Never Forget, Don’t Pay To Remember

This statue in Pere Lachaise doesn’t cost a cent to see. It’s haunting memory brings sights and smells of the Holocaust to your senses without charge. To make visits to the shrines of dead jews the equivalent of paying to ride at an amusement park devalues the debt humanity owes the dead.

With all the money in the world spent on campaigns to elect people or to promote international sports or to get people to fritter their money away at gambling casinos, one might think that some things are too deserving of veneration to be commercialized. Not if you are Trumpian.

Charging to see the artifacts of death from Aushwitz and making a profit offends me. No charge to see the memorial in Miami. No charge in Berlin. No charge in Berlin. And, when we went to Stutthoff, a work camp in Poland, we went in free. October, we are going to Terezin. I will let you know.

I don’t do fund raising, but give to the cause of preserving the memories of the dead for all, especially those without the funds. Some of these financially challenged might be dissuaded from turning to killing to earn a living.

Barbara Grau, Dead Too Soon

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Barbara Grau died a few weeks ago. I photographed her last year for the official Temple Anshei Shalom’s President’s Wall. She had just gotten over her latest chemo/poisoning. We talked as we shot. She said she was satisfied with what she had done with her life. More importantly, she thanked me for making her feel beautiful again.

Minyan Image Hung on Wall at Temple Anshei Shalom

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I made this image as a prayer aid, something to take the minyanim to a higher level. My talit, worn at my Bar Mitzvah, given to me by my father. My kappa, swiped from a box somewhere, bearing the name of some people whom I don’t know who gave it to people who attended their wedding. Tefillin from Sholem Lipskar who presides in Bal Harbor, whom I have not seen for years. He thought we were related and deserted me during my assassination. The prayer book is from a Rabbi I knew in MA. It belonged to his grandfather. It is open to the page we all read when we put  on the boxes. Today, they hung it in the little sanctuary at Anshei Sholem where we belong.

I made all the light in the image in a studio. It’s artificial. Only God makes light. He did that first so we could observe the wonder of his creation.

May we all, this shabbos, use that light to see clearly, focused on human rights and justice, loving our families and communities and making the best of our short time hear on earth.

Cantor Efraim Sapir, Dead at 69

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So, at his funeral service, which I didn’t attend because Sharon and I were out of town and didn’t know about it, the presiding Rabbi said God didn’t take Cantor Sapir, he took himself.

Why? I don’t know. I wish I knew before he did it. Many wish they did, too. Could we have helped him? Who knows? Everyone must make their own decision when to live and when to die. Some may need to be told how much they are loved.

I didn’t know him well or for so long. We were the same age, almost. I envisioned growing old with him, learning more about all the things he knew: music, humor, talmud and the meaning of life. I don’t have many friends; he could have been one.

Cantor’s voices connect prayers with God. Efrain loved to sing in Temple, using melodies to rid the congregants of self-consciousness, elevating their thoughts and minds to holy places. He’d pause between some phrases to look out into the audience, listening for proof he had connected, him to them and them to the angels. He once told me that he had observed me banging my prayer book on a pew during a prayer and that I had used an alternative beat. I sit in the last row; how observant.

We did a photo shoot in my studio, a formal shot for the hallway and the Temple Anshei Shalom bulletin. It took two hours. He was dressed perfectly, hair groomed, suit/shirt/tie selected for the occasion. We exchanged stories, listened to cantorial music and played with the lights. During one song by a noted Cantor, he explained the guy was just singing nonsense words, because the music was so beautiful and he wanted to sing along. I told him, after the shoot, how handsome he was and what a joy it was to photograph him. He said he never saw himself as being so good looking and that my images made him very happy.

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The shot of him holding the Torah after the reading was the last shot of him. Taken two weeks before his death at Morning Minyan, it is not my usual kind of photograph. He isn’t looking at the camera and really doesn’t know or care I am in front of him. I usually go for the head, but I was drawn to his hands and the words on the Torah cover. You can see the joy in his heart, his love of Torah and feelings for humanity.

The Photo Gods helped me shoot this image. I wish God had helped me with fix his self image. He was a beautiful man, a significant man. My life will be less without him. You see, sometimes it isn’t how long you know someone but how well.

