features MAGAZINE OF NA’AMAT USA Fall 2014 Vol. 29 No. 4
Ellis Island Journey.................................... 4 An American immigrant to Israel visits the place where her Eastern European ancestors began their new life. By Michele Chabin
Editor Judith A. Sokoloff
Jewish in Argentina.............................................................................. 10
Art Director Marilyn Rose
All quiet 20 years after the Jewish center bombing? A journalist visits the home of her paternal grandparents, eager to see how Argentine Jews are faring.
Editorial Committee Harriet Green Sylvia Lewis Elizabeth Raider Edythe Rosenfield Lynn Wax Marcia J. Weiss
Every Living Thing................................................................................ 14 A young couple from Poland settles in New Jersey in the early 20th century. He fantasizes about Gibson Girls. She is the practical one. A story by Fran S. Alexander.
Na’amat News........................................................................................ 18
NA’AMAT USA Officers
Take an up-close look at Israel’s largest women’s organization: a mother finds refuge in the Glickman Center shelter, Ethiopian Israeli students visit Ethiopia, Na’amat women take a heart-wrenching tour of Poland, Israeli women are awarded higher-education scholarships.
PRESIDENT Elizabeth Raider VICE PRESIDENTS Jan Gurvitch Ivy Liebross Gail Simpson Marcia J. Weiss
departments President’s Message By Elizabeth Raider..................3
TREASURER/FINANCIAL SECRETARY Debbie Kohn
Take Action! Let’s End Bullying By Marcia J. Weiss.................................................22
RECORDING SECRETARY Debby Firestone
CHAIR/NATIONAL FUNDS Harriet Green
Around the Country.........................................28
Na’amat Woman (ISSN 0888-191X) is published quarterly (fall, winter, spring, summer) on the Internet, with winter and summer issues also in print, by Na’amat USA. Postmaster: Send address changes to NA’AMAT USA National Office, 21515 Vanowen St., Suite 102, Canoga Park, CA 91303. For change of address, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 818-431-2200 or write to national office in California. Editorial and advertising, contact Judith@naamat.org, phone 212-563-5222 or write to Na’amat Woman, 505 Eighth Ave., #12A04, New York, NY 10018. Signed articles represent the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of Na’amat USA or its editor. Websites: www.naamat.org and www.naamatwoman.com
Our cover: Artist JR brings alive the stories of the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island in his installation of life-size photographs on the walls and windows of the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital. Photo credit: JR-ART.NET
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Mission Statement The mission of Na’amat USA is to enhance the status of women and children in Israel and the United States as part of a worldwide progressive Jewish women’s organization. Its purpose is to help Na’amat Israel provide educational and social services, including day care, vocational training, legal aid for women, absorption of new
immigrants, community centers, and centers for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence. Na’amat USA advocates on issues relating to women’s rights, the welfare of children, education and the United States-Israel relationship. Na’amat USA also helps strengthen Jewish and Zionist life in communities throughout the United States. Na’amat USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
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elcome to our second online-only edition of Na’amat Woman. For many of our members, this past summer was a time of anxiety and concern for family and friends who live in Israel — and for the whole country. Rockets from Gaza rained down not only in the southern part of the country, but also threatened citizens in regions farther north. The response of Na’amat USA was immediate. Thanks to your generous donations to our Emergency Fund for Operation Protective Edge, Na’amat Israel’s request for aid to secure our day care centers needing extra protection was answered within the first two weeks of the conflict. With the assistance of Na’amat USA members and friends, we sent funds for new doors for safe rooms, additional equipment outside the centers to protect them from direct rocket attack, additional caregivers to maintain a sense of security and to rush the children to safety rooms when the sirens sounded, and for vital supplies of food and water. Although the current phase of the conflict was brokered as
a ceasefire, we are all aware of the continuing threats facing Israel. Our 250 day care centers remain potential targets of future terrorist attacks. Shirli Shavit, director of Na’amat Israel’s International Department, took time out from a family visit in August to attend a Western Area evening for our members. She stressed that Na’amat Israel must continue to upgrade the day care facilities to ensure the children’s safety. To meet these goals, the Na’amat USA Emergency Fund is still going strong, and I am asking you to consider a donation for the High Holidays, hopefully a donation for peace and security.
During the Gaza conflict, Na’amat was also concerned about Israel’s female soldiers. President Galia Wolloch was interviewed on Israel’s channel 1 when she and other Na’amat workers were distributing care packages to women soldiers. She said: “The care packages that were sent previously were intended mainly for the men. We in Na’amat decided to support the women soldiers as well. So the workers of Na’amat donated money to buy personal hygiene products, sweets and clothing. We delivered them to the army bases that are very close to Gaza.” This past organizational year has seen many changes: a move from New York to California for our national office with a new national staff, increased public relations through e-blasts and social media, an improved online memcontinued on page 30
Left: Children in a Na’amat day care center make peace doves during the war with Gaza this past summer. Above: Na’amat Israel workers, including president Galia Wolloch, bring care packages to women soldiers near Gaza border.
Ellis Island Journey An American immigrant to Israel visits
gress of Con
the place where her Eastern European
ry of Libra
ancestors began their new life.
sy , courte Photos
by MICHELE CHABIN
t was the summer of 2013 and I had been compiling information for my mother’s family tree for nearly 15 years. I was counting the days until I could finally visit Ellis Island to conduct some genealogical research
and see the place where many of my relatives were “processed” before being admitted to the United States during the first three decades of the 20th century. Since I live in Israel, my annual summer visit to New York would be my only opportunity to travel to the former immigration center, which in 1990 was turned into a museum and
genealogical archive. But when I tried to order tickets during the spring of 2013, I learned that Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were still shuttered due to the extensive water damage — estimated at $77 million — sustained during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. Although it’s easy to access Ellis Island’s rich archive of immigration records online, and for free, doing so isn’t a substitute for actually visiting the island and museum,
Courtesy, Library of Congress
located in New York Harbor. There’s nothing quite like arriving by ferry, the only way to get there, and standing in the vast reception hall that some have called the Wall of Tears. Here, millions of weary, hopeful travelers were accepted into the United States or rejected and sent back across the ocean. Ellis Island was the main portal for immigrants coming to the United States from 1892 to 1924, a peak period for Eastern European Jewish immigration. Thousands more came through here until 1954. A total of more than 12 million people were processed at the island, where, after the long and sometimes dangerous voyage, their health, paperwork and politics were scrutinized. Those who appeared physically or mentally unwell, an anarchist or a potential burden on society were kept there for anywhere from a day to weeks, and the two percent who failed the tests were sent on another sea journey, back to their port of embarkation at the shipping company’s expense. At least 3,000 prospective immigrants died in the island’s hospital, presumably from the illnesses discovered by screening officials. Necha Farbowitz Lom, my beloved maternal grandmother, once told me that her little brother, Itchkie, suddenly became deaf during his 1923 voyage from Germany to America. Her father and older sister who accompanied him were filled with fear that he would be sent back, presumably with the father, their sole breadwinner. Fortunately, the inspectors didn’t notice Uncle Itchkie’s hearing impairment and the family was admitted to begin their new lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. According to museum sources, before Ellis Island was turned into a national immigration center in 1890, it enjoyed a colorful past as a hanging site for pirates, a harbor fort, and an ammunition and ordinance depot named Fort Gibson. Originally dubbed Kioshk, or Gull Island by the Native Americans who lived nearby, it was later called Oyster Island, Bucking Island and Anderson’s Island. An entry in Genealogy.com says that Ellis Island was eventually named for Samuel Ellis, who was born around 1733 in Wales and who purchased the uninhabited island in the 1770s. His
American flag and faces exhibit in the Great Hall. From one angle you see the flag; from another you see faces of immigrants.
heirs sold the island to New York State, only to be sold once again, this time to the federal government, for the then hefty sum of $10,000. The island was subsequently turned into a fort, and then an immigration center, and finally what it is today — the best place to explore the extraordinary but sometimes troubled history of American immigration, both voluntary and involuntary. Prior to 1890, individual states — not the federal government — were in charge of immigration. From 1855 to 1890, roughly 8 million immigrants mainly from northern and western Europe were processed at Castle Garden in the Battery, New York’s immigration center. Museum records show that throughout the 1800s and intensifying in the
latter half of the 19th century, “political instability, restrictive religious laws and deteriorating economic conditions in Europe” spurred the “largest mass human migration in the history of the world.” Castle Garden couldn’t handle the influx and the Ellis Island Immigration Center was born. About 1.5 million immigrants were processed at Ellis Island from its opening in 1892 until 1897 when the wooden buildings housing the immigration center went up in flames. No one died in the massive fire, but, sadly, most records dating to 1855 were destroyed. The main structure was rebuilt in the French Renaissance Revival style using red brick with limestone trim. Reopened in 1900, the center doubled as a detention and deportation facility from FALL 2014
1924 onward. In arguably its most infamous period, during and immediately after World War II, the island was used to intern foreign nationals from enemy countries as well as American citizens (including Japanese, German and Italian Americans) whose loyalty the United States government questioned. The center processed tens of thousands of immigrants a year during this time, but many fewer than the hundreds of thousands a year who arrived before the war.
