Friday, June 20, 2014

MELTING POT

This post is not about genealogy, history, Judaism or Eastern Europe. Not exactly.

8 months ago I moved from the US to Brazil, and it so happened it coincided with the World Cup. I love soccer, or football, but never thought I'd have the chance to watch any World Cup game - ever. I did it on June 18th, Holland x Australia.




Many thoughts ran my mind during and after the game, as I saw Australians, Dutch, Brazilians, Argentineans, Uruguayans, French, Americans, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Russians, all chanting in their own languages, cheering and making their own combined gestures. It was surreal to think that millions of people traveled so far, some even with their children, to watch a soccer game.


Australia lost, but at the end everybody was cheering together, holding each other, taking pictures.

That day it was obvious to me that the World Cup has very little to do with just a game or patriotism. I used to think it's kind of stupid to hoist a national flag only in a soccer match situation, like many Brazilians do. And it's not my intention here to dwell on the political and economical implications of hosting such an event. I could go on and on and criticize it, like many are doing, but my impressions of attending a World Cup game were not bad. I felt it's about the meeting of people from different corners of the world, it's about celebrating difference.




Radical groups or schools of thought, being religious or not, don't understand that. They don't understand that difference is what makes it all interesting, fun and vivid; it's what makes us human. Soon the World Cup will end, and meetings like this will happen only in 4 years from now. I hope that in between then we can still keep the magic feeling that difference is what makes us survive in this planet.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A BESSARABIA POEM

Uri Lam, a Bessaraber who lives in the Norhteast of Brazil sent me this beautiful poem he wrote years ago. I took the liberty to translate it to English (sorry for any mistakes!) and posted its original in Portuguese below. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It relates to our journey into memories and past.

Bessarabia
Uri Lam

I went straight to Gan Haparsí, the Persian garden. To me, Gan Hakessamim, the Magical Garden.
In the Gan there are five trees, two in one side, three in the other. They guard the way. 
Bereshit, the beggining is a tohu vavohu, a labirynth. 
Time and space altogether, nobody knows where the sky ends and the earth begins.
From this labyrinth comes a small creek. Dry creek, which soon gets wet and full of moss.
Some dams after, it keeps enclosed in leaves, which turn into woods. Only further away it is possible to dive in the waters and let yourself go in the stream.
Before one reaches this stage, one needs to find the labyrinth exit.  I feel the feet and face burn in the heat of the dry ground, then slip in the moss, cross the infinite barriers and go through the secrets of the woods.
(Some have come here and entered the Gan Hakessamim woods, but did not leave. They went crazy. Or killed themselves. Only one has survived).
And when I thought that I could finally rest and be taken by the waters, I find a staircase. I look up. There is no end. 
Step by step. To each step taken, there is another one to take above. 
There is no end.
Step by step. Tired, some mirages start to appear here and there.  Reminiscences of the path, the labyrinth, the dry creek. Going through the humid heat, between the trees in the woods.
The fear of foxes, lions, snakes and insects.  I veer from ghosts and witches - the ones I can see - in the way.
And when I look to my side, I see angels walking with me in the staircase, going up and down. Jacob's Ladder. 
Flying or walking or jumping around, the angels greet, smile, sing and hold hands. 
A mix of the famous Chocolate Factory, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. I feel incredibly alive. 
Finally I see a portal up above. A passage to Sucat Shalom, the peace hut. Or is it the portal to the Temple? When was it rebuilt?
I look again, astonished. But there is a wall around the portal. Closed. Concrete. The air is light, but my breathing is heavy. 
My back turned towards the walled portal which was supposed to be a peace hut or the entrance to Beit Hamikdash.
I look down and see the five trees. From here they look like five leaves: two in one side, three in the other. Some are pink, others green, one is grey. I can barely see the labyrinth behind. 
The woods cover my view of the river, but the dry ground ahead creates mirages which still distort the landscape of the beginning of the journey. 
It´s time to go down the steps, one by one. Each step down is swallowed by the Earth. 
I look around, the possibilities: return or go back and see what's behind the staircase, the portal, the hut, the Temple, the wall. I turn around. 
Across the way there is another staircase, but much smaller. The path is lighter. To each step the grass grows livelier. The fragrance is delicate and sweet. 
I pick up some leaves and put them close to my face. Rosemarin. I get to the other side of the wall, the Temple, the hut, the portal, the staircase. 
I look down and have another perspective of the Magical Garden. Then as I feel a familiar presence, I turn. 
“Grandpa Aizik! So you knew this path already?”
He smiles, kind of happy, kind of angry, frowning his forehead and eyes: “Of course, avade.”
I get a bit embarrassed. I remember our last meeting, when he said:
“Follow your profession, don't be chazen, Don't be a cantor. It doesn´t give parnusse. How can you make a living then?”
“Grandpa, I was always in this path, I chose it.
I don't know if it gives parnusse, but I know it's a lot of work! And simches also”.
He stares at me for a while and finally says:
“You were not the first one to follow this path. Remember? We came from Hotin.”