Rabbi Tobias Rothenberg, 94

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Rabbi Rothenberg says he is a collector, bordering on hoarder. He built a library at Temple Anshei Sholem which shelves 2.000 books. He studies talmud, leads prayer and remains dutifully loyal and connected to his wife, Ethel.

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Part of living a long life iinvolves luck. Part of it has to be love. And part of it is having a home care worker.

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How else would you get around?

 

L’Shana Tova and a Happy New Year 5775

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So, it’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. No, not the beginning of the calendar year celebration you think of, but a time for spiritual rejuvenation. I can even pray for myself, something I usually don’t do and ask God to put me in the book of life. God did this for me last year obviously, or I would not have survived the recent removal of my gall bladder. May all of you fare as well. You are in my prayers.

So, we will eat gefilte fish and chicken. Have some chopped liver. Light the candles. And remember lost friends and family. We are pretty much alone, down here in FL. Most of our family has either died or intermarried. We carry on our traditions, preserving the memories of all those who came before, especially the ones who were needlessly and senseless killed just because they were Jewish.

Paris Jews on the Mend-#1

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So, we went to Paris for a month. Planned a while ago, we just wanted to hang out, not jump from a Viking River Boat or a bus. Rented a pied a terre in the Marais, the traditional inner city home for France’s Jewish population. We found it alive and vibrant, not hidden and Jews not afraid.

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Now, that’s not to say they publicize their home. Doors and windows don’t have any Jewish images – no stars, no tablets, no lions or lambs.

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You can still wrap with a Lubovich, rebbe in training.

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And, you can buy falafel, if you can figure out who has the best and are willing to stand in line and eat standing up.

Family in Florida

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So, we moved to South Florida, Boynton Beach. It’s near Del Ray. Haven’t seen Norman and Deena Burg for years, and, I mean years. We went out to eat. Deli food always comforts the Jewish soul. Went through the family tree. Many we remembered are dead. Some still alive, doing better than others.

Whose left and where are they? What do they look like? What are they doing?

Told them how we got here and why. Not a big deal, except that it took so long. But then again, it is. They are family.

Don’t have a lot of family. Nepotism didn’t help me a bit. But knowing people love Sharon, because of her desire to make family makes me happy. And it obviously makes others feel good, too.

Camp Gan at Chabad Burlington VT

Photo shoot and workshop at Camp Gan, Chabad Burlington VT. Two point and shoots, two counsellors/three campers with a list of items hidden around the Chabad. Some call it a scavenger hunt. Two groups. They took pictures. Then we shot portaits. Everone got to be a model, photographer and assistant. We tried to teach a lesson about our symbols, our people and the light.

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The future of World Judaism.

Burlington Rains Again

Out early. Not much movement. The sun didn’t appear. No peek through for the breakwater. Overrun with water, the birds barely have a place to sit, at least from where I stand. Too humid for comfort, air also has some sediment from a fire which burns in my eyes. Cannot drink my coffee. Out of here.

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Kids at Camp Gan cannot figure out what to do. Supposed to go on a boat ride. No way to challenge the lightning or rain. What to do?

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Kelly sits on Cherry St, moved from Main. People complain she has a place to live and doesn’t need to beg. Its her job. But she sits in the sun, dressed well, courteous to a fault. Not many who don’t know her or can pass her by. Misses Paul.

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Richard stays sober until he doesn’t. Hasn’t had to go back to treatment. Hangs out near Lowe’s and Hannafords. Ramp out of order for him. Ruggededly handsome. Lives nearby in the woods, somewhere.

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Don’t have his name. He has mine. Struggling. Living in the woods. Hasn’t smoked in a while. Sweet and kind. Has friends.

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A musician. Used to play a horn. Lost his teeth. Never saw him before. James Harvey, he calls himself. Been around here longer than I have. Has a brown dog. Looking to pick himself up and play again in the fall.

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Ed Larrabee. Met him at the beach. He ventured to North Beach to escape the craziness on Church Street. Has a heritage he can be proud of. No place to live but he knew where he was going to crash tonight. Has a book about the Middle East which he wants to read, but he fears he doesn’t know enough to make it worthwhile. Understands people, but not injustice. Exudes self-confidence and personal strength.

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Don’t ask me how any of them arrived in a place where I can picture them. And, they don’t ask me why I am in their midst.