Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’er and Naftali Fraenkel z”l (photo from mfa.gov.il)
On Monday, June 30, the bodies of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who were kidnapped June 12, were found northwest of Hebron. The sad discovery was the result of an extensive search effort led by the Israel Defence Forces, the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police. A joint funeral was held July 1. Jewish groups and others around the world join in mourning.
In Vancouver, there will be a community memorial service, coordinated by the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver and led by Rabbi Berger, Rabbi Moskovitz and Cantor Szenes-Strauss, on Thursday, July 3, at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver at 7:30 p.m.
As well, to share your thoughts and express your condolences to the families of the boys, visit the Jewish Federations of North America’s “Remember Our Boys” page.
The three current Museum of Jewish Montreal tours can be taken online or while in Montreal, either self-directed using a mobile device or led by museum staff.
The Museum of Jewish Montreal was created when the city’s Jewish community turned 250 years old in 2010. While it may contain material dating back to the 1760s, it presents the information using the latest technology.
An online and mobile museum, its activities include “connecting exhibits to personal stories, narrations, songs, poems and films”; and “creating a virtual museum and mobile applications so that the viewer can interact with our community’s history at home or on the street.” So, if you’re in Montreal, you can take the museum’s tours with museum staff or self-direct your own. From Vancouver, you can simply go online.
One of the current tours, Work Upon Arrival, gives visitors an idea of the challenges faced by immigrants who worked in Montreal’s garment industry from 1914-1941. It does this through the stories and photographs of six people, supplemented by archival images and text/audio providing the broader historical context.
The oral history excerpts in the exhibit were recorded in the 1970s by Vancouverite Seemah Berson. They are among the interviews Berson conducted with Eastern European Jewish immigrants to Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver in the first part of the last century, which form the basis of her book I Have a Story to Tell You (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010).
Berson’s work came to form the foundation of the exhibit when Montrealer Harold Gordon wrote Berson to praise her book. They kept in touch and he introduced her to a friend, who introduced her to museum director Zev Moses. Later, Berson was introduced over the phone to museum research director Stephanie Tara Schwartz and exhibit curator Sarah Woolf. For them, she told the Independent, she was “available for queries and questions. I suppose were I younger and more agile, I would have loved to be on the spot and physically part of this. They were amenable to my suggestions, etc. Essentially, I needed to keep in mind the important fact that a great part of the purpose of my book was to disseminate these stories and keep the voices of my storytellers alive.”
Berson explained that Schwartz and Woolf “researched and found children and grandchildren – one in Israel – which was so great for me because his grandmother was not known to me when I went to Montreal to interview people. I had walked into a nursing home where she lived and she talked to me. I didn’t know anyone in her family, so it was great to connect.”
The six interviewees and locations featured in Work Upon Arrival are Hyman Leibovitch, Midway Photo Play, 1229 St. Laurent (1914); Jennie Zelda Litvack, L. Holstein and Co., 1475 Bleury (1925-26); Rose Esterson, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, 395-397 Ste. Catherine O. (1933-1954); Sidney Sarkin, Sam Hart and Co., 437 Mayor (1925); Ena Ship, Jacobs Building, 460 Ste. Catherine O. (1934); and Norman Massey (aka Noach Puterman), Parkley Clothes, 372 Ste. Catherine O. (1937-1941).
“Exploring the open expanses of downtown Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles, it’s difficult to believe this was once a bustling garment district. Packed with factories and sweatshops, tailors and seamstresses, manufacturers and union executives, the relatively small Rue Ste. Catherine corridor between University [Street] and Boulevard St. Laurent was a hotbed of clothing production, class confrontation and radical politics,” the exhibit begins.
“Picture Ste. Catherine on a busy day in the 1920s and 1930s: steam billowing out of factory windows and grey snow covering the muddied streets; children ferrying newspapers and bales of cloth from building to building; thousands of weary workers flooding the streets for a brief lunchtime break; the mingling sounds of French, English, Yiddish, Italian, Russian….”
Work Upon Arrival explores such questions as “… how did these immigrants find work with little financial support and few personal connections at their disposal? How did so many Jews end up in the garment industry, working as cutters, machine operators and even as manufacturers? And how did so many Jews get involved in labor politics?”
Each oral history section has a summary of the subject’s arrival to Canada and their first jobs (at least), how much they were paid, the working conditions, etc.; a couple of brief excerpts from Berson’s book, along with their transcriptions; and photos of the interviewee and relevant buildings and/or documents. The parts between each oral history provide a broader context, and direct tourists (virtual and literal) from one location to the next. The combination of the personal and more general makes for a memorable learning experience. There is something special about hearing someone’s voice, even if you don’t know them, and it gives the exhibit more impact than images or text alone would have provided.
Work Upon Arrival has 20-odd sources, and Berson’s recordings appear courtesy of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Seemah C. Berson Collection. Among those thanked are Berson and the Betty Averbach Foundation.
The other current MJM tours are Between These Walls: Hidden Sounds of Hazzanut in Montreal (1934 to 1965) and A Geography of Jewish Care: A Virtual Tour of 150 Years of Jewish Social Services in Montreal. The website is imjm.ca and in-person visits can be scheduled by emailing [email protected].
This year’s Summer Celebration cover is a collaborative effort between Jewish Independent production manager Josie Tonio McCarthy, JI publisher Cynthia Ramsay and archivist Jennifer Yuhasz of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, which granted the JI permission to use the circa 1950 Leonard Frank photo that appears on the left of the cover and blends into the current-day photo taken on the Granville Street Bridge of False Creek, with the Burrard Bridge and North Shore mountains in background.
Frank was a well-known professional photographer in British Columbia, active between 1910-1944. He was born in Germany and first moved to San Francisco, before traveling to Port Alberni, B.C., to work in the mining industry. He began his photography interest there. In 1916, he moved to Vancouver and began to work as a photographer. He traveled throughout the province, taking a wide array of photographs, thereby preserving a detailed record of life here. Frank was interested in photographing city scenes (buildings, bridges, waterfront), industry (logging, construction, shipping) as well as scenic views (mountains, lakes, woods). In 1946, two years after Frank died, Otto F. Landauer purchased the Leonard Frank Photos Studio, which he owned and operated until his death in 1980.
The JMABC has approximately 39,000 photographs in the Leonard Frank-Otto Landauer Photos Studio collection – the largest collection of Frank photos in existence. Of these, the JMABC has digitized almost 7,000 photographs and made them available for viewing on its website. You can search them using the JMABC’s Yosef Wosk Online Photo Library: jewishmuseum.ca/archives.
David Chilton, second from the right, with Josh, Michelle and Dr. Neil Pollock. (photo by Robert Albanese Photography)
More than 650 people attended the Jewish Family Service Agency’s 10th annual Innovators Lunch on May 1. This year’s keynote speaker was Wealthy Barber author and Dragons’ Den investor David Chilton.
JFSA board chair Joel Steinberg welcomed attendees to the event, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, and introduced Beth Israel Rabbi Jonathan Infeld to make the HaMotzi. The rabbi explained the blessing and connected it to JFSA, describing the agency as “God’s partner in sustaining the most needy in our community, working together and bringing God’s blessing down from heaven and providing it in a real way.”
In his thanks and remarks, Steinberg noted how the Innovators Lunch had grown over the years, generating “significant funds for many important programs and services provided by JFSA.” Through corporate sponsorships, ticket sales and donations, this year’s lunch raised a record amount – more than $315,000, JFSA director of development and communications Audrey Moss told the Independent Monday.
