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What would you do to change the world?

I would greet everyone with a smile, and be sensitive to their feelings. I would try to see what those feelings are and then try to see how to brighten their day with this knowledge I have acquired of what would brighten their day. Actually it's more than greeting it's interacting with them altogether. I would be patient and forgiving of follies, slow to judgement and trying to make peace. It's more of a workout trying to change things in positive ways than to simply protest and denounce, as much as they also can change things in the world for the better.

This is a place to sing your song and let your voice be heard. Define Coo

coo - verb

  1. To make a soft murmuring sound, as a pigeon.
  2. Speak softly or lovingly;
    The mother who held her baby was cooing softly
  3. To speak in an admiring fashion, to be enthusiastic about.
  4. To show affection; to act in a loving way.

coo - noun

  1. The murmuring sound made by a dove or pigeon.

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Created Initiatives

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*Humanitarian Aid

Help earthquake victims in Nepal

Bernard Asper
On April 25, an earthquake hit Nepal, causing massive devastation and killing more than 4,000 throughout Nepal, India, and China. Nepalese officials say that more than 7,000 were injured.
Long time adviser to One World Blue, Tempa Lama whose website address is www.olmoling.org , is director of Olmo Ling Institute here in Pittsburgh. He is helping the victims of the devastating earthquake by providing food, water, clothing, medicine and other urgently needed items for them. He needs our help. Please donate what you can.

Votes1 DateApr 28, 2015

Funded: 0 $0.00

Created Light on the World Spotlights

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The Biale Rebbe of Bnei Brak

Bernard Asper

The Biale Rebbe of Bnei Brak
The Biale Chassidic dynasty descends from the Rebbe Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Rabinowitz of Biala. He was descended from the Rebbe Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Pshiskhe known as the “Yid Hakadosh” (The Holy Jew). The Yid Hakadosh was a disciple of the Chassidic Rebbe, the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin. The Chozeh of Lublin was a disciple of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk, who was a disciple of the Maggid (Preacher) of Mezritch, who was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement. After the Holocaust the dynasty was spread to Israel by a member of the Biale dynasty in an uninterrupted male line, Rabbi Yechiel Yehoshua of Biale whose son the Rebbe David, author of Lahavas Duvid of Bnei Brak, survived the Holocaust and was appointed by his father to lead Yeshivas Biale, the advanced religious school of the Bnei Brak, Biale Chassidim. After Rabbi Yechiel Yehoshua passed away, the Lahavas Duvid succeeded him as Rebbe, and his son, Rabbi Yaakov Menachem, succeeded his father as head of the Yeshiva. There he instilled in his students, Torah and morals, and despite his young age, became a renowned educator.
After his father's passing he succeeded him as Rebbe. Continuing in the Biale dynasty's emphasis of helping those in need, the Biale Rebbe of Bnei Brak has been busy in addition to building new yeshivas, and synagogues in the periphery cities, he also established a foundation, the "Chasdei Duvid (kindness of Duvid (David)) Foundation," to help widows, orphans, and needy families.
The Rebbe’s main concern, to which he devotes all his powers, is the program for orphans in the yeshiva in Jerusalem. From when many tragedies came to the attention of the Rebbe, including children whose parents were killed in terrorist attacks, and do not have anyone else to provide for their educational and physical needs, the Rebbe ordered the opening of a special department for these orphans. To these poor children are supplied the best teachers and mentors, who act as fathers and mothers for them. These children receive all their needs from the Biale institutions, including clothes and footwear, residence, tuition fees, and all expenses.
Biale advocates relate that one time the day before the Passover festival, after the Rebbe returned from a long trip abroad, as soon as he got off the plane he went immediately to visit “his children”—the orphans. He immediately convened the staff, and informed them that before the holiday he wants to buy new clothing of superb quality for the orphans. Only after seeing that all the needs of the orphans are taken care of, did he return to his home to his biological children.
The Rebbe has a reputation as a miracle worker and spends his day offering his prayers and advice to the many who ask his advice and help.
Edited and sometimes directly quoted from http://www.bialaisrael.com/articles-biala-rebbe-news.html and more online about the Biale Rebbes and from the book Chassidic Rebbes whose author Rabbi Tzvi Rabinowicz is the son of a Bialer Rebbe
It is always moving to see Chassidic Rebbes visiting with their Chassidim the graves and holy places in Eastern Europe that were abandoned after the Holocaust. The below is an example.

Votes2 DateMay 4, 2017

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Diskin Orphan Home

Bernard Asper

Diskin Orphan Home
My mother as a child was in a Jewish orphan home in Antwerp, Belgium before going to the United States with her mother after the Second World War having lost her father at the age of two during the Holocaust. She had a soft spot for orphan homes as a result and so I heard of the Diskin Orphan Home in Israel from her.
It was established in 1880 by Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, one of the great rabbis of the time. At the peak of his career, Rabbi Diskin left a prestigious rabbinical position and immigrated to the Holy Land. When he arrived he found a large, idealistic community living under near-impossible conditions. Many families had been destroyed by persecution and disease, and Rabbi Diskin encountered countless young orphans and unfortunate youths whose physical, emotional and spiritual well-being were at great risk.
Recognizing the urgency of their plight, Rabbi Diskin began gathering these needy children, one by one, into his humble home. In time, as their numbers grew, he established the "Great Institution for Orphans," which came to be known as the Diskin Orphanage of Jerusalem, or simply Diskin.
Until his final days Rabbi Diskin labored unceasingly to help these unfortunate youths, doing anything that was necessary to provide them with a home and with all their basic needs.
With Rabbi Diskin's passing, in 5658 (1898), his lifework was taken up by his only son, Rabbi Yitzchak Yerucham Diskin. It was Rabbi Yitzchak Yerucham who built the magnificent Diskin Orphanage campus. The campus overlooks the entrance to Jerusalem. Rabbi Yitzchak Yerucham headed Diskin together with his father's beloved student Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld. For fifty years Rabbi Sonnenfeld worked day and night for the sake of the orphans and their families. These great rabbis molded the compassionate character of Diskin that continues to this day.
If in the past the primary purpose of an orphanage was to provide a home for children who had been left without parental care, today it employs pedagogical and therapeutic counseling in order to enable children in dysfunctional homes to maintain as normal an existence as possible given their difficult circumstances.
Accordingly, Diskin has designed the various projects of its humanitarian network with the goals of enabling the child and his family to live together, and providing the family with physical, financial and moral support, while at the same time enabling them to maintain their sense of human dignity.
The Diskin staff does its best to develop a close, trusting relationship with each family, giving both the parents and the children the feeling that they have a friend on whom they can rely, not just a welfare system on which they are dependent.
The board of governors provides Diskin with ongoing and responsible guidance in all its activities. Rabbi Meir Bransdorfer, zt"l, was one of its distinguished members. It consists of community leaders, rabbis and public figures with a great deal of experience in education and kindness.
Edited from http://www.diskin.org.il/narrative.php

Votes1 DateNov 17, 2016

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Elie Wiesel

Bernard Asper
Elie Wiesel was born Eliezer Wiesel on September 30, 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, which is now part of Romania, to Shlomo and Sarah Wiesel. Wiesel, who grew up with three sisters and pursued religious studies at a nearby yeshiva, was influenced by the traditional spiritual beliefs of his grandfather and mother, as well as his father's liberal expressions of Judaism.
In 1940, Hungary annexed Sighet and the Wiesels were among the Jewish families forced to live in ghettos. In May 1944, Nazi Germany, with Hungary's agreement, forced Jews living in Sighet to be deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. At the age of 15, Wiesel and his entire family were sent to Auschwitz as part of the Holocaust, which took the lives of more than 6 million Jews. Wiesel was sent to Buna Werke labor camp, a sub-camp of Auschwitz III-Monowitz, with his father where they were forced to work under deplorable, inhumane conditions. They were transferred to other Nazi camps and force marched to Buchenwald where his father died after being beaten by a German soldier, just three months before the camp was liberated. Wiesel’s mother and younger sister Tzipora also died in the Holocaust. Elie was freed from Buchenwald in April 1945. Of his relatives, only he and his older sisters Beatrice and Hilda survived.
After the war, Elie Wiesel studied in Paris and later became a journalist. During an interview with the distinguished French writer, Francois Mauriac, he was persuaded to write about his experiences in the death camps. The result was his internationally acclaimed memoir, Night (La Nuit), which has since been translated into more than thirty languages.
Elie Wiesel wrote more than sixty books of fiction and non-fiction, including A Beggar in Jerusalem (Prix Médicis winner), The Testament (Prix Livre Inter winner), The Fifth Son (winner of the Grand Prize in Literature from the City of Paris), two volumes of his memoirs, All Rivers Run to the Sea and And the Sea is Never Full, and The Sonderberg Case.
Wiesel moved to New York in 1955 and became a U.S. citizen in 1963. He met Marion Rose, an Austrian Holocaust survivor, in New York, and they married in Jerusalem in 1969. The couple had one son, Elisha.
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed,” Mr. Wiesel wrote hauntingly of his experience. “Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live long as God himself. Never.”
Despite this his dreams for humanity and his faith in God did not die after all. On the contrary he dedicated his life to writing, speaking and more importantly living and radiating his faith and dreams. The world is increasingly forgetting the Holocaust and he must be heard now at least as much as in the past. As a child of my mother, a hidden child who was almost killed, and as the grandchild and relative of Holocaust victims I know I certainly want to feel that Europe in particular will not forget despite it increasingly wanting to.
For his literary and human rights activities, he received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, the National Humanities Medal, the Medal of Liberty, and the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of Honor. In 1986, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and soon after, Marion and Elie Wiesel established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Elie Wiesel as Chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust. In 1980, he became the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He was President of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization he and his wife created to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice. Elie Wiesel received more than 100 honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.
A devoted supporter of Israel, Elie Wiesel also defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua's Miskito Indians, Argentina's Desaparecidos, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, victims of famine and genocide in Africa, of apartheid in South Africa, and victims of war in the former Yugoslavia. For more than fifteen years, Elie and his wife Marion have been especially devoted to the cause of Ethiopian-born Israeli youth through the Foundation's Beit Tzipora Centers for Study and Enrichment.
Teaching has always been central to Elie Wiesel's work. Since 1976, he was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, holding the title of University Professor. He was a member of the Faculty in the Department of Religion as well as the Department of Philosophy. Previously, he served as Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972-76) and the first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University (1982-83). Elie Wiesel died on July 2, 2016 in Manhattan.
The Nobel citation honoring him stated: “Wiesel is a messenger to mankind. His message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief.”
Edited, quoted and added to from:

Votes2 DateAug 19, 2016

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The Amshinover Rebbe

Bernard Asper
After the death of Rabbi Yitzchak of Kalish (the founder of the line of Rebbes of Vorki and Amshinov), his son Rabbi Yaakov David went from Amshinov to Kotzk. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk asked him if he had seen his father, Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorki, in a dream, and Rabbi Yaakov David said that he had not. Rabbi Menachem Mendel then said to him, “I have finally found your father, Rabbi Yitzchak. I was looking for him in the world above but could not find him. I looked for him among the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. I looked for him among the Tannaim and Amoraim. Eventually I found him gazing sadly at a river. ‘What are you doing here?’ I asked him. ‘The river is full of the tears of the Jewish people. I cannot leave this place.’”
The Amshinover Rebbe, Rabbi Shimon Shalom Kalish, was a Chassidic Rebbe from the Kalish family stemming from the Chassidic Rebbe ISAAC (KALISH) OF WARKA (1779–1848). Rabbi Isaac Kalish was one of the most noted Chassidic Rebbes in central Poland in the first half of the 19th century. Born at Zolochev, after his marriage at the age of 14 he moved to Zarek (Bremberg). He officiated as rabbi in Gowanczow and then in the village of Ruda. His teacher, Rabbi David of Lelov (Lelow), would travel with him to the "courts" of Chassidic Rebbes, and in this way he became a student Rabbi Jacob Isaac ha-Ḥozeh (the "Seer") of Lublin, and a disciple of Rabbi Simḥah Bunem of Przysucha and his son, Rabbi Abraham Moses. After the early death of the latter in 1829, Isaac settled in Przysucha , becoming the acknowledged leader of the Ḥasidim there. Some time later he moved to the small town of Warka (Warsaw district), where he gathered many disciples round him.
He negotiated with influential people on behalf of the Jews to obtain the abrogation of hostile decrees, including the conscription of young Jews for military service ( Cantonists ; 1827), and the prohibition forbidding the Jews to wear their traditional dress (1845). To achieve these he attempted to invoke the assistance of Sir Moses Montefiore and the British government in influencing Czar Nicholas I. In 1846 Rabbi Isaac met Sir Moses when the latter passed through Poland. Because of his activities Rabbi Isaac was given the appellation "Lover of Israel."
His son Rabbi JACOB DAVID OF AMSHINOV (1814–1878), founded the Amshinov dynasty. Born at Zarek, he was a pupil of Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotsk. After his marriage he lived at Gur ( Gora Kalwaria ), and later at Przysucha, becoming in 1849 the leader of a large group of Ḥasidim at Amshinov. Like his father he was active in Jewish affairs. Following enactment of the law prohibiting Jews from growing a beard and side locks, he was put in prison with Rabbi Isaac Meir of Gur on the charge of inciting the masses to revolt against the government. However, he succeeded in obtaining revocation of the decree and received a personal certificate of protection from a minister in Warsaw, forbidding anybody to harm him. He died in Italy where he had gone for medical treatment. His son MENAHEM (1860–1918), continued to head the Amshinov dynasty for 40 years.
Rabbi Shimon Shalom Kalish of Amshinov continued in the path of his ancestor Rabbi Isaac of Warka in possessing an extraordinary love for the Jewish people. Rabbi Shimon Shalom was born to Rabbi Menachem, the Rebbe of Amshinov, in 5643 (1883).
From an early age he demonstrated great intelligence and a heart filled with kindness. Everyone loved him, but his father, Rabbi Menachem, loved him the most. He would say to him, “Shimoli, my son, Chassidut has three principles: Love of G-d, love of Torah, and love of Israel.” In fact Rabbi Shimon saw in these the guiding principles of his life, and he strived with all his might to acquire them and to make them an integral part of his character.
In his youth he walked about in his father’s Beit Midrash and chatted with the Chassidim who came to him for help. He spoke to their hearts and encouraged them, making sure to provide them with something to eat and drink, as well as a place to sleep.
Later on he married the daughter of Rabbi Yeshaya Kalish of Peshisha, his uncle. At his father-in-law’s home, he advanced in Torah and Chassidut to such a degree that he became a great Chassidic leader.
After the death of his father, Rabbi Shimon Shalom inherited a portion of his chassidim. He settled in Otbotsk, near Warsaw, and directed its community with great love. His Chassidim purchased a villa in the forest for him, and his Beit Midrash was always full of Jews who came there seeking his advice. The Rebbe knew a tremendous amount about business and industry, and great industrialists came to see him for business advice.
His noble appearance, long beard, and pleasant-looking and smiling face made a great impression on those who saw him. He behaved with extreme modesty, which earned him the hearts of the Jewish masses. The Rebbe saw only the good in people, and to him there were no evil Jews; there were only bitter and unhappy people who were worthy of immense pity. Whoever had problems could find refuge with the Tzaddik of Amshinov.
For close to 30 years, the Rebbe led the Beit Midrash of Otbotsk. Crowds rushed to his Beit Midrash on Shabbat and the holidays, and the talks he gave to the Chassidim revealed his great love for every Jew.
In 5694 (1934) he left for Israel, where he remained for more than a year. Upon his return to Poland, he was filled with praise for the Holy Land and was in the habit of saying, “I am a Jew of Eretz Israel.” He was preparing to go and settle there, when all of a sudden the Second World War erupted and the Rebbe had to flee from Warsaw. He first found refuge in Lithuania, many devoted themselves to him and became his followers.
From Lithuania he wandered as far as Japan, and finally ended up in Shanghai, China where he stayed for the remainder of the war. During his exile in Shanghai, the Rebbe revealed his character by his splendor and the goodness of his heart. His home was open to each and everyone, and around him gathered yeshiva students who had managed to flee war-torn Europe. He cared for these refugees with great devotion and provided them with food. He also prevented them from giving up hope, reminding them that deliverance can come in the wink of an eye. Thanks to these good deeds of his, many escaped annihilation.
After the war, the Rebbe arrived safely in the United States. My paternal grandfather and my maternal stepgrandfather, Chassidim of the Gerrer Rebbe but lacking his presence in the United States, went to the Amshinover. His Chassidim purchased a house for him in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and there he reopened his Beit Midrash. There too he made numerous Chassidim, and many were those who came to see him. Before long, the Rebbe had won over the Jews of America and his home became a center of attraction for all types of Jews.
In 5714 (1954), he definitely decided that his place was in Eretz Israel, where his Chassidim impatiently awaited him, and so he purchased a ticket and prepared to leave. However the Rebbe suddenly fell ill, and on the 19th of Av his soul departed in holiness and purity. His Chassidim brought his body to Eretz Israel and buried him in Tiberias.
The Rebbe left behind an only son, Rabbi Meir Kalish, who settled in Jerusalem and founded the Shem Olam yeshiva in memory of his illustrious father.
Largely quoted from:
http://hevratpinto.org/tzadikim_eng/155_rabbi_shimon_shalom_kalish.html and

