All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Friday, 29 April 2005

Five Reasons To Smile

1. It's a beautiful, sunny, Spring day out there.

2. My assignment is complete and ready for submission.

3. Pesach's nearly finished (although the wife's cooking this year was yummy!)

4. I've got an interview next week for a potential job.

5. My wife and kids still want me around the house, despite my driving them mad.

Thursday, 28 April 2005

I'm Two Thirds There

I'm happy to report that I took my other two tests this afternoon and passed both. I don't think I couldn't have faced the fallout had I failed either IT or literacy, or both - given that I teach the former and write blogs utilising the latter.

So I'm two thirds there. The numeracy test still eludes me and I've put a bid in on eBay for a study guide (yup, I'm that desperate). Hopefully, it won't be too long until I re-sit (I suppose it would help if I booked...) but as always, I'll keep you posted.

Other good news - hey, it was a positive day - I've been invited to interview at a school next Friday. They are going to send me a lesson topic to teach and I've been told that I'll be informed as to whether or not I've been successful by the end of the day. This would be a full time job, to start in September (assuming that I pass my numeracy test), so that's good.

I've got another assignment to hand in tomorrow. I've been given an extension as I only broke up from school last week. Not that you're particularly interested, but the task is to write up a Scheme of Work to teach one of my topics. Flummoxed already?

Other good news on the car front. We're this close to getting our new vehicle. Hopefully, we should be driving around in it by this time next week. Then there's the other issue of the garage to sort out. They are charging an unbelievable amount for the pleasure of telling us that the car was unrepairable. Needless to say, no money has passed hands yet. Believe me, this one's going to run and run (as they say in the media).

And that, as they say, is it, for the time being. Pesach is on it's way out, which is not a bad thing. Saying that, this year's event has been pretty pleasant and for once, we haven't starved. Thank the good wife for that. Much as I am getting used to chomping matzah - and I use the word advisedly - I really am looking forward to my pizza and pasta and hot toast with oodles of crunchy peanut butter.....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

Enough masochism/sadism for now.
Time to get back to work. I've got an assignment to hand in in less than eighteen or so hours and I'm nowhere near finished.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

The Numbers Game

I took the numeracy test today and failed by ONE mark.

Can you believe that? One sodding mark.

I'm pretty pissed off about it (understandably) as I now have to find the time to re-sit, re-book and shlep half way across town to do so.

I have the other two tomorrow. Let's hope I pass.
People, it's prayer time. I don't care who you're praying to - just get me some passes please.

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

The Search for a Cleaner

I put out a request for a new cleaner on our local (email) community notice board.
This is what I wrote:

I'd like to say a thank you
To those of you out there,
Who've given help so freely
And shown you really care.

But now another problem
I do request of you,
Our cleaner though quite pleasant
Does not know what to do!

We need another cleaner
To make our house look great,
A fine, outstanding worker,
But not someone fahrdrayt!*

If you do know that someone
Who'd really fit the bill
I'd love to hear soon from you
And I know I will!

I'd like to end in wishing
You all a kosher Chag,
I hope I find a cleaner
Before we hit the Lag!

* yiddish for inside out/upside down etc - you get the general idea
Lag Ba'omer is a special holiday, mid-way between Pesach and Shavuot.

Meanwhile, On The Bright Side...

The good news is that since the car is dead, it's not worth repairing and so I've taken the sensible step of withdrawing my insurance claim. Net result is that my no-claims-bonus is reinstated. The fact that we don't have a car right now, really shouldn't come into this.

The bad news is that it does. WE DON'T HAVE A CAR!!!

Was that loud enough?

We are on the lookout and hopefully, something will turn up soon.

But not yet.

Saying that, my father-in-law has very very generously loaned us his car for over a week now and that's extraodinarily nice of him to do so (I don't like using the word "nice", but it seemed like an aopportune moment.)

Back at the ranch, I've spent much of the day working on my next assignment (due in Friday afternoon). I'm nowhere near finished but I've come some way since this morning, so I really can't complain. The VDU however, is started to get a little fuzzy, so that's probably a sign for me to give up the ghost for now.

