Sunday, April 23, 2017

Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Memorial Day

In my time I have visited Dachau, the concentration camp near Munich, attended courses and seminars at Yad Vashem, I have taken part in 70 Days for 70 Years, I have visited Anne Frank's hiding place in the attic in Amsterdam, I have listened to the testimonies of many survivors, I have read a hundred books about the Shoah. Despite all this background, each year the impact of Yom Hashoah takes me by surprise.

In 2015 I wrote this 100 word challenge. It took a long time for me to understand the implications of being a 2nd Generation Survivor. (It is capitalized because it's a 'thing'). I used to think - you weren't there, for heavens sake, survive already. But then a flatmate explained to me how it is growing up with parents traumatized and damaged, and I remembered certain friends' parents and grandparents from my childhood.

My family, on both sides came to England to escape the pogroms in the 1880s. If they left cousins behind, which they almost certainly did, my parents probably had 3rd or 4th cousins who perished. But we don't know who they are and 3rd or 4th cousins in large families of 5 to 10 children are distant relations.

However, my mother's family did bring over a cousin from Germany with her two daughters. The collective family employed them as maids and found them accommodation. I know this sounds incredible but that's how you got visa's in those days. After the war they lived on reparations, together, the mother and two spinster daughters who never fully recovered and suffered mental health issues until they died.

My mother also remembers sitting on the stairs eavesdropping as her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles discussed what they should do if Hitler conquered Britain. The options were to go into hiding or to commit collective suicide. There were strong arguments for both options.

During the blitz my Grandmother evacuated from Ladbroke Grove in London to Pitlochry in Scotland with my mother and her brother. Afterwards she would say, "I don't know why we went so far, we should've gone to Edgeware." But the underlying and unspoken reason for going so far, where no one knew them, was that if the Nazis took Britain they could disappear as Jews and continue to live as Christians.

So although my own family are not survivors, my facebook page is full of friends giving testimony about how their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts either escaped or were murdered. I lit my memorial candle and read about very young children sent on the kindertransport to England and who never saw their parents again. Other children who were sent into convents or the homes of farmers or maids for the duration. Others hidden in attics.

I read about men and women who lost their whole families - parents, husbands or wives and their children. They came to England, America, Israel, or Australia alone, remarried and some of my friends' parents are their second families. What must it be like to know that your parents had children before you who were murdered in Auschwitz? How could you ever live up to that legacy? How could you ever be good enough to replace those dead first children?

No cousins. No grandparents or uncles or aunts. Only ghosts and the lifelong pain in your parents' hearts.

Just last week I was talking to a friend about her uncle who was taken in by their Christian maid as a baby and lived with them until he was about 7. I asked her if they gave him back readily at the end of the war as some families refused to return the children without a fight. My friend said there was no problem as from the very beginning the 'mother' told him that he has a Mummy and a Daddy and a sister who love him and they will come back to get him after the war. The Mummy never came back from the camps. And I can't write this without crying. Yes there was also much kindness amidst the horror.

Tomorrow at 10 am the siren will sound over the whole of Israel for two minutes of silence. I've shown photos before of how the traffic, even on the busiest highways, stops and the drivers get out to stand by their cars with heads bowed in remembrance and respect. Every school has a ceremony starting with the siren at 10 am, including every schoolchild. Every citizen stops and our collective memory rises in prayer to the heavens. Lest we forget. Never again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reasons 2B Cheerful At Home And Away

I've missed two weeks of Reasons 2B Cheerful as we were away for the Pesach holidays. We were staying with my Mum in London where three of us competed for shared one computer. There was also far too much good television to watch and a whole Daily Mail was delivered to the front door every morning (a real paper one, with no clickbait like they use online).

Anyway, we're back and just as we started to catch up with our lives, a whole load of new stuff was thrown into the mix. I'm reminded of that fridge magnet that says: I try to take one day at a time but sometimes several days all throw themselves at me at once.

Here are some Reasons 2B Cheerful as I battle my way through the 'To Do' list:

The London Duck Titania
We spent two weeks in London with family and friends. As usual we didn't rush around seeing everything but rather had a couple of outings and lots of hanging out. There may have been some clothes shopping involved.

DD and I went on the London Duck. I'd never heard of this tour until I read about it in my 6th graders' English textbook where there is a unit about London. It was a lot of fun. The tour guide was very amusing although the jokes went right over DD's head. As we went into the water however, she started laughing away when he showed us the MI6 building on the South Bank of the Thames.