Votes3 DateJun 3, 2016

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Rabbe Elimelech of Lizensk

Bernard Asper
Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk
Rabbi Elimelech Weisblum of Lizensk, the “Rabbe Elimelech of Lizensk,” (born near Tykocin, Galicia 1717, died Leżajsk, Galicia 1787) (Lizensk is the Yiddish language name for the town, while Leżajsk is the Polish spelling) was a Chassidic master and leader in the third generation of the Chassidic movement, as well as the author of the central Chassidic work, the “Noam Elimelech.” Amongst the adherents of the Chassidic traditions he is referred to with the deferential title of “The Rabbi, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk. He is considered to be one of the central founders of the Chassidic movement in Galicia and Poland. Rabbi Elimelech spread the philosophy of Chassidism throughout Galicia.
Personal Life
His father Rabbi Eliezer Lipa Lipmanzer Lipa and his wife were financially well-off small town merchants, and they used their resources to engage in charity-work and good deeds. Rabbi Elimelech was the eldest of the six siblings born to his father and mother. He developed a special relationship to his older half-brother Meshulam Zusya, son of his mother’s previous marriage, who would in time become a great master in his own right, Rabbi Zusha of Hanipol.
The two boys engaged in Torah-study together, and after learning in the Talmud and commentaries, they began still in their youths to learn the Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, according to the philosophy of the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak ben Shlomo Luria Ashkenazi).
The two brothers spent eight-years traveling in self-imposed exile, wandering from town to town spreading Torah and inspiring people to mend their ways and repenting for the sake of the entire Jewish people and the exiled Shechinah, or Divine Spirit. During this time they lived a life of hardship, poverty, penance and fasting. However, Rabbi Elimelech would later instruct his followers that they should not imitate those practices of his, as they would not lead them on a path to perfection. In the course of his journeys, he joined with his older brother for studies in the town of Równe under the tutelage of the Chassidic movement’s second leader and master, the Maggid of Mezeritch. Rabbi Elimelech became a devoted disciple of the Maggid of Mezeritch, the main spreader of Chassidism in his generation, who was the successor of the holy Ba'al Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement.
After studying with the Maggid of Mezeritch, Rabbi Elimelech returned to Galicia where he worked to spread the philosophy of Chassidism despite the strenuous opposition of the Mitnagdim, the opponents to Chassidic influence in Jewish communal life.
Rabbi Elimelech passed away in Lizensk on the 21st of Adar, 5547, (1787 CE), and was succeeded in the town’s rabbinate by his son, Rabbi Eleazar.
Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk’s primary composition is the “Noam Elimelech,” which is among the first great Chassidic works; it teaches the principles of his lifelong philosophy. Every Shabbat, the Sabbath during the third meal, Rabbi Elimelech would give over to his students a lecture on the weekly Torah-portion. His son, Eleazar who eventually would succeed him, would memorize the lectures and copy them down after the Shabbat. Eleazar showed the work to his father and received his blessing; however Eleazar did not print the compilation of lectures and produce the book until after his father’s death, in accordance with his father’s mystical reasoning-based instructions, and despite the pleas of his students for the work. Over 50 editions have since been published.
The “Noam Elimelech” is divided into two parts: an exegetical commentary on the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, and the “Yalkut Shoshana,” a commentary on the remainder of the Hebrew Bible, the Books of Prophets and Writings, as well as on the teachings of the Jewish sages.
A demonstration of the esteem he as well as his book reached is well demonstrated in the statement of the great Chassidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Breslov says in his book, “Likutei Moharan,” that:“The level of holiness of the holy Rabbi Elimelech is transcendent high above anything seen or understood within his book.”
A student of Rabbi Elimelech, the Maggid of Kozhnitz, Rabbi Yisroel Hopsztajn, is reported by his son not to have ever begun the Shabbat without first learning something from the “Noam Elimelech.” Another student, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, said that only on the eve of the Shabbat, and only after a purifying immersion in the mikvah, or ritual bath, could he begin to comprehend the depth of wisdom of Torah in the book.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi referred to the “Noam Elimelech” as the “Book for the Righteous.”
Yitzchak Ginsburgh in his book, “Transforming Darkness into Light: Kabbalah and Psychology” talks about three main Chassidic compositions and describes each as serving a different type of person:
The Likutei Moharan, by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, is described as a book for giving hope and encouragement to those trapped in problems, through the Rabbi’s personal and creative articulation of problems in life.
The Tanya, by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidism, is considered a resource for people of average level. Its focus is on a coupling of intellectual comprehension and of esoteric understanding.
Rabbi Elimelech’s “Noam Elimelech” is held as the handbook of a righteous Master of Chassidism. His book teaches those special few the path to both mystical leadership in Chassidism and temporal leadership of the lay flock. The development of the phenomenon of the Tzaddik, or righteous master, as a concept in Chassidic thought attached to the Rabbi’s leadership position, was significantly influenced by Rabbi Elimelech’s book.In the book Rabbi Elimelech stressed an idea that the Tzaddik’s role is “to give life to all the worlds by virtue of his Divine soul.” He also believed that the Tzaddik’s personality should play a central role to the Chassidic follower.
Chassidism subsequently adopted the book as a central pillar of study, and it is weekly learned by many on the Shabbat. It was also used as a charm for women bearing children, and the book would be placed beneath the birthing woman’s pillow.
Endorsements of the book by the greatest leaders of the community heaped praises on Rabbi Elimelech and his work.
Rabbi Elimelech is also famous for another, small composition known by its Yiddish name, “Zetl HaKatan,” which means “little note.” The work contains seventeen instructions for a pious Jew’s behavior in daily life.
He also wrote a list of customs for devout practice called “Hanhagot HaAdam.”
Rabbi Elimelech composed a supplication meant to be said as a preparation for Shacharit, the daily morning prayer service. The prayer bears his name, “Tefillat Rabbi Elimelech.”
Beliefs & Legacy
Rabbi Elimelech was known as a righteous Master of Chassidism. He spent his life studying and teaching the Torah, and especially encouraging the common Jews to draw closer in repentance and return to G-d. He was an ascetic and avoided partaking in alcohol. Rabbi Elimelech engaged constantly in kindness and good deeds, and distributed all of his wealth as charity for the poor. He elevated the souls of his Chassidim and raised the spirits of those who sought his blessings, and his seat at Lizensk became the center for those who pursued spiritual growth.
Rabbi Elimelech’s primary students were the Seer of Lublin, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz, the Maggid of Kozhnitz, Rabbi Yisroel Hopsztajn, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, and Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt. These four pupils were his successors and continued to spread the legacy of Rabbi Elimelech, each one of them in a different and unique way. They eventually established their own Chassidic courts of thousands of Chassidim, and their dynasties are preserved to this day.
In addition, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensks’s students also included Rabbi Naftali Zvi of Ropshitz, Rabbi David Lelover, Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov, and his son, Rabbi Eleazar Weisblum. His youngest student was the “Maor veHaShemesh,” Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman HaLevi Epstein of Krakow.
Rabbi Elimelech’s unique path of pure fear of G-d, extraordinary humbleness and exceptional self-sacrifice for each and every Jew drew countless Chassidic followers to his court which had profound and everlasting influence on them. Thousands of followers continued in his path and sought out his blessings, his guidance and his advice. But above all, they absorbed his ways of repentance, improvement and spiritual growth.
Rabbi Elimelech’s Death & Tomb in Chassidic Thought
Upon Rabbi Elimelech’s gravestone there is no year of death. Instead, the Hebrew acronym for “rest in peace” (תנצב”ה) is written, which has the same gematria, or numerical value, as the Hebrew year of his passing, 5,447 (תקמ”ז).
After his passing, Rabbi Elimelech was interred in the city of his death, Lizhensk, Galicia. The site became the focus of adoration and pilgrimage of thousands of Jews from around the world.
There is a tradition in which Rabbi Elimelech promises that whoever will visit his grave will be deserving of salvation and will not pass away from this world without first repenting. A multitude of tales are preserved in Chassidic lore in which Jews would reach a ripe old age even after illness so severe that they begged death’s embrace. They would remain alive until they repented wholly and completely, and only then would they find eternal peace.
The tradition is one reason why so many Jews embark on pilgrimages from near and far in order to prostrate themselves on Rabbi Elimelech’s grave.
Another tradition relays that Rabbi Elimelech requested that he not be raised too high in heaven once his spirit passed on, as he wanted to remain as close as possible to the Children of Israel in this, the temporal world.
A story is told in Chassidic circles of Rabbi Elimelech’s tomb in the Holocaust of European Jewry:
When the Nazis entered Lizhansk they found a group of Jews praying at Rabbi Elimelech’s tomb. When the Jews saw the Nazis they dispersed in a terror and the Nazi soldiers approached the tomb so as to desecrate it. The soldiers first removed the stone cap from above the grave and then began digging. When they uncovered Rabbi Elimelech’s corpse, they saw a body pure and whole as on the day of his burial, and whose face radiated a heavenly aura. Upon witnessing the holy phenomena, the Nazi soldiers themselves then dispersed in a terror, and thus were the Jews who had been praying spared certain doom.
Following the end of the Second World War, the current building housing the tomb was built. In Chassidic tradition such a building is referred to as an ohel, or tent.
Pilgrimage to his Tomb
Rabbi Elimelech’s tomb in Lizensk acts as a magnet to thousands of Jews seeking comfort and salvation, and is filled with worshipers throughout the year, but especially before the Jewish High Holidays and the anniversary of his passing, the 21st of Adar.
The Chassidic master Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen Rabinowicz of Radomsk, author of the “Tiferet Shlomo,” is said to have stated that “on the anniversary day of Rabbi Elimelech’s death, the Rabbi Rabbi Elimelech stands upon his tomb and blesses with both hands those visiting his grave.”
Due to the thousands of worshipers who visit the tomb of Rabbi Elimelech, a number of facilities including a synagogue and study hall, or beit midrash, have been created for their service. A ritual bath, or mikvah, even operates there and is appropriately maintained, while the synagogue provides guests with a daily, warm lunch. With the exception of the anniversary of Rabbi Elimelech’s passing, when the tomb is kept open 24 hours a day, it is accessible only through coordination with the local guard.
Adapted and quoted from http://lizensk.com/biography-of-rabbe-elimelech-of-lizensk/
and http://lizensk.net/en/Biography_en.html
Yartzheit (the anniversary of death) of the Rebbe Elimelech of Liznesk marked By his descendant the Shenyitza Rebbe

Votes5 DateApr 28, 2016

[image for World Spotlight Rainer Hoss.jpg]

