Archive | November, 2014

Thanksgiving in Israel, a Time of Blessed Rain

27 Nov

Garden Israel

For three days I have been in a rainy, stormy Israel. It is damp and torrents of rain and wind have left large puddles of water everywhere. Walking the streets of Tel Aviv is difficult as the gutters cannot take in the tremendous flows of rain water.

But my Israeli friends and relatives are happy. ‘Welcome to this time of blessed rain,” they say. Because in Israel rain is a blessing even as it caves in roads and causes minor flooding. The rain has been as far south as the Negev and as far north as the Golan.

But this morning is Thanksgiving. I have journeyed almost around the world to be here with my daughter and her boyfriend for this holiday. A trip to India with my husband turned into an adventure. Instead of returning home with him I traveled from Delhi, India, to Istanbul to Israel. All to spend a week here.

I am thankful that I arrived safely here as my husband journeyed safely to Kansas to be with our son. I am thankful that I can see where my daughter lives and works. I am thankful for the plans to see my relatives and friends while here. Even with the rain!

I am thankful for sunshine on Thanksgiving morning. And I am thankful for the blessed rain that has turned the ground damp and moist and the trees green and glowing in the sun.

After ten days in India where pollution and smog have turned the trees grey with soot and the buildings filthy, I also see the rain as blessed. After days of breathing in a film of pollutants and losing my voice to the irritants in the air, I wish blessed rain for Northern India. I hope its people and government can come together to clean the air and water. While I was in India I read daily articles about the pollution. But one of our cab drivers told us that when the rains come the trees sparkle green and the air freshens. Rain is a blessing in India as well.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Israel divides our family as our daughter has lived here for several years. But though I am separated from my husband and son I feel the blessings of thanks and the joy of the blessed rain. I see how rain is vital as it provides moisture to the land and freshens the air.

I wish all a happy Thanksgiving and a time of blessed rain.

I Will Never, Ever Complain about New Jersey Drivers Again!

19 Nov

It has only been five days that I have been in India, but I have made a decision. Next time I am back East visiting my family in New Jersey, I will not complain about New Jersey drivers and their lack of driving courtesy and their inability to drive! I will no longer complain about the honking of horns or being cut off as I try to merge.

Living in the Midwest, in Kansas, for the past 30 years has spoiled me. Drivers are very polite where I live. If you enter a four-way stop, everyone stops and waits. They wave at each other in an effort to be polite. It used to drive my New Jersey Dad crazy. “What are they doing?” He would demand. “First person to the right goes first, why all this waving on!!” But that is the way it is.

I am no longer used to New Jersey/New York traffic. When I go back East I only drive limited routes where I feel most comfortable. I will drive up to the Catskills. I can drive a bit about my sister’s town. But I hate the highways.

However, I now I have totally different vision about driving after being in cars in both Mumbai and Dehli, India. I get motion sickness, so my husband suggested I sit in the front seat. He told me first, “Think of it as entertainment!” That is one word for it. I did not get car sick, but oh my heart!


There are no true lines in the streets. There are no true rules of driving. There is a balance, a ballet between the cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and people who sort of share the roads. Although there are lines marking off two lanes, it means nothing. Often five to six cars and motorcycles share the road across.

And a one-way street? Forget about it! I have seen cars and busses head the wrong way when they only had 30 to 50 yards to go! Why go the right way and follow traffic, when where you want to go is so close! Oh my goodness. My heart seemed to stop at times when cars were coming straight at us.

There are also little green and yellow motorized rickshaws, that are an added attraction on India roads. They look like covered golf carts, but they only have three wheels. My husband tells me they have motorcycle engines. But these small open ‘taxis’ hold two people and can easily slip between the other cars.

And I mean slip. The ballet continues as cars, motorcycles and rickshaws share the road and slip and slide between each other. A small open space gives anyone the chance to move forwards and around the other cars on the road. And they try.


The motorcycles often have two riders…or three…or four: entire families riding together. Forget helmets in Mumbai. The driver sometimes wears them. But the wife and children do not. And the women ride side-saddle. How do they stay on? I have no idea. In Dehli many more people wear helmets, perhaps because the weather is much cooler? I am not sure. But watching the motorcycles zigzag through the traffic is a sight!