Dana's out with the kids, having a good time. I'm delighted for them all, because the last few days haven't exactly been that thrillling for the little 'uns. At least they are running around and destroying someone else's house. Any parents amongst you, will totally understand this sentiment.

So here I am, on the eve of my first skills test. Numeracy, which is to be nervously taken tomorrow at lunchtime. It's the one I fear the most as I'm abysmal at maths. Thankfully, there is no statute of limitations on how many times I can retake the tests, so I suppose that's a bit of a comfort. What I don't want to do is go to the centre so many times, that the receptionist welcomes me with that "Hello 'x', are you trying once again?" look.

I also have a twilight session at the university tomorrow. I need to take my subject knowledge folder in for a perusal by my lecturer. I don't think he'll be too impressed with what he sees. To be honest, I'll be happy to get it sorted out, once the tests and assignments are out of the way. I'm not sure though that he'll share my work-plan. That's another battle and not one I wish to contemplate too much now.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings.The sun's out, my work's saved and it's not yet evening.

All in all, a satisfying day and you can't that too often.

Monday, 25 April 2005

72 Hours Later

The three day Yomtov marathon is over and we're into Chol Hamoed. Have I enjoyed the last seventy two hours? Yes and no. The Sedarim were nice and the kids got involved, which really made them memorable. But enough is enough, yomtov-wise!

We hosted the first seder at home and it was an absolute delight to hear both Dassi and Tali reading from the Hagaddah (in Hebrew, English and Aramaic noch). I look forward to next year when Michal might even be able to add her bit. The second Seder was held at our synagogue and it was also fun, although it too started pretty late. We left before the end - and it was already 1 a.m.

The rest of the time was spent eating (a LOT of eating), sleeping, reading - all the usual yomtovy things...but to be honest, I wasn't unhappy to see the return of normality (at least until Friday night when we attack the second batch).

So, how was your experience?
Did you celebrate?
Has the Matzah kicked in yet?
Are you excited by the fact that this time next week, pizza will no longer be a dirty word?

It's going to be a loooooooong week but I suppose I should get into the swing of things. This is a lovely festival and I am enjoying it. I'm just so preoccupied with the search for a car, my upcoming tests and the need to start working on my dissertation...that I'm not really able to relax enough to fully enjoy the festivities.

Oh well, as they say, next year in Jerusalem. Hey?

Friday, 22 April 2005

My All-Seeing Blind Eye

I don't know if this is a common occurrence but as I get older, I'm discovering myself to be less and less orthodox when it comes to all the ins and outs of Pesach cleaning.

Sure, we get rid of all our chametz, but whereas I was much more stringent in the past about the cleaning and scrubbing and blitzing of those pesky little crumbs - I'm less so now. I just haven't got the strength or willing to give it my all.

Does this make me less of a Passover observant Jew? Will my soul be separated from my people when I hit the great upstairs, because I didn't get rid of every molecule of leaven - or will G-d open the gates and tell me: "You're Ok, you did your best and even when you could have done more...at least you tried".

I have to say that this, of late, has surely become my way of thinking. I tried. Dammit I tried. We've spent close on £1000 making sure the food's kosher and the house is ready. Yet, as I look around, I'm surrounded by chametz and I'm sorry to say this,but one and a quarter hours before shabbat comes in, I really have to force myself to keep on working at it. I'm tired of Pesach and I'm sick of chametz.
Let's not forget that Pesach hasn't even begun yet.

I really shouldn't complain. After all, Dana's the one who's worked her guts out for the Sederim. How dare I, a mere man, complain?

Well, view this then, as a joint complaint. We're both tired of Pesach and chametz and we're both looking forward to Sunday night 1st May, when it's all over - which is not really the right spirit to have as we enter this wonderful festival.

The truth is that the Sedarim will be wonderful and we'll get used to the week. Next Pesach, we'll do it all again and complain and I'll be a little more lax than this year because I'll have a year's less patience - but do you know what, with all this and more, I'd rather die than miss one of the most precious times of our year.