Rainer Hoss

Bernard Asper
My mother was a hidden child, baby and toddler during the Holocaust so I know what it is like having the emotions and perspectives of a child of a Holocaust survivor. Traditionally I have had no sympathy for the plight of the descendants of the Nazis. Reading about Rainer Hoss makes me have food for thought. He is certainly a person to be admired.
Rainer Hoss the grandson of Rudolf Höss, the man who commanded the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War gave an interview excerpts from which is below. “Before he was hanged, my grandfather wrote to my grandmother that she should change her name,” Rainer said. “Both my grandmother and my father were in complete denial of his crimes, and so they adamantly refused to change their names. ‘Höss will remain Höss,’ my grandmother would say. I decided that if I kept the name, this would enable me to do my part in repenting in my grandfather’s name. It’s not so simple, of course – you need to always be careful about everything you say, because people are judging you. Sometimes people curse me on the Internet and neo-Nazis are always trying to contact me. Ultimately, the name Höss is connected with Auschwitz, where millions of people were murdered.”
Rainer’s father, Hans-Jurgen, who worked as an engineer for Volvo, was, according to Rainer, a cold and cruel man. “The home I grew up in was hell on earth. My father would beat me and my mother all the time. He ruled the home with an iron fist. We were not allowed to speak without permission. We were forbidden to cry or show any feeling whatsoever. If we ever disobeyed him, he would beat us to a pulp. My mother tried to commit suicide a number of times.”
Rainer’s first encounter with the “Jewish issue” was incredibly traumatic. “I was maybe five or six years old, when a boy from school invited me over to his house for ‘Pesach-fest.’ I had no idea what this was. So I approached my father and stood still until he gave me permission to speak just like I always did. In a hesitant voice, I asked for permission to go to Chris’s house for Pesach-fest. My father leapt from his chair and hit me so hard that he broke my nose, and then he locked me in my room. ‘You will have no contact with those dirty Jews’ he screamed. The next day, I saw that there was a new sign hanging on our front door that read: ‘No Jews allowed.’”
Rainer didn’t know anything about his grandfather’s exploits. “My family would talk about how he was such a brave soldier, and that he was killed defending the homeland. Leopold Heger, my grandfather’s driver in Auschwitz, would come to our home and take long walks with me, while he told me about my grandfather’s heroism. He would call me ‘prince,’ because ‘your grandfather was like a king.’"
When he was 12, Rainer went on a school trip to the Dachau concentration camp. “My grandfather commanded this camp before being transferred to Auschwitz – I saw his name written on a plaque with my own eyes: Rudolf Höss. I ran home at the end of the day and asked my father if it was true, and he told me, ‘That’s a complete lie.’ And I believed him, since at that age you still believe everything your parents tell you.”
When he turned 15, Rainer came across a book at home titled Men of Auschwitz. “When my father saw me take that book off the shelf, he bolted towards me, slapped my cheek and told me never to touch that book again. Of course, the next day, after my father left for work in Sweden, I read the whole book. This was the first time that I read about what my grandfather did at Auschwitz. I was overcome with an intense mixture of shame, anger and sadness.”
The very next day, I packed a few things and left home. I went to live at a boarding school where I studied culinary arts. But I was just a kid with no framework and no family, so of course I soon got into drugs and alcohol.” When Rainer was just 16, he got his girlfriend pregnant, but when he turned 18 he married her and managed to create a normative and warm family with her. “I wanted so badly to form a new family, to disconnect from my family’s gene pool,” Rainer says. At the age of 21, Rainer cut off all contact with his family – his father, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. His mother, who divorced his father in 1983, is the only person he’s still in contact with. After his parents divorced, Rainer began investigating his grandfather’s exploits.
“My mother went through a pretty difficult time herself. I would sit with her for hours and make recordings of her talking about her life. She would also cry a lot, and say over and over again how sorry she was. She herself didn’t know anything about my grandfather until 1963, when the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials began. Following the trial, an article titled “The Gas Man from Auschwitz” was published, alongside a picture of the entire Höss family. My mother ran home and asked my father if that was really them. ‘Yes,’ he told her.
Today, Rainer's eldest granddaughter is 15 years old. Rainer who is 51, lives in Munich, is divorced and is the father of three children. One of his daughters is married to a Bosnian Muslim, “and I’m so happy for her – I’m in favor of pluralism,” he says. He is a chef by profession. “We used to go to Bavaria every year for vacation. I would tell my family that I was going out for a bike ride, but really I would take a taxi to the central archive and spend hours there,” Rainer says with a smile. “One time, my oldest daughter followed me, since she suspected I was meeting a lover. I love researching and figuring out how all the puzzle pieces fit together to form a big picture. Over time, I discovered that my grandfather did not operate in a vacuum.
He had many contacts in a number of different camps, like Mauthausen and Buchenwald. Auschwitz was actually much more complex than most people know. There was one main camp, but there was also IG Farben, a chemical factory, and a sub-camp called Buna.”
At one point, Rainer received the rights to his grandfather’s archive, which consisted mostly of documents and photographs.
In Israel, rumors began circulating that he was interested in selling items in the archive. “But that’s just not true. I handed everything over to the IFZ, on condition that they be used for research purposes only. The IFZ is currently preparing a traveling exhibition with these documents called ‘The documents of the Auschwitz commandant.’”
For years, Rainer engaged obsessively in rehabilitating his family name. He researched his grandfather’s and others’ crimes, spent hours in archives, has had talks with groups of teenagers about tolerance and fighting racism, and he gives (self-financed) guided tours of Auschwitz.
He’s active in an organization called Footsteps, which was founded so that people can not only learn about what happened in history, but also so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Rainer also works with Khubaib Ali Mohammed, a German- Muslim attorney, to bring to justice other Nazi war criminals who are still alive. “We work together – Christians, Muslims and Jews – and I’m very proud of that.”
Rainer’s father, Hans-Jurgen Höss, who was born in 1937, one of Rudolf and Hedwig Höss’s five children, grew up in a large villa near Auschwitz. There are color photographs that were taken during the war (with the new camera that Rudolf was given as a present by Heinrich Himmler), which show the Höss children frolicking in the garden and swimming in the pool at the villa, with the death camp and crematoria in the background.
“The villa is still there today – it’s owned by a Polish couple that I’m in touch with. Many people don’t know much about this house, such as the secret escape tunnel built by my grandfather that reaches from the crematoria to the house. A prisoner who worked for my grandfather told me that he would make the whole family practice using the escape tunnel at least once a week. The management of the concentration camp doesn’t like to publicize this, because they’re worried that neo-Nazis might turn this complex into a pilgrimage site.”
Years after the war ended, Rudolf’s children – and even his wife – claimed that they did not know what was taking place at the camp. “This is ludicrous, of course, because all of the servants at the house were prisoners from the camp,” Rainer explains. “All the gardening, landscaping, construction and renovations were carried out by prisoners. Even my grandfather’s barber was from the camp. My uncle used to use his slingshot to shoot rocks over the wall at the prisoners. There are prisoners who remember all of my aunts and uncles.” Rudolf’s wife, Hedwig, would later recall to friends how much she had loved living in Auschwitz, a time in her life she recalls as being “heavenly, happy times.”
“She was cold and tyrannical. When she would enter a room, it would all of a sudden feel like we were in a freezer,” Rainer says. Living 150 meters from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp certainly had an effect on the Höss children, they all stayed supporters of Hitler and hated Jews.
Gradually, HÖSS abandoned all other activities. He sold his catering business and now devotes all of his time and money to Holocaust and tolerance education.
“The current situation in Europe highlights the lessons of the Holocaust. In Germany alone, there are 360,000 active Nazis. In all of Europe, there are more than 2.6 million Nazis,” Rainer says. He works alone (“I can’t trust anyone”) and is careful not to take personal donations, “since that would just generate gossip. All donations go directly toward projects.”
About a year ago, Rainer joined Ben Lesser, an American businessman who survived the Holocaust and founded an organization called Zachor. Together they are working on a project called Six Million Screams. “People ask me how I can be friends with someone whose grandfather murdered my family,” Lesser writes. “The answer is simple – you can’t control the reality you were born into, but you can choose which reality you want to live in.
I see before me a strong, courageous and caring man who is trying to make amends for what his grandfather did.”
Rainer wears a Star of David necklace around his neck that he received from a Holocaust survivor. He does not hide how proud he is to have relationships with Auschwitz survivors. “Somehow, I manage to connect with them well. They carry with them such wisdom. I have found that the children of survivors are more belligerent towards me."
Mostly edited from http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/The-sins-of-the-grandfather-437607

Votes4 DateMar 7, 2016

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The Klausenberger Rebbe and Laniado Hospital

Bernard Asper
During the Holocaust more than 12,000 Jews were gassed every day in Auschwitz’s gas chambers. Amongst them were the wife and 11 children of Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam, scion of the famous Sanz Chassidic Rabbinic Dynasty.
In June 1944, 10,000 inmates, including the 39 year old Rabbi Halberstam, were transferred from their camp to Warsaw. There they were ordered to dismantle what was left of the burned out buildings of the Warsaw Ghetto and load the debris on to waiting trucks that would take them to Germany.
By the end of July, the 2,000 inmates who had survived the Nazi brutality were ordered on a march to the infamous Dachau Death Camp in the German heartland. The tormented frail inmates were forced to walk 20 kilometers a day under the torturous August sun. Those who could not maintain the pace were instantly shot by the drawn rifles of the bloodthirsty S.S. Guards.
Rabbi Halberstam was shot in the shoulder and a lost considerable amount of blood, but seeking medical help was out of the question. As he was losing his strength he made a vow to the Almighty G-d: “If I merit to survive I will garner all my energies to build a hospital in the Holy Land where every human being will receive the same dedicated medical care irrespective of nationality or creed.” He at the same time noticed a tree with luscious green leaves along the road within reach of the marching inmates. The Rabbi tore off a large leaf and with his last ounce of strength managed to place it on his wound. The bleeding stopped and the Rabbi survived.
Yom Kippur 1945
Upon conducting his first inspection of the Displaced Persons Camps in the U.S. Zone of occupied Germany, General Dwight D. Eisenhower stumbled upon the makeshift Synagogue in Feldanfing (near Munich) where survivors were assembled for Yom Kippur services. General Eisenhower was greeted by Rabbi Halberstam, who represented the thousands of survivors. Eisenhower inquired about the conditions in the D.P. Camps, wanting to hear the concerns of the survivors. So impressed was the General by the intelligence, selflessness and strength of spirit of this physically destitute Rabbi that he decided to ask him for a personal blessing. The Klausenberger Rebbe helped Jews rebuild their lives after the Holocaust. My grandmother's cousin Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Wilner had the privilege of being the head of the American Klausenberger Yeshiva a yeshiva being an advanced studies religious school. In this way he helped the Rebbe rebuild and strengthen Jewish religious life in the United States. But the Rebbe was also involved in helping Jews come to Israel.
November 1954
When the Sinai Campaign War between Israel and Egypt– provoked by Egypt’s blockade of the Port of Eilat – was launched, the dynamic Chassidic community of Kiryat Sanz in northern Netanya in Israel was already well established. The first multiple dwellings were already standing and inhabited. Construction of a flourishing diamond factory built by one of New York’s leading diamond merchants was progressing rapidly. A brick factory to produce building blocks necessary for the ongoing construction was established. Educational facilities for children and a Community Center for adults were built.
Fulfilling His Vow
Realizing that the fast-growing City of Netanya was still without a hospital, Rabbi Halberstam resolved that the time had now come to uphold the vow he made during the fateful march from Warsaw to Dachau in August 1944. He dedicated a prime plot of land on the northern edge of Kiryat Sanz, commissioned architectural plans and in 1958 the cornerstone was laid for a modern general hospital. The hospital would include all basic medical departments and ancillary services required for a municipal hospital.
Recognizing that no source of continuous funding was available for the project’s construction Rabbi Halberstam decided to build the hospital “brick by brick” depending on the availability of funds that he would be able to raise. Consequently, construction of the hospital building progressed at a very slow pace. Nevertheless, the Rabbi was determined to proceed with this vital project despite the difficulties. After years of determined effort and overcoming insurmountable hardships, the hospital was opened on June 21, 1976.
Since opening its doors in 1976, Laniado Hospital – Sanz Medical Center has emerged as a modern and highly advanced medical center with expertise in almost all major medical disciplines. Its modern 430 bed comprehensive health care facility is the only hospital serving Netanya’s 350,000 residents as well as the rapidly growing city’s surrounding towns and villages. Laniado is recognized throughout the country for its quality medical care, often attracting patients from around the country.
Following the creed of its founder, Rabbi Halberstam, Laniado Hospital ministers to all people, Jew and Arab, rich or poor alike. Its physicians and nurses all subscribe to a set of principles that place the dignity of all patients first. Laniado Hospital’s medical staff personifies the maxim of selfless dedication to patient, and every patient benefits from some of the world’s most advanced medical technology regardless of age or ability to pay. The medical and nursing staff have never left their patients, it is the only hospital in Israel whose devoted staff have never participated in the many recurring strikes affecting the Israeli health system.
As the only medical facility in Netanya, Laniado maintains a huge ambulatory care program in general medicine, pediatrics and women’s health. Besides the hospital’s impeccable medical/surgical departments and units, diagnostic, therapeutic, and research facilities, the growing Laniado Medical Complex includes a three story Geriatric and Rehabilitation Center, an award-winning School of Nursing, a state-of the art Children’s Hospital, and an all-inclusive Diabetes Center.
At a Benefit Reception for Sanz Medical Center/Laniado Hospital, Ambassador Maxwell Rabb, Cabinet Secretary and close confidant of President Eisenhower, revealed that Eisenhower had mentioned to him on several occasions the blessing he had received from a Jewish Rabbi in the D.P. after the end of the war. The President recalled the Rabbi’s assurance, “that in merit of his leading role in liberating the Jewish People from the most evil power in the history of mankind, the Almighty will bless him to ascend to the highest leadership position in the Free World”.
This article is by far based on and quoting material from http://www.laniadohospital.org/
Laniado needs your support. I gave them $18 and got a nice thank you telling me of the great healing help they give. If you give, the Rebbe, I believe will certainly be giving a good word for you in his eternal home above. He is no longer alive but his vision, caring and good deeds live on. You can contribute by clicking on http://www.laniadohospital.org/donate/

