Friday, July 13, 2018

Butterflies Are More Fun


Butterflies Are More Fun

At Touro Synagogue
July 7, 2018

On Shabbat seventy-five congregants and visitors heard Touro Synagogue’s Rabbi Marc Mandel speak about people who make a difference. 

After welcoming everyone, the Rabbi gave shoutouts to Jeannie and Jay Schottenstein for their “extraordinary dedication to the well-being of the Jewish people all over the world and in the US and Israel where so many great projects are undertaken thanks to your philanthropy and commitment,” and for their “concern and care to make sure our Shul continues to serve as a vibrant community dedicated to sharing its history with everyone,”

And to Paul Glasser, vice-president of Touro College, which has campuses all over the globe. Paul Glasser has been serving as a leader in the Jewish community for decades, and to Milton and Doryne Davis, leaders in Englewood, New Jersey.

Milton Davis’s father was a Holocaust survivor from Munkács, Hungary, now Mukachevo, Ukraine. During WW II, eighty-five percent of the Munkács Jewish community was murdered, most in Auschwitz.

I visited Munkács in June. Munkács nestles in the Carpathian Mountains. Before WWII the population was over 40% Jewish. Now it is a lively Ukrainian town, but signs of the past exist. There is a very small Jewish community.

The Jewish cemetery was marked for destruction during the Soviet era; the matzevot (headstones) were buried in four pits. Public pressure prevented the final destruction. Thousands of flat stones cover the grave sites. (If it does not appear,a video slide show is at https://youtu.be/88f5tJPiaMI)

Monuments have been assembled from matzevot that have been retrieved from the pits. Relatives moved a few of the graves and matzevot to a new cemetery. Both cemeteries are fenced and cared for. The caretaker made sure that we washed our hands on leaving the cemetery.

Does what we do make a difference? If not, what is the meaning of life?  These are questions that keep some of us awake at night.

In The Vocation of Man (1800), Johann Gottlieb Fichte states, "You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby ... changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole".

To Sir Isaac Newton, it was the three body problem. For Newton, that meant predicting, with mathematical certainty, the positions of the sun, moon and earth at any particular time.

In Einstein’s theory of relativity, the three bodies are any three objects, but since time changes, it becomes a fourth object.

Science fiction writers know a good thing when they see it. Time travel is often used to show how a small alteration in the past leads to a different future. In 1952 Ray Bradbury wrote a short story,  'A Sound of Thunder,' about a hunt that traveled 55 million years back in time to slay a dinosaur. The hunter had a melt down, crushed a butterfly with his boot, and the future changed. If you are a Trekkie, you know what I am taking about. Think timeline and temporal wars.

In 1961, MIT mathematician and meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz pioneered chaos theory after he realized that the predictions of meteorological models were not always accurate, and that small changes in initial conditions could lead to vastly different outcomes. 

Lorenz described it in terms of one flap of a seagull’s wings causing a hurricane. His colleagues told him, 'Butterflies are more fun.' When Lorenz wrote an untitled paper, a colleague, Dr. Philip Merilees, pounced. The title became, 'Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?' and the “butterfly effect” was launched. 

I asked Newporter Mrs. Namel Chadash if she could make sense of this. She did not disappoint.

“So, Reb Ginsburg, vas is all dis meshugaas? Do you really think people are interested in Newton, Fichte, and butterflies? Genug already!

“Let me explain you the three body problem. When I told my three kindele, Beth, Judy, and Aaron, to sit still, they never listened. Vey iz mir, a few minutes later they were gone. Now that’s a three body problem! I solved it with a kick in the tuchas! 

“Professor Fichte-Geshichte, in Newport we know a thing or two about sand. If you walk on Easton’s beach, the only thing that will change is your feet, with those tiny grains of sand clinging. If that bothers you, just go to Island Park, and enjoy the rocks.  That’s da ganze geshichte!

“And as for you, Professor Lorenz, alvays you shouldn’t listen to your friends. Stick with seagulls. My Jonathan Livingston would never hurt a flea, just an occasional clam. When your feet are stuck in the sand at First Beach, just keep your eyes overhead. Since you have your head in the clouds, vat do they say, ‘No problem!’” 

