Friday, February 2, 2018

Jerusalem in my pocket

At Jewish Newport

Saturday, January 27, 2018


by Aaron Ginsburg

Jerusalem in my pocket 

Lehavim, Israel. I have been in Israel since January 22. I am here mostly to see my shetl (Dokshitz, where many Newporters trace their roots) friends. 

While writing this I learned that Newport native Bruce Dorner is also visiting Israel

Last Shabbat I went to Friday night services at Shira Chadasha, which met in a community center.  The orthodox minyan allows both men and women to lead. The curtain of the mechitsa descended from the high ceiling to split the  reading desk in half.  A women led Kabalat Shabbat, a man led Maariv. Can I be honest? The woman had a much better voice.

I walked with Howard Felson to his nearby home in Baka. Howard’s late father Stan was a holocaust survivor from Glubokie, which is just north of Dokshitz

When we arrived, the children, under the supervision of his wife, had a prepared a treat. Down the middle of the set dining table, which was set for the Shabbat meal, was a parasha specific display.  A blue table cloth represented the sea, small plastic figurines represented the people of Israel, there were soldiers on horses and charioteers...perhaps 100 figures altogether.  Some cotton represented the wall of water.  

Supper was on a nearby counter. The girls mustered all their strength to serve us without dropping anything. At bedtime, the lights were timed to go off for 30 minutes, which seemed like a good to depart.

I returned to the Bar-Zev Fuchs residence. Moshe Bar-Zev and his wife Carol Fuchs were at Touro Synogugue during Rosh Hashanah. They both immigrated to Israel in their youth, Moshe from the US and Carol from Tornonto. Moshe traces his roots to the Drutz family from Dokshitz.

On Saturday, I davened at  masorti (conservative) Kehillat Ma’ayanot. When I arrived an attentive congregant offered me a seat.  I felt at home immediately.

During the dvar, I joined a visiting Masorti group from the United States to learn about the history of the congregation. I learned that a growing number of Israeli Jews celebrate family occasions such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs at the congregation and other masorti souls. They were called the congregants who don’t go to services. 

Paul Shrell-Fox was kind enough to share his dvar with me. He discussed the process that made a complaining rabble, the Children of Israel, into a people. Miracles and plagues were not enough, making war against there enemies, which required team work and trusting each other were not enough. 

It was the creation of laws, and the body politic, that united them. This started with Moses, who set up a system of courts on the advice of his father-in-law Jethro. That brought the children of Israel together in a society where roles were specified and laws were made and administered.

This service was also in a community center. Everything had to be disassembled and put away and the chairs neatly stacked when services ended.  The portable Ner Tamid (eternal light) was on a timer which went off at 11:25 AM...which put a damper on a shaliach tzibur’s temptation to dawdle.  This would be a great innovation if roundly adopted. 

A Jewish educator, Dr. Susan Wall hosted a few people for lunch. I was very excited to meet Enid Wortman. Mrs. Wortman and her late husband were early activists in the Free Soviet Jewry movement.

Earlier in the week I had lunch with Jac and Diane Friedgut. Diane grew up in Fall River. Her parents were George and Sylvia (Tauber) Goldberg. They are both active in Jewish life. Jac is an economist, and a great raconteur of his days at Citibank in New York. Daine connected me with another Fall Riverite.

Saturday afternoon I visited Ira Sharkansky and his wife Varda. Ira’s thesis at Wesleyan was, “The Portuguese of Fall River: A study of Ethnic Acculturation.” A political scientist, he wrote 23 books in 39 years. I wonder if he had any time to sleep at night. We talked about the proposed Polish law that would make it a crime to blame Poland for the Holocaust. A lot of people in Israel are upset by this. Ira Sharkansky’s blog about the political situation in Israel is reprinted in the Jerusalem Post.

I concluded my first week in Israel with felafel in pita in Baka. It is amazing how much can be stuffed into one of those pockets!