Votes4 DateDec 16, 2015

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Raoul Wallenberg

Bernard Asper
Raoul Gustav Wallenberg was born near Stockholm, Sweden, on August 4, 1912. His parents both hailed from prominent Swedish families, whose members included bankers, bishops, diplomats and professors. Wallenberg’s father, Raoul Oskar Wallenberg (1888-1912), a lieutenant in the Swedish navy, had died of an illness three months before his son’s birth. His paternal grandfather, Gustav Wallenberg (1863-1937), a respected diplomat, took charge of shaping young Raoul’s life. The elder Wallenberg raised his grandson as a citizen of the world, ensuring he had opportunities to learn about different cultures and languages, and dispatching him on trips around Europe and other locales.
Following high school, Wallenberg completed nine months of mandatory Swedish military service then spent a year in Paris. He went on to study architecture at the University of Michigan, where he was a top student and graduated in 1935.
An Awareness of Anti-Semitism
In 1936, Wallenberg began working for a Dutch bank in Haifa, a city in present-day northern Israel. While living in Haifa, he heard firsthand accounts from German-Jewish refugees about the plight of Jews under Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who became the chancellor of Germany in 1933 and whose anti-Semitic Nazi Party was in control of the country.
By the early 1940s, Wallenberg had taken a job with a Stockholm-based food-exporting company. Its owner, a Jew, could no longer safely travel through much of Europe, which by that time was under Nazi domain. Wallenberg replaced him on such trips and thus became acquainted with Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Mass Murders of Hungarian Jews: 1944 In January 1944, the United States established a War Refugee Board to set in motion efforts to rescue European Jews and other Nazi victims. That March, the Nazis occupied Hungary, which was home to the last sizeable Eastern and Central European Jewish population. The pro-Nazi Hungarian government supported Germany’s plan to obliterate all European Jews. Also in March, Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), the Nazi official responsible for overseeing the extradition of Jews to death camps, was sent to Budapest by Hitler. Eichmann’s mission was to supervise the liquidation of all Hungarian Jews.
By the summer, the Nazis had detained approximately 400,000 Hungarian Jews and dispatched them via deportation trains to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps (located in Poland, which was then occupied by Germany), where they were exterminated. An additional 200,000 were in Budapest, where they resided in ghettos and awaited their fate. Meanwhile, the War Refugee Board requested that Sweden, which had stayed neutral during the war, send a special envoy to Budapest to spearhead a rescue effort. Wallenberg was selected to be that envoy. He was an ideal choice, as he was sympathetic to the plight of European Jews, could speak Hungarian and German and was familiar with Budapest.
Resuce Efforts in Budapest
In July 1944, Wallenberg, then 31 years old, arrived in Budapest. He promptly opened a Swedish embassy office close to the city’s major Jewish ghetto and hired 400 individuals, many of them Jews who had been granted diplomatic immunity, to operate the facility. During the following months, Wallenberg’s office provided protective passports to approximately 20,000 Jews. These passports allowed their bearers shelter under the domain of the Swedish crown, protecting them from deportation. Wallenberg also established dozens of safe houses that served as hideouts for thousands of Jews. He ordered that the Swedish flag be flown over these houses, thus converting them into official Swedish embassy annexes and shielding their inhabitants from the Nazis.
Wallenberg employed his financial resources to buy off German officials. In order to achieve his ends, he had to at once befriend them, cajole them and remind them that, at war’s end, they would be treated as criminals rather than combatants on the losing side of a conflict. He created cells of spies who provided him with information about the goings-on within the Budapest police department and the Hungarian fascist political establishment. He also personally rescued Jews from the deportation trains. As the trains were about to leave Budapest, Wallenberg appeared at the rail yard and handed out Swedish papers to all those onboard whom he could physically reach. Then he argued that all those holding papers should be let off the trains.Wallenberg accomplished all this while in great personal danger. On at least one occasion, during the fall of 1944, Eichmann tried to have him assassinated by attacking his car. However, Wallenberg was not in the vehicle at the time of the attack. Eichmann reportedly promised that other attempts would be made on Wallenberg’s life.
Despite such pressure, Wallenberg persisted in his efforts to thwart the Nazis. He even challenged Eichmann directly, suggesting to him during a face-to-face exchange that the Germans were destined to lose the war and might as well surrender.
Arrest and Disappearance
In December 1944, the Soviet military began a siege of Budapest. On January 17, 1945, Wallenberg and his driver, Vilmos Langfelder, began a journey to Debrecen, located 120 miles east of Budapest, where the Soviets and a provisional Hungarian government were headquartered. The exact purpose of the trip is unknown, although one possibility is that Wallenberg wanted to discuss how to protect the Jews from pro-Nazi Hungarian thugs once the Red Army left the country. However, along the way to the meeting, Wallenberg and his driver were taken into custody by Soviet forces. What happened to the two men next remains a mystery, as they were never seen or heard from again by the outside world.
In 1947, Andrei Vyshinsky (1883-1954), the Soviet deputy foreign minister, announced that Wallenberg was not in the Soviet Union and suggested he had possibly died during the Russian effort to seize Budapest. Then, in 1957, Andrei Gromyko (1909-89), the country’s new deputy foreign minister, admitted that Wallenberg had been imprisoned by the Soviets. According to Gromyko, it was revealed in recently discovered paperwork that Wallenberg had succumbed to heart disease in Moscow’s Lubyanka prison in July 1947 and was then cremated. The paperwork never was handed over to the Swedish authorities, nor was any explanation given as to why Wallenberg had been incarcerated. Some experts suggested that the Soviets might have believed Wallenberg was a spy for Western nations.
The Mystery of Raoul Wallenberg
As the decades passed, various unconfirmed reports from released Soviet prisoners and others surfaced regarding Wallenberg’s fate, with some claiming the Swedish humanitarian was still alive and in Soviet custody. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Wallenberg’s heroism and the mystery surrounding his disappearance had earned international notoriety. Believing him to still be living, some humanitarian organizations and individuals, including many whose lives were spared because of his valor, spearheaded a movement to have him released by the Russians and relocated to the U.S. In the meantime, Wallenberg was showered with worldwide tributes. In 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) signed legislation naming Wallenberg an honorary American citizen, a mark of distinction that until that time had been earned only by Winston Churchill (1874-1965).
In 1991, Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), the Russian president, formed a commission to investigate the Wallenberg case. No new evidence was unearthed. Four years later, a bust of Wallenberg was displayed in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. In 1997, the U.S. Postal Service honored Wallenberg by issuing a stamp featuring his likeness.
In December 2000, Russia officially admitted Soviet forces had wrongfully held Wallenberg at a Soviet prison, according to The New York Times. However, Russia’s announcement did not provide any definitive details about the cause of the diplomat’s death. According to The Times: “It is generally accepted that Wallenberg was executed in 1947 in a Soviet prison.”
From http://www.history.com/topics/wallenberg-raoul
At this time of rising Antisemitism 70 years after the war when all too many want to forget Europe's failure towards the Jew it is important remember people like him who who saw the problem first hand and wanted to do something about it.

Votes3 DateApr 14, 2015

[image for World Spotlight Princess_Alice_of_Battenberg_with_children.jpg]

Princess Alice mother of Prince Philip

Bernard Asper
Princess Victoria Alice Elizabeth was born in Windsor Castle, England, in 1885. European royal families being what they are—inbred—the young princess, who was Queen Victoria of England’s great-granddaughter and whose parents were a German prince and princess, was related to most of the continent’s royalty. But although born into great privilege, the young princess also came into the world with congenital deafness. This disability may have engendered in the young girl a compassion for the underdogs and outsiders.
When Princess Alice was 18, like a good daughter of royalty she married a fellow royal, Prince Andrew of Greece. Thereafter Alice Princess of Battenberg’s official title became Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark. The couple had four daughters and a son but after more than twenty years of marriage, in 1930, the family began to break apart. Prince Andrew left the princess for his mistress, whom he joined on her Mediterranean yacht off Monte Carlo, where he soon became a gambling addict.
Princess Alice was devastated. After a nervous breakdown she was sent to a Swiss sanatorium. It took years of therapy but eventually Princess Alice was well enough to leave Switzerland, whereupon she devoted herself to charitable works.
When World War Two broke out, she was living in an apartment in her brother-in-law’s palace in Athens. The situation was uncomfortable—not only was she living alongside the brother of the man who left her, but her son was fighting for the British while her daughters’ husbands were all fighting for the Germans.
One day, Princess Alice, who was working with the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross, received word from a Jewish family who needed her help. The Greek royals knew the family of Haimaki Cohen—in 1913, the Jewish former member of parliament from the north of Greece had housed the royals during a flood. In return, the king had offered to help the Cohens. Now was the time. Although Haimaki died early in the war, his widow Rachel and their five children were, like every other Greek Jew, in peril. Remembering the royal offer, Haimaki and Rachel’s eldest son Freddy contacted Alice.
While Freddy and his brothers planned to cross the Aegean Sea into Egypt to join the Greek Free Forces fighting the Nazis, he worried that his mother and sister, Tilde, would not be able to make the trip. So he called in the promised favor. The princess accepted and in October 1943, Rachel Cohen, her son Michel and Tilde moved into the top floor of the princess’s home. The Cohens remained there until liberation. When the Gestapo came to the apartment, Princess Alice used her deafness as an excuse not to understand them, and the Germans left the house unsearched.
Although the Cohens survived until liberation in 1944, theirs was a most exceptional story. The vast majority of Greek Jews were murdered. In Salonika, home to the country’s largest community, more than 45,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1943. Only 300 escaped deportation. By the end of the war, approximately 65,000 of the 75,000 Jews in Greece had been killed.
A deeply religious woman, in 1949 Princess Alice founded her own order of Greek Orthodox nuns, which she named the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. Dedicating her life to helping the sick and the needy, the princess, who had had five kids, took a vow of celibacy and became known as Sister Andrew. She lived and worked and dressed as a nun, wearing the traditional habit with rosary beads. She lived in isolation on the island of Tinos until 1967, when the Greek army staged a coup d’état and she left for London. Taking up residence in Buckingham Palace, where he son lived, of course, having married the Queen of England.
It is said that when one of Rachel Cohen’s sons, Jacques, offered the princess his thanks after the war, she replied quite forcefully that she only did her duty; and that the only reason the story of her bravery became known was because a relative of the Cohens suggested a Jerusalem street be named in her honor.
Although her life was bookended by birth and death in English royal castles, before dying at the age of 84 Princess Alice had made it known that she wished to be buried alongside her aunt, who had also forsaken the life of a princess for that of a nun, in Jerusalem. It took nineteen years, but in 1988 her wish was granted and Princess Alice’s remains were reburied in a crypt on the Mount of Olives.
Five years later, Yad Vashem honored Princess Alice as a “righteous among the nations” for her wartime effort in saving the Cohen family. “I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special,” said her son, Prince Philip, at the time. “She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress.”
Princess Alice did have a tree at the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem named in her honor. There’s a long-established ban on the British royal family visiting Israel. But one royal has twice circumnavigated this ban. Each time the foreign office was at pains to emphasize it was a “private” visit, but on two occasions Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II, has come to Israel for, indeed, a most personal reason: to visit his mother’s grave.
And so it is that, despite an official royal ban, the capital of Israel is the site where the Queen of England’s mother-in-law is laid to rest, and where her lifesaving deeds during Europe’s darkest hours are officially remembered.
On September 7th, 2007 Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex visited Yad Vashem.
After a guided tour of the Holocaust History Museum, the Prince visited the tree planted at Yad Vashem in honor of his grandmother, Princess Alice, who saved a Jewish family in Greece during the Holocaust. Princess Alice was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1993, and her tree was planted by Prince Philip (Princess Alice's son and Prince Edward's father) during his visit to Israel in October 1994.
Prince Edward continued his visit with a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance where he laid a wreath in memory of the Holocaust martyrs, and concluded by visiting the Children's Memorial.
Edited from excerpts from http://www.jspacenews.com/royally-good-deed-queens-mother-law-saved-jews-war/ and http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/about/events/event_details.asp?cid=107

Votes1 DateMar 15, 2015

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Albert Goering

Bernard Asper
Albert Guenther Goering, the younger brother of Hitler’s second-in-command, Hermann Goering, was born March 9, 1895 in the Berlin suburb of Friedenau, the last of five children born to the former Franziska Tiefenbrunn and Heinrich Ernst Goering.
Heinrich himself was a diplomat whose career included being governor-general of Germany’s colony in South-West Africa (today Namibia), and later a consul-general in Haiti.
Because of Heinrich’s postings abroad, the children and, sometimes. their mother lived with, and were de facto adopted by, their godfather, Hermann Epenstein, a physician, who had converted from Judaism to Catholicism as a young man and bought himself a title of nobility.
Moving to Austria, to get away from Hitler
During World War I, when Hermann Goering joined the German air force and distinguished himself as a flying ace, Albert served in the communications corps. Following that, he enrolled at Munich Technical University for engineering studies.
In the 1920s, Hermann became an early supporter of Adolf Hitler — and had to go into exile for four years after participating in the 1923 beer-hall putsch.
But Albert loathed the growing Nazi movement enough to move to Austria and take citizenship there.
After the Anschluss — Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938 — Albert moved again, to Czechoslovakia. The following year, he became the export manager of the giant Skoda automotive works, in Pilsen.
At Skoda, he helped individual employees who were dissidents to escape by forging his brother Hermann’s name on documents. He also requisitioned slave laborers from concentration camps, and after collecting them, he released them into the forests.
Albert also turned a blind eye to episodes of sabotage at the plant, which had major military contracts from the German occupiers. The Gestapo was often aware of his actions but was powerless to stop him.
Brave compassion
Protected in part by his brother, Albert went out of his way to demonstrate his contempt for Nazism and the Fuehrer, even though even symbolic actions of the kind could also have had fatal consequences.
Goering showed brave compassion on many occasions. In Vienna he joined a group of Jewish women who had been forced to scrub a street clean, giving the SS officer in charge no alternative but to release the entire group so as not to be accused of humiliating Hermann Goering’s brother. He helped friends who were Jews or married to Jews to escape occupied Europe or to go into hiding.
With the war’s end, Goering was arrested by American troops. He was held and interrogated in a Salzburg prison until he could document that he had directly rescued 34 Jews from concentration camps.
He was released — but rearrested by Czech authorities and tried in a People’s Court. There, former Skoda workers and resistance fighters testified on his behalf, saying he had saved the lives of hundreds, and he was acquitted in 1947.
Brother Hermann, in the meantime, was convicted of crimes against humanity. But several hours before he was to be hanged, he killed himself by swallowing a potassium cyanide pill smuggled into his cell.
Albert died on December 20, 1966, at age 71, in Munich. He had been largely shunned in postwar Germany, even after being cleared by the courts, and was unemployed much of the time. One of his last acts was also one of compassion: He married his housekeeper so she could inherit his state pension.
Edited excerpts from http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/this-day-in-jewish-history/.premium-1.645880

Votes5 DateMar 11, 2015

[image for World Spotlight James Taylor.jpg]

James Taylor

Bernard Asper
James Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 12, 1948. He rose to fame in the 1970s, when he became known for writing and performing sensitive, affecting songs. Over the course of a long-running career, Taylor has won five Grammy Awards and seen many of his albums go platinum. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and received a National Medal of the Arts in 2011.
At the age of 3, he moved with his family to North Carolina, where he lived for the rest of his childhood (though his well-off family usually spent summers on Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts). Taylor's mother had studied singing; Taylor, like all of her children, was also musically inclined. Initially a cellist, he began to play the guitar when he was around 12 years old.
Beginnings of Musical Career
In 1965, James Taylor committed himself to McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Massachusetts. During his stay there, he honed his songwriting skills. After leaving McLean in 1966, he helped form a band, The Flying Machine. When the group broke up, Taylor moved to London, where he was signed by the Beatles' Apple record label. Taylor's debut album, James Taylor, was well-liked by critics, but didn't sell well.
In 1969, Taylor returned to the United States. Struggling with a heroin addiction, he checked into a hospital in New York, and then went to Austin Riggs, a Massachusetts psychiatric facility. After those stays, he played the 1969 Newport Folk Festival. Then he moved to California and recorded a new album, this time for Warner Brothers.
Musical Stardom
Taylor's career skyrocketed with the success of his second album, Sweet Baby James (1970), which contains what may be Taylor's best-known song, the gentle "Fire and Rain." Both the album and the song reached No. 3 in their respective chart categories. On his next album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, Taylor had a No. 1 hit with his cover of "You've Got a Friend," written by Carole King. He also won a Grammy for his performance of that song.
Following a few moderately successful releases, James Taylor's Greatest Hits came out in 1976. The album was a success from the start, and has now received diamond certification (meaning it has sold more than 10 million copies). In 1977, Taylor won a second Grammy for his cover of "Handy Man." It was from the first album he recorded for Columbia, the multiplatinum-selling JT.
Taylor has been sober since 1984.
Over the next few decades, Taylor's musical output included studio albums, live recordings and even work on a Broadway musical. Hourglass (1997) won the Grammy for Best Pop Album (Taylor won Grammys in 2001 and 2003 as well). Touring has also enhanced Taylor's popularity, as well as his album sales; almost all of his releases have now attained either gold or platinum status.
In 2000, Taylor was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He received a National Medal of the Arts in 2011 and was designated a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2012. Perhaps most important, Taylor continues to be esteemed as a songwriter and performer whose work speaks to people's inner emotional lives.
Excerpts from http://www.biography.com/people/james-taylor-9503115#personal-life-and-activism