finally made it to Ellis Island during a visit to New York, in May of 2014, to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. I arrived with a nearly completed nine-generation family tree (as much as any family tree can be considered complete, given the circle of life) and an even stronger desire to see where my family landed for their first step toward a promising life in America. This time Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, though not fully operational, were receiving visitors. I booked two tickets online at www.statuecruises.com, one for me and one for my mom, Helene Lom Chabin, who is the glue that holds our family together. Before boarding the ferry for both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visitors must first undergo a thorough,
airport-style security check. Because we had ordered tickets ahead of time, we were directed to a much shorter line and boarded in minutes. Most of the passengers disembarked at the first stop, the Statue of Liberty — we got off at Ellis Island about 10 minutes later. We arrived just in time to receive a free half-hour history lesson (it’s not a tour) given by one of the site’s many park rangers. Standing outside the museum, beside the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, where families pay tribute to their relatives by inscribing their names, the ranger tried to give us a sense of what it must have been like for the huddled masses who arrived there so many decades ago. Depending on the year, the government required prospective immigrants to have $18 to $25 in their possession so as not to be a burden. Immigration officials quickly screened the presumably wealthy first-class and second-class passengers who were sent to Ellis Island only if they appeared ill or lacked the proper papers. It was the immigrants in steerage, the vast majority of those onboard, who were required to spend a few hours in the Registry Room, or Great Hall, on the second floor, where they were asked up to 30 questions ranging from where they were going to live to
what professional skills they possessed. Having a marketable skill (plumber, seamstress, baker, metal worker) was usually more important than having an actual job in a less practical field, and unskilled laborers risked rejection. So did those with a known criminal record. The ranger explained how the island’s doctors used a sterilized buttonhook to lift passengers’ eyelids to search for trachoma, an infectious disease that left untreated can lead to blindness. If discovered, it guaranteed rejection. Those deemed acceptable were directed down a flight of stairs, to the main floor, where they could exchange their zlotys or francs for enough dollars to reach their destinations. My mom and I tried to imagine what it must have been like for her mother, Necha, then a teenager, to travel from Radzilow, the tiny shtetl in northeastern Poland, to New York. Necha had been reared by her grandparents because her mother died when she was a toddler. My mom reminded me that Necha was supposed to sail with Itchkie, her father and sister, but that she willingly had given her place to her beloved older brother, Velvel, who was about to be drafted into the Polish army. Grandma knew in her heart that she would never see her grandparents again, and decades
Aerial view of Ellis Island. Courtesy, Library of Congress/Carol M. Highsmith
later she remembered their parting with tears in her eyes. The trip from her shtetl to a European port must have taken days — the trip from Europe to New York even longer. My grandmother was processed at an immigration center on the shores of lower Manhattan, not Ellis Island, when she arrived just before the start of the Great Depression of 1929. But her memories of traveling all alone on a ship, cooped up below deck with no fresh air and 1,000 seasick strangers, drove home just how deeply most immigrants suffered to reach American shores. While nothing can truly recreate the experience of being an exhausted, frightened immigrant, the museum does a very good job of putting visitors into that frame of mind. We were encouraged to pick up a pair of free headphones to take advantage of the free, self-directed audio tour available in nine languages. The exhibition’s sections — the Trip, Arrival, Struggle and Survival, and Building a Nation — are packed with fascinating information about who arrived from where and when (starting
with the ancestors of the native Americans). As interesting as the exhibition was, my mom and I were anxious to tour the rooms where her father, uncles, aunts and grandparents were given the green light to enter the country. Like many descendants of immigrants
Archival photos show immigrants at Ellis Island and a ship manifest. In the above photo physicians examine Jewish immigrants. Left: Display of immigrants’ luggage, which they had to leave near the entrance before being interviewed. Courtesy, Library of Congress
who entered America via Ellis Island, we had heard many colorful stories from our relatives. We toured the baggage room and the hearing room, where some detainees pleaded their cases. Next was the medical room with its vintage equipment. Anemia and varicose veins were among the health problems that could get an immigrant assigned to the Ellis Island hospital. The medical staff marked those with suspected medical problems with chalk, for example: E for eye disease. But some patients removed the chalk in order to gain admittance. One display notes that many Orthodox Jews arrived terribly thin and weak after spending weeks at sea living on fruits and vegetables because they couldn’t get kosher food. Realizing this, the island’s staff sometimes gave them time to recover before issuing their verdict. When I later asked Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, why the island was so central to the American Jewish experience, he said: “For many Jews, going through Ellis Island was like attending synagogue on Yom Kippur. You knew that your fate hung in the balance.” Although the time most immigrants spent on the island was generally short, Sarna, who is also chief historian at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, noted that “the anticipation, the nervousness, the atmosphere, the uncertainty — and then the judgment [accepted, quarantined or denied] — made the whole
experience of Ellis Island unforgettable for those who passed through it.” A high percentage of the more than two million Eastern European Jews who immigrated to the United States passed through Ellis Island before it shut the gates. “As a result,” the historian said, “the memory of the experience lived on in immigrant lore and was passed down [and often elaborated on] through the generations. Tired from all the walking, we sat down and listened with our headphones to the moving stories of immigrants who left behind parents and children when they emigrated. Finally, we headed to the museum’s American Family Immigration History Center, where visitors can access the passenger records of the ships that landed some 22 million immigrants, crewmembers and other passengers at the Port of New York and Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. According to the center, more than 100 million Americans are descended from these passengers, making the archives a national treasure trove. The staff advises visitors to do as much genealogical research as possible before visiting the museum. It’s a good idea to arrive with the immigrant’s full name, approximate age of arrival, “ethnicity,” which may include religion, race and nationality. Jews were often registered as “Hebrews.” It helps to know if Uncle Abe traveled with Aunt Sarah, from where and when, especially if their last name is a popular one like
Cohen. But collecting information isn’t imperative. In reality, it’s often sufficient to have a relative’s full name, and the computer will work out the rest. When there’s a match, the computer provides basic information about the immigrant — age at arrival, the name of the ship, port of embarkation. It’s possible to view a ship’s manifest and to purchase a copy of a page and a photo of the ship. Despite my many years of genealogical research it still came as a big surprise when my mom and I searched for her Uncle Itchkie and discovered that his actual name was Boruch Yitzhak, and that he was nine years old, not a toddler, as we had been told, when he arrived at Ellis Island. Uncle Itchkie went on to study at the Lexington School for the Deaf and eventually married. I named one of my sons after him — though had I known his first name was Boruch, my son’s name might have started with a B. “There’s always something new to be learned,” commented the staff member who assisted us. After spending a moving day on Ellis Island, we had to agree. As an immigrant myself — to Israel — the immigrants’ experiences resonated with me and my mother. Like my grandparents, I moved to a new country, struggled to learn a new language and acclimate to a new culture. My sabra children make fun of the American-accented Hebrew that my husband and I speak. My husband, who was born in the United States to
Getting to Ellis Island Statue Cruises provides ferry transportation to Ellis Island from Battery Park in New York and Liberty State Park in New Jersey from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours in the summer. For tickets and schedule information, call 1-877-LADY TIX or visit www. statuecruises.com. The audio tour is included with the ticket and can be picked
up at the audio desk on Ellis Island. The Essential New York City Guide (www.essential-new-york-city-guide.com) notes that the entire round trip, including the security check and visiting both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, can take five or six hours, adding: “Because Ellis Island is the last leg of the trip, many tourists have lost their stamina by the
time they get there and either rush the experience or are too worn out to enjoy it.” It suggests visiting only Ellis Island if immigration history and genealogical research are your focus.
Courtesy, Library of Congress
These enlarged archival images of immigrants are part of the exhibition “Unframed — Ellis Island” by artist JR. They are incorporated into a window of a staff house at the Ellis Island hospital complex.
Eastern European immigrants, says our kids’ needling is revenge for his needling his parents’ for their immigrant accents. I suspect that my great-grandparents, who stayed behind in Poland by choice, must have been heartbroken when their children and grandchildren moved to America. But I suspect they were also very happy that their offspring had been admitted to a country where Jews could live freely as Jews, some anti-Semitism notwithstanding. My parents were and continue to be incredibly understanding and supportive of my choice to live in Israel, but my decision has become more dif-
ficult as my parents age and my children grow up without family nearby. It goes without saying that immigration is a lot easier these days than it was decades ago. Thanks to inexpensive phone plans and Skype, I can speak to my family several times a week. Although we can’t afford to visit the States as a family every year, my children have spent quality time with our family there. We have an ongoing “real time” connection that my ancestors never enjoyed with the loved ones they left behind. That has made being an immigrant infinitely more doable, but it still isn’t easy.
Editor’s note: For the first time in 60 years, the former Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital is now open to the public. An installation, “Unframed – Ellis Island,” by the French artist JR brings this landmark building to life with life-size photographs covering many of the interior walls. The striking images were made from archival photos taken in the institution about 100 years ago. Tickets must be purchased for the guided tour of the hospital, located on the south side of the island. Michele Chabin is a journalist living in Jerusalem. She covers the Middle East for The New York Jewish Week and other publications. She wrote “Showing Off ” in our summer 2014 issue. FALL 2014
Jewish in Argentina All quiet 20 years after the Jewish center bombing? by JUDITH SUDILOVSKY
n the busy streets of Buenos Aires one balmy late afternoon in November — midspring in the Southern Hemisphere — children were coming home from school, anxious for summer vacation. Parents were returning from a long day of work, stopping to pick up some fresh pasta, savory stuffed empanadas, corner-bakery vegetable tarts and pre-breaded steak milanesas for dinner. Brave pedestrians expertly crossed the streets as taxi drivers took the corners at impossible speeds, using their horns rather than braking. University students stood tucked into entranceways of buildings smoking cigarettes as they lingered over a conversation, most likely generously sprinkled
with the colorful brassy expressions Argentines are known for. In the midst of this typical street scene, the entrance to the Maccabi sports club center was bustling. Evening activities were just beginning with an Israeli dance class already under way. Basketball, volleyball and gymnastics were
taking place in different gyms — with many non-Jews signed up — while the last children from the afternoon care program drew pictures as they waited for their parents. With theater, cinema and music along with lectures for all ages and young leadership training programs, the center is intent on transmitting Jewish values and traditions to the next generation. Now in its 85th year, the Maccabi serves as a focus for Jewish identity and community affiliation for secular Jews, along with the city’s two other Jewish sports clubs and Jewish sports clubs elsewhere in Argentina. “We try to encourage participation and presence and achieve a sort of focus for Jewish families. We want to be a Photos by Judith Sudilovsky
The Maccabi sports center in Buenos Aires bustles with a variety of activities for Jews (and others) of all ages.
Jewish business people and middle-class professionals struggled financially along with the rest of the country. With the start of the economic recovery in 2003, the numbers leveled off, and almost half the families who left for financial reasons have since returned. Today, even with the country’s current economic difficulties, the Jewish population Above: Esther Azeretzky, 84, is one of the last Jews still living in what was once the mainly Jewish community of Las Palmeras. remains steady. Her blond-haired grandson, Luis Ulmansky, 11, calls her bubbie. “My Jewish idenBelow: Abandoned synagogue in the former Jewish agricultural tity is important to village of Palacios. me,” said Julieta Zelener, 18, who helps with the Maccabi afterschool program. As she fountain of Jewish identity, linked with kept two girls busy with paper and craythe State of Israel,” explained Maccabi ons she explained, “This is where I grew director general and professor Natalio up — I feel enveloped by my Judaism Furmanski, as he guided this visiting and I have a place to go. In Argentina I journalist through the four-story buildcan express myself. I can wear my chai ing. While he spoke, he good-naturedly necklace and not be afraid.” attempted to straighten out the disarZelener was not even born when ray left by a group of 15- and 16-year-old the largest terrorist attack against a counselors following a meeting. Some Jewish community outside Israel oc200 young people participate in the curred in 1994. Just a few blocks away, 85 Maccabi madrichim (leadership) course people were killed and hundreds more on the Holocaust, culminating in a visit injured at the AMIA/DAIA building. to Israel. (The AMIA is the Jewish community The majority of Argentina’s apcenter. DAIA, the Delegación de Asoproximately 250,000 Jews — the largest ciaciones Israelitas Argentinos, is the community in South America and sixth largest Jewish population in the world umbrella organization of Argentina’s — live in the country’s capital. Sizeable Jewish community.) The cement barriers in front of Jewish communities also thrive in the the building — and in front major cities of Cordoba, Rosario, Santa of many other Fe and Mendoza, and in smaller cities as well. The community once numbered Jewish places nearly 350,000 members, noted Furman- throughout ski. But the crushing economic crisis between 1999 and 2002 touched off a wave of immigration, mostly to Israel, as many
the city including synagogues — are reminders of this attack and the one on the Israeli Embassy in 1992, which killed 29 people and injured 242. Amid accusations of incompetence and cover-ups, the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice. However, in May 2013, Alberto Nisman, the general prosecutor for the case, issued an indictment accusing the Iranian government of infiltrating several South American countries and building local operations charged with promoting and carrying out terrorist attacks. The report accused the Iranian government and Hezbollah of being behind the two Buenos Aires attacks. A few months earlier, Argentina and Iran had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a joint “Truth Commission,” supposedly to investigate the AMIA attack. Jewish groups, including the DAIA, condemned the memorandum, declaring that it undermined efforts to arrest and prosecute those responsible. This past July, a federal court declared the memorandum unconstitutional. That same month, an interfaith ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the DAIA attack was held at the Metropolitan Cathedral in the presence of the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Mario Poli. DAIA president Julio Schlosser, speaking at the ceremony, noted its significance: “We have been saying that all communities living on Argentine soil search for peace working together, and
The newly restored Tiferet Israel synagogue of Monigotes closed in 1978. No Jews live in the village now.
this is a clear example of the Jewish, Muslim and Catholic community wanting peace.” In a video screened at the event, Pope Francis, well known for his friendship with the Jews as archbishop of Buenos Aires, called for justice in the investigation of the deadly bombing. The previous November, the annual interfaith Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony — also held in the Metropolitan Cathedral and led by Archbishop Poli — had been disrupted by Catholic extremists belonging to the conservative Society of Saint Pius X. The intruders charged the Jews with killing Jesus and protested the presence of people of nonCatholic faiths in the cathedral.
