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We’ve got Mail 194

Tichon Hadash ESRA volunteer tutors: Standing (from left) Anthony Blechner, Pollie Weidhas, Mia Ephrat, Mary Suffot Seated (from left) Dvorah Schneider, Rennie Rafaely, Ros Blechner

An extraordinary gesture by some truly amazing people

For years English-speaking volunteers from the community have given their free time, coming to school to help us, the Israeli Hebrew-speaking students, to prepare for the oral Bagrut exam.

As you may know, in Israel, the English Bagrut exam is an external exam, given by the Israeli Ministry of Education. It has three different levels. Each one of the levels includes three different modules-exams. Moreover, there is an oral exam which worth 20% of the final grade(!).

Every year, for the past many years, a group of 10 volunteers more or less has been coming to our school, to allow us practice sessions, and to assist us in improving our oral speaking skills, in order to be ready for the oral exam.

The volunteers and the students have conversations, discussing the students' background, families, hobbies and interests. In addition, the students present projects on various topics, which they wrote beforehand - just like in the Bagrut exam.

These sessions are a great opportunity for the volunteers and the students to get to know each other. It almost seems like we come from two different worlds. The volunteers get to know the world of teenagers, our generation. We, the students enjoy getting to know the volunteers' world, the mature world. We get to hear about their personal life, their experiences and adventures. Every meeting is a true pleasure.

It's time for everyone to know them, these lovely people. We feel that these lovely people are not appreciated enough, although they certainly deserve it. We admire them, doing this for free, giving their free time, meeting us at school, while outside it's raining or sunny, always friendly and polite. These meetings mean so much to us. And that is why we wish to thank you all for your hard work.

We thank the volunteers Rennie, Susie, Mia, Anthony, Ross, Dvorah, Yonit, Marilyn, Polly and Mary.

Tichon Hadash School, Tel Aviv 

Electric bikes are making sidewalks like the Wild West

Having made aliyah four years ago, I was horrified to find that the sidewalks - not just the roads - were treated as an anarchic Wild West, with the electric bike achieving the dubious, predictable effect of robbing pedestrians of any sense of security.

Where cycle paths are available they are almost entirely ignored - just like adult cyclists ignore the roadway, while the 'riders' carry passengers, use their phones, and commit numerous other offences. They would be punished in all other civilized countries of the world.

It would not take much to bring the Israeli street into line with civilization. A couple of weeks' enforcement of applicable laws (which surely must exist) by the rarely-seen beat police (who also presumably exist) would at least make a considerable difference. Then one could take a walk without playing a hideous version of Russian Roulette.I agree with Mr Canning that reports of cycle-generated accidents are probably deliberately suppressed. Prospective tourists to Israel would be horrified to learn they take their lives in their hands when they set foot on a city sidewalk.Jeffrey Soester Herzliya

Reading the letter from Stanley Canning, (ESRAmagazine #193), I should like to add a few points to his excellent description of a dire situation.

It would not take much to bring the Israeli street into line with civilization. A couple of weeks' enforcement of applicable laws (which surely must exist) by the rarely-seen beat police (who also presumably exist) would at least make a considerable difference. Then one could take a walk without playing a hideous version of Russian Roulette.

I agree with Mr Canning that reports of cycle-generated accidents are probably deliberately suppressed. Prospective tourists to Israel would be horrified to learn they take their lives in their hands when they set foot on a city sidewalk.

Jeffrey Soester, Herzliya

Friends say I'm biased in my views on Israel. I'm guilty as charged

From reactions I receive from friends in Australia it appears that I have become biased in my views on Israel. So I felt I should examine my most inner thoughts.
The reason we made aliyah was because our family lives here and I do not regret it. Since arriving in November 2015 we have settled quickly.
When living in Melbourne I was always interested and concerned as to the goings-on in Israel. However, being here and hearing and seeing, the threats surrounding us on a daily basis is so different to viewing these events from thousands of kilometers away.

