Moshe Kraus: Project in Development

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Moshe Kraus Project in Development 1

The unspoken question whenever one mentions Jews in the twentieth century is “where was G-d? Can the Jewish faith have value after such a catastrophe. Moshe’s life offers some insight and response to these issues.

It is the story about a young Jewish boy, born into a Chassidic environment, a musical child prodigy, trained as a Chazzan – a musical synagogue prayer leader – from the age of nine, who faced the many challenges, and lived to tell the tale.

Moshe’s life from birth to the present included survival of Nazi death camps, serving in the first Israeli army as a Chazzan, and then leading services, performing in concerts and speaking engagements all over the world up to the present day.

ThIs project could be told in several formats –

  1. a documentary with musical theater recounting certsi epsiodes in Moshe’s life
  2. musical theater production
  3. A historical drama tv series focusing on the life of this Chazzan (1922 – present)

 

Log Lines:

Log line 1: How Moshe’s voice and musical abilities were used to lift the spirits of the prisoners in the darkest times in Bergen Belson the concentration camp. And how even  Kramer, commandant of Auschwitz and Bergen Belson enlisted Moshe to sing German opera for him alone. And when he was judged and sentened to hang after the war – Kramer asked for Moshe to be present at his hanging.

Log line 2: While serving with the Rabbinic services in displaced persons camps, Moshe found himself officiating at many marriages initiated there: He met  the Klausenberger rebbe who insisted he lead the prayers; Moshe recovered his faith: and through strenuous efforts managed to reconnect with some siblings who had survived as well.

log line 3: In 1948, Moshe enlisted in the nascent Israeli army and in the role of the chief cantor was often heard singing on  kol Yisrael – Israeli radio, bringing hope and encouragement, to the Israeli people and also at their weddings and the funerals of fallen soldiers.

In 2016 Moshe and Rivka published Moshe’s memoir: The Life of Moishele, Der Zinger: How My Singing saved My Life. It details his life and times from birth to the present and is addressed to those who may not know much about the Jewish way of life before, during, and after the Holocaust.Moshele de zinger cover

These are some  comments regarding the book:

Andrew Cantor Moshe Kraus, 94, for decades used his legendary voice to uplift audiences across Europe, the Americas, Israel and elsewhere. His listeners included 1400 Jewish children tragically murdered, and the late Elie Weisel. His singing saved his life as a prisoner in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, although he weighed only 35 kilos when the camp was finally liberated. His memoir, written for general readers, contains virtually not a dull line and countless insightful and often highly-amusing anecdotes. In short, a fascinating book.

Hon. David Kilgour, J.D., Nobel Peace Prize nominee

 

Although Cantor Moshe Kraus was not the Cantor of our synagogue, I met him quite often. He was everywhere, inspiring with his melodies, emotionally moving with his prayers. And if he wanted, he could recite the prayers with a rarely matched combination of speed and accuracy.
But forget about speed when you read this book. Take your time, and digest it. And if you want inspiration, grab this book.
Every time I met Cantor Kraus, he had a story. A different story, always either funny or uplifting. As the years went by, I was wishing more and more that he find a way to preserve all these stories. I suspect that there are many more stories in his arsenal, but for the time being, we should all be grateful to Cantor Kraus for his extraordinary memory, for his enormous life achievements in often impossible circumstances, and for committing to writing the legacy he breathed all his life.

Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, C.M., Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Machzikei Hadas

 

When I was Canadian Ambassador to Hungary, Cantor Moshe Kraus came to Budapest during Hanukkah in December 2005, to light the candles in the Menorah in front of the magnificent Parliament buildings. I still remember the sight of this man in his 80’s being lifted up by a cherry picker, torch in hand, on eight cold and wintry evenings. I later accompanied him on a tour of Budapest’s Great Synagogue and heard him sing before the Torah ark. He told me that it was from the ghetto around the Synagogue that he and other Jews were led away to the concentration camps.
In the years since returning to Ottawa, I have learned much from Moshe about the love of God, humanity and the power of forgiveness. As Moshe says in his book, he is a storyteller — a wonderful storyteller where tales are offered with a dose of wisdom. This book is Moshe’s gift to our own and future generations who will be able to share his joy and sorrows and benefit from his wisdom and compassion.

Robert Hage, Former Canadian Ambassador to Hungary and Slovenia

 

Pastor Rudy Fidel and his wife Gina were so impressed with Cantor Kraus’ memoir of his life experiences, that they organized a week of events for Cantor Moshe Kraus and his wife to speak in Winnipeg. I accompanied them on this trip as part of my work to create a documentary featuring Cantor Kraus’ life story which has many twists and turns. On Wednesday, September 12, 2017, Cantor Moshe Kraus, age 95, spoke to a gym full of students at Shaftesbury Public High School. The event was followed and broadcast on the CBC evening news that same evening.

On Sunday morning Cantor Kraus spoke  at Pastor Rudy’s Church, Faith Temple. Here he shared a story about a Hungarian Bishop who came to visit Moshe at his synagogue in Budapest, during the war, in order to get Moshe’s help in extracting Moshe’s uncle from a Hungarian prison where Jews were being held.

If you have a story to share and wish to participate in this project contact Abigail Hirsch, Founder of AskAbigail Productions, Montreal

Five Books – Research for Moshe Kraus – musical drama highlighting the story of Jews in the twentieth century and why it matters

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Recently there was another documentary about the Shoah called Anne Frank, Parallel Stories. The story of Anne Frank, and the horrors perpetrated against the Jews during the Nazi reign in Europe, this story has been told many times, but the deeper questions of how did it happen? Where did this madness come from? and what was the Jewish response? These stories have not been addressed. In the course of studying and researching the life of Moshe Kraus, (1922 – present) for a documentary film project, I came to grapple with the answers to some of these questions. Here I have chosen five books that gave me a more nuanced insight into these matters.

The first book,  With G-d in Hell by Eliezer Berkovitz, addresses the questions
• Where was G-d?
• Why didn’t the Jews resist?
• How did any of them survive?

This book answered many questions for me. It describes the spiritual resistance that enabled Jews to maintain their integrity in the face of cruelty and brutality and to come out whole on the other side. In this fascinating book, Eliezer Berkovitz (1908-1992) tells us the stories of Jews, who stuck by their faith in the camps, and analyses the strength of Jewish observance in such an environment.
Only thus, he suggests, can we gain an understanding of the power of the Jewish religion, and an insight into the great historic destiny of the Jewish Nation.
Their behavior demanded a courage no less great than that of armed resistance.
He gives real case histories of courageous Jews, who gave up all to observe Judaism, and also discusses the dynamics of life and death and the holocaust according to halacha – (Jewish law). He shares how Jews sacrificed to say early morning prayers, to acquire tefillin, and a shofar: to keep holidays – even difficult ones like Sukkot and Passover: and to continue to consult with their rabbis on ethical questions such as: is it permissible for me to save my son from execution if I know that someone else will then die in his place? Would I then be an accessory to murder? The Rebbe declined to give a ruling saying this was beyond his expertise…but the chassid who asked it, said if you are not answering it’s a “yes” and he did not save his son…

And another chassid asked is it permissible to say the morning blessing thanking G-d for making us free men under these circumstances when one is a slave. The Rebbe answered yes – since we are free in our spirit – it is our captors  who are the slaves, slaves to the German Reich, but we Jews remain free spirits, servants of G-d alone.

Berkovits finally refers to the hope of redemption for the Jewish people, by victims of the holocaust, such as the young Jewish boy hiding in Belgium who wrote in his Hebrew diary:

  • My brothers! Do not misunderstand me. As I speak to you about vengeance I want you to pay attention to it’s positive side. Our revenge for present suffering and for all our sufferings during these two millennia of galut/exile, will be the restoration of our land; it’s settlement by its people; the return of our beloved people to it’s inheritance. This will be the greatest revenge that is in our hand to achieve. For this we ask first of all for the help of our G-D , of the G-D of Israel, who has protected us from extinction during our entire exile. He is sure to help us and and to guide us anew to the land of our inheritance, to our holy land, the land of Israel.”

 

2. Deadly Carousel by Monica Porter

This is a memoir of Vali Racz, the Hungarian Marlene Dietrich, written by her daughter Monica Porter. The book is a wonderful portrayal of the intertwined lives of Jews and non-Jews in pre-war Hungary and wartime Budapest and is also an excellent live action history of what actually was going on in Budapest before, during and after the war to 1956 told by a non-Jewish participant observer.

3.  Black Earth The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder

This book talks about the grand ideas of the nineteenth and early twentieth century and how they played out in the grand scheme of the nations and their ideologies that resulted in so many deaths, not only of Jews. He points out the problem of stateless actors – partisan groups –  and state actors, beholden to G-dless ideologies like those of the Nazi master race idea and Soviet communism which glorifies the state as the Grand Master.

