Monday, June 24, 2013

Before the Conference

In the days before attending the Peres Conference, I had an opportunity for a beautiful Shabbat with the Zada family -- the family of Addie's fiance -- in Jerusalem.

Here are Addie and Sahar's mom and sister in the Zadas' Jerusalem home -- enjoying videos of Ben and Aliza's wedding 2 years ago -- serving as a bit of a preview of Addie and Sahar's wedding next summer.

Here is the Shabbat table a few hours before the beautiful Shabbat we spent together.

We enjoyed blending their Sephardic customs (the Zadas are original from Iran or Persia, depending on how you'd like to describe it) with a few of our Ashkenazic ones.

What a wonderful family!  I'm so grateful that they have taken Addie in like their own  -- adding her to the mix of their family of a son and 3 daughters.

We enjoyed Shabbat at home and in schul together.  Avi (Sahar's dad) was very generous and purchased the Maftir aliyah for me (a complete surprise to me), so I had the honor of chanting the haftarah.  (In Sephardic congregations, it is a widespread custom to auction the aliyot on Shabbat morning just before the Torah reading.)  I was a bit nervous about how my Sephardic hosts would feel about a decidedly Ashkenazic chanting, but it was very well received.

Just a great Shabbat from start to finish!

On Sunday, I accompanied Addie to a full day of classes at the University of Haifa.  She is in a Masters Program in Holocaust Studies.  I attended German class, as well as a number of seminar-style classes later in the day -- including the showing of a fascinating movie "A Film Unfinished."  I had read about this movie in the New York Times (and probably the Forward as well) but hadn't had a chance to see it when it briefly was shown in Columbus.  The class viewed the film and then had the opportunity to discuss it with one of its producer -- prominent in the Israel film industry.

The film  stemmed from the discovery in German film archives of 60 minutes of film from the Warsaw ghetto.  Some of this footage is very familiar: Most of the readers of my blog can probably picture scenes of "rich and poor in the Warsaw Ghetto."  As it turns out, this footage was prepared by the Nazis for some not-entirely-clear propaganda purpose.  I say "not-entirely-clear" because a final film was never prepared.  It seems obvious that it was designed to show that one brand of Jew cared little about another.  One of the creepiest aspects of the film is the discovery of outtakes -- so that you get to see some of these familiar scenes repeated several times over.

A number of survivors of the Ghetto watch the film "along with the viewer."  For them, the places are familiar -- and so are some of the faces and personalities.  The other witness who watches the film along with you?  One of the Germans who filmed it.  It was serendipitous that the filmmaker was able to identify this person and through a great deal of work and patience able to reach him and engage him in conversation.

A very haunting film.  Difficult to watch.  More difficult not to watch.  88 minutes that seemed much longer -- not because of defects in the film -- but because you are watching a lot of difficult things and it seems that it is your human obligation as a witness and out of respect to those who were subjected to the ghetto and the filming to watch.

When we returned to Jerusalem on Tuesday, we had an appointment with Nefesh b'Nefesh, the organization that facilitates aliyah (becoming a citizen of the State of Israel) especially for English speakers and North American Jewry.  This is a big step for Addie (for anyone of course).  It was nice that, as it turned out, the person who worked with us was the daughter of someone we know from Columbus.  Such a small world. . .

As of last Tuesday, she has made application for aliyah.  Here I am with Sarah, the daughter of Rochelle and Henoch Millen of Columbus.


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