Now, THAT'S the spirit of Pesach.

Chag Sameach everyone!

Thursday, 21 April 2005

(Don't) Go Fly a Kite

I've had a really shitty day. First of all, our car is dead and we need to get a new one. This couldn't have come at a worse time.

And then there are the bloody kites.

Whose insane idea was it to fly kites when there's no wind? Oh yes, mine. The kids are bored and Dassi wants to fly her kite for the first time. The fact that it doesn't get out of the house (by the time I've assembled it and she's broken it, there's not much point) really has no bearing on the situation.

Tali, Michal and I go out on this beautiful (and virtually windless) day. Tali has this behemoth of a kite. The only way we can get it into the air is by her running along the street, pulling the string. 1 hour plus later and the kite is pretty tattered, I'm in a foul foul mood and there's still no bloody wind.

I have had an afternoon of kites and I hate them. I hate what they are, I hate their shape and I hate their name.

Yes, I hate kites.

Besides that, everything's rosy. I probably shouldn't be writing with all this anger inside of me, but the truth is that no-one in this house wants to come anyway near, so I guess, I'll have to spew my fury out to the rest of the world.

The fact that I've also been up since 4.30 this morning doesn't help. I'm tired, angry and frustrated.

I hope you've had a better day and week. Since Shabbat, I've had 3 deaths, fever and Pesach looming.

And now kites. Windless, plasticky, pointless kites.

Goodnight.

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

We Are 1 !!!

Folks, it's been three hundred and sixty five days since we started this wonderful adventure and I'm thrilled to report that we've made it!

It has not been an easy year, to say the least. I spent a great deal of time thinking about how we could celebrate this special first anniversary and ended up with one burning question - should I reprint the blog that I really felt represented the year?

In my opinion, one blog stood out from all the rest and ironically, it wasn't even written by me. My cousin's first-hand account of the Tsunami was so vivid, terrying and humbling, that no other posting could ever match it. However, I understandably decided not to reproduce the entry. I hope the mere mention of it will give it the respect it is due.

So, here we are, about to enter our second year and at a new address too! As you've seen, I'm having quite a bit of fun bringing these blogs to you (particularly now that I'm mastering how to add animation and sound - I did actually add a sound to this entry but it drove me mad, so I decided to spare you the ordeal) and I hope you get something out of the site too.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported me here throughout the last year. Thank you for visiting, leaving comments and giving me ideas to ponder. I don't apologise for the occasional controversy - it helped to add a little spice and I hope that we can all come back here on April 20th 2006 and enjoy our second anniversary.

I'd like to think that I've achieved quite a bit through this site to date. Most of all, I'm delighted to see that at least three people I know, who visit us here regularly, have taken the plunge and started their own fabulous offerings (please click on the links in the left hand column and see for yourself).

Bradders, Just and Lau - you've got some amazing sites to which I constantly refer for inspiration and ideas.

I'd also like to add a special thank you to Alvin too, originator of that very first photo (reproduced in my first blog on this site). Cheers Al!

Finally, I'd like to say a very special thank you to Hadassah (Kiki). She was the one who inspired me to start this crazy idea. H, you've given me a new voice. Thank you so very much.

If you're reading this today, have a drink on me. Happy birthday friends. It's time to board the rollercoaster and continue our experiences through life.

The blog is here to stay - long live the blog!!!

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Pulling Through

Well, I've made it through the last few days and my fever seems to have gradually evaporated. It really was the last thing I needed right now. The house is getting closer to being ready for Passover, but we're still quite a way off to meeting the level that I'm aiming for.

I didn't make it into school yesterday or today. To be honest, with the way I was feeling, I wouldn't have been of much use. School has now broken up for the holidays and I've got a heavy schedule ahead of me. Until Friday night, its a question of readying the house and hopefully starting work on my next assignment, due in on the next Friday. Next week, I need to take my Skills Tests in English, Maths and IT. These are governmentaly produced multiple choice programs consisting of 45 minute online tests (which I need to go to a test centre to sit) which I need to pass in order to qualify as a teacher.