Votes3 DateFeb 23, 2015

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Bob O'Connor

Bernard Asper
Bob O'Connor (mayor) : biography
December 9, 1944 - September 1, 2006
Robert E. O'Connor, Jr. (December 9, 1944 – September 1, 2006) was the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from January 3, 2006, until his death.
Personal life and early career
He and his wife, Judy Levine O'Connor, had one daughter, Heidy Garth, and two sons, Corey and Terrence. Father Terry O'Connor is a Roman Catholic priest, currently the pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux of Munhall, Pennsylvania. Corey is currently representing the same neighborhoods that his father represented on Pittsburgh City Council.
Political career
O'Connor's political career began with his first election to Pittsburgh City Council in 1991. He served on the council under mayors Sophie Masloff and Tom Murphy.
He challenged Murphy in the Democratic primaries for mayor in 1997 and 2001. The 2001 race was especially contentious, as there was a five-way Democratic party primary. Both O'Connor and Murphy spent more than $1 million on their respective campaigns and in the end earned around 30,000 votes each in a very close race. O'Connor lost the race by 699 votes, and conceded the race several days after the primary.
In 1998, he was elected as City Council President and later resigned from the City Council in 2003 to work for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
Mayoral election
In 2005, O'Connor did not face Tom Murphy, who decided to not seek a fourth term as mayor. O'Connor was able to raise the most money, collect many endorsements,establish the energetic and dedicated "Delta Team" led by Bob "Jabo" Jablonowski, and beat a group of challengers. Among the runners up in the May 17 Democratic primary were Bill Peduto, a member of the City Council, and Michael Lamb, a County Row Office Holder. On November 8, O'Connor defeated Republican lawyer Joe Weinroth, winning the mayoral office. On January 3, 2006, he was sworn into office.
Legacy as mayor
While in office and after his death, O'Connor was widely referred to as "The People's Mayor." A lifelong sports fan, O'Connor took office soon before the Pittsburgh Steelers' win in Super Bowl XL.
During his brief tenure, O'Connor started the "Redd Up Pittsburgh" campaign. ("Redd up" is a Pittsburgh English term which means "to clean up" or "straighten up".), http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/redduppgh/index.html and strongly emphasized the positives of the city. Each month, from November 2006 to November 2007, local volunteer organizationhttp:// www.pittsburghcares.org Pittsburgh Cares hosted a "Redd Up Pittsburgh" day in a different neighborhood to honor him. On November 17, 2006, the O'Connor family was presented with the Hall of Fame Shining Lights Award for the former mayor's "Redd Up Pittsburgh" initiative. He was the first to receive this award.
Edited from http://www.fampeople.com/cat-bob-oconnor-mayor

Votes3 DateFeb 4, 2015

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Mary Schenley

Bernard Asper
Mary Croghan, 16, Eloped with Capt. Schenley and it shocked not only the entire country, but England's Queen Victoria.
She was Pittsburgh heiress Mary Elizabeth Croghan, who in 1842, before her sixteenth birthday, eloped from her boarding school with 43-year-old Capt. Edward W. Schenley, of the British army.
It was the Captain's third elopement.
News of their elopement stirred the government in Washington and the Legislature in Harrisburg to action; ruined her boarding school; fired ministers and editors to vituperative denunciations.
For many years, Queen Victoria refused this granddaughter of Gen. James O'Hara, a leading Pittsburgh pioneer and land owner, presentation at court because she had been a disobedient daughter.
When her father, widower William Croghan, Jr., heard of the elopement of his only surviving child, he fainted, papers of that day reported.
Recovering from his first shock, Mr. Croghan appealed to the government in Washington to send out boats to intercept the vessel on which his sheltered young daughter had sailed with her bridegroom, old enough to be her father.
The government failed to find the honeymooners because wily Capt. Schenley had stopped en route to England on an island, perhaps Bermuda, it is suggested in a yellowed clipping owned by the Carnegie Library Pennsylvania room.
When Capt. Schenley visited the Pittsburgh heiress' school and eloped with her, he was absent without leave, old letters have revealed, from his post of Her Majesty's commissioner of arbitration in a mixed court for the suppression of the slave trade in Dutch Guiana.
With magnificent aplomb, Capt. Schenley, when he arrived in England with his young bride, requested from Lord Palmerston an extension of the leave of absence he didn't have.
Lord Palmerston reminded him of the omission, and ordered him to be off at once to his post.
So the Captain and his young bride sailed shortly for the menacing tropics of Surinam, Dutch Guiana.
Schenley's efforts there to free the Negroes so enraged the slave owners that he and his family were forced to escape by the climaxing threat to infect them with leprosy.
Schenleys Come 'Home' to See Her Father.
Back in England once more, the Schenleys were living in straitened circumstances when Mary's father, relenting, visited them, bought them a house in London, made them an allowance, and beseeched them to come to Pittsburgh to live with him.
Home again, Mr. Croghan built a vast red-brick addition to his beautiful hillside home, having the builders copy his daughter's London home.
At long last, the Schenleys arrived in Pittsburgh.
The children were sent ahead to greet their grandfather, Miss Koehler, daughter of the children's nurse, told us, and they completely won Mr. Croghan's heart.
On his second and last visit to the Croghan homestead, which Mr. Croghan called "Picnic House," but which today is known as the Schenley Mansion, Capt. Schenley talked of becoming a citizen of the United States, but before he did he "tired of the comparatively primitive life of this country," an old newspaper says, "and insisted on his family going back to England to live."
Mr. Croghan died in his vast mansion in 1850; his daughter in England in 1903.
Throughout all the years she lived in England and on the continent, she never forgot Pittsburgh or her old home.
She must have cherished a secret wish for some of her family to live here once more, for, by the terms of her will, all the furniture and other equipment of the Croghan home here were to be preserved for use of any of her heirs who might wish to come to Pittsburgh.
This will was faithfully observed until 1931, when the furniture and many old paintings, most of them family portraits, were sold at a public sale.
An irony resulting from Mary Croghan's elopement way back in 1842 is that Schenley Park, her gift to the city, and many other parts of Pittsburgh bear the name of her husband, Capt. Schenley, who scorned Pittsburgh as "backwoods," visited here unwillingly.
Schenley Park should rightfully be O'Hara Park, many students of Pittsburgh history feel, because it was Mary Schenley's pioneer grandfather, Gen. James O'Hara, who owned the land, eventually willed to her.
That Mary Schenley always loved Pittsburgh, and perhaps had a nostalgic yearning to live here once again in spite of a happy life, filled with the care of her six daughters and a son, and with the direction of her estate after her father's death, is proved by her numerous gifts to the city.
Of her gift of Schenley Park, the "Standard History of Pittsburgh," edited in 1898 by Erasmus Wilson, says:
"In 1889 she donated a princely tract which made the magnificent Schenley Park possible. She gave 300 acres out and out for this great scheme, and sold the city 120 acres more at the merest nominal price. Unborn generations will enjoy the blessings of this gift."
Her Many Donations Aided Civic Culture.
She donated five acres to the Western Pennsylvania Institute for the Blind in 1890; in 1894, a large lot to the Newsboys' Home; in 1895, the oldest relic in Pittsburgh, the old Blockhouse at the Point, and adjoining property, to the Daughters of the American Revolution; in 1894, "when citizens of Allegheny had almost despaired of securing sufficient money to make possible the purchase of their present beautiful park, she gave large donations, which gave such a forward movement that the present Riverview Park of that city was secured."
The same writer notes Mrs. Schenley was liberal to churches and public schools.
She also donated the 19 acres of land on which the Carnegie Library, a gift of Andrew Carnegie, is built.
Mr. Carnegie often visited Mrs. Schenley, by the way, at her beautiful villa, Mont Fleury, at Cannes, in the south of France.
Schenley Park, more than any of her gifts to the city, will perpetuate her name and the story of her elopement.
Edited excerpts from http://www.carnegielibrary.org/exhibit/neighborhoods/oakland/oak_n108.html

Votes1 DateDec 24, 2014

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Henry Phipps Jr.

Bernard Asper
Henry Phipps Jr. was a lifelong friend and business partner of Andrew Carnegie. The second-largest shareholder in Carnegie Steel, he had a brilliant mind for finance and accumulated one of the 100 largest fortunes in American history. With that wealth, Phipps built extensive public parks and conservatories throughout his hometown of Pittsburgh. He funded research into the treatment, prevention, and cure of tuberculosis, an effort which led him to create reduced-cost housing for the working poor. Perhaps most notably, he funded the creation of the country’s first medical faculty in the field of psychiatry.
Born in 1839, Phipps grew up in Pittsburgh. “Harry,” as he was universally called, dropped out of school at age 14, taking work as a jeweler’s apprentice for $1.25 per week. At 17, he borrowed 25¢ from his brother and placed an ad in the Pittsburgh Dispatch. It read: “A willing boy wishes work.” Dilworth and Biddle, a company that made iron and railroad spikes, offered him a job as an errand boy.
“There was no holding back a boy like that,” Andrew Carnegie later reflected in his autobiography. Phipps spent five years taking night courses in accounting, during which time he was made bookkeeper and not long after, partner. Thomas Miller, another childhood friend, lent Phipps $800 to invest in a new railroad equipment company, headed by Andrew Kloman. The partnership flourished and was soon investing in steel mills. In 1865, it caught the eye of Andrew Carnegie, who bought out Kloman and Phipps. It was then that Harry decided to work for his boyhood pal—a job he would hold for the next 36 years.
Phipps handled corporate finance—“he’s my money-getter,” Carnegie often said. Known for his calm demeanor, Phipps was a diplomat among and negotiator between increasingly fractious shareholders. (More than anyone else, Phipps ensured that Carnegie Steel held together until its merger into U.S. Steel.) When Carnegie and his partners sold the business in 1901, Phipps held 11 percent of the company’s stock, second only to Carnegie’s 58 percent. (Phipps’ full statement to reporters: “Ain’t Andy wonderful!”) Phipps netted between $40 and $50 million from the sale—yet it would prove the basis for only part of his wealth. In 1907, he created a family office to oversee his fortune, which in time evolved into Bessemer Trust, now one of the nation’s leading wealth managers.
Phipps dedicated the majority of his money to charity, although the full extent of his gifts will never be known. He refused all interview requests and chose to keep most of his gifts private. “Unlike Carnegie, Harry shunned all publicity about his personal life and philanthropies,” note his granddaughter and a collaborator in their biography.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Phipps
Phipps began his efforts to beautify the city of Pittsburgh in the 1880s, donating to public parks, baths, playgrounds, and gardens. He is perhaps best remembered for creating the Phipps Conservatory in 1893, which remains to this day one of America’s leading botanical gardens. In his dedication, Phipps made clear his desire to “erect something that will prove a source of instruction as well as pleasure to the people.” In an unusual stipulation, he required that the conservatory be open on Sundays, so that workingmen and their families could visit on their day of rest. Local ministers denounced the proposal, but Phipps insisted on it—and ultimately won the argument.
Phipps is one of the least-remembered great philanthropists of the early 20th century. He sought no recognition for his philanthropy; he never endowed a foundation. But his charitable giving did real and lasting good, improving Pittsburgh civic life, exploring new ways to fight poverty, advancing medical research, providing health care to the poor, and inspiring other donors. Long before his death in 1930, he was widely admired for his decency and kindness. James H. Bridge, the muckraking author of a caustic account of Carnegie’s rise, observed in a 1902 profile that Phipps’ career “is without parallel for a man as successful as he has been: he never made an enemy, nor lost a friend.”
Excerpted from http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/almanac/hall_of_fame/henry_phipps_jr

Votes2 DateDec 24, 2014

[image for World Spotlight Fred Rogers.jpg]

Fred Rogers

Bernard Asper
The beloved and longtime host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He was an only child until the age of 11 when his parents, James and Nancy, adopted a baby girl.
After graduating from Latrobe High School, Rogers enrolled at Dartmouth College, where he studied for a year before transferring to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Rogers, who'd begun playing the piano at a young age, graduated magna cum laude in 1951 with a degree in music composition.
During his senior year of college he visited his parents and was awed by the family's newest household addition: a television set. He could see a fantastic future for the medium and, as he'd later recall, Rogers immediately decided he wanted to be a part of it.
Rogers' first job in television came in 1953 when he was hired to work in programming by WQED in Pittsburgh, a recently launched community TV station that was the first of its kind in the country.
By the following year, he was co-producing a new program, The Children's Corner. This allowed Rogers, who'd fallen in love with puppetry as a child, to introduce some of his favorite puppets from his home to his young audience.
As his experience grew, so did his aspirations. He earned his divinity degree in 1962, and at his ordination the Presbyterian Church asked him to serve children and families through television. Rogers made his first appearance the following year as Mister Rogers on a Canadian Broadcast System show called Misterogers. The program helped lay the groundwork in its look and approach for Rogers' later show.
Canada, however, was not where Rogers or his wife Joanne, whom he'd met at Rollins, wanted to raise their two young sons. Soon, the Rogers family was back in Pittsburgh, where Rogers launched Misterogers' Neighborhood in 1966. Two years later, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired on PBS stations throughout much of the country.
At the center of the show, of course, was Fred Rogers himself, a Protestant minister who worked as the series' producer, host and head puppeteer. He also wrote the scripts and songs.
"The world is not always a kind place," he said, talking about his show. "That's something all children learn for themselves, whether we want them to or not, but it's something they really need our help to understand."
In the very first show that aired on PBS, Fred Rogers began the program much as he would over the next 33 years by walking through the front door of his television house and trading in his raincoat and suit jacket for a zippered sweater. The sweaters soon became as much a part of the program as the puppets. In all, Rogers had about two dozen of them, all made by his mother. In 1984, the Smithsonian Institution chose to put one of the famous sweaters on exhibit.
During its long run, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood attracted well known guests such as Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis and earned Rogers several awards for the program's excellence. The honors included four daytime Emmys, a 1997 Lifetime Achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and, in 2002, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1999, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Rogers' commitment to children, however, wasn't limited to the TV set. In 1968, he served as chairman of a White House forum on child development and the mass media, and was often consulted as an expert or witness on those issues.
"Those of us in broadcasting have a special calling to give whatever we feel is the most nourishing that we can for our audience," Mr. Rogers said. "We are servants of those who watch and listen."
As his program crossed into its fourth decade, Rogers began to slow down. Over the last few years of its run, the host curtailed his production schedule to 15 or so episodes a year. In December 2000, he taped his final episode, though PBS aired original programs until August 2001.
In December 2002, doctors diagnosed Rogers with stomach cancer. He underwent surgery the following month, but it did little to slow the disease down. On February 27, 2003, with his wife Joanne at his side, Rogers died at his home in Pittsburgh.
(Excerpts fromhttp:// www.biography.com/people/fred-rogers-9462161#mister-rogers-neighborhood )