He explains that the Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler’s mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed.  Such a world view could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler set out to enslave and steal from all of Europe and to eliminate the Jews – who he felt stood in his way as the conscience of the world – protecting the poor and the weak,  – one of the prime tenets of the Torah.

Snyder concludes, The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order.  Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are.

4. The Pity of it All by Amos Elon  shows us the Jewish panorama before the war. Writing with a novelist’s eye, Alon peoples his account with dramatic figures: Moses Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, beloved lyric poet of Germany who famously referred to baptism as the admission ticket to European culture, Hannah Arendt. Elon traces how this minority-never more than one percent of the population-came to be perceived as a deadly threat to national integrity. A collective biography, full of depth and compassion, The Pity of It All summons up a splendid world and a dream of integration and tolerance – liberté, égalité, fraternité – that fueled the liberal dreams for world brotherhood in the nineteenth century. This was a time when due to what began with Napoleon, Jews began to be given rights as national citizens: here was born the modern source the Jewish conflict – am I a Frenchman or a Jew? A German citizen or a Jew? An American citizen or a Jew? Can I be both? The twentieth century response to this in Hitler’s time was “no”! Once a Jew always a Jew, and the only solution is death.

5.  A Letter in the Scroll: Understanding Our Jewish Identity and Exploring the Legacy of the World’s Oldest Religion by Rabbi Jonathon Sacks

Rabbi Sacks claims, for too long, Jews have defined themselves in light of the bad things that have happened to them. And it is true that, many times in the course of history, they have been nearly decimated: when the First and Second Temples were destroyed, when the Jews were expelled from Spain, when Hitler proposed his Final Solution. Astoundingly, the Jewish people have survived catastrophe after catastrophe and remained a thriving and vibrant community. The question Rabbi Jonathan Sacks asks is, quite simply: How? How, in the face of such adversity, has Judaism remained and flourished, making a mark on human history out of all proportion to its numbers?

He traces the revolutionary series of philosophical and theological ideas that Judaism created — from the idea of covenant (contract) to sabbath and human rights, to the power of early education — and shows us how they remain compellingly relevant in our time.

This book was written as a letter to Rabbi Sacks’ daughter on her wedding day. This is the story of one man’s hope for the future — a future in which the next generation, his children and ours, will happily embrace the beauty of the world’s oldest religion bringing all of us to brotherly love and shalom/peace. May it be so, speedily, and in our time.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Shofar but Were Afraid to Ask

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At this time of year you are probably getting used to hearing Happy New Year, Shana tova, and the words Rosh Hashanah bandied about and wondering what is this exactly. Rosh Hashana is a combination of penance and joy. It is hard to explain so I will share a short (2 1/2 min.) video I recently discovered that explains this weird holiday, and also contains the blowing of the shofar – the ram’s horn – which I will talk more about after the video.

Now you are probably wondering what is the meaning of the shofar? The shofar is a ram’s horn which is reminiscent of human vocal expression and is supposed to awaken us to do the work of self-evaluation and introspection regarding the world and our place in it during the month prior to Rosh Hashanah, and also integral to the High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) services. And by the way it’s harder to get a sound out of it than it looks. (Yes I tried and failed). But here are some examples of people who succeeded.

The longest shofar blast.

And a totally new initiative, the shofar flash mob, groups who got together at different places in the world to blow shofar together.

And last but not least, here is an adorable video of my nieces and nephew wishing you all a happy Rosh Hashanah. Shana Tova!

 

 

Passover: 2019 : Antisemitism Here and Now

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So this is the story of the Jewish people -The Hagada (the guide for the Passover seder on the eve of Passover states:  “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G‑d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. “
But this is only the beginning of the Passover story. It has so many hidden messages that it is an endless source of inspiration of all kinds. And the rabbis hinted at this when they continued right after the above statement with the following message: “Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.”

The Passover story includes the bitter and the sweet. We do not shy away from the truth – from the helplessness and humiliation of slavery: The other part of the story is that G-d did save us from the Egyptian genocidal evil “with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm“.  The Jewish people were in no position to save themselves: And yet we were saved!!!!! This is the message of hope and redemption offered by the Passover story. And the Hagada continues:

“For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!”.

We have had this story replayed in our recent history. 75 years ago, Hitler, the arch enemy of the Jews described Jews as subhuman and immoral: But the main reason he opposed them was because he wanted to destroy the conscience of the world which he knew was part of the DNA of the Jewish people.

I wish I was making this up because it sounds so fantastic – if I had not done the research myself, I would think that this is some kind of Jewish reverse conspiracy theory about  Hitler and Nazi ideology, but sadly it is true. Hitler knew that Jews would oppose his plan to destroy the maimed and enslave the weak because the basis of the Jewish creed is to protect the weak and to feed the hungry.

In more recent times, Arab/Muslim Jihadists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, have also adopted Nazi ideas, demonizing Jews, and have superimposed these ideas on the Israel/Palestine situation. They too are losing their vicious genocidal battle.

The demonic ideology of antisemitism was replayed in real time in the USA just a few day ago with the shooting of Jews at prayer at the Poway, San Diego, California synagogue: a  shooting on the last day of Passover when Jews were gathered in the synagogue to pray.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Poway synagogue shooting

The nineteen year old nursing student was infected by the vicious libel of antisemitism. This is what he wrote in his manifesto about why he took a rifle and went to the synagogue to shoot as many Jews as he could.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And this was how the person he killed, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was eulogized by those who knew her:

Lori Gilbert Kaye, killed in synagogue shooting, is remembered as a teacher of ‘radical empathy’

Woman killed while protecting rabbi during shooting

Woman killed while protecting rabbi during shooting

  1. Every week, Lori Gilbert Kaye baked challah bread, the egg-laden loaves that are a staple of the Jewish household. But her family didn’t get to enjoy them most times.

    She would drop loaves off at other homes, put them in mailboxes, and bring them to work with her, her daughter recalled. It was typical of Kaye, a woman of deep faith who exemplified kindness and generosity, those closest to her said at her funeral Monday.
  2. “My mother thrived and lived her entire life for the sake of friendship, to give flowers to people all over San Diego and from the world, to bask in the glory of connection, of story, of history,” her daughter Hannah Kaye, 22, told mourners at the synagogue…
  3. She was her daughter’s advocate and dancing partner, and a peaceful woman who nurtured the friendships she formed.
    “Her relationships are one of the things that made her most proud,” her daughter said. “My mother raised me to become like her, to be a woman who embraced all people, to give to all people, to love all people.
  4. Hannah recalled how she and her mother had a rocky relationship when she was a teenager and they were estranged. But their relationship improved, and her mother taught her “radical empathy.”…
    “We healed together under trees, in booths at diners, in car rides while hugging one another tightly, swinging back and forth to a rhythm just our own,” she said. “My mother gave me every opportunity I could have dreamed of. All of who I am today is a result from the experiences we had together.’
    The elder Kaye celebrated her daughter’s love of words from a young age.
    Hannah, a poet, recalled writing her first poem about bubbles at the kitchen table with her mother in fifth grade. Kaye would find the sections in the newspaper where a writer or poet was highlighted and give them to her, Hannah recalled.
    Her mother was “an ecstatic Jew from birth,” who celebrated her Judaism by remaining dedicated to traditions and rituals, Hannah said.
    Kaye was dedicated to her ritual of Shabbat (the Sabbath) and often welcomed people into her homes on Fridays to celebrate.
    Hannah said her mother “knew Judaism went beyond the text.”
    For Lori Gilbert Kaye, Judaism was about who you were as a person and treating others with respect and kindness, Hannah said.
    “My mother lived her life this way. Everyone was her sister,” she said. “Everyone was her friend.”
    Her husband, Howard, a physician, recalled how his wife was always doing good for others.
    “Sometimes people do good and things don’t turn out. Whatever good she did always turned out,” he told mourners. “And whatever I did that might not have been good, she repaired and made me look good.”
    He said he was reminded of her goodness every day. His wife installed a peace pole in their front yard. In several languages, it said: “May peace prevail on earth.”
    “That’s exactly who she was. And she wanted the world to know it, and every day I went out of the house, I knew it,” he said.
  5. Over the years, Hannah said she came to understand what her mother was trying to teach her as their relationship grew stronger. “In simple terms, the importance of kindness, the sacredness of connecting with others,” she said. “And forever, this will be a key element steering me onward on the journey of my own life.
Lori Gilbert Kaye’s life is emblematic of what Jews stand for in this world, loving kindness and moral values. May her death bring the lie to the terrible things that are spread about Jews by Iran, by Muslim Jihadists, Palestinian supporters of BDS, and the white supremacy movement in the US – Nazis by a different name.

I pray that none of you get caught up in their lies like this young man, John T. Earnest did.