Bessarábia
Uri Lam

Fui direto ao Gan Haparsí, o Jardim Persa. Para mim, Gan Hakessamim, o Jardim Mágico.
No Gan há cinco árvores, duas de um lado, três do outro. Elas guardam o caminho.
Bereshit, o ínicio é um tohu vavohu, um labirinto.
Tempo e espaço misturados, ninguém sabe onde terminam os céus e onde começa a terra.
Deste labirinto sai um pequeno riacho. Leito seco, que logo adiante fica úmido e segue cada vez mais coberto de musgo.
Algumas barragens depois, segue fechado em folhas, que se transformam em bosques. Só mais à frente é possível mergulhar nas águas e se deixar levar pela corrente.
Antes de chegar a este estágio é preciso encontrar a saída do labirinto. Sentir os pés e as faces queimarem no calor do chão seco, depois escorregar no musgo, ultrapassar as infinitas barreiras e arriscar-se pelos segredos do bosque.
(Alguns chegaram até aqui e entraram no bosque de Gan Hakessamim, mas não saíram. Enlouqueceram. Ou se mataram. Só um sobreviveu).
E quando pensava que finalmente poderia descansar e ser levado pelas águas, chego aos pés de uma escadaria. Olho para cima. Parece não ter fim.
Passo a passo, passo a passo. A cada degrau aqui embaixo, parece que outro degrau é construído lá no alto.
Parece não ter fim.
Passo a passo, passo a passo. Degrau a degrau. Com o cansaço, algumas miragens começam a aparecer aqui e ali. Recordações do caminho, o labirinto, o leito seco do rio, Passando pelo calor úmido entre as árvores no bosque,
O medo das raposas, dos leões, das cobras e dos insetos. Desvio dos fantasmas e das bruxas – os que posso ver – no caminho.
E eis que ao olhar para o lado, há anjos comigo na trilha pela escada, subindo e descendo. Escada de Jacob.
Voando ou caminhando ou saltando ao redor, os anjos se cumprimentam, sorriem, cantam, estendem as mãos uns aos outros.
Um misto entre Lumpa-Lumpas, da Fabulosa Fábrica de Chocolates, com Fred Astaire e Gene Kelly. A sensação é de estar incrivelmente vivo.
Finalmente vislumbro o alto: um portal. Passagem para Sucat Shalom, a tenda de paz. Ou será o portal para o Templo? Quando, meu Deus, foi reconstruído?
Olho de novo, maravilhado. Mas ah, o portal está murado. Fechado. Concretado. O ar é leve, mas agora minha respiração pesa.
De costas para o portal murado do que era para ser uma tenda de paz ou a entrada para o Beit Hamikdash.
Olho para baixo e vejo as cinco árvores. Daqui se parecem com cinco folhas: duas de um lado, três do outro. Algumas rosadas, outras verdes, uma acinzentada. Mal se enxerga o labirinto ao fundo.
O bosque cobre a visão do rio, mas o chão seco lá na frente gera miragens que ainda distorcem a paisagem do início da jornada.
É hora de descer os degraus, um a um. Quanto mais desço um degrau aqui encima, a terra engole um degrau lá embaixo.
Olho ao redor, as possibilidades: retornar, ou dar a volta e ver o que há por trás dos degraus, do portal, da tenda, do Templo, do muro. Dou a volta.
Do outro lado há outra escada, mas muito menor. O caminho é mais leve. A cada passo, a relva ao redor cresce cada vez mais viva. O aroma é delicado e doce.
Recolho algumas folhas e flores e as aproximo do rosto. Rosemarin. Chego ao outro lado do muro, do Templo, da tenda, do portal, dos degraus.
Olho para baixo e tenho outra perspectiva do Jardim Mágico. Então me viro de lado, ao sentir uma presença familiar. Me emociono.
“Vovô Aizik! Então você já conhecia este caminho?”
Ele sorri, meio feliz, meio irritado, franzindo a testa e os olhos: “Faiz Favorr, avade, claro que sim.”
Fico um pouco constrangido. Lembro-me do dia em que, em nosso último encontro, ele me disse:
“Siga a sua profissão, não seja chazen, não seja cantor religioso. Não dá parnusse. Como viver disso?”
“Vô, eu sempre estive neste caminho, eu escolhi 
este caminho.
Não sei se dá parnusse, mas sei que dá trabalho! E simches também”.
Ele me olha, me olha, olha outra vez, e finalmente diz:
“Você não foi o primeiro a trilhar este caminho. Lembra-se? Viemos de Hotin.”
Beis Harav.
Inspirado em atividade realizada no curso de Livui Ruchani (Acompanhamento Espiritual), Prof. Rachel Ettun, HUC, Tochnit Israeli. 12 nov. 2008 / 14 de Chesvan 5769 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BACK IN THE JEWISH NEIGHBORHOOD