The annual video, introduced by JFSA executive director Charlotte Katzen, not only highlighted the services offered by JFSA – this year focusing on mental health counseling and outreach – but celebrated the driving force behind the Innovators event, Naomi Gropper Steiner z”l, whose “dream, vision and tireless efforts” helped launch it. As the program noted, “Naomi was a remarkable person who dedicated her exceptional talents to helping others.”
Event chair Jackie Cristall Morris echoed those sentiments in her comments and offered thanks to all those who contributed to the lunch as she invited Dr. Neil Pollock to the podium. He and his wife Michelle were this year’s event angel donors, matching dollar for dollar any new gifts or portion of increased gifts, up to $20,000. “I can see that every additional dollar that I give helps to make the life of someone in need, in our local community, a little bit better. That is why we decided to offer the matching gift opportunity for the JFSA this year,” he said. Pollock praised JFSA as “a lifeline” for many, and encouraged everyone to give outside of their comfort zone, reassuring them that it would not change their circumstances, but would help change the lives of JFSA clients.
Shay Keil of Keil Investment Group at ScotiaMcLeod, which co-sponsored the lunch with Austeville Properties, introduced Chilton, who proceeded to entertain the audience with several jokes and stories, all of which had a humorous element. He started off bemoaning Fifty Shades of Grey’s unseating of The Wealthy Barber as Canada’s all-time bestselling book. He then recounted what happened when he first returned to public speaking after a brief retirement, during which he was engaged in various projects, including homeschooling his kids for a few years.
His first tour was for CIBC, he said, speaking to the company’s high-end wealth-management clients, and it started in Victoria. It was an elderly crowd. He joked, “The average age was deceased…. I normally talk about save 10 percent and max your RRSP; these people were too old for RIFs. I didn’t know what to say.” When he finished his speech, two elderly women asked his advice on their portfolio. “‘Well,’ he said, ‘I can’t answer that here. I don’t know your risk tolerance level, your pension involved, your income needs, your age, your health, I’d have to ascertain all that before I can give you any advice.’ And the second lady cut in and said, ‘Please just give us a broad general counsel.’ And I said, ‘Well, do you mind me asking how old are you two?’ She said, ‘We’re twins … we’re 93.’ I said, ‘Oh my, I’d spend it.’”
When the laughter subsided, Chilton shared a couple of funny stories about the beginning of his career. One happened at the start of his tour for The Wealthy Barber. He was waiting at the Calgary airport for a flight and visited the bookstore. Seeing his book on display, he offered to sign some copies, only to have the clerk want to know why he would want to do that, not believing that the 25-year-old in front of her could have written it.
The entire season of Dragons Den is filmed in 21 days and, for these 21 days, the dragons must always wear the same clothing because the decision as to which pitches form each individual show are made only after all the filming is complete.
Chilton spoke of how he became involved in Dragons’ Den (“I’ve had so much fun doing the show”), how it has changed his life (he’s no longer always asked whether it’s best to pay off one’s mortgage or max one’s RRSP, but rather whether his fellow dragon, Kevin O’Leary, is really a jerk), how it attracts very passionate fans, some of whom are inspired to go into business, and a few of his favorite entrepreneurs and most profitable or surprising investments. He also shared other tidbits. He explained, for example, that the entire season is filmed in 21 days, over which they see 230 pitches. For these 21 days, the dragons must always wear the same clothing because the decision as to which pitches form each individual show are made only after all the filming is complete, and there needs to be continuity within each show.
Outside of Dragons’ Den, Chilton has invested in other businesses. Notably, he helped cookbook authors Janet and Greta Podleski – after about a year of them wooing him. He spoke with obvious fondness and admiration for the sisters, who almost went bankrupt (paying their mortgage with credit cards!) before they saw success. Their first book, Looneyspoons, spent almost two years on the national bestseller list and sold 850,000 copies in Canada alone. They have since published more cookbooks and expanded into other food-related ventures.
Chilton ended his speech with a call for perspective. Describing himself as always being in a good mood, he noted that this isn’t the case with many others. “People say that Canada’s national pastime is hockey, but I’d argue, after 25 years on the road, it’s complaining. Everywhere you go,” he said, “people whine about absolutely nothing. It is amazing to me how many people voluntarily decide to be in a bad mood about a trivial matter.”
An economist by training, Chilton said, “I believe the number one thing holding back productivity in many people’s lives is their whining and complaining, they’re always focused on something negative and it’s usually something trivial. People have lost perspective. In Canada, we have lost the ability to discern the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major problem. A long lineup at Tim Horton’s is not a major problem, but it spins people into bad moods for hours. It’s crazy. Look around the world right now and what’s happening in so many places, Ukraine obviously, but think about Syria. We’re talking about a relatively wealthy developed country disintegrating right in front of our eyes, and it’s happening everywhere in the world.”
“I’m telling you right now, if you are healthy and you live in Canada, especially if you live here [in Vancouver], it doesn’t get any better than right here and right now. You’ve got to step back and see how fortunate we are. It’s that perspective, I think, that leads to more generosity, more community involvement, all of that.”
Not only are Canadians better off relative to most other countries, but to previous centuries. “We are living such better lives than at any point in history. It’s crazy that people don’t notice that. And I’m not talking back to medieval times, I’m talking 20 and 40 years ago, one or two generations. Everything, and I repeat, everything is way better now than it was then, everything.” He gave many examples – cars, phones (which now have “more computing power than the entire Apollo 11 mission”), air travel, television, wages, home sizes and building materials, health care. “I’m telling you right now, if you are healthy and you live in Canada, especially if you live here [in Vancouver], it doesn’t get any better than right here and right now. You’ve got to step back and see how fortunate we are. It’s that perspective, I think, that leads to more generosity, more community involvement, all of that. That’s what days like this are all about.”
For more information about JFSA, call 604-257-5151 or visit jfsa.ca.
From left, David Karp, Dr. Romayne Gallagher, Katherine Hammond, Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Stephen Quinn and Dr. David Silver. (photo by Shawn Gold)
In a night of many interesting and challenging ideas, one of the most interesting came late in the question period. Determining when a person has died is not just a matter of biology, but of choice. According to Dr. David Silver, the question to ask is, When is the person who is valuable and valued gone, even if the body remains alive?
Silver, chair in business and professional ethics and director of the W. Maurice Young Centre in Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia, was one of five panelists participating in A Community Conversation about Death and Dying, hosted by Sisterhood of Temple Sholom, Women of Reform Judaism, at the synagogue. Organized by Sisterhood’s Brenda Karp, the event was hosted by CBC broadcaster Stephen Quinn and also featured Dr. Romayne Gallagher, head of the palliative care division of the department of community and family medicine at Providence Health Care; Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, senior rabbi at Temple Sholom; lawyer David Karp, partner at Myers, McMurdo and Karp; and Katherine Hammond, a registered nurse, whose family is fighting for their mother’s right to die. Some 350 people came to hear the conversation.
Taming our inner monsters
Noting that his eldest daughter’s introduction to death began with a pet snail, Silver said that he and his wife have explained death to their children. They understand that Mom and Dad will die and that they, too, will die one day, but they have much more to learn, he said, admitting that he, and most of us, “have not advanced far beyond this child’s relationship with death.”
But, he argued, we have an obligation to reach a more mature relationship with death, as well as with sex and spirituality, all of which inhabit “the wild places of our minds.” As Max, the protagonist in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, tamed the wild things, we must try and tame our own monsters, such as loneliness, physical decline, loss of loved ones, and other such concerns, he said. “Each of these is a real and legitimate source of fear, but a trick to avoid terror is to name these fears, to separate them so that they do not confront us all at once.”
