Thursday, 31 July 2014

Snapshots of Krakow: An inventive project captures traces of the Polish city's past

 Karen Underhill framing the word 'hańba' with a Jewish star over it on Bożego Ciała Street while project leader Helena Czernek watches.
 Project leader Helena Czernek framing the word hańba (disgrace/shame) on Bożego Ciała Street.
 Framing a piece of matzevah built into a wall.
 A framed original Yiddish shop sign on Bożego Ciała Street, surrounded by graffiti but un-vandalized.
 Participants taking photos of framed graffiti that reads 'Radość / Smutek' (Joy / Sadness).
Holding a frame up to the fence around the Old Synagogue on Szeroka Street.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Barras Lane Synagogue

The Jewish synagogue in Coventry on Barras Lane remains abandoned, its walls on the back covered in graffiti, weeds growing from the ground, trying to break free, the Star of David visible in one of the windows, Hebrew writing visible too on the windows. I go up the steps on the back and there’s dirt, garbage and broken bottles everywhere. There’s no way in through the back so I return to the main entrance, but its gates, rusty with age, are locked. I stare briefly at it and minutes later I walk away, feeling a bit sad because there’s an old synagogue minutes away from my house just gathering dust. Come tomorrow, I’ll be making my way to the synagogue in Birmingham.

The Barras Lane Synagogue was built in 1870 and was designed by Thomas Nader of Birmingham. It was built in red brick with blue brick and painted stone dressings and a plain tile roof in a simplified Romanesque style. The Jewish community of Coventry used to meet in a timber-framed medieval building in the lost Great Butcher Row. Then they met at rooms off Derby Lane, now demolished, and then Fleet Street. The moved to Barras Lane in 1870 and at that time there were only fifty men and boys. By 1890, the congregation shrunk to six contributing members and it was closed shortly afterwards only to re-open in 1906 even though it was still struggling numerically. By 1964 the Jewish population was around 240 and the numbers decreased with time. The synagogue, a Grade II listed building since 2009, no longer holds regular services, and its membership has merged with Solihull & District Hebrew Congregation in 2003.

My books I, Can (Fragments of a life) and This is Not the End are available on Amazon

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The cries of the past

Hate of the Jews has returned to Germany and the Jewish people are being attacked and abused on the streets of Germany, making it look as if the country were back in the Nazi era.
Question: Do we ever learn?
The Israeli ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, said, “They pursue the Jews in the streets of Berlin… as if we were in 1938.”
Answer: We never learn.
A new level of hatred and anti-Semitism is on the rise across Europe, which only shows us that Man never learns from the mistakes of the past.
Even though police in Berlin have banned race-hate slogans that reappeared after being used in the days of the Nazis, there have still been reports of protesters chanting “Jews to the gas chambers”, and on the weekend gone past, officers had to protect an Israeli tourist when protesters spotted his yarmulke and charged towards him, consumed with hate, shouting, “Jew! We’ll get you.”
Sad, sad days.
In Paris, hundreds of protesters (but what are they protesting against?) have attacked Jewish synagogues. Shops in the suburbs of Sarcelles, nicknamed Little Jerusalem, have been damaged by fire. In the Netherlands, the home of the Dutch chief rabbi was attacked twice in one week.
Sad, sad days we’re living through. Again.

Elegy for the Little Jewish Towns by Antoni Słonimski
Gone now are, gone are in Poland the Jewish villages,
in Hrubieszow, Karczew, Brody, Falenica
you look in vain for candlelight in the windows
and listen for song from the wooden synagogue.
Disappeared are the last rests, the Jewish possessions,
the blood is covered over by sand, the traces removed,
and the walls whitewashed with lime,
as for a high holiday or after a contagious disease.
One moon shines here, cold, pale, alien,
already behind the town, on the road,
when night uncoils its light,
my Jewish relatives, boys with poetic feeling,
will no longer find Chagal’s two golden moons.
The moons now wander above another planet,
frightened away by grim silence, no trace of them.
Gone now are those little towns where the shoemaker was a poet,
The watchmaker a philosopher, the barber a troubadour.
Gone now are those little towns where the wind joined
Biblical songs with Polish tunes and Slavic rue,
Where old Jews in orchards in the shade of cherry trees
Lamented for the holy walls of Jerusalem.
Gone now are those little towns, though the poetic mists,
The moons, winds, ponds, and stars above them
Have recorded in the blood of centuries the tragic tales,
The histories of the two saddest nations on earth.

My book I, Can (Fragments of a life) is available on Amazon

Halifax Jewish communities

According to history books, the first Jews arrived in Halifax in 1750, and by 1752 there were as many as 30 Jewish men, women, and children in Halifax; Hebrew being spoken softly or loudly in a few houses, candles lighten on Shabbos. Hmm, paradise.
Throughout the years the number increased and decreased, but by 1901, the Jewish population of Halifax had grown to 118, a small number whichever way you look, but a decent number, nevertheless. Imagine being one of those 118 Jews and having 117 friends around you? Not bad, eh?
During that time, the Baron de Hirsch Hebrew Benevolent was founded, this in 1891, and a few years later, in 1894, a Baptist Church on the corner of Starr Street and Hurds Lane was purchased, and, thanks to the generous contributions of Christian congregations in the city, the building was repaired and made ready to serve as both synagogue and school for the community. On February 19th, 1895, the Synagogue was dedicated and within an hour witnessed its first wedding, that of Sarah Cohen and Harry Glube.
Unfortunately, tragedy stroke, and much later, on one cold morning, date: December 6th, 1917, an explosion damaged the Starr Street Synagogue beyond repair, and it wasn’t until 1920 that enough money was raised to purchase a new site on Robie Street. Being a Jew, imagine if you didn’t have a synagogue near you for the next few years?
Little by little, the Jewish community of Halifax has continued to grow, slowly but surely, and is now the largest population east of Montreal. Given the chance, I wouldn’t mind immigrating to Halifax.

A city of approximately 350,00 with a Jewish population around 1,500, Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada’s largest city.
Halifax is also the home of the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC) and Halifax’s Jewish population is served by three synagogues: the Orthodox Beth Israel the Conservative Shaar Shalom and Chabad of the Maritimes.

If you can, check out this book; Jews of Atlantic Canada by Sheva Medjuck. I managed to get a copy from Amazon quite cheaply but it is a hard book to find.

My book I, Can (Fragments of a life) is available on Amazon