Archive | July, 2014

Woodstock Memories: A Walk On West Shore Road

30 Jul
The hoards of people walking towards Woodstock toward Hurd Road on West Shore Road. The hoards of people walking towards Woodstock toward Hurd Road on West Shore Road.

How does one write about the Woodstock Festival of 1969? Forty-five years have passed, but when I close my eyes I can see the chaos of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people on roads not made to carry them. I can hear the music and the constant noise. I can feel the vibration of the ground of the bass drums. I hear the loudspeakers telling people what is happening. I smell the rain and the pot.

I was 14 when Woodstock came to me.  It was a weekend that I am unable to ever forget.

I worked at the bakery in Kauneonga Lake. Located next to the Post Office, it was only opened on the weekends usually in the mornings. But sometimes I worked till 3 pm. This weekend was to be like all others. My Dad drove me to work, as the store was about a mile and a half from our bungalow, and I was running late that morning as cousins had come to visit the night before, and I had to be at work by 8 am.

However, the day did not progress as normal. More and more people were coming into town. And then the woman I worked with said, “Someone has paid for all the food in the store, so we can give it away for free to all these hippies.”

And there were lots of young people, who looked like hippies. I always thought it was strange that the food was paid for, and then a crew with a camera came into the store to film as hundreds of people tried to come in and get free food. It was chaotic. We were working like crazy to give the food away. Put it in bags. I turned away from the camera.   It was hectic and somewhat scary for me. It was not a big room, and people were squashed inside against the display cabinets. And I was very shy.

When the food was all gone, and the people emptied out. And the camera crew left. We put a closed sign on the door and locked it. I called my Dad. “I can’t come and get you. The roads are a mess. You will have to walk home. Be Careful,” my Dad said. “Stop at the colony if you need to.”

The bungalow colony my grandparents owned was about two-thirds of the way to our bungalow, which was further up West Shore Road, one of the two main roads that led to the Woodstock concert held on Max Yasgur’s farm on the corner of West Shore Road and Hurd Road. I had relatives staying at the bungalow colony. I knew I would be safe there, if needed.

After I got off the phone, I looked outside. Cars were just stopped in the middle of the street. The center of town was overrun. People were abandoning their cars and walking, walking up to Woodstock, to Yasgur’s farm.

A few moments later there was a knock at the door. A black man from town, whom we all knew, said,  “I am going to walk you home. You cannot go walking alone in this mess.” I think my Grandpa must have called him, because how else would he know that I needed to walk home? So off we went. He was holding my hand and guiding me through the throngs of people.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I will get you home.”

I know everyone talks about how wonderful Woodstock was and how it was the peaceful event that brought together music, love and drugs. How everyone lived in harmony for three days. But on that walk, I saw an ugly side to Woodstock. Sorry, but this is my memory.

As we walked down the road people were yelling at each other. The town people who wanted the cars to move. The people in the cars who wanted to move their cars. Then there were also the hordes of people who were just walking and laughing. They seemed to be having a somewhat good time.

I was calming down, until we came upon a little Volkswagon ‘beetle’ car. Inside a white man was punching a white woman in the face. They were probably in their 20s. Blood was running down her face. The man with me, pulled open the car door and grabbed the man’s hand. And he yelled at the girl, “Get out of the car!”

“But it’s my car!” She cried.

“It is not going anyway,” my now hero yelled. “Get out of the car.”

We were right in front of my grandparent’s bungalow colony. I saw my other grandmother and aunt among the women standing there. They opened the gate, and grabbed the young women, towel in hand to wipe the blood off her face and stop the bleeding. “Come with us.” I remember them saying. “We will call your parents.”

People walking from Kauneonga Lake. My Dad is with the camera.”> People walking from Kauneonga Lake. My Dad is with the camera. I made it home.

My grandmother called

[/caption]My grandmother called over to me. “Are you okay? Can you make it back to the house?”

I nodded yes and pointed. “He is going to walk me home.” She nodded in return. “Okay, I will call and tell them you are on the way.” I think she was a little shocked about who was walking with me.

We continued walking toward Woodstock and home: up the hill past the White Lake Estates, Finks and Top Hill. To my grandparent’s private home, where our bungalow was located.   My Dad and Grandpa were waiting for us at the end of the driveway. They shook my companion’s hand.

“Thank you,” my Grandpa said. “Come up to the house for something to eat and a schnapps.”

The big metal container is what we filled with water. This is our driveway. My Dad let some people park along the sides of it.

om/2014/08/woodstock-our-driveway-woodstock.jpeg”> The big metal container is what we filled with water. This is our driveway. My Dad let some people park along the sides of it.

Our property looked different. G

[/caption]Our property looked different. Grandpa and Dad had let four cars or campers park along the driveway. They had run a hose down from the house to the end of the long driveway. It ended in a large aluminum basin. A sign said, “Free Water.” Cups floated in the water, when they were not being used by the people walking by.

“Where are their mothers?” My Grandpa said while holding his head and staring at the endless line of young adults walking by. Some of the girls looked very young.  It was these girls that brought on my Grandpa’s lament, “Where are their mothers?”