Silver’s core terror in facing death, he said, is saying goodbye to himself, “the person he has known the longest.” He has been searching for an answer to this fear by looking for role models. In this regard, he quoted from an interview Sendak did in 2012, the year he died, with NPR’s Terry Gross: “I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more…. There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”
Palliative care is about quality of life
Preparation for death is important, agreed Gallagher. Avoidance is one way of dealing with the fear, she said, but most people seek a way of coping, trying to control as much as possible this part of their life. Palliative care, she stressed, is not “just for the dying,” it’s about living well as long you can. In palliative care, death is a part of life.
Gallagher referenced Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ research on death, in particular the book Death: The Final Stage of Growth. She remarked how people near the end of life continue to grow spiritually and emotionally, despite the physical breakdown of their bodies. This growth, of course, is hard if you’re in pain, and one of palliative care’s aims is to relieve the suffering as much as possible, and help people deal with the pain that cannot be relieved.
People nearing the end of life are vulnerable, she continued – physically frail, worried about their loved ones, perhaps they have financial pressures – so when someone in this situation expresses a desire for the dying process to go faster, you need to ask them what it is that they are feeling. In most cases, she said, there is something that can be done to help with the acceptance of the changes that are occurring.
Unfortunately, palliative care is currently a patchwork of services, she said. More funding is needed and, Gallagher suggested, we’re perhaps spending too much on technology and finding cures and too little on figuring out how to live well with a chronic illness.
She advised that people help family members by making a plan, letting your family know how you would like things to progress. It won’t guarantee a good or easy death, she said, but it can ease the suffering and help you live as long as possible as well as possible.
Judaism wants us to know death
“The most important thing we learn in life is that life is finite,” said Moskovitz when he took the mic. This is one of the lessons of Adam and Eve, who eat from the Tree of Knowledge and learn that they are mortal. God casts them out of the garden, telling them they should go and live their life. In this way, God does them a favor because the clock is now ticking for them. Not surprisingly, the first thing they do is have a child, “because the way that we try to instil our immortality is through our progeny … and so that knowledge, that moment, is so critically embedded in our spiritual understanding and religious life and it’s a story that’s shared in many different forms amongst all the religious traditions.”
Knowing that we’re going to die helps us prioritize our choices, our purpose, said Moskovitz. There are many Jewish rituals connected with death, sitting shivah, the lighting of yahrzeit candles, Yom Kippur, for example – “all of this is so that death is not a stranger to us, but death is as much a part of life … as birth is.”
Moskovitz referred to Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death as one of the most important books he has ever read. Becker posited that, even though we know we are going to die, we don’t believe it: we deny death so that we don’t become paralyzed by fear. One of Becker’s astute observations, said Moskovitz, is that our obsession with not dying gets in the way of our fully living.
We don’t talk about death, or we whisper “cancer,” out of a superstition that it will bring death about. However, Judaism wants us to do the opposite, to do teshuvah (repentance) every day, for any day may be our last.
Martin Heidegger, in Being and Time, taught that, in order to live authentically, we need to confront death head on. The rabbi translated from the German, “If I take death into my life, acknowledge it and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death, the pettiness of life and only then will I truly be free to become myself.”
One of the Jewish customs that embraces the reality that no one lives forever is that of ethical wills, said Moskovitz. They used to be part and parcel of life. Parents would write a letter to pass on values to their children and grandchildren, summing up what they had learned and what they wanted their children/grandchildren to know/live in their own lives. Ethical wills are not easy to write, he acknowledged – it is not easy to determine what is worth noting from one’s entire life – nor are they easy to read or to receive. He suggested that people imagine, if you had just one letter to write, to whom would it be addressed, and what would you like them to know?
About such things as ethical wills and personal directives, Karp pointed out in the Q&A that they are not legally binding. However, Gallagher noted, they are helpful to family, friends and caregivers, advising people to restrict the content to value matters rather than types of treatment, which may put caregivers in a difficult position.
Courts consider whether a person has the right to die
In his talk, Karp spoke about some of the legal issues relevant to assisted suicide (suicide committed with the help of others) and euthanasia (the killing of another to relieve dire suffering). The latter is only legal in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, he said, and assisted suicide only in Switzerland; there are assisted dying laws in Oregon, Washington and Vermont.
In Canada, he said, while suicide is no longer illegal, assisting a suicide is, and it carries a maximum jail sentence of 14 years. Parliament’s rationale, he explained, was a desire to “prevent people from assisting suicide [of] those that are not mentally capable of … making their own decisions and, because of the values that Canadian people had, that society places on human life, which might easily be eroded … if assistance in committing suicide were decriminalized.”
Karp said the seminal case in this matter was the 1993 Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General). In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada voted against terminally ill Sue Rodriguez’s right to assisted suicide.
Another important decision came from the B.C. Supreme Court in 2012, which “struck down the prohibition against physician-assisted suicide, calling the law discriminatory, disproportionate and over-broad.” Justice Lynn Smith suspended her ruling to give Parliament time to redraft the legislation, said Karp.
Within a month, however, the federal government appealed, arguing “that the current legislation is in place to protect the vulnerable who might be induced in moments of weakness to commit suicide and that the B.C. Supreme Court had no right to overrule Rodriguez….” (The case is called Lee Carter, et al., v. Attorney General of Canada, et al.)
The federal government won the appeal but the decision noted, “Should the Supreme Court of Canada revisit this issue … consideration should be given to … ‘constitutional exemption,’ … essentially to say, we don’t agree with the law either but our hands are tied…. So, what that’s done in practical effect now is it’s re-opened the debate and left the door open to re-argue Rodriguez at the Supreme Court of Canada but, until then, physician-assisted suicide remains illegal in Canada.”
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed in January of this year to an appeal of the appeal, and so will be considering this issue again. Karp predicted that the court will rule against the government, given how Canadians’ views have changed and the experience of physician-assisted suicide where it is legal – there is no evidence of increased deaths among women, lower-income, uninsured and members of other vulnerable populations.
Family tries to have mother’s wishes honored
Hammond and her family have been fighting their own legal battle for her mother Margot Bentley’s right to die.
Hammond shared a bit about her mother’s life before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1999. Eight years prior, Bentley wrote a one-page living will. In it, said Hammond, she wrote, “If there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from extreme physical or mental disability, I direct that I be allowed to die.” Her mother also indicated that she “wanted no nourishment or liquids” in this situation. “My mom did not fear death, she was a very spiritual person,” said Hammond. “What she did fear though was a long, slow, lingering, gradual degradation and, as she saw it, her loss of dignity, and she talked about this a lot with us, her family.”
Hammond described the mental and physical decline of her mother. In a care home for years now, her mother can’t walk, stand, she is unresponsive, kept alive with spoon-feeding. In 2011, said Hammond, the family showed the living will to the care home and, initially, they agreed to follow it, but Fraser Health (the regional authority) intervened and legal proceedings ensued, with the decision that her mother will be cared for despite her expressed wishes.
It’s a human rights issue, said Hammond, according to lawyer Kieren Bridge, who offered to represent her family on a pro bono basis. The family continues to fight – Hammond said she is sure they are doing the right thing.
As advice to others, she recommended that people fill out a representation agreement. If your doctor won’t honor your wishes, she said, find another one. She also recommended that people join the group Dying with Dignity.
After the Q&A, Sisterhood president Reesa Devlin closed the event, thanking the panel, Brenda Karp and other volunteers.
Marie Doduck, third from the left, with her family. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
“Although the sheer number of Jews who perished in the Holocaust, six million, is seemingly beyond human comprehension, we must remember that each life snuffed out belonged to a person, an individual with a past, present and a promise of the future, a human being endowed with feelings, thoughts and dreams. Tonight, we light candles in memory of the six million Jews, one and a half million of whom were children … and in memory of the millions of other victims – we commemorate them as persons, as individuals.”