If and when I do pass them, I still have two more months of study before I will hopefully get my full qualification and teacher number. I then have to undertake a year of teaching as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) before I can call myself a proper teacher (i.e. fully qualified). It's not easy, but I've come quite a way since those heady September days.

I find it hard to believe that I'm but two months away from finishing my university course and can't quite fathom how the last eight months or so have zipped by faster than Superman on Speed. The course is demanding, but I have worked constantly and now face the inevitable rush to complete my files and meet the rigorous standards required by the Department of Education.

Over the last twelve months, you've witnessed my trials and tribulations and here we find ourselves on the eve of our very first anniversary (isn't it exciting?!)

Think back, if you can to April 20th 2004. What were you doing? Has your life changed as much as mine? Maybe you're happy with your situation and don't need a change (and who can blame you?). I know that this last year has been memorable, frustrating and yes, totally worthwhile. I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing it with you and I hope the feeling is mutual.

But more of that tomorrow.

Today, there is still much to be done. A house is waiting to be pesached and a special anniversary about to be celebrated.

As they say, watch this space!

Monday, 18 April 2005

Life

I think my enthusiastic embrace of the D.B.T method (which I might have invented as a philosophy - watch this space) had less to do with relaxation and more in line with the onset of a mini-bug. I went to bed and woke up with a fever, which is not really the kind of thing I need to get a week before the big P. begins.

Dana's gone to her parent's house to give the car keys to the AA man. He's going to tow our beleaguered car to the garage. I don't know whether we're ever going to drive it again, but that's a story for a different day. Thank G-d I'll be alive to tell it.

Anyway, here I am at home, feeling better, if not a little weak. I've also heard that my cousin Nora has passed away, which has also upset me quite a bit. She'd been ill for so long, that it wasn't such a surprise. I feel that maybe now, she will find the happiness that eluded her for most of her life. She really deserved a better offering than she received thoughout her time here with the rest of us.

Baruch Dayan Emet - blessed be the True Judge.

Life goes on. People are born and others die. Let's make the most out of the time we're allotted and that's the best we can all ask for.

Enough deaths dear Lord, please.

Enough deaths.

Sunday, 17 April 2005

Deep Breath Time

Dana's just called to tell me that the AA man looked at the car, told her it was too dangerous to drive and that it might be a write-off.

Time to take a very deep breath.

I recently decided to try a new relaxation method. It's called D.B.T or Deep Breath Time. It's simple to administer and goes like this:

When the situation looks absolutely hopeless and you know there's nothing you can do about it, take a very deep breath, close your eyes and thank G-d you've got your health. Then open your eyes, smile inanely and think about something else altogether.

Every time the problem comes back, carry out two more DBT's and wait for the inevitable end result.

The D.B.T method doesn't solve the problem.

It just stops you having a heart attack.

'Twas The Week Before Passover

Dana and the kids have gone out for the day which leaves me here alone.

Me and the house. The house and I.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, it's that time again. The week before Passover is upon us and the frantic race to get the house "sorted" has begun in earnest. Do I look forward to spending the day cleaning the house? What do you think?

The one thought that powers me throughout the long day (and we've all been here before) is that most other people I know are doing exactly the same thing and so there's a crumb of reassurance in the idea that we're "all in it together". I know it's not much, but at least it's something.

Dana has just called to tell me that the car's kaput. This looks like the start of a memorable week. After all, we've already had two shock deaths to contend with, the car's in a state as is the house and it's only Sunday morning.

Why do I wish that I could "jump" over this week and the next and emerge tomorrow, at the end of Passover?

Saturday, 16 April 2005

An Unrepeatable Day (I hope)

I get to shul this morning, only to be told that one of the most popular members, a friendly, smiling fellow, whom everyone knew, had a heart attack last night and died at the criminally young age of 43.