Poli denounced the invasion and urged the Jews to remain, saying, “Dear Jewish brothers, please feel at home, because that’s the way Christians want it, despite these disgusting signs of intolerance. Your presence here doesn’t desecrate a temple of God, as those misguided fools said. We will continue in peace this annual ceremony that Pope Francis always promoted and so greatly valued.” Sitting in his DAIA office overlooking the building’s courtyard with its memorial to those killed in the attack 20 years ago, DAIA secretary general Dr. Jorge Knoblovits said the community continues to demand justice from the government and that Jews and nonJews were killed in the attack. “The Su-
preme Court will have to decide. This is an issue constantly with us in our community life and our civil life.” Though Argentine Jews come out in droves for High Holiday services, for the past 20 years it has been with the awareness — and with the necessary precautions — that they live in a country where the Jewish community has suffered two terrorist attacks. An immigrant nation much like the United States, Argentina was once considered the most anti-Semitic country in Latin America. In the early 1900s, a pogrom against “Jewish Bolsheviks” was carried out; after World War II, fleeing Nazis were able to find safe haven in populist leader Juan Domingo Peron’s Argentina; and Jewish students in public schools faced anti-Semitism. In the late 1970s, under Argentina’s military junta, the number of Jewish intellectuals and left-wing activists were proportionally high among the “Disappeared,” singled out for especially sadistic treatment when they were kidnapped for political activities.
Jews of Argentina: A Brief History
s early as the 16th century,
19th century from Western
is considered to have begun in
Santa Fe with synagogues,
Jews escaping the Catholic
Europe, North Africa and the
the 1880s with a large wave of
schools, cemeteries and Jewish
Inquisition in Spain and Portugal
Eastern Mediterranean. Many
immigrants escaping the bloody
associations. This provided
landed on the shores of the
were businessmen looking
pogroms of Czarist Russia
an alternative to the projects
Spanish colony of Argentina.
for opportunities in the New
and Romania — thanks to
supported by Baron Edmund
Over time, these original crypto-
World. In 1860, the first Jewish
Argentina’s open door policy.
de Rothschild for Jewish
Jews (known as Marranos in
wedding was recorded in Buenos
Spanish) assimilated into the
Aires. A few years later, the
the mass immigration was
Catholic society, leaving little
first minyan met for the High
French Jewish businessman
trace of their secret Jewish
Holidays, eventually becoming
and philanthropist Baron
these agricultural communities
the Congregación Israelita de
Maurice de Hirsch, who
at their peak (including this
la Republica, today known as
founded the Jewish Colonization
writer’s paternal grandparents).
its independence from Spain
Libertad because of its location
Association to build autonomous
There is still a small smattering
in 1810 and Bernardino
on the street of the same
agricultural settlements for
of mostly older Jews living in
Rivadavia, the nation’s first
name. Many from this wave of
the Eastern European Jews.
these agricultural villages. The
president, officially abolished
immigration also assimilated.
Jewish settlements were
best known, Moiseville in the
established in the provinces of
province of Santa Fe, still has a
Buenos Aires, Entre Rios and
vibrant small Jewish community,
After Argentina gained
the Inquisition, another
The actual start of a
wave of Jews arrived in the 12
continuous Jewish community
The main force behind
immigration in Ottoman and, later, British-ruled Palestine. About 40,000 Jews lived in
oday Argentina is a place where knishes are popular with both Jews and non-Jews, and Buenos Aires boasts the only kosher McDonalds outside Israel. Jewish political leaders include Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, son of Jacobo Timerman, the well-known journalist imprisoned by the military government and later released to Israel. Indicative of Jews’ integration into the fabric of Argentine society, in last year’s national elections, the yarmulke wearing Rabbi Sergio Bergman became the first rabbi to serve in a national parliament outside Israel. Jews have become so much a part of Argentina that they are becoming assimilated. One example given by Furmanski: When Argentine Jews go from Jewish day schools to public universities, some become less involved with Jewish activities. “We watched as the United States faced the problem of assimilation,” he said. “But we thought it was a problem that would not reach us.” With the community reaching out to mixed couples, many choose to follow Jewish traditions and raise their children as Jews. For Furmanski, a “Jew is anyone who feels Jewish and identifies with Jewish values and
Above: The Maccabi afterschool program keeps children busy with creative activities. Right: Maccabi director general Natalio Furmanski.
tradition and respects the faith.” Jewish life throughout Argentina is rich and varied. Members of the diverse Jewish community span the spectrum from completely secular to ultra-Orthodox. Institutions range from synagogues, weekend country clubs, Jewish camps, sports clubs and day schools. In addition to the 50 Orthodox, 21 Conservative and a handful of Reform synagogues in Buenos Aires, some 50 other Jewish institutions include the Jewish Museum, the Holocaust Museum and Hillel. Na’amat Argentina, part of the world movement of Na’amat, is active in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires,
where members meet every Monday. “We are fund-raising every moment, especially for the children of Israel,” says Na’amat co-president Marta Haber, in an e-mail. “We hold cultural events and Israel commemorations. We have a Book of Simchas, we published a recipe book and we travel together. We try to be always present in Eretz Yisrael with our actions and hearts.” continued on page 24
which includes a synagogue,
communities moved to larger
sports club, the Club Atletico
that the Eastern European
Jewish day school and museum.
cities such as Rosario, Cordoba,
Jews brought with them their
A recently published book
Santa Fe and Buenos Aires,
According to Israel’s
socialist political orientation
by Argentine Jewish reporter
where they became integrated
Jewish Agency, from 1881
and strong identification with
Javier Sinay recounts the cases
into the professional, cultural
to 1950, some 225,000 Jews
Zionism, while the Sephardic
of 22 unsolved murders of Jewish
and business middle class.
immigrated to Argentina. The
Jews came with their deep-
farmers, women and children.
Today, an estimated 80
Jewish population peaked at
rooted identification with Jewish
Between 1889 and 1906, they
to 90 percent of Argentine
between 310,000 to 320,000.
were killed by gauchos of
Jewry lives in Buenos
Until the 1930s, most of the
Spanish-criollo descent, who
Aires, with Ashkenazi Jews
immigration came from Eastern
resented the presence of the
comprising 85 percent of
Europe, but with the rise of the
50,000 Argentine Jews
new immigrants. Rather quickly
the Jewish population. The
Nazis, tens of thousands of Jews
immigrated to Israel between
the early pioneers moved to
Sephardic Jews maintain their
arrived from Germany. In the
1948 and 2001, according to
the cities where they worked
religious traditions in separate
following decades, Jews from
the Jewish Agency, largely
as peddlers and day laborers,
synagogues, including the Yesod
Syria and other countries in the
influenced by their Zionist and
later becoming traders and
Hadat synagogue, founded in
Middle East also made their way
Jewish educational system and
shopkeepers. Many of the young
1932 in the Once district by Jews
the Zionist youth movements.
people who grew up in these
from Allepo. They also have a
The Jewish Agency notes
A strongly Zionist
—Judith Sudilovsky FALL 2014
F I C T I O N
All The Answers You Need Await You Upstairs
Every Living Thing by FRAN S. ALEXANDER
li was in the attic study after his dinner of borscht, pickles and a little boiled tongue. His wife Esther made sure he was well fed every night, to give him energy for his studies. “My Elijah is a great Talmudic scholar,” she told everyone on Van Houton Street in Paterson, New Jersey. The study wasn’t much really. Eli could barely stand to his full height of almost six feet, the height he had grown used to saying ever since he first met Esther when he boarded with her family in Lodz, Poland, as a young yeshiva student. There was no harm, he had reasoned, if almost six feet would help her decide to love him. Five feet and some inches, after all, did not sell a man. Eli excelled with the rabbi there and won Esther’s heart. Now he continued his studies in their own apartment, where he had just enough room for a table, a chair, a little stool for a fellow scholar, and a small bookcase that held his Bible, several volumes of a tattered Talmud, a Sholom Aleichem collection and a photograph of his parents. They lived on the top floor of a three-story, six-family house on the bank of the Passaic River with other immigrant workers. Sometimes Eli couldn’t be sure where he was anymore. When he climbed up the steps to his apartment after work, he smelled the Italians’ meatballs on the first floor and the Irish potato stew on the second. But the sound of the Great Falls through his study window always grounded him. The water rushed down over 70 feet from the cliffs into the gorge 14
and churned the river to power the silk mills and dye houses where they all worked. He knew firsthand how the water roiled with spilled sludge mixed with sewage and an occasional dead goat or dog. Eli felt blessed to live above the basement and first floor, where his unlucky friend, Alonzo the Dye Master, often got flooded. The foul odors still reached Esther and Eli’s apartment, but not the water. Fortunately on this evening the air was not especially polluted and Eli could enjoy the dinner aromas that so reminded him of the mother country. Esther had prepared the meal in her usual reliable style. She made do, he knew, with what little she could bring home from her sister’s tiny storefront at the end of the day, adding a pinch of her great-grandmother and a dash of her aunts. In this case, it was to creamy beets and smoky tongue, just enough to fill his stomach.
Illustrations by Avi Katz.
