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Communications Committee Chair, Lewis Lurie

The Writing Wall, a recent addition to the shul's website, is an opportunity for writers among us - those already established and those aspiring - to “show their stuff”. You are all encouraged to submit your literary creations - fiction, fantasy or factual, friendly or fearsome (poetry, as well as free verse) - to be posted on The Writing Wall in the “Events and Programs” section of the shul’s website (https://www.dorsheiemet.com/writingwall), to then be perused, contemplated, discussed, enjoyed by the Dorshei Emet membership, and beyond. Themes and subject matter should be Judaism-related, should have a Yiddishkeit flavour: for example, Dorshei memories; Reconstructionism; life-cycle events at the synagogue and in the wider community; Israel (cultural and historical); stories about the unique, personal and special ways congregants celebrate the Jewish holidays; in addition to general religious and spiritual musings. 

Also, one or two photographs relevant to the topic presented would be welcome!

Needless to say, this is a family- and child-friendly site, rated “G”! Only open to Dorshei members (though the website is accessible to the public-at-large). This being a Reconstructionist synagogue, editorial guidelines are quite fluid and flexible, chances therefore being very good that your offering will be accepted. Two submissions per individual annually, a maximum of 500 words per article.

And who knows, you could be saluted on Shabbat, honoured at Rosh Hashanah, awarded a prize at Purim, extended kudos on Kol Nidre, applauded on The 15th of AV, touted at Taslich, recognized on Rosh Hodesh, celebrated at Chanukah, lauded on Lag B’omer, or feted at the Feast of Gedaliah.

A wall - any wall - can only stand if it is supported. Please support your Dorshei Emet Writing Wall! 

Send your submissions to de-comms@hotmail.com

N.B. The views expressed are solely those of the author and not necessarily of Congregation Dorshei Emet. 

SUBMISSIONS

2023-08-22 Lewis Lurie

Sojourn in Safed

After my dad’s passing, in 1987, going through his personal effects, I found an old “Carte de Visite”, from 1901: it was my father’s parents’ wedding invitation, in Yiddish, from Kovno, Lithuania, with their engagement photograph. My grandfather’s name was written as Menachem Mendel Luria (an aleph at the end). I was already aware by then that Yitzhak Ben Sh’lomo Luria Ashkenazi, Ha’Ari Hakadosh, was a blessed figure to many, and, after finding that card, I wondered if there was a familial connection between this revered 16th Century Kabbalist, from Safed, and myself. How “Luria” became “Lurie” I’ll probably never know, but my assumption is that when my grandfather arrived here (in 1905), knowing hardly any English, and no French, the immigration-agent misunderstood his heavily-accented pronunciation of his name, and wrote “Lurie” on the entry-certificate. 

Skip ahead to April 27th, 2023, my wife Nicole and I, on our first visit to Israel, actually in Safed, with my cousin Yifat (a Sabra, living in Katzrin on the Golan), descending a path to the Old Cemetery built into the slope of Mount Canaan, the long, winding trail ultimately leading to the gravesite of Ha’Ari. Though “Ari” is “lion” in Hebrew, in this context it’s an acronym for Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak, “Godly Rabbi Isaac”, the aleph in “Ari” an abbreviation for “Eloki”, no other sage, reportedly, having had an aleph prefixed to his name, a sign of the esteem in which he was held.

Once there (my wife and cousin not permitted to approach the grave from the front, rather relegated to a waiting-area behind), I saw a number of men, as well as a group of young ultra-orthodox boys, all davening and shokeling, some touching the grave with their hands, others leaning over and pressing their foreheads to the azure-coloured stone, azure apparently the “signature colour of Kabbalistic Safed” (Wikipedia). While observing those men and boys paying their respects, I discreetly took some photographs, and tried understanding as best I could, with my rudimentary Hebrew, the many inscriptions on and about Rabbeinu Ha’Ari’s resting-place. I wouldn’t say I was suffused with emotion, or suddenly convinced that we were “kin”, but the very fact of being there at all, in and of itself, after those many years of wondering about a possible link between us, was immensely gratifying.

Eventually, the three of us headed back, ascending slowly in the heat. Then, at the moment we got up to the road, through an open window from one of the buildings there, astonishingly, a man started singing The Shema, ringing it out loud and clear. That - in combination with having just visited the grave of a venerated holy man, who may, conceivably, be a relative from the distant past - sent chills running up and down my spine!

 

2023-08-22 Maurice Krystal

Egg Shells

Stalling our way home from school we pause

At the door and smelled the burnt Sabbath chicken.

