Sunday, February 28, 2021

Folares ... The Tradition Continues

My father didn't know what hamentashen/oznay haman were until his family arrived in Cape Town from the Belgian Congo.  The Rhodesli treat for Purim was folares, a pastry dough in a cage like shape representing Haman’s (the evil protagonist of Megillat Esther) hanging noose.  Encased in the cage/noose is a hard-boiled egg representing Haman’s head.  Haman dies on the gallows at the end of Megillat Esther, after failing in his plot to destroy the Jews and having Mordechai hang on the gallows he constructed.

May be an image of food and indoor

Purim Alegre!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Remembering Nonna

A regular Shabbat meal. We start reciting birkat ha’mazon and Alma sings most of Bendigamos, and proceeds to mumble most of Ya Komimos minutes later. As I watch my youngest, I begin to tear up. This is something I would have eagerly shared with Nonna … and that’s just not possible anymore.
The reality that the Corona virus has created – a shiva where phone & video calls were the only way to stay in touch with Dad or not attending a minyan to have a hashcava said for her – has made the mourning period extremely odd. Nonna’s been gone for over a month, and yet, it just hasn’t sunk in that this phenomenal lady is no longer with us.
I’ve struggled since she passed to put anything in words about her, or about our relationship. Nothing seems to do justice to how important a figure she was in my life. So I thought I’d just share a few of my stories about this lovely lady.
  • Cape Town has always been special for me. Despite leaving when I was merely six months old – I’ve always had a strong connection to this beautiful city, partially due to it being our family’s most frequented vacation stop but mostly due to the fact my grandparents all lived there. Every time I was there, it was just great fun with four loving, caring grandparents who spoiled me non-stop. The memories at Nonna & Nonnou’s start with the incredible view from 505 Trafalgar Place – Lion’s Head in all its glory. After that, the movies, the great meals, and the fun sleepovers, where I’d always look forward to waking up to a bowl of strawberry pops, a peanut butter & jam sandwich & a peeled mango. Anything to make me, and my siblings, happy.
  • One of my favorite vacations was our drive from Istanbul through western Turkey – from Izmir to Bodrum to Marmaris to Rhodes to Antalya and then back home. Nonna, already in her sixties, accompanied us on the three-week trip in the Renault Espace. So many memories on that trip – from the beaches, to the restaurants, to my little brother crying (with Mom & Nonna laughing) as Dad, Tova & I went on a camel ride, the Pamukkale springs, the Cappadocia rocks etc. Nonna always visited us after we left Cape Town, be it in Johannesburg, Kibbutz Gesher Ha’Ziv, Ra’anana, Istanbul, Milan or Scarsdale/New Rochelle - always schlepping across the globe to spend quality time with her family.
  • During university – you know, before the cellphone world arrived – my dorm room in 2000 had its own phone line. When reviewing international phone charges, I realized I could call South Africa at a reasonable cost. Thus started my weekly calls with Gramps (Granny had passed in ’96), Nonna & Nonnou (he would pass a few weeks into the school year). Every week, I’d talk to Nonna and would share what was happening in my life, while listening to her updates and the only weather forecast I listened to weekly for the last twenty years! It strengthened our bond tremendously.
  • Before Moshe Kachlon’s cellphone reform, I rarely ever called Nonna once I made Aliyah. However, when Liverpool won the Champions League on May 25th, 2005, the next day a SMS arrived from her, “Congratulations for the Boys.” That was special … I kept that SMS until that Nokia broke.
  • When Talya and I got engaged, I ‘introduced’ her to Nonna on the phone. As they chatted on the phone for the first time, I could hear Nonna’s excitement that her future granddaughter-in-law spoke French. That was the beginning of the special bond they shared.
  • My first son Nissim was born in November 2008. He was named after Nonnou, Nonna’s late husband. When Dad and I called her from the bimah after the brit and she heard the name, she cried and thanked me emotionally. She struggled to say his name for a long time … but when she did, it was very emotional … מדור לדור