When travelling anywhere you feel at home here. Whether it be in a supermarket, sherut, walking in the street, travelling on a train or bus, you don't hesitate to ask for assistance because you don't speak Hebrew.
People collecting the rubbish, sweeping the streets, or simply walking past will say boker tov, shalom if you greet them. Living here is like living with family, it is an amazing feeling. So on the level of feeling comfortable here, at home and among family, if I show bias then I plead guilty!.
Security Bias:
Since Israel was declared a state in 1948 our surrounding countries, with few if any exceptions, have wanted and call for our total destruction. We have had to defend ourselves on numerous occasions and therefore have to ensure that our Military and Intelligence are four steps ahead of our enemies. We cannot afford to lose one war. So if I show bias in our military actions I plead guilty!
I am a Reform Jew, and feel privileged to belong to our religion. We Jews have always been persecuted and singled out for being different and have suffered accordingly. It is well known that for a global population of approximately 14 million (Israel 6 million), on a pro rata basis we are the most influential group in the world. We must preserve our heritage at all costs. The specter of anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head all over the world. So if I am on that score biased, I again plead guilty, without reservation!
My final thought is of the young men and women (18 year olds) who enter the IDF. They serve and represent Israel and put their lives on the line not only for their fellow compatriots, but to enable Jews in the Diaspora to feel proud of their achievements and hold their heads up high. So if I show a bias when it comes to discussing the IDF I plead guilty!
As a result of my feelings I have taken it upon myself to work tirelessly, on a voluntary basis to raise funds to assist the soldiers of the IDF to make their lives more tolerable. I am now on the Committee of Yahad Lemaan Hayahal - Netanya Branch.

Greg Goodvach, Netanya

P.S. My wife Nellie and I tutor English conversation at Menahem Begin School in Poleg as part of the ESRA Tutoring Program.

Clean up Israel – that would be worth celebrating

Most of us wouldn't attend a birthday celebration dressed in dirty clothes. Yet Israel is celebrating its 70th birthday with litter and garbage on our beaches, along our roadsides, in our parks and public areas. Our landscape is a mess, and when the orgy of the 70th celebrations comes to an end, with events planned throughout the country, it will be an even greater mess of plastic bottles and bags and picnic remains everywhere.

Our Government is spending millions of shekels to entertain us on our Birthday, yet nothing is being allocated to clean up our precious landscape for which we have sacrificed so much and so many.

It is imperative that we bring this issue to the urgent attention of our Government ministers, the media, and the top decision makers in such organizations as the Council for a Beautiful Israel, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) so that a nation-wide educational and public relations campaign can be initiated to make a CLEAN ISRAEL a national goal.

The 70th anniversary celebrations could be used as a platform to launch a year-long campaign to clean up the country and an educational effort to keep it clean in the future. Then we would really have something to celebrate!

Ricky Friesem, Rehovot

The mammoth task of getting 15 choirs to sing as 'One Voice'

Music is one of my avocations and among other things I direct Jerusalem's Ramatayim Men's Choir. A few months ago I was thinking about how to celebrate Israel's 70th anniversary in a special way, and came up with an idea of creating a video clip of choirs from around the world singing a meaningful song "together" as "One Voice". Seeking guidance as to how to execute this complex idea, I searched the Internet. To my surprise I could not find a precedent.
I had met Roman Grinberg, director of the Vienna Jewish Choir, when our choirs were on tour in St. Petersburg, Russia last year, and had heard his "Oseh Shalom" which I loved. When I requested the rights to use the song for the project, he was enthused.
Even when just two choirs are given the same musical score, they will not sing it precisely in the same way, so I knew that one of the biggest challenges would be to provide directors with a tool to achieve synchronization. To this end Roman created guide vocals and an instrumental playback while I searched for and invited choirs to join the project. Many were enthusiastic but dropped out when they understood the complexities. In the end 15 fabulous choirs took up the challenge, men and women, old and young, from five continents and across the spectrum from Orthodox to non-affiliated. From huge Jewish communities such as Jerusalem, Toronto and London, to tiny outposts such as Lvov and Vienna, they joined forces, investing hours learning the music and recording video and audio files according to comprehensive guidelines I set out.
Once I had received a mountain of video and audio material, the extremely complex work began. Over weeks we edited and mixed separately, the soundtrack in Jerusalem and the visuals in Tel Aviv, then synthesized them to create this first-of-its-kind "One Voice" 70th birthday gift to the State of Israel.
The response, from Biafra to Indonesia, has been overwhelming.
Hear and see "Oseh Shalom" by 15 choirs –

Richard Shavei-Tzion, Jerusalem 

A runaway success

A runaway success

Thanks for publishing my article "Why i run" in ESRAmagazine #193. I have had positive feedback from quite a few friends. Thanks for a fantastic magazine. I haven't missed an issue since I've been in israel.

Alan Liferow, Ein Sarid

Congratulations, David, on your prize. You inspire me

An open letter to David Grossmann on the occasion of him being awarded the Israel prize for literature.

Dear David,

I allow myself to address you as "David" although you probably do not remember me, I have corresponded with you before and feel I know you personally. It is surely the privilege of a writer, such as you are to enter the inner lives of his readers. I write to congratulate you on being awarded the Israel Prize for literature. Both this and the Mann Booker prize filled me with delight and indeed pride, as through your books I feel that you are, unknowingly, a soul-mate and a friend.