Then he walked back to the house for lunch and schnapps with my Dad and my walking companion. My Grandpa really needed a libation that day!

I remember much more of Woodstock. I remember sitting on our front lawn and just watching the people go by. Woodstock itself was another mile or so up the road.   I remember listening to the music. We could hear it from our home.  I remember that the noise went on all night long.  We heard either the sound of music or sounds of people in the usually still Catskill’s nights.

My brother and his friend; my cousins and many others I knew walked up the hill to the concert. I did not. My parents said no!  My brother, who was a year older was allowed to go, but not me.  It did not really matter, in a way we were in the middle of the concert anyway.

And then you know, the rain started. My brother talked about sliding down the hillside. My cousin took all the food my mom packed, not realizing my brother and cousin would never be able to meet up at the concert. We always teased my cousin about ending up with the food! The blankets disappeared into the mud of the hill. The humans did not disappeared, but when they came home Sunday night/ Monday morning, they were all muddy messes.

For weeks after,  the cleanup continued. Poor Max Yasgur, he became a pariah – a scapegoat in town. There were lots of very angry people.

The view from the Hurd Road Woodstock Monument. Looking toward West Shore Road.

598.jpg”> The view from the Hurd Road Woodstock Monument. Looking toward West Shore Road.

Woodstock. It was something special for many peo

[/caption]Woodstock. It was something special for many people. I changed after that weekend. I saw the world in a different light. I saw the worst in people, as the man beating a woman; yelling and anger.  I saw the best in people, as in my companion on the journey home. I learned the color of skin meant nothing. The person inside is the most important. A lesson I have carried with me my entire life.

A Wonderful Weekend in Arkansas, Visiting Friends and A Wildlife Refuge

26 Jul
Beaver Lake

A view of the long and winding Beaver Lake.

Who knew that I would meet up with my North Bergen childhood next door neighbor in Bentonville, Arkansas? We lived next to each other on Third Avenue for eight years, but remained friends even when I moved to 78th Street and Blvd.East. Strange that the two of us ended up just three hours away from each other. Even stranger, is that I have another North Bergen High School friend who also lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, whom I have met up with a few times.

Three North Bergen High School alumni living in Kansas and Arkansas. Seems strange. But in the world we live in I should not be surprised.   We found each other on Facebook. Amazing what social media can do for friendships! I know others who moved to the Midwest, but for me it is always special to see one of these two women who share my childhood memories.

Looking down at the Crystal Bridges Art Museum.  A lovely spot

Looking down at the Crystal Bridges Art Museum. A lovely spot

My husband and I were recently in the Beaver Lake area visiting our Kansas neighbors who have moved to their new home near Eureka Springs. Among our plans were to go to Bentonville and see the beautiful Crystal Bridges Art Museum. Another goal was to introduce my childhood neighbor to my adult neighbors because they now live just 45 minutes from each other. I had a great time making the introductions and combining two segments of my life.

We spent part the day walking the grounds of the museum and seeing the exhibits. I was amazed to find a large collection of paintings of George Washington, as well as six portraits depicting the Levy-Franks family. A Jewish family from New York City in Arkansas, besides me! Well, they have been deceased for a long time. But it surprised me that these six works of art were in Arkansas. However, my favorite paintings were by John Singleton Copley. His ability to capture life is amazing!

We at lunch at the museum and enjoyed all the sites, before deciding to go into Bentonville. We still had one more museum to see. But when my husband and neighbors went into town for an ice cream treat, my childhood friend and I went to see her 88-year-old mother. It is so strange to see someone I have not seen in over 25years; someone who was like a second mother, who had the right to yell at me if I misbehaved, but not to have my Mom with us as well. Seeing her made me happy, but also made me miss my Mom even more.

My friend’s mother knew who I was most of the time. At first she thought I was my mother. And at times she thought I was my sister. But we had a good visit, and she remembered so many things. Her daughter and I were amazed.

Actually she spoke most about my brother. “He was a buster!” She said. She remembered how my brother used to tease us when we played with our dolls.   We would try hiding on the outdoor staircase, but he would climb over the garbage house to get to us. “Mommy, he is bothering us!” She said as she remembered my brother, who is now such a respectable man, but then quite the active child.

We had a special time together, and I am glad we were able to get together.

Besides traveling to Bentonville and seeing my old friend, we also went to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for rescued tigers, lions, cougars, panthers and bears. It seems, and I did not know this, that many states allow people to have wild animals as house pets. (To me this is a really ridiculous idea.)  Not only that, even in states where it is illegal, there are people who take on these animals as pets. They see a tiger cub as a good pet, until it grows into an adult and eats 1000 pounds of food and weighs up to 800 pounds. Then they do not want that pet any more.

One of the tigers that still has to be moved into his own habitat.

One of the tigers that still has to be moved into his own habitat.

What they do to these ‘pets’ is really sad. Sometimes they declaw them. For a house cat it is bad, but for a big cat it is really bad. Once the claws and first digits are removed, then the large cat cannot walk because their weight is too much, basically crippling the animal.

Sometimes people just abandon the cats in the wild. They cannot survive. So this sanctuary in Arkansas, rescues them. If someone brings them one of these ‘pets,’ the sanctuary does not press charges. They just want to protect and keep the once wild animal for the rest of its life. They are in the process of developing special habitats for each of the animals so they have room to roam.