  • In 2010, Talya & I made our first trek to South Africa to visit Nonna. Months before her 80th birthday, she moved to her spare room and let us sleep in her room. It was quite the gesture. For the next few weeks, I couldn’t stop watching her & Nissim interact [Nissim would start walking in her apartment].
  • One of Nonna’s favorite sayings to me was, “You made me a Nonna.” Eventually, I started preempting her by saying, “You made me a grandson,” which she would always laugh at.
  • I used to call Nonna every Monday and Friday. However, it was important I kept her on her toes, so on one Tuesday call … “Hi Mrs Piha, this is Sipho calling you from NedBank.” “Who?” she replied. “Mrs. Piha, it’s Sipho and I’m calling you as there is a problem with your bank account and we need you to come to the branch to verify some details.” This went on for a few minutes before I let on it was just Sipho Piha. As she laughed through the tirade of words like s****p and m****q (not fit for publication!), I couldn’t stop laughing … I got her a few times with the odd accents through the years, but it became harder and harder as she knew what to expect with the early morning calls!
  • Before my final trip to see Nonna, I was talking to her during my daily trek from the city center to work. As our conversation was winding down, I asked her, “I’ll be there in a few days Nonna – what can I bring? Halva? massa de vino? Massapan?” “You are my massapan Avrami,” was her short response and I stopped right before Tzomet Bar Ilan and cried. I don’t know if she picked up on it as I tried to continue talking through the tears … it’s a conversation that will stay with me forever.
I accompanied Dad on what would be our last two trips to see Nonna in 2019 and early 2020. These trips were not easy – she was ready to go, had aged a lot since the last time we saw her, and her quality of life was all but gone. I’m glad I went – to talk to her when she was able, to laugh with her, to hear her sing or hum Ladino songs and just to be around her one last time. I miss her terribly … and I’m just grateful I had 39 years to enjoy, appreciate and revel in her special love.

 Ke respose en Gan Eden - סילביה בת צדוק ולאה ישראל


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nonna z'l

Nonna was buried earlier today ... In light of the reality of today's world, the funeral was small, and led by R' Suiza with warmth and love, the same way he led Nonnou's funeral ~19 years ago. It was tough for us to be 'virtual guests,' instead of there ... but at least my dear Nonna is now resting peacefully ... I would like to share Dad's hesped about his mother ... and a few more pictures with his words as commentary ... Enjoy the trip down memory lane for those who knew this awesome lady ... To quote a dear friend, I hope our family can find comfort that "she will ALWAYS be proud - wherever she is - by those she left behind who reflect and represent the legacy she inspired."

Ke repose en Gan Eden muy kerida Nonna ... Ijico de la Nonna is heart broken ...


My Mother Silvia Piha, was born in the Belgian Congo on 30th March 1930 to Sadoc and Lea Israel, who were both born in Rhodes, six months into the Great Depression, which lasted for another nine years. She was what we call a tomboy in English. She would climb trees to pick mangoes and play with boys. She was not a girly girl, but grew into a beautiful woman that could have easily been cast in an early 1950’s movie. She met my Dad, Nissim Piha, and married him when she was 20. A cousin of mine called to condole with me yesterday and said they were like a pair of doves, loving and caring for each other and paired for life.

Mom was a fierce protector of her family through difficult times and sacrificed her own creature comforts in favour of her children, when Dad’s business failed because his store managers robbed him; when we were evacuated as refugees (women and children only) from the Congo to Salisbury in 1960, living through the UN’s brutal urban attacks against the breakaway Republic of Katanga in 1961, and our eventual immigration to South Africa.

She was a clever, strong willed and determined woman, who if born in a later era, would have been a successful business woman or professional.

She had an amazing ability to connect with diverse people in ways that suited each one of them. I only realized the extent of this talent on reading the loving and caring comments made by people of all ages and from all over the world about her loving warm nature, kindness, sense of humour and fun. She had the most amazing relationship with her daughter in law, Melanie, that she always treated as a daughter and the love was reciprocal. Before Melanie’s Mom died from cancer, she told my Mom, "I am not worried for Melanie after I go, with you to love her".

She was able to mimic people and their accents so well, that she could have been on the US comedy program Saturday Night Live. She inherited or learned her Father’s teasing nature and would play practical jokes on the telephone with friends and also on her oldest grandchild, Avram and he of course paid her back in kind. Sometimes some hapless person would phone her from a company and would be puzzled by the: allez, allez Avram.