Chanukah in Jerusalem, Israel

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Last night was the first night of Chanukah here in Jerusalem and all over the world. This was my first time experiencing Chanukah in Jerusalem in Israel. Here as you can see from the above pictures, the practice is not only to light candles on the menorah – 8 candled candelabra – indoors but also to light outside one’s front door. The candles are placed inside a glass box which protects the flames from the elements on a raised platform outside the dwelling.

The second picture here is outside the door of my dear friend Judy Brodt in Nachlaot, Jerusalem. We lit the candles, recited the blessings, sang the songs and sat outside to appreciate the sight of the candles…By the way there was Judy and myself and Coco, a young woman from Venezuela, who was visiting Israel for the first time. Lots of people, tours, families were walking through the streets. One group of young girls who were actually tour guides to be, stopped and accepted our cookies and came inside. Then a woman, Jean Kidd and her personal tour guide stopped to speak with us. Jean Kidd is a sculptor from Knoxville Tennessee whose sculptures have been commissioned for Mamila Mall. One of her sculptures is called “Guardian” and it brought to mind “The guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps”. (Lo Yanum velo yishan Shomer Yisrael). A particularly appropriate phrase to describe one aspect of this Holiday.

After lighting Judy and I were invited for supper to her friend, Zahava’s home – thats where the second group of candles in the window are from.

She had a huge spread of dairy foods plus traditional latkes and dreidels and children from 1 yr old and up… all playing together. One of the guests asked the question how come we have. Mitzvah of having a seuda/holiday meal on Purim but no such commandment for Chanukah. A good question yes?

Anyhow my teacher, Yhudis golshevsky’s main teaching about Chanukah was the following: What is it about the candles that makes them so important?

Why is one of the first blessings after Shabbat about fire – “borei meorai haaish”?
Blessed iis the Creator of fires?

The era of the Maccabees was a period of Greek domination of the civilized world. Israel was a part of that world and “Hellenization” was very popular even among Jews? What was the domination of the Greeks all about? They were not into destroying the Temple, they simply wanted to insinuate their ideology and in order to do that Antiochus, the wicked King, forbade circumcision, temple sacrifice, and placed their God /Statues all over the country and even in the temple.

The uprising of The Maccabees which started with a family of high priests was illogical and certainly not guaranteed of success at the time against the might of Greece. In brief:
1 The Maccabees were a band of Jewish freedom fighters who freed Judea from the Syrian-Greek occupiers during the Second Temple period. The word Maccabee is an acronym for the Hebrew words that mean “Who is like You among all powers, G‑d.” Led by Judah the Maccabee and his four brothers, they trounced the Greek interlopers and restored the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the service of G‑d. Their victory is celebrated during the holiday of Chanukah.
• The Background
• More than 2,000 years ago there was a period of time when the Land of Israel was part of the Syrian-Greek Empire, ruled by the dynasty of the Seleucids. In 174 BCE (3586), Antiochus IV ruled the region. He was called Epiphanes, meaning “the gods’ beloved,” but people called him Epimanes (“madman”), a title more suited to the character of this harsh and cruel king…
• The Maccabees Rule Judea
• The Maccabees and their descendants took the throne of Judea for themselves. This was a problem because they were priests, descendants of Aaron. Their job was to serve in the Holy Temple and guide the people in spiritual matters. It was the place of the descendants of King David, from the tribe of Judah, who were supposed to sit on the royal throne. Indeed, it did not take long until the monarchy of Judea was dragged down into a series of unending power grabs and bloody intrigue, with king after king trying to imitate the very same Greeks their ancestors had ousted from the land.
• Yet, for all their shortcomings, the Maccabees leave us with an empowering message that resonates in all times and all places: Never cower in the face of tyranny. Do your part, trust in G‑d, and success is sure to come.

The above is excerpted from: https://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/3857239/jewish/The-Maccabees-The-Jewish-Freedom-Fighters.htm
This message resounds throughout the centuries as the core story of the Jewish people and their place in the world. And even today as the Israeli army announces the beginning of an operation on tis Northern border to eliminate all attack tunnels that Hezbollah has built at the northern border of Israel burrowing into Israel itself.

But what does this have to do with lighting candles? here is how my Teacher, Yehudis Golshevsky explained it this way: Fire can be destructive or constructive. Everyone knows that human civilization as we know it started with the discovery of fire by man. The Greeks attributed this discovery to man and man alone. Jews believe that everything in our physical world comes form G-d including man, the physical world and even the choice between Good and Evil, peace and war. Man was created by G-d to partner with Him to improve and watch over the physical world which he created for us: God created essential fire during the first days of creation: Man discovered fire and has the task to work with it. And mankind was given the free will to choose between good and evil in its use of fire as well as in its use of everything else that exists in the world. Now what does this have to do with Chanukah? Chanukah commemorates two things: one the victory of The Maccabees over the Greeks during the time of King Antiochus and two, the restoration of the Temple practice according to the laws laid done in the Torah. – i.e only using the oil set aside by the Kohanim/Priests of the Temple service. And here is where one of the miracles comes in – the oil that would have been sufficient for one day, burned for eight days until they could make fresh and pure/tahor oil – oil prepared according to Torah instructions. As one pundit put it – Its like finding that your mobile phone battery is at 10% and it lasts for eight days! What is the lesson? G-d can make anything happen! The lights burning on Chanukah for eight days in every family’s home reminds us of the jewish spiritual heritage laid down in the Torah and that we are not alone in this world.

The other part of Chanukah celebrates the unexpected and miraculous victory of the few over the many – the small band of Kohanim let by Mattityahu and his sons against the might Greek armies, at that time, rulers of the entire civilized world. The Chanukah victory celebrates not just the victory over the Greeks but also the jewish victories over the Babylonians, the Persions, the Greeks, and the current one – the Romans: The Roman exile has lasted since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and the exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel to our present day: The Roman is now in the process of being redeemed by the restoration of sovereignty to the Jewish people in their indigenous native land of Israel givento them by the Hand of G-d.  If thats not a miracle I don’t know what is!

The simple four sided Chanukah dreidel that is the source of a game played on Chanukah commemorates these four exiles – 1. Egypt 2. Babylon 3. Greece and 4. Rome . And what binds them together? The axis on which the dreidel spins – the hand of G-d in the affairs of Man which is the core message of the Jewish people as laid down in the Torah.

And why do we not have a mandated feast on Chanukah as we have on Purim – another Jewish holiday that threatened the existance of the Jewish People?  The Greeks were not intent on destroying Jews physically but only spiritually, by imposing their Hellenistic ideology, and way of life on the Jews. And there was only a handful who recognized the inherent danger of this path and understood how the Greek way was diametrically opposed to the Jewish way. Greeks and Jews had much in common: both people revered science and learning about the physical world. But the Greeks held that the order of the world had no spiritual meaning over what can be seen and perceived by Man. Jews believe that the physical world is a manifestation of G-d’s power and that He continues to watch over the World. He chose  and was chosen by the Jewish people to transmit this wisdom to the rest of the world. So on Chanukah we not only celebrate the victory of battle – the victory of Matityahu and his band over the Greeks, but more importantly the spiritual victory which is symbolized by the holy light of the candles, which are there for no functional reason but simply to remind us of the Hand of G-d in our physical human world.

So the difference between Greek ideology and Jewish ideology is that Greeks worship beauty and intellect and do not recognize the Hand of G-d in this world. Jews also love beauty and intellect but in addition, also believe in a G-d that is interested in the affairs of man and looks on lovingly as we, humans succeed and fail in our essential tasks of promoting goodness and care for our world, shared by G-d and man. The candles that we light are not to be used for any functional purpose. They simply allow us a moment to contemplate the whole story of fire, of its destructive and constructive potential, and the hidden Hand of G-d in our world – That is Chanukah!  Zot Chanukah! – (in Hebrew).

Hag Chanukah Sameach! Lets enjoy the victory of light over darkness!

Abigail Hirsch
askabigail@me.com
From Jerusalem Israel 2018
 
 

Ari Fuld – an Ordinary Extraordinary American-Israeli Jewish Hero

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Yesterday Ari Fuld was knifed in the back at a mall by a snot-nosed teenage Palestinian terrorist.  Ari chased the terrorist and shot him. Both of them lay on the pavement. Ari sadly, father of four and supporter of thousands, succumbed to his wounds and was buried last night at 11pm.

Am Yisrael Chai! The state of Israel lives! in joy and fulfillment because we have many people like Ari Fuld,  – not just the IDF – our teenage citizen army – but ordinary citizens of all ages and everywhere, who continue every day to ensure our safety and to ensure that we all live in security with joy and fulfillment. One snot nosed teenager can’t take that away! I am in Jerusalem and I feel safer here in Jerusalem than in New York or Montreal or anywhere else in the world because here everybody watches out for everybody. Here is Ari Feld speaking about his commitment a few short months ago interviewed by the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles.

 

And Ari Fuld, our ordinary extraordinary hero, will be mourned by all of the State of Israel and by Jews and non-Jews all over the world who appreciate the value of every single life.

