The Last Rabbi Of Piotrkow, Poland

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The Last Rabbi Of Piotrkow, Poland

“Summer came. For the book thief, everything was going nicely. For me, the sky was the color of Jews.” Marcus Zusak The Book Thief

It is hard to visit a place where a war has thrown your family into chaos and left many of them dead – even if you had not been born, yet. Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s grandfather was the last rabbi of Piotrkow. We stopped there with him on our way to Warsaw.

The Great Synagogue of Piotrkow, was built in 1793 after thirty years of planning. It was a famous site in Poland. The synagogue was severely damaged by the Nazis and serves as a public library today. 

We saw the remains of a polichrome wall painting of the Torah ark, riddled with bullet holes. 

We met with  Polish teenagers from a  high school Jewish studies program. Most of them had not met Jews before. 

Amichai tells them that his grandfather was Piotrków Trybunalski’s last chief rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau. Following the German occupation, Rabbi Lau was ordered by the German authorities to represent the Jews of Piotrków Trybunalski and carry out the German’s commands. The Jews were sent to the Pyotrkow ghetto and he tried to help them and organize life for them there. In October 1942, Rabbi Lau was deported to Treblinka with his congregation and murdered. He chose to stay with them. One of his sons was also on this transport and he too was murdered.  Rabbi Lau’s wife was murdered in the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. Three of his children survived and immigrated to Israel after the Holocaust. Amichai read the story where his father writes about the last time he and his brother saw their father. They were five and sixteen years old. 

“For the first time in many months, my father approached me and kissed me on my forehead as I was sitting on the couch. A warm tear fell from the corner of his eye, landing on my cheek. “Let us follow the example of our patriarch Jacob, who arranged his family in preparation for the conflict with his hostile brother Esau. Jacob divided his family into three camps, hoping that at least one would survive,” this is how my father explained his plan for survival. Mother and our youngest brother, Israel-Lulek, who was five, were sent to hide with a neighbor, to wait out the hell-storm of the deportation. Father decided to send me and Shmuel to the glass factory. He imposed on himself the same fate as that of his community, to stand together with them, to be deported, to partake of whatever fate would befall them. “Just as a shepherd does not abandon his flock to a pack of wolves, so I will not run to save myself, abandoning my flock.” This is what he said regarding his decision to report for the deportation.” Naphtali Lau-Lavie,

When Amichai finishes his story about their survival, there is tense silence. Some of the kids are tearful. He did not tell his story to preach morality or to cast blame on those who only knew of the Nazi regime from history books.

He told it to transfer an optimistic message of hope and faith in humanity. The wish is to apply these lessons in today’s world to eradicate the racism and xenophobia that still exists in every society. 

Everyone has questions.

The students seem to want to understand the Jewish experience during World War ll. It’s important for them to know what happened. They also wanted to know how Trump got to be president and what it was like to live in Los Angeles. I always find that no matter where I am in the world, we are more alike than different.

I have to thank Amichai for bringing both his unique form of spirituality and his personal story to Poland.  I will always be grateful for your kindness and humility in helping us process the difficult things we were seeing.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Travel Advisory Is In Effect

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Travel Advisory Is In Effect

“How dare you open a spaceman’s helmet on an uncharted planet? My eyeballs could’ve been sucked from their sockets!” Cathy East Dubowski, Toy Story

These days, planning a trip to Iraq or Afghanistan is probably not a good idea. The United States and other nations are currently advising their citizens against all non-essential travel to these countries. But a government travel warning doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad idea to plan a trip to a particular part of the world.

Governments issue travel advisories to let their citizens know about safety concerns that may affect travel to a particular country or region. In the United States, these warnings are issued by the State Department.

Travel advisories are released for a variety of reasons, including terrorism, natural disasters, political unrest, wars, health emergencies and outbreaks of crime.

In many cases, violence, unrest or natural disasters are confined to a particular region while the rest of the country is still safe and welcoming to tourists.

The fallout from an isolated act of violence can affect an entire country’s tourist industry — and have a disproportionate effect on the economy of a developing nation.

Today i received a state department warning about a change in travel for Americans traveling to or living in Israel.

“The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem advises U.S. citizens in, or considering travel to, Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza to keep up a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness in light of the current environment.  Individuals and groups opposed to U.S. policies may target U.S. government facilities, U.S. private interests and U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens should be aware of their surroundings and avoid crowds or areas where there is a large police or security presence.”

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider the risks of travel to and throughout Jordan due to persistent terrorist threats.  The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), its affiliates, sympathizers, and other violent extremist groups have successfully conducted attacks in Jordan and continue to plot against local security forces, U.S. and Western interests, and “soft” targets. Jordan’s prominent role in the counter ­ISIS Coalition and its shared borders with Iraq and Syria increase the potential for future terrorist incidents. This replaces the Travel Warning issued December 23, 2016.

Ok- Jordan looks a bit unsafe at this time.  I’ve decided to go to Israel  despite the government’s warning email. But i will take certain precautions. It’s best in troubled times to be in a country that has an embassy from your own country and make sure it is fully staffed and functioning. The US Embassy which has not moved yet is a two-minute walk from my airbnb. Under the circumstances, it may not be a good thing.

