Pavel’s Violin is now Available

Pavel’s Violin is now available on Amazon

All Proceeds go to the US Holocaust Museum.

Pavel Cover FrontList Price: $24.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
466 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1539335221 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1539335224
BISAC: Fiction / Historical / General
From 1942 – 1945, Paul (Pavel, in Czech) was a prisoner in the Terezin and Auschwitz concentration camps. He survived the camps, and the final Death March from Auschwitz. Pavel had been a violinist before the war, and after his escape his brother found a “not so new but nice” violin for Pavel to play. Pavel lost many members of his family in the camps, but a few survived. A descendent of one of those survivors inherited the violin and, many years later, became my violin teacher. This is how I came to play “Pavel’s Violin.” The violin itself is a beautiful Jakob Stainer model, built perhaps in the mid-1800s. In the novel, it is made by Stainer in 1670, and we trace its journey from Stainer’s home in Absam, Austria, to the Prince-Bishop’s Palace in Kromeriz, Moravia, to the Jewish community in the Moravian countryside, to the great synagogue at Olomouc, to Terezin, then Auschwitz, and finally to the Carpathian Mountain, where it finally becomes “Pavel’s Violin.” Along the way, the Violin is a metaphor for the human condition: our joys, fears, sorrows, hatred, loves, and our hope for a good future.

“Pavel’s Violin” is a work of historical fiction, a genre peculiar enough to be seriously misunderstood. Historical fiction is not literal history that has been fictionalized to the point that its details are not reliable news accounts of what happened. It is fiction inspired by historical events in order to convey truths which are deeper than literal. Historical fiction, at its best, serves as a metaphor that can draw a reader into a story as a first hand participant, rather than as a consumer of facts. This is what I have tried to do with the story of “Pavel’s Violin.” I hope you will not just learn about what happened, but that you will become part of the story, yourself. That you will stand beside Jakob atop Kartellerjochl, with Pavel in a cattle car transport on its way to Auschwitz, with Nurse Ilse and her children as Zyklon B pellets fall among them in the gas chamber. And more. I hope you will not only hear the Violin, but will experience the playing of it. The sound of its music under your left ear. The vibrations of the wood upon your chin and shoulder. Most of all, I hope you, too, will realize the compulsion of the story, and the obligation to recount it, in your own way, to others.

Entire U.S. Senate Demands Trump Act on Jewish Center Threats

SHINGTON — In a remarkable display of bipartisanship, every single member of the United States Senate signed an open letter to the Trump administration Tuesday demanding that action be taken to address the ongoing surge in anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country.

JCCThe letter, which will be sent to the heads of multiple government agencies, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey, warns that if the issue goes ignored, human lives will be endangered.

It came amidst a sixth wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers across North America, as well as several offices of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group that combats bigotry worldwide.

“These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states,” the 100 senators said in their appeal.

“This is completely unacceptable and un-American,” they added. “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”

At least 14 Jewish sites were targeted Tuesday amid ongoing threats that have caused multiple evacuations and prompted some parents to pull their children out of JCC school programs. Since the trend began in January, more than 100 Jewish institutions experienced bomb threats, and multiple Jewish cemeteries were vandalized.

The events have led many to fear a sustained assault on the American Jewish community.

Drafted by Michigan Sen. Gary Peters (D), Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), the letter urged the administration to devote its full resources to confronting the threats and assisting the victims.

“We encourage you to communicate with individual JCCs, the JCC Association of North JCC TombsAmerica, Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other Jewish community institutions regarding victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance that may be available to enhance security measures and improve preparedness,” the text said.

“We also recognize the anti-Semitic sentiment behind this spate of threats and encourage your Departments to continue to inform state and local law enforcement organizations of their obligations under the Hate Crime Statistics Act and other federal laws,” it added.

President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitic attacks in his maiden speech to Congress one week ago, opening that address by saying the phenomenon was a reminder “of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that remains.”

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” he said.

Many of the nation’s most prominent and powerful Jewish organizations immediately came out in support of the letter, including the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism.