I was born in Bom Fim, the Jewish neighborhood in Porto Alegre, where my grandparents, their families and friends settled, where all synagogues, Jewish clubs and restaurants were and still are. I remember my first memories of Judaism: walking back home from a festivity in the shul at night with my dad, with an Israeli flag, a candied apple and a bag full of sweets. I didn't understand it, but loved it. What kid wouldn't love some sweets?


I remember very little as we moved to a different neighborhood when I was 3.




35 years later I'm living in Bom Fim again. It is different, but I still see familiar faces of old people who once pinched my cheeks as a little boy. I'm too shy to come close and say "I know you, but I don't know your name and you probably won't remember me". But these old familiar faces make me feel at home.




Sunday, December 1, 2013

BRAZILIAN IMPRESSIONS



This is not exactly about Moldova, genealogy or History, but about impressions on imigrating to a "new" country. These are my first impressions when I moved back to Brazil coming from Los Angeles, a month ago:

1) I'm now certain Kafka lived in Brazil.
2) Burocrats here love paper, pity on the Brazilian trees.
3) Things are much smaller. Like in Europe.
4) Service is cheaper, products are MUCH more expensive, food can be cheaper too.
5) Medical doctors can hug and kiss you.
6) People are less formal, but not as polite. And smoking is popular, even if you’re pregnant.
7) English language is more practical than Portuguese, whatever that means.
8) I still don’t know when it’s going to rain. And neither does the forecast.
9) J-walking is the law.
10) Happy to have plenty of affordable sparkling water back in my life.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

BACK TO THE ROOTS (SORT OF)


After spending 11 years in the US, I have just moved back to my hometown in Brazil with my wife and daughter. Some people said I was coming back to my roots. I was never too sure.

I think once an immigrant, always an immigrant. I was born and raised in the city of Porto Alegre, and now when walking or driving in its streets, talking to people, doing groceries, I see things that are extremely familiar, but foreign. It's a weird, hard to explain feeling, like being in a very vivid dream, that is real and surreal. I am home and I am not home.

My grandparents moved from Bessarabia/Moldova to Porto Alegre, and my grandfather constructed a building himself. Ironically I will be living in an apartment in this same old building, which has our last name on it (mispelled, by the way). And as life itself would have it, the first time we opened the mailbox there was a letter from the City Hall - directed to my grandfather!

Yes, the past is present in Porto Alegre, my own past, my childhood friends' and family's. And like my grandparents, I am an immigrant, but now an immigrant in my own town.
A park in Porto Alegre

Sunday, September 1, 2013

GETTING RID OF STUFF



Today I threw in the trash the first map I used in the States, back in 2002: a street map of San Francisco. As I was going over stuff and choosing what I was taking to Brazil with me and what should be thrown away, this map made me think if I made a mistake or not.

Should we keep things that have little significance and at first sight are not important? Will I regret my decision to throw this map away? Will this map have any value many years from now? What if my grandparents had thrown their postcards and other documents away when moving from Europe to Brazil? What would my odds be of ever getting a glimpse of how they were like?

But in today's age, everything is digital and we have the Internet. Things cannot be lost anymore. Maybe anybody could easily rescue this same map years from now. Or not?

I'm not sure. But what I know is that those who have ephemera from ages past, please don't throw them away. They belong to generations that will never exist again.