I have been greatly influenced by your ideas expressed in your writing, particularly in relation to human rights and your attitude to the Palestinian condition. Some of your work has deeply affected me and in your words "spoken to me". I have read a few, again and again, and have even written of and copied entire passages from your texts. These included "The Yellow Wind", "Writing in the Dark", and the chapter on "Bruno" from "see under: Love" and "A Horse walks into a Bar" On this, I wrote a review which was published in ESRAmagazine #192. They also published a "psalm" I wrote, inspired by your essays in "Writing in the Dark".

I have also had the pleasure of reading some of your stories for children with my grandchildren.

You have been an inspiration to me and given me the will and the courage to write essays, letters, and even two works of fiction. For this, I will always be grateful.

Once again, I congratulate you and look forward to reading your next book.

Richelle Shem-Tov, Kiryat Ono 

I’m 59 and still singing along to the songs made famous by Gladys & Roz

Dear Judy Shapiro,

Believe it or not I was cleaning for Pesach today while listening to Gladys Gewirtz's and Roz Grossman's "Seder Party" recording. I am 59 and sang along as I cleaned; just as I did when I was nine years old. A search on the Internet for information on these two wonderful women brought me to your Itzik the plumber story, A Faulty Faucet, published in ESRAmagazine #146, which I enjoyed [I am an insurance agent and writer]. I also read your bio on your Uncle Shimon and your mother and found it quite inspiring. It's interesting to note that my 28 year-old daughter Malka made aliyah in December. I want to thank you [and Gladys and Roz] for songs that I have sung and enjoyed pretty much my entire life. To clean without this album is akin to asking me to clean without rags.

Sholom Weinfeld, Miami, Florida

Judy Shapiro adds an explanation

"Seder Party" is a very popular, instructional Passover record of 26 songs for Jewish children which was published by Vision Sound in the late 1960's. The original lyrics and script of many of these wonderful songs were written by Roz (Gewirtz) Grossman, who also narrates the record. The original music was composed and sung by Gladys (Gewirtz) Hedaya. The record has been digitalized and can be heard through the link

The original inspiration for this record and others created by Gladys and Roz was actually my grandmother, Kate (Kreindle) Gewirtz.

The Gewirtz family is very musical, and Manhattan-born and raised Kate Gewirtz, a self-taught pianist and the mother of Gladys and Roz, would compose and sing songs for her eight children and then her grandchildren, born in the U.S. and in Israel. There were no musical recordings in the early 1950's to teach American children Hebrew songs, love of the nascent Jewish State and about Jewish holidays. My grandmother composed melodies, incorporating Hebrew words to reinforce basic vocabulary.

These songs and many other familiar and original songs made their way to a recording studio as the very popular The Jewish Mother Goose and Hebrew Playsongs sung by Gladys and integrated for the American Jewish child by Eve Lippman. They were the first of its kind. Several years later, Roz and Gladys joined lyrical and musical forces and created the outstanding Chanukah Parade (narrated by Eve Lippman) and Seder Party.

Both teachers, the legacy of Gladys and Roz lives on in their students and in the impact their records have made on Jewish children's musical and Jewish education throughout the world.

All of the digitalized recordings of Gladys Gewirtz can be heard through the link

Judy Shapiro, Kfar Saba

The magazine with such a long reach

My grandson's Advanced Placement history class in Texas discussed my article on Mississippi Turning. The teacher made copies and told the students it came from ESRAmagazine #179. Look how far the magazine reaches.

Eli Libenson, Raanana

Spanish website which lists Jewish family names

In ESRAmagazine #193 Andrew Cordell wrote a letter enquiring the origin of his family name. He will find it in where the names Corella and Corral appear. This is a Spanish website which has Jewish family names in Spain before the Inquisition.

Adrian Wolff, Ramat Hasharon

Corrections & clarifications

■A printing error in ESRAmagazine #193 meant that the last three paragraphs of Eli libenson's letter from Chicago (page 33) were inadvertently cut . Our apologies, and here are those final sentences: And then he told me about his forty three year-old daughter who was born so severely disabled that she has never uttered a word, cannot feed herself, and needs to be wheeled from place to place in a wheelchair. She lives at home, he added. I asked him if he and his wife had ever considered putting her in an institution. They had, he said, but came to the conclusion that their daughter would receive more loving care at home. You and your wife are heroes, I said. No, he answered, just ordinary people. They belong to no congregation, observe no rituals at home, but I think it right to say that of all the religious Uber drivers I've met they are doing the Lord's work the most profoundly.

■The people in the photo of Adele and Mike Rubin in ESRAmagazine #193 ( page 49) were not family members but people connected with Adele's volunteering – from the Mezach project, the Sapir College Community involvement Dept. and the Youth Department of Sderot. Our apologies for any misunderstanding. 



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Sunday, 29 March 2020

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