Bam Bam the Grizzly Bear has his own pond and habitat at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Bam Bam the Grizzly Bear has his own pond and habitat at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Part of their mission is educating the public about these animals. Visitors can tour the site with a docent/game keeper and learn about these animals in particular and what happened and happens to them. For me it was an eye-opening experience. And I plan to add the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge to my list of charities to support.

Finally we spent time on Beaver Lake, riding around in our friends’ boat and seeing the sites. It was not the same as riding around Kauneonga Lake in New York, where I spent my childhood summers. This is a much bigger lake created by the Corps of Engineers when they put in a hydro-electric plant and dammed a river, unlike Kauneonga Lake which is a smaller, natural spring-feed lake.

But being in a boat on a lake is always a wonderful time for me.   Having a long weekend; staying near the Lake was wonderful for so many reasons: spending time with friends, going to a museum, visiting an animal haven.


Movie Night in the Catskills Was A Wonderful, Magical Night

24 Jul

It was our Saturday night tradition at the Ritz Theatre in White Lake, NY. In the late afternoon, early evening, we children would go to the early movie with our grandmas: Grandma Esther, Grandma Rose, Grandma Thelma, Mrs. Anoff. They chaperoned about nine or ten children and kept us safe.

Our dads would drop us off at the front of the theater with money for the movie and snacks. We were supposed to be very careful there as it was at the intersection of 17B and 55. So there actually was a bit of traffic.

I think our grandmas would collect all the money and pay. However, when we got a little older, we were allowed to buy our own tickets. If you were under 12 it was one price, over 12 you paid the adult fare. It was always sad when someone had a summer birthday and turned 12. They now had to pay much more!

Our parents, in the early 1960s.  Kauneonga Lake, NY.

Some of the parents, in the early 1960s. Kauneonga Lake, NY.

Our fathers, in the meantime, would then go home to get ready for Date Night with our moms. It was their special time together.

We would watch whatever movie was showing that week. The movie I remember the most was “To Cast A Giant Shadow” about the Israeli War of Independence and Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus, the American officer who helped with ending the siege of Jerusalem. It actually had a major impact on my life choices.

For this movie, I sat next to my Grandma Rose.   Grandma Rose, was really my cousins’ grandma, but that did not matter. We shared grandmas in the Catskills. In any case, Grandma Rose lived through the siege of Jerusalem with her husband, Grandpa Asher, and my Uncle Jack.

While we watched the movie, Grandma Rose spoke to me throughout, telling me what happened to her in 1948. She told me what really happened during the siege. What in the movie was true, what was just fiction. She told me about the lack of water and food. She told me about the day they finally left Jerusalem and how difficult that day was for her and Grandpa Asher. How she looked back knowing she might never live in Jerusalem, her Jerusalem again. She never did. They moved to the USA.

I was eleven years old when “To Cast A Giant Shadow” came out in 1966. But this movie and the story of Jerusalem stayed with me my entire life. It was because of this movie and Grandma Rose’ commentary, that I went to Israel eight years later to spend my sophomore year of college at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I lived in both the Givat Ram and the HaHasofim campuses.

I was able to go freely between both the old city of Jerusalem and the new city. I saw the places Grandma Rose had told me about, as well as, the places I saw in the movie.

While I was gone, Grandma Rose passed away. My parents did not tell me. They did not want it to be in a letter. In those days we had no cell phones, no computer, no Skype. I found out when I got home. I was heartbroken.  I wanted to tell her all about the Jerusalem, where I lived and how it had returned to one city.   But I never got the chance.

But I always remembered that one movie and Grandma Rose.

Movie night was always an exciting night. Without television, cable, VCRs, DVDs, Netflex, we looked forward to going to the movies one day a week. Even when we got older and did not need our grandmas to go with us, we would still go in a group to the movies. Then we would go to Poppy’s for ice cream after the movie ended. It was always a good time. Even on dates we went as couples with someone else. It seemed odd to go out with just one other person. Sometimes we even ran into our parents at the ice cream parlor. So strange, so different from when we were children.

Because when we were young, our dads would come to pick us up after the movies. When we were settled in back at our bungalows, the parents would go out. They were dressed up, looking fine. Many times they were just going to the movies as well. Sometimes, they went to a show at one of the many hotels or bungalow colonies to see a comedian or musical. It was a wild time in the Catskills.

We always knew when they went to a show because they came home with one of those keychain photo viewers. We loved them. I found some when we cleaned out my parent’s apartment and I brought one back to Kansas with me.

My parents always went out extra special on Fathers’ Day weekend because their wedding anniversary was June 17. They had spent part of their honeymoon at Grossinger’s before heading up to the Finger Lakes and exploring on their own. So a special evening out at Grossinger’s was often their anniversary celebration destination.

Movie nights changed after the Ritz in White Lake closed. We then traveled to Liberty or Monticello to go to the movies. But the magic still remained. Movie night in the Catskills was a wonderful, magical night.

