Visiting NYC

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 Visiting NYC

“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you to another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours–long hallways and unforeseen stairwells–eventually puts you in the place you are now.” Ann Patchett

 I hadn’t been to NYC in over ten years.  After my mother died, I couldn’t bring myself to come back. She was my last remaining family member there. Everyone had either died or moved away.  What would it be like to go to NYC as a tourist? I was finally ready and the BF needed to go for business. I did not know how I would feel going to New York without visiting friends and family, showing it to my kids or being with my mom.  I was going to New York for fun. For fun?

Walking around the city, I forget how much time has passed since I have been there. The memories keep coming. Here’s where I used to work; where  I met my mom at the theatre; where I bought my wedding dress.  Here are my paintings that I visited at MOMA. Here is where the coffee shop was that my friends and I used to plan our lives in and sit for hours over one cup of coffee and free refills.   Here is where my daughter danced and my son went to the movies. Here are the zoo, carousel, skating rink and favorite climbing rock in Central Park where I spent my childhood and then took my children. Every day I pass the building where my father in law worked. My brain is flooded with memories. 

Nothing stays the same for too long, buildings get demolished and others built, meaning that once-familiar landmarks that used to guide me are now lost and, by extension, I get lost too. I have a freeze-frame of the city in my head and adding new elements to the image creates a confusing effect.

We eat at fancy restaurants which are wonderful. Truthfully, all I want to do every day is eat the comfort food of my childhood  –  NY pizza near the train station, sold by the slice and eaten by hand; cannoli and cheesecake from Veneros the Italian bakery that has been there forever. I crave Chinese food from a cheap restaurant in Chinatown; a pastrami sandwich with a sour pickle from the Second Avenue Deli, a pumpernickel raisin bagel from Ess A Bagel on Third Ave – which my mom would have waiting for me when I came to visit. I happily eat street pretzels and a Grays Papaya hot dog which is not on the east side where I used to go.

We go to the theatre and see some amazing shows. It’s hard to plan theatre without my mom’s advice and not to report back. It’s strange not to have her give me tickets to see something.  My goddaughter’s mother is in town dancing and I give her my Hamilton ticket since I have seen it twice. I felt like my mother, getting more enjoyment from passing on a theatre experience to someone else and hearing how they loved it, then seeing it for a third time.

We go to Lincoln Center (where my mom’s ashes are so she doesn’t miss anything) I expect to feel sadness but I don’t. Time does that. I see her in front of the fountain which is always the meeting place. She can not wait for me to see whatever we are seeing because of course she has seen already.

The BF and I have an amazing time and never stop laughing. I even have time for art and shopping. The truth is that NYC is a great place for tourists and you love it in a different way.  

 Going back there is like meeting my younger self again but it is not my home anymore. The idea of home and the people who made it that way don’t exist. The person I was when I lived here was different. Sometimes memories are better than reality.

NY has always been a city of immigrants from many different cultures. Over 800 languages are spoken here and many New Yorkers were not born here like I was. People also come from all over America to chase their dreams and live here. They are all very lucky to call this gritty, dirty, noisy, iconic city  home like I once did.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

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Who Will Write Our Story?

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Who Will Write Our Story?

“What we were unable to shout out to the world, we hid underground. May this treasure end up in good hands, may it live to see better times, may it alert the world.”Dawid Graber -one of the people who buried the archive

During the darkest period in their history, Emanuel Ringleblum a historian,  gathered a group of scholars and intellectuals and formed the Oyneg Shabes. (named that because they usually met on Saturday) It is one of the most astonishing research projects in history. Ringleblum believed that writing history from “within the event” instead of after from memory would give a clearer picture of what was happening.

It started as an attempt to collect as much diverse information about Jewish life during this period. They handed out notebooks to people in the Warsaw Ghetto to write their stories within the event and time frame. They reached out to other cities in Poland as well. They collected and wrote diaries, journals, reports, art, literature and studies of life in the ghetto. They also saved newspapers,  ration tickets, letters and postcards, German orders, invitations to ghetto events, theatre posters, fliers, schoolwork, tram tickets and candy wrappers. 

I read one book that was recommended for the trip entitled Who Will Write Our History? by Samuel Kassow. I did not realize that in Warsaw, the Jewish Historical Institute  housed this archive and I would actually be able to see it.

The project changed when news of the mass murders began and the group started documenting the destruction of the Jewish people in Poland. One of the earliest reports about the Nazi extermination of the Jews to reach London and the West was about the Chelmo Extermination Camp. It came from the Oyneg Shabes.