After being bed ridden for a few months, Marie asked me to take her out on the road to ensure it was safe for her to drive. She eventually agreed to drive with me to allay our fears. Driving along High-Level Road, all the robots were green until Glengariff Road, but the next one turned orange, and Mom kept going at 50 Km/hr. I said to her: Mom, the light is going to turn red and she says, yes, I am going to stop, and I say, when? As we approach the next robot, from quite far away she says to me, I see the robot, it’s green, and then she says, it’s going orange, I’m slowing down, I’m going to stop – she was making fun of me. After I returned to Israel, she took someone in the car with her for support, drove to the back of the building, did a U-turn in the parking lot and went back to park her beloved little car in the garage. and hung up her driving gloves. She didn’t put us in the situation of having to take her keys away, one of the most difficult things for a child to do to their parents.

She lived independently in her home until just over a year ago, when she fell a few times and Marie and I insisted she get a carer, and she eventually agreed to one only in the daytime to please us. We got her wonderful full time carers, when it was clear she could not manage on her own any more, even though she insisted she could.

She hated the idea of being a burden on anyone and also refused point blank to go to an old age home or assisted living facility. She said this is my home and I don’t want to go anywhere else; I want to go from here straight to Pinelands.

Her last months were extremely difficult after losing her eyesight, but she didn’t complain. She prayed Hashem would take her and that she wouldn’t suffer and He answered her prayers. She died peacefully in a moment, in her home without going to hospital, being exposed to Corona and the upcoming lockdown. The timing was a blessing for her and extremely difficult for us here not be able to bury our beloved Mother and Nonna, together with Marie and all our family, Rabbi Suiza and those of you who braved coming out here today. Tizku le’mitzvot.

Adieu chere Maman, ke tu alma reposa en Gan Eden. May your soul rest in Gan Eden.

"My Mother Silvia Piha, was born in the Belgian Congo on 30th March 1930 to Sadoc and Lea Israel"

Nonnou Sadoc Israel, Bello (Albert - Nonna's younger brother), Ricca (Bello's wife) & Nonna Lea (nee Capelouto)

"She met my Dad, Nissim Piha, and married him when she was 20"

Their engagement picture ...

"A cousin of mine called to condole with me yesterday and said they were like a pair of doves"

"Loving and caring for each other and paired for life."

 Nonna & Nonnou with me & Tova

"Before Melanie’s Mom died from cancer, she told my Mom, I am not worried for Melanie after I go, with you to love her."

Nonnou, me, Nonna, Granny, Tova, Gramps

Nonna & Tante Amelie before my wedding

"She inherited or learned her Father’s teasing nature and would play practical jokes on the telephone with friends and also on her oldest grandchild, Avram and he of course paid her back in kind." 

"Sometimes some hapless person would phone her from a company and would be puzzled by the: allez, allez Avram."

Passing on recipes to us

Meeting Keren

On her balcony at 505 Trafalgar Place

Helping Oren take his 1st steps

Kissing Alma

With my children

Adieu chere Maman, ke tu alma reposa en Gan Eden. May your soul rest in Gan Eden.

We'll miss you so much Nonna ... Keep smiling and laughing wherever you may be 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Amos Sa'ar z'l

A few weeks ago, Nissim went to bed angry.  I don't really remember exactly why, but what disappointed me was that he didn't say good night or "I love you" to his parents before going to bed and falling asleep.  The next day, I explained to him that no matter how angry or upset he is with those he loves, he should always make sure to give a kiss (or hug), or say that "I love you" etc before he goes to bed, or leaves the house.  It's best to end these confrontations stressing your love for the person, despite the emotions brewing within you, because you just don't know what tomorrow brings.

Today's tragedy in Har Homa has sadly allowed me to stress this point to yet again to my children.

Amos Saar, the man who was murdered today, was a pillar of our community.  He was one of our gabbaim and an ever present in all the tefillot at my synagogue, Panim Meirot.  He was humble, hard working and toiled daily to ensure the children's kindergarten would become a house of prayer every day.  He was extremely warm and friendly to my children, with even my two year old saying "Amos" when she saw him this past Shabbat.  I had a deep respect for him, and it is extremely hard to type "and now he's gone".  He's left behind a wife and four children ...

A stairwell two minutes away from my home has become a murder scene ... Our community will never quite be the same ...

Rest peacefully tzaddik ... You will be missed.

עמוס סער בן נדרה