Something Evil this way comes…and it is not Israel

22 Jul

Like many mothers in the United States, I have a child who made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. My daughter studied for her two master’s degrees at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, where she earned degrees in Middle East Studies and the Politics of Conflict. She currently works for a consultant company that helps NGOs (Non-Government Agencies/non-profits) who work toward community building, understanding, helping women and children throughout Israel.

I taught my daughter from an early age to respect everyone’s right to exist in a peaceful world with no fear. That we need to work for interfaith understanding and community.  She listened to me and has tried to help create such a world.

But she saw her place in Israel. And as a mother of an adult child, I could only accept her choices.

When she studied in Israel she lived through missile attacks from Hamas before the Iron Dome defense system went into effect. She learned to take cover and run to a bomb shelter. When she came home one spring, she was concerned about the tornado sirens in Kansas. Would they sound like bomb sirens, and be just too unsettling? But no our sirens do not sound like the ones she was used to in Israel.  The same sirens she is hearing now as she rides her bicycle to work and must run for cover.

Now she, like millions of other Israelis, have been under attack from Hamas for days, months, years. And the world said nothing. NOTHING. They say nothing about the hundreds of thousands killed in Syria, nothing about those being killed in Libya, Nothing.

But when Israel starts to fight back and Hamas uses innocents as shields, Then the world talks. Israel is doing everything it can not to kill women and children.  And I am not saying they are always successful.  But they try.  Remember when the US was in Afghanistan and Iraq, we, yes we, the USA, killed many more civilians.  War is horrible and civilians die.  But when Israel fights back and bombs rocket launching sites that have purposely been placed near schools, hospitals and  residential areas, Israel is blamed.  The UN even found bombs in one if its schools.

Why, because Anti-Semitism still exists and it is like a snake that comes out of hole in the ground and strikes.

Anti-Semitic riots have occurred in France and other countries. Why is not the world rioting about Syria? Why not about Hamas and what it has been doing? Why doesn’t Egypt want to help the Gaza? Because the government of Egypt is afraid of the evil of Hamas!

Do not ask me if I feel stressed. I Do!

Do not ask me if my child is in the military. It does not matter. She is under attack whether or not she serves in the military.

Do not ask me if I want her to come home. For her she is home. As for me, really what do you think if it was your child?

You want to do something. Then tell those who hate for no reason, that Israel is not the enemy here. That evil comes from within Gaza where financial aid has not been used to help better the life of its citizens, but instead has been used to buy weapons from Syria and Iran. Has been used to build tunnels to attack Israel. Has destroyed what Israelis left behind when they left Gaza.

That’s right. They left Gaza. Gaza is not occupied by anyone but Hamas.

Something evil this way comes, and it is not Israel. It is terrorists. And terrorists/fanatics do not stop. They must be stopped.

How 24-Hour News Turned Me Into an HGTV Addict

18 Jul

I stopped watching the news in 2008, during Operation Cast Lead. My daughter was studying in Beer Sheva, Israel, and I was on the phone with her when a rocket landed very close to her dorm. It traumatized me.  No mother wants their child in the line of rockets.

At that time the Iron Dome, which Israel is now using so successfully against Hamas rockets, did not exist. So when I watched the news, I would over and over again see rockets fired. See people running for cover. And then see the horrors of war for the people trapped in Gaza. I was immobilized by the endless stories repeating over and over again.

My husband and son said, “TURN IT OFF!”

And I did.

I started watching HGTV. No one ever dies in “House Hunters.” No one is ever hurt in “Curb Appeal.” The biggest issue in “Devine Design” is whether the family will like the new room, and they always do.   Sometimes the twin brothers argue. And on “Property Virgins,” the home searchers are not always realistic. While in “Income Property”, the home owners always make out really well with both new income and increased property value.

So I became an HGTV addict.

I learned so much. I realized that some of the remodeling I did in my own home could have been a bit better. I should have put heated floors in my bathroom when I had the carpet pulled out and the tile put in. In the basement, I should have put a subfloor in. But I still like what I have done.

This is the wall I painted before the accent color.

This is the wall I painted before the accent color.

And here is my accent wall with color!

And here is my accent wall with color!

I learned about accent wall colors. And even painted my front hall one weekend to address the need for a vibrant accent color in my house.

From Curb Appeal, I found out that we have done a great job making our house attractive from the street. I guess I already knew that because so many people stop me when they see me outside to compliment my gardens.

However, sometimes HGTV cannot keep me away from the news.

I have been drawn in to the news again the past two weeks. But the past two days have been especially bad. Not only is Israel now involved in a ground offensive in Gaza to destroy tunnels, but a Malaysian airplane, a 777, was shot down from the sky killing almost 300 innocent people.

I have watched the same reports over and over again. That endless news cycle is a killer for emotional stability.

Last night I was crocheting and watching CNN. Which lead to me eating brownies and watching.   When finally I told myself, STOP!!!

I went to directly to HGTV…Wow a family looking for a place to live in Barcelona on House Hunters International.   I really want to travel there. I have not been to Spain. They chose the place I liked. So I was happy. No stress. Sometimes, I do disagree with the choice a family makes, but that is okay.

Friends have been asking me, “How are you doing?” Knowing that my daughter is in Israel. Even my brother said, “Well, this time you really have something to be anxious about.”