“I commend Senators Peters, Portman, Nelson and Rubio for mobilizing such a resounding bipartisan call for action,” said ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt. “Today the Senate demonstrated a unified moral front against hatred and sent a strong message that in our America a threat against one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Early Passover Seder Planned


Community Passover Seder April 1 (Yes, Early)

People of the Mountain – Am HaHar

Saturday, April 1  —  4:00 PM  — at Sue’s in Clifftops

challahOne of the benefits of being a small group is that we can adjust things here and there to be sure everyone can participate. Because some of our folks will be out of town on April 10, we will be holding our Passover Seder on the evening of Friday, March 31. That also gives us the special experience of a Shabbat.
This will be a traditional format haggadah.  It will be held at Sue’s home. which has lots of room for people and parking. To help accommodate families, it will begin at 6:00 PM. Please plan on 3 hours for the Seder and related social time. (Bring PJs for little ones if you like!)  Please feel free to invite friends!
We need to get an attendance estimate as soon as possible, so please RSVP here or to humanisticjewishsewanee@gmail.com with number of adults and children. We’ll suggest dishes to bring as the day gets closer.
Another plus to our early celebration is that you get to celebrate twice, if you have somewhere to go April 10th.

The Four Mitzvot of Purim

purim_p_10__62466-1453301131-1280-1280Purim is the most Genuinely Fun feast in the Jewish Calendar for two reasons:

  1.  It celebrates what it means to be Jewish.
  2.  It is not mentioned in Torah, and therefore is not Doctrine-Heavy in content.  Like Hanukkah, it is a People’s Feast!

But there is a serious side to Purim, which comes also from the Story of Esther, and that is the Spirit of Giving.  On Purim one sends gifts of food to family and friends, and one gives Tzedikah, or gifts to the Poor.

hamantaschMishloach manot
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, drinks and other foodstuffs given as mishloach manot on Purim day.

Mishloach manot (Hebrew: משלוח מנות‎ [miʃˈlo.aχ maˈnot], literally, “sending of portions”; also spelled and pronounced mishloach manos), or shalach manos (Yiddish: שלח־מנות‎ Yiddish pronunciation: [ʃaləχmɔnəs]), and also called a Purim basket, are gifts of food or drink that are sent to family, friends and others on Purim day.

The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot derives from the Book of Esther. It is meant to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim feast held later in the day, and to increase love and friendship among Jews and their neighbors.

According to the halakha, every Jew over the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah should send a food gift consisting of two different types of food to at least one recipient.[1] The practice is a fairly prominent feature of Purim.

The mitzvah of giving mishloach manot is spelled out in the Book of Esther, which enjoins the Jewish people to observe the days of Purim “as days of feasting and gladness, and sending portions of food to one another, and gifts to the poor” (9:22). This verse refers to three different mitzvot: eating a Purim meal, the sending of two different, ready-to-eat foods and/or drinks to one friend (known by the Hebrew term, mishloach manot), and the distribution of two charitable donations (either money or food) to two poor people.

In actual practice, many individuals fulfil the first mitzvah themselves (by sending food gifts to friends, neighbours, relatives, etc.), and the second mitzvah by contributing to charitable organisations which distribute money or food to the poor on Purim day.

Poor people  also  give mishloach manot. One who cannot afford to buy food for his friend may exchange his own food with that of his friend — this fulfills both their obligations.[2]

This mitzvah may not be fulfilled by giving items other than food. Money or other material items cannot suffice. Only food gifts fulfil this mitzvah.[2]

The following halachot apply to the giving of mishloach manot:
Mishloach manot must be sent and delivered during the daylight hours of Purim.[3]

According to most opinions, the sender and recipient should be observing the same day of Purim.[3]
Children over the age of six or seven are also encouraged to send mishloach manot to their friends as training for the performance of a mitzvah.[3][4]
Mishloach manot are not sent to a mourner. The mourner himself is obligated to send mishloach manot, but the package should not be too elaborate. According to some opinions, a mourner should send to only one person.[3]
Mishloach manot can be delivered personally, but it is customary to deliver the food packages via a third party. Children are often involved in this mitzvah as the go-betweens between the giving parties, and are rewarded with sweets and treats for their efforts.[4]
One is not obligated to send mishloach manot as a reciprocal gesture to the sender.[3]
While the halacha only calls for the giving of two food gifts to one friend, a person who gives mishloach manot to more than one person is called praiseworthy. However, it is better to give more charity on Purim day than to spend more money on elaborate mishloach manot.[3]