Rabbi Mandel touched on all of this in his Torah talk, including the meaning of life, and the difference a person makes and should make.

“Individuals play an important role in the world. We see it in these last few Torah readings.

“In today’s Parsha, it’s Pincus who manages to calm things down in the Jewish camp. Last week it was Balak, who hired Balaam who created one of our most important tefillot, ‘Ma Tovu.’ 

“This week millions of people were focused on one individual-one person-I’m referring to LeBron James. Millions of people followed his decision to move to Los Angeles. 

“LeBron James, known as King James. No different than any other king. Well-known throughout the world. The power of one individual to influence the lives of millions of people. 

“You might say basketball is not that important. That misses the point. In today’s world of social media and the Internet everything is equal. King James is just as important as any other big news item and it’s all about one person. Of course this doesn’t last forever.

“.In this week’s pasha – the leader of the Jews, Moshe, Moses, tells God, 'I’m done. I can’t do it anymore. Please, find someone else.' Franz Kafka said, 'The meaning of life is that it stops.' A human being stops! The greatness of a person, the thoughts, the intelligence, the beauty, it all stops. 

“Our job is to utilize the energy and strength that we have  while we can, while we are strong, while our minds are sharp.

“Let us do like Moshe, Yehoshua, Miriam and the daughters of Zelophehad, who told Moshe,  'We want a share in the land of Israel, there are no boys in our family, just girls. We want a share…’ They showed their love for Israel and were  rewarded with a share.

“We have to learn from these women to show our dedication to Israel and not take it for granted. These are the lessons that we need to learn from this week’s great people. 

Shabbat Shalom!”

And Shabbat Shalom from Jewish Newport

@tourosynagoguenewport @newportri

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Test

At Touro Synagogue 
June 23, 2018
The Test
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It was nice to return home after a long hiatus. During my last visit, on April 28, Rabbi Marc Mandel mentioned a newspaper story. “A Jew in Germany told a gentile friend that it was dangerous to wear a kippah in Germany. The friend, an Israeli-Arab tried to prove that this was not true. The test ended badly and the friend was beaten up.” 

I was about to leave for a trip to Europe including Greece, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. “I asked the Rabbi, ‘Are you suggesting I should wear a kippa during my trip.’ He demurred, ‘That’s not necessary. The test has already been performed.’ “ 

Being contrary, I decided to wear a kippa during the entire trip.  As I previously related, the first person to approach me was an Israeli visitor to Thessaloniki (Salonica), Greece. He told me when services would take place at the local synagogue. We stumbled along in Hebrew until I ran out of breath, and blurted out that I was an American. Subsequently a Jew who lived in Salonica also said hello.  

Every so often someone would say Shalom to me.

In Warsaw, I walked into the Old Town neighborhood with my friend Alan Kaul of Sharon, Massachusetts. Warsaw was almost entirely destroyed during World War Two and most buildings are recreations. As we entered the neighborhood, a short street was lined with six police cars full of police. 


Around the corner we walked into a plaza with 500-1000 boisterous people. On the horizon  was a large stadium with a soccer match. A young man yelled at me, “Juden Raus!”  (Jews Out!) “Really?”, I asked.  The response came quickly, in English, “Yes!”


Alan and I walked in the opposite direction. As we sat down in a nearby restaurant, visiting Israelis at the next table hastened to unburden themselves. They told us about the incident, unaware that I was the protagonist. 
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In today’s parsha, Moses was the protagonist. He was tested at the Hard Rock Cafe. The test did not go well. Our Rabbonim have had a difficult time explaining Moses's error. Following their reasoning is a test in itself. This week, Rabbi Marc Mandel gave it a try. 

“This week’s Torah reading, Parshat Hukat, is one of the saddest Torah readings of the year. In today’s Torah reading, Miriam dies, Aharon dies, and Moses is told that he would never enter Israel, because of his sin with the rock, when he struck the rock instead of speaking to the rock for water: Moshe’s whole family-wiped out in today’s reading. What exactly did Moshe do wrong? No one speaks to a rock? And in the book of Exodus, Moshe was told to strike the rock?