To all of them I say, “On HGTV, everything is just fine.”

Finding Salamanders and Relaxing in the Black Forest

13 Jul

One of my favorite activities during my summers in the Catskills was finding salamanders. I loved those little orange lizards that lived in the moss hidden in the forest of the Catskills. I have not seen any for years, but they were plentiful when I was a child.

My parents encouraged my interest in nature, so much so that my Dad built a terrarium outside of our bungalow. It was about three feet by four feet, built with wood and chicken wire, right underneath our kitchen window. My brother and I spent a lot of time catching toads, frogs and salamanders to put into our terrarium, but the rule was that they had to be return to the woods when the summer came to an end.

My sister, me, and my brother facing our bungalow. Behind us you can see Kauneonga Lake. About 1962.

My sister, me, and my brother facing our bungalow. Behind us you can see Kauneonga Lake. About 1962.

While my brother went for the frogs and toads, my favorite creature to find was the salamander. I would search in the moss along trails in the woods. They were difficult to find because they could change colors like a chameleon and match the plants that surrounded them. But usually they were a dull orange color.

Then I would take the moss and the salamander back to our terrarium to become part of our nature center. At night, when the windows were open, we could hear the sounds of the frogs coming from the terrarium. It drove my Mom crazy, but she did not complain too much. She knew that I loved to spend hours watching the lizards residing there.

When I was not searching for my lizards, my friend, Vicki, and I would often go on walks to what we called, the “Black Forest.” This was an area of the woods behind my Grandparent’s bungalow colony that was all pine trees. Vicki and I loved to go there and play imagination games.

Because of the denseness of the trees, there was not a lot of sunshine filtering through the woods, and the ground was covered with pine needles, so not many plants grew. It was a mystical place. So silent, with the shadows of the trees dancing on the pine needles, it was the perfect place for a picnic and imagining. It was so quiet, we were able to hear people coming down the trail and hide before they arrived. It was our private place and we did not want to share it when we were there.

To get to the forest we had to walk past the blueberry patch, past the last bungalow in the row, to a place far away from the parents and the swings. We entered the forest near a large growth of ferns and moss. It was here that I could often find salamanders. But that I could do on the way home, not when we were going into the woods.

After we entered the treed area, we would walk along a path that had been created by years of children walking to the “black forest.” I do not know who was the first one to go there. But there were many boys who were much older than Vicki and I. So I assume one of them taught us the way. I just know that traveling along that path and walking back to the pine forest was an important part of our summer adventures.

Most of the walk was through regular woods, but then we would come upon it — the area where only pine trees grow. In that one special place we would lie upon the bed of pine needles and dream. The mounds of pine needles were so comfortable. We share our inner thoughts and secrets. When we were there, we were away from all the boys: our brothers and all my boy cousins. It was a wonderful escape.

Sometimes some of the boys would go with us. But the atmosphere changed when the boys came. Honestly, I liked it best when Vicki and I went by ourselves.

When I look at maps now and satellite images, and I see how far we wandered into the woods, I wonder what our parents would have thought if they knew how far we actually went? It was a different time, but we did get in trouble sometimes. And there was no way to reach our parents, we just figured it out ourselves.

One time we walked out of the pine forest area into some fields. A man came running after us and told us to stay off his property. That was scary. Usually we did not see anyone there. The woods were large. But in reality we knew that if we kept walking, on the other side were those fields and other private property and then Horseshoe Lake Road. We could not get lost. I think I actually walked that way once. But after the man scared us away, we almost always went back through the woods to the bungalow colony.

We had wonderful times wandering on our own. Having picnics that we packed ourselves. Filling our minds with memories that can never be erased. I close my eyes and I can smell the pine needles, their sharp fresh scent. I can feel the crush of my body on the mounds of needles as I looked up to the sky shimmering through the branches. I am back in the ‘black forest’ planning my next acquisition of a salamander and just having a wonderful day with my best friend.

“Abi Geszunt, Zie Geszunt “: As Long As You are Healthy, Be Safe

10 Jul

I have a vested interest in the survival of the state of Israel. Besides being the home to the descendants of my relatives who survived the Shoah, and to family members who made aliyah from the US over the years, it is also the home of my daughter.

For a year in 1974-75, I studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I met many young men and women who had survived the Yom Kippur War, and were still in shock over what had occurred. Those who had served in the Sinai, I think were forever scarred by the horrors they encountered and the many deaths they saw. We lived on edge that year, never knowing if there would be a flare up.

But that year changed my life. I instilled in my children a love of Israel. I took them to Israel on a family trip. I told them how our family moved there. I wanted them to understand the importance of having a Jewish homeland.

I never hid from the dark side of Israel: the harsh realities that Israelis must face each day. Let terrorists sneak in, or build a wall/fence?   Show weakness, and then more will die. Be strong, because if Israel is not strong, then the country will be destroyed. It is difficult to live with these pressures. But while we must still be strong, we must also be compassionate.

My daughter took my words to her heart.   During the summer of her junior year of college, she studied at Tel Aviv University. Then she went to Israel after finishing college and studied for two master’s degrees there. At Ben Gurion University of the Negev she earned a master’s in Middle Studies, and then went on for a second master’s on the Politics of Conflict.