He had to stay upstairs for at least two hours. Otherwise Esther would think something was wrong. That woman could read his mind. The last time he came home early from the mill, she didn’t have to inquire. She simply said, “So, you had a fight with the boss again?” He wouldn’t dare complain about the fumes and the noise at Weisman’s Weaving and Dye Works. At least they were free and alive here, surely better off than in the pogroms that buried Esther’s grandparents back home. “Let the boss do his job and you do yours,” she said. “We don’t want any trouble, Eli. Don’t start with that workers’ rights business, look where it got those poor strikers last year before you arrived. Ask your anarchist friend Alonzo. All the answers you need await you upstairs.” How she knew his thoughts completely evaded Eli, perhaps that’s what he should be studying instead, how his wife can read his mind. But he was limited by his library holdings, a few Yiddish writers from the mother country and, of course, The Book. Ach, that Esther, she gave him such tsuris. Didn’t she realize he could study his whole life and still not have the answers? Eli sighed and opened The Book to Exodus 19, and read, “You shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples.” If we are Your treasured possession, he thought, then why do we toil in these foul places? “Eli, Eli, such a shandeh,” he slapped his forehead, knowing it was shameful to ask such a question. “You must seek the answers here for yourself. Esther is right.” If only they could have stayed in Lodz, if only things had been
different, he could have just continued on the path set out for him and truly become the scholar that everyone expected. But here he was plagued by new knowledge. This so-called Land of Opportunity was no place to forever be asking questions. He would never get them out of this human pit by sitting upstairs every night asking questions. He wanted only one answer. How could he, too, become a Weisman and live up on the cliffs? Still in his study and belching on his borscht, Eli moved books around and shuffled papers on his desk. He knew Esther listened for the sounds of his brainwork. It was boring to be exiled upstairs for two hours every night. He was tired, his clothes smelled of dyestuff, and the poisons made his beard and eyebrows shed onto the open pages in front of him. His cousin Moishe got him the job at Weisman’s Weaving and Dye Works when he arrived, and for that he was grateful. But he was disgusted by the stench and waste. Are we not, after all, the guardians of the earth, he wondered, over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every living thing that moves upon the earth? He flipped through the first pages of Genesis until he found it, there, 1:28. He smiled to himself, he still knew a few things. The first time Elijah tried to enter the New World, he was turned away from Ellis Island for lack of funds. With no relatives to meet him, it was a full 10 dollars in 1914 to enter. But he arrived with empty pockets and was sent back to Poland on the same stinking steamer he came on. His mother, Chaya, shook him in anger and tears when he
appeared back at her door. But Elijah toiled just as he always had on his father’s loom in the cellar, where he wove at night by the light of candles. He scraped the money together again, this time with extra for the entrance fee. Chaya sneaked her mother’s pearl necklace into his bag for good measure and their cherished Tevye the Milkman by Sholom Aleichem for solace. This time they knew for sure that they would never see each other again. “Next year in Jerusalem,” he joked but his mother did not laugh. Elijah had one name and address in America when he returned a year later at the age of 17. His cousin Moishe lived in Paterson, where he worked in piece goods for the silk factories. The wall calendar at Weisman’s Weaving and Dye Works time clock was the first thing that caught Eli’s attention when he started working there in October. Never before had he seen such pictures of women. So forward, such friendly women looking straight at you! Breast tops exposed, inviting eyes. It was enough to make Eli vow never to read another word of the Talmud, that’s how much he would prefer to study these photos. On the Monday of his second week at work he decided to ask about the
calendar. “Where does one get such things?” he tried to gesture to Alonzo. “What does your kind want with that?” Alonzo laughed and waved Eli away. But Eli lingered at the calendar. So many distractions here, he thought, how does one keep the Old World in the New World? The Irish foreman, Patrick, waved him over. “Hey, calendar guy! If you spend any more time there I’ll have to dock your pay!” He held up a time sheet and pretended to tear it in half. “Why don’t you come see the peddler with me and get some of your own pictures?” Lain the Smut Peddler trolled the banks of the Passaic River to sell his wares to the Jewish weavers and Italian dyers. Their hands were usually too stained for him to allow them to touch his pin-ups, postcards and magazines with unspeakable things. The first few times Eli walked over to the cart with Patrick the foreman, he stood a few feet away and pretended to be looking around at anything but the cart. But Patrick ribbed him for being a coward and eventually he acquired a Gibson Girl. Eli hid the postcard in the inside pocket of his long coat and wore it up to his study that night. “I feel a cold coming on,” he told Esther.
Never before had Eli seen such pictures of women. It was enough to make him vow never to read another word of the Talmud. FALL 2014
How she knew his thoughts completely evaded Eli, perhaps that’s what he should be studying instead, how his wife can read his mind. He sat at his desk, removed the postcard from his inside pocket, and slid his arms out of the coat to let it fall onto the back of his chair. The card was still wrapped in a rag. He placed it on the table, carefully unfolded the cloth and grazed his fingers over the picture. He shivered as he admired the woman’s perfectly shaped curves, like ripe new plums he thought. He would like to take a bite. He turned the card over and tried to read the back: Camille Clifford. He puzzled over the letters but noticed the repetitions and thought it must be poetry. CC, ll, ff. Such a name couldn’t be real. “Moishe will know,” he said to himself, “I’ll have to invite him over.” He turned the card back over to the picture side and slid it into the back of The Book and turned to Exodus 20. “Eli, who are you talking to up there?” Esther yelled from the kitchen. Ach, that woman wouldn’t let him be! Eli smelled her cigar that she snuck in from the store and waited to smoke only after he went upstairs. Esther brought the Old Abe cigars home, the ones that had dried out and she couldn’t sell anymore, supposedly for Eli, but he knew that she knew he didn’t care for them. His angel here, he thought as he patted the back cover where she hid, would never smoke a cigar. She’s a lady. Esther was beautiful when he first met her. Soft brown hair in waves, deep brown eyes that understood everything. She could cook, she could sew, her embroidery was unsurpassed in all of Lodz. She left for America before he did, to join her sister at her brother-inlaw’s store in Paterson. They planned to marry there as soon as they had enough money. It wasn’t until later, after she wore his grandmother’s pearls and they exchanged wedding bands, after his postcard collection was started, that he noticed her ankles were a bit thick. But it was a small imperfection that he willed himself to overlook. He knew of his duty to his wife. Eli came downstairs and told Esther his idea about inviting Moishe 16
over. “He has a very nice young wife, Yonka. I think we should invite them over for dinner next Shabbes,” he said. Esther worked all week on her broth, knaidlach and starched linens. It wasn’t long before Eli became a regular customer for the peddler. Every few weeks he stowed away enough coins to make a new purchase. He even put in for more overtime to cover the new expense. He found a reason at last to try to learn a little English: How much? I’ll take this one. 25¢ is too much, I’ll give you 15. Out of his pay of $45 a week, including a half-day on Saturdays and $1.25 docks for bathroom breaks or a mistake, he had to be very careful. Like most of the men, Eli learned to hold it in until lunch break when he could relieve himself at the riverbank instead. He became bolder and advanced beyond the Gibson Girls. There were Bathing Beauties, silent movie stars and very mysterious French postcards to be studied and owned. “Glamour art,” Lain the Peddler told him as he waved a card before his eyes that was kept in a closed box. “Genuine Kirchner. Very French. Very erotic.” Eli didn’t understand all these words, but he did understand the picture in front of him. He had never seen such a thing before. If Camille made him shiver, these pictures made him sweat and go weak in the knees. The Sabbath date arrived and the table was set to perfection with candles and a challah loaf. “My Eli studies Talmud one page a day, just like he did back home,” Esther kvelled to Yonka. “Eli, when do you get to the end?” “Ach, Esther, why do you make such a fuss?” She should only know he’s not even reading it in order anymore, he thought, let alone not always reading it at all. “Let’s see, 365 pages a year, I’ve been studying four years so far… I think in another three years or so. God willing, if I have the strength to keep up all this studying with these hours I have to work.” “Of course you’ll be able to finish, why wouldn’t you?” Esther cleared
the table and brought out her walnut cookies. Yonka marveled at the excess but Esther shrugged. “It’s a special occasion, no? You’ve helped us so much since Eli arrived, we can never repay you. He has his job, we have a roof over our heads, kinehora, above that godforsaken river that makes the building soggy. God willing, we’ll start a family here soon… The least I can do is make you a nice Shabbes dinner.” They finished their meal and Eli tapped Moishe on the shoulder. “Come, shall we study?” and the men excused themselves from the table and went up the stairs. Eli pulled out the stool for Moishe. “Sit, please!” “And where is The Book, Eli? What shall we study?” “I have something new for us, Moishe. Do you remember last week I told you I had to ask you something?” “Yes, of course, I assumed you meant a Talmud question.” “Forgive me,” Eli cleared his throat, “but I am still new to this country. There are things I do not understand.” He slid his Gibson Girl from the back cover of his Book and held it out to Moishe. Moishe looked at the card and laughed. “I see you have discovered the finer things of this New World!” Eli laughed with him. “Can you tell me what it says?” Moishe turned the card over and read, “Camille Clifford. She is very elegant, yes?” “I don’t hear any studying up there!” yelled Esther. “Since when is The Book a comedy?” Eli had memorized every curve of his Gibson Girl. He had fantasized about her in every possible way, even imagined her feeding him boiled tongue and nuzzling her neck. But he grew restless with his Camille and couldn’t stop wondering about the mysterious French postcards that he had only glimpsed so far. Beautiful fluidly rendered figures, undergarments shamelessly exposed, women looking directly, even seduc-
tively at him. He was permitted, he reasoned, to view this nakedness. The Book doesn’t forbid beholding the nakedness of strangers, only of those who are related. He knew this. Eli was working up the courage to ask the peddler if he could see them. How would he describe what he was looking for without sounding dirty? Could he say zaftig (full figured)? He pondered on this for several nights in his study while he searched Leviticus for permission, and remembered his cousin Moishe’s words, “elegant girl.” He practiced saying it silently in his head. “Elegant girl. Elegant. Girl.” “Show me elegant girls,” Eli said to the peddler a few days later, pointing to the closed box they were kept in. Lain winked at him. “Elegant you say? Did you hear that, boys?” He turned to Alonzo and Patrick and the other regulars. “The rabbi wants to see the elegant ladies!” Their laughter sent Eli off in shame, with his collar pulled up over his face. But the next day he returned with full pockets, emboldened by his coins. He placed five of them on the cart. “It’s 25¢ for the elegant girl,” he said to Lain. Lain plucked the coins off the cart, one by one with his soiled fingers poking through ragged sleeves, and deposited them into the box. “35¢” he said. “You owe me 10 more.” “25 to look, then we talk,” Eli answered, pleased with his improved English. Lain slowly slid out the top card from the box, “This one here’s called Le Masque Impassable. You can’t touch it, just look.” He held it up for Eli. Eli gasped. There was a woman lying on the floor, wearing practically nothing. Her legs were spread in a V up the wall where a mask hung. He gasped again, in shock and craving. When he and Esther lay together, he realized, it was always in the dark, under the covers. He never really saw her. Eli knew that he must have this thing to gaze upon by himself, in the privacy of his own home. He handed the extra 10¢ to Lain and took the card from him. This one was wrapped in an extra layer of cloth. He would have to take great care
in hiding it safely in his study. Eli spent the next few weeks happily engaged in his studies every night. Esther commented, “It’s good to see you so involved with The Book again, Eli. I had begun to worry that maybe you were losing interest.” Several days later, on an unseasonably warm evening, Eli came home to a draft in the kitchen. He noticed a breeze lightly blowing down the steps from his study. “Esther?” He looked down the hall. He came back into the kitchen. “Esther? Has someone been in my study?” He heard footsteps from above and saw her thick ankles descend the stairs. She stood before him. “Yes, Eli. Me, your wife. I was in the study.” “It is not the woman’s place to go into the man’s study!” Eli slammed his hand down onto the table. “You know this, Esther!” “What, you don’t want me to keep it for you? Better someone else should do it?” She turned her back to him to stir a pot on the stove. But Eli was so consumed with panic that he could barely hear her. He ran up the stairs and banged the window shut. He noticed that some things had been straightened on his desk. He opened The Book’s back cover and sighed with
relief when he saw that his Camille was still there. Everything else looked in order. You got lucky this time, Eli, he thought, God has been good to you. Your secret is safe. Eli walked back down the steps to the kitchen. “Take off your coat, Eli,” Esther said. “It’s cholent tonight, your favorite.” He breathed in the earthy stew aroma. Such a special meal, he wondered, it’s not Sabbath yet. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have raised my voice, you must forgive me, please.” He reached over to her to still her wrist. “So much stirring, Esther, there won’t be any meat left! Come, let me look at you.” Esther rested the spoon across the top of the pot and turned to face her husband, with her eyes that knew him like no other. “I shouldn’t yell, I’m sorry.” Esther wiped her hand on her apron and took his hands into hers. “Eli, our dreams are coming true. We came to America, stood under the chuppah together, and made a home for ourselves. And now,” she placed his hands on her stomach, “you’re going to be a father.” Eli had to reach for the wall to keep himself from falling. “Can this be true? Me, a father?” He took Esther into his arms and pressed his face into her shoulder. “Esther, Esther, my ketzeleh. You have given me more than any man could ask for!” He felt like he would burst with excitement as he hugged her closer. He would have to work harder, get them a proper home to raise a child. He imagined bouncing a baby boy on his knee in a handsome parlor. He felt tears in his eyes. “My neshomeleh (sweet soul),” he cooed as he stroked her hair. Just then he felt a sharp, flat corner press against his leg through Esther’s apron pocket. He loosened his grip from his wife’s waist. “You clean out your head, Eli.” Esther whispered into his ear. “I’ll take care of the rest.” Fran S. Alexander is a freelance writer and facilitator of writing workshops for young people. She recently completed her M.F.A. degree at Manhattanville College and lives in Chappaqua, New York. FALL 2014
We Cried the Whole Time
Israel took 23 Ethiopian students attending Ayanot Agricultural High School to their native country this past spring. An emotional experience for the teenagers, it was marked by many tears and a new sense of pride in themselves. Na’amat president Galia Wolloch, who traveled with them, reported on their journey. Until this trip, many of the teens indicated they were “almost embarrassed” by their past, said Wolloch. They didn’t know much about Ethiopian life and culture, “identifying more with Jamaican blacks and reggae music.” They didn’t appreciate the sacrifices and dangers their parents had made to get to Israel. Some didn’t appreciate Israel. Those sentiments all changed. The trip helped them build their identities, giving them a chance to acknowledge their family history, Wolloch observed. Some met relatives they didn’t even know existed — an uncle, a half-brother, a cousin. Moshe, 16, saw his grandmother for the first time since he was a 1-year-old. The teenagers witnessed the poverty, the lack of almost everything, recalled Wolloch. In some places, they noticed that people didn’t even have pens. They walked a small part of the long Ethiopian students from Ayanot High School go on a life-changing trip to Ethiopia with Na’amat Israel president Galia Wolloch. She is shown on the right in a village they visited.