Votes1 DateDec 11, 2014

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Jonas Salk

Bernard Asper
Jonas Salk was born October 28, 1914, in New York City. Jonas Salk was one of the leading scientists of the twentieth century and the creator of the first polio vaccine. He grew up poor in New York City, where his father worked in the garment district. Education was very important to his parents, and they encouraged him to apply himself to his studies.
After graduating from high school, Salk attended the City College of New York, where he earned a bachelor's degree in science. He went on to earn his M.D. from New York University in 1939. Salk interned at Mount Sinai Hospital for two years and then earned a fellowship to University of Michigan, where he studied flu viruses with Dr. Thomas Francis Jr.
In 1947, Salk took a position at University of Pittsburgh, where he began conducting research on polio, also known as infantile paralysis. By 1951, Salk had determined that there were three distinct types of polio viruses and was able to develop a "killed virus" vaccine for the disease. The vaccine used polio viruses that had been grown in a laboratory and then destroyed.
Preliminary testing of the polio vaccine began in 1952. The testing expanded over the next two years, making it one of the largest clinical trials in medical history. Roughly 2 million children were given the vaccine during the test phase. Salk's efforts were supported and promoted by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and its president Basil O'Connor. When the vaccine was approved for general use in 1955, Salk became a national hero. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave him a special citation at a ceremony held in the Rose Garden at the White House. On April 12, 1955, the vaccine was released for use in the United States. He established the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in 1963. Salk died in 1995.
(Excerpts of material from http://www.biography.com/people/jonas-salk-9470147#personal-life )

Votes3 DateDec 10, 2014

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Henry Clay Frick

Bernard Asper
Born on December 19, 1849, in West Overton, Pennsylvania, Henry Frick developed a coke and steel business, coming to head the Carnegie Steel Company. His labor practices helped lead to the Homestead Strike, and, after a rift with Andrew Carnegie, he would form the U.S. Steel Corporation in 1901. Frick's New York mansion and art collection later become the Frick Museum. He died in New York City on December 2, 1919.
(From http://www.biography.com/people/henry-frick-9302530#synopsis )

Votes1 DateDec 9, 2014

[image for World Spotlight Andrew Carnegie.jpg]

Andrew Carnegie

Bernard Asper
Andrew Carnegie
Philanthropist (1835–1919)
Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Scotland. Although he had little formal education, Carnegie grew up in a family that believed in the importance of books and learning. The son of a handloom weaver, Carnegie grew up to become one of the wealthiest businessmen in America.
At the age of 13, in 1848, Carnegie came to the United States with his family. They settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Carnegie went to work in a factory, earning $1.20 a week. The next year he found a job as a telegraph messenger. Hoping to advance his career, he moved up to a telegraph operator position in 1851. He then took a job at the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1853. He worked as the assistant and telegrapher to Thomas Scott, one of the railroad's top officials. Through this experience, he learned about the railroad industry and about business in general. Three years later, Carnegie was promoted to superintendent. By 1889 he owned Carnegie Steel Corporation, the largest of its kind in the world. In 1901 he sold his business and dedicated his time to expanding his philanthropic work, including the establishment of Carnegie-Mellon University in 1904.
His Carnegie Steel Company, revolutionized steel production in the United States. Carnegie built plants around the country, using technology and methods that made manufacturing steel easier, faster and more productive. For every step of the process, he owned exactly what he needed: the raw materials, ships and railroads for transporting the goods, and even coal fields to fuel the steel furnaces.
This start-to-finish strategy helped Carnegie become the dominant force in the industry and an exceedingly wealthy man. It also made him known as one of America's "builders," as his business helped to fuel the economy and shape the nation into what it is today. By 1889, Carnegie Steel Corporation was the largest of its kind in the world.
In 1901, Carnegie made a dramatic change in his life. He sold his business to the United States Steel Corporation, started by legendary financier J.P. Morgan. The sale earned him more than $200 million. At the age of 65, Carnegie decided to spend the rest of his days helping others. While he had begun his philanthropic work years earlier by building libraries and making donations, Carnegie expanded his efforts in the early 20th century.
Carnegie, an avid reader for much of his life, donated approximately $5 million to the New York Public Library so that the library could open several branches in 1901. Devoted to learning, he established the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, which is now known as Carnegie-Mellon University in 1904. The next year, he created the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1905. With his strong interest to peace, he formed the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1910. He made numerous other donations, and it is said that more than 2,800 libraries were opened with his support.
(Excerpts edited only for summary of material from http://www.biography.com/people/andrew-carnegie-9238756#synopsis )

Votes2 DateDec 8, 2014

[image for World Spotlight Mary Ann Grant.jpg]

Mary Ann Grant

Bernard Asper
Mary Ann Grant overcame abuse and took charge of her life and wants you to take charge of yours. In her life she has demonstrated resourcefulness early, at thirteen managing a restaurant. She was helping children who were abused teaching them responsibility and resourcefulness. She came to use her own struggles to overcome her challenges in life to teach others what she learned along the way. Her ,message is that you must take responsibility for your life and move it in a positive direction taking full responsibility for yourself and your actions, finding the strength you need within.
Her goal is not that you should have power and control over others, rather that all the joy and contentment in life should come from knowing that you can control your own life and find contentment within.
With her book "Life in Harmony: A Guide to Healthier Thinking" she wants to reach the world with the lessons in life skills she has learned so that we all can live a life in harmony.

Votes4 DateDec 8, 2014

Created Planet Sanctuary Spotlights

[image for Planet Spotlight Bird.jpg]

Birds Form Shapes in the Sky.

Bernard Asper
The coordination among these birds in flight produces art that changes in time. They act like one entity.

Votes3 DateJun 1, 2015

Created Light of Culture Spotlights

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North America


Bernard Asper
The Melungeons

Melungeons, dark-skinned mountaineers of eastern Tennessee, southwest Virginia and Kentucky, have sparked myths and theories over the past century: among them that they were descendants of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors, or the Roma, the Gypsies. Some have speculated on connections with the Lumbee Indians in Robeson County or the Lost Colonists of the Outer Banks. The traditional view is that they are of mixture of black, white and Native American origin.
For centuries, they remained almost invisible to the American mainstream. They live hidden away on inaccessible mountain ridges, and a racially segregated society wrote them off as a mixture of white, black and American Indian. Now, evidence is emerging which suggests that the Melungeons may have been among America's very first settlers, arriving in Appalachia long before the Northern Europeans.
The name likely comes from the French "melange," a slur most often used by suspicious white neighbors in the days of the Jim Crow South, when African-Americans and anyone with dark skin faced prejudice and segregation.
Researchers have theorized that Melungeons may have been a mixture of European, African and Native Americans. A DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy in 2012 found that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.
In the segregated South, any trace of black blood mattered legally. Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act in 1924, the so-called "one drop" rule that would strip anyone of mixed race from white legal privileges. Melungeons through history were often shunned and pushed off to the edges of the economy.
The conventional wisdom, suggests that Appalachia was settled predominantly by English, Scots and Irish people. But to many, like a certain, Dr Brent Kennedy, that did not appear to be the whole story.
When he began to research his ancestry, Dr Kennedy found evidence that the first people to arrive in Appalachia, were not northern Europeans which includes people from the British Isles, but may have been Ottoman Turks. Portuguese settlers brought Turkish servants with them in the 16th Century.
Sir Francis Drake unloaded hundreds of other Turks after he liberated them from the Spanish in 1587. Blood typing has confirmed close similarities between present day Melungeons and people of the Mediterranean region.
What has now become known as the Kennedy theory is that these people pushed inland and settled down with American Indian women, to begin life as farmers. With his team of researchers, Dr Kennedy has found hundreds of words in local Indian dialects that have almost the same meaning in Turkish or Arabic. The Cherokee word for mother for example, is Ana Ta. In Turkish, the word for mother is also Ana-Ta.
Dr Kennedy says the word Melungeon is derived from the Arabic "Melun-Jinn" meaning one who has been abandoned by god - a cursed soul.
His theory is that when white settlers arrived in the region and saw that these dark skinned people had already taken the best land in the valleys, they pushed them out and into the high mountain ridges where Melungeons live to this day. The word Melungeon was considered a racial epithet, and the specter of the dark people of the mountains was used by Appalachian mothers to scare their children into good behavior.
In the segregated South, local bureaucrats described Melungeons as mongrels and half -breeds, and they were classified black and denied education or the right to vote. Others moved away in the hope of escaping the racism of the South. Those who stayed kept to themselves.
Melungeons have filtered into all aspects of American society. Researchers claim that Elvis Presley and Ava Gardner may both have had a Melungeon heritage.
Brent Kennedy has received death threats from those who feel he is slurring their name by denying their Scots-Irish heritage.
But for many younger Melungeons, the idea that they may be linked to some of the very first settlers in the new world 400 years ago, has given them a stronger sense of identity, in a country which has forced them to hide it for centuries.
Edited mostly from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/06/24/melungeon-mountaineers-mixed-race/29252839/ and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/384502.stm

Votes1 DateJan 13, 2017

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Bernard Asper
The autonomous community of Catalonia occupies a triangular area in the northeastern corner of Spain. It is bordered by France and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the autonomous community of Valencia to the south, and the autonomous community of Aragon to the west. The autonomous community of Catalonia was established by the statute of autonomy of December 18, 1979. The government consists of a Generalitat (an executive council headed by a president) and a unicameral parliament. The capital is Barcelona. The principal rivers in Catalonia are the Ter, Llobregat, and Ebro, all of which flow into the Mediterranean. A Mediterranean climate prevails throughout most of Catalonia, with hot, dry summers and mild, relatively rainy winters.
The towns of the Catalan coast have dominated the development of the region, with the result that the population is heavily concentrated along the Mediterranean, increasingly depopulating the hinterland. In the 20th century there was additional concentration of population in the city of Barcelona and its satellite towns.
Catalonia’s traditional agriculture was centered on the production of wine, almonds, and olive oil for export, as well as rice, potatoes, and corn (maize) as staples. Slightly more than one-third of Catalonia remains under cultivation, and the traditional crops of olives and grapes are being supplanted by fruits and vegetables for consumption in the cities. The raising of pigs and cows is the dominant agricultural activity. Agriculture accounts for only a tiny fraction of Catalonia’s domestic product, however.
The autonomous community of Catalonia is the richest and most highly industrialized part of Spain. The Catalan textile industry first achieved prominence between 1283 and 1313 and long remained the region’s premier industry. The manufacturing sector underwent rapid expansion and diversification since the 1950s, however, and metalworking, food-processing, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries had overtaken textiles in importance by the 21st century. Textile, paper making and graphic arts, chemicals, and metalworking industries are concentrated in Barcelona; Sabadell and Terrassa are also textile centers. One of Barcelona’s plants produces electric automobiles for Nissan. Catalonia’s growing demand for petroleum products led to the expansion of Tarragona’s petroleum refineries. Services, particularly those of tourism and transportation, are highly developed.
Catalonia was one of the first Roman possessions in Spain. Occupied during the 5th century by the Goths, it was taken by the Moors in 712 and at the end of the 8th century by Charlemagne, who incorporated it into his realm as the Spanish March, ruled by a count.
Frankish suzerainty over Catalonia was merely nominal, however, and was completely rejected during the reign of Count Borrell (died 991).
From 1137, when Count Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona was betrothed to Petronila, queen of Aragon, Catalonia and Aragon were united under the same ruler. Catalonia monopolized trade in the western Mediterranean in the 13th and 14th centuries, and Catalan interests dominated the union with Aragon until 1410, when the male line of the counts of Barcelona became extinct.
Dissatisfaction in Catalonia with the new Trastámara dynasty of Aragon increased after 1412, and during the reign of John II it developed into a full-scale but unsuccessful rebellion (1462–72).
After the marriage of John II’s son Ferdinand with Isabella of Castile (1469) had brought about the unification of Spain, Catalonia became of secondary importance in Spanish affairs. Though it retained its autonomy and Generalitat (assembly), by the 17th century its conflict of interest with Castile, along with the decline of the Spanish monarchy’s prestige, led to the first of a series of Catalan separatist movements. In 1640 Catalonia revolted against Spain and placed itself under the protection of Louis XIII of France, but the revolt was quelled in the 1650s. In the War of the Spanish Succession, Catalonia declared its support for the archduke Charles and resisted the accession of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain, but in 1714 it was completely subjugated by the forces of the Bourbon Philip V, who abolished the Catalan constitution and autonomy.
The Catalonians' language Catalan developed from its inhabitants bordering with various language areas. In the 1850s serious efforts were made to revive Catalan as a living language with its own press and theater—a movement known as the Renaixença (“Rebirth”). Catalan nationalism became a serious force after 1876, when the defeat of the Carlists led the church to transfer its support to the movement for autonomy.
Catalan nationalism had two major strands: a conservative, Roman Catholic one and a more liberal, secular one. The former was initially predominant, particularly in the first decades of the 20th century. By 1913 Catalonia had won a slight degree of autonomy, but the legislation conferring it was repealed in 1925 by Miguel Primo de Rivera, who attacked all manifestations of Catalan nationalism.
Primo de Rivera’s policy led to the formation of a left-wing coalition party in Catalonia, the Esquerra Republicana. The Esquerra won a sweeping victory in the municipal elections of 1931, and two days later its leader proclaimed a Catalan Republic. A compromise was worked out with the central government, and in September 1932 the statute of autonomy for Catalonia became law. Catalonia played a prominent role in the history of Republican Spain and in the Civil War (1936–39). The Nationalists’ victory in 1939 meant the loss of autonomy, however, and Gen. Francisco Franco’s government adopted a repressive policy toward Catalan nationalism.
The establishment of democratic rule in Spain after Franco’s death did not lessen Catalonia’s desire for autonomy, and in September 1977 limited autonomy was granted to the region. The pro-autonomy Convergence and Union party was founded the following year, and it served as the dominant political force in Catalonia over subsequent decades. Full autonomy was granted in 1979 with the establishment of the autonomous community of Catalonia. In 2006 Catalonia was granted “nation” status and given the same level of taxation responsibility as the Spanish central government. Spain’s Constitutional Court struck down portions of this autonomy statute in 2010, ruling that Catalans constituted a “nationality” but that Catalonia was not, itself, a “nation.”
Many Catalans, frustrated at the management of the Spanish economy throughout the euro-zone debt crisis, continued to push for increased fiscal independence from the central government. In 2013 the Catalonian regional parliament passed a measure calling for a referendum on independence from Spain to be held in 2014. Scotland’s referendum on independence from the United Kingdom in September 2014, although ultimately unsuccessful, galvanized the independence movement in Catalonia. Convergence and Union leader Artur Mas called for the long-promised, albeit nonbinding, independence referendum to be held on November 9, 2014. The move was immediately challenged by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the independence campaign was suspended while the Constitutional Court considered the legality of the vote. Ultimately, Mas proceeded with the referendum but framed it as an informal poll of Catalan opinion. With more than one-third of registered voters participating in the balloting, over 80 percent expressed a desire for independence.
The push for Independence and the push against continues and has not let up on either side of the debate. Whatever happens there is no doubt that the Catalans have a unique culture and their language is the official language of the small principality of Andorra that lies between France and Spain.
Edited and compiled mostly from https://www.britannica.com/place/Catalonia

