Tag Archives: jews

Muslims who helped Jews during the Holocaust

25 Jan

Just had a review of a very moving photography exhibition published in The Forward – focusing on the untold tale of Albanian Muslims who saved Jews fleeing from the Nazis.

Here’s the first part of the review: (Alternatively, click here to read the full review in The Forward )

Muslims Who Saved Jews During the Holocaust

By Rebecca S

Of all the stories of Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews during the Shoah, there’s one story that rarely gets told: the Muslims who risked their lives to save Jews.

Norman H. Gershman’s photographic exhibition “Besa,” currently showing at the Soho Photo Gallery, redresses this imbalance, focusing exclusively on the unsung Albanian Muslim heroes who hid their Jewish neighbours from the Nazis, as well as thousands of other Jews fleeing across Europe, often at great risk to their lives.

The portraits, which have been published in a book with the same title, were painstakingly taken by Gershman over a seven-year period, in which he tracked down these ordinary Albanian and Kosovar Muslims whose families closely observed the principle of “Besa” to save Jewish lives.


The Jews-are-weighed-down-by-gold incident

20 Oct

So to continue on from the theme of my last post, the racism I stumbled upon was a bit closer to home this time: a nice, juicy bit of antisemitism, nicely wrapped up in a jokey banter, at our local Irish pub last night.

We were celebrating my nephew-by-marriage’s birthday, so we were a group of six, some looking obviously Jewish (kippah etc). As we were sitting at an outside table drinking and making merry, we got into conversation with a few of the other punters, including the doorman.

We all happened to notice a driver nearby doing an appalling job at reverse parking, going in and out of a reasonably sized space endless times. Of course someone said, oh must be a woman driver, but happily for us women, it was a man.

My (Jewish) sister-in-law said as a joke, bet that guy’s Jewish, because Jews are terrible drivers. And we all laughed merrily.

So far so innocuous.

But this comment apparently turned on the doorman, who must have had just a wee chip on his shoulder about Jews, who proceeded to launch into an extraordinary, yet surprisingly good-natured, rant-banter about us Jews, taking in along his way an impressive array of the most hackneyed of antisemitic themes.

The weird thing about it was that he wasn’t trying to be horrible, I mean, he definitely knew we were all Jewish. I think he even thought he was being funny.

The weird thing for us sitting there transfixed as he warmed to his theme was that none of us were laughing any more.

For your erudition and delight, here’s an entirely non-verbatim rendering of his rant:

Yeah, and all those Jewish drivers they’re the worst they can’t drive they have no idea how to park they’re awful  they block up the roads Yeah, those old Jewish women drivers, they’re everywhere they’re the worst drivers by far they drive in the middle of the road and you know why they’re such bad drivers it’s probably because of all that GOLD weighing them down (ha ha ha) Yeah, those old Jewish women they’re so rich they wear all this GOLD and it probably weighs them down (ha ha ha) Yeah, and haven’t you noticed how all those rich Jewish women, they always drive Mercedes, what’s that about, aren’t they put off driving Mercedes because of the Germans and what they did to the Jews Apparently not because they all drive Mercedes.

Right, must be off now, have to leave extra early to get to my appointment on time, all that gold weighing me down does slow me down rather.

Bark Mitzvahs, Bar Miaowtzvahs, whatever next?

30 Aug

Whenever I think America has reached the outermost limits of exaggeration, it hops (or staggers) over the perimeter fence and takes its exaggerations into a new, ever-more-hyperbolic realm of hyper-reality.

This time I learn that some species of American Jews make BARK Mitzvahs for their dogs.

Surely someone around here’s barking the wrong tree? Surely no-one can be that barking mad?

Apparently, a friend of a friend who’s a rabbi living in the city of silliness that is Las Vegas gets asked to do Bark Mitzvahs by congregants particularly fond of their canine chums.

Has the whole world got stark raving barking mad? It seems not, because this is America where people take their pets very very seriously.

So anyway, I decided to do a quick sniffle and snuffle around on the Internet and look what tasty bones I unearthed:

First of all, the demographics:

Some people do Bark Mitzvahs for Purim entertainment, some do it to raise money, and others do it simply for the fun of it. Those celebrating Bark Mitzvahs today are mostly Reform and Conservative Jews.

(all quoted passages in this post are from judaism.about.com/od/americanjewry/a/bark_mitzvah.htm)

Now for the juicy tidbits:

Bark Mitzvahs celebrated in private homes tend to be personal and fun. Guests, who sometimes bring their own dogs along, greet the hosts with “Mazal Tov” and bring doggie presents for the Bark Mitzvah dog. The dog of honor generally feasts on bone-shaped doggy cake, while the human guests feast on gourmet food.

Not forgetting of course the handy Bark Mitzvah packages put together by your local Bark Mitzvah party planner, making sure you and your canine love get the most out of your special day (for a buck or tw0):

For $50, Places Everyone offers a seating kit for your Bark Mitzvah celebration, as well as a free Bark Mitzvah certificate for your dog.

If you really want to go all out, then you can get the $95 Bark Mitzvah package from CleosBarkery. It includes: all meat canine Bark Mitzvah cake, happy Bark Mitzvah Hat, Doggie Treat Bag filled with draydel and menorah biscuits, Star Bark Mitzvah collar, and a ribbon balloon cake topper.

You can make sure your guests will remember the event by sending them home with a pet candy bar wrapped by wrapsodydesigns.com. The wrapper commemorates the Bark Mitzvah celebration and even provides personal information about the Bark Mitzvah dog.

Some people send their guests home with satin yarmulkes with the dog’s name and Bark Mitzvah date printed inside.

And of course, this being the land of silliness, is it just the humans who get to wear the yarmulkes? Don’t be silly:

Yarmulkes just for the guests? Some Bark Mitzvah dogs get all dressed up for the special occasion. There’s been unprecedented demand for doggie-sized tallit and yarmulkes tailored to fit over dog ears.

Finally, here’s what happens when dog and owner get serious and decide to hold their festivities in shul:

Bark Mitzvahs celebrated at synagogues have a bit more of an “official” flavor to them. Often Bark Mitzvahs performed by rabbis begin with the rabbi reciting a prayer or blessing the dogs. The prayer said when seeing beautiful animals is an ideal opener. The rabbi generally ends the ceremony by awarding a Bark Mitzvah certificate to the dog’s owner. One California Reform shul promotes it Bark Mitzvah ceremony with “All participating pets will receive blessings, treats and a special pet kippah/yarmulke.”

Whatever next?

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