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Monday, April 19, 2010

Israel’s 62nd Independence Day

clip_image002                                      A replica of the golden menorah used in the Temple

Last week we commemorated the slaughter of six million Jews on the blood soaked lands of Europe, whose bodies went up in smoke through the chimneys of concentration camps.

This week the skies over Europe are paralyzed by a cloud of smoke descending from above, over their lands.                          Coincidence?

Last week the British Advertisng Authority declared that Israel wasn’t allowed to have photos of the Kotel, the Western Wall of the ancient Temple, its holiest site for over 3000 years, in its tourism advertisements, as it is hasn’t been decided that it’s really part of Israel. It is in ‘disputed territory’.

This week that hovering cloud of ash and smoke ensured that no British tourists left the U.K.                                            Coincidence?


The Kotel – The Western Wall of the Temple

Today is Israel’s  62nd Independence Day.

62 years of sovereignty and still fighting for the right to exist.

62 years of providing a home for any Jew from anywhere in the world persecuted and driven from their homes and wanted by no other country on the planet.

62 years of wars which never really end but just evolve into cold wars and unsure peace.

62 years of miracle after miracle that has kept this tiny country alive surrounded by millions of its enemies, winning unwinnable wars with the odds drastically against them, flourishing economically through global recession and thriving agriculturally despite being mostly desert and lacking in rain.

‘Coincidence’ or ‘chance’ don’t even come to mind when explaining our past.

Divine intervention comes closer .

Monday, April 12, 2010

A HOLOCAUST STORY – The Hidden Synagogue of Theresienstadt


Many stories about the Holocaust are still coming to light and one I heard today, from Mrs Helen Gross, one of the participants in the story, was too amazing for me not to repeat. Only in recent years have most of the facts of the story become known – although there are inevitably still unanswered questions, which may remain forever unanswered.

Helen Gross’ uncle, Asher Berlinger, an extremely  religious man was also a talented artist, craftsman and musician. He was a Chazan in Schweinfurt, Germany, before the Holocaust.

After Kristallnacht Asher and his wife , fearing for their children’s lives,  sent their two daughters on the kinder transport to England . He and his wife were deported to Theresienstadt Ghetto in 1942. Asher continued to teach Torah whilst in the ghetto and he wrote a series of ‘luchot’, calendars, to make sure that everyone knew when the Chagim( Jewish festivals) were, when Shabbat started each week, the week’s parsha and the dates and times of Rosh Chodesh.

Eventually he and his wife suffered the same fate as 88,000 of their brethren and  were transported to Auschwitz and murdered.     Several of his luchot were discovered and donated to Yad Vashem . On the back of some was a self-portrait that he had drawn, showing him davening in a shul (synagogue) which was assumed to be his old shul from before the war.

After the war, the homes in Theresienstadt were returned to their former Czech owners. A Catholic undertaker went back to his home with his family and  many years later in 1997, whilst starting renovations in the kitchen he began to break down a wall . He suddenly realized that what he was revealing was a highly decorated area behind the wall. Being religious he also recognized the Hebrew writing. His priest advised him to leave the room alone to avoid the curse of the Jewish people.

He kept the discovery a secret from the authorities. Occasionally he showed to room to Jewish visitors who came to see the site of the ghetto.

The two Berlinger daughters, meanwhile, grew up as orphans and married, one in England and one in America. A few years ago, Senta, who lived in England, passed away and her sister Rosie came from the USA to bury her sister and sit shiva for her in her house. One of the visitors to the shiva brought with her photos from her recent visit to the Holocaust sites of Europe and Rosie politely glanced at them ……… and there amongst them were photos of the hidden shul in Theresienstadt , which Rosie immediately recognized as the background to her father’s self-portrait on his ‘luchot”.

Straight after the shiva she flew to Europe to see for herself and knew that she was standing in a shul that her father had designed and decorated. But how could she prove it. The portrait at Yad Vashem connected him to the shul but not necessarily as its designer.

But Asher Berlinger wrote in a unique form of calligraphy which he taught to his brother-in-law  who in turn taught it to his daughter, Helen Gross. She was able to reproduce the entire alphabet in the style the pesukim in the shul are written..


Asher Berlinger’s handiwork and undying faith, as portrayed in the beauty of the shul and the pesukim he chose, were officially acknowledged by the authorities and in 2006 the family were invited to a rededication of the shul in the presence of top officials and dignitaries from the Czech Republic, the USA, and Israel.

As Helen Gross explained when telling the story, it is still not known who used this shul and when, as so far no survivors have been found who actually knew of its existence , but who knows….

With so much ‘hashgacha pratis’ Divine providence, involved in the discovery of the shul and its origins, it’s not too much to expect  that someone  be found ,  who actually used the shul, as  place of payer and comfort,  during those terrible years.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010



Today is the day I start wondering how to take advantage of all my ‘free-time’ now that Pesach (Passover) is over.

If, before Pesach, I managed to do all my usual ‘stuff’ ( teach / write / cook /housework) and add several extra hours of pre- Pesach cleaning and clearing work into my day – how can I continue to take advantage of all those ‘extra hours’ I squeezed out of the day.

I certainly won’t do more housework – I’m afraid that’s not my favorite way of spending extra time.

I won’t cook more – I don’t think it’s possible to cook more than I did over the last few weeks and I need a clear break from that.

I have spent many hours  over the last week enjoying the pleasure of my children and grandchildren

I can’t teach more hours than I have lessons and pupils.

So – this is my opportunity to spend more time writing – whether it’s blogging / articles / essays or stories. And of course every writer has to read – so that’s another  task I shall allot more time to…….aaah it’s good to get back into a normal  working routine again.

If you discover you have some extra time how do you like to spend it -apart from sleeping?