Monday, February 22, 2010

His Name

Last week I blogged about seeing my name (my great grandfather's name) in Hizkia Franco's book, The Jewish Martyrs of Rhodes and Cos. As the book hits the sad climax, the Nazis start deporting Jews to Haidari (a concentration camp outside of Athens) and then Auschwitz. Here, I came by yet another name that a family member carries. While I briefly blogged about the 3 Davids from which Nissim got his middle name, here's a bit more information about the tragic end of one of these Davids, Nonna's grandfather (his name bolded below):

The following details have been taken from an interview with Mr. Bension R. Menasche. The facts speak eloquently:

'This trip from Athens to Auschwitz lasted thirteen days, from 3 to 16 August 1944. What a journey, and in what terrible conditions! Thirteen days of unheard-of atrocious suffering. Men and women, old people and children were all packed into these dirty and repugnant wagons. We were suffocating, almost dying, the air was so different to breathe. All we had to eat was a mess-tin of filth, and a jug of water they called drinkable. That was all. Many of our deportees succumbed to their sufferings during the trip.

These corpses were flung out on to the fields as prey for the wild beasts. One can easily imagine the emotions of their fellow sufferers. It was these terrible conditions that the deportees spent the thirteen days of their appalling journey.

Here is a list of the deportees who died on the trip from Rhodes to Auschwitz:

Michel Menasche
Michel S. Menasche
Rica de Bochor Levi
Rebecca de Josef Abouaf, from Izmir
Alegra, his daughter
Boulissa de Nissim Alhadeff, the Hazan
David Capelluto, the travel goods supplier
The wife of Yacov Alhadeff, a shopkeeper
Avraam Levi
Sarota de Bochor Alhadeff
Mussani Tarica, an old man
Mazaltov de Bochor Hasson
Mussani Habif, the ironmonger
Bochor Cohen, a porter
Tia Linda de Halfon
Rebecca de David Alhadeff
Yznuda Levi, from Milas
The wife of the Hacham de Cos
Albert, the son of Bochor Almeleh
Avram Huniou, shammas of the Gadol Synagogue
Bochor Menasche de Moushon
Hadji Yehuda Notrica

May their blessed souls rest in peace!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

7 Up

Today I celebrate 7 years in Israel.

It does sometimes seem like decades since I arrived in Ben Gurion on a warm Monday morning and took the taxi to Arad's absorption center. So much has changed since that 22 year old kid arrived in Israel to fulfill a dream and plant his roots.

It's been fun.

It's been sad.

It's been great.

It's been challenging.

It's been difficult.

... and I'm happy.

Other 'Aliya'versary blogs: 3, 4, 5, 6

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

World Trade Center

I watched the last half of this movie today. As I got sucked into it, the memories of that day ... September 11th, 2001 ... started coming back.

Senior year ... Binghamton University ... A typical Tuesday morning.

It must have been 8:50 or so and my roommate knocked on the door, "Avram, a plane has hit the world trade center towers." Why is he waking me up I thought to myself, probably just an accident anyways. A few minutes later, I got out of bed and walked to the TV in our lounge. My jaw dropped. No. No, this can't be happening. A few minutes later, another plane hit the second tower. I don't remember much of what I said as I sat down watching this unfold. One tower collapsed. The other followed. It was the most incredible special effects I had ever witnessed in a movie, a movie I wish I had never needed to see.

A few minutes later, I ran to my room and called my dad. I couldn't reach him, the lines were down. I had no idea where his office was in relation to the towers. Was he ... No ... Please no ... Was I going to hear his voice again? I called my mom. Same issue I had with my dad's number. I was getting scared but I saw a friend on AOL Instant Messenger who I knew worked in the city. "Are you ok?," I asked not really interested in her answer. "Ok," she responded, "Are you?" "Yes, I'm at school and I need a favor - can you call my mom and ask her if my dad is ok?" "Sure," and then I waited. I just wanted to hear his voice.

