Friday, July 27, 2012

Poland on my mind

Erev Shabbat Tisha B'Av finds me sitting at home in Zufim while Maor is in Poland. I know it would be a hard trip anyway, but the juxtaposition of her being there on my father's yahrzeit makes me even more introspective.

My father, Mayer, was born in1929 in Kretchnif, Romania  which was on the Hungarian border. He was the second youngest of eight children, of whom four survived. His parents and four siblings, including his twin sister and youngest brother, were killed at Auschwitz (I think immediately upon arrival but I'm not really sure).

After being liberated from Buchenwald, my father was sent to France and from there he went to Israel. He started out on Kibbutz Givat Brenner and then joined the Palmach where he fought in Israel's War for Independence in the Galil. After the war he was among the founders of Kibbutz Yiftach. 

My father had a rare blood disease, Polycythemia vera, which was very difficult to treat in Israel in the 1950's and his surviving brother who lived in New York encouraged him to come to America. My father went, believing his absence from Israel was temporary, but after meeting and marrying my mother he never made it back to live here. 

Neither my father or his siblings (my uncle in America and two aunts in Israel) ever talked about the Holocaust. I still remember when the miniseries Holocaust was on TV and having to watch it for school. I remember my father coming home and it's possible he tried to talk to me then but I was just not interested. My father was a NY cab driver and at the time he had a Time magazine reporter in his cab who was writing about the show and he quoted my father in the article:
Elie Wiesel hated it. NBC's 9 1/2-hour docu-drama, Holocaust, so offended the author and survivor (Buchenwald, Auschwitz) that he wrote: "Untrue, offensive, cheap: as a TV production, the film is an insult to those who perished and to those who survived. What you have seen on the screen is not what happened there." But Wiesel has written almost obsessively about the Holocaust: he has a kind of morally proprietary passion about it. He is a keeper of the flame, a visionary who sees the past as intensely as a prophet sees the future. Many more Americans seemed to agree with Mayer Fruchter, a New York cab driver who was imprisoned at Buchenwald at the same time as Wiesel. "He is wrong. "Fruchter insisted after last week's series about a German Jewish family and the Final Solution. "I mean, he is right: it can't be shown. But it's better to show close to it than not to show it at all. Already people are saying it didn't happen, they don't believe it. Our children--my twelve-year-old daughter--they don't know. The aim of this showing is not to cry for what happened, nor ask for pity or sympathy, but only this; to look out for it anywhere in the world, so it won't happen again."
Television And The Holocaust. By: Morrow, Lance, Time, 0040781X, 5/1/1978, Vol. 111, Issue 18
 Now that my father and his siblings are all gone, that piece of our family history is gone too. Although when I was older I tried to get my father to record his story he always put me off saying he would but then time ran out. Or maybe he never really wanted to, I don't know. My aunt in her later years spoke a little bit about the family before the war but she too never spoke about her experiences during the Holocaust. 

My father died 21 years ago on Shabbat Tisha B'Av when Liam was two. Maor is named for him, and fittingly has his blue eyes and dimpled chin.  And now she is in Poland and on Tisha B'av will actually be in Auschwitz, sitting in a barracks, saying kinot. I never wanted to go to Poland. I still remember the Yom Hashoah in high school where I made the connection (or the asimon fell as we say) that what they're showing me in these movies is what my father and his family went through. That was pretty much it for me. I rarely read Holocaust literature or see Holocaust movies. And I also have mixed feelings about these Holocaust/Heritage tours - the steep price, the feeling that we are supporting the very people who tried to kill us. Although after listening to the group leader, Rav Handler, at the parent night, even I wanted to go. 

Rav Handler sends letters  to the parents detailing what the girls did that day and I read the first one with tears in my eyes. I don't know how they do it - you'd have to scrape me off the floor.

Maor (on the right) and friends during a ceremony in the Umschlagplatz (collection point) in the Warsaw Ghetto
So as we go into Shabbat I am thinking of Maor and I am thinking of my father and I am thinking of the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London where there will not be a minute of silence for the Israeli athletes killed at Munich and I am thinking of the many Jews who will be mourning the destruction of the Temple.

Shabbat shalom.

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 reading roundup

2011 was not a great reading year for me and I'm not sure why. Despite being challenged by my friend, KD, to read 100 books, I only read 44 books in 2011. I didn't listen to any audiobooks in 2011 because my car radio doesn't have an AUX input to connect an mp3 player, and anyway, my dog ate my mp3 player (sad but true).

Brandi, the mp3 player, shoe, pen, etc eating dog

I think that I spent much more time in 2011 looking for books I want to read, and downloading them to my Kindle, than I actually did reading them. 

Here is the list of the books I read in 2011 in the order I read them:

1.    The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
2.    The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
3.    Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

4.    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
5.    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
6.    Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
7.    Storm Prey by John Sandford

8.    Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

9.    How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
10.  The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
11.  Blindman's Bluff by Faye Kellerman
12.  Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper
13.  House Rules by Jodi Picoult
14.  About a Boy by Nick Hornby
15.  Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva
16.  The Defector by Daniel Silva

17.  Killing Floor by Lee Child

18.  The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall

19.  The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo

20.  A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
21.  Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
22.  The Mercy Rule by John Lescroart
23.  Family History by Dani Shapiro
24.  The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
25.  Sunnyside by Glen David Gold
26.  The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
27.  The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
28.  Persuader by Lee Child

29.  The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

30.  The Third Rail by Michael Harvey

31.  Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

32.  Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

33.  Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

34.  The Hard Way by Lee Child

35.  Think of a Number by John Verdon

36.  The Known World by Edward P. Jones

37.  Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
38.  The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd

39.  Portrait Of A Spy by Daniel Silva

40.  The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson

41.  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

42.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

43.  Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

44.  The Affair by Lee Child

My favorite books this year included Last Night in Twisted River, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Let the Great World Spin, and A Visit from the Goon Squad. I also liked the Hunger Games series even though I found the idea of it very disturbing. I do wish I had paid better attention reading Let the Great World Spin and A Visit from the Goon Squad. They are similarly structured with each chapter taking the form of a short story related to the other chapters. Both contain multiple characters and it was hard to keep track of how all the storylines and characters are related.

The books I liked least were Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Solitude of Prime Numbers, Sunnyside, Revolutionary Road, and Her Fearful Symmetry. The first three got a lot of hype and were adored by many but they just didn't do it for me. I was looking forward to reading Her Fearful Symmetry, by the author of The Time Traveler's Wife, and I really disliked the book and found it creepy.

Fifteen of this year's books were read on the Kindle, twenty-three were by authors I've read more than once (either this year or previously), eighteen were by women, and two books were Pulitzer Prize winners.

If you want to keep up with the books I read  you can add me on Goodreads or Librarything where I catalog my books. You can also see the books I'm hoping to read on my Amazon wishlist.

Hoping 2012 is filled with good books!

“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.”  ~ Diane Duane, So You Want to be a Wizard