arduous trek their parents and other relatives had made. They had never realized that so many people died on the way — many of them women and children who starved. In one of the villages, one of the eight girls told Wolloch: “I’d be living in a hut like this if my parents hadn’t made it to Israel.” Avi, one of the 15 boys, wondered: “I’m looking at the children here and I’m asking myself: If I had stayed here, is this how I would look? It scares me to think about it. I’m looking at the children’s torn clothes; they barely get an education. What will their future look like? I’m thinking about my life. I value my tradition and heritage and appreciate more than ever that I did not stay in Ethiopia. Now I feel like a proud Israeli Ethiopian!” The trip was transformational, said Wolloch. “The teenagers developed a new sense of pride in themselves and their Ethiopian background and a sense of admiration for their parents. We cried the whole time.”
Women Students Get Scholarships
mid the worry and tension of the situation in Israel in July, on the day when for the first time rockets were launched from Gaza toward Tel Aviv, the annual Na’amat Scholarship Award Ceremony went on as usual. “The Tel Aviv event was very moving and the students who spoke were really exciting. We really make a difference for them,” said Shirli Shavit, director of the Na’amat International Department. Among the distinguished guests were Galia Wolloch, president of Na’amat Israel; Masha Lubelsky, head of the Na’amat Scholarship Fund; Dr. Sharon Geva of Tel Aviv University; and professsor Shosh Arad, president of the Ruppin Academic Center. One hundred and ninety of the awardees are studying for bachelor’s or master’s degrees. This year there has been a significant rise — almost 70 percent — in the number of recipients
Who Is a Feminist? Scholarship recipient Einav Gagan discusses her evolution as a feminist in Israeli society. An officer in the Israel Defense Forces, she is a combat pilot navigator.
uring the first year in my gender studies program, the teacher asked who was a feminist. Three or four hands rose in the air, and one was mine. The teacher wondered along with the rest of the students why most of the class had not put up their hands. After all, and generally talking, feminism stands for equal rights for women and fights against women’s oppression and discrimination. If this is so, why is it so hard for us to say we are feminists? I was not born a feminist. I grew up in southern Tel Aviv in the HaArgazim neighborhood. Those were naïve days. I did not know that I lived in a world where there was inequality and discrimination. I could not understand why I was offered help with situations that I could have certainly coped with on my own. Nor did I understand why others made me feel that I was not able to do all the things boys did. When I was in sixth grade, I asked my father what his position was in the army, and he answered he was a paratrooper. Right away, I said I would
studying science, technology, medicine and engineering. As in the last nine years, Na’amat awarded four grants to Ph.D. students for research in the field of women’s and gender studies. And this year, for the second time, Na’amat awarded additional grants to three Ph.D. students doing research in nanotechnology. What are these bright hardworking women studying? One topic of research concerns how the feminist movement has affected politics on the individual and cultural levels. Another subject deals with how new social media affects women’s political activities. One student is conducting research on the questions: How does the sense of professional and maternal efficacy of Muslim Arab female college students develop, and are there relations and influences between these two development
join the paratroopers, too, without even understanding what that meant. When dad smiled at me and said women could not serve in the paratroopers force, I looked at him with a puzzled look and asked why not. Dad told me that this was the way it was, but he also added that just then it had been decided that women could take a pilots course, where it was also possible to parachute. After asking a few questions, I understood what this pilots course was about and that it was no less good than the one for paratroopers. So I consented to this option and went on minding my own business. When I was about to join the army, the seed my father had planted in my mind in the sixth grade had evolved into a true desire to take that pilots course. I sent recommendations, certificates and a letter with my request. Eventually, and after having undergone all relevant exams, I was found to be suitable. After two quite difficult years, I completed the training and became a combat flight officer. I served eight and a half years in the army, and for the last four years I have been coming weekly to serve
trends? A Ph.D. candidate is focusing on how women’s social activism leads to involvement in local politics. In the sciences, one of the recipients is studying the adhesive properties of marine mussels and applying this knowledge to serve in biomedical and industrial applications. A Ph.D. recipient is conducting research on the use of certain properties of nanoparticles and nucleic acid sequences for use in the development of new sensing devices. Another doctoral student is engineering cardiac “patches” to restore heart function for people with endstage cardiovascular disease. After rousing applause for all, Shavit wholeheartedly thanked the members of Na’amat USA and Na’amat Canada for their enthusiastic ongoing efforts on behalf of the scholarship fund. And she expressed her hope that peace would soon prevail.
Above: Some of the 197 recipients of highereducation scholarships with Na’amat leadership. Right: Na’amat president Galia Wolloch presents a scholarship to Einav Gagan, a combat pilot navigator who is studying for her M.A. degree in clinical psychology.
as a reserve soldier in the air force. During my service in the air force I have run into several issues concerning my feminist identity. I like to talk about them by comparing them to similar different waves of feminism. The first wave of feminism claimed equal rights for women and men and the elimination of prejudice about their natural differences or inferiority regarding their competence to fill different roles. At the beginning of my military career I wanted to show that there was no difference between the rest of the soldiers and me. I wanted to prove that I was able and worthy of doing all those things men are required to do. I tried to hide my feminine identity. I tried to express myself in a masculine way so as to feel assimilated in my environment, and thus be able to become “one of them.” The second wave of feminism demanded equality for women but, this time, taking into account the differences between the sexes. It was not enough that women became integrated into the existing masculine systems. This time there was a need for basic conscious changes in the rules of the game. After several
years in the army, I felt that I no longer wanted to hide my feminine identity — that I was not a man who does his job but a woman. I was no longer hiding my feminine look, and I would even call the attention of my commanders to issues related to gender that bothered me. As a commander, I worked for the equality of opportunities for women and in favor of women empowerment. The third wave of feminism believes in a non-qualitative approach to femininity and in a diverse and enriching observation of the term feminism. I chose to work through the span of the patriarchal system, trying to change things from there. However, I believe that there are many other different ways leading to equality of opportunity, which might be just as good and right as the ones mentioned before. After my release from the army, I started a bachelor’s degree in psychology, gender studies and education. My university studies in general and those in gender studies in particular helped me develop the ability for deep observation, for critical thinking and for questioning.
I am currently working on a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but dealing with gender issues is an integral part of who I am, an integral part of my identity. The achievement of gender equality in the family, at work, in society and in the economy is one of the principal goals Na’amat pursues. On recognizing the importance of education in general, and to encourage women to attain higher education and to improve their status in the labor market, each year Na’amat gives research grants for doctoral students and scholarships for students who are doing their B.A. or M.A. studies. I want to thank you on behalf of myself and the other students who have received their grants today and to all those who enable this program to succeed. I also want to thank all those who are willing to invest their time and resources to make it possible for women to receive an opportunity to advance and to get integrated in the hope of making the world more egalitarian. I hope that we take this opportunity to further the promotion of feminist awareness in whichever sector it might be relevant.
Unforgettable Mission to Poland
Shirli Shavit, head of the Na’amat International Department, reports on a stirring Na’amat mission to Poland:
e named our special mission to Poland “An unknown sister — following in the footsteps of forgotten heroines.” Organized by Na’amat and Yad Vashem, 45 women — mostly Na’amat leaders, workers and volunteers — spent five days immersed in Holocaust history. Each day gave voice to an “unknown sister” with personal stories and heartbreaking testimonies. The mission began in Warsaw’s Jewish cemetery where we visited the graves of important women and men. This was followed by a visit to the synagogue and a meeting with Rabbi Shudrich. This extraordinary man came to Warsaw from the United States about 10 years ago. He wanted to revive Jewish life and to seek out Jews who grew up in Christian families during World War II and until recently didn’t know their background. Their parents had been sent to death camps. We saw the still-standing part of the wall that surrounded the Warsaw Ghetto. We walked to the Umshlag Platz from where hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported to death camps. We heard the heroic stories of Mordecai Anielewicz, the commander of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, and Tusia Altman, a brave 23-year-old Zionist activist who encouraged the ghetto youth to fight against the Germans. At the outbreak of the war, in 1939, there were 3.3 million Jews in Poland (10 percent of the population). About one out of three people in major Polish cities was a Jew. Jewish culture and traditions were very strong. Three million Polish
Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Once you become aware of the flourishing Jewish life and culture that had existed, it is even more horrifying and almost impossible to grasp the enormity of the disaster. The second day we visited the city of Lublin, once a dynamic center of Jewish life. Three kilometers from Lublin, the Nazis built the death and concentration camp Majdanek. This horrible place remains as it was. Holding flags of Israel, flags of Na’amat and white umbrellas, we walked through the barracks, through the gas chambers and the crematorium. In a huge room we saw 40,000 pairs of shoes — only a small number of the 900,000 pairs of shoes that were found there in 1945 when the Russian Army liberated the camp. It was so terrible and unbelievable to see the shoes and think of all the women, men, children and babies who were killed there. We heard stories from hell! Beside mass graves, we held a moving ceremony in memory of those who perished. Nearby, words on a memorial monument read: “Our Destiny Is Your Warning!” While holding the Israeli flag and singing “Hatikva” at the end of this ceremony, the tears just kept on coming. I thought how lucky and proud we should be to have family and to live in Israel, the only Jewish state in the world. And I thought about how many Jewish lives could have been saved if we would have had an independent state of our own before World War II. On the third day, we drove to Kilcha (about two hours from Lublin), stopping in a forest. We walked for a few minutes and arrived at the place where 45 Jewish children and babies were buried in a mass grave. They had been murdered by the Nazis in May 1943. We heard the story of Zelinka (Zila Liberman), the only child who survived — she was only 11 years old. Singing, we lit candles in memory of
the children. The name and the age of a child was written on each candle. At that point, Galia Wolloch, Na’amat’s president, announced that Na’amat Israel would build a day care center in memory of the children from Kilcha. We continued on to Krakow where we visited the Shindler Museum, which is dedicated to the Jewish life in Krakow before and during World War II. The museum is located at the building where Shindler’s factory stood. Day 4 brought us to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I will never forget the feeling I had when we walked into this most horrendous place on earth. One cannot believe and cannot grasp the fact that about 1.2 million Jews were exterminated in this sprawling death camp — 200,000 of them were children! Every single day, 20,000 people were burned in the crematorium. We walked along the railroad tracks, where trains brought thousands of Jews every day from all over Europe. We walked into the barracks, where the Jews slept 10 to 15 people on one narrow wooden surface. We heard heartbreaking stories and testimonies of the very few survivors. After passing the destroyed crematoriums, we entered into an enormous room where there was a wall covered with numerous photos of people who were murdered in Auschwitz. I recall the photos of large families with young children and babies — no one was left to tell the story. In this room, all of us were given letters from our loved ones back home, which were prepared ahead of time. It is hard to describe our emotions when we read the letters. In the afternoon of this most difficult day, we visited the other part of the complex, which served as a concentration and labor camp. We saw the cabin where Dr. Mengele conducted his cruel medical experiments. We heard testimonies of women who survived his experi-
Na’amat workers take a heartwrenching trip to Poland, following in the footsteps of forgotten heroines.