“There a sin of commission and there a sin of omission. According to Rabbi Ari Kahn from Bar Ilan University, Moshe committed a sin of omission. Rabbi Kahn quotes the Netziv [Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin was born in Mir and died in Warsaw. Leading the Volozhin Yeshiva, he shut down the school after onerous pressure from the Russian government in the 1890s.], who says Moshe never taught the people how to pray. He never taught them how to daven. This is a problem that still exists today. 

One of the biggest challenges that day schools face today is davening. The students don’t like to daven. They tune out during davening. It’s a big challenge that day schools face. But davening is a challenge for adults too.

“Years ago, I lived in Manhattan on the West Side, and I attended The Lincoln Square Synagogue. Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald led a service called the “learning minyan” or the beginners minyan. People learned how to daven. I used to attend this service because I wanted to see how to talk teach davening. Several years later I was hired by shul in Manhattan on the East Side, KJ, Kehilath Jeshurun, to conduct the learning minyan. It was a learning experience because I was tasked with the challenge of teaching people how to daven. 

“Hopefully here at Touro, we can all learn how to daven better, with more kavanah, more concentration, and more understanding of our tefilot. This way we will be able to learn to mysterious lesson of this week’s parsha. 

“Shabbat Shalom!”

Hukat was a short parsha. There was plenty of time for davening and for understanding, and for thinking about the next post for Jewish Newport!
@tourosynagoguenewport



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Empty Chairs

At Touro Synagogue
April 28, 2018
Empty Chairs  
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On  Friday morning, April 27, I received text messages from an unfamiliar phone number. It was Bernie Friedman, whose father Charles Friedman grew up in Newport. Bernie’s  grandfather was Dr. Bernard Friedman, a Newport dentist, and his great-grandfather was Rev. Nathan  Friedman was a Chazen at Touro Synagogue for many years.  

Bernie was on his way to Newport to attend the funeral of Dr. Anthony Caputi, a good friend of his father. Dr. Caputi served on the Touro Foundation board for many years. I went to services on Friday night to greet Bernie, who is very active in the Jewish Community in Hollywood, Florida.  

On Shabbat, our visitors included Bob and Hillary Zitter, from Stanford, Ct. Bob Zitter has been the President of a large Orthodox shul, and now leads the Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford. He is a retired superstar for HBO. For many years he was HBO’s CTO (chief technology officer). His job was to keep HBO ahead of the curve, and he did!

I had the honor of reciting the Haftarah, and then taking the Torah back to the aron. I went as fast as possible to cover any mistakes with the text and the trope. I doubt this fooled anyone. 

Rabbi Marc Mandel’s  brief sermon started with a newspaper story. A Jew in Germany told a gentile friend that it was dangerous to wear a kippah in Germany. The friend, an Israeli-Arab tried to prove that this was not true. The test ended badly and the friend was beaten up. The story could have ended there, but instead a perturbation of the force occurred.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, “Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Berlin public radio that Jews should be careful in big cities, after two men wearing kippahs were assaulted.

‘Mr Schuster said: "Defiantly showing your colours would in principle be the right way to go [to tackle anti-Semitism].
"Nevertheless, I would advise individual people against openly wearing a kippah in big German cities.”

Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, David Lau countered,  German Jews should wear the kippah and, “be proud of their Jewishness.” But many Jews have stopped wearing kippot in public after many years of attacks.

According to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, 

“One who is prepared to die for his Jewishness sanctifies God's Name. Conversely, denying that one is Jewish is akin to idolatry, since it implies a denial of our fundamental beliefs. Therefore, in time of danger, it is forbidden to save one's life by denying that he is Jewish. It is permitted to make an ambiguous statement, to act like a non-Jew, or to disguise oneself as such. It is forbidden to disguise oneself as a priest, however, since this is the same as an outright denial of one's Jewishness.“

In the parsha, Achrei Mot-Kedoshim, the subject was addressed. What does it mean? It depends on the interpretation.

Vayikra 18:3 says we should not walk in the ways of the other nations (don’t go bareheaded). 
כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֧ה אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְשַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֖הּ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ וּכְמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶֽרֶץ־כְּנַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִי֩ מֵבִ֨יא אֶתְכֶ֥ם שָׁ֙מָּה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ וּבְחֻקֹּתֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵֽכוּ׃
You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws.


