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Sunday, November 21, 2010


Those of you old enough to remember the 1970s – 80s may well  recall the plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union, whose pride in their religion and homeland was awakened after the 6 Day War and  who applied to emigrate to Israel.

Their request was refused ( hence their name Refusenicks) and they immediately lost their jobs ad were never able to get  comparable employment. They  were lucky if they were able to find some menial work,to avoid being labeled a ‘parasite’ by the government and imprisoned or sent to Siberia.

Jobless and incomeless their condition was desperate and much of the money which was sent from abroad to try and help them was confiscated before it ever reached them.

Those of us who grew up in Britain and the USA during those years remember the organisations which were formed to try and help Soviet Jewry and the demonstrations and hunger strikes outside the Soviet Embassies around the world.

1974: Rallying outside the Soviet Mission to the United Nations, in New York City.1974 New York Rally outside the Soviet Mission to the United Nations

I couldn’t help thinking of this as I watched the video below of the IDF Band, performing in Red Square in Moscow, underneath a  large flag of  Israel.

Thank  G’d times  have changed – and in some ways for the better.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010


As a teacher  I have been worried, horrified is more the word, by the rapidly growing number of  students/ pupils labeled ADD and ADHD.

Why so many? Why so many more nowadays?

I work with people of all ages from 8 – 28, but the vast majority of those with ADD are  aged between 8 – 15 years.

In every branch of society there are children who suffer from the chemical imbalance which causes  ADD and ADHD, but I wondered whether there was another form of ADD which is caused, not  by a chemical imbalance, but by the environment in which a child grows.

I work with non-religious, religious and ultra orthodox children and ADD is much more prevalent amongst the non-religious and religious population  than with the ultra-orthodox. This led me to wonder what was specifically  different  about the home life of the ultra orthodox and the BIG answer is television, or rather the lack of it.

I have always thought that a child who sits passively  glued to a flickering moving screen for hours on end, from an early age, cannot remain unaffected. Their brains, minds, ability to interact with other children, play  games, read and write are all affected by this  ‘mindless babysitter’

I’m not alone in my feelings. The magazine PEDIATRICS reported on a study conducted so see if there was a link between television and ADD and found that:

The study revealed that each hour of television watched per day at ages 1-3 increases the risk of attention problems, such as ADHD, by almost 10 percent at age 7. The study controls for other attributes of the home environment including cognitive stimulation and emotional support.

The findings also suggest that preventive action can be taken to minimize the risk of attention problems in children. Limiting young children’s exposure to television during the formative years of brain development, consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations, may reduce a child’s subsequent risk of developing ADHD. The AAP recommends parents avoid letting their children under the age of 2 years watch television.

ADD/ ADHD can’t be cured, only controlled, if you find the right help for your child.

And for those who suffer from ADD and ADHD, whatever the reason, our society seems to be convinced that they have to be calmed down and pacified in some way to make life easier for the teacher.

Sir Ken Robinson has other ideas – as he usually does – about how to treat hyperactive children.

Watch this illustrated / animated video of his latest thoughts on educational paradigms.

Monday, November 8, 2010


The night of November 9th / 10th, known as  kristallnacht  ( the night of the broken glass) is the anniversary of  one of the most  terrible and horrifying  events that led to the   intensifying of Nazi pogroms against Jews and the ‘final solution’ of the Holocaust.

In one night  over 1600 synagogues were ransacked and torn apart and 267 were burnt to the ground. Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and Austria were destroyed  and broken glass from shattered windows littered the streets.

Photograph of the smashed interior of the Berlin synagogue

Thirty thousand Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps, amongst them, my grandfather.

There is no shortage of  terrifying and heart rending  stories – many of which  almost defy belief  - about  the suffering that Jews went through and the  sacrifices they made to help each other and retain their own sense of humanity.


And there are stories of people who survived the Nazi hell and  took their horrifying experiences and used them to ensure that others would not have to suffer the  feeling of being without family or home – like Hanna Bar Yesha below.



The story told below ( which you may have seen as it went viral on the internet this month) is slightly different as  Alice Sommer Herz was a concert pianist and this saved her life when  she was chosen to be in the camp orchestra in Theresienstadt.   Theresienstadt  was  a ‘so-called’ model  concentration camp that the Germans built to  try and convince the world that  all their concentration camps were as  humane and holiday-camp like as this one . Here the  starving inmates, under threat of immediate extermination,  had to play   music, sing in choirs and perform plays to show how cultured and fun their life was. 

