I feel like a sinner confessing to a priest. I apologize for my blogging neglect; it has been nearly two months since my last update.
Previously I was discussing my plans for a move to Berlin. I have started and promptly ended a new entry about my stay in Germany a dozen times. The problem was not that I had nothing to say, but rather, was what I had to say particularly Jewish, or the same ramblings of any American 20-something doing the whole ‘globe-trotting’ thing? Was the star around my neck the driving force of my experiences or the Bruce Springsteen hoodie clinging to my body with pride?
Currently I am in the Netherlands, and with distance comes the possibility to unpack certain scenes that happened in Berlin that a non-Jewish American or other traveler would have experienced differently, or not at all:
* My first shower in Germany. I was seven when my mother tried to explain the horrors of the Holocaust. It was always her policy not to sugar-coat things in baby talk (but how can genocide be sugar-coated anyway?), and she said that the Nazis (or did she say Germans back then?) killed the Jews in showers of poison, instead of water. She probably explained the whole history leading up to that ending, but all I retained from her lesson was the poison water. The next time I turned the faucet on to take a shower, I stood there for minutes, staring at the water. How do you know if it’s poison or not? My mother screamed from outside the bathroom, “Do you think I own ComEd (the utility company)?” My mother’s disapproval was more real to me than evil ghost Nazis in our pipes, and I promptly jumped into the path of the water. Fast-forward nearly two decades: I stood outside a shower in a town called Neuenhagen, outside of Berlin. I knew the water wasn’t Zyklon B and that, regardless of the NPD story on the front page of the local newspaper I read that morning in the breakfast nook decorated with medieval-style woodcarvings of saints, no Nazis were operating the piping system. But it felt weird. Taking a shower in Germany. Normal events bringing up atrocities in my mind. I finished with the shower and brushed my teeth. It felt like brushing my teeth.
* Finding this book in my host family’s bookshelf:
Recently, every time Israel has come under withering international approbation – usually for its settlement activity or rounds of retaliation against terrorists – the government reverts to the following line: “Loh naim, loh nora,” which translates loosely into: It’s not pleasant, but it’s not awful either.
When we lose a UN vote by 138 to 9, it’s not pleasant, but it’s not terrible either. We always lose UN votes. It could have been 147 to zero. But even then, it would be uncomfortable, but not catastrophic. When England, France, Sweden and Australia summon our ambassadors to read them the riot act, it’s not pleasant, but it’s also not so terrible. They could have recalled their ambassadors from Tel-Aviv, or even expelled our ambassadors. That would have been awful. But you know what? Awful is still OK; awful is not disastrous.
It’s not only international criticism though. Even internal reports that criticize the government’s handling of, say, road accidents, fires, school exam results, are all met with “loh naim, loh nora.”
It’s not great, but it’s not too bad. In other words, it could be worse. In other words, it can always be worse, so this is no big deal. It sure feels like it’s getting worse, but things really are not so bad.
According to this thinking, when things get worse, they still won’t be really bad. When things get worse, and things really seem to be getting worse here, the government will say “it’s bad, but not terrible.”
“Listen, things are really bad, but they’re not catastrophic. OK, ok, things are catastrophic, but they’re not disastrous. Wow, this is a disaster, but you know what, we’ve had it worse, so it’s really not so bad. We overcame Pharaoh, we’ll overcome this too. It’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world. The sky falling is bad? Sure but it could be worse: it could be the end of the world.” READ MORE
“And if you´re out of the country and you hear about a bombing? Then suddenly this is the only place I miss”
One fascinating reason to be proud of in the Jewish world these days, is the fact that still the vast majority, nearly ¾ of American Jews declare in surveys that they will vote for Obama.
The rightwing media has tried everything to prevent that. Endless articles were written about Barack HUSSEIN Obama, being a secret muslim and enemy of the Jewish state. You have to imagine that, in many countries antisemitism still leads people to call their political enemies „secret Jews“, and the fortunately small rightwing fraction in the Jewish world, and the unfortunately large rightwing fraction among Israeli Jews have nothing better to do than using the methods of „antisemitism“ themselves as soon as they get the chance to. Obama has some kind of Muslim connection, so the haters think he must have double loyality, he is fooling America, it is all written in the Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.
And why? Because he showed respect to the Muslim world in his Cairo speech and he didn´t declare openly that he wants to start Armageddon by attacking Iran immediately. What these people forget is the following:
(Numbers and stats from http://www.njdc.org)
Obama provided Israel with the largest amount of American military aid in U.S. history, including:
Few month ago one of my colleagues from Moscow asked me if I could tell him which jewish song is the most international one. Surely at first I said Hava Nagila, but few minutes later I remembered the situation, which happened to me in 2008, when we were traveling in Spain with a couple of friends from Ukraine and Georgia and suddenly heard a street musician playing a jewish melody. One girl, who was traveling with us is a krymchack jewish from Simpheropol, she immediately recognized the melody and shouted “Hey, he plays our Chahlari Chahlari!” (Chahlari means “”my people” in krymchacks language). Me and others also have recognized the melody:) For me it was the sephardic “Fel Shara” and the Shabbath prayer “Yoduha Raionai” and for the others it was the “Terk in Amerika”.