Mishloach manot can include any food or drink that is ready to eat. A bottle of soft drinks or a bag of potato chips fulfills this criterion; raw meat or a package of uncooked grains does not.[3] Mishloach manot baskets typically include wine and pastries (especially hamentashen); alternately, cooked dishes, canned foods, salads, snack foods, sweets and fruits may be sent. Though a common perception holds that the two foods of mishloach manot must carry different brachot (blessings), this has no source in halakha. One may give two different types of fruits, such as an apple and an orange, but not two of the same fruit, such as two apples.[3]

The amount of food in each mishloach manot package should reflect the standards of both the giver and the receiver. A wealthy person should send a nicer package to his recipients than would a poor person.

Today it is possible to order all kinds of Purim Baskets online and have them sent to the recipient.  While this may fulfill the intent of Shalachmanos, it is not nearly as fun as handmade and personally delivered!

MegillatPurim for KidsYoung and Old

esther-hamanmegillat-esther-2

Megillat Esther
The Story of Purim

Once upon a time, in a city called shushan in the land of Persia, there lived a man named mordechai, which means servant of god. he was a very good man, and always tried to help people, and do the right thing.

now Mordechai lived with his niece, the daughter of his sister. her name was esther, which means star, for she was as beautiful as the morning star.

Mordechai and esther were jewish, just like many of us, which means they liked eating challah, and lighting Hanukkah candles, and singing Shabbat songs, just like you do.

in the same city there lived the great king of Persia, he was called ahashverosh meaning, king. king ahashverosh lived in a big palace, and had lots of money, and a beautiful wife named queen Vashti. her name means most beautiful.

one day king ahashverosh was having a big party just for the men in the palace, and he decided to send for queen Vashti, so she would come to the party and all the men would be impressed by what a beautiful wife ahashverosh had, and they would respect him more.

king ahashverosh sent for queen Vashti, commanding her to come to the stag party. but queen Vashti had grown tired of being treated this way. she said no to king ahashverosh, and went to live with a good friend in another town.

all the men in the palace told king aashverosh he should get a new wife, and forget about queen Vashti. well, king ahashverosh thought that was a good idea.

so king aashverosh had another party, to which he invited all the beautiful young women in the kingdom, so he could look them over and pick out a new wife. its good to be the king, he thought.

the one he liked best was esther, who was not only beautiful, but also very smart and very kind. Wow said king ahashverosh, all that, and brains too! after the party king ahashverosh sent a command to modechai, esther’s uncle. I wish to have esther for my queen, king ahashverosh said.

so Mordechai spoke to his niece esther. this is a good idea, he said, for we jews are strangers in this land. who knows, one day the king and the people may decide they do not like imigrants, and turn upon us, and we will be in danger. if you are the queen, you may be able to influence king ahashverosh to be on our side. so go and be the queen. but do not let on that you are jewish. keep that a secret. esther went to the palace where she married king ahashverosh and became the queen.

now there was a man working in the palace who was mean, and wanted king ahashverosh to only like him. and this man especially did not alien imigrants. his name was…haman…now the name haman means a really evil dude, haman had big ears, and a jacket with really big pockets.

haman was an important man in the palace, and expected all the people to obey him, and to bow their heads down whenever he passed by. if they didn’t haman got really angry.

well, as luck would have it, one day haman passed by Mordechai in the street. and Mordechai did not bow down to haman. haman became very angry, and went to tattle to king ahashverosh.

haman told king ahashverosh, there are some people living around here who are not like us, he said. they do not look like us, and they do things differently than we do. I think we should get rid of them, haman said. now haman did not mention Mordechai the jew.