The bicycles also join in the dance. A bicyclist can carry anything it seems. My favorite was the balloon bike. There were so many balloons all you could see what the rider’s feet. How he saw where he was going, I do not know. Perhaps the balloons would cushion any fall?

Pedestrians seem to have no fear. They cross the street anywhere at anytime. Highway, who cares. If you want to cross the highway, just walk.     In the middle of the street? Why not?

The worst emotionally, however, are the beggars. Young girls and boys walking along stopped cars trying to sell something, or just knocking on the windows asking for money. It broke my heart to see a small child holding a baby and come and knock on the window where I sat. “Don’t give them money. It is not going to them,” the driver would say. I was told to get candy to give out or something for them to eat. I will look for something for the rest of my trip.

And then there were the two small girls who started doing back flips and other feats between stopped cars during a red light in an effort to get money. They could not be older than 7 or 8. I was shocked. One stop light stayed red for four minutes. That was a major beggar domain. I l know we have poverty in the United States, but thank goodness we do not have children forced to knock on the windows of cars in busy traffic to try to get a few cents.

The ballet of traffic has its own music as well, the horns. Each horn has a slightly different melody as they honk away to keep from hitting each other. And it works. People do not view the honking of horns as an annoyance, instead it is an important tool to avoid accidents. In all this driving for days, daytime and night time, I have only seen one small accident, or the end of an accident. Either a woman fell off a motorcycle, or was hit by one, but not badly.

How do they all survive? There was only a few cars on the road that even had dents in them! Amazing. Maybe because with all the traffic you cannot drive quickly?

All I know is that sitting in the front seat of a car or taxi being driven in India is a treat, and entertainment with its’ own rhythm. The choreography of cars, motorcycles, bike, trucks, taxis and people; the music of the horns; they come together for an almost unreal scene.

We survived each trip so far. Only once did my friends and I really need a drink upon our return. One bottle of white wine was consumed as we celebrated surviving our journey through the streets of Dehli. “It was a near death experience,” one said. “I think I need a glass of wine,” I responded. “I think we need an entire bottle,” said the third.   And we did. While we waited for the rest of the group we decompressed with a drink and a snack.   And I hardly ever drink!

No I will never, ever complain about New Jersey drivers again.

Waiting For the Dads to Arrive!

13 Nov
A weekend group dinner.

A weekend group dinner.

During the week our bungalow colony was ruled by women. Yes there was always at least one Dad up, taking his vacation and being a presence. And we did have a few grandfathers. But mostly it was the Moms running things. Taking care of us, the bungalows and any problems that arose, be it emergency medical runs due to childhood injuries, dealing with the rain and cold weather, or just disciplining children who were running a bit wild for the summer.

From Monday mornings to Thursday, life was just fun. The Moms were pretty relaxed. They played mah jong and different card games. They knitted and chatted. They took us swimming and went for walks.

They did the laundry, cleaned and went grocery shopping. It was peaceful and fun.

But on Friday mornings, life began to change. It was time to get ready for the Dads arrival. And now the Moms were really busy.

Plans were made!

Would they go to a show or a movie? Which Dad was staying up for the next week? What would they wear? Were they going to have a group dinner this weekend? We usually did. With two sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles, at least once during the weekend we all ate a meal together. (This was before we moved out of the bungalow colony and up to the ‘big’ house. After that we did not always join them for meals. )

The plans were intense. Everything had to be perfect for when the Dads arrived late on Friday.

They would work all day in the City and then drive up for the weekend. It was a weekly exodus from the city to rejoin their families in the Catskills. The traffic was intense especially in the 1950s and 60s before the new highways were built. It took at least four hours to make the journey — a trip that now takes about two hours.

The children were on high alert. You did not want to misbehave on Friday. If you did during the week, it was not too bad, you got punished by your Mom. She might say that she was going to tell Dad when he came up. But any event that happened on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday was usually forgotten. However, misbehaving on a Friday was not a good idea. Moms usually remembered that!

We all got busy cleaning the bungalow and getting back into a semblance of order. Those little cabins were hard to keep clean and neat, especially with three little children. And even more difficult on rainy weeks when we were inside most of the time.

But on Friday, it was an all out effort to make the place look beautiful and cozy.