And i just saw this post in Breaking Israel News which gives an additional flavour and insight into Ari Fuld. If you read the next part of this post you may begin to understand how the  Torah/our Sacred-Word-of-G-d-Text influences how a Jew Lives his faith every day of his life. I quote:

That Ari Fuld, may his memory be for a blessing, whose name means lion, was a fierce advocate for Israel is well-known.

What might be less well-known is that he took time on Fridays, just before Shabbat, to teach the upcoming week’s Torah portion live on Facebook, often beside his beloved barbeque grill, in his beloved community of Efrat. Fuld taught Torah to thousands of Jews and Christians all over the world, while preparing food for his family’s Shabbat meals.

 

 

 

 

Why does the State of Israel observe the Jewish national day of mourning called Tisha b’Av every year?

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Tisha b’Av is a Jewish fast day which has been commemorated annually on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. by Jews wherever they lived, for over two thousand years. It commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish temples built in Jerusalem: the destruction of the first temple, Solomon’s Temple, destroyed in 423 BC by the Babylonians, and the destruction of the rebuilt second temple by the Romans  in 70 Ad. Both events symbolized the end of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel in those times, and both entailed exile of the Jewish people from their native land.  Today happens to be Tisha B’Av,  and while normally I commemorate this day outside of the modern State of Israel, this year I am fortunate to be spending it in Jerusalem, Israel.

In fact, I can tell you that this is no minor fast, either in the diaspora or in Israel. In addition to a full day of fasting and prayer, many institutions sponsor talks and film screenings relevant to the theme of the destruction of the temple and the exile of the Jewish people in history.  The question for me is why does the State of Israel and the Jewish people all over the world, continue to observe this National Day of Mourning, today, since we now have a sovereign Jewish state in the ancient land of Israel.

One answer from the religious community, the community which regulates these religious rituals, is that although we now have political sovereignty, we have not yet achieved spiritual sovereignty in which all peoples respect each other and work together for the common good. This hope in the potential for a shared future of social goodness and peace – the future messianic times – as we all know, sadly, has not yet arrived. Our history tells us that the destruction and exiles of the Jewish people were caused not so much by the external forces but the internal divisions of the Jews of the time: by a lack of unity and love for one another.

Although the State of Israel can lay claim to many incredible achievements of the last 70 years, our history warns us not to rest on our laurels but to be vigilant and eager to improve our social fabric and unity of the Jewish people and indeed all nations under the Divine rules of Justice and Mercy prescribed for us in our Torah: Peace love and justice is what rebuilding the temple aims to accomplish: i.e the Temple cannot be rebuilt unless those goals are achieved. This is what is meant in the Jewish faith by the advent of the messianic times.

In Jerusalem, on Tish b’Av I participated in a film festival called “The Earth Trembles”: Contemporary Israeli films on contemporary social and political subjects were screened in the presence of the producers and actors.

The strength of the Jewish people is in its capacity to remember, not to forget, and to learn from the past. This is the ongoing task of the study of Torah, our holy books, which are meant to teach us the path how to improve the world we live in, not only for ourselves, but for all mankind.

Education for all, starting at birth, is a very large part of the Jewish endeavor. This is why it is hard to pull the wool over our eyes when others try to interpret our motives.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech, at the January 14 meeting of the PLO’s Central Council lasted two hours.

Mahmoud Abbas, photo via Office of the President of Russia

Appealing to fashionable legal and moral fads, particularly in Western Europe, Abbas again set forth the supposedly problematic aspects of Zionism. His “historical survey” undoubtedly fails the minimum test of facts, but it is uncritically accepted in many circles.

Israeli Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen parsed his speech and here is his rebuttal. BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 738, February 12, 2018

 

  • Of all the leaders of the Zionist movement, it was Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, who dealt most extensively with the kinds of claims made by Abbas. Below are several passages from Abbas’s address followed by statements by Ben-Gurion on the same topic.
  • Abbas: “How did the problem in our region begin? They talk about the Balfour Declaration, promulgated a hundred years ago. They criticize us – why do we talk about something that happened a hundred years ago? And we say: ‘We will keep talking about the declaration until Britain apologizes and recognizes a Palestinian state’.”
  • Ben-Gurion: “Our right to the Land of Israel does not stem from the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration. It precedes those. The Bible is our mandate… I can state in the name of the Jewish People: The Bible is our mandate, the Bible that was written by us in our Hebrew language, and in this land itself, is our mandate. Our historical right has existed since our beginnings as the Jewish People, and the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate recognize and confirm that right” (testimony to the Peel Royal Commission, January 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, pp. 77-78).
  • “A homeland is not given as a gift and is not acquired by means of political rights and contracts. It is not purchased with gold and is not conquered by force, but is built with sweat. This homeland is a historical creation and a collective endeavor of a people, the fruit of its physical, spiritual, and moral labor down through the generations. … The Land of Israel will be ours not when the Turks, the English, or the next peace conference agrees to it, and it is undersigned in a diplomatic treaty – but when we, the Jews, build it. We will not attain the real, true, and lasting right to the land from others, but from our labor. For the Land of Israel to be ours, we must build it; the mission of our revival movement is the building of the land” (New York, September 1915, Mema’amad Le’am, p. 10).
  • Abbas: “The Egyptian thinker Abd al-Wahab al-Masri described the Zionist entity in this way: ‘The goal of Israel’s creation is to establish a colonial state that has no connection to Judaism’ – that is, it exploits the Jews to its end.”
  • Ben-Gurion: “The Jewish religion is a national religion, and it encapsulates all the historical experiences of the People Israel from its inception to the present; hence it is not easy to distinguish between the national side and the religious side” (Kochavim Ve’afar, p. 128).
  • “Zionism is a faithful striving for the eternity of Israel, and in these years the eternity of Israel is embodied in the state of Israel and in the Book of Books” (Kochavim Ve’afar, p. 155).
  • “Zionism – as the faith of the People Israel down through the generations – determined that the Land of Israel would solve the ‘question of the Jews’ in its entirety. Not a partial solution for a people, and not a solution for part of the people, but a full solution for an entire people. That is, for every Jew who needs and desires to live in the ancestral homeland… The People of Israel never believed in a duality of matter and spirit. Without the physical presence of the people in the land, its spiritual presence will not be built. The spiritual center of the Jewish People can exist only in the worldly center” (Speech to the 20th Zionist Congress, August 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, p. 238).
  • “The state of Israel is the fruit of the vision of the Jewish People’s redemption down through the generations… and with the establishment of the state, the redemption vision was not realized. Because the overwhelming majority of the Jewish People are still dispersed among the nations, and the Jewish state is still not the fulfillment of the Jewish redemption, it is only the main tool and means to its redemption” (Kochavim Ve’afar, p. 92).
  • Abbas: “Herzl was an educated person who dealt with theater and poetry and did not have a connection to the Zionist story. He dealt with the issue only because the Jewish question began to arise in Europe. The Jews were desperate because of general problems and a crisis within their communities, not because of their religion.”
  • Ben-Gurion: “From a Jewish standpoint Zionism is not just a flight from persecution and restrictive laws, but primarily love of a homeland and a vision of the rise of a nation-state. Our Zionism is composed of a national ideology, a feeling of love for the land, an aspiration to political independence. And of a desire and a need to settle in the Land of Israel. Take away from Zionism the hundreds-years-long love for the ancestral homeland, take away from Zionism the political aspiration to independence – and Zionism is emptied of its content” (Bama’archa, vol. 2, p. 48).
  • “The definition of Zionism’s ‘ultimate goal’ is nothing but the full and complete redemption of the People Israel in its land, the ingathering of the exiles, national sovereignty” (February 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, p. 190).
  • “What happened in the Land of Israel last year, what is happening every day to the Jews of Yemen, casts a cruel light on the chances for the ‘spiritual center’ of a Jewish minority in an Arab environment. But some of the champions of ‘the majority’ and the Jewish state, too, distort the true content of Zionism. A Jewish majority – is that indeed the goal? Let’s assume that there are a million Arabs in the country. Do a million-plus-one Jews constitute a solution for the question of the Jewish People? The realization of Zionism does not depend on the number of non-Jews in the country – but on the number of Jews who have the ability and the desire to settle there. It is not the number of non-Jews that is decisive – it is the desire and the need of the Jewish People and the capability of the country that is decisive, and this capability, too, is not predetermined but depends on the creative energies of the Jewish People” (February 1937, Bama’aracha, vol. 1, p. 158).

I believe that this is why we continue to observe the fast of T’isha b’Av – because we have so much to learn from both the heroes and villains of the past, we cannot afford to discard any part of our multifaceted history as we move forward towards the Messianic era, which we believe depends not just on grace but on the concerted memory and efforts of each and everyone of us.

Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, Hungarian born, Canadian Jew, currently living in Jerusalem, Israel

Cantor Moshe Kraus Speaks at Faith Temple and Shaftesbury High School in Winnipeg

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Moshele de zinger cover

Pastor Rudy Fidel and his wife Gina were so impressed with Cantor Kraus’ memoir of his life experiences “Moshele: Der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life”, that they organized a week of events for Cantor Moshe Kraus and his wife to speak in Winnipeg. I accompanied them on this trip as part of my work to create a documentary featuring Cantor Kraus’ life story which has many twists and turns. On Wednesday, September 12, 2017, Cantor Moshe Kraus, age 95, spoke to a gym full of students at Shaftesbury Public High School. The event was followed and broadcast on the CBC evening news that same evening.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/holocaust-survivor-shares-story-with-students-at-shaftesbury-high-school-1.4286654

And here is the story which he shared with the students on that day.

On Sunday morning Cantor Kraus was welcomed at Pastor Rudy’s Church, Faith Temple.  by Pastor Rudy, Indian Chief Baird and Chief of Chiefs, Jerry Daniels, and a klezmer band.At 10:35 min. into the event seen below, Cantor Kraus shares another one of his many stories – this one about a Hungarian Bishop who came to visit him during the German occupation of Hungary during WWll…

Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world

Eyeless in Gaza: how fake media works

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eyeless in gaza

The fake news coming out of the Palestinian Media and their supporters is often not at all reported or recognized in the Western Press.  A worthy documentary on this subject Eyeless in Gaza was recently released. I happened to catch it when it was screened by the Student Society of St.John’s University, Manhattan, NY.

The film reports that “In reporting the Gaza War of 2014, these quotes appeared in the international media: “They’re calling it a massacre”, “Children and civilians comprised the vast majority of the 200 killed”, “All innocent people. All of them civilians”, “Israel is targeting a number of different places including hospitals.” This information formed international opinion yet all the above quotes are in this documentary clearly shown to have been influenced by the systematic intimidation, threats, torture and persecution of journalists in Gaza, of both local and Western media.The producers interview Palestinian civilians and journalists, Hamas leaders, UN officials, military analysts and Israeli spokespeople to arrive at these troubling conclusions.

The film is now available on I-tunes for sale or rent. I challenge you to watch this documentary and share it with your  colleagues.

finally we have a name for this kind of “news”.

Liar liar fake news

And just to further prove my point about the repressive tyranny that is currently going on in Gaza. I just saw this article about refugees fleeing Gaza not because of Israel but because of What the Gaza administration is perpetrating on its citizens.

 

Rosh Hashana: Jewish New Year: What it Means to Jews and to Non-Jews

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Rosh-Hashanah-pomagraniteRosh Hashana is an unusual holiday since it is both communal and personal. In one of his brief talks Rabbi Steinmetz explains that the only time a Jewish community is obligated to hire a Rabbi and organize public prayer is for Rosh Hashanah. And yet Jews are of all different stripes and persuasions. This was amusingly brought home to me by a humorous Rosh Hashana e-mail:

Shana Tova
Author Unknown

To modern, ultra & just plain Orthodox Jews, Charedi Jews, Misnagdim, Conservative, Conservadox, Reform & ConForm Jews, Reconstructionist,Gartel Jews, non-Gartel Jews, Jews with sheitels & without, Tichel Jews, Sheitel, tichel & hat Jews, converted Jews, adult & child Jews, Frum from birth Jews, Baalei Teshuva, Satmar, Agudah, black hat, kipa s’ruga, Mir, Munkacs, BelzBeta Yisrael, Bobov, Chaim Berlin, Y.U. Jews, payos in front of the ear Jews, payos in back of the ear Jews, kipa only in shul/ hat in shul/ no shul at all Jews, Mizrachi Jews, Jews by choice, Bathrobe on Friday night Jews, Likud Jews, Labor Jews, Meimad Jews, Ten Lost Tribes Jews, cardiac Jews, Irish Jews,Black Jews, White Jews, 3-day-a-year Jews, Rav Nachman Jews, Rav Shlomo Jews, Neturei Karta Jews, Hasidim, Telz, Lakewood & Ner Yisrael Jews, Chofetz Chaim Jews, zaftig Jews, skinny Jews, Fremeiners, Dinevers, Kook-ies, JTS, RJJ, HUC, HTC, MTJ, BMT Jews, Celebrity Jews, Generation X,Y & Z Jews, NCSY Jews, Solomon Schechter Jews, Chinuch Atzmai Jews, Fackenheim Jews, Yitz Greenberg Jews, Kahane Jews, Feminist Jews, Chauvinist Jews,egalitarian Jews, traditional Jews, Kaddish-zuger Jews, political Jews, intellectual Jews, ignorant Jews, tomato Jews & orange Jews, Shinui Jews, Shas Jews, Israeli Jews, American Jews, Persian Jews, Russian Jews, Galitzianers, Litvaks, Polacks, Birthright Jews, single Jews, married Jews, wish I was married Jews, Greener Jews,  Redder Jews, Scandinavian Jews, South of the Border Jews, Italian Jews, Bald Jews, Hairy Jews, Canadian Jews, Latino Jews, Ladino Jews, Jews in kapatas, Jews in T-shirts, Jews in sandals, Jews in gym shoes, Jews in cowboy boots, Hungarian Jews, Czech Jews, Jews on the Hungarian-Czech Border Jews, Ashkenazim, Sefardim, Yemenite Jews, Afrikaaner Jews, Romanian Jews, Zionists, non-Zionists, anti-Zionists, post-Zionists, Jews with an accent, Jews who speak perfect Midwestern English, Hebrew, Native American Jews, Anglo-Saxon Jews, French Jews, German Jews, Greek Jews, Indian Jews, Chinese Jews, Jews who like David Levy Jews , Wannabee Jews, Conspiracy Theory Jews,Japanese Jews, Shayna Panim Jews, Meesekite Jews, Closet Jews,Shnorrers, Baalei Tzedaka, Tzadikim, Baynonim, Rashaim, Chacham-Tam-Ayni Yodea Jews, Chevramen & Forbisseners, kvetching Jews, Guta Neshama Jews, Vizhnitzer, Ger, Gerer, Chabadnik, Kohenim, Levi’im, Yisraelim, Machers, Mavens, & Pashet Jews, Manchester, Melbourne, Jerusalem and Toronto Jews, EVERY KIND of Jew in this vast Universe.

Jews are argumentative and fractious and often divided, But on Rosh Hashanah we come together to pray for ourselves and for the community. The Jewish community is never an isolated community. We live and have lived in every corner of the world and we are an integral part of every conversation. This year, the world is divided indeed, from the Iran nuclear deal being debated in the US Congress as we speak, to the refugee crisis engulfing Europe and Canada, and the ongoing internecine Islamic wars in the Middle East, and Africa, it is hard to find one’s bearings as a Canadian, as a Jew, whether living in Israel or in the diaspora.

What is the glue that holds us Jews together? Rabbi Steinmetz spoke yesterday about the “Covenant or Contract – Brit in Hebrew” that Moses lays out for the Jewish people – the Sinaitic contract passed down by Moses at the mountain to the Israelites in the dessert.

The words of this brit, covenant or contract are quite beautiful: Chapter 29 v. 9 – 14 Deuteronomy reads as follows: “You are standing today all of you before the Lord your God: the heads of your tribes,d your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, 12so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13that he may establish you today as his people, and that he may be your God, as he promised you, and as he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, 15but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.”

Chapter 29 v. 9 – 14 Deuteronomy

Rabbi Steinmetz spoke about the startling declaration : “It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today. ”

Those who are not here with us today” is generally interpreted to mean “all future generations” whose souls are also considered to have stood at Sinai.

Rabbis have asked the question, how can a contract be avowed for those who are not here with us today? And yet the Sinaitic covenant has been passed down and continues to be upheld by ongoing generations and communities. This Rabbi Steinmetz explains is the greater miracle than the question often posed “are Jews  disappearing in our time?” as posited by Pew statistics.

As many of you  know blowing of a ram’s horn or shofar is emblematic of Rosh Hashana.

I even wrote a blog about this not so long ago. Everything you wanted to know about the shofar but were afraid to ask.

Rabbi Asher Jacobsen in his communal class last Friday, spoke about a talmudic discussion about what kinds of shofars are permissible for the Rosh Hashanah services. For a horn to be kosher 1. it has to have the characteristic of self hollowing. (Apparently when a ram’s horn is soaked in water the matter inside the horn simply dissolves leaving a hollowed out instrument.) 2. Traditionally it is a Ram’s horn that is chosen and the ram is a kosher animal. The Talmud asks the question can we use the horn of an animal other than the ram? And what if the permissible horn is from an animal that is not kosher?

Apparently in the face of scarcity, all three are permissible i.e. 1, A ram’s horn, 2. A hollow horn from another kosher animal other than the ram and 3. a hollow horn from a non-kosher animal.