DD: He's very funny isn't he? Everyone knows spies are only in stories and films. Hilarious.

Into Summer
Summer has officially started. I know this because DD went to school in shorts this morning. That makes it official. There's no going back now. Hot days for five months from now until October. I'm cheerful about it now but of course I'll be yearning for cold weather by the middle of June.

Hanging out at the bar at the photography exhibition

Photography Exhibition
My friend Yael Katz held her first photography exhibition yesterday evening. It was so impressive that it deserves a whole post to itself. Watch this space, it's coming soon.

My friend had her annual visit to her mother's graveside accompanied by close family and friends. After visiting the cemetery on The Mount of Olives, they return to the house for a breakfast. Obviously this isn't the reason to be cheerful but my job is to stay at home and set out the breakfast. And I love preparing food and setting it out. I was singing away to myself as I cut up fruit and vegetables, arranged cheese and dips on platters and chose matching tablecloth and napkins. (S - Sorry for being so happy on your mother's yarhzeit but please think of it as me helping to celebrate her life.)

I'm linking up to R2BC over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum blog.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #44 - The Pesach Holiday

Standing on a London bridge
Possibly Lambeth Bridge
Who knows
Revising for a geometry test at school.

Me: We'll have to look up what these angles are called in Hebrew, I only know right angle, obtuse angle and acute angle.
DD: Really? A cute angle? Awwww!

No bread
On Pesach (Passover) we don't eat bread for a week. There are loads of other rules but this is the main thing. I am trying not to eat bread and DD doesn't like it very much so we often don't have bread in the house for weeks.

Me (to my nephew on the last evening of Pesach): If you weren't coeliac, if I wasn't on a ketogenic diet, and if DD liked bread, we could have sandwiches in 10 minutes. But you are, I am and she doesn't so we're not. And we don't have any bread in the house anyway.
DD: What? We're not allowed bread on Pesach?
Me: No, of course not. That's the main thing about Pesach. Why do you think we're all eating matza instead?
DD; Oh. No one told me. I seem to have missed that piece of information.

On arriving early for our tour on the London Duck.

Me: The London Eye is right here. Maybe we'll go and see if we can get tickets for today.
DD; Oooh yes. I really want to go on the London Eye.
(As we turn the corner and see the London Eye up close.)
DD; It's very big. I do want to go on it but not today. Maybe I'll go on it when I'm 12. Or when I'm 16.

We finished reading Heidi and went on to Heidi Grows Up. In the first chapter Heidi says her prayers and includes the line, "God bless the Grandmother up in heaven."

DD: Wait. Is she dead?
Me: Seems so.
DD: So that's it? They just mention that she died? Just like that? No expressions?
Me: What expressions do you want?
DD: Like if Heidi was sad...if they did she die...about the funeral.... Not just she's dead and that's it! I hope we get a few more expressions when the Grandfather dies.

DD went to a park in London with Grandma and she made friends with a Muslim girl who was wearing a long black abaya and a black hijab covering her hair, forehead and neck.

Me: Did you ask her why she was dressed like that?
DD: Yes. She told me she was Muslim but I didn't understand what that meant.
Me: Did you tell her that' you're Jewish.
DD: Yes but I don't think she understood what that is.
Me; So what did you talk about?
DD: We found we watch the same You Tube videos.

Talking of You Tube...

DD: You know like when a series ends and you're like, "I'm so sad?" And you're like, "I'll never find another good series," And then you do find one and you're like....
Me: Will you stop saying 'like' for everything. You know when a series ends and you FEEL sad because you THINK you'll never find another good series....
DD: You know when a series ends and you feel so sad and you feel like, I'm allowed to say that, you've lost a friend and you feel like, I'm allowed to say that, almost crying?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Different Smugs - R2BC

Already dreaming of my matza brie
Pesach and Spring Cleaning
Today we broke up for the Pesach holidays. Obviously Pesach cleaning takes over from teaching but the beauty of it is that you can start at 9 am and not have to leave the house at all instead of getting up at 6.45 and running out the door at 7.30 am.