The materials from the Ringelblum Archive were buried in ten metal boxes and two milk cans. The first cache was hidden in August 1942 during the Great Deportation. The other in February 1943 a few months before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The fear at this point was that none of the two hundred members would survive to know where to dig it up but three of them survived. Emanual Ringleblum and his family did not. 

Reading excerpts from the 6,OOO documents was harrowing and heartbreaking but seeing it displayed at the Jewish Historical Institute made their heroism real for me.

They say that history is written by the victors. Poet and Oyneg Shabes member Gustawa Jarecka,  described it as” a ‘stone hurled under history’s wheel to stop it.’ It could not stop it but it gave a voice to the victims and a clear picture of the destruction. ( calculations of deportations)

The first cache was unearthed shortly after the war in September 1946, while the discovery of the second trove came in December 1950.

There was also a third cache which has not been found. Rachel Auerbach who was one of the survivors says that “If the third part of the Ringelblum archive is ever found, it will include my papers  turned over after the deportations began, it will include a ticket from the ghetto’s laundry with a poem  by Yisroel Shtern about a tree in the ghetto.”

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

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Things That  I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” Roman Payne

Perched on Wawel Hill in Krakow, Wawel Castle is one of the most important structures in Poland. It was the residence of Polish kings for centuries before being converted into a museum and extensive art gallery in 1930.

The ornately decorated cathedral (no photos please)  and the royal staterooms are good to include in your visit.

The castle represents nearly every European architectural style, including Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and consists of a number of structures situated around the Italianish main courtyard.

As in other countries, it is good to be the king.

In Wawel Castle, there is an exhibition of one painting. It is an original painting by Leonardo da Vinci “Lady with an Ermine.” Only five other cities in the world can boast a painting by da Vinci, so don’t miss it. The painting was bought in 1800 by Adam Czartoryski, a Polish prince. It was moved to Paris in 1836 and returned to the Czartoryski Museum in 1876. Hidden from the Nazis in 1939, the painting was found and formed part of Hitler’s Berlin collection before ending up in Waiwei as the property of Krakow’s Nazi commandant, Hans Frank. With Soviet troops getting close, the painting was rushed back to Germany. American soldiers finally confiscated it and returned it home to Kraków in 1946. The painting has since become one of the city’s most loved treasures.

Krąków’s Jagiellonian University was established by King Casimir III the Great in 1364 and is the oldest university in Poland and second oldest in Central Europe.

Krakow is an old town of young people. The twenty-eight Krakow institutions of higher education have over 200,000 students attending them. The population of Krakow is 760,000 thousand. 

St. Mary’s Trumpet Call can be heard playing hourly from the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica – a major symbol of Kraków. The melody always stops short, which symbolizes the legend of a trumpeter who, in 1240, wanted to warn the locals of an approaching enemy, but was killed by an arrow.

Krakow is a city of churches, which is especially visible in its historical center.

In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the city willingly gave themselves into the hands of the Saints, who would protect them and help them with all life problems.

Krakow is one of those European cities that takes pride in having a cold cut produced and branded there -like Parma. Kielbasa Krakowska  or Kielbasa Lisiecka are the products whose taste has been synonymous with Polish sausage.

Another specialty of Krakow is the famous bagel (obwarzanek krakowski). The ring-shaped braid of bread covered with poppy seeds is sold on every corner in the city.

It was baked in Krakow since the Middle Ages and popularized by the Jewish community who emigrated throughout the world. 

MOCAK is a very interesting and thought-provoking contemporary art museum.(art makes you free)

The museum has a wide range of contemporary art and sculpture, all well presented and explained in a spacious modern building.

There were some excellent pieces challenging nationalism, globalization and war.

There are both Polish and International contemporary artists represented.

Many European cities have an Old Town, but Kraków definitely has one of the best.

The medieval architecture is especially fascinating and it’s big enough that you can spend all day walking around it.

Kraków’s Market Square is the largest medieval commercial square in Europe (each of its sides is 200 m long).

It is forbidden to feed pigeons in Krakow. The locals hate them. (a few hungry pigeons)

There is a lot of weird sculpture in Poland. The big head in Rynek Square is one of them. It is a good meeting point because every tourist can find it. The head is Eros, the God of Love. Why the blindfold? Because love is blind?

The Vistula River, Poland’s longest, runs through Kraków just outside of the Old Town and Jewish District. There are more locals than tourists enjoying it.

The riverfront is long and wide and goes along both sides. It’s lined with a sidewalk, grass, parks, and a few boat restaurants.

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During World War ll, the Nazis occupied beautiful Krakow. Hans Frank looked over the terror from his office on Wawei Hill which is why Krakow was not destroyed.