Few month later, in Germany, in the greek restaurant I’ve heard absolutely the same song, but in greek.
I was wondering how can it be that almost all kind of Mediterranean jews and even greeks have the same melody and for all of them this is their traditional song?
By researching on Fel Shara I’ve find out that the original melody comes from Spain and it was cabalistic piyut for Shabbath.
After the expulsion of the jews from Spain in 1492 this piyut traveled all over the Western Europe and the Mediterranean. Some music historians are saying that the Sephardic lyrics of “Fel Shara” were written in the 16th or 17th century in some italian harbor city, because it consists not only a mix of several jewish dialects like Volgare (judeo-italian), Xuadit (jewish-french) and Ladino, but also English and Berber.
Later this song was adopted by the greek as “Apo KsenoTopo” and by the turks as Uskundar.
Also Slavic nations of Balkan have adopted this song.
There is an opened question how “Fel Shara” became a “Terk in Amerika”, because in the refrain the klezmers are using the melody of a krymchack “Haytarma” (haytarmas are folk dances of the crimean tatars, krymchak and karaites), so the official version that the Polish and Russian jews adopted this melody from the Sephardi jews from Greece in the US, seems to be not logical, because there was no migration of the krymchacks to the USA in the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century and in the 18th century krymchacks have lost their contact to the romaniot jews of Greece after the Russian conquest of Crimea.
By checking Fel Shara on youtube I’ve find out that this song became a traditional song in all the Mediterranean countries were there was a big number of Sephardic jews until the WW II.
Here is the list of the names of this song:
Yoduha Rainai/Shabbat Kodesh (piyut)
Fel Shara (Sefardí)
Chahlari, Chahlari (Krymchacki)
Terk in America (Klezmer)
Από ξένο τόπο ([Apo Kseno Topo] – From the foreign land) (Greek)
Ya Banat Iskandaria (The girl from Alexandria) (Arabic)
A bre, mome crnooko (Hey blackeyed) (Croatia?/Bosnia?)
Pogledayme Anadolko (Look at me Anatalian girl) (Bosnia)
Ruse kose curo imaš (You have blond hair) (Serbia)
Ясен месец веч изгрява ([Yasen mesets’ vech izgryava] Bright moon is shining) (Bulgaria)
Ој девојче, ти Тетовско јаболче ([Oy devoyche, ty tetovs’ko yabolche] Oh girl, you are an apple from Tetovske) (Macedonia)
Oј ти Пацо Дреновчанке [Oy ti patso drenovchanke] (Oh you guy from Drenovchanka)
Last week the worlds biggest Jewish Community Center “Menorah” was opened in Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine).
A lot of people are wondering why Dnipropetrovsk and not such famous jewish cities as Odessa, Uman or Kiev?
Most of the jewish and non jewish people don’t know that the jewish history in this city has started long before this city
was founded and thats why it has always been one of the most jewish cities of the eastern Europe.
(Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin)
The current pro-fundamentalist community leaders want to cancel the contract with man who we all love.
In any profession you only have a small amount of people who can be called the top of the top, but especially from our religious leaders we expect an extra amount of dedication because the product of their work are neither bus rides nor tomatoes, but our spiritual welfare. Is there anything more sad than having to listen to an uninspiring Rabbi? I think more or less we long for a Rabbi who is a mixture of the Godfather and Gandalf, no? Someone who always has an ear, followed by a mouth full of good advice while guiding us with kind eyes. And a little bit of magic. A little bit of the feeling that what we receive is something passed on through generations, the Gelee Royale of our tradition. And how blessed are we in Berlin, that after all the suffering from the 20th century and all those decades where being Jewish meant to be sad and broken, we have a Rabbi who is inspiring all ages, to whose words we listen, and who gives us the feeling that the chain of the best of our tradition is unbroken.
Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin, born in 1936 in Jerusalem as the son of Schalom Ben Chorin, the founder of the Har El Community of Jerusalem, is not just a living sage when it comes to Judaism, he is also an active supporter of so many coexistence projects, be it about German-Jewish reconcialition, Jewish-Muslim and Jewish-Christian dialogue and Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives.
But what makes him special is to see this older man being young at heart. His tireless efforts to keep this special atmosphere in our community and this regained feeling and pride that our German-Jewish tradition is vibrant and alive, although not just the Nazis have tried everything to prevent that. READ MORE