Next time a sunrise steals your breath or a meadow of flowers leave you speechless, remain that way. Say nothing, and listen as Heaven whispers, “
Do you like it? I did it just for you.”
Max Lucado, author, writer and speaker 1955 –
OK, time to throw off the absolute indolence of holiday time and get back to the serious business of blogging. I see it is exactly two weeks since my last missive and I think it’s high time I started to write regularly again.
Looking back to this time last year, I see that I was still writing/blogging on a daily basis and in fact, on one day 12 January 2013, I posted two items. How very clever of me.
I think that my favourite post written last January was headed All I Need to Know. This listed all the things I learned from the Story of Noah and the Ark. I really enjoyed writing that post and have also enjoyed re-reading it (https://growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/all-i-need-to-know/).
And exactly one year ago today I wrote about Dr Minor, an American Civil War veteran, convicted of murder and condemned to live his life in Broadmoor Asylum ‘Until Her Majesty’s Pleasure Be Known’. During his incarceration, be became actively involved in compiling the Oxford English Dictionary. If this is of interest to you here’s the link – https://growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/madman-murderer-and-words/.
But now it is 2013 and we can’t rest on our laurels, so here is today’s post. The post is titled A Day in the Life so perhaps that’s what I should be writing about. But nothing worth writing about has happened today except a visit to a friend who is confined to a rest home as she convalesces following breaking a hip shortly before Christmas. She is rather bored and desperate to get home to her own apartment but unfortunately, the fall has rather knocked her confidence and I suspect/fear that it might be several more weeks before they will let her leave.
This is an interesting place to visit. Several, or is it many, of the inhabitants/clients/patients, are suffering a form of dementia. Today one man called out to me in the belief that I was his daughter. It is pitiful to see these people just sitting in lounge chairs nodding off or occasionally talking, but to whom and about what? They say that the long-term memory stays with one well into the various stages of dementia, so are these men and women remembering the useful and full lives they lived. Are they perhaps remembering loved ones lost to sickness or even war and are they wondering why these people are not around to visit them?
I remember when my Mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s she could clearly remember what happened and what she had done 30 years before, but she had difficulty in remembering who her two visiting daughters were. Although on one occasion she did remember that we each had a son and could remember their names. What a sad way to end her long and busy life.
However, my friend is not suffering from dementia and we had a lively conversation about what I had been doing and who had been visiting her since my last visit.
Then when I returned home I opened a street map given to me by a friend who recently visited London. Apparently, he saw this “A Street Map of Jewish East London” and thought of me.
If you have read any of my posts about growing up you will recall that I was born and brought up in the East End of London in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. With the exception of those of us living in our gentile apartment block everyone else was Jewish (or so it seemed). They were mainly Hasidic Jews, and from Wikipedia, I learned that “the Hasidics is a sect of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith.” These people did not relate/interact at all with us or it seemed, with anyone outside their own strict community. They were/are easily identified as the men wore their side hair in curls that fell to the jaw and always wore a round fur hat, called a shtreimel. I was always intrigued by these men (for it was mostly the men we saw walking in our neighbourhood) and wanted to learn more about their particular area of the Jewish religion.
As an aside, my parents’ house was purchased by the local government for street widening and in part payment, they were rehoused into an apartment complex. The question is what great mind devised the plan to drop a handful of Christian families in the middle of this enclave of Judaism. One will never know the answer to that riddle.
So back to my map. I have always been fascinated by street maps. Not for me the wide and wonderful world shown in an atlas but give me a map of the streets of any town anywhere in the world, and I can happily entertain myself for hours.
Of course, I immediately honed into the area in which I was born showing that less than 5% of the population in 1899 was Jewish. So I then had to find out what happened between then and when I was born to change this area from being so sparsely populated with Jews at the end of the 19th Century into an enclave of Judaism.
Stamford Hill (where we lived) is now home to Europe’s largest Hasidic Jewish community The small Hasidic community was increased dramatically by the influx of pre-war refugees and survivors of the Holocaust. The population has grown with arrivals from Israel and America. Now within an area of little more than a square mile, there are no fewer than 74 synagogues, or shuls, 32 orthodox schools, kosher supermarkets, butchers, fishmongers and a multitude of other businesses. Growing up I remember the bakers, butchers, fishmongers and while there were no supermarkets, I remember the general food store and the fabulous and tantalising smells that came forth from it.
When I was last there I was reminded of my childhood by the sight of groups of mothers uniformly dressed in the mandatory dark coats and long skirts. They, of course, were wearing the wigs that are obligatory for married women, many were pushing prams with a handful of children in tow. Family is of great importance to the Hasidic Jews and families are mostly large keeping the women busy all day. There were also groups of men, but seldom would we see men and women together.
Modesty is paramount to the Hasidics, and the mingling of the sexes is strictly regulated. Unmarried boys and girls will have little contact with the opposite sex outside their families. At social gatherings such as concerts and wedding parties, men and women will always be separated. An Hasidic man will avoid making eye-contact with any woman other than his wife, and would never shake hands.
While I could find nothing to support this, I think because of this segregation of the young, marriages are probably arranged by the family. How are young men and women ever going to meet? I wonder if there are still marriage brokers as Yente in The Fiddler on the Roof.
As you can see there is still much research for me to do in this area. That will wait for another day.
The purpose of all major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts.
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
- Matisyahu, Hasidic Faith: Jewish Rap Reggae Singer Talks About Lifestyle Change (spinner.com)
- Photos: Thousands attend wedding of Israeli rabbi’s grandson (photos.mercurynews.com)
- Film follows ‘Hava Nagila’ from shtetl to staple (timesofisrael.com)