Ian Penn of the Second Generation set the tone, as master of ceremonies, for Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s Yom Hashoah commemoration on Monday, April 28. A standing-room-only crowd at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Wosk Auditorium attended.
Survivors from the local community lit candles in memory of all those who died. Chazzan Yaacov Orzech (Second Generation) chanted El Maleh Rachamim and survivor Chaim Kornfeld, the Kaddish. Dr. Moira Stilwell, MLA, spoke on behalf of the province.
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” she reminded the audience. “Yom Hashoah is not just about learning from history, but about passing those lessons on to the next generation. Today, we honor the six million voices that were silenced during the Holocaust, we mourn them, we remember them, and by remembering them, we pledge to never let genocide happen again. Today, we join together and speak for them.”
Penn spoke briefly, but movingly, of his mother, Lola, who died in January, just shy of her 92nd birthday. She survived the Holocaust but, as with most, not without sustaining great losses and witnessing much horror. Addressing his peers, he said, “We grew up with physical comforts but some strangeness and confusion, with marginal understanding and appreciation of the difficulty of becoming normal. Our parents, like Lola, clung to their traditions, confronted the modern, the world they were jettisoned into, their escape route, as best they could, and drove us forward to fulfil their stolen dreams…. Our parents, your parents, were, perhaps, no less complicated than Lola, at times positive and resilient, loving and strategic. And, just as likely, suspicious and threatening, ever vigilant and occasionally hyper-vigilant…. They had to create and re-create themselves, their fears, their terrors, opaque to us, whilst we, their prized possessions, were shepherded with passion … they were survivors in every sense of that word.”
Survivor Mariette Doduck spoke. “The person you see before you is Marie Doduck, a mother, a grandmother and a community volunteer. But there’s another me, Mariette Rozen. A frightened little girl, a tough kid, an enfant sauvage who lived through a lost childhood.” She was only three and a half years old, living in Brussels, when her “life was suddenly ripped apart and irrevocably changed by Nazis.”
In 1939, her family – she was the youngest of 11 – was separated. “We were put into peril by the fact of our Jewishness, a crime under the rule of Nazis’ Europe…. My mother had made a fatal mistake of following orders and registering us at the police station as of Jewish descent. She was told that, if she did, she would not be [taken] … nor would any of us. We had to run and vanish in order to survive. We children were separated and put into different homes. We became the children of silence, like robots, no talking, no crying, no disturbance, a blank mind, with no feelings and really no future. We lived in the moment, we felt nothing except hunger, feelings like loneliness were a luxury.”
Her mother and her brother Albert were murdered in Auschwitz. Doduck saw them being loaded into the trucks. “I had come out of hiding to celebrate my seventh birthday. I hadn’t seen my mother since I was three and a half years old. That was the last time I saw my mother and my brother alive.” Her brother Jean, part of the French Resistance, was hanged by the Gestapo; her brother Simon died three weeks after liberation – “after eating, from the mistaken kindness of the American and Canadian soldiers who liberated the concentration camps and fed the fragile, thin and starving prisoners food that they could no longer digest.”
To survive, Doduck hid with non-Jewish families and in orphanages, took refuge in storm sewers, cellars, as well as in a hayloft, from which she bears a scar from a pitchfork wielded by a Nazi soldier looking for Jews. “I lived mostly in darkness, literally.” When she returned to Brussels years later, she said, she couldn’t recognize it in the light.
“I became tough and streetwise and, because of my young age and my unusual photographic memory, I was used as a messenger in the French Underground. I was even smuggled into a prison to pass a message into my sister Sarah…. Like a fugitive, I lived in fear and confusion in more than one country…. The people I lived with often beat me, and often treated me like a slave … even though they were paid by my family to keep me in hiding. There were also those that risked their lives to save me.” Among them, a convent’s mother superior and a German friend of Doduck’s brother.
Doduck recalled a friend’s death. Savagely beaten, the girl died in her arms. “If I had not forgotten to make my bed and, therefore, been forbidden to go outside [the convent],” said Doduck, she, too, would have been killed.
Doduck also experienced illness, one in which pustules covered her whole body; her skin had to be scrubbed with sulfur. “Despite this sickness and all of the physical and mental anguish, I, like millions of others, did survive, not unscarred, and, in a sense, wise for it. In a perverse way, perhaps, one could even say that I was fortunate because I have seen both sides of humanity.”
“It was only with great pressure from the Jewish community … [that, eventually] 1,123 Jewish orphan children and young adults were brought out of wartorn Europe to make a new life in Canada.”
Reading the book None Is Too Many, Doduck said she had to put it down often, so angered was she that such attitudes existed in Canada as well, “attitudes that nearly kept me, my brothers and sisters out of Canada. People like Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his sidekick Mr. [Frederick] Blair, then director of immigration, did everything in their power at that time to keep Jews out of Canada, even orphan refugee children. It was only with great pressure from the Jewish community,” she said, that, eventually, “1,123 Jewish orphan children and young adults were brought out of wartorn Europe to make a new life in Canada.”
Doduck was one of those children. “When I first started to tell people what had happened to me, they said, ‘Forget about the past.’ But I say to you, I learned from my experiences, both good and bad. Whatever we experience in life contains a message. God provides these vehicles, however painful. It is up to us to interpret and accept them. This we can choose to do either positively or negatively. Without sounding immodest, I had the courage, even as a child, to go on despite the feeling of mistrust, fear, pain and loathing. These lessons are in a significant way responsible for who I am today.”
Doduck arrived here in 1947, 12 years old and, once again, “plunged into a world of strangers.” Here, she said, “I saw goodness in people that I shall never forget, and that’s my adoptive family, Joe and Minnie Satanov and many other wonderful families that took in children of the Holocaust across Canada.”
The Satanovs raised Doduck as their daughter. They bought her first bike, her first pair of skates and many other such things. “You’ve got to understand, we survivors had no toys to play with, we had no blanket to hold on to, we had nothing…. Through their patience and love and understanding, they brought me back to my Jewishness and gave me back my humanity.” But it wasn’t easy, and she ran away from home many times in the first year. “How can you understand how angry, hurt, lonely I was, missing my own mother, brothers, sisters?”
With the Satanovs’ love and support, Doduck graduated high school. “I entered the business working world and eventually met my husband, whom they liked and, as good parents would do, they paid for our wedding. They are both at rest now, but the memory of them is forever ingrained in my heart and in my daughters’, who loved them as grandparents.”
Although encouraged to hide her Jewish identity during the war, between her brother’s reminders that she must remain Jewish and memories of her mother, for example, lighting Shabbat candles (her father died when she was a toddler), Doduck said, “My Jewishness was always part of me…. Now, I take pride in passing this on to my children and grandchildren, unafraid and unabashed, to show and teach them what it is to be … proud of their heritage. Yet, the future is not assured for them. What happened to me and to millions of innocents could happen again … we have the obligation to tell the world the horror of the Holocaust, to teach our children, and they to theirs, so that the past will not repeat itself.”
The hurt will never go away, but life for her has been “a step-by-step process, not something to take for granted, but to fight for. We turned out, survivors, we turned out [to be] decent people that help other people. We are involved in whatever is good: fighting hatred, fanaticism and racism. Although our childhood has been robbed from us – look what we have achieved.”
“I read that the truth is not only violated by falsehood, it may be equally outraged by silence. And I refuse to be silent. Future generations must know and learn. This must be done, however painful. It is our sacred duty – prejudice, hatred, racism, antisemitism have no place in our society.”
