Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jonathan Pollard in light of the December 25th terrorist attacks

We are not that political and don't aim to get political in the future at the Whole Phamily, yet we can not help ignore the media discussions on the recent terrorist attempt in Detroit.

Whatever your politics, we can not ignore that one of our very own, Jonathan Pollard,

recently marked his 25th year in prison for trying to help limit terrorist acts.  His sentence for the crime of providing Israeli intelligence information was unfair.  He has been placed in the harshest part of the harshest Federal prison.  The calls for commutation of his sentence have gone, thus far, unanswered by the United States Government

At the very least, we urge you to take a few minutes.
Pull out some stationary or some scrap paper.  
Slap on a .44 cent stamp.

And let Jonathan know that we are all part of the same Ganse Mishpucha..

"Letters are 'oxygen' for Jonathan."

Write him at:

Jonathan Pollard #09185-016
c/o FCI Butner
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, NC
U.S.A  27509-1000


Now for the origin of Pollard. Perhaps his name was originally Pollock? Here's what we found online with regard to the Jewishness of Pollard.

Tracing the Tribe blog

As the Whole Phamily is inspired by, but not limited to, Jewish Geneological research, we highly recommend the Tracing the Tribe blog if you have any interest in learning about your own family's history.

The author of the blog, Schelley Talalay Darsashti, also writes the blog for My  (a for-profit venture).

 which we have recommended in the past.  We like that it is an Israel-based family tree building website.

We need our own personal IT guy here at the Whole Phamily and don't have down yet how to get this blog glossy, pretty, and image-linky  (that My Heritage image is just an image, not an actual link to their site!!?!?  Argh!!) , so bear with us while we tweak the system!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

If New Yorkers are found to be unhappiest, what about the bulk of the Jews in the U.S.?

A recent study published in the well-respected journal Science found that New Yorkers were the least happy when compared to residents of the rest of the country.  Yes, they came in at the bottom of the barrel of data processed to learn which state churned out the most satisfied people.  If the Jewish population is most dominant in New York state (one estimate is 1.9 million), what does that say for the majority of our people in this country?  Are Jews in New York actually less happy than those elsewhere?  Does it fulfill the Woody Allen stereotype of the neurotic, parasitic, always-worrying, hypchondriac shnorrer?

Surely, even Woody found some happiness through film at least once by way of his mockumentary Zelig

 This title character became famous in the 1920s by possessing the skill to morph into various different famous personas.  That's pretty happy, right?  Optimistically, Zelig literally translates as "happy."  Have you known a Seligman, Seelig, or Seligsohn?  Here is a  further look at the name with Zelig as its root.

Living in New York sure can be rough, at least around the edges, and especially when you get a ticket while you're down the block purchasing your muni meter parking ticket.  Any number of Seinfeld or Curb episodes can attest to that type of absurdity that happens day-in, day-out in New York City.  Perhaps this explains why so many Jews headed out west, making Los Angeles quite literally the city of angels for the Jews who had enough saychel  (scroll down for the description of Greece) to move after braving the elements of New York.

(Keep posted for a report on Jews in LA...but not those of the Ashkenazi-bred rye bread deli-pack).

Looking at the bright side of the study, where were Americans happiest?  Louisiana.  Fascinating news since one would think that post-Katrina, folks in the Bayou were still downtrodden and depressed.  But it sure sounds like it's the place to live, if you take the study for what it's worth.  If that's the case, maybe we Jews should all head down to join Reb Uri and Dahlia Topolosky in their holy work with the rebuilding of the Jewish community of New Orleans.

In reality, whether you live in Prospect Heights, Runyon Canyon or Metairie, we should all be filled with Joy because "we want you to be happy, don't live inside the gloom..."

For Jews whose names end with -ian

We've been so focused on all the Schwartzes, Rosenthals and Bernsteins out there that you'd think we thought all North American Jews came over on the same boat to Ellis Island from the same shtetl in Poland in 1905.  But we were recently thinking about our very nice Persian (and Jewish) childhood friend Jenny whose family moved to our East Coast suburb in the early 80s  (what did we know about the Revolution back then?  We were just kids).  They since moved out to California, and we hadn't heard much about her, but we always knew that the Persian community in Great Neck, Long Island, was strong and growing.

