Saturday, 28 February 2015

flights/choices

My new book flights/choices is out. Here’s an excerpt from it





She’s now forgotten by everyone, her name hardly showing a thing when you write it down and press search on Google, but I like to think that no one is truly forgotten. Aranka von Wertheimstein was a quiet woman, a sister and a daughter, maybe a lover, too, but now History has almost forgotten her. Reading through The Baroness by Hannah Rothschild I come across Aranka’s name. There’s even a picture of her and her sisters on page 131. I read on and I find out that poor Aranka died at Auschwitz, that most horrifying of places. She spent some time in a ghetto along with other Jewish people where they were kept under awful conditions. At least she wasn’t alone. Nevertheless, they all went through hell. Later on she and other Jewish people were put in one wagon, squashed like sardines in a can, and sent to Hell. By then Aranka was old. Old and fragile. Imagine what a journey like that did to her, especially when there was no food or water available?
Along the way to Hell some people lost their minds. Others died. When you think about it, maybe death was more welcome than Hell itself. As for Aranka, she lasted the whole journey, but when the train stopped at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, she was pulled out of the wagon by an SS guard and then she was beaten to death by more guards.
What did they felt while they were beating a poor, innocent, weak woman to death? Maybe they felt nothing at all.
Now the world is slowly forgetting everything, including the memory of Aranka, but I’m not and this is why I’m writing about her.
Aranka was a quiet woman and I would have like to know her.









*






“You fill up your desk with notes while reading a book,” Eliza says.
I’ve got two books on the go, three if you count the Torah. The books are The Baroness by Hannah Rothschild and Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier. And the Torah. Going through each book I find names and events that I then write down in a notebook or some post-it notes, and later on I will do some research about those names and events, and maybe I will find something more to write about or maybe I won’t find much at all.
“What for?” she asks.
So I know a bit more about these people and about the History of our world. We only pay attention to the “big names” and we forget about the “little people” in between; those who perished and are no longer remembered. I’d like to think that no one is truly forgotten. I don’t tell this to Eliza though. I simply shrug my shoulders and smile, adding, “So I won’t forget.”
“Forget what?”

“What others forgot.”

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Euro or no Euro?


Greece has a new government but they are still in the deep end when it comes to debt. Worse than before according to accountants. But how come? Only last year both Christine Lagarde from the IMF and then-Greek PM Samaras were praising Greece and the euro, saying that the country was recovering from its debt. What happened?
Did they lie to us (again)?
In the wise words of Omar Simpson, “Doh.”
Now we are being told that Greece must apply for a bailout extension, which they didn’t, and shortly afterwards German’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said he felt sorry for the Greek people because they have elected an irresponsible government. German wants to keep Greece in the euro-lie and damage the country and Europe even further, milk it all the way to the bank, but the people can no longer live in a lie.
Greece will now play it harder to get, probably (hopefully) even make its own rules, and maybe soon other countries will follow forth and demand to know why trillions in legacy wealth have disappeared into thin air, as will German's export miracle.
The whole euro business was doomed to fail from the start but the greedy euro-fat-cats don’t want to give up on this goldmine even if millions have to suffer because of it.
Euro or no euro?
No, please.


My book Free City is available on Amazon

Monday, 2 February 2015

Fear of being Jewish in Europe




Fear of being Jewish in Europe

Anti-Semitism has never left Germany and 70 years gone past since the Holocaust anti-Semitism is making an unwelcome return in Europe.
Browsing through the Internet I come across various articles where it’s clear to see how bad things are becoming for the Jewish communities in Europe. One of the articles, called My “Unorthodox” Journey to Berlin by acclaimed Jewish author Deborah Feldman, sees the author going to an office where she’s asked what is her religion, and when she mentions Judaism, she’s told that’s not an option that she can choose because it’s not on the computer. This in Germany! Have they forgotten their history? Do they even care?
On the computer there’s a long list of different religions but no Judaism.