Often we were asleep when the Dads started arriving. But sometimes a Dad got off earlier and came up in time for dinner. Most of the time we were asleep when our Dad came up. And the excitement was on Saturday morning when we got to see him in the morning.

I think, looking back, that the Moms did love their time of freedom. It was much more relaxed during the week. The weekends were more hectic with shows, shopping and family activities.

We loved seeing our Dad and playing with him. Because our grandparents owned the bungalow colony, my Dad often had extra jobs to do on the weekends. But we all helped. It was just part of life!

The excitement of waiting for the Dads was sometimes too much. We would be so excited that we sometimes cried. And often we would bet which dad would be up first!

The fun and excitement lasted for just two days. On Sunday nights and early Monday mornings the Dads would leave once again. The quiet would return to the bungalows. And the slow, summer days would return until the next Friday.

Taking Trips Sometimes Bring Back Memories of My Parents

6 Nov

When I was a child, we never really traveled anywhere, except the Catskills. When there were school vacations, we might go visit an aunt and uncle in New Brunswick, but going on a trip that included a plane ride or a long car journey was unheard of to my family.

Each May we would go up to the Catskills for the Memorial Day weekend and get our bungalow open, aired out and ready for the season.   But then it was back to school for a month until the end of June when we journeyed up 17 to exit 104 and our summer home. But that was it.

My father traveled for his business. He went to Europe and California several times a year. He usually went to Milan and Como, Italy on business. Milan was/is the center of the fashion industry, and my Dad was in the textile/fashion industry.

Once in a while my Mom would travel with him, but not very often. She was a teacher and could not leave her class. She also did not want to leave us. But she did go to California and Milan several times.

When my parents were stilled alive, I went to Milan with my husband and son. My husband was speaking at a medical meeting there. My Dad told me in advance that I had to go to Como. He said it was a jewel of a city.

When we were asked if there was anything I wanted to do while there, I mentioned Como and the silk trade. I just wanted to find out how to get there.


Next thing I knew, there was a private car with a driver/guide, as well as a translator, to take us to Como for a day and visit the Silk museum and school. This was the center of silk and textiles in Italy for many generations. I think they were amazed I knew about silk and Como. When most people mention Como they also mention George Clooney. But not me, for me it was all the textiles.

It was wonderful. The driver/guide had actually studied at the university there. Our interpreter really did not need to tell me what the guide was telling me. Once I got into the museum, I knew all about it from my Dad’s businesses, first his embroidery shop in New Jersey and then his textile firm where I had worked when I was in college.

The guide and I had a great time examining every machine and the display case. My son and husband walked around with the translator, while the guide and I bonded over textiles and jacquard embroidery machines.

That was many years after my father took his last trip to Italy. It had been years since his retirement and the closure of his business. I bought him a book about the museum. When I got back we spoke about Como, that jewel of a city. A day was not enough. I could spend a week or more there. It is lovely.

I remember my first plane journey. It was with my family. We used to get dressed up to fly in those days. No sweats and t-shirts! The winter break of my freshman year of college, my family went to Florida and stayed at the Fontainebleau in Miami. It was the vacation of a lifetime for us. We had never journeyed so far from home before. My sister, brother and I had a wonderful time just relaxing on the beach.

I do have one regret. My sister, who was a sophomore in high school, wanted to go to Disney World. There was a bus trip we could have taken. But I did not want to go, and my parents would not let my sister go alone. My sister and I finally did get to Disney World together and spent a day at Epcot. I felt like I had redeemed myself. I loved it! We had a wonderful time. I had been to Disney World many times with my husband and children. But going with my sister was special.

Forty years later I went back to the Fontainebleau with my husband. I stood at the pool and I told concierge that it had changed so much since I had last been there. He was so impressed with how much I remembered from the trip when I was 18 that he gave me a copy of a small book written about the hotel’s history as a gift. I was thankful. The photos in the book brought back so many memories of that earlier trip with my parents and siblings.

My parents’ biggest trip, without us, was when I was a senior in high school and they went to India for three weeks. They never forgot that trip. The highlight for them was going to the Taj Mahal, the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of a Shah/emperor.   I saw the photos and remember my Mom’s telling me it was the most beautiful building in the world.