Vayikra 18:5 might mean, “Don’t risk your life.”

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַעֲשֶׂ֥ה אֹתָ֛ם הָאָדָ֖ם וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃ (ס)
You shall keep My laws and My rules, by the pursuit of which man shall live: I am the LORD.

Since I was about to embark on a trip to several countries in Europe, Greece, Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus, I asked the Rabbi, “Are you suggesting I should wear a kippah during my trip.” He demurred, “That’s not necessary. The test has already been performed.”

During the last few days in Thessaloniki, Greece, the test has been going well. No one has called attention to me. However a visiting Israeli couple stopped me. During a brief conversation in Hebrew, they managed to explain that there were Shabbat services. 

The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki is very well organized. It operates schools, a youth group, an old age home, a cemetery, and a museum.

On Friday I visited the small Jewish museum. I paid the 5 euro admission to the indifferent clerk. The Jewish community is ancient, going back about 2000 years. The old community began to call  themselves, Romaniot , after the Byzantines, who considered themselves Romans, when many Sephardic Jews arrived in Thessaloniki after 1492 from Spain and parts of Italy after Judaism was banned. Each wave of immigrants created its own Jewish community, such as Lisbon, Aragon,Calabria and Puglia.  

At the Monastir Synagogue, built in 1927 by Jews from Monastir, Yugoslavia, I was welcomed with a smile by Lydia. Used by the Red Cross during WWII, it was the only shul, out of 60, to survive the holocaust. Recently restored after an earthquake, it is used for special occasions. The empty chairs are rarely filled.

Friday evening I attended services at the Yad Lezikaron Synagogue, which were followed by a dairy meal which included baklava for desert. I sat with a group of people on a Melton group tour of Greece. The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning sponsors educational programs world wide. Next to me was a visitor from New Jersey, born in Belgium. “Europe is full of Jewish cemeteries,” she said. She thought it was futile to try to keep the almost vanished Jewish communities in Europe, such as Thessaloniki’s, that seem to be on life support, going.

Saturday morning services started at  8 am. One reminder of the past was a ladino [judeo-spanish] prayer after the Torah was taken from the ark. 

After services I was invited by Rabbi Aaron Israel to his home for lunch. There were many salads, and I was surprised when plates of yams, rice, and roasted meat appeared after over an hour. There were other guests including an Israeli family visiting from Bulgaria. Roasted eggs were served both Friday night and at shabbos lunch. 


Amidst the food we sang zmirot. Rabbi Israel asked, “What do they sing in Boston?” I stretched my brain and came up with Mi Pi El, Hine Matov, and Ele Chamda Libi (This is the desire of my heart; please have pity and please don't hide yourself.)

Friday, March 30, 2018

A Little Piece of Heaven

At Touro Synagogue
March 30, 2018
Erev Pesach
A Little Piece of Heaven  
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My day started at Zayde’s Market in Canton, Massachusetts.  Josh Ruboy and the team loaded up my car with the Passover order for the Seders at CJI. At the Levi-Gale house in Newport, Marcia Cohen, Eileen Kominsky, and Rabi Marc Mandel were waiting. 

Aaron Ginsburg with Josh Ruboy
If you didn’t sign up for the seder this year, I hope to see you next year. 

While I was in Newport, I had a chance to speak with longtime resident, Mrs. Namel Chadash

“So my kindele, I vant that you should know what happened to me this week when I was doing my Pesach shopping.

Eileen Kominksy, Rabbi Marc
Mandel, Marcia Cohen
"I had my hands on a beautiful bottle of schmaltz, you know, that lovely golden glob of cholesterol that's so good when its mixed into chopped liver. Lo and behold, next to me was my cardiologist. He looked at me, I looked at him. It was the last bottle of schmaltz on the shelf. 

"Vey iz mir, vat should I do? I knew my cardiologist wouldn’t let me forget my sin; I vould never hear the end of it. So my young ones, to make a long story short, I put the schmaltz back on the shelf. 
"So vat to you think happened? The second it got  back on the shelf, the cardiologist took it, and didn’t even look at me. 

"My children, I vant that you should think of me when you have chopped liver with schmaltz. And to my cardiologist, let me say, ‘You can count all the cholesterol you vant. You count, and I’ll enjoy the schmaltz.’