ments and went to Israel after the war. And there were more huge rooms, filled with eyeglasses, utensils, hair, suitcases and artificial limbs that were taken from the people who were murdered in AuschwitzBirkenau. To see and not to believe! At the end of the day, we held a very moving ceremony and lit candles in memory of family members of the participants who died in the Holocaust. We spent the last day of our journey in the Jewish quarter in Krakow-Kazmitz. In the ghetto we saw where the Jewish underground activities took place. We heard the story of Shimshon and Gusta Draenger, a young couple who were involved in many courageous anti-Nazi activities and were murdered by the Gestapo. We ended the day in Warsaw, where we visited Janusz Korczak’s orphanage. And at the city’s new Jewish Museum, we presented the director with a picture that we prepared: a montage of photos of all the relatives of the participants in the mission who had perished in the Holocaust. It will be hung permanently in the Jewish Museum in Warsaw. It takes much time to really grasp what we saw and learned. It was really a hard, very powerful and meaningful experience and very difficult to witness. I feel that it influenced our lives and gave each of us another perspective about the value of life, family and our existence as Jewish people. My mother is a Holocaust survivor. Family members from my mother’s side perished in the Holocaust. I learned at school and heard stories from my grandmother and my mother about some of the things that happened, but being there gave this knowledge a completely different approach, stronger than ever.
Rosh Hashanah Message from NA’AMAT Israel to All NA’AMAT USA Members Dear Haverot, Best wishes for a HAPPY and HEALTHY NEW YEAR! Let us hope that this coming year will bring peace, security and social justice to all of us. As you know, we went through very hard times these past months, especially our population in the south. The future seems unpredictable, and we still have to cope with difficult problems. Despite the situation, we must believe that we will overcome all barriers and finally reach peace. We would like to extend our utmost appreciation and gratitude to you for your unflagging efforts and support in these last few months. Your help is crucial for our children and families. We believe that Na’amat symbolizes the bond and solidarity among Jews around the world. You have proven again that we are a strong international movement and that we work together and support one another in times of war as in times of peace. Thank you very much! Hag Sameach from Na’amat Israel. Galia Wolloch President
Shirli Shavit Director, International Department
More Na’amat News on page 22
Let’s End Bullying
by MARCIA J. WEISS
What is bullying? Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior generally among school children. It is a distinct pattern of deliberate harm and humiliation. The behavior is often repeated and involves a power imbalance. Bullying involves making threats, spreading rumors and causing physical pain or mental stress through physical or verbal attack, harassment or ridicule. There are three types of bullying: verbal bullying involving teasing, taunting, name-calling, threats to cause harm or inappropriate sexual comments; social bullying involving social isolation/exclusion, spreading rumors or public embarrassment; and physical bullying involving kicking, hitting, pinching, spitting, pushing, tripping or inappropriate hand gestures. Bullying can happen in various places: the school building, the playground or the bus, during or after school hours. It can also occur on the Internet (cyberbullying) through nasty text messages and e-mails, rumors, embarrassing pictures and the like. Parents often become involved in efforts to help children stop cyberbullying. Bullying occurs in cities, towns and rural areas. Victims who are gay, lesbian, transsexual or even disabled are at increased risk of being victimized. People perceived as “different” are often victims: those who are socially isolated, those unwilling to defend themselves, those with low self-esteem, those who are overweight or underweight, and those wearing glasses or different clothes and seen as “uncool.” Bullies
often have issues at home and reduced parental involvement, are aggressive and easily frustrated, have few friends and view violence in a positive manner.
Signs of bullying
Victims may experience unexplained injuries, sick feelings, difficulty sleeping and frequent nightmares, lack of appetite, declining grades, loss of friends, desire to inflict bodily harm on themselves, thoughts of suicide and actual suicide attempts. Bullying has been shown to lead to absences and poor performance in the classroom. Students who bully are increasingly aggressive — troublemakers who are often sent to the principal’s office or otherwise disciplined — and those who worry about their reputation or popularity. At the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in 2011, President Obama reported that one-third of middle school and high school students reported being bullied during the school year. Almost three million students said they were pushed, shoved, tripped and spit on. Bullying is not merely “a rite of passage.” Bullying victims do not generally seek help because they feel overwhelmed, humiliated, embarrassed and out of control. Feeling they can handle the problem on their own, victims fear appearing weak so do not seek help. They also fear backlash from their peers as well as their parents. Sometimes the occurrences of bullying become so severe that victims who feel they have nowhere to turn take their own lives.
The following statistics are alarming. According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, about 4,400 per year. Other studies report: For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. More than 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it. Victims of bullying are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, and 10- to 14-year-old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide. ABC News reported nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and some 160,000 stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying. Bullying does not occur solely among school-age children. It also can occur in the workplace due to power struggles and the need to get ahead without regard to others.
What about the law? While federal laws do not directly address bullying, a school or district may be charged with violation of the First Amendment, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and other laws aimed at protecting an individual’s right to equal protection. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that parents may sue a school or district for failing to take action on a sexual harassment claim it knew about but failed to act on (Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 1998). While there is no federal law against bullying, most states have enacted laws to prevent bullying and to protect children. The aim of these laws is to address intimidation, harassment and bullying in schools. The laws are meant to promote
A Story From the Glickman Center
wenty-three-year-old M. resides at Na’amat’s Glickman shelter in Tel Aviv with her year-old twin boys. For the previous four years she lived in her mother-in-law’s house. The sick elderly woman is a relative newcomer in Israel and doesn’t speak any Hebrew. In her native country, a women is subjected to her
mother-in-law’s authority. Aware of this tradition, M. respected the wishes of her motherin-law, taking care of her as well as her own twin boys. After the birth of the twins, the mental and physical health of the mother-in-law started to deteriorate significantly. She thought M. was stealing things from her and
became afraid her food had been poisoned. She requested that the twins be bathed three to four times a day. The situation worsened to the point that M. felt threatened and was even afraid of falling asleep. She was worried that the grandmother would hurt the twins. The husband believed incontrovertibly in his mother’s words,
accusing M. of not taking care of her. In the evening before coming to the shelter, the mother-in-law attacked M. and yelled at her. Her husband took the twins from his wife’s hands and handed them over to his mother. He prevented M. from coming near the twins for several hours, despite their incessant crying.
school safety and reduce truancy and school violence. They specifically require schools to create certain policies for prevention, training and enforcement of certain behaviors. Students who violate anti-bullying provisions face suspension and expulsion. According to the think tank Education Commission of the States, bullying is handled differently around the country. New Hampshire’s law specifies that an act need occur only once to be bullying. Nebraska’s law requires local districts to create bullying policies. Several states recently added provisions to cover cyberbullying. Laws in Massachusetts and New Jersey detail how educators are to prevent, report and investigate bullying. The website stopbullying.gov provides information on how individual states refer to bullying in its laws and what is required on the part of schools and districts. Bullying, cyberbullying and related behaviors may be addressed in a single law or may be addressed in multiple laws. In some states, bullying appears in the criminal code that may apply to juveniles
Can we stop bullying?
Teachers, coaches, community groups and open forums that address bullying with parents, community leaders, businesses and religious groups can develop a shared strategy on how to handle bullying. Raising awareness is the first step in preventing bullying. Let children know they are not alone. Develop a dialogue. Take action!
Marcia J. Weiss, J.D., is Na’amat national vice president of program and education. Her previous column dealt with sex trafficking.
Eventually, the kids’ screaming and wrenching crying prompted neighbors to call the police. The police officers brought M. and her twins to the Glickman shelter. During her stay, M. has been trying to recover and get stronger. She is learning a profession — fingernail design, an occupation that could
Take Action for Women’s Right to Birth Control
Following the national board meeting in September 2014, held in Chicago, this letter was sent to the President of the United States. All board members signed it.
Dear President Obama,
e, the undersigned officers and board members of Na’amat USA, a national and international organization promoting the welfare and rights of women, children and families in Israel and around the world, strongly oppose the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Hobby Lobby case allowing employers to refuse to pay for birth control coverage. Numerous other insurance services are covered; why not birth control? This is selective discrimination that should be outlawed. We stand firmly with the Obama administration and its proposed policy preventing billion-dollar corporations from following Hobby Lobby by refusing to provide coverage for birth control. We strongly support the administration’s efforts to ensure universal access to no-copay birth control for every woman regardless of her place of employment or the religious views of her employer. Personal beliefs have no place in corporate policy. Corporations of any size should be unable to block a woman’s access to birth control. In pending HHS regulations in response to the harmful Hobby Lobby decision, we suggest inclusion of the following: *Billion-dollar corporations must be prohibited from refusing to pay for birth control coverage. Birth control is basic health care that should be covered by employers regardless of a company’s size. *All employees and prospective employees must be made aware of their employer’s refusal to pay for birth control coverage. In conclusion, we strongly support the Obama administration’s efforts to protect women’s access to birth control and prevent CEOs from deciding unilaterally whether or not women are entitled to no-copay birth control.
help her eventually become economically independent. The shelter’s lawyer, who is also a certified family mediator, concluded that M. is not interested in divorcing her husband, but she has firmly decided to separate from her mother-in-law. A decision was taken not to file a complaint but to
initiate a mediation process during which the couple would eventually live apart from the mother-in-law. M. and her husband also have to undergo couples therapy, while the local social services do whatever is necessary to place the mother-in-law in appropriate housing. Through the mediation of the
social worker at the shelter, a social worker near the husband has been contacted. He has started psychotherapy to help him fulfill his commitment to his mother as well as his wife and children. There is still a long way to go until M. returns home, but now she has hope that their lives will be better.