Krakow is one of the most charming cities. it is hard to believe there was so much death and darkness in such a peaceful place with all those churches. 

I would like to thank Jo Fisher and Aryeh Maidenbaum of Jewish Heritage Travel for putting together such an interesting, well thought out trip through Poland. I have learned so much of the history and complexities of Poland and appreciated the thoughtful intelligent guides and of course, the great hotels.  Hope to travel with you again, some day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Countries With The Best Health Care Systems

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“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Voltaire

To better understand the health care debate it is important to note that not all the countries in the world have the same health care. The commonality is universal coverage, but wealthy nations have taken varying approaches to it, some relying heavily on the government (as with single-payer); some relying more on private insurers; others in between. Experts don’t agree on which is best; a lot depends on perspective. Nothing seems to be perfect. This rating is the top ten countries from the World Health Organization.

1. France does not have socialized medicine. They have both privatized and government insurance. Everyone has health care. When someone goes to see a doctor, the national insurance program pays 70 percent of the bill. Most of the other 30 percent gets picked up by supplemental private insurance, which almost everyone has. It’s affordable, and much of it gets paid for by a person’s employer. In France, the sicker you are, the more coverage you get. It’s expensive to provide this kind of health care. But it is not as expensive as the U.S. system, which is the world’s most costly.

2.In Italy, healthcare is considered a right and the national health plan is designed to provide for all Italian citizens.The health care is funded by a broad tax system. The money to fund the system comes from all the classes.

3.Local and foreign national residents of San Marino are entitled to free, comprehensive health care from public hospitals. All employees must register upon starting a job and are issued a health card and number, and are automatically registered with a doctor in their neighborhood. Employers pay a contribution for each employee and dependent family members, deducted from their salaries, while the self-employed must pay the full contribution. Vulnerable people, such as the unemployed, aged and seriously ill do not need to register with an employer, and are entitled to free treatment.

4.Andorra has some of the most technologically advanced hospitals in Europe, and is similar to the French healthcare system. Public health is linked to social contributions.

5.Malta has a strong public healthcare system, which provides free services to all Maltese citizens and European Union residents. Malta has both a government healthcare service and a private system.

6.Singapore shows that fusions of conservative and liberal ideas in health care really are possible. Singapore is a place where the government acts to keep costs low and then uses those low costs to make a market-driven insurance system possible. Singapore’s government controls and pays for much of the medical system itself — hospitals are overwhelmingly public, a large portion of doctors work directly for the state.

7.Spain‘s single-payer health care system is ranked seventh best in the world by the World Health Organization. The system offers universal coverage as a constitutionally guaranteed right and no out-of-pocket expenses — aside from prescription drugs.

8. All Omani citizens have free access to universal healthcare. Much of the staff is foreign-born or received training abroad, but with more young Omanis completing college, this is beginning to change. In larger cities, especially Muscat, the quality of medical care is high, but you shouldn’t expect the same standards in rural areas. It has emerged that Oman is in the process of drafting a new set of mandatory health insurance laws beginning January 2018.The new laws will pass on some of the responsibility of looking after employee health to their employers by mandating that they implement suitable health insurance provisions.

9.Austria has had a health care system that ensures high-quality medical care for all citizens, independent of their social status or income. Building such a health care system has not been easy: it is the result of a long, hard road; many people have fought for it. The can also purchase supplementary private insurance.

10.In Japan, health care has long been likened to air and water — often taken for granted. Under the Japanese system, everyone must join a public insurance program through their employer or municipal government and pay a monthly premium that is determined by income.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Ten Things That I Want To Do In NYC

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Ten Things at That I Want To Do In NYC

“New York has a trip-hammer vitality which drives you insane with restlessness if you have no inner stabilizer.’ Henry Miller

From 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million people entered the United States through the Ellis Island Immigration Center. This place was the first point of entry for most immigrants, My Grandparents came through there. Its’ a good time to see and contemplate an era when the United States answered the pleas of refugees for a better a life.

Big museum plans. The Whitney Museum has moved downtown to a cool  space in the Meatpacking District. The Metropolitan Museum Of Art  is leasing the space for its Modern Art call the Met Breuer. Giacometti is  at the Guggenheim and a there is a great  photography exhibit at MOMA. Henri Cartier Bresson is at the International Center For Photography.

NY is a city of foodies and chefs. There are so many  restaurants to try. I will let you know how I do.

Take a walk through Central Park. It was always our bit of nature in the city.

There is the best shopping in NY. I want to visit my favorite department stores, Bergdorf Goodmans, Barneys and Henri Bendels. I also loved shopping in Nolita, Chelsea and the Lower East Side.