Votes1 DateSep 23, 2016

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Middle East

Jews of Djerba

Bernard Asper
According to a local tradition, the Jewish settlement in Djerba also spelled Jerba dates from the reign of King Solomon and so was founded the present al-Ḥāra al-Kabīra (the "Big Quarter"). A family of Kohanim, priests fleeing Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. is said to have transported one of the Temple gates from Jerusalem to Djerba. It is believed to be enclosed in the Bezalel synagogue, known as al-Gharība (the "extraordinary") of the Ḥāra al-Ṣaghīra (the "Small Quarter"), which is situated in the center of the island.
The Gharība was a much frequented place of pilgrimage. The Jewish population consisted mainly of Kohanim with a small sprinkling of others, although there were no members of the tribe of Levi, the tribe assisting the Kohanim, among the residents. According to tradition, the absence of Levites on the island is the result of a curse of death against them by Ezra because they refused to answer his request to send Levites to Israel at the time of Jewish return to Israel after the first exile. The history of the Jews of Djerba includes three serious persecutions: in the 12th century under the Almohads; in 1519 under the Spanish; and in 1943 under the Nazis. In 1239 a colony of Jews from Djerba settled in Sicily , where they obtained concessions to cultivate henna, indigo, and the royal palm groves. It was common for the male Jewish population of Djerba to look for livelihood abroad, but they kept returning to the island, where their families had remained. Exchange of goods with Malta and Italy was in the hands of the Jews, who grew the products and processed the commodities for export themselves.
In the 19th and 20th centuries the Yeshivot, Rabbinical academies, of Djerba produced many rabbis and writers and they provided rabbis for the communities of North Africa. In 1946 there were some 4,900 Jews in Djerba, settled in al-Ḥara al-Ṣaghīra, al-Ḥāra al-Kabīra, and Houmt-Souk, the principal town of the island. Their number dwindled to about 1,500 by the late 1960s, about 1,000 in 1976, 800 in 1984, and 670 in 1993, the majority immigrating to Israel. Those remaining dealt in jewelry and commerce, but the Jewish neighborhoods lost their purely Jewish character as Muslims moved in and the community was the victim of several anti-Jewish incidents. Across the rest of the Middle East, Jewish communities have been vanishing over the past half century, since the creation of Israel. Before then, there were more than 850,000 Jews living in the Arab world. Today, there are between 4,000 to 4,500, according to Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Some countries, such as Algeria and Libya, which once had sizable Jewish populations, have virtually no Jews within their borders. Egypt, which through the late 1940s had 75,000 Jews active in the country’s economic and social life, is down to a few dozen. Only Morocco, once home to 265,000 Jews, has a community of 2,500 left. Many are elderly or middle-aged.
As other Tunisian Jews moved away to Israel and France for fear of persecution, the Jews of Djerba stubbornly clung to the promise of their own future. A community that had dwindled to fewer than 700 Jews by the mid-1990s—from a high of about 5,000 in 1948—began to grow slowly but surely. While there were and still are departures, they are outweighed by the young families choosing to stay. Today, the island’s Jews number roughly 1,000, local leaders estimate. Mounting concerns about anti-Semitism in France, underscore what the Chief Rabbi of Tunisia has been saying for years: That no place is safer or more hospitable for Jews.
“The Jews of Djerba are concentrated in one area, so the government is able to protect us,” says Haim Bittan, the Chief Rabbi. A resident of Djerba, Rabbi Bittan also believes that the community’s deep spirituality offers it protection. “We have faith in God, that if we keep his laws and commandments, he will guard us from evil,” he says.
The central government in Tunis has long seen value in having a stable Jewish population. Even after the 2011 revolution ousted longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali —the first casualty of the Arab Spring—the new leaders sought to assure Tunisian Jews that they were safe.
Djerba has enjoyed a lucrative tourist industry and Tunisia has been keen to preserve it by stressing its tolerance and moderation. Having a sizable Jewish community is key in that goal.
Djerban Jewish leaders are concerned about assimilation, so contacts with the 150,000 Muslims on the island are limited. Clustered in the Hara Kebira, the main Jewish quarter, they speak Arabic as well as Hebrew; a few speak French.
Relations between Jews and Muslims are complex—proper and respectful, though not especially close. Jewish men work alongside Arab merchants in the souk, for example, and enjoy amiable ties with Muslim customers.
With its low-lying houses and narrow, unpaved streets, the Hara Kebira is modest. While not walled in, it is insular and self-contained. Little boys run around in skullcaps; women wear long skirts, and scarves. And there are over a dozen working synagogues. The community is still Orthodox and insular but laptops, iPhones and TV sets are ubiquitous and more opportunities for women are being pushed for. Djerban Jews are proud of their heritage and want to preserve it even as the community has embraced aspects of modern culture. It is an ancient heritage of deep faith and it dwells on an island in space and in time.
For the most part this article is based on and quotes from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0005_0_05275.html and http://www.wsj.com/articles/insular-jewish-community-of-djerba-tunisia-has-weathered-revolution-and-terrorism-but-can-it-survive-girls-education-1423869146

Votes4 DateJan 17, 2016

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Bernard Asper
Early history
The original settlement of Hawaii by Polynesians was followed by a second wave of immigrants that sailed from Tahiti during the 9th or 10th century. The original Hawaiians were highly skilled in fishing and farming. By the late 18th century their society had evolved into a complex one with a rigid system of laws set down by chiefs and priests. They worshiped and feared a group of gods not unlike the ancient Greek deities of Mount Olympus in character and power.
Contact with and settlement by Polynesian Tahitians began in the 9th century. The Tahitians ruled the earlier settlers. Powerful classes of chiefs and priests arrived and established themselves. The early Hawaiians lacked a written language. Their culture was entirely oral and rich in myth, legend, and practical knowledge, especially of animals and plant life. Today the Hawaiian alphabet consists in the order of the English alphabet of the letters A, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, U, and W. The Hawaiians displayed great skill in the use of wood, shell, stone, and bone, and their huge double and outrigger canoes were technical marvels. Navigational methods were well developed, and there was an elaborate calendar. Athletic contests encouraged warrior skills.
The arrival of Europeans
Capt. James Cook, the British explorer and navigator, is generally credited with having made the first European discovery of Hawaii; he landed at Waimea, Kauai Island, on Jan. 20, 1778. He traded with the Hawaiians who considered him a great chief with divine powers. He named them the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich, first lord of the British admiralty. Upon Cook's return the following year, he was killed during an affray with a number of Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay.
The initial appearance of Cook was followed by a period of intermittent contact with the West introducing to the islands various livestock, manufactured goods, and plants. During this period King Kamehameha I used European military technology and weapons to emerge as an outstanding Hawaiian leader first by conquering Hawaii Island in a 10 year civil war ending in 1782, then by seizing and consolidating control over the main island group except for Kauai and Niihau. For 85 years thereafter monarchs ruled over the Hawaiian kingdom. The local chiefs became governors over their islands under King Kamehameha I with this state of governorship coming being extended to include Kauai and Niihau since in 1810 Kaumualii their ruler accepted the rule of King Kamehameha I.
After the death of King Kamehameha I in 1819 his son Liholiho became King Kamehameha II. He abolished the Hawaiian religion. The religion involved large temples, many orders of priests and the belief in many gods and goddesses. Protestantism became the official religion enforced by the chiefs who accordingly forced the Roman Catholics to leave Hawaii. They tried to prevent more from arriving and arrested many Hawaiians who became Roman Catholic. In July 1839 the French sent the frigate L'Artemise to threaten Honolulu unless the Catholics were freed. The frigate's captain also demanded religious freedom for Roman Catholics. The Hawaiians gave in to the captain's demands.
Hawaii eventually had a Queen, Queen Liliuokalani. She seemed as if she would abrogate the constitution of Hawaii. The Committee of Safety, a group of American and European businessmen, some of whom were citizens of the kingdom, seized power in 1893, with the help of a company of U.S. Marines from the U.S.S. Boston, at anchor in the harbor. The U.S. government, under Pres. Grover Cleveland, refused to annex the territory, however, noting that the overthrow of the monarchy was an “act of war” accomplished against popular will using U.S. armed force . A short-lived republic (an oligarchy of American and European businessmen) ensued, until the administration of Pres. William McKinley annexed the islands as U.S. territory in 1900.
As a U.S. territory, Hawaii until 1940 was distinguished by a rapid growth in population, the development of a plantation economy based on the production of sugar and pineapples for consumption on the U.S. mainland, and the growth of transport and military links. Movements for statehood, based in part on Hawaii’s obligation to pay U.S. taxes without having corresponding legislative representation, began to emerge. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, brought not only Hawaii but the United States as a whole into World War II, and the islands were beset by an upsurge of military activity and a sometimes controversial curtailment of civil liberties.
Since statehood both the population and the economy boomed in Hawaii, with ever-increasing numbers of visitors. Tourism remained the dominant industry in the early 21st century. Visitors are lured not only by the warm climate and exotic beauty of the islands but also by a growing number of world-class resorts, built on such a grand scale that they are destinations in themselves. Moreover, the Mauna Kea Observatory has helped Hawaii become a major world center of astronomy.
Hawaii is by now multiracial with no dominant race. Still despite the draw of Hawaii for tourists, foreigners, and researchers, Native Hawaiians continue to demand land rights, more autonomy in their internal affairs, and the right to self-governance. The establishment of a Native Hawaiian governing entity continues to be debated between Native Hawaiians and those who oppose ancestry-based sovereignty.
Based partially on http://www.britannica.com/place/Hawaii-state and partially on The World Book Encyclopedia, sometimes quoting them verbatim.

Votes3 DateOct 15, 2015

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North America

The Cherokees

Bernard Asper
The Cherokees settled in the American Southeast portion of the country. The tribe was of Iroquoian descent. They had originally been from the Great Lakes region of the country, but eventually settled closer to the east coast. They were a strong tribe with several smaller sections, all lead by chiefs. The tribe was highly religious and spiritual. When the American Revolution took place, the Cherokee Indians supported the British soldiers, and even assisted them in battle by taking part in several attacks. The Creek and Choctaw tribes also assisted in the battles on the British side.
Eventually around the 1800s, the Cherokee Indians began to adopt the culture that the white man brought to them. They began to dress more European, and even adopted many of their farming and building methods. In 1828, gold was discovered on the Cherokee’s land. This prompted the overtaking of their homes, and they were forced out. They had been settled in Georgia for many years, but were now being made to leave and find a new place to settle. This is the origin for the historically popular Trail of Tears, where men, women, and children had to pack up their belongings and find new homes, marching a span of thousands of miles. When all was said and done, about 4,000 Cherokee lost their lives on the journey.
Sequoyah also called George Gist was born about 1775 in Taskigi, North Carolina and died in August 1843 near San Fernando, Mexico. He was the creator of the Cherokee writing system (see Cherokee language). Sequoyah was Cherokee on his mother's side. He was an accomplished silversmith, painter, and warrior and served with the U.S. Army in the Creek War in 1813–14.
Sequoyah became convinced that the secret of what he considered the white people’s superior power was the written language, which enabled them to accumulate and transmit more knowledge than was possible for a people dependent on memory and word of mouth.
Accordingly, about 1809 he began working to develop a system of writing for the Cherokees, believing that increased knowledge would help them maintain their independence. He experimented first with pictographs and then with symbols representing the syllables of the spoken Cherokee language, adapting letters from English, Greek, and Hebrew. His daughter helped him to identify the Cherokee syllables. By 1821 he had created a system of 86 symbols, representing all the syllables of the Cherokee language.
Sequoyah convinced his people of the utility of his syllabary by transmitting messages between the Cherokees of Arkansas (with whom he went to live) and those of the east and by teaching his daughter and other young people of the tribe to write. The simplicity of his system enabled pupils to learn it rapidly, and soon Cherokees throughout the nation were teaching it in their schools and publishing books and newspapers in their own Cherokee language.
Sequoyah’s name (spelled Sequoia) was given to the giant redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) of the Pacific Coast and the big trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) of the Sierra Nevada range. The Cherokee rose is now the state flower of Georgia. Today, the largest population of Cherokee Indians live in the state of Oklahoma, where there are three federally recognized Cherokee communities with thousands of residents.
Adapted from http://www.indians.org/articles/cherokee-indians.html and http://www.britannica.com/biography/Sequoyah