well, king ahashverosh did not know that haman wanted to get rid of Mordechai, and queen esther, and all their jewish friends. so king ahashverosh said he did not like foreigners any better than haman did, so haman should get the border patrol and round up all those strange people and get rid of them.

when the jewish people found out about haman’s new plan to get rid of them, they were very sad and very scared. sad because they liked ling in sushan, and scared because the did not know what might happen to them. what could they do? aha! thought Mordechai, this is the very reason I sent esther to be the queen. so Mordechai sent a message to queen esther at the palace.

queen esther, we need your help, Mordechai wrote. that nasty haman wants to get rid of all us jews. talk to king ahashverosh and ask him to stop haman from doing this.

queen esther thought, I must be very brave. she made a special dinner for king ahashverosh, with all his favorite food. then she invited king ahashverosh and haman to dinner.

haman was very proud that he had been invited to have dinner with king ahashverosh. they had dinner on the patio of the palace restaurant, and all the other people could see haman dining with the king.

king ahashverosh thought the dinner was great, and when they finished he said to queen esther, queen esther, the dinner was great. how can I thank you?

queen esther said, oh please, my king, I need you to help me and my uncle Mordechai, and all my jewish friends, because someone wants to get rid of us!

king ahashverosh was surprised, and said to queen esther, that’s odd, you don’t look jewish. but he really liked esther and did not want anyone to get rid of her. besides, he did not want to lose another queen. what would all the men think of him?

that’s terrible, said king aashverosh. who wants to get rid of you and your uncle Mordechai and all your jewish friends?

queen esther pointed right at haman. it’s haman. haman wants to get rid of us.

oh, no shouted king ahashverosh, and he became very angry. and it was haman’s turn to be very afraid.

he had done everything he could to get rid of queen esther, nevertheless she persisted.

king ahashverosh called for his guards. guards! he called. take haman and get rid of him instead. so haman was gotten rid of, and queen esther and her uncle Mordechai, and all the jewish people were saved.

king ahashverosh, who turned out to be good and kind after all, invited Mordechai to come and live at the palace along with him and queen esther. and so Mordechai took haman’s place of honor. of course mordechai was much nicer than haman, and so after that no one had to go live anywhere else if they didn’t want to. and everyone lived happily in the kingdom.

Mordechai did a great job working for king ahashverosh, a really great job. so great, I can tell you.

and to celebrate, queen esther baked delicious cookies, which are called in Hebrew oznei haman after haman’s big ears, or in Yiddish, after haman’s big pockets, hamantaschen.

and that is the story of esther and Mordechai that we tell on purim. now purim means lots, for on purim we eat lots of hamantaschen!

Hamantaschen Class!

We’re having a Hamantaschen Making Class this Saturday!

hamantasch

 Hamantaschen Class – Saturday, February 18th
1:00 – 3:00 PM
at the home of Glyn & Will Melnyk
Make your Hamanstaschen for Purim
Only 1 space left, so register now!
No charge, but a $5.00 donation is requested for materials.
Presented by People of the Mountain

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Celebrating a Humanistic Purim

PURIM with the People of the Mountain. from the Society for Humanistic Judaism

Join Us for Our Family Purim Party!

purim-inviteAs winter becomes spring, Jews celebrate Purim, originally one of several spring-welcoming festivals. First and foremost, Purim is fun, joyous, and boisterous. But even hilarity must fit within a framework.

Celebrating Purim

The Megilla lists four ways to celebrate Purim:

1. Reading the Megilla (The Esther Scroll),
2. Giving charity,
3. Giving gifts of food, and
4. Eating the festive meal. The hamantashen, the three-cornered filled cookie, remains the food of choice for Purim.

In The Beginning . . .

On one level, the Purim story represents the annual struggle to end the harsh reign of winter. The original characters appear to have been Babylonian gods: Ishtar, the goddess of fertility; Marduk, the chief guardian of the heavens; and Haman, the underworld devil. Ishtar and Haman, life and death, vie with each other for supremacy. Ishtar triumphs; spring returns; and life is renewed. Yahveh, the Hebrew God, played no part in the celebration, which was filled with theatrical renditions of the contest. Noisemaking and masquerading were necessary to trick the evil gods and to aid the good ones.  Merriment was the order of the day.