I've said it before but in case you weren't listening or have forgotten. Pesach is the festival of Passover in which we celebrate the exodus from Egypt. Part of the ritual is spring cleaning which is elevated to a religious level by requiring one's home be spotlessly clean as we enter the eight-day festival. This is a good thing as you want to spring clean anyway so making it a requirement ensures that you get it done and then you feel smug.

At school the children all helped to clean the building. Have you seen those Japanese videos of schoolchildren cleaning? Well it was like that. The school lunches that are delivered daily were sandwiches and we all ate outside.

We saw where babies come from.
During the mass picnic, someone suddenly cried, "Look up!" We all did and saw a whole flock of storks doing a fly past. Israel is on the main flight path for many migrating birds as they fly from Europe to Africa in the autumn and back again in the spring. It was an amazing sight. I am not a twitcher by any means. To me bird watching is about as interesting as watching other people play golf, but you could see their long necks and wide wingspans as they carried all the little babies in bundles tied around their beaks.

National Assessment Tests....done.
Yesterday we had the Grade 5 Meitsav in English. It's like the SATS, a national assessment test that everyone hates. Thankfully this year we we're not on the external examination list, unlike last year, so we could give the exam ourselves and mark it ourselves. The marking is quite complicated with points for relevance, verb conjugation, word order, use of pronouns, spelling, capital letters and full stops, etc... And try doing this for 30 questions times the number of students. Anyway, I stayed up late last night and got all my meitsav papers marked and all the record pages filled in. Smug was not the word when I waltzed into school this morning.

So if I can just get this place cleaned I'll be smugged to the hilt (and ready for a fall?). I'm joining the Linky over at Mummy from the Heart for the final hosting of Reasons 2B Cheerful for March.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mothering Sunday

Mum & DD, April 2012. I don't have a recent one #rubbishphotographer
Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday in the UK. Traditionally the second Sunday in Lent, it's about going home to pray at your mother church as well as visiting your mother and bringing her gifts. In the US it has turned into Mother's Day and is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. In Israel we celebrate Family Day (which used to be Mother's Day) on the Yahrzeit of Henrietta Szold who had no children of her own but saved 22,000 children from Hitler in Europe. This year it was on February 26th and I think I missed it.

Anyway, as I grew up in England's green and pleasant land, this post is honour of Mothering Sunday, even though I have no mother church to visit.

Six Things My Mother Did That I Don't Do:

1. Ironing. I don't buy thin cottons and I hang our clothes carefully on the line so that they dry smoothly. And if there are a few creases, body warmth soon deals with them. In fairness to my mother, she did have four of us wearing daily button-down shirts: my Dad, my brother, and even us two girls had to wear them for school uniform.

2. Make a three course dinner every night. You have to feel sorry for women in the 1970s as they were caught in the middle of old fashioned housewives on the one side and women's liberation and a severe economic depression, on the other. My mother went back to work full time when I was about 10 but she still felt that she needed to make a three course dinner every night. Sometimes we would be still eating at 9 pm. In hindsight, it was completely crazy.

3. Host Mid-Week Dinner Parties. Nowadays, especially in Israel, we entertain for one of the meals over Shabbat (Friday night or Saturday lunch). But I think that even in the UK, people tend to entertain mainly at the weekends. We go out to a film or a concert mid-week but having people over not so much. Our lives are too busy and we're too exhausted after a day's work, children's activities and homework, and preparing more work for the next day. If we do go round to friends mid-week it's called a light supper and usually comprises of soup, pasta and a salad.

4. Knitting. I can knit and crotchet but, as my mother herself pointed out, it's more expensive to buy the wool these days than it is to go out and buy a jumper or cardigan.

5. Wear make-up every day (including foundation) and go to the hairdresser once a week for a wash and blow dry. I just don't and my mother still does.

6. Make fabulous desserts - Lemon Cream Gateau, Black Forest Cherry Cake, Chestnut Pavlova, Eton Mess, Cheese Cake, Steamed Syrup Pudding, Lockshen Kugel, Bread Pudding, Cherry Shissel, Apple Strudel, homemade biscuits, and the list goes on. Well I'm doing Keto aren't I? But even before I discovered the keto diet, I was never a baker - too much like chemistry lessons if you ask me. My forte is pastry and salads. (Obviously the pastry is now off the menu.)

Four Things I Do That My Mother Didn't Do:

1. Take photos. This was Dad's job and the camera was his. My mother only got her own camera when her first grandchild came along. I'm a rubbish photographer and I often forget, but if I don't take the photos, there aren't any so I have to.