Her love of life and appreciation of everything she has is an inspiration to us all. She bears no hatred for  anyone which could be the reason that at 106, apart from being the oldest Holocaust survivor, she also still plays her beloved piano regularly and entertains her many friends every day in her flat. Her ‘simchat chaim’  joy of life on a daily basis is an inspiration to us all.




In a post several months ago I told  of another  story that took place in Theresienstadt , the  setting up of a  beautifully decorated, hidden synagogue.


The descendents of Asher Berlinger  who risked his life to build and decorate this shul are still looking for anyone who actually  saw this shul while they were in the camp during the war.

Thank G’d my parents and both sets of grandparents  escaped from Germany and, compared to so many others, did not suffer  torments at the hands of the Nazis. The Holocaust  was rarely mentioned in our home when I was a child, as far as I can remember, and it was only as a teenager that I started to think about it.

Nevertheless, in some way I still think of myself as a 2nd generation survivor with an obligation to ensure that our children and grandchildren  don’t just think of this as another part of  Jewish history.

The reverberations of the Holocaust are still with us. Holocaust denial is an accepted contagious  disease  spreading throughout the Western world and neo-Nazism  and anti-Semitism, in  many forms and disguises, are  getting stronger every day.

We’d be blind  fools to think it couldn’t happen again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


In a recent email exchange with an old friend and fellow writer,  Ros Adam, I reminisced about the days when, if I wanted to speak to my parents,  I had to book an international call a week in advance, from the international operator of the Israel telephone company.

Then I had to make sure that I was at home to receive the call from the operator to connect me to my parents far away from sunny Jerusalem, in not-too-sunny Leicester.

In those day, 40 years ago, and even when we returned here 27 years ago, telephones, whilst not a luxury, were certainly not a ‘given’ in any home.

We had to wait a year until we received our telephones in our new apartment in Ramot., in 1983. After it had been installed, all of a sudden our 18 month old twins suddenly crawled over to their toy box, took out their Fisher-Price telephone and started playing with it, turning the dial, picking it up and talking into it . We suddenly realized that until then, they hadn’t had any idea what to do with it.

We are now ‘blessed’ with a tel/fax , a cordless phone ( and you may remember just what I think of our cordless phone) and three cell phones – with bills to match.

Are we better off? I doubt it but I must admit that I’ve come to rely on them all

I can remember when one morning quite a few years ago,I got on the bus and pulled out my purse to pay. I looked in horror at the empty pocket where my cell phone fits . I always had it with me just in case one of my teenagers or the younger children’s babysitter needs to contact me.

I sat down and stared at the empty space, like an amputee looking at his missing limb.

None of the younger children called to say that they don’t like this sitter and why couldn’t they have the one I got last week who let them all jump on her and tear her hair out while she lay on the floor pretending to be dead.

Daycare Woman Reading to a Bunch of Children clipart

No one called to say “ she started it first and it’s not fair and Mummy you must tell her that it’s my turn and she hit me and you’ve got to tell her off and when are you coming home?.”

No one called to ask me what was for lunch.

No one called to ask me where I had put their purple skirt and blouse that they had dropped on the floor last week and hadn’t seen since.

No one called to ask me to tell their younger sister that it was her turn to wash the dishes.

Little Girl Washing Dishes clipart

No one called to tell me to ignore the phone call I was about to get from her older sister, telling me that she had behaved very badly because it wasn’t true and really it was all the older one’s fault.

No one called to ask me why there was nothing to eat in the fridge.

No one called to ask permission for something I usually say ‘no’ to. hoping that I’m not really paying attention and so I’m more likely to say “yes” to all sorts of things I would never dream of agreeing to face-to-face.

None of my teenage daughters called to ask me if one of her friends had left a message by mistake on my cell-phone for them because no one had called her for at least an hour.

I wandered calmly around the stores, spent much longer than usual in the bookshop, indulged in an uninterrupted cup of coffee with a friend, and as I passed a woman with 2 children , suddenly a horrible feeling of fear overcame me. What if heaven forbid something terrible had happened and no one could contact me.

I rushed off to find a pay-phone. “ Hi Kids. Just touching base. Is everything OK?”

Oh the wonders of modern technology.