She warned, however, that there “are many who are now denying the Holocaust and so we must bear witness…. Because we survived, we have a duty, an obligation, to see to it that these truths are not forgotten…. I read that the truth is not only violated by falsehood, it may be equally outraged by silence. And I refuse to be silent. Future generations must know and learn. This must be done, however painful. It is our sacred duty – prejudice, hatred, racism, antisemitism have no place in our society.
“Tonight, we meet to mark Yom Hashoah, presented by Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, of which I’m a founding member. I have spoken to countless groups of students about my experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Not everyone can understand how extremely painful it is for me, for us, to remember things I would rather forget. But we do it, I do it, regardless of the sleepless nights that follow. I do it because I know that education is the only key to prevention.”
Doduck concluded, “When I speak to young people, I speak as a child, Mariette; tonight, to you, as a peer, Marie. Yet, standing here before you, I find that I cannot separate the two so easily. But maybe these two different people, one that witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust and the other an active citizen in our community, are essential in the present day: essential to the remembrance of the Shoah and essential to working to ensure that it will never happen again.”
Throughout the evening, musical selections were performed by Claire Klein Osipov or members of an ensemble that included Gil Ashkenazy, Megan Emanuel, Samantha Gomberoff (Fourth Generation), Maya Kallner, Sasha Kaye, Jared Khalifa; Kathryn Rose Palmer, Brian Riback, Talya Kaplan Rozenberg, Ayla Tesler-Mabe and Lorenzo Tesler-Mabe, all of the Third Generation. Wendy Bross Stuart, who produced the evening with husband Ron Stuart, was on piano, Eric Wilson on cello. The organizing committee was Cathy Golden, Ethel Kofsky and Rome Fox, all of the Second Generation.
Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, was in Vancouver on April 10, and addressed a roundtable lunch organized by CJPAC. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
The Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) hosted a community roundtable lunch on Thursday, April 10, with Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
“CJPAC seeks to activate the Jewish community in the Canadian political process, and roundtables such as these provide opportunities to build relationships and engage with elected officials from all political parties,” explained Mark Waldman, CJPAC’s executive director, in an email after the event.
“CJPAC is a multi-partisan, national organization that has been active in Vancouver for many years,” he added. As an example of the organization’s work locally, he noted, “Recently in Vancouver, CJPAC hosted an event called Women in Politics, which was attended by more than 30 women. Participants engaged on a personal level with former and current female politicians from a number of political parties and levels of government.”
Thursday’s lunch meeting took place in a boardroom at Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP downtown. It seemed like a couple of dozen community members were in attendance. As they were leaving, Trudeau spoke briefly with the Jewish Independent before heading to another appointment.
“… I’m glad to say that any government of Canada will be supportive of Israel, not for ideological or political or strategic reasons, but because the values Israel stands for are Canadian values of openness, of respect, of democracy, of equality, and we need more of that, particularly in the tough neighborhood that Israel is in.”
“It went great,” he said about how the roundtable went. “We talked about, obviously, Canada’s support of Israel, which is extremely important to me and the point I made is that I am an unequivocal supporter of Israel. We need a two-state solution of a Jewish state on one side and a Palestinian state. Where I take issue a little bit with the prime minister these days is just that he’s tended to make it a little more of a domestic football, with some people being more supporters of Israel than others, and I’m happy to say that I love the prime minister for his support of Israel and thank Mr. Mulcair for his personal support of Israel as well, and I’m glad to say that any government of Canada will be supportive of Israel, not for ideological or political or strategic reasons, but because the values Israel stands for are Canadian values of openness, of respect, of democracy, of equality, and we need more of that, particularly in the tough neighborhood that Israel is in.”
Domestically, there have been changes made or proposed at the federal level over the years that, in the opinion of some, challenge those very values of openness, respect, democracy and equality, a recent example being Bill C-23, or the Fair Elections Act. When asked to describe his vision of the role of a federal government, Trudeau responded, “First of all, we have to understand that Canada is a federation, not a unitary state, so how we engage with different levels of government as a federal government – partnership with provinces, partnership with municipalities – and understanding the work together that we do as different levels of government all serves the same citizens.
“Giving a government a majority doesn’t give them the capacity to perpetuate themselves indefinitely by tricking the rules; that’s what happens in developing countries, that’s not what’s supposed to happen in Canada.”
“But even within the way Parliament functions,” he continued, “I made a strong commitment last June towards open Parliament, which would mean less whipped votes; open nominations, which would mean no omnibus bills, no misuse of prorogation, a lot more openness, the transparency around online posting of our expenses. Actually, what we announced in June last year then triggered similar announcements from everyone and now all of Parliament is starting to post online, and that was something that we triggered. So, I think when you look at that, when you look at the partisan approach to the Fair Elections Act – which is a very unfair elections act – I’m certainly trying to get the message out to Canadians that we do not need elections to be fixed in advance in favor of the Conservatives, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Giving a government a majority doesn’t give them the capacity to perpetuate themselves indefinitely by tricking the rules; that’s what happens in developing countries, that’s not what’s supposed to happen in Canada.”
With the defeat of the Parti Quebecois on April 7, there is reason to believe that its proposed Charter of Values will also go by the wayside. However, at least some of the sentiment that allowed it to be proposed in the first place – fear over immigration – likely still exists and, over the last few years, more than one European government has called multiculturalism a failure. In light of this, the Independent asked Trudeau what he thought about the future of multiculturalism in Canada.
“Multiculturalism in Canada is about building a diverse, flourishing fabric of a country that is strong, not in spite of its differences, but because of those differences.
“The German model of multiculturalism failed because they brought over temporary workers from Turkey and never allowed them citizenship, didn’t treat them like Germans and, even a few generations in, they never became [citizens]. Multiculturalism in Canada is about building a diverse, flourishing fabric of a country that is strong, not in spite of its differences, but because of those differences.
“And, I’ll say two things on Quebec. First of all, I, as of last fall, spoke very strongly in a number of editorials to Canadians to not get overly worked up about this Charter of Values, to trust Quebecers because Quebecers were not going to accept this, and I was pleased to see them show that on Monday night, and show that very strongly.
“But the second element: it does demonstrate how politicians can twist perceptions, and a lot of Quebecers who initially expressed support for the idea of the charter did so thinking they were sticking up for equality; you know, ‘liberating people from the oppressive yoke of religion,’ because, of course, in Quebec, that’s what happened through the sixties with their Quiet Revolution. But, as soon as people explained to them, no, this is about people having to choose between their religion or their job, Quebecers said, well, that doesn’t work at all, and that’s exactly what we have.”
When asked if he had any final words before the interview ended, Trudeau said, “Just what a pleasure it is to be out here in Vancouver. I had a great conversation with a number of strong members of the Jewish community and, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time, so I look forward to coming back and doing this again soon.”
From left, Meryle Kates, executive director, Toronto chapter, Stand With Us, and British journalist and author Melanie Phillips. (photo from Vancouver Hebrew Academy)
On April 1, at the fourth annual Faigen Family Lecture Series presented by Vancouver Hebrew Academy, British journalist and author Melanie Phillips tackled what she called “the herd of elephants stomping around the furniture.”
From 9/11 to the 7/7 bus bombings in London, through the Spanish train and Mumbai bombings, the activities of Hezbollah and Iran, she said, “There is a refusal in the West to acknowledge the link between all these disparate events … that all these phenomena, which take different forms, are a variation of the Islamic religious war, or jihad. Now, we know that this is the case because the perpetrators tell us this – they tell us this over and over again in varying terms.”
More than 150 people filled the downstairs auditorium at Schara Tzedeck Synagogue to hear Phillips speak, which she did after brief remarks from VHA board co-president David Emanuel; Gina Faigen, whose father, Dr. Morris Faigen, z’l, created the lecture series; and Meryle Kates, executive director, Toronto chapter, Stand With Us, who introduced Phillips.