She spent a year back in the USA, where she interned at Planned Parenthood in Kansas and was a substitute teacher at the Hebrew day school she attended as a child. But then she decided that she had to make aliyah –that living in Israel was the only option for her.

Abi Geszunt. Zie Geszunt. When I went to Israel for my one-year program, my Grandma Esther would send me articles from the newspaper about what was happening in Israel. Her notes said, “You could kill me in other ways.” Grandma Esther was the queen of inducing guilt. But I still went. My Grandpa Nat said, “Abi Geszunt. Zie Geszunt.”

My husband and I went to see our daughter when she was studying for her first master’s degree. We were standing at the Air Force Museum (in the Negev) with a young soldier when several Israeli fighter jets took to the air. The soldier and I looked at each other. And I knew that soon life in Israel would change.

Before I left for the US, I told my daughter, “Be careful. (Abi Geszunt). Something is brewing (Zie Geszunt).”

And a few days later Cast Lead began. I was on the phone with her one day when the sirens went off. “Mom,” she said, “Don’t worry if the phone disconnects. That often happens when a rocket hits.” She had 60 seconds to take cover.

“Where are you? Is your head covered?”

“I am under my desk. Don’t worry, I have my hoodie on.”

I heard the rocket hit. I heard her roommate tell her to stay down, that another one would come. I heard the police loudspeakers telling people to stay inside. And my hair turned whiter. I prayed. Abi Geszunt. Zie Geszunt.

And so when events in Israel flare up, I become somewhat anxious.

The past few weeks have been horrible with the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers. And when they were found buried in a field, I felt the same horror everyone else felt. But my world changed a bit when I found out that a group of Jewish settlers were the possible murderers of an Arab teenager, a revenge event.

In my mind Jews do not participate in senseless hatred. And two wrongs never make a right. Those who killed Mohammad Abu Khedair are just as evil as those who killed Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar, the Israel Jewish teens.

Those who preach hatred against all Arab Moslems are wrong. Target the evil! Hamas is evil in my opinion. The teaching of hatred is wrong in my mind. The constant bombardment of rockets into Israel, into civilian territories, is evil in my mind. But we must remember there are people on both sides who want this seemingly endless cycle to end.

In my heart, I knew the death of the Moslem youth would just put more credence to Hamas for the ever increasing bombardments. I knew there would be an escalation of hostilities. I guess I expected the Hamas response. It was as if they were looking for a reason to escalate the bombardments into Israel, to bait Israel into attacking them.

Now it has happened. Bombs are flying back and forth. People are dying. Young men are being called up for military duty. Smoke rises over the cities and the Gaza. The rockets from Gaza reach further than ever before. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are in the bull’s eye.

The Middle East is more stressed than it has been in years.   Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt all in some degree of turmoil; ISIS declaring itself the new caliphate; Iran and it’s nuclear goals… all of these are potential dangers to Israel and the world.

I see what is happening in Israel, and I worry. Not only for my daughter’s physical well being, but also for the mental and moral wellbeing of her and any family she might one day have. However, I had one less fear this week, as my daughter is in the US for our niece’s wedding until the weekend.

I taught my children that racism and baseless hatred was wrong. I have worked for years on interfaith events and building bridges between people of all religions. More than anything else I want an end to this endless cycle of violence.

My daughter returns to Israel this weekend. She returns to the new life she has made for herself. She will leave the safety of Kansas. And I cannot stop her.

All I could do is say, “Abi Geszunt. Zie Geszunt.” As long as you are healthy; be healthy. Of course, what I am really saying is, “Be safe!”

Be Safe everyone!



“Abi Gezunt” song by Molly Picon.

It Happens Every Summer, Children Dying Alone in Cars

9 Jul

Every summer it happens. It gets hot; parents leave infants or toddlers in their car; the child dies. It has to be the most distressing news I ever hear. It drives me crazy. I understand that sometimes the police believe this is an accident. The parent honestly forgets that they have their child in the car and are overwhelmed with grief. But other times, parents intentionally leave them in the car…only for a minute, or so they say.

I have personal experience with a parent leaving two toddlers in a car for what they said was “only a minute”. I was furious. My daughter still remembers my anger.

I took my daughter and a friend of hers shopping. The girls were about 12 or 13 at the time. While my behavior during this incident totally embarrassed them, now as an adult, my daughter understands exactly why I did what I did. And she knows I did what I felt needed to be done.

We drove to a strip shopping center, where you can park directly in front of a store. Unfortunately we could not park near the store where we wanted to go, so we parked in front of a fancy linen shop.   As I got out of my car, I noticed two toddlers in car seats crying hysterically in the back seat of the car next to me. Their faces were bright red and they were in distress.

I looked at my watch and decided to wait for a few minutes. I did not want to over react, so I waited five minutes. It was obvious they had been there for a while. I was becoming extremely upset. So I marched into the store opposite of the car, assuming that the parent/guardian would probably park as close to her shopping destination as she could with two children in her car. The two girls followed behind me.