Rabbi Jacobsen  then quoted from a text that compares the three types of horn to three types of Jews: 1. The horn from a non-kosher animal is compared to the Jew who is a Jew only because of anti-semitism. He is defined by a negative outside world. And that world reminds him that he is Jewish. 2. The hollowed out horn from an animal other than the ram parallels the Jews who defines himself as a Jew due to history – legacy. 3. The kosher horn, the Ram’s horn reminds the Jew of the famous Abrahamic contest with G-d, the Binding of Jacob, where Abraham agrees to follow G-d’s word even to the extent of sacrificing his son and heir.  At the very last moment when Jacob is already bound to the altar, G-d calls out to Jacob, not to touch his son, but to sacrifice the ram caught in the bushes instead. As the Rabbi pointed out, this test is a very personal and private test. The binding of Jacob occurs on a lonely mountain top with no witnesses other than the two principals. And this represents the Jew who in spite of it all has accepted the covenant of Abraham and Moses at Sinai.

So why do we have so many divisions and how can we understand it?

David Nirenberg in a U. of Chicago Harper Talk, “Can History Help Us Think about religious conflicts.” brilliantly exposes the ambivalence and variability of theological interpretations of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, within their historical contexts from ancient times to the present. Listening to his talk which is an hour long offers true hope for peace among those of every religion. He points out brilliantly from various sources how in the present and in the past those who stick to their own and only their own interpretation can and have gone astray. And yet is able to assert “Holding onto faith while allowing for different versions of that faith: that’s the true art of any scholar.”

His is a powerful lesson for continuing to mine the wisdom of all of our ancient traditions with hope that one day, we may truly find a personal and a communal G-d that is one and the same that can unite us with all mankind.

May we all unite — without a fight! — and together ignite G-d’s great light.
May we see a sweet and blessed year together with a  true peace.

Shanah Tovah U’Metukah!
Hope you enjoyed this,
Love,

Just an addendum: Here is Rabbi Sacks explaining how the individual can follow his personal path via Rosh Hashanah related practise. Cultivating the Inner Self

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Journey with Moshe Kraus and Rivka: short pitch

Dear friends, artists, and creators:

 We all know the questions:

  • Where was G-d?
  • How was this possible?
  • Why didn’t the Jews resist?
  • How did they survive?

My own Mother, who herself survived the war in Budapest, by working with fake papers, in a small Hungarian beauty shop, used to say that every single person who survived was a total miracle.

 In 2015 while I was screening my documentary film “Yiddish: A Tale of Survival” in Ottawa, I happened to meet Chazzan Moshe Kraus and his wife Rivka.

 I noticed, in their home, a framed Black and White photograph of a handsome man in a long black coat, black hat, and long side curls. And standing next to him was a little boy dressed in exactly the same way. 

Picture

Tucked into the side of the frame was a small picture of the long deceased miracle worker, Reb Shayele of Keresztur.

Picture

Reb Shayele was part of my Mother’s memories of her home town of Tokay. Everyone in Hungary knew about Reb Shayele because he was such a legendary force for caring, feeding, sheltering, and advising, anyone who came to his door, Jew or gentile.  When I inquired as to why the picture was there, Moshe explained that the figures in the photograph were of himself and his Father taken before the war, and that Reb Shayele was his grandfather. Reading Moshe’s memoir “The Life of Moshele Der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life” and other historic testimonies, I realized that Moshe’s life is emblematic of a much larger story which has just begun to be told – The story of spiritual resistance which survived the horrors and was able to rebuild after them. This is the story I want to tell. 

The Moshe Kraus narrative follows the life of a clever and resourceful young man, born into a European Hassidic environment: He was a musical child prodigy hired to perform at Hassidic courts from the age of nine, and hired as a musical communal prayer leader, from the age of thirteen.

Moshe’s life from birth to the present, is one of attacking all challenges including 1. survival of Hungarian slave labour and a Nazi death camp, 2. serving the Rabbinate and officiating at many marriages in DP camps, 3. serving as Cantor in the first Israeli army, and later doing concerts and speaking engagements all over the world.

I am thinking of several potential projects that could grow out of this:

1. A simple documentary focusing on Moshe Kraus and his music which forms the backdrop to his life:

2. A Musical theater production relating his story within the historical context:

3. A tv series – 1 hour episodic historical drama i.e. his music and life in the context of history.

I will be at the AFM American Film market in California Nov. 6 – 12.

Please contact me if you would like to join me in this venture

Abigail Hirsch, founder AskAbigail Productions

askabigail@me.com

https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10157286629700342&id=737295341&set=a.10153575352255342&source=44&refid=17

 

 

Rosh Hashanna, Greta Thunberg, and Adult Responsibility

This last week we witnessed the youth marches for climate change initiated by Greta Thunberg all over the world. One of G-ds first admonitions to Adam and Eve was that he was giving man “dominion” over both vegetable and animal kingdoms and Man’s gift is to enjoy and benefit from it, but along with these gifts Adam is enjoined to watch over it and to preserve it for all generations. (Genesis Chapter 2 v. 15.). G-d makes man responsible for the world that he has been dropped into.
Man is fallible and he makes mistakes but Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year, comes to tell us that we do have second chances and its up to us to grab them and not to give up.

The Greta Thunberg phenomenon shows us that the world can be aroused to action. The problem, I find in her movement, is the lack of humility of a sixteen year old Greta Thunberg. She is so certain of the rightness of her cause. I don’t blame her for this. We were all this way at her age. I remember my Mother telling me not to believe the commercials on television and did I believe her? Absolutely not: I was convinced that Mom was wrong and I was right.

She Idolizes “science” without being a scientist. It is easy to be taken in by media and films: Here is another point of view from a mature scientist:

Change is possible and is taking place all of the time. Let’s not give in to fear and demonization such as voiced by Greta Thunberg, a well meaning child of her time.

 

 

 

Science, Religion, and Human Rights Today

I am quoting from Melanie Philips’s post below: I consider Melanie Philips the modern day equivalent of Maimonides with her brilliant insights into what is going on in the ideological environment that we all swim in. She writes in the post below: (the bold emphases are mine)

Darwinism, Judaism and the clash between science and religion

  • “…It is Judaism’s Mosaic code that gave the West its conscience and the roots of its civilization by putting chains on people’s selfish appetites. And strikingly, every contemporary ideology that aims to undermine or transform the West is based on opposition to Jewish religious beliefs, Jewish moral codes or the Jewish homeland in Israel…
  • Much of this secular onslaught goes back to the central Enlightenment idea of a world based on reason, which French Enlightenment thinkers in particular perceived to be in opposition to religion.
  • But the West’s concept of reason actually comes from the Hebrew Bible. Ideas such as an orderly and rational universe structured on a linear concept of time were revolutionary concepts introduced in the book of Genesis.
  • These ideas were essential to the development of Western science…
  • The opposition between religion and science that is assumed to be fundamental by secular liberals is in fact foreign to Judaism…
  • The 12th-century Jewish sage Maimonides was the great exemplar of the belief that science and religion were complementary. He wrote that conflict between science and the Bible arose from either a lack of scientific knowledge or a defective understanding of the Bible.

And just as if to prove this premise I came across the following short video of this week’s Torah portion,  Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19.– (Ki Tetze in Hebrew)- which clearly corroborates and  expands on this theme of human rights as originating in the Hebrew Bible. These verses include laws of war, agriculture, concern for the welfare of employees, slaves, and animals, and basic concern for the welfare of the other.

And now going back to Melanie Phillips in the above article she writes:

  • Without the Hebrew Bible, there would have been no Western rationality or principles such as justice or compassion. But secularism holds that the rule of reason divorced from biblical religion would banish bad things like prejudice or war from the world and the human heart.

Of course, the Nazis put the biggest lie to this premise – the premise that human reason is superior to the fear of G-d for creating a just world – with their cruelty towards man woman and child, and their ideology that Germany is the “master race” and deserves to be the ruler of the known human world, other supposedly “rational” even “scientific” ideas such as –  “the Jews” are the reason for Germany’s defeat in World War One: and if only they could eliminate all Jews – men women and children – the world would be a “better”  place.

Hitler was so convinced that eliminating Jews was a worthwhile goal that in his last will which he wrote in his bunker, just before committing suicide as the American forces were surrounding him, he admonished the German people to continue with this goal even if they were to lose the war.

 

And then Melanie Phillips continues in the same article:

  • Impossible utopianism invariably results in oppression. So it proved with medieval apocalyptic Christianity, the French Revolution, communism, and fascism; and so it is proving today with the cultural totalitarianism of the left.
  • Like all utopians, the left believe their ideas are unchangeable because they supposedly stand for virtue itself. All who oppose them are therefore not just wrong but evil. So any heretics, who dare to disagree with the scientific, supposedly “rational” theology of Darwinism, (such as the scholar Gelernter mentioned in her article) must be literally stamped out, because no quarter can ever be given to any challenge to secularism.