Phillips, author most recently of The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power (Encounter, 2010), said that, in Britain, when 9/11 happened, they were told it had nothing to do with religion: “It was to do with poverty, it was to do with lack of education, it was to do with alienation from the surroundings of society.” Referring to the perpetrators of terrorism, she said they were not poor, they were well-educated and, in Britain, they were being alienated, not by Western influences, but by Islamic preachers. Nonetheless, the British were told, “It was Bosnia, it was Chechnya, it was Kashmir and, above all, it was Palestine. So, the way of solving this problem … was you dealt with grievances. Get rid of the grievances, and you will get rid of the problem of terrorism…. It ignored the fact that all these people said over and over again they were doing it for religious reasons, they were doing it in order to defend God against modernity, against America, against the Jews and against the West. It ignored the verses of the Koran which framed these declarations of war being perpetrated on Jews and on the West.”
Phillips said the British government now has decided “what we’re living through is the perversion of the religion,” but it is more accurate to say we’re up against an interpretation of the religion with which not all Muslims agree and, indeed, of which many Muslims are “the principal victims.” However, she noted, offering the British security service as her source, between 2,000 and 4,000 young British Muslims are considered to be “active terrorists” and “they believe the true number is far greater than that.” She added, “opinion polls show that some 40 to 60 percent of British Muslims want to live under sharia law. Now, this is no small matter. Sharia law is in direct conflict with the state, it recognizes no such authority.”
Britain has a “very, very serious problem of religious fanatical radicalization but it has not accepted this.” Only recently, she said, it was reported that the prime minister has set up an inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood.
Phillips argued that reticence in dealing with terrorism comes from a decent impulse most people have: the fear of being intolerant. She said we must never forget that there are many Muslims “who come to the West because they actually subscribe to Western ideals in that they want to live in peace and freedom, they want to have jobs like everybody else, they want to bring up their families in peace and security like everybody else…. There are people who are so enraged by Muslim, by Islamic terrorism … that they forget that, and I think it’s very important that we don’t forget that. But it’s equally important that we don’t ignore the other side of the story.”
Liberal democracies welcome minorities, she said, as contributing to and enhancing the culture. “The quid pro quo, however, is that minorities have to, in their terms, sign up to a kind of overarching national story, an overarching set of values.” If the rule of law doesn’t apply to everyone, she continued, then a country is no longer a liberal democracy.
In the late 1980s, Phillips began writing about the “cultural vacuum” she perceived was developing. “I started writing about things to do with family, with education, with multiculturalism. It just seemed to me that, over the years, something was going very, very wrong with all these issues; values were being turned on their heads.” She gave the example of family breakdown becoming more of an entitlement, a person’s right rather than a thing that should be avoided if at all possible. She spoke of education in Britain as becoming more child-centric, the belief that imposing constraints and rules on children limited their creativity, leading to illiterate and innumerate children. As well, she said, certain self-defined victim groups were being given a free pass on their behavior because they were supposed victims of the majority.
“… the culture of the nation, as expressed in education, as expressed in the laws passed by that nation … was deemed to be illegitimate because the nation was deemed to be illegitimate. Why? Because nations led to nationalism, and nationalism led to prejudice and war, and if you wish to avoid prejudice and war, you basically abolish the nation … you set up institutions which trumped the nation, transnational institutions, which bound nations together under an umbrella of common values, and those were deemed to be more legitimate than the nation because those brought people together, they were inclusive, they didn’t separate.”
She described human rights laws as pitting one set of rights against another, rather than being universal, as was claimed, and contended this was part of a more general view that “the culture of the nation, as expressed in education, as expressed in the laws passed by that nation … was deemed to be illegitimate because the nation was deemed to be illegitimate. Why? Because nations led to nationalism, and nationalism led to prejudice and war, and if you wish to avoid prejudice and war, you basically abolish the nation … you set up institutions which trumped the nation, transnational institutions, which bound nations together under an umbrella of common values, and those were deemed to be more legitimate than the nation because those brought people together, they were inclusive, they didn’t separate.”
In Phillips’ view, multiculturalism doesn’t mean that we should simply be tolerant and respectful of minorities, but rather, as a doctrine, says that every single culture should be regarded as having identical value as every other. “So, that means that you cannot hold liberal values because … if you’re up against a culture which basically believes that women are second-class citizens or that gay people should be killed, then you as a liberal society cannot impose your view that gay people should have civil rights and that women should have equality because you are being racist, because you are imposing your culture on their culture … consequently, it’s a liberal death warrant, it’s a liberal society’s death warrant, multiculturalism.”
As with other isms, Phillips said, multiculturalism has become unchallengeable. This has happened, she argued, because the West has told itself that religion is bunk. “In other words, instead of adhering to a program which owes its origins to what are considered to be divinely inspired rules of behavior, man … shapes the world, or reshapes the world, according to his own wishes…. So, we have a whole range of ideologies which now govern our assumptions in the West. We have materialism, the idea that everything … must be explained by material explanation. We have moral and cultural relativism, the idea that what is right for me is what is right…. We have deep-green environmentalism, which says that the world would be a great place if only it wasn’t for the human race mucking it all up.”
Phillips said that ideologies replace truth by power. “In the non-ideological world, one looks at facts and evidence and then other facts and evidence and one reaches a conclusion. With an ideology, you start with the conclusion…. The idea governs how you look at the world and, if there is evidence that conflicts with that idea, you have to wrench the evidence to fit that idea … one group fights for supremacy over another group, and that’s how you lose the sense of a national overarching set of values.”
On a whole range of issues, “it is no longer possible to have a rational discussion with people who believe in these ideologies, as upon each issue there can be only one story for them…. Reason is replaced by bullying, intimidation and the suppression of debate.”
Ideologies drive out reason, she said. “And, if there is no truth, there can be no lies either because truth and lies are merely alternative narratives in the jargon of the time.” On a whole range of issues, “it is no longer possible to have a rational discussion with people who believe in these ideologies, as upon each issue there can be only one story for them…. Reason is replaced by bullying, intimidation and the suppression of debate.”
Phillips noted the irony in the West’s replacement of religion with secular dogma. “Just as with medieval Christianity, with Islam through the ages, these ideologies represent a perfectly closed thought system which brooks no alternative because … each of them aspires to create a perfect world, they are synonymous with virtue and, therefore, brook no opposition.”
They have turned evidence and logic on their heads, she said, in a way that is particularly relevant to Israel. “Because of the ideology of multiculturalism and minority rights, self-designated victim groups, defined as those without power, can never do wrong, while the majority groups can never do right. So, it follows, the Muslim world can never be held responsible for blowing people up because they are, as people of the Third World, victims of the West.”
In this scenario, she explained, Jews can never be victims, they are not a minority because they are held to be all-powerful and in control of the media, Wall Street and America – “so much of the hateful discourse about Israel follows from that.” Phillips said this echoes the narrative within Islam. “Because Islam considers itself to be the perfect, unchallengeable word of God, it can never do wrong.” All aggression by Islam is, therefore, seen as “automatically self-defence,” while Western or Israeli “real self-defence is said to be aggression.”
Added to this, she said, is “transnational progressivism,” in which nations are innately divisive and Western nations “innately colonialist, rapacious and cruel.” Israel, therefore, is “triply damned”: “It’s a nation, bad. It’s a Western nation, very bad. It’s a Jewish, Western nation, racist. So, when Israel goes to war to defend its people against the thousands of rockets coming at it from Gaza or whatever it is, the thousands of rockets are regarded as immaterial. What is important is Israel’s military self-defence in the interests of a Western, ‘racist’ nation. Terrorism, by contrast, becomes resistance.”