"Schmaltz, it’s liquid gold. Ok, maybe semi-solid gold. Life would not be complete if there wasn't schmaltz in this world.
Eileen Kominksy, Aaron
Ginsburg
, Marcia Cohen

"They say when the Ubershter, you know, that's the one up above, cried because his children, the children of Israel, were lost, those tears turned into schmaltz. So schmaltz is a little piece of heaven. And did I tell you, if we didn’t have schmaltz, we wouldn’t have gribenes.

"A gut yom tov!”

And a gut yom tov from Jewish Newport!

@tourosynagoguenewport @newportri 

Friday, March 9, 2018

The horns of a dilemma; the American Interest

At Touro synagogue
March 3, 2018
The horns of a dilemma; the American interest
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Parshat Ki Tisa began with the command to have a census…Everyone who was counted was required (from the age of twenty) to make an offering… “the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel.” This was the biblical version of one man, one vote, thousands of years ahead of its time.

Although the bible spoke out for democracy, this did not mean that everyone had equal qualifications. Going against the modern trend where everyone thinks they can master everything and do without experts, the bible comes down on the side of the tried and true,  

”See, I have singled out by Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge in every kind of craft: to make designs for work in gold , silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood-to work in every kind of craft.” 

Obaoliab son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan and others also had this skill, and were also assigned to make the Tent of Meeting and its appurtenances.

Rabbi Mandel mentioned that Michelangelo misinterpreted the bible, and so his sculpture of David has horns. The parsha says Moses’s face was radiant after meeting God. 

Moses Michaelangelo September 2015-1
Moses by Michaelangelo
According to Wikipedia, the error goes back the fourth century Latin translation by Jerome, known as the Vulgate. It may have been a translation error, or it might have been Jerome’s way of saying that he was changed by meeting God. The Hebrew word “Keren” can be understood in several different ways. As the years went by our understanding did not reflect the nuances in Jerome’s interpretation.

In the Parsha, the episode of the Golden Calf took place. Moses lost his temper, and smashed the Ten commandments. Sometimes losing one’s temper can have unfortunate consequences.  

The Israelites were punished and many of the died. Rabbi Marc Mandel said that, “The lesson of the sermon was that we need to be careful to observe the Mitzvot of the Torah, because if we are not careful it could lead to things getting broken which is never good, even if Moshe did do the right thing.” 

We were joined by  Adam Garfinkle and his wife, Scilla Taylor. Scilla runs the Brookside Nature Center in Wheaton, Maryland. Adam Garfinkle edits a magazine called the “American Interest.” He was in town to speak to students at the Naval War College. He spoke briefly at the Kiddish at the request of Rabbi Mandel. He started by saying, “I’ve always wanted to be at Touro synagogue,  and I am happy to be here for Shabbat.” 

Adam taught in several universities, wrote speeches for George W. Bush’s Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He edited the “National Interest.” When that magazine changed its policies, he and others, Francis Fukuyama, being the prime mover,  founded the “American Interest.”

Francis Fukuyama is a political scientist. He has been labeled a neo-conservative, was involved with the Reagan adminstration and  supported the George W Bush in the run up to the Iraq war in 2003, but eventually opposed the war, and later, endorsed Obama for president. He is not someone that can be easily pigeonholed.  Mr. Fukuyama's grandfather was interned during WWII, like may other Japanese-Americans on the West Coast.

When Adam was asked if a biography was online, he said there was a wikipedia article. He would not vouch for its accuracy, saying it was probably submitted by his son.

In response to a question, he said that he had stopped reading Commentary Magazine years ago because its articles were all written from the same point of few.

He said that he is careful to included opposing points of view in the “American Interest,” sometimes having articles with opposite opinions side-by-side. This reminds me of the Talmud, which often mentions two sides of an argument. Today, many of us only read things that we agree with. It’s easier to just expose ourselves to things we agree with, but is it in the American interest, or in our interest? 







Friday, March 2, 2018

From Riga to Or Yehuda

AT JEWISH NEWPORT
Saturday, February 24, 2018

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From Riga to Or Yehuda

by Aaron Ginsburg


It was nice to be home at Touro Synagogue after a long trip to Israel.