 

We heard the pots and pans furiously clanging.

The long hallway was a potential minefield.

 

My brother and I tiptoed carefully to our room

But she heard, as always, who entered her den.

 

Auschwitz’s ovens made her an orphan,

And she railed against God and the world.

 

Early in our lives we knew she wasn’t like

Other mothers who smiled on our Zenith TV.

 

I was seven when I hit my brother and his head

Hit the wall with a hollow thud as he fell.

 

 “It was an accident, I’m sorry.” I cried.

I cowered in the corner as towels turned pink.

 

Later, red faced, she turned to me and hissed,

“Is this what I raised? You’re worse than a Nazi!”

 

The words were a lash that left a scar

That to this day still lays on my heart.

 

 

2023-10-23  Bernie Weinstein 

Latkes as a Life Lesson

When I was in Grade 2 at Jewish Peoples’ School I learnt a very important lesson during Chanukah.

Our class had about 25 kids, all Ashkenazi. About 10 were born in Europe of Holocaust survivors and the rest were born in Canada and were either first generation Canadians, like me, or came from families that had been in Montreal for a couple of generations.

We had two teachers. The 'English' teacher was young, right out of the Macdonald College. The 'Hebrew' teacher was a holocaust survivor who had no background as a teacher. Rather, he could read, write and speak both Hebrew and Yiddish.

My English teacher told us we were going to have a Chanukah party. She invited all the kids to bring some latkes. The school would provide the sour cream, drinks and dreidles.

My Mom's latkes were the best!

Before this I had only eaten my mom's and my Aunt's latkes. Since they had been taught to cook by the same mother, their latkes were the same. I didn't know the recipe, and still don't, as I was only interested in the finished product. They were about 2-3 inches in diameter, very thin, lightly browned and always crispy around the edges. Usually we ate them as a meal unto themselves, served with sour cream. If they were served with meat there was no sour cream.

We ate latkes every night of Chanukah.

My Mom sent a full plate of latkes (heaven forbid anyone could go hungry!). Every mother sent at least a dozen latkes. When they were placed on the table at the back of the room there was a collective sigh from the students. The latkes were all different! 

Some were bigger, some were thicker, some were made of finely grated potatoes, and others had 'lumps' and 'strands'. There were even square latkes! Most were lightly fried but some were almost black. 

It was a cornucopia of latkes.

Also on the table were containers of sour cream, applesauce, and jam, plus chocolate syrup, ketchup and honey (which I still don't understand). We were invited to taste as many different latkes as we could.

Our teacher said, "If a simple food like a latke can come in so many varieties, then surely so can people”.

All the kids in the class came from the same basic background, Eastern European, and yet there had to be 20 different kinds of latkes. And each latke had a story and tasted good.

That’s when I realized, for the first time in my life, how rich a tapestry of people there are in the world.

But my Mom's latkes were the best!

 

2023-09-05  Aviva Ravel 

HAPPINESS

Happiness is cuddling in my love’s arms,

And feeling safe.

It’s welcoming a bright new day.

 

Happiness is watching my great grandchildren grow,

Singing to them

As they clap their hands.

 

Happiness is an engaging book,

Music that melts my soul,

An insightful poem.

 

Happiness is seeing new maple leaves.

After a long, cold winter.

 

Happiness is writing a play.

That makes the audience laugh or cry,

It’s a meal with family and friends,

It’s belonging to a community.

 

Happiness is loving my children and grandchildren,

It’s just being alive.

 

2023-10-23  Aviva Ravel 

ONE FAMILY

On October 22, 2023, a spectacular event took place in Griffintown:

The marriage of Deandra Goldberg to Jonah Ravel.

 

Thus two families were united as one.

The music, décor of the hall and the “chupah” were beautiful.

The enormity of this occasion overshadows the sorrow, pain, and struggles our brethren in Israel are enduring.

We must enjoy the dancing, good food and love for each other, that will keep us alive.

May the bride and groom enjoy life and each other forever.

Many thanks to our Rabbi Boris who conducted the service with joy and elegance.

How wonderful how we have parties to remind us that we will survive.

Farewell gloom, for we are a people united as one family. We vow to be strong and courageous.

Let us pray, dance and sing forever.

As our history has demonstrated, we will overcome.