The utopian nature of ideologies makes them, “by definition, the most high-minded of ideas and thus the most high-minded people subscribe to them, the intelligentsia, which wear them as badges of conscience.” Among the things this explains, she said, is “the phenomenon of left-wingers, high-minded people devoted to human rights and sexual promiscuity marching shoulder to shoulder on the streets of London and elsewhere with radical Islamists devoted to killing homosexuals and stoning adulterous women to death under the common band of human rights.”
Worse, she added, is that, when utopia “fails to materialize, and utopia always fails to materialize, its adherents, its proponents, are so enraged by the failure of what cannot fail … that they select scapegoats on whom they turn to take out their rage over the thwarted establishment of a perfect world, and the scapegoats become enemies of humanity.”
One of the commonalities between all these disparate ideologies, she said, is “hostility to Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people.” She attributes this, in part, to the fact that it was Judaism that laid down the moral foundations of Western morality, “which is under attack from moral relativism.” And herein lies her solution.
In Phillips’ opinion, “the essence of the problem is the displacement of religion, especially biblical morality, and its replacement by secular ideology.” So, the religious basis of the West needs to be restored. She thinks this is possible for two main reasons. “First, people are not adverse to spirituality…. What they don’t want to believe in is in organized religion, but that’s very different from saying they don’t want to believe or that they don’t instinctively believe in something that is supernatural…. The second is this, there’s an assumption in our modern world that in one box is reason and in another box is religion and the two can never meet…. The fact is that religion was the wellspring reason, order, progress, human dignity and liberty…. Without the Hebrew Bible, these things … would not have existed and, I would suggest, that as religion has been progressively edged out of Western life, so truth and morality have crumbled, leading to irrationality, prejudice and so forth.
“Western science grew, essentially, out of the revolutionary claim in the Bible that the universe was the product of a rational creator who endowed men with reason so that he could ask questions about the natural world.”
“And it was not just any religion that created reason and progress,” she continued, “but very specifically Christianity and the Hebrew Bible from which it sprang, the Hebrew Bible…. Western science grew, essentially, out of the revolutionary claim in the Bible that the universe was the product of a rational creator who endowed men with reason so that he could ask questions about the natural world…. The problem arose in our modern times, when science overreached itself and sought to explain the inexplicable … and so, scientific materialism became a kind of faith in itself, an explanation for all things, but that isn’t actually the case.”
It is the same with equality, she said. “It is the Hebrew Bible again which tells us that we are all created equal in the eyes of God and, therefore, we have to respect each other as human beings and, without that biblical story, equality would not exist, nor would we have our assumptions of putting the interests of others first, which lie at the very heart of a civilized … society.”
The task of the West, she said, is “to re-Christianize, as the previous pope well understood. And I realize that to use those terms, to say the West must re-Christianize, causes a terrible frisson, not least among people in this audience. Christianity has not been an unalloyed pleasure for the Jewish people, but if we wish to defend and protect and assert Western culture, we have to accept that Christianity is at the root of Western culture, with all its freedoms and all its values…. And at the root of Christianity is the Hebrew Bible.”
As Jews, we must “help reconnect the Western world with those Jewish roots and values which are the root, are the very core, of the Western culture,” she said. “We have to stand up very clearly for stating the truths about the state of Israel, its history and its present situation.”
Phillips called the “attack on Israel” the most important “cause of our time, not just because we are Jews and we should care about the existence, survival and security of the state of Israel,” but “because attitudes to Israel are attitudes to truth, to justice, to morality, to decency, to civilization. If people are on the wrong side, essentially … of Israel, they are on the wrong side of truth, justice, morality and civilization…. Western culture is currently at great risk because its understanding of itself has been smashed into fragments. The way to save it … is by putting those fragments back together again…. The challenges are truly formidable but if, and only if, we have faith in ourselves, it can and must done.”
After a 15-minute Q&A, VHA head of school Rabbi Don Pacht concluded the evening on a light note, thanking Phillips for an informative lecture, as well as for her “wholesale endorsement of the Hebrew Bible,” of which he’s “a huge fan.” He also thanked the Faigen family for their sponsorship of the annual event.
Beet salad from Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet. (photo by Ruchy Schon)
At least three times a year – Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah and Passover – I liven up my dinner menus by trying out some new recipes from recently published cookbooks. I don’t keep a kosher kitchen, I’m not gluten or dairy intolerant, nor am I diabetic or allergic to corn, yet I ventured this spring to try Vicky Pearl’s Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet (Moznaim Publishing Co.), which actually came out last September. While many of the recipes may be appropriate for Pesach meals, many are not chametz-free, particularly in the dessert section – but they’ll make for delicious treats after the holiday.
There are more than 100 recipes in Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet; most are easy-to-follow and quick to make (even without a mixer), but others require a few hours (preparation plus cooking time), so make sure to plan ahead and carefully read through the recipes before setting about to make them. Everything I tried in Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet turned out just like the photos (which are lovely) and, with the exception of the kugel – which, for some reason, I couldn’t get to the quite the right consistency and which had too much salt for my liking – everything tasted great. There was one typo in the book that I came across: the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe makes almost four-dozen cookies, not 18, as indicated.
Gluten-Free Goes Gourmet contains useful information on many of the ingredients used in the recipes, including their nutritional benefits. It has numerous sections: dips and drinks, salads, soups, meat and poultry, fish, mock dairy, side dishes, breads, desserts, and cakes and cookies. It would have been nice to experiment with these last chapters more, as the cookies I made were so delicious – and all indications are that the other gluten-free desserts and breads will be just as tasty.
The following recipes will give readers an idea of how good “free” eating can be. Enjoy!
Try to buy beets that are uniform in size, since they’ll cook more evenly. As an added bonus, smaller beets are sweeter.
10 beets, peeled 1 red onion
Dressing: 1/2 cup liquid from cooked beets or water 1/3 cup vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/4 cup agave, xylitol or granulated sugar 1/4 cup oil 2 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Place beets in an eight-to-10-quart pot (depending on size of beets); cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook for one or two hours, maintaining a rolling boil, or until beets are tender enough that the tines of a fork meet with little resistance. Reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water, remove beets from water. Cool slightly. Slice beets according to your preference.
Place beets in a serving bowl; add onions. In a separate small bowl, mix together dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over vegetables, tossing gently until well coated. For best results, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Yields eight to 10 servings.
CREAM OF ZUCCHINI SOUP
5 large zucchinis, scrubbed clean, washed and cut into thirds 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters 1 large onion, halved 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1-2 tbsp (heaping) kosher salt
Place all ingredients into an eight-quart pot. Fill three-quarters full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium; cook, with lid slightly ajar, for half an hour.
Place immersion blender in pot; blend until smooth.
Makes eight to 10 servings. Freezes very well for up to six months: chill before freezing and thaw in refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together eggs and oil. Change paddle attachment to a dough hook.
Add sesame seeds, salt, flour, potato starch, onion and garlic to bowl; mix well.
Divide dough in half. Working with one piece at a time, roll out between layers of parchment paper to 1/16th of an inch thickness.
Remove the top parchment paper; transfer the dough with the parchment paper still under it to a cookie sheet. Cut into one-by-three-inch rectangles. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake in preheated oven 14 to 16 minutes or until golden.
Allow crackers to cook on parchment paper on rack.
Yields 60 crackers and the crackers freeze well for up to two months. They will store well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.
1/4 cup oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 3 large onions, sliced thinly 1 lb shoulder steak or pepper steak, or 4 pieces minute steak 1 cup semi-dry red wine 1 bay leaf 1 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic 1/4 tsp dried rosemary leaves (optional) 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic; brown for about one minute. Add onions; sauté until translucent, three to five minutes.