The parsha dealt almost entirely with Aaron, his sons, and assistants, and their duties as priests in the Ohel Moed…the Tent of Meeting. The topics ranged from the clothing a priests wore (it should be made by “all who are skillful, whom I have endowed with the gift of skill”), to how they should be consecrated, what and how to sacrifice and what incense to burn (the aromatic kind was preferred). We adorn our Torahs with breastplates modeled after the priestly breastplate described in the parsha.

Purim was coming up, and Rabbi Mandel said,

“When I was at Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence NY, Rabbi Kenneth Hain asked, why is it "When Adar comes in, we increase in happiness" (Mishenichnas Adar marbin b'simcha, משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה). Why Adar and Purim? Why not Nissan for Pesach or Tishrei for Sukkot? A rabbi ( I have forgotten whom ) said, because on Purim we created our own redemption, so that is real joy, when we initiate and create our future that is true joy. On the other holidays, it was God who did the miracles.”

It’s not our role to wait around for miracles.  We need to create our own opportunities both as individuals and as a community. We have the potential. Do we have the will?

The parsha began with instructions, “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly.”  That’s שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת shemen zayit in Hebrew.

During the Israel trip I met Michael Somin. He was born in 1966 in Dokshitz (where several Newporters trace their roots). Michael visited Dokshitz in August, 2017, for the first time since immigration to Israel in 1978. Michael asked if I had room in my luggage to take something back, and then gave me a gift of a two pound can of pure olive oil made in Omer, Israel, a suburb of Beer Sheva.

During my trip I met several relatives of Newport’s Friedman family. After a brief visit with Friedman family member Shai Viseman in Tel Aviv, I had some free time. I went to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. A special exhibit on display was about “Forbidden Music: X-Ray Audio in the USSR, 1946 - 1964.”  From the 1940s to the 1960s, banned music was produced by making recordings on X-Ray film, which could be played on a record player.  The exhibit focused on jazz and Western rock n' roll, immigrant music, and prisoners’ songs.

In 2013, musician-composer Stephen Coates found a recording for sale in St. Petersburg, Russia. He started the X-ray Audio Project  to gather information, and wrote the first history on the subject in 2015, “'X-Ray Audio’ The Strange Story of Soviet Music on the Bone.” This led directly to the traveling exhibit.

When I visited Regina Zhuk, another Friedman relative and asked if she had heard of these recordings, she replied, “I’ve heard of them, and I have some.” They were a different type of banned music, Jewish music.

Regina Friedman Zhuk was born in Moscow, grew up in Riga, and immigrated to Israel in 1999. When I spoke of how one of my Kusinitz great-uncles who was a revolutionary was arrested in Moscow 1937 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, and then sentenced to a second ten years six months after being released, she had a similar story about her father. She had never told the story before, because her parents engrained it in her that she should never speak of it.

In 1937 in Moscow, her father, Abram Friedman, was visited by an acquaintance who was also from Dokshitz. The visitor wrote her father’s name and phone number in his notebook. When the visitor was arrested so was Regina’s father. He was sentenced to 10 years.

When he was released in 1947, he joined his family in Riga, where they had moved after the war. To help avoid being rearrested, a friend obtained a clean passport that did not mention the arrest. That was not enough. He and Regina’s mother, Mara Shulman Friedman, hid in the open by moving to Rostov-on-Don for several years to get away from the heavy but not so efficient hand of the KGB. Rostov-on-Don is a 23 hour drive from Riga today. Now that’s a long way!

Libyan Jewish Museum
I met another Friedman family member, Paula Shaham, at the Libyan Jewish Museum in Or Yehuda, where she is the education director. The museum’s website  is in Hebrew, English, and Italian. Most Israelis that I met have never heard of this museum. Just a few blocks away, the Babylon Jewish Museum, tells the story of the Jews from Iraq. Paula recounted how she lived in a tent after arriving in Israel, and how various members of the family in Israel were helped by their relatives in Newport. 

As I write this, the wind is howling, it’s raining, the electricity is out, and it’s a long way from Israel, Riga, Dokshitz, and Rostov-on-Don, but not so far from Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island.

Shabbat Shalom

#tourosynagoguenewport #newportri