist.

✡ Harry Rajchgot ©2010




Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

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Where are the lights of yesteryear? Marcel Braitstein

Where are the lights of yesteryear? Events seemingly unforgettable Blur and vanish into darkness

Only fragments remain to brighten the fog of Harry Rajchgot ©2010


✡ 27



Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholomʼs Literary Anthology! Seventh Edition!

In appreciation of the supporters of Harvest-Ha’Asif

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All copyrights remain the property of their authors and illustrators.

David Abramson Zav Levinson Harry Rajchgot Vivianne Silver David Mizrachi and Barbara Morningstar Rabbi Lisa Grushcow’s Discretionary Fund

Illustrations and photographs: Aaron Eisenberg (Miami, USA)

Submissions for the next edition of HarvestHa'Asif can be made at any time c/o the Temple office or, preferably, by email to: A small number of copies of earlier editions of Harvest-Ha'Asif are still available, for those who may have missed one or more. For anyone wishing to receive a copy, please contact us at the same e-mail address and we will try to fulfill your request.

Dr Fred Leitner (Toronto, Canada) Harry Rajchgot (Montreal, Quebec) Sophia Wolkowicz (Monteal, Quebec) U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The current and past issues may be found on the web at the following URL: and shortly as a direct link from the Temple website.

! Harry Rajchgot ©2011


Harvest-HaAsif 2012  

Literary Anthology