As I opened the door, I said in a loud teacher’s voice (I taught high school for a while), “There are two toddlers hysterically crying in a car outside. Is the Mom here?”

Everyone got silent. And then a woman spoke up. “They are my children. And I have only been in here a minute,” she declared.

“Not so,” I responded. “I have been waiting outside for five minutes. It is too hot for them to be stuck in a car. You better get out there now and take care of them or I am calling the police.”

“I am a nurse, and there is no problem,” she said.

Now I was enraged.

“If you are a nurse, you should know better,” I was yelling at this point. “MY husband is a pediatrician. Do you know how many children die in cars each year due to parents like you. Do you know if your children don’t die, they can become critically ill due to dehydration! If you are a nurse, you should know that!”

I pulled out my cell phone. “ You have one minute, then I am dialing 911.”

She was furious. But she handed her items to a sales woman and stomped out. I followed, phone in my hand ready to call the police.

When we got outside and she saw the screaming, crying, red and sweaty children. I think she might have been embarrassed and realized how bad it really was, because she got meekly into her car without saying another word.

But I was so mad. “Don’t ever do that again,” I said. “I have your license plate number. And If I ever see your car with children in it alone again, I will call the police immediately. I will not wait.”

She drove off. I felt like I had done my mitzvah, good deed, for the day. I hope I had saved those two children. But I had another issue to deal with now.

“Mom,” my daughter said. “That was really embarrassing. Did you have to yell at her in the store?” She and her friend were obviously uncomfortable.

“Yes, I did,” I told them. “Children can die in cars due to the heat. I honestly was concerned for the safety of those two children. And actually, perhaps calling the police would have been the right thing to do.”

We went on with our day. But it was an incident that stayed with us since then. Every summer it comes back into my mind. Did I do the right thing by not calling the police?

In the last few weeks we have seen the father leave his toddler son in a hot car. He is being tried for murder because it is alleged he planned it. Then there was a woman who called the police when she saw an infant in a hot car, unconscious. The policeman broke the window of the car to save the child.

And just recently when I took a road trip across Missouri, I noticed that the illuminated signs not only encouraged people to be careful drivers and not to drink and drive, but also to be aware of their children and not lock them in their car.

It is never a good idea to leave any age child alone in a car, even with the windows cracked. It gets extremely hot inside a car when the sun shines in, just like in a green house.

And leaving a child alone in the car with the motor running and the air conditioning on is just as bad. How many times do we hear about a car jacking with the child inside? Then an Amber Alert is issued. In most cases the child is found unhurt, but not always. It is just not safe!

If you need to go shopping, and cannot get a baby sitter…just take your child in to the store with you. Yes, it will take longer. Yes, they might fuss. But in reality a fussing child is much more easier to deal with than a dead one.

I might have embarrassed my daughter and her friend 15 years ago. However, I believe I saved those two children. And the fact that this is still happening makes me more adamant in the importance of everyone taking a stand and doing the right thing.

A Strand of Pearls is Not Just Jewelry, It is a Circle of Love

6 Jul


To me wearing my pearls infuses them with love.

To me wearing my pearls infuses them with love.

I wear two strands of pearls to every family wedding. One strand, the longer one, belonged to my mother-in-law, Lee. She died when she was only 59, but I know that she would want to be at every wedding of her grandchildren and family members. The other strand, is slightly shorter, but has a lovely clasp. It belonged to my Mom, Fran. She also loved weddings and would want to be at every family wedding! Amazingly both strands of pearls have the same size pearls. And they look so good together.

Last night I wore the pearls to the latest family wedding, our niece. The pearls came up in conversation, and I told my brother-in-law, and another nephew and niece, why I wore two strands. My brother-in-law said, “I know they are here.” And my nephew and niece, who knew my Mom but not his own Grandma, said, “Your Mom would have loved the weddings.” And it is true.

It makes me feel as if these two wonderful women were there with us when I wear these necklaces. Pearls are so warm. And to me their glow sends off the warmth of love.

Pearls have much meaning in my family. My grandmother had opera length pearls. And my mother had them made into three necklaces, once for each of her granddaughters. As they turned 18, each girl was presented with the pearl necklace from my mother.

Unfortunately she passed away a few months before the youngest turned 18.   My Dad had us present the pearls to my niece in the hospital where my mother was soon to die. I know it was a difficult time for my niece. But I hope as time has passed she realizes how much her grandparents loved her and how important it was for my Dad, her Grandpa, that she get the pearls while Grandma was still alive.

My Great grandmother, for whom I am named, gave my Grandma a strand of pearls in Europe in 1932. They would have been mine. But another relative stole the pearls while she was in Europe. She always suspected who had taken them.

Over 40 years later he wrote her a letter. He had survived the Shoah, but his entire family had been killed, his wife and his children. He blamed himself. He believed that if he had not stolen the pearls, they would have lived.

I know this because I met him. I was living in Israel at the time. My Grandma Thelma wrote to me to meet up with “the goniff.” He was going to give me 400 lira…about $100 at the time. I was to take some of the money and buy myself something and give the rest of the money to my great uncle.

I met Zissel and he told me his story. He was a sad, sad man. He told me how his family had died and the horrible things that occurred to him. He told me how he had stolen the pearls.