Votes1 DateSep 22, 2015

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North America

The Cajuns

Bernard Asper
The Cajuns are descendants of Roman Catholic French Canadians whom the British, in the 18th century, drove from the captured French colony of Acadia (now Nova Scotia and adjacent areas)who settled in the fertile bayou lands of southern Louisiana. The Cajuns today form small, compact, generally self-contained communities. Their patois is a combination of archaic French forms with idioms taken from their English, Spanish, German, American Indian, and African American (usually “Creole”) neighbors.
Pres. Teddy Roosevelt was a proponent of the ‘melting pot’ philosophy. The movement was led by people in Louisiana such as Progressive Luther Hall, elected governor in 1912. In July of that year, the legislature passed an act allowing the Department of Education to select all books and curricula for public schools. Starting the next year, English was stressed throughout the curricula, essentially banning French from the schools. In 1916, the state legislature approved Act 27, which required that all children attend public school where English was to be the language. This implicitly meant that the Cajun children that were brought up speaking French in their homes would have to learn English. The events were completed in 1921 when the Louisiana Constitution was changed so that all school proceedings had to be conducted in English. This succession of events led to many Cajuns growing up without learning their ancestral language. Stories abound of Cajun children being punished for speaking French at school.
Most of the parents of children in school for the first few decades of the century had grown up speaking French and still spoke it in the home. Children would learn English at school, but still learned some French in the home. As that English-educated generation grew up and had their own families, the use of French in the home was decreased with each generation. Some Cajun families, especially in more rural areas, continued to pass along the Cajun French language throughout the twentieth century.
Things began to turn around in the 1960s. Faced with the prospect of losing their language, CODOFIL (Council for the Development of French in Louisiana) was established in 1968 to help bring interest in the French language back to the educational system. Less than 5% of Cajuns born in the last fifty years speak French as their primary language. The French being taught by CODOFIL was not Cajun French. Still, it was a move leading to French language preservation amongst the Cajuns. French immersion programs can now be found across Acadiana, Cajun Louisiana.
Zachary Richard founded Action Cadienne to advocate for the Cajun French language. The group maintains that the language is integral to the continuation of Cajun culture.
Cajun cuisine reflects the mixture of cultures in Louisiana. Among its classic dishes are alligator stew, jambalaya, gumbo—actually a Creole dish, made with a roux—and crayfish (or other seafood) étouffée, served over rice. Many dishes are prepared with some variety of sausage, such as boudin or andouille (a smoked sausage made with pork), and tasso (a pork shoulder preparation borrowed from the Choctaw). Essential seasonings include filé powder (made from sassafras leaves), cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Cajun music likewise shows a blend of several influences, including French, Creole, and Celtic songs. Cajun songs are usually sung in French. Typical ensemble instruments are the fiddle, the diatonic (button) accordion, the guitar, and spoons or the triangle. Tempos can range from a mournful waltz to a lively two-step, but, whatever the tempo, Cajun music is meant to be danced to.
Article mostly from http://www.acadian-cajun.com/clang.htmin content and http://www.britannica.com/topic/Cajun

Votes7 DateSep 1, 2015

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Japanese Writing

Bernard Asper
Japanese used to speak in Japanese with their written language being Chinese, learned from Chinese people who lived in Japan during the early Christian era. By the 8th and 9th centuries, Chinese characters began to be used to represent the Japanese language. Chinese loanwords and characters began to be "Japanified" for more convenient use (Encyclopædia Britannica 1997). As a result of this Chinese influence and domestic adaptation, Japanese writing developed into the threefold system it is today.
One system is the Kanji, which are borrowed Chinese ideographs, word pictures, which is what Chinese uses to write. Each kanji is a character that represents a meaning. For example, the concepts sun, moon, fire, and water are each expressed in writing with a single kanji. Since each unrelated idea requires a separate character, thousands of ideographs are necessary for a sufficient writing system. That means that each character must be identifiably different from all the rest, so each individual character can be complex as well. Today there are about two thousand kanji in regular use in Japan. Each kanji has at least two pronunciations: one, an imitation of the equivalent Chinese word (the On reading), and the other, a native Japanese word (the Kun reading).
For more convenience two systems called Kana developed during the 9th Century, as two different methods to simplify writing. Hiragana arose as a cursive abbreviation for the kanji, and was the writing system of women, who were excluded from the study of Chinese characters. Men's writing systems were Kanji and Katakana until the 10th century when Hiragana was used by all. The word hiragana means "ordinary syllabic script". Chinese through Buddhism had become a traditional Japanese priestly language and through this Japanese writing was further developed by priests creating the Katakana writing system. Buddhism is the imported faith that most Japanese who are religious are members of in addition to the native faith of Shintoism. As the priests read Chinese works, they translated them in their temples into Japanese and inserted these kana beside the kanji as a mnemonic device to help them with Japanese inflections that were not in the Chinese (Encyclopædia Britannica 1997).
The kana are syllabic. Like capital and lowercase sets of letters in the Roman alphabets, the two kana systems cover the same phonetic territory but have different orthographic functions.
Katakana, the first syllabary, is more angular and is used mostly for transcribing words of foreign origin, such as terebi (television). Hiragana is more cursive, and can be used for grammatical inflections or for writing native Japanese words where kanji are not used. Modern Japanese texts may also include rōmaji, (Roman letters), the standard way of writing Japanese with the Latin alphabet. This was the only way for typing Japanese before using traditional script became possible.
The direction of writing of Japanese is right to left in vertical columns or left to right in horizontal lines. Horizontal writing was first used during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) in Western language dictionaries of Japanese. Today both orientations are used.
Mostly from http://linguistics.byu.edu/classes/ling450ch/reports/japanese.htm , http://www.omniglot.com/writing/japanese_Katakana.htm and http://www.omniglot.com/writing/japanese.htm

Votes1 DateAug 20, 2015

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Chinese Writing

Bernard Asper
It is not known when Chinese writing originated, but it apparently began to develop about 4000 years ago. The earliest graphs were schematic pictures of what they represented; the graph for man resembled a standing figure, that for woman depicted a kneeling figure.
Although it was possible to make up simple signs to represent common objects, many words were not readily picturable. To represent such words the phonographic principle was adopted. A graph that pictured some object was borrowed to write a different word that happened to sound similar. Because of the enormous number of Chinese words that sound the same, to have carried through the phonographic principle would have resulted in a writing system in which many of the words could be read in more than one way. That is, a written character would be extremely ambiguous.
The solution to the problem of character ambiguity, adopted about 213 BCE (during the reign of the first Qin emperor, Shihuangdi), was to distinguish two words having the same sound and represented by the same graph by adding another graph to give a clue to the meaning of the particular word intended. Such complex graphs or characters consist of two parts, one part suggesting the sound, the other part the meaning. The system was then standardized so as to approach the ideal of one distinctive graph representing each morpheme, or unit of meaning, in the language. The limitation is that a language that has thousands of morphemes would require thousands of characters, and, as the characters are formed from simple lines in various orientations and arrangements, they came to possess great complexity.
Not only did the principle of the script change with time, so too did the form of the graphs. The earliest writing consisted of carved inscriptions. Before the beginning of the Christian Era the script came to be written with brush and ink on paper. The result was that the shapes of the graphs lost their pictorial, “motivated” quality. The brushwork allowed a great deal of scope for aesthetic considerations.
The relation between the written Chinese language and its oral form is very different from the analogous relation between written and spoken English. In Chinese many different words are expressed by the identical sound pattern—188 different words are expressed by the syllable /yi/—while each of those words is expressed by a distinctive visual pattern. A piece of written text read orally is often quite incomprehensible to a listener because of the large number of homophones. In conversation, literate Chinese speakers frequently draw characters in the air to distinguish between homophones. Written text, on the other hand, is completely unambiguous. In English, by contrast, writing is often thought of as a reflection, albeit imperfect, of speech.
To make the script easier to read, a system of transcribing Chinese into the Roman alphabet was adopted in 1958 to indicate the sounds of graphs in dictionaries and to supplement graphs on such things as road signs and posters. A second reform simplified the characters by reducing the number of strokes used in writing them. Simplification, however, tends to make the characters more similar in appearance; thus they are more easily confused and the value of the reform is limited. Since the Communist revolution the grammar and vocabulary of modern Mandarin Chinese has served as the standard written language as opposed to other written and spoken Chinese dialects. While a majority of Chinese learn to speak Mandarin in school still for many Chinese the written language is the only universal means of communication between speakers of disparate Chinese dialects or languages. It is similar to writing numerals and yet having them called different names in different languages. In American English if you think about it we also have a common writting system as our common dialect but not so dramatically different from our spoken dialects.
Partially from: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Chinese-writing

Votes1 DateAug 4, 2015

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North America

The Gullah

Bernard Asper
In music class when I was in junior high school my teacher told us something fascinating about former African American slaves who settled off the Southern United States coastline and said that to this day their descendents have their own language developed on the islands. I found it intriguing and it stuck in the back of my head.
The coastline from South Carolina to Northern Florida is the home of the Gullah people, an African American ethnic group. An estimated 300,000 Gullah people live along there. That coastline, "the Low Country" was deemed unhealthy for white owners and their families. The Low Country slaves were therefore freer to speak in their own languages and dialects, and to keep their African culture.
Thus were created the Gullah or Geechee language and people. Gullah allowed the Low Country slaves to communicate with one another coming as they did from an area in Africa in which there was a great deal of linguistic diversity. Settling in the offshore islands their culture and language differed from Mainland African culture and language as they do to this day. Although the Gullah language's vocabulary is much more Anglicized than it originally was, it always was a combination of English and West African languages.
There are many groups working to preserve different aspects of Low Country life. A woman, Marquetta L. Goodwine who has been designated at the official liaison and spokesperson for Gullah/Geechee people and is therefore referred to as "Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation" works with the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition to keep the culture alive and vibrant.
Partially based on http://www.pbs.org/now/arts/gullah.html

Votes3 DateJul 18, 2015

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Yehuday Etiopia

Bernard Asper
In Israel there exists the largest community of Black Jews in the world. They are called today Yehuday Etiopia or Ethiopian Jews. They have their own Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Hadane, recognized by the State of Israel. He has amongst his duties to make sure that Ethiopians in Israel before they marry have either a continuous female line Jewish lineage or else that they first convert. This is because of the gap between World Jewry in touch with Rabbinical Jewish Law and their Ethiopian brethren not traditionally conversant in Rabbinical Judaism altogether.
They are developing their own responses to Rabbinical Judaism on individual and communal levels. This causes tension at times but the Jews from the Former Soviet Union have had a similar situation with Israel having to deal with people considering themselves Jewish in accordance with Soviet government definitions but not Jewish ones. In any event many Ethiopian Jews want to preserve customs that have been in vogue in Ethiopia. One of them, a holiday in Israel, called Sigd is an opportunity nowadays, for all Jews to further their bonds as a people or more accurately in terms of Jewish attitudes, a family.
Sigd falls out the 29th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, 50 days after Yom Kippur. The holiday recalls the reaffirmation of acceptance of God's covenant with Israel through the leadership of Ezra and Nehemia leaders of the returning Jewish exiles to Israel from the Babylonian exile, the first exile of the Jewish people.
In 2008, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset legislated Sigd as a national holiday. Rabbi Yosef Hadane helped to organize its annual Jerusalem celebration. It is a time when Ethiopian Jews celebrate their heritage and now a time when their fellow Jews come to celebrate with them their common connection. After welcoming their brothers and sisters home to Israel, they are trying to make them feel at home.

Votes3 DateJun 30, 2015

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Bernard Asper
Muslims who landed in India as soldiers, merchants, mystics, and camp followers enriched the native dialects. Especially the one that was spoken around Delhi called Khari Boli. A language known as Hindi, Hindvi or Dehlavi came into being. It spread towards the south and by the 18th century it was called Rekhta and Hindustani, among other names. The elites of Delhi Persianised it and renamed it as Zuban-e-Urdu-e-Mualla (the language of an exalted city).
Far from being a separate identity marker, Urdu represented the complex Hindu-Muslim exchange during the 13th-18th centuries. Urdu is a common heritage of Hindus and Muslims for at least 500 years if not more.
Modern Urdu is a deliberate Muslim cultural product, which came into being through the linguistic reform movement during late 18th century. This was the same time when Hindu reformers started to clean up and remove Persian and Arabic words in favor of Sanskrit.
The above excerpts were edited from http://tribune.com.pk/story/331873/myths-about-the-urdu-language/
Urdu is the official language of Muslim Pakistan but it is used across India by Hindus as well as Muslims as a lingua franca, a common language, to communicate with others in a land that despite the government promotion of Hindi as the official language of India has no language mutually understood by a majority of Indians. Urdu and Hindi can be called dialects of one another or dialects of a common language, Hindustani. Muslims in India and Pakistan may identify with it and Hindus by contrast may not be specifically insistent on it or likely to learn its Persian-Arabic originated script, but the notion that there is a strict Muslim-Hindu divide with Urdu being used by Muslims and Hindi by Hindus, is an oversimplification that is political and divisive in nature. If Urdu and Hindi can be seen to be a common heritage of both Hindus and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, there would be more harmony between these two communities that historically have been in conflict and were therefore separated into India and Pakistan in the 1947 Partition of India.

Votes1 DateJun 15, 2015

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Chassidic Music

Bernard Asper
Picture at my father's wedding November 13, 1958. From left to right my grandfather's best friend, the Chassidic head, Rebbe of the Radziner Chassidim a sect of Chassidim, Rabbi Yerucham Leiner shaking my grandfather's hand; A member of the Rebbe's family; My father Rabbi Myer Asper/Aspes; Moshe Aspes, my father's oldest brother; Their father my grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak Yerachmiel Aspes; Rabbi Aaron Yehudah Arak, my mother's mother's brother, they were children of Hinda Renke Arak sister of a famous rabbi in their old country Rabbi Meir Arak; Pinchas Asper/Aspes, my father's next older brother; And lastly but not leastly my father's Rabbinical Teacher.
Since my background is Eastern European Jewish I decided I should start off posting on my heritage so I will. I am first generation American. My mother's natural side of her family was from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and her stepfather was a Chassidic Jew originally from Poland who a widower who married my grandmother who was widowed by the Holocaust.
My mother a hidden child in the Holocaust and her mother a survivor came to the States from Belgium. My father's side of the family came from Lodz, Poland. His father was born in London, England to parents who came from Poland and returned with him to there where he eventually married my grandmother who was born and raised in Lodz, Poland like his parents. Her family was in the textile business and so she knew Polish from having to deal with the customers. My father's parents were Chassidim from generations of Chassidim whereas my mother was not though on her side I had and have relatives who were and are Chassidim including those who are from Chassidic Rabbinical dynasties that led them.
My father born in London, grew up in Bnei Brak, Israel a place where Eastern European Jewish culture was replanted and later in the States where he moved to going with his mother and oldest brother and joining up with his father and his other older brother in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn he again was where Eastern European Jewish culture was replanted. He met my mother there as that is where she grew up on moving to the States. I picked up from my background a deep appreciation of spirituality and sensitivity expressed partly through music.
Chassidism is a pietistic movement that arose in Eastern Europe in the early 1700s. It emphasizes that one can have an immediate attachment to God no matter what their intellectual and educational state. God is right there immanent in everything and so there is holiness hidden everywhere that need only be brought out. Here are some examples of Chassidic music. If I haven't shown enough blame it on Youtube. Only kidding, Youtube.

Votes3 DateMay 19, 2015

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The Gullah Jul 18, 2015 @ 11:19:10 pm
Yehuday Etiopia Jun 30, 2015 @ 05:29:51 am
Urdu Jun 15, 2015 @ 07:24:37 am
Birds Form Shapes in the Sky. Jun 1, 2015 @ 01:42:54 am
Chassidic Music May 19, 2015 @ 07:12:57 am
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