In this way “science” becomes the idolatrous God of western “rational” civilization.

Call for Musical Theatre Competition

AskAbigail Productions Request for Submission of New Musical Theatre Works

Summary: Musical Theatre based on how Jewish musical and religious practices and identities impacted the survival of Jews in the twentieth century.

Submission Deadline: August 26, 2019 Date Posted: June 13, 2019

Details: AskAbigail Productions is pleased to invite artists to submit works for a new musical theatre production about Jewish religion, culture and music, focusing specifically on the life of Moshe Krauss.

We are seeking submission from artists who can create and perform musical theatre based on one of the following themes:

Theme 1: Jewish life in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Austria prior to 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland.

Locations: Ungvar Czech, Kereztir Hungary, Munkatch Ukraine, Vienna Austria.

Key Characters: Moshe Kraus and his Hassidic family in Ungvar/Uzhorod; Moshe’s grandfather, a Hassidic Rebbe, called Reb Shayele of Kerezstir, (Hungary); Other Rebbes; Yosef Schmidt a Jewish Chazzan from Romania who became the darling of German opera over the radio prior to WWII and Josef Schmidt’s teacher, Prof. Wolfe of Vienna who also taught Moshe Kraus for a few months prior to WWll.

Key events on which to base the drama:
Moshe Kraus, the eldest of 9 children, was born the grandson of a hassidic Rebbe (Reb Shayele). People would come from far and wide to enjoy the end of the Sabbath with the Rebbe – a melave malks would be an all night musical event with food for all. The Rebbe devoted all of his funds all the time to help the poor and needy who came for help. Moshe was taken to the Rebbe at birth for a blessing and the Rebbe said he had a “zisse piskele” – a sweet little mouth. Moshe Kraus was discovered to be a musical child prodigy from an early age and was sent to sing at many Hassidic courts all over Europe from the age of 9.

After his bar mitzva, even though he was not married and very small in stature, he was hired to be the cantor/hazzan/musical prayer leader for a synagogue in Sighet, Eli Wiesel’s home town, and Eli was a soloist in Moshe Kraus’ choir. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

As a young man, Moshe Kraus listened to the radio and along with everyone else all over Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe, he became enamored with the voice of Yosef Schmidt. Yosef was a Jewish born cantor/hazzan/prayerleader from Romania whose voice made him the number one star of European opera on radio and in movies of the time. Moshe determined that he had to sing “like Yosef Schmidt”. He was able to discover who Yosef Schmidt’s teacher was and his friends got the money together for him to go to Vienna to train with Yosef Schmidt’s teacher Prof. Wolfe.

He was received by the Prof. Wolfe, who told hm that unfortunately, his schedule was full with pupils from 9 am – 9pm. But as Moshe was leaving, Prof. Wolfe asked him to sing for him: and when he heard Moshe sing he said “I cannot let a tenor like this go” and he made a slot for Moshe from 8 – 9 in the morning which lasted for a few months until Kristalnacht when Moshe came out early morning and saw the synagogues burning, he caught the first train to Prague.

Theme 2: During the war – 1939 to 1945

Locations: Bor mine in Serbia and Bergen-Belsen

Key Characters: Moshe Kraus at 19 years old; Neroshes; Rabbi Meir Leifer; Josef Kramer;

Key events on which to base the drama:
In 1943 Moshe Krauss was taken to the first of the two concentration camps. He recalls, “when taken off the train about the first thing I noticed was that the inmates’ heads were shaven completely.” Moshe Kraus was quickly introduced to the order of things. Hungarian Nazis or “Neroshes” would bring inmates into the mining tunnels to supervise and watch them work. They would also routinely kick and beat the inmates. Moshe Kraus’ job was to push a wagon of coal from the mine to the trains for transport to Germany. At Bor, Moshe Kraus was able to connect with Rabbi Meir Leifer, the only man walking around wearing a “yamalka”: They were both members of Hassidic communities and shared the struggle to observe their religion. As Rosh Hashana approached, Rabbi Meir Leifer told Moshe that he had been given permission to conduct these services and he asked Moshe Kraus to lead the prayer services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On the eve of Yom Kippur, Moshe was beginning the Kol Nidrei and thousands were gathered outdoors for the services, the crowd heard people yelling “Run, The Nazis are coming”. Everyone ran back to their barracks except for Moshe Kraus. The Nazis caught him and sentenced him to hang – to hang by his hands tied behind his back. For ten hours, he painfully remained in that position until his arms and hands went numb. He was finally released and put in a locked cell all alone with a bowl of soup: But his arms were numb and he was unable to feed himself. Rabbi Leifer managed somehow to gain access to the cell in the middle of the night and to feed him like. baby two nights in a row. This saved his life. On the third day the door opened and a Nazi guard said: “Du leibst noch!” “you are still alive!” He remained in Bor for another 13 months until he was transported to Bergen-Belsen Concentration camp.

Arriving at Belsen was another kind of shock. To cope, Moshe Kraus began to go from barrack to barrack every night singing uplifting songs to raise the spirits of the imprisoned people. One day, he was ordered to be driven to the home of the commandant of Bergen Belson – Josef Kramer, nicknamed “The Beast of Belsen,” who asked him if he knew how to sing in German, more specifically if he knew how to sing “like Yosef Schmidt”. The Commandant was delighted by Kraus’ performance. The commandant gave orders not to harm Kraus so that he could return every Sunday to sing for him up until about a month before liberation as thousands of additional prisoners began arriving in Bergen Belson. Moshe Kraus was close to dying of starvation On April 15, 1945, when Bergen-Belsen Camp was liberated by the English forces. Moshe was so weak he could not walk.

He was carried to the infirmary and after several days regained his strength.
Nazi Commandant Josef Kramer was put on trial for his actions and sentenced to death by hanging. His final request was for Moshe Kraus to be present at his hanging. Although Moshe was conflicted about going he did go and he could not prevent his basic compassion from bringing him to tears at the moment of Kramers’ death.

Theme 3: After the war – 1945 to Present

Locations: Displaced Persons Camps all over Europe; Romania; Israel; Ottawa

Key Characters: Yigael Yadin; Rivka Kraus; Pieree Elliott Trudeau and Justin Trudeau

Key events on which to base the drama:
After liberation and revival of his health – (he was close to starvation and could barely move when the English arrived), Moshe Kraus was hired to be the secretary for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Committee known as “the Joint” by Rabbi Schwartz. The joint’s mission was and is to rescue Jews wherever they are in the world. The Joint worked with UNRA to estatablish jewish displaced persons camps and to reestablish Jewish communities and communal practices in displaced persons camps for Jews that now dotted all of Europe. Everybody including Moshe Kraus was broken and bereft but one of the first things the inmates asked for was a ritual bath or “mikve” – the practice requires Jewish women to immerse in the mikve after the cessatio of their periods and prior to having sexual relations. The urge to create new families was powerful. During the first few months there were 20 weddings a day amongst the survivors. Moshe was designated to perform marriage ceremonies and to lead prayer services. Over 2000 babies were born within the first year amongst the refugees.

Struggling to know if any of his family remained alive, Moshe asked for leave to go to Romania where many survivors were congregating. There he found two of his sisters. He was still hoping and praying to find his parents and his younger siblings. It was not long before he learned of the fate of his mother and father and that of his five youngest siblings.

In 1949 as the refugees were dispersing, Moshe decided to sail to Israel and upon arrival, still feeling lost, he decided to join the IDF. Once there he was able to find his only living brother, Yoel Herschel who was also in the IDF. At first Moshe was

assigned to assemble and disassemble tanks but when Yigael Yadin commander f the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) heard Moshe performing a marriage ceremony he enlisted him to become the first Cantor for the Israel Defense Forces. Moshe recalls Yigael’s words, “I can always find another machinist but not everyday can I find someone with a voice like yours.”

While in the IDF Moshe met and married Rivka Kraus and together they followed Moshe’s career as a congregational cantor and Jewish musical performer all over the world: Antwerp, Johannesberg, Mexico City and finally Ottawa.

They arrived in Canada in the 1980’s and have been living there ever since with due recognition from Canadian prime ministers, Pierre Elliott and Justin Trudeau and others in both the Jewish and non Jewish community. In 2017 Moshe Kraus was invited to Winnipeg by pastor Rudy Fidel. He was invited to speak to a gym full of High School students about his war experiences: He spoke about his ordeal in Bor noted above: https://vimeo.com/268676601. During the same visit he was also invited to speak at Pastor Rudy’s an interfaith intercultural Church service Sunday morning: https://vimeo.com/238111161. (He begins to speak at 10:35 min) He was also invited each year to light the Chanukah candles infront of the Hungarian parliament and to lead services in the legendary great synagogue in Budapest (the Dohany). For a video summary of Moshe’s life see: https://vimeo.com/239833502

In 2019, Rivka and Moshe plan to make Aliya and spend their last years in Israel at a seniors residence facing the ocean in Tel Aviv.