My husband has seen the Taj. He told me that the Taj Mahal was the most breath taking building he has ever seen. That even when he was leaving, he kept turning around to look at it again because it was so beautiful and amazing. His descriptions matched those of my parents’ recollections. And my interest in the Taj Mahal became more intense.

I have never gone to India, even though my husband has been there twice. But I made him and myself a promise. If he ever had to go to India again, and he was going to Agra where the Taj Mahal was located, I would go with him.

Later this year I will follow in my parents’ footsteps once again. I will walk up the path to the white marble tomb and see the building that fascinated my parents and my husband. I am going to see the Taj Mahal.





My Five Levels of “OY”

4 Nov

I recently realized that in my mind there are actually five levels of Oy. These five different levels provide me the ability to express sorrow or sadness with an oy-statement.

The first, of course, is the simple ‘oy.’ This mean ‘oh’ or ‘ouch.’ I use OY when my cat jumps on my stomach or I drop something. Sometimes I use oy when someone is telling about an embarrassing experience they had. A response of “Oy” is always appreciated.

I never use oy when something bad has happened. It is usually used for events that are a little bit funny. I guess someone slipping on a banana peel without getting hurt would be an oy moment.

It sometimes has an “I cannot believe I did that,” feeling. After you do it, you think, “Oy! Why did I do that!”

But when I say “Oy Vey” I have amped up the response. Now I have feelings of woe, which is exactly what “oy vey” means, “oh woe!” I think the following is a good example of an oy vey experience.

The summer of 2013, on Fathers’ Day, my husband and I were at a party. During the party a storm blew in to the area. It was tornado weather in Kansas. We all took shelter in the house. Although the wind blew and the rain came down, it was not too bad where we were.

All those branches on the ground should be in the tree.  Oy Vey

All those branches on the ground should be in the tree.         Oy Vey

However, when we got home, OY VEY!!!   Our beautiful Sugar Maple was destroyed in a microburst of rain and wind. Branches and limbs were all over our front yard. Part of our fence was crushed.   It looked like a disaster zone in our neighborhood. And our house seemed to be the epicenter.

But it was only an Oy Vey, the second level of oy, because no one was hurt. No homes were damaged. Yes, the tree was going to have to be taken down, but in the long run it was just a second level oy experience.  My son and his friends came over and helped my husband collect all the branches and to get the big branch off the fence. Those branches were big and heavy!

The next day I called the tree service we use. Luckily they had trimmed that tree just six months before, which probably lessened the damage. I will admit watching the tree service actually take the tree down was a second oy vey experience. It was a very large tree! But they took care of everything, while I watched and took photos…all the time chanting, “Oy Vey!”

“Oy Vey Iz Mir” is a much stronger, “Woe is ME! “ When I say the entire sentence, then I am really worried. When I say, “Oy Vey IZ Mir,” something horrible has happened.   Someone I know is sick. Or an elderly parent is in hospice or has passed away. Sometimes I say that when someone has lost a job. It is a statement for a calamity, but not for a tragedy. Or maybe something scary has occurred.

When I was a child in the Catskills, the boys who lived in the house next door were shooting BB guns and aiming at a target made of wood. The BBs ricocheted into our yard. All I remember was the leaves rustling and my Dad, who had served in Korea, jumping on us yelling, “Get Down!! Get Down!!!”

One of my grandparents said “Oy Vey iz mir.” I think both because of the guns and because of Dad’s reaction. He stormed over to the house and yelled. After that there were no BBs for a while. Then I think they built a target with straw behind it. But that “Oy Vey iz mir” has stayed with me!

I think the English saying, “Woe is me” is an example of Yiddish phrasing in English. I have woe. I feel woeful. I am sad. Those are all English. But in Yiddish, Oy Vey iz Mir. Oh woe is me!!!

For a tragedy I have my fourth level of Oy. That is seven oys in a row followed by Vey Iz Mir.   “Oy oy oy oy oy oy oy vey iz mir.” That is when I feel absolutely terrible about what I have just heard: when some one has had a true tragedy. What could that be? A young person has passed away.   Someone’s son or daughter has been in a serious car accident. During my children’s teen years, there were unfortunately several times when the fourth level of oy was invoked.   A suicide is a definite fourth level of oy. Where I might forget why I used the first three levels of oy, when I have a fourth level of oy moment, it lives with me forever.

When I reach this level I usually need a piece of chocolate and a glass of tea. When I say this I know that I would love to speak to my Mom or Dad and debrief. The fourth level of oy moments are the times when I end up making phone calls or sending out emails to let others know, so that we can band together and help.

But I said there are five levels of Oy. So what could be worse than level four? Well there is level five, when I say, “Oy, a Bracha.” With this I am saying “woe is me, we need a blessing.” With the fifth level of oy I am calling on God to help.

When war breaks out in Israel, it is an “oy a bracha,” moment. With a daughter living in Tel Aviv and many family members throughout Israel, the threat of weapons, rockets, war, and destruction makes me very anxious.

For me 9/11 was a fifth level oy moment. We needed all the blessings we could get then. And so for me, it was saying “Oy, a Bracha!” Help us, bless us.

My five levels of oy have been part of my life as long as I can remember.   I am glad that most of my oy moments are level one and level two oys. But I am also glad I know a bit of Yiddish so I have a way to express exactly how I feel.

Old Movie Memories Invade My Mind

2 Nov
Our grandparents purchased this house in 1962,  a few years after the last movie was filmed.

Our grandparents purchased this house in 1962, a few years after the last movie was filmed.


In the attic of our home in the Catskills, my brother found a box of old 9 mm movies. These 29 movies recount the early days of our parent’s marriage. There is my Mom’s shower, and even a movie of the wedding itself. We were shocked when we found it!

The majority of the movies were filmed between 1951 and 1958, with a few a little bit later. So we have film of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, my brother and I…and a few of my sister who was born in 1958. We figure after the third child was born, there was not a lot of time to film us!

My brother took the films to be put on to DVDs. So we now each have two DVDs filled with 3 ¼ hours of family memories, in color. There is no sound, but it does not matter. We can often figure out what they are saying.

They are so young in these films. My parent’s wedding is especially poignant: seeing so many family members who have passed away. To see them once again in this movie means so much to all of us. You can see the joy and excitement in the synagogue in West New York, NJ.

I knew that movies existed. We had seen them as children. But did not know where they were. So the find of the box filled with movies was extraordinary! It provided much joy for my siblings and me.

I always thought the movies were in black and white. I remember seeing a few of them when we were children. My Dad would set up his projector in the living room and show the movies against a wall. Some of the movies we found, I remember so well. I thought I remembered the incidents themselves. But when I saw the movies, I realize what I remember is the movie of what happened.

The bulk of the movies were taken in the Catskills at my grandparent’s bungalow colony. I see my aunts and uncles, cousins, family friends. People I knew my entire life. There are also people I do not recognize. Did they only come up for just a year or so? Or perhaps they are people who passed from my parents’ lives and were not important? Maybe they were just visitors or friends of friends.

Some I might not recognize because they changed so much from the time I was young to when I remember them as I grew up. But it does not matter who they are, they were part of our parent’s life, so we are glad to see them.

It is fun to see the clothes and cars from the 50’s, to see them laughing and goofing off at the bungalows, to see them so alive is so joyful! I wish I could watch these movies everyday.

I cannot. Because along with the joy of the movies, is the realization that not only they are gone, but also the joy of bungalow colony life.   This is the zenith of Jewish bungalow colony life in the Catskills. The 1950s, 60s and early 70s is when so many people journeyed up to the ‘mountains’ for vacation.

It was also important to get children out of the city in the late 40s and early 50s, before the polio vaccine was developed. By being in the Catskills, they were somewhat spared this dread disease.

My parents and grandparents in front of the home in 1962.  My siblings and I now own it.

My parents and grandparents in front of the home in 1962. My siblings and I now own it.

I miss my summers in the Catskills. I am lucky as my siblings and I own our grandparent/parent’s home which our grandparents purchased in 1962. The house has so many happy memories.   We still have a place to stay and enjoy the peace. We are also lucky because our cousins have summer homes in Kauneonga Lake as well. When we go up, we create new memories, but we also have the history of experiences shared.

Next summer I plan to bring the DVDs up to the Catskills. I think my siblings, cousins and all the children would have a great time sharing these memories as we see our parents alive once again.