There are so many Street Art  Walking Tours  to choose from. Painted murals, graffiti, mosaic installations, sculpture, art embedded in the pavement, stencils and stickers are found all over the city. 

I grew up seeing  Broadway and Off Broadway Theatre in NY several nights a week. We have our tickets and I can’t wait.

How cool is this? Apparently they built Highline Park on an  unused elevated subway line on the  West Side. 

I’m glad to have the opportunity  and privilege to finally visit the 9/11 Memorial. 9/11 is not a past event; terrorism and acts of violence continue to be a current part of our everyday life.  So, the museum is a visit to a horrible act of the past, but one that continues to persist and be a part of the modern world. 

Visiting Lincoln Center and my mom. My mom asked that her ashes be strewn over Lincoln Center so she didn’t miss anything-especially the opera. She said that she wanted us to stop by and visit her and see a show in NY. 

Fly safe,
JAZ

The Remains Of Jewish Warsaw (Poland)

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The Remains Of Jewish Warsaw, (Poland)

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” Voltaire

Before World War ll, the city of Warsaw had more Jews than the city of New York. After the Holocaust and decades of Communist rule, Poland is mostly Roman Catholic. There is a generation of Poles, that have recently found out about their repressed Jewish heritage. It is a nation with a complicated history. Many are making serious strides to remember the Jewish past.

 In 1940, to create the Warsaw Ghetto – the largest Jewish ghetto in Europe during WWII – the German authorities built 18 kilometers of brick walls around the Jewish quarter.

Over 400,000 Jews were imprisoned there. At least 240,000 people were deported to Nazi extermination camps, while thousands of others were killed in the Ghetto.

The wall was torn down in 1943, except for one short section which is the only part of the original wall that stands today. (memorial with names)

The inscription reads: “Tu byl mur getta”  “Here was the wall of the ghetto”.

 The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 was an act of Jewish resistance against the deportation of the remaining Ghetto population to the Treblinka extermination camp. The revolt was suppressed and the district demolished. On its site now stands the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews that explains the Jewish history and culture in Poland.

The POLIN Museum is one of the most powerful museums to visit in Warsaw.( after four hours here)

The layout of the museum is very unique. First, you enter through the forest. This represents the forests near the Vistula River. Here Poles first made connections with Jewish merchants.

Then you go through the Middle Ages, where history appears in frescoes. You follow the Jews of Poland through the 15th and 16th centuries.

In the Town gallery, you can explore Jewish settlements of the 17th and 18th centuries. The roof and polychrome ceiling replica from a 17th-century synagogue crowns the gallery.

The museum is very interactive.

Various galleries present different aspects of Jewish history and culture.

Stroll through synagogue interiors and streets in old Jewish quarters with cafes and cinemas.

You can see where Jewish people congregated before the war.

The section covering World War II and the Holocaust is completely overpowering. Be ready to spend several hours at this museum.

Opposite the POLIN Museum, stands the Ghetto Heroes Monument, which commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 and the thousands of people who lost their lives. It was designed by Leon Suzin and sculpted by Nathan Rapoport in 1948. Ironically, the stone used in the monument had been brought to Warsaw by the Nazis to build a victory tower. There is an exact copy of the monument in Yad Vashem, Israel.

The front side of the monument, entitled is “The Fight”. Its bronze relief depicts men, women, and children armed with grenades and bottles of petrol, while the central figure represents Mordechaj Anielewicz, the leader of the Uprising. The back side of the monument, entitled “March to Destruction”, depicts the anguish of women, children, and the elderly, as they march to their deaths.

Near this monument stands a memorial tablet to the Ghetto Heroes, as well as the statue of Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter. The monument has an inscription in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew, which reads: “The Jewish People in honor of its fighters and martyrs”.

Completed in 1902, the Nozyk Synagogue is the only surviving synagogue in the Polish capital. It was reopened in 1983 and serves the small Jewish community in Poland today.

The ruins of the bunker at 18 Miła Street are the place of rest of the commanders and fighters of the Jewish Combat Organization, as well as some civilians. Among them lies Mordechaj Anielewicz. On May 8, 1943, surrounded by the Nazis after three weeks of struggle, many perished or took their own lives, refusing to perish at the hands of their enemies.

There were several hundred bunkers built in the Ghetto. Found and destroyed by the Nazis, they became graves. They could not save those who sought refuge inside them, yet they remain everlasting symbols of the Warsaw Jews’ will to live.

The bunker at Miła Street was the largest in the ghetto. The inscription in Polish, English, and Yiddish reads: “Grave of the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising built from the rubble of Miła Street, one of the liveliest streets of pre-war Jewish Warsaw.