The phone rang. "Hey son, dad is ok. He saw it from his office, and he's fine, don't worry." I breathed deeply, told her how much I loved her and told her I would call everyone and let them know the news. Sister, check. Nonna, check. Gramps, check. Answer all the e-mails from concerned friends, check. The day was over, but I think everyone who experienced what I experienced, or who sadly experienced much worse, would have the day etched in their memory forever.

The movie bought out a lot tears. A few quotes near the end stood out ...

"Hang in there, don't give up"

... Doesn't need much explaining, right? To quote Booker T. Washington, "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."

"Did I love you enough?"

This line really hit me. Not because I thought it was something I needed asking, but because it's something that has been on mind a lot lately for some reason. If G-d forbid your loved one goes suddenly, will they know how much you loved them? I remember once my dad told me, "You will one day not bear the pain that I did and still do, of not having told my Dad z”l how much I loved him and respected him." Tell your loved ones how much you care ... Show them too ... Life's too short and uncertain to miss out on the many opportunities we get to do so.

"9/11 showed us what human beings are capable of. The evil, yeah, sure. But it also brought out the goodness we forgot could exist. People taking care of each other for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. It's important for us to talk about that good, to remember."

To the many heroes that day, I salute you. Thank you.

To the 2,976 souls who never returned home that day - may your dear souls rest in peace.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Name

I've started reading Hizkia M. Franco's The Jewish Martyrs of Rhodes and Cos, a book about two rather small Spangoli Jewish communities that were destroyed during the Nazi Holocaust. The chapter I'm currently reading is talking about the expulsion of Turkish born Jews who had got Italian citizenship by virtue of the Treaty of Lausanne. The boat (or 'tramp steamer' as Franco calls it) that was supposed to take them to the Mandate caught fire as it was leaving the harbor and the Rhodes Jewish community organized itself in order to help the 'refugees':

Early the following morning, many men and women of our community hurried to the aid of the castaways, and they were the first to supply food, clothing and blankets. Soon a kitchen was organized in the stadium to feed them properly, as the prescribed rations issued by the authorities were insufficient. Fortunately we still had plenty of food at the time.

In our community, there were good people who devoted themselves wholeheartedly to this charitable work. One of them, the well-known businessman Avraam Piha, fell ill as a result of his efforts. He died on 26 July 1939. May his blessed soul rest in peace!

I'm named after that man, my great grandfather (My dad isn't sure if that date of death (his azkara is in Elul) is accurate). What an honor to carry this name.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Simply the Best

No other words needed to describe the latest member of the Hall of Fame, Emmitt Smith. Here are some stats for the best RB in NFL history:

* 18,355 career rushing yards, NFL record.
* 164 career rushing TDs, NFL record.
* 78 100 yard games, NFL record.
* 3 time Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
* 1993 NFL MVP

A few pictures that stick out in my mind from his wonderful career:

The Triplets:

Running through the Bills on the way to the Cowboys 1st Super Bowl of the 90s:

Running through the Bills again for back to back Super Bowl victories:

Celebrating the 3rd Super Bowl:

Breaking Payton's rushing record:

Welcome to the Hall:

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Puzzle Two

It's hard to believe that the last puzzle we did was just over a year ago. I'm sure when I wrote that blog I was thinking this would be a more common occurrence. Oh well, a once a year hobby isn't that bad I guess. Without further delay, the latest puzzle:

The Box:

After Day 1:

After Day 2:

After Day 3:

After Day 4:


Monday, February 01, 2010

Yitro's advice - a mixed blessing

Most of us are aware of the positives that came from Yitro's advice to Moshe (18/13-26), but there was however, one serious negative. By accepting the proposal, the nation significantly reduced their time around Moshe's personality, influence and teaching. As Rashi notes in Dvarim 1:14, the Nation should have said, "From whom is better to learn, from you or from your student: Is it not better to learn from you?" The lesson for us? It highlights the importance of attaching oneself to a wise and inspirational leader, even when 'good sense' dictates a different approach.