Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Who Would Have Thought

When I toured Israel as a college student in 1972 I didn’t have a camera. Even though there are no photos to bear witness that I was on the American Zionist Youth Foundation seven-week tour I think I can safely describe how I looked when we arrived in the old city of Safed.

No doubt I was wearing a tank top with a pair of jeans. My nose was most likely sunburned and my thick, frizzy hair was pulled back into a ponytail courtesy of a special Israeli barrette I’d bought. I certainly was not dressed to visit a synagogue but that is exactly where our tour took us, to the ancient synagogues of Safed. Since they seemed to be museums I don’t remember being the least bit embarrassed by my attire.

lWhat I do remember is the awe I felt at their history and beauty, especially that of the Ari Ashkenazi Beit Knesset.  A simple courtyard and heavy door outside belied the splendor within. The domed ceiling, the ornate Holy Ark with its intricate olive wood carvings, the gold lamps, the paintings, and the ancient wooden pews filled me with awe.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Shema Yisroel

In this week's Torah portion we read  Shema Yisroel so I've reposted the article I wrote for my father's yahrzeit five years ago. 

courtesy of mennashedovid1.wordpress

My father grew up in a small village in Germany. All of the twenty Jewish families living there were observant. They took turns chopping wood to heat the mikvah. They set their cholents on the fire before the onset of Shabbat. And they took their cattle to be slaughtered in the nearby village where the shochet lived.
My mother grew up in a small town in Kansas. Most of the twenty Jewish families went to the Reform temple there. Their observances varied but marrying out was not uncommon. For my mother, though, being Jewish, staying Jewish, and raising a Jewish family was important.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Song Heard in Itamar

This year the ninth of Av falls on Shabbat so the fast for mourning the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples will be pushed off to Saturday night and Sunday. That was the way it fell out four years ago when I posted the following article.  

And After Tisha B’AV August 5th, 2012
courtesy of
This year the ninth of Av fell out on Shabbat. That meant that we did not fast and mourn for the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples, and countless other tragedies, as we do every year. Instead we celebrated Shabbat with song, prayer, and joyful meals. The fast and mourning were pushed off until Shabbat ended. Therefore we had a taste of what the Ninth of Av of the future will be like, the Ninth of Av after the Moshiach has come and the Third Holy Temple will be rebuilt. Then, no matter what day the ninth of Av is, there will be no mourning and fasting. Rather it will be a holiday.

Conscious of that we made our Shabbat meals very special. Several of our sons were at the table and they always enjoy singing. There was one song in particular that seemed appropriate. Avraham Fried has taken several verses from the Yom Kippur prayers and set them to a stirring melody.   

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Time to Advise or a Time to Listen

My friend and I were absorbed in an intimate discussion when a knock at the door interrupted us. Holding a blue aerogram my friend’s neighbor was clearly upset. The letter from America contained the news that her mother had diverticulitis.

“That’s nothing to worry about,” I breezily dismissed her concerns. “My father has had it for years. My mother-in-law, too. It means they can’t eat popcorn or nuts.”

“Really?” The neighbor seemed reassured and once she left my friend and I returned to our conversation.

Obviously that was years ago since very few write letters today. Looking back with the wisdom of time I wonder how comforting my words really were. Perhaps the neighbor was far less concerned about medical facts and wanted some emotional support about living so far away from her family

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

No Regrets


courtesy of 

The Bar Mitzvah boy finished the Torah reading and accepted a mazel tov from his teacher. Full of satisfaction, he barely noticed the children at his feet. They were scrambling on the ground for the candies that his wife, daughters, granddaughters, and their friends showered down upon him. At age eighty-three Les Brem, after a long journey, had finally had his Bar Mitzvah.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thirty Years in Israel

What can I write that I haven’t already written? That there isn’t a day that I don’t thank HaShem for bringing me here to live. That I’m constantly overcome with gratitude to Him for letting me stay. That I feel bad for all the Jews who haven’t taken advantage of the chance to come live in their homeland.

Sometimes I’m obnoxiously smug about the fact that I live in The Holy Land. Other times I’m officiously defensive about how good life is here. Occasionally relatives or friends, still living in America, remind me of all the wars and terror attacks we’ve lived through here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Mother’s Plea

On June 30th, the last day of school for many Israeli children, Rena Ariel stood in the entrance to the Shaare Zedek Emergency Room. Behind her was the portrait of Dr. David Applebaum, hy’d, who, along with his daughter, Nava, hy’d, was murdered by a suicide bomber on the eve of Nava’s wedding thirteen years earlier. With a voice full of pain Rena described how a sixteen-year-old terrorist had entered Hallel Yaffa’s bedroom and murdered her thirteen-year-old daughter while she was peacefully sleeping. Rena’s voice then held a plea, a plea for all to come comfort and strengthen them in their home, to show that Kiryat Arba is a place to live and not die.
courtesy of
Her words went straight to my heart and I resolved to find a way to make a shiva* call. It wasn’t going to be easy. At best, Kiryat Arba is a two hour drive from Shilo by way of Jerusalem in a car. By public transportation, well, that was an option I didn’t want to consider. And I didn’t have to. A neighbor posted a message on the community emails that she would be going and happy to have passengers join her. I signed up.