Add steak, wine, bay leaf and spices. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Add five cups water; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered, for two to two-and-a-half hours or until meat is tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Makes four servings. Freezes very well for up to six months.
5 large eggs 1 cup oil 2 tbsp (heaping) kosher salt 10 large Idaho/russett potatoes (about 5 lbs), peeled and cut in half lengthwise 1 large onion, peeled and cut in half
Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in oil and salt.
In a food processor fitted with the blade with tiny holes and working in batches, process potatoes and onion until almost smooth. Transfer potato mixture to bowl, blending well with egg mixture.
Pour mixture into a parchment-paper-lined nine-by-13-inch baking pan.
Bake in centre of preheated oven for one hour or until top is browned. Reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for two hours.
Yields 12 generous servings.
OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1 cup peanut butter 1/4 trans-fat-free margarine, room temperature (1/2 stick) 3/4 cup agave 1/2 cup xylitol or granulated sugar 2 large eggs 1 1/4 tsp baking soda 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 2/3 cup chocolate chips (sugar-free, if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In an electric mixer, cream together peanut butter, margarine, agave and xylitol (or sugar). Add eggs and baking soda. Mix well.
Stir in oats and chocolate chips until well combined.
Use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 11 minutes or until golden yet soft. Do not overbake. Remove to rack to cool completely.
Reading From the Dream, Carol Rose’s most recent collection of poetry, led me to my bookshelf, where her first collection, Behind the Blue Gate, was safely stored. This shelf is home to books that have particularly impressed me, and which I may want to read again, as well as those that have been written by friends. Rose’s falls into both groups, and From the Dream will soon be joining its older sister.
In looking back at Behind the Blue Gate (Beach Holme Publishing, 1997), I not only enjoyed it on its own merit, but enjoyed comparing its themes and style with From the Dream (Albion-Andalus Inc., 2013). While both collections were obviously written by the same intelligent and caring person, the effects of time and experience were evident, and there is a difference in tone: the latter seems more accepting of the way of the world. My first thought was that, perhaps having grandchildren – which Rose now does aplenty – required a person to be more optimistic.
“I am not sure if it is about being a grandparent, or about living longer and suffering the losses and demise that come with age while, at the same time, learning to treasure what we have at this very moment (including partners, children, grandchildren and friends). From the Dream seems to investigate these ideas, even the humorous poems,” said Rose in an email interview, giving as an example the poem “singin like he used to,” about attending a Bob Dylan concert as an older person, which “has us reluctantly ‘aging before our very eyes,’ while still being able to laugh at the life we are blessed to continue living.”
She agreed that the poems in From the Dream are less confrontational or cynical than those in Behind the Blue Gate. “Particularly,” she noted, “when it comes to poems about women in the Bible or women in Judaism.”
Rose was quite involved in the Jewish feminist movement (from the early 1970s) and, she said, “I think that my writing was driven by a desire to create a new myth or a new narrative, or perhaps a more inclusive midrash.
“Just as there were women who were lobbying for political change, or women who were trying to create new rituals – and I was part of that effort, as well – there were also many women who were trying to create woman-centred interpretations of biblical teachings. We realized that women had only heard about biblical matriarchs (or even about Lilith) through the teachings of their rabbis or preachers. I wondered (along with many others, in various faith communities) what would happen if women began telling these same stories – but from their own point of view. To that end, I wrote some midrashic poems, including some that can be found in ‘The Crones’ section of Behind the Blue Gate.
“In those years, I was not only reading and studying the material, I was teaching and running workshops on women and spirituality, so it was very ‘alive’ in my thinking. I am not teaching that material as much, now, and there are certainly wonderful contemporary midrashic materials (by and about women) that have appeared in the last 15-20 years, so I no longer feel that same urgency.
“What I feel most drawn to, these days,” she said, “are women’s rituals, women’s dreams, women’s experience of the Holy, the angelic, and women’s encounters with Mystery – in nature, and in the lives of their family and friends. From the Dream, especially the section called ‘Shivering in the Silence,’ explores some of these ideas.”
From the Dream includes work from the mid-1990s through to recent years. When asked about the process for deciding what was to be included, Rose said, “As you know, it can take many years for a collection of poems to become a book. In the selection, many individual poems are left behind. As the new work began to emerge, I noticed that several of the earlier poems were still very much alive. From the Dream plucked them up and wove them into its theme of memory and loss. My friend, poet Di Brandt, once said that we are ‘always writing the same poem.’ I don’t know that I agree with her entirely, but I do believe that we strive to write ourselves out of pain and uncertainty, and that some of the earlier poems seemed to help me understand what it was that I was still wrestling with.”
The idea of “wrestling” in this context brings to mind Jacob’s struggle with God, and many of the poems in both From the Dream and Behind the Blue Gate are inspired by Jewish texts and beliefs, in which Rose is steeped. But her work is by no means parochial, and reflects a broad understanding of and empathy for humanity, beyond the religious, geographic, relational and other boundaries by which we separate ourselves from each other.
Born in New York City, Rose has lived in various places, and currently divides her time between Winnipeg, St. Louis and Jerusalem. Among her academic credentials are a bachelor’s in religious studies from the University of Manitoba and a master’s in theology from the University of Winnipeg, as well as graduate work in cross-cultural and international education. For several years, she has taught imagery and, according to her bio, “she also uses imagery work in a private counseling practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Neal Rose,” who also happens to be a rabbi.
“In terms of spirituality,” she told the Independent, “I suppose I would say that my frame is Jewish mysticism, that I believe that the world was created out of the word (or words); that we are part of ongoing revelation, believing that we can receive or grasp truth (sometimes with the help of a presence, a friend, an angel or a loved one); that we are loved and capable of loving; that the dead live on, that their presence (in our memory or awareness) urges us to live justly; that the created world is a gift, that we take only what we need and that we respect the cycles of time, celebrate the Sabbath, eat permitted food with awareness, offer thanksgiving, extend our hands and hearts to others. I think both books convey these sentiments.”
She explained imagery work as “similar to what we have come to know as ‘visualization,’ though my teacher (psychologist and wise woman Colette Aboulker-Muscat) preferred to call it ‘imagery’ because she believed that we can access information through any of our senses.
“When the mind is brought to stillness, through a brief breathing exercise and a directed intention (know as kavanah), we can gain a deeper connection to intuition and/or inspirational thinking. Clearly, as a writer, quieting the mind and sitting in stillness is a useful technique. But imagery work is much more complex; it is a system based on liturgical, biblical and mystical teachings that can help us contact our innermost thoughts and feelings. Using this technique can offer us healing, increased creativity and a sense of wholeness. I generally teach this method in small groups, on retreats, or as a spiritual director, with individuals of all faiths.”
In addition to being a teacher and a multiple-award-winning writer whose poetry and essays have been published in several journals and anthologies, Rose is also an editor. She knows well the power and weakness of words, and even deals with them explicitly in her work, such as in the poem “etching images,” which forms part of the “Shivering in the Silence,” section of From the Dream.
“Ah, the limitations of language,” she acknowledged. “Yes, this is a constant tug of war! How to express what one sees, senses, feels or understands? How, especially, in those moments of enormous insight, or of injustice and deep suffering, or of great love and amazing beauty? (Is it any wonder that some midrashim describe Moses as a ‘stutterer’ or a man ‘slow of speech’?) How can words capture numinous experiences? And yet, for the poet this becomes the challenge.
“Certainly, the closer we come to describing what we think, feel, understand or experience, the better we are able to communicate with others – the closer we come to the medieval notion of what it means to be human: m’daber, the one who speaks.”