continued from page 13 The Marshall T. Meyer Latin American Rabbinical Seminary was founded in 1962 by the charismatic American rabbi for whom it was named. Under the military junta, Meyer was politically active in trying to rescue kidnapped Jewish prisoners. The only Conservative rabbinical school in Latin America, its graduates serve Jewish communities throughout Latin America. Educating the next generation, some 17,000 Jewish children are enrolled in Jewish schools in Buenos Aires. The community’s ORT school is considered one of the best in the city, with both Jewish and non-Jewish students. “The Jewish cultural life in Buenos Aires is phenomenal,” Furmanski said, although, like the U.S., many members of the Jewish community remain unaffiliated. The city’s traditional Orthodox neighborhood, known as “Once” (pronounced “own-say” in Spanish), is still associated with Jewish-owned businesses. But today you are just as likely to spot a Korean family running a convenience store as a bubbie-and-zaide fabric shop. Though it is still relatively common to see young Orthodox mothers, hair covered, pushing baby carriages along the Once streets, now Jews are scattered throughout the city along with their schools and institutions. In the upscale Palermo neighborhood, sounds of prayers from a Shabbat evening service emanate from the Conservative Bet Hillel synagogue. Over the years, many of the Buenos Aires Jewish community moved here from Once. Barriers block the front of the synagogue, and this visitor was met by a security guard before being permitted inside. A joint bar and bat mitzvah was taking place in the standing-room-only sanctuary. Young and old greeted each other with an enviable warm familiarity. Some of the prayer melodies were old and familiar. Other prayers were sung to catchy modern tunes, sometimes accompanied by a guitar, keyboard and flute. Outside the sanctuary, Myrna Vigel, 30, watched as her 15-month-old daughter Milena let off some energy. “People here are very warm and caring,” she said. “We feel part of a community.” 24
With a sizable Orthodox population, Buenos Aires offers a selection of kosher butcher shops, delis and restaurants serving European and Middle Eastern fare. “There are now more kosher supermarkets than when I was growing up, or kosher sections in local supermarkets — and even some big name supermarkets have kosher meat sections,” said Betina Cotler, 49, a teacher who grew up in the Jewish community. “I personally don’t buy kosher products, but both my children love challah.” Cotler said she is raising her two young children with a cultural affection for their Jewish identity. She attended Jewish day school but neither of her children do. However, she is considering sending her younger daughter to a new, small Jewish kindergarten. She does not belong to a synagogue, but explained, “For me being Jewish is a way of life, which you carry out on a daily basis with your actions.” While violent incidents of anti-Semitism are spreading in Europe, Cotler has little fear of anti-Semitism in Argentina, despite occasional isolated incidents. Indeed, acts of anti-Semitism are largely denounced in the media and by most political parties, said DAIA’s Knoblovits. He made the point that, unlike Europe, the extreme right is not heavily represented in the political arena, although anti-Semitism is sometimes expressed in the guise of anti-Israel rhetoric. Knoblovits said that in 1988, the DAIA was instrumental in getting antidiscrimination legislation passed. In the past two years, some 1,000 Jewish and non-Jewish students participated in an annual Holocaust memorial march in Buenos Aires under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. Argentina’s religious and community leaders agree that much of the credit for the decrease in anti-Semitism and the growth of a feeling of tolerance in Argentine society goes to Pope Francis. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he appeared on television with Rabbi Abraham Skorka and the two friends co-authored a book. The future pope had close contact with several other Argentinine rabbis as well as Muslim leaders. Just before his election to the papacy, Pope Francis was scheduled, as he
was every year, to attend the Passover seder at the home of DAIA’s director of interreligious affairs Alberto Zimmerman. He called to tell him he “had to go to Rome but would be back in time for the seder.” Of course, he has not yet returned to Buenos Aires. Last Rosh Hashanah, Knoblovits recalled, the DAIA staff was having a Jewish New Year reception when Zimmerman received a phone call from the Pope wishing them a happy holiday and asking them to go to synagogue to pray for him. “When the Pope says that anti-Semitism is anti-Christian, it carries weight,” Knoblovits said. Nowadays, the DAIA, much like the ADL in the United States, denounces not only anti-Semitism but also any expression of racism against minority groups, especially recent immigrants from Bolivia and Korea and against the Romas living in Argentina. The DAIA is not alone. Rabbi Daniel Goldman of Bet El Synagogue, the largest Conservative synagogue in Buenos Aires, commented, “In Argentina there are now groups who are more vulnerable than the Jews, like migrants from Bolivia, Peru and sexual minorities.” Earlier this year, Goldman was part of an interfaith delegation from Argentina to the Vatican. Knoblovits noted that in the wake of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Argentina have been tainted with anti-Semitic slogans and signs with swastikas. Furmanski explained, “The situation of anti-Semitism rears its head every time there is a problem in Israel with the Arabs because they are aligned with Latin America and that is not good for the community.” This past summer, leftist parties also organized marches against the United States. He added, “For now it is only marches and signs, but on the social networks you can see growing anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli [remarks]. It is dangerous to continue the war in Israel first for the future of Israel and second because of the repercussions on all the Jews of the world.” Jerusalem journalist Judith Sudilovsky writes for The Jerusalem Report and the Catholic News Sevice. She wrote “In Defense” in our spring 2014 issue.
Book Visible City
By Tova Mirvis New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 249 pages, $24
s Tova Mirvis’s new book Visible City opens, a woman stands alone in the living room of a New York Upper West Side apartment, training her son’s toy binoculars on the windows of the classic prewar building across the street. While her husband, Jeremy (a lawyer who is involved in urban development), works late and her children sleep, Nina watches her neighbors and tries to piece together the story of their lives from her distant vantage point. The apartment into which she peers is occupied by Leon (a psychotherapist), his wife, Charlotte (an art history professor), their grown daughter, Emma, and — on occasion — Emma’s fiancé, Steven. It is around the lives of these three couples, as well as other colorful characters intrinsic to the neighborhood, that the novel revolves. While Mirvis skillfully weaves a story in which the once separate lives of her cast of characters begin to connect, the reader witnesses the paradoxical undoing of the intimate relationships that seemed so harmonious in Nina’s imagination — and the book becomes a tale of alienation and estrangement. Readers of Mirvis’s previous two books may be surprised to find that, unlike them, in this novel Judaism plays a very small part. Jeremy recalls briefly the Orthodox religious upbringing of his youth when he lies awake in fear and his father comforts him by reading aloud a psalm “the Lord is my light, whom shall I fear.” As a child he repeated the psalm, but notes that what really comforted him were not the words but his father sitting next to him. Otherwise, this is the secular Upper West Side. In Visible City, the characters each long for connection, which seems largely absent as they go about their
daily lives cluttered with the minutiae of work, child care and alternate side of the street parking. They feel emptiness as passions languish, and the old roles they filled as partners, spouses, parents and professionals no longer hold enough meaning. Parenthetically, Mirvis published a personal essay in The New York Times earlier this year about her own divorce from her husband of 20 years and from the Orthodox Jewish world. One wonders to what extent the grappling of her characters mirrors the events of her own life. As the title Visible City suggests, the theme of what is visible and what is hidden (or just out of sight) permeates the book. The chapters are narrated by different characters, and the reader can’t help but be drawn in, as often the same events are described from very disparate points of view, providing different windows into the story. The apartment windows through which the characters are seen both hide and reveal different aspects of their lives. Several characters become entranced by the luminous windows of the historical stained glass artist John LaFarge, some of which may be hidden deep within the architecture of the city. The characters often employ subterfuge about details of their own lives, and one character even adopts the name of his son’s invisible friend when he wants to withhold his identity. The redevelopment of a neighborhood where old buildings are rapidly being replaced by new skyscrapers provides not only a plot element, but also a metaphor for the changing landscape of the lives of its inhabitants. One character observes that most people live their lives “perched between acceptance and resignation.” It may be Mirvis’s wish not to leave the reader in
that despondent place that leads her to take on a tone of magical realism in the last chapter. While I respect the author’s desire to leave the reader with a sense of hope, well-being and connection, I found the book’s sudden change in tone disconcerting. Even after a rereading, I was unsure of what events were going on in the minds of her characters and which events they were actually experiencing. In spite of its flawed ending, Visible City is thought provoking. After finishing it, I found myself walking through the streets of the city with a new feeling that perhaps I also had connections with the people around me, yet to be discovered. — Marilyn Rose Marilyn Rose is an artist, designer and writer living in New Jersey. Her website is www.marilynroseart.com.
By Aharon Appelfeld Translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green New York: Schocken Books 225 pages, $25
ou were born in Israel, isn’t that right?” Ernst surprises her again the next day. “No. I was born in a displaced persons’ camp near Frankfurt.” “I was sure, for some reason, you were born in Israel.” “I don’t remember anything about it,” Irena says, and immediately regrets it. Her parents had nurtured the memory of that camp to the point where sometimes it seemed to her that she remembered the smallest details.” There are many, many novels and books of all kinds about Israel, about FALL 2014
BOOK REVIEWS the Holocaust and about what we do and don’t remember of that impossible horrible time, but no one can write with the understated simplicity, the clear eyed and heartbreaking emotion as Aharon Appelfeld, author of more than 40 works of fiction and nonfiction. I was lucky enough to meet him once. Some years ago I was a partner in a small book publishing company called Adama in English and Adam in Hebrew. One of my partners, based in Jerusalem, gave me a novel by Appelfeld, an author we were publishing in Hebrew. (Appelfeld lives in Jerusalem.) It was called Badenheim 1939. “This book,” said my partner, Aryeh, a wise Romanian Jew who was both cynical and optimistic, “has the ability to change the way you think about books, writing and story telling. He’s truly a great writer, with an original way of seeing.”
This time Aryeh was right. I read Appelfeld holding my breath, in awe of how simply and powerfully he told a difficult complicated story — with understatement and silence. Most novels, including mine, are noisy. We writers tend to talk a lot in our pages. Not so Appelfeld, a product of the Holocaust, who grew up in one of those countries that kept changing hands and allegiances until it became a part of the Ukraine. I heard him tell the story once of how, when he came to Palestine after a DP camp in Italy, he had a hard time finding his father. And when he did it was an experience so large he knew he could never ever write about it. He never did. Appelfeld’s books, including Suddenly, Love, are a wonderful example of
what a master he truly is. These novels talk about silence, about the Holocaust, about loss and about how we continue — with prayers and with dreams. Suddenly, Love is a nontraditional love story that is centered on the unspoken question of what love actually looks like — how it shows itself in life. Ernst is a 70-year-old retired investment broker, who lost his daughter and his first wife to the Nazis. A native of Central Europe, he wants, more than he’s ever wanted anything, to be a writer. And writing is what he does. He is unpublished and impossibly critical. And still, he writes. Because he has a debilitating illness, Ernst hires a housekeeper who also acts
Jewish Mysteries and Thrillers by JUDITH A. SOKOLOFF
Some old pros and some new Jewish crime writers entangle readers in suspenseful tales.
t’s hard to believe that The Heist (Harper) is my first venture into Daniel Silva’s lengthy oeuvre of thrillers, his 14th in the Gabriel Allon series. Thrown into the mix of interesting places and people are a dead British spy who has been dealing in stolen art, a missing-for-decades Caravaggio masterpiece, billions of dollars belonging to the “monster” Syrian leader, a brave female survivor of the 1982 Hama massacre in Syria, tight-lipped Austrian bankers and the denizens of Israeli secret service headquarters. Hero Allon, the soon-to-
be head of Israeli intelligence, does double duty as a master art restorer in Venice — somewhat odd, but then Superman was Clark Kent by day. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, Silva takes readers on the highways and through the alleys of European and Middle East cities, the plot twisting and turning on an exciting canvas.