This evening, I read on the internet that a Rabbi I've known most of my life, who married one of my favourite teachers, died yesterday whilst visiting Jerusalem. He was all of 55.

Dear G-d, no more days like this.

Please.

Conversation This Morning

Dassi is speaking to Tali:

Dassi: Tali, you're an i-d-o-t-e (of course meaning, idiot)

Me (mocking Dassi): Tali, you're an idote

Tali: But I don't look like an idote.

Thursday, 14 April 2005

Pesach Humour

What do you call someone who derives pleasure from the bread of affliction?

A matzochist.

Losing The Plot

I've spent the last two days marking homework that I wanted to give back to one class tomorrow - only to realise that the work I thought I was marking, belonged another class which I took yesterday! The other homework in my possession, which I also thought was due for returning tomorrow, was also earmarked for yesterday's very same lesson.

The class to whom I should be giving marked homework to (i.e. tomorrow morning) meanwhile gave their work in a few weeks ago and I promptly returned it to them unmarked, to use for some classwork. I'd forgotten that I needed to re-collect it.

Confused?

I'm either a terrible teacher or in the process of serously losing the plot. Thank G-d we're on holiday from next Tuesday afternoon. I think the kids, homework and I, need a well earned break from one another.

Movie Review: SAHARA


The film takes it's time to get going, but once it does, it really takes you on a roller-coaster ride. I suppose you could describe it as a mix of Indiana Jones and James Bond (with respect to the sets used).

Don't think too much about the plot or plausability and enjoy the trip. This is the kind of movie to see after a hard day. It's not a must, but I would certainly recommend it if you feel like sitting back and losing yourself in a good old fashioned action picture. Good soundtrack too.
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

Today, I nearly became part of a very special club.
This esteemed establishment is only open to the select few (i.e) those who can prove that they really do want to be members of the Association, by demonstrating their credentials via the simple act of crying.

No, let me make it more explicit.

Blubbing.

We're not talking about simple tear-stained cheeks here. We're going the whole hog. We are bringing up inconsolably frustrating and totally dignity-shedding oceans of tears.

Think Alice in Wonderland and you're pretty much there.

This morning, my tenth grade class nearly reduced me to that state. They trod, trampled, in short, creamed me into the ground. I tried the various tricks and disciplinary methods but they were having none of it. They were baying for my blood

But not quite.

I'm glad to say that I didn't blub. I fumed, fretted and plotted my revenge but I didn't crack. They realised they had gone too far because the entire class en masse (well, probably not the entire class, but damned near most of them) actually showed up at the lunchtime detention that I had thrown in their direction.

For twenty minutes of sheer sweetness, I actually got some work out of them. Yes, they complained. Yes, they wanted to go to lunch and yes I let them go (eventually) but I did inflict some kind of retribution on the little you-know-whats.

Thursday will be an altogether different experience. I'm going to lay down the law, clear and simple.

The one thing I won't do is cry.

...at least, I'll try my best not to. As far as I'm concerned, I am already a signed-up member of too many clubs and the Desolate Teachers Society is not one that I plan to join soon, if ever.
I hear that they've got too many members anyway and the waiting lists are phenomenal.

My Hero

Looking at the animation at the top of this page, you might be wondering why Harpo Marx is playing his harp (albeit silently). Well, here's the reason...

I have always been a huge fan of the Marx Brothers. I love their intelligent, quick humour, chutzpah and general shtick. For many people, Groucho is the genius who soars above his brothers, but to me, there's only one contender for the King of Comedy - Harpo.

I started watching the movies on TV when I was a teenager, as they were shown over the Xmas Holidays. I lapped them up, found myself sometimes in fits of laughter and always amazed at how little the films have dated. In fact, they remain as fresh today as I believe they must have been when they were originally released.

There are very few things I wish I could have been present at before I was born. One of them is a Marx Bros concert, which I have heard to be legendary. The brothers insulted the crowds, twinkled their eyes and by all accounts had everyone virtually wetting themselves.

Harpo though is special. Soon after we met, Dana lent me her grandmother's copy of his autobiography, Harpo Speaks!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/search-handle-form/026-6853164-8715636
It is without a doubt, one of the most memorable books I've ever had the fortune to read. Harpo writes beautifully, narrates extraordinary (and at times very funny) stories and comes out as a really wonderful human being.

I wish I could possess Harpo's attitude to life. He laughs at everyone and everything but knows when it's time to be serious. His comments about Anti-Semitism and the Second World War demonstrate his love and devotion to his brethren and the fact that, in his Will, he bequeathed his beloved harp to the State of Israel speaks volumes about the makeup of the man. If you want to know the real Harpo, look at his expression whenever he plays his harp. As they say, the camera never lies.

Beneath the tomfoolery, there was an extraordinary person who left this world too quickly.

I never knew Harpo, but I miss him, if that makes any sense. I pray that when it's my time to hit the long journey upwards, I am privileged to meet this man - one of my all time heroes.

It is with pride that he sits at the top of this site and hopefully adds a little smile to your face as you think about his movie antics.

Here's to Harpo!

Sunday, 10 April 2005

Silver Lining blah blah

As it turns out, that nogoodfernuttin' sixth former has done me quite a service by "compromising" my last blogsite (Compromise...I really am watching too much of 24). I'm really enjoying posting to this new site and now that I've got past the HTML (I know the colours are boring, but I have yet to work out how to change them, bear with me people, bear with me), it's much more liberating than my last site.

My morning lift has just called to say that she's sick and won't be taking me in. I guess that means I'm at the mercy of the Tube....oh well, as long as I've got some decent reading material and the train actually gets me to the destination it says it's travelling to (not something that I ever take for granted), I suppose that I really shouldn't complain (much).

Monday morning beckons and I have yet to sort myself out, so I suppose I'd better stop blogging and do something useful (hee hee hee).

Have a pleasant week, why don't you.

I Need To Get Enthused 2

I don't know if I got so much enthused as became aware of the fact that I had to turn up to school tomorrow with something.

The strange thing I find about lesson planning is that I don't look forward to doing it, but when I start, I really get involved and think about how the students will react to my ideas. Experience has shown me that most of my plans fly out of the window about half way through the lesson.

I finish at the school in about six weeks time and I have to think about my first "real" job in September. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that this is only a short-term placement. It's very easy to get caught up in the maelstrom that is teaching and forget to put things in perspective. I'm going to be planning and giving lessons until the day we break up, next Tuesday. The truth is that most of the kids are already in holiday mode, so this is a bit of a futile exercise!

Nevetherless, I shall plough on, detailed lesson plan in hand, hoping that some of it might get used in the lesson (and I'm only half joking here).

I Need To Get Enthused

It's the end of term blues. I know I need to get my lesson plans sorted, but I just can't seem to find the energy to sit down and do them.

I tell you, this teaching lark is blooming hard stuff!!!

This Is Quite Cute

Have a look at http://www.passovergreeting.com/

Friday, 8 April 2005

Cool!

From the Simon Wiesenthal Centre

POPE JOHN PAUL II AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE
by Rabbi Marvin Hier

In terms of reconciliation with the Jews, I believe that Pope John Paul II was the greatest Pope in the history of the Vatican with
respect to his relationship to the Jewish people.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, CNN's Larry King Live Show, Tuesday, April 4,
2005


As you read this, the funeral of Pope John Paul II is taking place. For twenty centuries, the Catholic Church has had a turbulent relationship with the Jewish people. Jews were persecuted and held responsible for the death of Jesus, and were often the victims of Church-instigated pogroms and antisemitic attacks.

With the passing of Pope John Paul II, we have lost the strongest advocate for reconciliation for the Jewish people in the history of the Vatican. This Pope was determined to embark on a new course and leave that shameful period behind. From the very beginning of his papacy, when he first visited his native Poland, there were hints that this Pope was going to break with tradition and not follow the centuries-old script with respect to the Jews.