This past July's W magazine ran a very lovely piece about the Persian community in Beverly Hills.  And we thought our 20 person shabbat dinners on the Upper West Side were something to write home about!  According to this article, families can host shabbat dinners for upwards of 60 people.  Now that's a lot of rice and chicken.  Not to mention the crystal and silver.  Does it all get handwashed?

 The community is family-oriented, tight-knit, and encourages their girls to marry young (which doesn't surprise us realizing now that another Persian friend, Debby, married just out of high school.  We were all very surprised, as the typical friend in our suburban high school setting was heading off to college at that point)

The names of the Persian families are so interesting.  Some have the -ian suffix.  Last weekend we met a young Israeli woman whose last name is Elitzur.  This name, meaning god-rock-stone-strength, was Hebraicized from the Persian name Elyasian by her grandfather when they immigrated from Iran.  She had the knowledge that, actually, their family name originated from "Ben Eliyahu" which translates into the son of Elijah.  

And let us not forget the greatest Jewish queen of all, Queen Esther, who was Persian through and through.  Soon enough Purim will be here and we will celebrate her sacrifice of marrying the non Jewish kind Acheshverosh that saved the Jewish people from destruction at the hands of a Jew-hating empire.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yosef Yerushalmi, of blessed memory

"By common consent, Kafka is not only the strongest modern Jewish writer, but the Jewish writer.  His only rival increasingly seems to be Freud, who, together with Kafka, may yet redefine Jewish culture for us, and so change our sense of Jewish memory."

This is what Harold Bloom wrote in his forward of the late Yosef Yerushalmi's monumental work Zakhor. which explores how modern Jews relate to their histories and memories.

Yerushalmi, the world's leading scholar of Jewish history in our time, has passed away at the age of 77.  Check out the New York Times and Forward  for informative obituaries.

His loss is a great one to the Jewish world today, but his contributions are vast and have affected our community in ways of which the average American Jew might be completely unaware.

The Whole Phamily is interested in the name Yerushalmi.  Before learning about his background and upbringing, we posited that he was a native Jerusalemite, as the Hebrew "Yerushalmi" literally translates as "of Jerusalem" and is a surname used for families who have lived for generations in that city.

Yet, we learned that Yerushalmi has a similar heritage to many of our own Eastern European-born ancestors who immigrated here at the turn of the century.  His father, Yehuda Yerushalmi as noted on Zakhor's dedication page, emigrated to British-ruled Palestine when, we are guessing, he Hebraicized his name.  He then later settled in the Bronx, where the younger Yerushalmi was born and raised.

The concept of changing one's given last name (like Weiss, Perlman, or Ginsberg) at the turn of the century and into a Hebrew equivalent (such as Halivni, Ben-Yehuda, or Ha'am) is still practiced today.  At Ellis Island (likely in Galveston as well), Jews Americanized their names, but in Israel many Jews have Hebraicized.

Last week some of us at the Whole Phamily had the incredible honor and privilege to bear witness to the kiddushin and nissuin (Jewish marriage) of our dear friend D.  At the wedding tisch (where the bride, kallah, rocked the house!) prior to the ceremony,  D touched on the topic of memory, and we could not help but think that he was referring to Yerushalmi, who passed away only weeks before the next chapter of D's journey. We believe that all things happen for a reason:  Yerushalmi's own memory wafted through the honored air of perhaps one of the most bashert couples we have ever had the mazal of knowing.

Is this too much?  It's way over our heads here at the Whole Phamily.  So,we think it's time to kick back and reflect on these Heavy Things.

Meanwhile, if you find an affordable paperback of Zakhor, let us know, since we are returning the copy that has rested on our bookshelf for many years.

Why is that the case?  For your Jewish geography-desiring ears:

Our copy belonged to an old camp friend's college friend who he has known since 8th grade, but that we met on our own during our post-college years through another friend we worked with at a different camp (but of the same Jewish camping movement).  The book is inscribed by his college girlfriend prior to his own post-college visit to Minsk.

And, isn't Minsk (which is now-Belarus) where my great-great grandfather Yisroel Bear was from?  (see the Whole Phamily's 2nd blog post).

Maybe we should get back onto JewishGen...

The connections are endless...