2. Write and publish.

3. Speak two languages. My Hebrew is rubbish but I can use it for everything I need. Mum told me that she once went on a French exchange and stayed with a family for a week. By the end she says she was pretty good at French. She'd forgotten it all by the time we used to go on holidays in France.

4. Wear leggings and ankle boots as part of my 'uniform'. Mum never wears anything less than proper clothes as opposed to what she describes as going out in pyjamas.

Four Things We Both Do:

1. Go to bed extremely late. We are both night owls and not larks.

2. Play cards and Scrabble. She plays Bridge. I'm a Kalooki girl - up to 150 points and you can come in twice. We're also both up for a game of Rummikub, which is a sort of card game with tiles.

3. Watch Escape To The Country and read The Daily Mail.

4. Love the social side of religious life but make up our own rules about the ritual.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Beauty And The #Post40Bloggers - R2bC

Beauty And The Beast
I was going to buy tickets for us and take DD to the Israel premiere of the new Beauty film. It was a charity performance and, for once, the premiere was in Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv. However, our lovely friend Sally-Ann bought a spare ticket and invited DD as her treat.

It was indeed a treat as they went for pizza first and had ice-cream and sweets during. DD loved it all and came home after 9 pm, all smiles and excitement. She said, "Mummy, I saw Hermione, I recognised her straight away because she had the same face."

Thank you Sally-Ann, you and Hermione were a big hit.

Featured Blogger
I was invited to join Post40Bloggers so that they could feature one of my posts. And here I am - this week's featured blogger. I'm absolutely chuffed, bowled over, feeling like the bee's knees and full of it. Well why not?

Thank you Mel, I'm flattered to be chosen.

And then there was this. It came home from school and was dropped in my lap. I'm going to send one back in the lunch box on Sunday. I know it's soppy but who cares. (Remember that though she's 8, DD's school education is almost all in Hebrew.)

I'm linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Mich's Mummy From The Heart. I took a quick peek earlier and there seems to be some extra activity this week. I hope so. It's spring and if bloggers can't find a few R2BCs in the first week of spring it's going to be long sad summer for them. The linky's open all week....

Monday, March 20, 2017

Yedidya Bazaar - The End

They let you drop off stuff for the Yedidya Bazaar on the Sunday before. However, everything remains piled high in a store-room in the bags and boxes it came in, until the following Saturday night.

The beginning, every section is piled high like this
When Shabbat goes out the evening the before the bazaar, the volunteers arrive and they stay half the night  unpacking, sorting, folding, piling and hanging. There are books, household items, toys, and accessories but by far the majority of the bazaar is clothing. Women's, men's, youth girls', youth boys', little girls', little boys', and babies' sections. And each section has tops, bottoms, sweaters, coats, suits and dresses, nightwear, sportswear, shoes, etc...

I cannot help on Saturday night as I have DD at home. But first thing Sunday after I've dropped her at school, I'm on to it. I, and about five other regular Sunday sorters, greet the steady flow of bags and boxes still arriving all day Sunday. We are a team who meet up once a year as the Sunday crew. They say that nobody is indispensable but we sort of are.

The doors open at 4pm and as the first customers arrive, I slip away to collect DD from school. Sometimes I bring her back to choose some books but this time I chose some for her before I left. The toys are already too young for her. Doors close at 9pm. And open again at 4pm on Monday, closing finally at 9pm on the same day. That's it. Two days and it's over.

I've never seen the end. I only ever have before pictures. So tonight while my nephew was here, I slipped back to take a look. I also had to return because I'd taken some books and a couple of other items the day before and I'd not had any money with me.

The End, and every section finished like this
I arrived at 8.20 pm. With 40 minutes to go there were still some things left that would be sent to charity shops. Lisa, the new organiser this year, was sitting in the front desk looking exhausted. Some people were till browsing and choosing. I picked up another book, took my photo, paid my money, and bade fond farewells to the Sunday Sorters who, by chance, had also all come back for the finish (except for one who has a young child at home). See y'all next year!!

On returning home at not quite 9 pm, I remembered three box games I'd not brought down from the Yedidya cupboard because I didn't want DD to see that I was donating them. I had forgotten to take them to the Bazaar. I have officially beaten my own record by starting next year's collection before this year was even over. Go me.