“Your grandmother went into the bathroom to bath. When she came out the pearls were on the sink. I thought, she lives in America; she is rich. I can use these pearls more than she can. And I took them. Now everyone is dead, and it is my fault.” Zissel and I both cried as he told me the story. I was only 19 years old. The pain of that day lives with me. He believed if he paid my Grandma back, it would take away some of the guilt. I hope it did.

I began to visit him whenever I was in Tel Aviv. He worked in a bakery across from the giant shuk. I would meet him there, get a pastry and tea and talk to him Sometimes I would go back to his apartment.

When my parents came to visit me in Israel, I took them to see Zissel as well. His Yiddish was much better than his Hebrew. So when my parents came, he spoke mainly to them in Yiddish. He told more stories. And my mother and I cried along with him. I hope that his sad soul found peace.

The pearls were a bond between Zissel and me.

And so for me pearls, any pearls, have a story to tell. My mother-in-law’s
pearls and my mother’s pearls will be filled with joy as they experience only happy events. Every wedding will bring happiness to these pearls. And the sadness of the pearls that Zissel took will be wiped away.

The pearls my daughter and nieces have are also filled with love. And when I see them wearing my mother’s/grandmother’s pearls, their great-grandma, I know that the love of these two women are surrounding them.

A strand of pearls is not just a piece of jewelry, it is a circle of love.


For Me the Fourth of July Echoes With Memories of My Dad and John Philip Sousa Marches

2 Jul

“Get up, get going, you are wasting the best part of the day,” my father would say early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. As teenagers all we wanted to do was sleep in on the weekends. But my Dad often had other ideas. He had chores he wanted us to do. If the talking did not work, he would play his favorite John Philip Sousa marches to wake us up. Heck, he would play marches all the time. He loved his Sousa marches.

I think we were the only children in North Bergen and the world who did their chores to John Philip Sousa marches. I can still see us lining up as a joke with mops and brooms marching around our house while the music blared. We would try to clean in time to the music. Well I would: vacuuming in time, dusting in time, ironing in time.

Dad loved his Sousa. Whenever I hear a march, I get the urge to clean. But I am able to resist. However, I do think of my Dad and his Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops collection (RCA Victor Label) of John Phillip Sousa marches. I can still hear “Stars and Stripes Forever” on an endless loop in my mind. But Dad had an entire collection of the Sousa marches. And we learned them all!

Needless to say, the Fourth of July was Dad’s favorite holiday. Those Sousa records would come out days before the Fourth as Dad prepared. You know my Dad could not sing at all. He tried, but he had no sense of pitch when he sang. But he would conduct along with the music, swinging his arms as if he was really in charge. I can remember seeing such joy on his face while he listened to the music.

His second favorite march was “Hail to the Chief.” Played whenever the President of the United States enters a room, with first the “Ruffles and Flourishes” introduction, “Hail to the Chief” made my Dad happy. In our house, he was the chief. And when he played that song he was letting us know who was boss. He would talk about his dream of one day having the song played for him.

And it happened. Dad served as president of his synagogue for 11 years. At a dinner honoring him, I mentioned his love of this song and his love of Sousa,   and his dream of hearing it played for him one day. When he came up to do his speech, the dance band spontaneously played “Hail to the Chief” in his honor. My Dad welled up with tears. He really was the President and he felt so honored.   I think my Mom, my siblings, our spouses and the two grandchildren there also cried out of pride and joy for Dad.

Dad did not only play his music on cleaning days. He brought his Sousa collection up to the Catskills. Since we had a very private four acres of land, he was able to play his Sousa as loud as he liked. And he liked to blast it out. I still have the sound of those brass instruments echoing in my mind.

And the times he got to see  any orchestra that played the marches live…Oh my!  That was the best for my Dad. Hearing the music live was even better than records or CDs. But I will say, his Arthur Fiedler records were his favorites.

When I think of his love of Sousa marches, I must also say that he loved the sight of a bald eagle.   Imagine my Dad, a proud veteran wearing an eagle or an American flag t-shirt, listening to John Philip Sousa marches on a relaxing weekend in the Catskills. Well he was relaxed, we were all wound up with the resounding booming music of Sousa.

Sousa wrote music for over 50 years! So there are quite a few marches to listen to over a weekend. He actually wrote almost 140 marches. And my siblings and I probably heard all of them at one time or another.

Among my favorites are the “Semper Fidelis March” written for the U.S. Marine Corps; “The Thunderer,” and the “U.S. Field Artillery,” which is the march for the US Army. (Sousa actually revised this melody, which was written by someone else.) Dad would ‘sing’ along with this last one, because it is the music to “The Caissons Go Rolling Along.” As a proud army veteran, he loved to sing this song.

For me the joys of the Fourth of July are not just the picnics, bar-b-ques,  the fireworks and the celebration of our country. For me  it is also time to listen to John Philip Sousa marches and remember my Dad.



Arthur Fiedler and Boston Pops “Stars and Stripes Forever’:

Marine Band plays “Hail to the Chief.” :

John Philip Sousa’s Marine Band playing “Semper Fidelis March”:

US Army Band plays, “The Caissons Go Rolling Along”: