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We Gotta Live Together

Jews come in many varieties, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, religious, secular; each group is further subdivided, but we all have one thing in common… We are all Jews! In spite of our strong disagreements, whether political or religious, in spite of differences in minhagim or nussach of prayer, we are all Jews! To the world at large, we are all one. You doubt it? Look at Jewish history throughout. Especially look at Hitler, yimach shmo vezichro, and his murderous Nazi henchmen. They didn’t care if we wore a shtraimel, a hat, a yarmulkeh or sported no head covering at all. Hitler didn’t care where, or even if, we prayed. In the interest of a mythological Aryan purity, the Nazis went went back six generations to see if there was a drop of Jewish blood so they could add more individuals to the roster of those they wanted to exterminate. Why? Because to them, whether one was an Eastern European Ashkenazi or a Greek Sephardi from Salonika, whether a world famous scientist, or a well known doctor, a renowned author or academic, or just a lowly – previously unheard of – shoemaker, we were all – without exception – verdammte Juden.

This week we commemorate the 70th anniversary of Anna Frank‘s death in a concentration camp, you would have thought that after the horrors of WWII, the world would have learned its lesson. Well… it obviously learned nothing or forgot it too soon! Look around you, religious and ethnic hatred are rampant and at heightened levels. Antisemitism in Europe is once again approaching the infamous levels of the late 30s. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Starting on Wednesday evening through Thursday, we celebrate Purim. In the Hebrew year 3404, Haman – King Achashverosh‘ Prime Minister – decreed the Final Solution that was to annihilate every Jew in all 127 lands ruled by the Persian Empire. On the following year 3405 (356 BCE), on the 13th of Adar the Jews were victorious against their enemy. Today 2370 years later, Israel once again faces the same existential threat from Haman‘s spiritual heirs, now it is the Persian satrap, the Supreme Leader of Iran and his murderous fanatics. Just as we did then, we will emerge victorious again! We must realize that regardless of differences in degrees of religious observance or lack thereof, regardless of the hue of our skin, regardless of religious customs, regardless of social status, regardless of the cultural influences that mold the individual, we are all Jews; far too many people around the world still consider us verdammte Juden. WE GOTTA LIVE TOGETHER , in peace and harmony for only then will we be invincible!!!



Celebrating 100 Years

What’s The Kosher Scene doing at the New York Public Library, on 5th Avenue between 41st and 42nd in Manhattan? Apart from using their extensive library resources for research, I took the time to look at  250 items of special interest that the curator culled from among the millions in the library’s collection; surprisingly, among them were a number of articles of Jewish interest.

The Library, its famous guardian lions overlooking Fifth Ave, reward visitors with its treasured halls of knowledge, its ornately carved and painted ceilings, elegant corridors, ranking it amongst the world’s most beautiful public libraries

The exhibit, Celebrating 100 Years, is divided in four sections: ObservationContemplationSociety, and Creativity. As you enter, the first items shown are a series of cuneiform tablets – one of the earliest forms of writing known – all are business and inventory records. One exquisitely illustrated book displayed in the Contemplation area is Jacob Judah Aryeh Leon Templo‘s Image of the Tabernacle

First written in Dutch and published in Amsterdam, it was translated into Spanish in 1654, and into English in 1675

Jacob Judah Leon was born in Hamburg (the son of Spanish Jews who fled the Inquisition) in 1603 and died in 1675. He became Chacham in Middelburg and, after 1643, in Amsterdam, where he was also engaged as a teacher in the Talmud Torah. He vowelized the entire Mishnah which was printed in 1646 at the establishment of Manasseh ben Israel. Leon wrote various books on religious subjects which he meticulously illustrated as well.

As you walk around the exhibit you will see Tatiana Kellner‘s powerful, impressive narrative of her parents, Holocaust survivors both…

The life like arm shows the Nazi given, concentration camp, number… B-11226 of the author/artist’s father

The power of its simple yet gut wrenching words, moving art work which includes drawings and sculpture, make it a powerful testimony to man’s inhumanity to man, a never to be expunged indictment of antisemitism and the horrors that echo still, despite Holocaust deniers.

On a lighter note, there is a theatrical poster in Yiddish about a dramatic reading “concert” by the celebrated actor Herz Grossbart. Another fascinating item was a handwritten notebook of Mary Evans’ (writing in the 19th century, under the nom de plume George Eliot), filled with annotations, Hebrew words and random thoughts that were part of the author’s research for her last novel Daniel Deronda.

Ms Evans (George Eliot) studied Hebrew, Jewish tradition and history to write Daniel Deronda.

To be sure, there are some infamous works here as well. Most notably, a copy of Adolf Hitler‘s first edition of his Mein Kampf;  a chilling historical radical reminder not yet a century old, of the power of the written word to inspire greatest good or greatest evil.
The inclusion of 5 pieces of Jewish interest, among 250 objects, books and manuscripts out of 50,000,000 items in the NYPL’s collection, serve as a powerful affirmation of the Jewish contributions to history, art, writing and more. An exhibit worth seeing, it will be on display through March the 4th.


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