On his 1979 visit to Auschwitz, when he approached the inscriptions bearing the names of the countries whose citizens had been murdered there, he said, "I kneel before all the inscriptions bearing the memory of the victims in their languages. In particular, I pause before the inscription in Hebrew. This inscription awakens the memory of the people whose sons and daughters were intended for total extermination. It is not permissible for anyone to pass by this inscription with indifference."

The first time I met the Pope was in 1983 when I led a Wiesenthal Center mission to Eastern Europe. There, at a private audience at the Vatican, I expressed my concerns about antisemitism and said, "We come here today hoping to hear from you, the beloved spiritual leader of 700 million Christians, a clear and unequivocal message to all that this scourge in all its manifestations violates the basic creed to which all men of faith must aspire."
Obviously, John Paul II understood that very well, but it is important to place in proper context the considerable obstacles that he had to overcome.

During the height of the Holocaust, when millions of Jews were being gassed, the Vatican found the time to write letters opposing the creation of a Jewish State. On May 4, 1943, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Magaloni, informed the British government of the Vatican's opposition to a Jewish homeland in Palestine. One day later, the Vatican was informed that of the four million Jews residing in pre-war Poland, only about 100,000 were still alive. Six weeks later, on June 22, 1943, the Vatican's apostolic delegate, Archbishop Cicognani wrote to then U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, again detailing its opposition to a Jewish homeland in Palestine and warning him that Catholics the world over would be aroused and saying, in part: "It is true that at one time Palestine was inhabited by the Hebrew race, but there is no axiom in history to substantiate the necessity of a people returning to a country they left nineteen centuries before...If a Hebrew home is desired, it would not be too difficult to find a more fitting territory than Palestine." To imagine then that 62 years later a Polish Pope would have redefined Vatican thinking regarding the Jewish people is astounding.

Twenty years after our first meeting, on December 3, 2003, together with a small delegation of Center trustees, I returned to the Vatican for another private audience, this time to present the Pope with the Wiesenthal Center's highest honor, our Humanitarian Award. On that occasion, I recapped his remarkable accomplishments, "As a youngster, you played goalie on the Jewish soccer team in Wadowice...in 1937, concerned about the safety of Ginka Beer, a Jewish student on her way to Palestine, you personally escorted her to the railroad station...in 1963, you were one of the major supporters of Nostra Aetate, the historic Vatican document which rejected the collective responsibility of the Jewish people for the crucifixion...in 1986, you were the first Pope to ever visit a synagogue...the first to recognize the State of Israel...the first to issue a document that seeks forgiveness for members of the Church for wrongdoing committed against the Jewish people throughout history and to apologize for Catholics who failed to help Jews during the Nazi period...the first to visit a concentration camp and to institute an official observance of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Vatican."

I did not always agree with the Pope, especially when he nominated Pius XII for sainthood or when he met with then Austrian President Kurt Waldheim. But one thing is clear - in the two thousand year history of the papacy, no previous occupant of the throne of St. Peter has had such an interest in seeking reconciliation with the Jewish people.

With his passing, the world has lost a great moral leader and a righteous man and the Jewish people have lost its staunchest advocate in the history of the Church.

My Beautiful Girls

Ain't She Sweet?

Thursday, 7 April 2005

Welcome To Our New "Home"

It's been nearly a year (on April 20th) since I embarked on this wonderful adventure and I'm delighted to see that I've had so many of you tagging along for the ride.

To be honest, I had become rather fed-up with the AOL site. The templates and choices I was offered on the site were limited to say the least. You needed a magnifying glass to properly view the photos and the fact that I was unable to properly spell-check my work, really bothered me. I mean, for Heaven's sake, what kind of teacher am I, if I keep on making spelling mistakes (I know you noticed, even if you were too kind to mention it).

So here we are, a new blog, a new site and a chance to get some more controversies going! I know the last few entries on the AOL site had you fuming, but it was really great to see you adding your comments and showing me that writing a blog is not always a lonely experience.

It's a new improved recipe people. Let's enjoy ourselves and keep the comments coming!

Onwards and upwards!