And a step back to Mankind.

When you think about it, the whole situation is a bit ironic and even Miss Feldman mentions the sad irony of the fact that Judaism is not even available as a religion in a computer in Berlin. Instead, to her dismay, she’s labelled an Atheist. Can you believe that? A Jewish person labelled an Atheist, we who pray to G-d on a regular basis?


A bit of browsing and I come across an article by Seth Menachem, published last year, where he mentions a trip to Scandinavia along with some Jewish friends. Sadly to say, almost everywhere they went, they came across anti-Semitism. One of Seth’s friends, a religious Jew with a long beard and a yarmulke, drew angry stares from many of the locals, and later on they even heard anti-Semitic cries on the streets.

More recently Swedish reporter Peter Lindgren conducted a social experiment by putting on a yarmulke and a Star of David necklace, and then he went for a walk through the streets of Malmo, Lindgren to have a taste of how the Jewish people are treated by the locals. Again, needless to say, he was the victim of harsh verbal and anti-Semitic abuse, all of which he recorded with a hidden camera and a microphone. He was abused verbally while sitting at a cafĂ© in central Malmo, and in another location he is called a Jewish shit and a Jewish Satan. And there’s more. So much more.
And then let’s not forget the killings last month in Paris and the recent persecutions of the Jewish communities in France. All of this makes me wonder if there’s a future for us Jews in Europe.

 


After the killings in Paris last month, my wife begged me to skip the service on Shabbos, which I almost did, but then I thought, “If I do that, then the enemy of Judaism would have won the fight.”
So I went to the service, but I made sure to watch my surroundings on my way to the shul and on my way out.
For now I can still be Jewish in England, but only just, and only time will tell if things will improve or worsen.



 

My book Free City, a book about Jewish people in Europe and Brooklyn, is available on Amazon

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Superman is one of us (and so are the X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, Green Lantern, and Thor)




Superman is one of us (and so are the X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, Green Lantern, and Thor)

Superman is Jewish. Yes, hear me out; Superman is Jewish and here are the facts. Superman’s real name is Kal-el which means the “Voice of G-d”. Or something like that. And look at Superman’s history; he was put on a Moses-like basket and then sent to Earth where he was brought up by humans. Moses himself, as many of you know (and I’m worried if you know Superman’s history and don’t know Moses’ history), was secretly hidden by his mother when the Egyptian Pharaoh ordered all new-born Hebrew boys to be killed. Ironically, or maybe it was destiny all along, Moses was found by Queen Bithia and grew up with the Egyptian royal family. And then he saved us, the Jewish people, and led us out of Egypt across the Red Sea. And while Superman is weakened by Kryptonite, we are weakened by pork and other kinds of food we shouldn’t eat. Okay, maybe at first we won’t be weakened like Superman, but the more we consume those non-Jewish products, the more likely we are to start walking away from our Jewishness. And that’s a problem.


Yes, Superman is one of us, and his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are also members of our tribe. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
What about the X-Men?
The X-Men are us!
The X-Men are mutants and everyone looks at them weirdly. I put on my kippah to go to the shul and everyone stares at me as if I’m some kind of mutant. Which I’m not.


Batman was created by artist Bob Kane, the son of Eastern European Jews, and Martin Nodell, the son of Jewish immigrants, created the first Green Lantern. Sweet. (Just so you know, when I was growing up Green Lantern was my favourite superhero.)
And then there’s Thor, might Thor, created by editor plotter Stan Lee, penciller-plotter Jack Kirby, and scripter Larry Lieber. Larry Lieber was born in New York City, and he was the second child of Romanian Jewish immigrants. Jack Kirby parents were also Jewish immigrants, but they came from Austria, and Stan Lee, the great Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, etc., is the son of Romanian-born Jewish immigrants.

Yes, Superman is one of us. Doesn’t that make you feel good?


My books Free City and This is Not the End are available on Amazon