I registered for  the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. I will keep my family at home aware of my itinerary, watch the news, get travel insurance and have a backup plan.

I will be careful in these areas but I think if I cancel my plans, the terrorists win. We beat them by being unafraid in the way we choose to live.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Street Art Around The World

Street Art Around The World

“I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism. Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.” Carla Krueger

Since cave painting, human beings cannot resist the urge to draw and write on walls. It is my favorite art. I am drawn to the bright colors, the fact that it is available to everyone and especially, the mystery. Who did this? Why? What does it mean? Sometimes I see the same artist in different countries. Here are some favorites from around the world. 

Lisbon, Portugal

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Capetown. South Africa

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tel Aviv, Israel

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bogota,Colombia

Los Angeles, USA

Melbourne, Australia

Rio, Brazil

Fly safe,

JAZ

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Warsan Shire

Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica,  Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand,  Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Serbia, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

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Growing up in New York, with immigrant grandparents, the Statue of Liberty meant something. “Tell us the story of when your parents saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time again” we asked.   My mother would say that to her parents and many like them, the statue meant freedom to live in a country where you could be whatever you wanted to be. America was the place to go to flee from oppression, racism, class-ism and poverty. We understood that it was something special to be born in a country with ideals like that.

America is not perfect. We have racism and poverty. But that doesn’t destroy the dreams it was built on. Millions of people came to America to build a better life for themselves and for their families and still do to this day.

On the Statue of Liberty, there are words I know so well: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” That’s the spirit that made me feel like an American.  I wouldn’t be here without that philosophy.

Fly safe.

JAZ

Twenty-Five Things That I Want To Do In 2017

 Twenty-Five Things That I Want To Do In 2017

“The moment you put a deadline on your dream, it becomes a goal” Harsha Bhogle

 Go to Waiheke Island because I’ve heard so much about it from my family.

Take a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier.

Meditate every day.

Do more yoga.

Go to Copenhagen.

See the sunset on the beach whenever I am home at sunset.

Go to Sydney Australia.

Drink less coffee.

Drink less Spanish Lattes and Thai Iced Coffee.  (I love condensed milk coffees)

Take more Ubers in the US.

Go To Sweden.

Be more positive.

Be better about making plans with friends.

Spend more time with my family.

See Auschwitz.

Go to Israel.

Pay more attention to politics and get more involved.

Go To Grouplove concert. (missed them so far this year).

Go to Poland.

Go to Over Film Festival in Oregon.

Be kinder.

Go to Anderson, Wakeman and Rabin again-they are amazing . Congratulations Trevor on the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame .

Think more before I speak.

Eat less sugar. (I put this one in every few years)

Fly safe and Happy Holidays,

JAZ

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit A Country

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit a Country

“Like I said before. Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”Anthony Bourdain

 Japan Sushi at Tsukiji Market, any dessert made with yuzu or green tea.

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 Turkey Pide, fresh pomegranate juice, anything with eggplant, and any dessert made with semolina.

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 Croatia Fresh tuna and bean salad, grilled calamari and swiss chard.

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Cambodia Fresh coconut water and amok (I loved Cambodian food).

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 Greece Avgolemono soup, baklava and Greek salad (feta, tomatoes and olive oil don’t taste the same anywhere else).

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 Italy Pizza, pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil.  (My dream is to go to Sicily and eat pizza).

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South Africa Biltong (Im not even a meateater and I love it).

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Israel  Falafel and Hummus.

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Colombia Guanabana juice and Arepa con Quisito.

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Spain Churros, hot chocolate and real gazpacho.

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 Panama Sancocho soup.

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Netherlands Pofferjes and poached egg on brioche with smoked salmon, (first time that I have had that).

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Brazil Tacaca with shrimp and fresh acai ( not the watered down sugary stuff we get here) in the Amazon.

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 Thailand Thai iced coffee.

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 Peru Ceviche with giant corn.

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Argentina Alfajores from Havanna.

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Mexico Tacos, guacamole, mole or really anything in Oaxaca. (except not a fan of the crickets every day)

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USA When I come home I want a turkey burger from Golden State in LA.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

Being A Godmother To A Baby Who Lives In Another Country

Being A Godmother To A Baby Who Lives In Another Country

“Babies are such a nice way to start people.” Don Herold

I was asked to be the godmother of a good family friend’s baby girl. I immediately said yes but then I wondered what it meant. Did it mean that I believe in God? Did it mean that I lived my life with honesty, integrity, kindness and did not hurt anyone? I’m not hundred percent in any of these areas but I try.

I looked it up. In the old days, a godmother was responsible for the religious education of the child. Since they live in Israel, and I live in the US and I’m not religious, I don’t see that happening. When people didn’t live as long, the godparent was in charge should something happen to the parents. I think that there are way too many younger blood relatives ahead of me for that job.

Maybe in this day and age a godparent means that you are part of the village it takes to raise a child. It is a place to go when your parents who are human get it wrong. In her teenage years if she slams the door when things don’t go her way, a godmother can take her in, listen to her troubles, calm her down and send her home when she is ready.

Or maybe, when it is long distance, it is a way of saying, “Stay in my life, come visit, baby sit, learn about my country, stay in touch, watch me grow up and be there if I need you. Stay connected. Be my family too”. This I can do.

Fly safe,

JAZ