ince the last Faye Kellerman crime drama I read, hero Peter Decker,
detective lieutenant in the LAPD, has moved to an upstate New York college town with his sage and charming wife, Rina Lazarus. In Murder 101 (William Morrow), he’s working for a local police force, suffering from lack of excitement. Decker is not adjusting as well as his wife, who has involved herself with the local Hillel, making Shabbat dinners for those in need and teaching Torah. Fortunately, for Detective Decker and for readers, a couple of Tiffany glass panels are stolen from a local mausoleum followed by two murders. Several police forces become involved along with trips to New York and Boston antique galleries,
research at rare book libraries and interference from the CIA and some ruthless Russians. And, of course, there are Rina Lazarus’ invaluable insights. All of this comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion, though the best parts are the investigation and the chase.
ou’ll whiz through Norwegian by Night (Mariner Books), a thriller by Derek B. Miller, where you’ll be barely able to keep up with Grandpa Sheldon Horowitz. A widower and former Marine sniper in the Korean War, he has reluctantly left his beloved New York City to move in with his granddaughter and her new husband in Norway, home of some 1,000 Jews. Horowitz gets involved in protecting a young
as his nurse, a 36-year-old woman named Irena who is more or less his opposite. Ernst is a sort of intellectual, a man who takes his thoughts very seriously. Irena is a simpler person, more silent and dutiful. She is nearly silent much of the time. She has lived with her parents all her life, where her existence has been contained. When she worked in an old age home, her life was about them. She loved them. They loved her. Their life together was uncomplicated. Extremely shy, nearly illiterate, still she is a kind of visionary, a person who had a gift all her life. “Since childhood Irena has had the ability to imagine things from afar, to describe places and people even though she had never seen them. Her mother had been frightened by that ability, and she used to say to her: ‘You mustn’t imagine things. People who imagine things end up being liars.’”
boy after his mother is murdered, and they flee Oslo for the wilderness. The chase is on – and it is riveting. The story is touching, too, as Horowitz’s mind takes him back to painful moments of the war and his relationships with his son and wife. The author is the director of the Policy Lab, which develops evidence-based policy design, and is a senior fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
n A Possibility of Violence (HarperCollins), the sequel to The Missing File, D.A. Mishani is well is on his way to writing a crime series. The books feature the intriguing Tel Aviv police inspector Avraham Avraham. In this novel, we find him investigating a bomb threat
Ernst grew up in Eastern Europe, hating religious Jews because he was a young communist. His parents were unhappy and grim, and he escaped them by reading — reading his way out of their life. Through Irena, he is able to consider his own past, and to understand the tragedy of his own parents’ lives. Irena, who does not really read, helps Ernst to write in a new way, to begin to tell the story he truly wanted to tell, a story of humanity and life. Ernst is in pain, and Irena helps him by being present in a way that he’s never experienced before. She brings him flowers, fruit and vegetables. She cooks him meals and believes that food and her loyalty will help him. She’s right. She helps him in life and with his writing, which becomes, for the first time, about his ancestors, his family who lived in the Carpathians for generations. For
at a day care center. Then, a person of interest in the case disappears. The missing father of two young sons also has a missing wife, and Avraham fears the boys are in danger. Mishani, a literary scholar specializing in the history of detective literature (and the editor of Israeli fiction and crime literature at Keter Books in Israel), goes deep into the minds of both Avraham and the suspicious father, adding a dimension of psychological complexity to the plot.
lso from Israel is Ruth Shidlo’s The Rosebush Murders: A Helen Mirkin Novel (Hoopoe Publishing). Narrated by Jerusalem homicide detective Helen Mirkin, the story begins with the murder of a psychologist, partner of a
the first time, he is able to describe his family’s life, and writing frees him from an oppression he’d never before voiced. Ernst reads to Irena, who understands. He grows sicker. His pain becomes more and more intense. Death enters into their house. Irena watches over Ernst like a bodyguard. “No one is happier than Irena. She makes breakfast and sits at Ernst’s side for a long time.” Ernst dreams and dreams — about his relatives, about his parents, about a life he didn’t realize he knew so well. They remain together. Ernst writing. Irena nearby, making sure he has all he needs. For the first time in his life, he does. Esther Cohen writes, teaches and sends a poem a day to her subscribers at esthercohen.com.
renowned opera singer. The two moms have a young daughter. Many smart, strong women are involved in a case that involves in vitro fertilization treatment, a second murder, a fake doctor and clandestine medical research. Mirkin is an engaging character — a smart detective who sings arias, speaks Spanish, quotes T.S. Eliot and is keenly selfaware. I hear that the author, a Tel Aviv psychologist, is working on a second Mirkin mystery and look forward to reading it.
n City of the Sun (Greenleaf Book Group Press), Egyptianborn Juliana Maio has created an enlightening historical novel, thriller and love story. Expelled from Egypt as a young child during the Suez Crisis of 1956, the author has done extensive research
on the Jews of Egypt, especially during and after World War II. The history in the novel is what I found most interesting. The love angle and story of the covert mission of an American journalist who must infiltrate Cairo’s Jewish community are engaging, but the dialogue often seems scripted for an action movie. A young Sadat plays a part, as do members of the early Muslim Brotherhood. There’s a nefarious German spy and a host of Brits causing trouble for everyone. The author practices entertainment law in Los Angeles.
Judith A. Sokoloff is the editor of Na’amat Woman.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
πOr chapter (South Florida Council) celebrates the 90th birthday of Yoly Nothman, the 80th birthday of Sonia Feldenkreis and the birthdays of Liuba Tuchman, Adela Petasne and Raquel Gorin. The club also kicked off its yearly fundraising event during which beautifully wrapped bottles of honey are distributed to all its members and friends in honor of the Jewish holidays.
π Cleveland Council presented a discussion on “What You Need to Know About Elder Abuse: Social and Legislative Perspectives.” Guest speakers were Wendy Cantor Dobo, LISW-S clinical manager of social work and case management at Jewish Family Services, and Sharon Comet-Epstein, J.D., in family law, collaborative attorney and mediator. “This very informative program taught us what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones,” said participant Robin Lieberman. The event was chaired by Rita Frankel and Reva Zaretzsky, co-vice presidents of programming. From left: Wendy Cantor Dobo, Reva Zaretzsky, Sharon Comet-Epstein and Rita Frankel.
πAvodah club in Syracuse, New York, holds its membership meeting with special guests Irene Hack, Eastern Area co-coordinator, and Ange Nadel, Eastern Area director.
π Cleveland Council held its Healing Lives/Pursuing Justice 2014 Tribute Event at Landerhaven events space. An award was given to Alexandria M. Ruden, J.D., senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. The funds raised will go to Na’amat’s Glickman Center for Prevention and Treatment of Domestic Violence in Tel Aviv. From left: Susan Haas, Myrna Groger, Alexandria M. Ruden and Nina Rothman.
πCalifornia members welcome Shirli Shavit, director of the Na’amat Israel International Department. She spoke about the organization’s vital activities during the war with Gaza. From left: Rene Peters, Susan Isaacs, Stephanie Nygard, Hilary Botchin, Shirli Shavit, Na’amat president Liz Raider, Esther Friedberg, Susan Brownstein, Gail Simpson and Debbie Kohn.
Members of Shalom club (Long Island/ ® Queens Council) relish delicious ice cream treats (forget the calories for once!) at a summer fundraising party held at a member’s home. From left, standing: Ruth Weinberg, Rhonda Eisenstadt, Robin Weiss, Leslie Berlin, Laura Smith, Carol Knecht, Shelli Tivin, Jane Berliner, Marsha Jaffee, Nadine Simon and Linda Biderman; front: Barbara Golden, Judy Shanker, Eleanor Blackman and Barbara Adler.
πShalom club (Long Island/Queens Council) holds a comedy night. They roared with laughter as they comfortably watched comedian Elon Gold’s “Chosen and Taken” at a member’s home. They also lit candles to celebrate simchas for the month of August, making a donation for each candle. Shown, from left: Judy Shanker, Jane Berliner, Eleanor Blackman, Nadine Simon, Florence Lefkowitz and Diane Hershkowitz.
πEnthusiastic members of Rimonim chapter in Las Vegas, Nevada, hold an opening meeting. From left, front row: Nadine Carter (co-president), Jackie Kramer (treasurer), Marilyn Brenner, Merle Mitzmacher, Lois Joseph (co-president), Rhoda Stock, Alan Stock, Meera Kamegal, Gale Labovitz, Renee Premack, Laura Marcue and Dotti Combs; back row: Jere Davis.
continued from page 3 bership/donation tracking program, and a trial period for alternating print and digital-only editions of our magazine. The online-only Na’amat Woman was discussed at length at the September national board meeting. We value the opinions of all members, but also need to consider multilevel organizational needs. Each change is bringing new opportunities for expansion of our ways to attract more members. As our local and national communications improve, we are raising awareness of the work Na’amat USA does and of opportunities to get involved. A way for us all to get involved: Be sure to see our statement on women’s right to get contraceptive coverage from health insurance in “Take Action,” our magazine’s advocacy column (page 22). The statement was signed by the national board officers and sent to President Obama. Copies of this letter have also been sent to Na’amat USA area offices for local signatures and community public relations. A major upcoming event: Na’amat USA will be celebrating its 90th anniversary a year from now! The national board is busy making plans to mark this milestone with many ways for all our members to join in the festivities on local and national levels. Thinking about the present time of year: During the High Holy Days and Sukkot, we have the opportunity for reflection on not only our personal lives, but also our connection to the global issues surrounding us. May we as members of Na’amat USA continue to strive for a more peaceful world, with dignity and hope for a brighter future for all humankind — free of rockets, terrorist attacks and warfare. My best wishes for a happy and sweet New Year!
Calling All Snowbirds
The members of Na’amat USA clubs and councils in Florida are looking forward to your participation in their meetings and special events. Please call the Southeast Area office for information: 561-368-8898.
Visit NA’AMAT Installations! See Na’amat in action when you travel to Israel. Na’amat’s International Department will arrange your visit to a day care center or technological high school. Just contact Shirli Shavit at email@example.com at least two weeks ahead.
Like Na’amat International on Facebook! Check out the latest news from our sisters in Israel and around the world — and don’t forget to pass the information on to your friends.
Your Online Purchases and Searches Can Help NA’AMAT USA. It’s easy and it’s free with iGive.com! Join iGive.com for free — then shop and search and support our cause. A percentage of each purchase benefits NA’AMAT USA. Be part of the largest online network of shoppers, stores and worthy causes dedicated to turning everyday online shopping into much needed donations. It’s never been easier to support NA’AMAT USA. Shop at 1,300+ top-notch stores, including Amazon.com, Pottery Barn, Best Buy, Staples, PETCO, Expedia and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Smart shoppers will love iGive’s free shipping deals and exclusive coupons. That’s not all. You can raise a penny per search using iGive’s search engine www.iGive.com. And you will enjoy total member privacy.
NA’AMAT was founded 89 years ago as Pioneer Women.
Today, we’re still pioneers, providing day care for more than 18,000 Israeli children.
When NA’AMAT was founded in 1925, we were pioneers, dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in pre-state Israel. Now, with the largest network of day care centers in Israel, NA’AMAT has become a world leader in early childhood education. In fact, the NA’AMAT day care program has served as a model for the Head Start Program in the United States. Our activities also encompass legal, family and financial counseling; the prevention and treatment of domestic violence; a technological education network; and advocacy for women’s rights.
Join NA’AMAT USA today and become a pioneer of the 21st century.
NA’AMAT USA, 21515 Vanowen Street, Suite 102, Canoga Park, California 91303 818-431-2200 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.naamat.org 32