2023-11-10 Lewis Lurie

Oif Simchas

Every second of every day, someplace, someone dies. Of old age, illness, suicide, natural disasters, acts of criminality, random mass shootings, accidents. In conflicts between nations, civil wars, uprisings, revolutions. From totalitarian state suppression, religious and ethnic friction, acts of terrorism. For most of us, the vast majority of these deaths are abstract, happening half-a-world away, to faceless and nameless victims, mere statistics. Unfortunate and tragic of course, offensive to our liberal or progressive sensibilities no doubt, but beyond a brief video clip, some snippet heard as background noise from a nearby radio, a blaring headline while doom-scrolling mainstream media online, we tend to pay it only momentary attention, shocked though we may be. Then go back to what we were doing before the inconvenient intrusion, whether watching a Netflix series, tuned in to a Wimbledon match, or sharing cocktails with friends. However, when the victims - all 1,400 of them -  are people who we might not know personally, but who have familiar family names, who may share certain core values and rituals, who we can identify with fundamentally, then their plight gets our consideration: we empathize, commiserate, sympathize, protest, demonstrate, light candles, attend vigils, write checks. But even then, after we have made our contribution, done our part, we return to the comfort of the mystery novel we had been reading, the recipe we had been perusing, the gossipy chat we were having with a confidant. Maybe these contentments are essential, a psychological mechanism to blunt, to mitigate, the trauma of what we are experiencing, because, above all, we know that we are helpless, that there is nothing we can do to ameliorate or resolve the situation. But, ultimately, we cannot help but remain discomfited, not to mention vulnerable, as if there is a target on our backs. At large festivities, do we not, for a fleeting moment, have visions of fanatical terrorists barging through the door, fomenting death and destruction, just because we happen to be The Chosen? And one might rightly ask, should we even be celebrating at all during this fraught period, not necessarily because of any physical danger, but because the current existential threat to that small country we love, warrants, not the diaspora indulging in merriment, enjoying good food and drink, dancing, engaging in pleasant conversation, listening to laudatory speeches, but rather putting aside any animosity, for example, we might feel toward certain Knesset members, while bringing together all the diverse factions in our world-wide community - orthodox / conservative, religious / secular, anti- / pro-settler, right / left - so that, to all those lurking out there rejoicing in our current tribulations, we might, at the least, show a united front. On the other hand, perhaps we don’t need to be feeling guilty at all for having a good time, and shouldn’t, therefore, give up on simchas, because more than ever now we have to celebrate our historical rising above adversity, confronting the malevolent challenge straight on, while knowing that, as in the past, as in our long history, inevitably, we will prevail.

 

 

2023-11-29 Bernie Weinstein

Lighting Chanukah Candles

When I was living at my parent’s house, the tradition of lighting Chanukah candles was very formal.

We had one menorah, and only my father was allowed to light the candles. No matter when he got home, everyone in the house would gather around the menorah, which was always in the middle of the dining room table during Chanukah, while he put the correct number of candles into the menorah, lit the candles and said the blessings. Then my father would go have supper and everyone in the family would resume whatever activities they were engaged in.

I once asked my Dad when I would be old enough to light the candles and say the blessings. He told me, without any hesitation, that I would have to wait until I had moved out of his house.

I got married in 1969, after Chanukah. The next Chanukah, using a menorah that my wife and I bought on our honeymoon, I was finally able to light the Chanukah candles in my own house, on my own. The first night of Chanukah my wife and I gathered together in our living room, I put the candles in the menorah, lit them and said the blessing, for the first time in my life. It was a real rush.

The next night, I asked my wife if she wanted to light the candles. She did, again for the first time in her life.

The custom in our house now is that everyone who is old enough to say the blessings gets to light candles. We have 16 menorahs, and on the nights when we have people over it is quite a ceremony. Every morning during the 8-days of Chanukah I load up at least 2 menorahs, or as many as I know there will be people in the house that night. The menorahs are on a small table in our living room, next to the window where all our neighbours can see the candles burning.

We usually have one night where we light at least 10 menorahs. On those nights we revel in the joy of each individual as they say the blessings and in the warmth and the glow of the candles. I sit as close to the candles as I can and watch them until the last one has burnt out.

We also have 2 electric menorahs. Starting on Dec. 1 I put them in our front window and “light” all eight candles. During Chanukah I only illuminate the correct number of candles, from sundown until we go to bed. I leave these menorahs in the window until the end of December, with all the candles illuminated.

However, I miss hearing my Father say the blessings before he lit the candles in his menorah (which is now used by my youngest daughter and her family).  

"My Dad's menorah"

 

"The glory of lighting Chanukah candles at our house, 2022."