Guidelines:

-Copyright clearance must be obtained prior to entry
-Submissions must be new works not currently accepted by a theatre company -Works may have been workshopped, but should not have received a premiere performance
-Works should show an awareness of the theme of the project, in addition to practical realities of rehearsal and performance
-AskAbigail Productions will hold the rights for the premiere performances
– For more information about the life of Moshe Kraus please refer to “The Life of

Moshele Der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life” by Cantor Kraus, available at Cote St. Luc Public Library

Submission:
-A detailed proposal in pdf format
-Audio recording
-Music and dialogue format
-Inclusion of a recording of work-shopped scenes
-Minimum 10 minutes each piece
-Each composer may submit up to three (3) works
-Pieces that can be showcased in performance on a scheduled date

Submission should also include:

-Letter of Introduction -Resume

If no entry is deemed appropriate, the panel reserves the right to not make a selection and no fee will be awarded.

Timeline:*

26 August 2019 Submission Deadline
2 September 2019 Finalists Announced
8 September 2019 Auditions
15 September 2019 Premiere Production and filming of scenes
*Note: If necessary, AskAbigail Productions reserves the right to revise the dates

Prize:

First place: $5000 Second place: $3000 Third place: $1000

About AskAbigail Production:

AskAbigail Productions is a Montreal-based production company focused on Jewish themes. Abigail Hirsch, the founder of the company, has created a number of documentaries that have been screened nationally and internationally. Click here to visit the website. www.AskAbigailProductions.com

Submissions May Be Sent To:

AskAbigail Productions
New Musical Theatre Submission 3450 Drummond St. Suite 1103b Montreal, QC, H3G 1Y2

askabigail@me.com

514-792-6065

My Observations re Passover in Israel

Since there is so much attention being paid to Jews and Israel  and so much misinformation, I would like to share my own reflections regarding the Jewish message to the world, in the present day, that is personified in the Passover story. I am relying on my experience and education as a Jew, born in Europe after the Shoa/Holocaust. I grew up from the age of five years in Canada, and lived in Israel as a student at the Hebrew University, many years ago and then in the US. More recently over the last year, I have been living in Israel while studying at a Women’s Jewish studies program called Shviti  in the Holy city, of Jerusalem.

The Jewish calendar is an education in itself: And living in Israel one gets to experience it as a living thing. So our school is on recess for the month of Nissan, the month of Passover to allow both students and teachers to fulfill the obligations of Passover towards, self, family and community. And this goes on in the whole country. As preparation for Pesach, some people seek to examine their personal state of servitude, their personal slavery, and explore how to be released from it. But as much as Pesach can be a personal stocktaking, it is also very much a communal  endeavor. From the beginning of the month of Nissan, the month of the Passover/Pesach, every Jewish person and Jewish community begins preparations for the holiday, by  1. cleaning and getting rid of leavened bread and leavened bread products from every personal habitation – home workplace community center, and 2. by studying the story of the exodus from Egypt and preparing for the seder night by studying the Torah portions pertaining to the exodus story and also reviewing the mitzvot/obigations i.e. What to do and what not to do during this period – in order to be able to have a fulfilling and “kosher” Passover/Pesach with family and friends. During this month we greet each other with the Hebrew words, “hag kasher vesameach” – May you have a kosher and joyous hag.

My own family history is intimately connected to the Exodus story – a going out from slavery to freedom. When I was three years old and my dear sister Anita, was only one year old, in 1949, my mother and her brother Tibi, set out  on the last night of Passover, after having set the holiday table – so that no suspicions would be aroused – at the family home  in Tokay, Hungary: They left the house to cross the border by foot during the night from Hungary into Czechoslovakia, and from there secretly to Vienna, Austria, gateway to the free world of the West at the time. They succeeded with the Grace of G-d, and that is why I am here today to tell the tale. This is my story, but it is also the story of all of the Jewish people as it says in the Haggada – the prescribed book which details all of the story and traditions practiced at  the seder table on the Eve of Peasach – and which begins the story as follows:

  • We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the L-rd, our G‑d, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had not taken our fathers out of Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would have remained enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”

The Voice of the Hagadda continues: “This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover.

      And this is very much a commandment to be observed everywhere and anywhere where Jews live: Everyone in the community, in Israel and anywhere in the world, needs to be provided for, both for the seder and for the holiday, with matzoh and all Passover foods. This is a major endeavor to provide for every family in israel with plenty. In Israel Leket is an organization dedicated to collecting food and distributing it to the needy, all year round, and especially on Passover. Leket relies year around on volunteers and donations. “Leket” is a Hebrew word from the Torah. It refers to a practice prescribed by our Torah of leaving the corners of the agricultural fields to be harvested by whoever wants to or needs to – so that there be no one who goes hungry in the land of Israel when it is run according to Torah principles. In addition to major organizations like Lekket in Israel, every Rabbi and Jewish congregation anywhere in the world, will have its own private collections for providing for those in need in their particular community. Passover is expensive and it tests our relationship with material things. In the same way that G-d “took us out of Egypt” and provided for us in the dessert, we trust that he provides for us today and every day to come with abundance and compassion.

  • And this is from Leket’s home page:
  • Rescuing nutritious surplus food for those in need

    15,500 Tons of Fruits & Vegetables
    2,200,000 Hot Meals
    47,000 Volunteers
    175,000 Recipients
    And here are some personal testimonials from recipients:
  • The high quality food that we receive from Leket Israel raises the self-esteem and self-confidence of those in recovery. It makes the residents feel that they are worth something.

Written by Abigail Hirsch MSW
Documentary Filmmaker
AskAbigailProductions.com

Quora: public questions and answers where anyone in the world can participate

What is Quora? Their website states: “Quora is a platform to ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers.” In my own words, anyone can  ask and/or respond to any question and this creates a grassroots conversation on many many subjects which exposes both peoples’ wisdom and their misunderstandings. This is why I love it. Check out these questions and answers and I encourage you to join and add your voice. Its possible to respond, and upvote and or downvote.

The first response and question illustrates exactly why I appreciate Quora

QUESTION:

RESPONSE:
Dani Ishai Behan
Dani Ishai Behan, Middle East historian

Because antisemites can’t mob and bully their way to victory here as they do on other sites (and in real life).
This site’s moderation doesn’t target and censor Israeli voices, nor does it countenance antisemitic harassment or threats. Quite the contrary, those tactics tend to result in an immediate ban.

That is why this site seems more pro-Israel than usual. Jews can actually be HEARD on here, and that’s a good thing. Until Quora, the only other option we had were our own websites, because no one else would have us (see: What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel).

As for myself, I was anti-Israel until I listened to both “narratives” and analyzed them extensively. Before that point, I would just imbibe whatever anti-Israel talking points were fed to me by my “comrades”. The hostile reactions I got simply for asking questions were far more revealing than anything we Jews could offer by ourselves. One who is genuinely on the right side of history should never be afraid of scrutiny. Rather, they should welcome it.

At a certain point, I realized just how important Zionism was to the things I cared about: indigenous rights, environmental health, anti-colonialism, and freedom from oppression. Zionism, far from being a “settler colonial” ideology, is the funeral pyre of colonial hegemony in the Levant and of our exile from our homeland. For this reason, Zionism has become an indispensable part of my identity as a Jew, and as a radical.

And here is another good one:

Michael Davison
Michael Davison, lives in Israel (1969-present)
The Naqba celebrated (or mourns) the failure of the Arab League to exterminate Jews and destroy Israel before it could be built. I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing for any Israeli to celebrate.

On the other hand, what about the Jewish Naqba? As a result of the injury to “Arab Honor” and “Arab pride”, over 850,000 Jews were expelled or forced out of their countries of birth in revenge. Somehow, this almost never gets mentioned.

Jewish refugees from Arab Countries

Educate yourself. The Naqba was a double-sided sword—but the Jews went and made new lives for themselves while the Palestinians were imprisoned in refugee camps for the past 71 years. Even Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the Arab League for their part in it:

“The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny, but instead they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe.

“The Arab states succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people until the states of the world did so, and this is regrettable.” – The Current President of the Palestinian authority- Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), from the official journal of the PLO, Falastin el-Thawra (“What We Have Learned and What We Should Do”), Beirut, March 1976, reprinted in the Wall Street Journal, June 5,2003 and in ‘Palestine Betrayed’ By Prof Ephraim Karsh of Kings College, London.

The Naqba did not occur in a vacuum and was not a one-sided event.

Yes I upvoted this.

Why is Quora important to me?
The Jewish Talmud has a discussion that states that even if G-d himself were to intervene with a vote at the rabbinic court, the court must follow the majority on any ruling. And I do believe that the collective wisdom of the world has the potential to overcome antisemitism and other false and libelous doctrines.