I will never really understand how these things happened in the world. It is our human obligation to visit these sites to remember what can happen again in the future.

Two members of our group spent the last afternoon in Warsaw in an antique shop in the old city. On a shelf in the corner they saw an old Torah scroll, probably belonging to one of the Jews in the ghetto. They bought it. The cover is from the late eighteen hundreds. It is difficult to put into words, the extraordinary feeling when you realize that you are seeing something holy from a society that you thought was gone forever. 

I would like to thank Karolina Paczyńska our Warsaw tour guide who also traveled with us throughout Poland. Her knowledge, kindness, sense of humor, organizational skills and nothing is a problem attitude  helped make this trip special. It seem like it would be hard to be a guide on a trip like this where everyone is having a different kind of emotional experience. Karolina made it easy. I highly recommend her as a tour guide.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Street Art In Krakow, Poland

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Street Art In Krakow, Poland

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

 The first thing I did in Poland was a private street art tour. I was told to meet the guide at Ghetto Heroes Square.The Ghetto Heroes Square is in the center of the old Krakow Ghetto.This square was called the Umschlagplatz by the Nazis. it was the place where the Jews had to assemble before being transported to the Belzec death camp, Auschwitz- Birkenau or the Plasnow Forced Labor Camp just outside the city. Iron and and bronze empty chairs commemorate this place. It is a holiday and the square is eerily empty.  It is a deeply moving memorial.

 I meet up with Joanna Switala who explains the memorial. She knows a lot about the area and the artists. 

Street art in Poland and other ex Soviet countries derives from the spirit of protest. In the last several years, there is trend to improve the quality of public spaces with commissioned  street art murals. Street art is the uncensored, unofficial, egalitarian voice of the people.

In the districts of Podgorze and Kazimierz, public art is both encouraged and controlled, and street artists are often invited to create elaborate works of art that celebrate the city’s history, culture and revitalization.

 The Jewish Cultural Festival invited one of Israel’s most famous street artists, Pil Peled, to create an image to watch over the district. Entitled ‘Judah’, the mural is said to represent both the vulnerability of the Jews and their strength to overcome.

This black and white mural was created by the Israeli group, Broken Fingaz was for the same festival to honor the memory of the Bosak Family, who lived in this area for four hundred years until World War ll .

The woman in the painting is Irene Sendlar. .In 1941, .Irene Sendlar was recruited to head the Underground Council to Aid Jews, which was credited for protecting children by working with orphanages and welfare agencies to change their identities. They also smuggled an estimated eight to ten children out of the ghetto monthly by hiding them in suitcases, packages, and sometimes even coffins. Approximately 2,500 children were saved .

This mural was created by Marcin Wierzchowski, and is visible on the wall of the Galicia Jewish Museum. It represents pre-war Kraków and modern Jerusalem.

101 Murals for Krakow was put together by Krakow street artists who created the mural by bringing together multi-format paintings and connecting them with urban, historical, and architectural contexts of the different districts of the city in Kazimierz and Podgórze.

 City officials are forever trying to erase the playful and political stencils of  street artist Kuba .

 Mythical murals are painted across many of the city’s abandoned buildings by Mikolaj Rejs.

The mural at Joseph Street shows various people that are associated with the district: King Kazimierz the Great and his Jewish lover, Esterka; Prince Joseph II, who became the patron of this area during Austrian times; the architect of the district, Karol Knaus; and Helena Rubinstein, the Jewish queen of cosmetics who lived in Kazimierz before WWII.

 Though i didn’t see it that day, we talked about the internal feuding culture of football graffiti in Poland which might more accurately reflect some of the views here. Patriotic white-and-red colors, swastikas, Celtic crosses, football club emblems, Stars of David hanging from gallows, fans who died in fights with rival supporters and the Fighting Poland symbol are found on walls throughout Poland. 

The city-sponsored  ArtBoom festival invited Bolognese artist Blu to create this giant mural called  Ding Dong Dum.

 Street art as a form of protest remains, even in the publically sanctioned events. When the street artist Pikaso was invited to paint a mural as part of the 2012 ArtBoom festival the authorities refused to allow him to create his original design. Instead, he painted the giant and symbolic mural “For God’s Sake the Censorship is Everywhere.”

The dark history of Poland is always there but maybe the urban culture of street art in a country that didn’t have that freedom before, shows that change is possible.

Thanks Joanna for making my first day, interesting, informative, fun and full of art. I highly recommend her street art tour in Krakow. guideskrakow@gmail.com

Fly safe,

JAZ