 

2023-11-30 by Uri Ravel

 

It is mid-November, six weeks since the start of the war in Israel. I feel restless, and I wake up at 5 in the morning to hear the latest news. Once again, I confront a steady stream of rhetoric condemning Israel’s attack on Hamas as a “disproportionate response” and calling for an immediate ceasefire. The twisted logic is repellant and hard to absorb. I hear our own Prime Minister utter these words: I urge the government of Israel to exercise maximum restraint. “What…?” I mutter to myself in disbelief. Has international leadership been infected with a virus that shreds the brain’s capacity for moral clarity? I imagine confronting our PM, trying to break through his crude ignorance. Here is what you should have said, Mr. PM: “I call on Hamas to release the hostages, to surrender now, and save the children of Gaza.” My message is crystal clear to all who still have some sense of loyalty to the hard facts: IF HAMAS SURRENDERS, ALL THE KILLING WILL STOP.

But how to disseminate this message, which seems so incomprehensibly absent from the buzz of breaking news, editorial essays, and stormy street rallies? A loosely formulated strategy slowly comes to mind. I text a Palestinian activist from Montreal, a former acquaintance, asking her if I could join a demonstration with a poster that reads, “HAMAS – SAVE OUR CHILDREN AND SURRENDER NOW!” A few tense minutes elapse, and she replies: Yes, she remembers me; and No, I cannot join her with that misguided poster. But if I want to participate, I could join the next rally with a sign that reads, “BIBI, WE NEED A CEASEFIRE – HAMAS, RELEASE HOSTAGES.” Then she adds an afterthought: “After 40 days of brutal images online, people are seeing the truth. Even in war there are rules. The hostages that were released looked somewhat healthy, clean, and weren’t beaten like the IDF does with young Palestinians. It makes you think...”

I sit back and I think it over. No, I conclude, the gap between us is too wide, our respective narratives too far apart. Still, I want to end our brief dialogue on a positive note, an expression of my hope that the unbridgeable gaps may still be bridged one day. So I text back: “I am optimistic that Bibi will be forced to resign, and a new generation of leaders will emerge. They will want to work for a two-state solution, and I hope a new Palestinian leadership will also emerge that will be willing to compromise on all the contested issues.” I wait for her reply, but it does not come. I wonder whether a genuine peace will ever be possible. Perhaps. I send a new message: “It was very important for me to hear your perspective, Myriam. Thanks, and have a nice day.” Several minutes later I receive her answer: “You too”.

 

2023-12-05  Bernie Weinstein 


T'was the night before Chanukah, boychicks and maidels
Not a sound could be heard, not even the draidels.
The Menorah was set on the chimney, alight
In the kitchen the Bubba hut gechapt a bite.
Salami, pastrami, a glassala tay
And zayerah pickles with bagels, oh vay!
Gezunt and geschmack, the kinderlach felt
While dreaming of tagelach and Chanukah gelt.

The clock on the mantelpiece away was tickin'
And Bubba was serving a schtikala chicken.
A tumult arose like a thousand brauches,
Santa had fallen and broken his tuches.
I put on my slippers, eins, tsvay, drei,
While Bubba was now on the herring and rye.
I grabbed for my bathrobe and buttoned my gotkes
While Bubba was busy devouring the latkes.

To the window I ran and to my surprise
A little red yarmulke greeted my eyes.
Then he got to the door and saw the Menorah,
"Yiddishe kinder," he said, "Kenahora.
I thought I was in a goyisha hoise,
But as long as I'm here, I'll leave a few toys."

With much geshray, I asked, "Du bist a Yid?"
"Avada, mien numen is Schloimay Claus, kid."
"Come into the kitchen, I'll get you a dish,
A guppell, a schtickala fish."
With smacks of delight, he started his fressen,
Chopped liver, knaidlach and kreplah gagessen.
Along with his meal, he had a few schnapps,
When it came to eating, this boy was the tops.

He asked for some knishes with pepper and salt,
But they were so hot, he yelled "Oy Gevalt."
Unbuttoning his haizen, he rose from the tish,
And said, "Your Kosher essen is simply delish."
As he went to the door, he said "I'll see you later,
I'll be back next Pesach, in time for the Sedar."

As he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
Now Izzy, now Morris, now Yitzak, now Sammy,
Now Irving and Maxie, and Moishe and Mannie."
He gave a geshray as he drove out of sight:
"Gooten Yomtov to all, and to all a good night."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fri, March 1 2024 21 Adar I 5784