The Megilla, or biblical Book of Esther, replaced Ishtar and Marduk with Jewish mortals (Esther and Mordecai); Haman became a Persian “devil.” The holiday’s name, “Purim,” meaning “lots” or “dice,” is meant to remind us of how the evil character Haman drew lots to determine the fate of the Jews of Persia. According to the Book of Esther, were it not for the goodness and intervention of Esther and her uncle Mordecai in the court of King Ahasuerus, the Jews certainly would have been exterminated by the king’s vizier Haman. Purim became the joyous celebration of an epic Jewish victory over anti-Semitism and threatened annihilation – an enactment of the hopes of persecuted Jews throughout the centuries.

At first, because of the Book of Esther’s secular nature – it is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God – it was excluded from the sacred canon. It is likely that political conflict between the rabbis and the Maccabees brought the Book of Esther into the Bible and Purim into the official Jewish calendar. Uncomfortable with Purim but faced with a festival that the people would not abandon, the rabbinic leaders found a way to suit it to their purposes. On the thirteenth of Adar, the day before Purim, Jews celebrated Nicanor’s Day, commemorating a major Maccabean victory over a Greek general named Nicanor. The rabbis, to minimize the influence of their rivals, the Maccabees, turned Nicanor’s Day into the Fast of Esther, immediately preceding Purim, and gave the playful folk holiday their grudging blessing. Nicanor’s Day disappeared and Purim grew more popular. Purim shpiels (plays) and satires allowed ordinary people to “sass” their “betters” and voice grievances that remained unuttered throughout the year. Purim balls and carnivals encouraged revelry and drunkenness.

Rabbinic Judaism continues to celebrate Purim with great festivity. In addition to reading the scroll of Esther aloud in the synagogue to a unique or original trop (cantillation), people dress in costumes depicting the major characters of the story. During the telling of the story, the heroes are cheered and the villain, Haman, is booed and his name is drowned out by the sound of noise-makers or gragers.

A Celebration Of The Heroic
For Humanistic Jews, Purim is a celebration of the heroic in Jewish history, a tribute to human ethical role models. Human courage and ingenuity are at the center of a story about the triumph of good over evil. Humanistic Jews celebrate the heroes and chastise the villains of the world through modern Purim shpiels. Reading the Megilla – accompanied by gragers, cheers, and boos – provides a starting point from which to move beyond the framework of the biblical story. The masks of Purim become the faces of Jewish men and women worthy of emulation, from Mordecai to Theodore Herzl and Albert Einstein, and from Esther to Henrietta Szold and Golda Meir. Humanistic Purim celebrations often feature children’s costume parades and carnivals. These lighthearted activities have a serious side, recalling the heroism of individuals and the organized resistance to oppression of the Jewish people.

Choosing A Hero
Having a hero or role model is important for young people. They like to see how adults (who used to be kids themselves) can be influential and powerful and do great things for the world. During Purim, it is fun to pay tribute to heroes of the past and present by dressing up like them or by role-playing with others who are impersonating their heroes. You could even write funny skits where the heroes interact with each other. When you choose a hero, do a little research to find out how they looked, what they wore, how they acted, and what they might say.

In choosing a hero, you will want to consider six points:

FAMOUS: someone who is well-known and distinguished in some field
JEWISH: someone who is not only Jewish but proud
ACTIVE: someone who uses human skills to solve problems
BOLD: someone who boldly challenges old ideas
CARING: someone who is concerned about the welfare of the community
UNIVERSAL: someone who values both their human and their Jewish identity

Mishloakh Manot
Mishloakh manot, sending gifts to the poor, is a tradition that Humanistic Jews incorporate into their Purim celebrations. Giving gifts of food to friends encourages a sense of community. Preparing food baskets for the hungry fulfills humanistic ideals. Inviting new immigrants to home or communal celebrations is an extension of that concept, which embodies humanistic values. By contributing to local food banks or international famine relief organizations, working on home reclamation projects, or assisting the homeless, Humanistic Jews can cultivate the “hero” within themselves.