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Blog - It's all Greek to me!!!!

Life in Greece with a Jewish twist

1 year later: we remember Mumbai

moshe_hotzberg hanukah.jpgOne year has passed since the Mumbai terror attacks… We all remember vividly the hours of anguish and worry, the hours spent saying Tehilim (Psalms) praying on behalf of the hostages, the hours checking the news and hoping for a miracle…

Unfortunately, Gabi (29) and Rivky (28) Holtzberg were murdered brutally, as well as their guests, Norma Shvartzblat Rabinovitch, Yocheved Orpaz, Reb Bentzion Chroman and Rav Arye Leibish Teitelbaum. Hashem Yikom Damam, may G-d avenge them.

There was still a spark of light amidst the darkness: Sandra, the Indian nanny, managed heroically to save the 2 year son of the Holtzbergs, Moishele, and to flee the Chabad House.

The whole Jewish world was shaken. The answer to terror was clear: we would react with an increase of light, with even more efforts to spread goodness and kindness and change the world, one good action at a time. All of us, each in his or her corner of the world would carry on the legacy of Gabi and Rivky, who were known for their hospitality, their simplicity and their loving smile. One year later, 12318 Mitzvot (and counting) have been added in memory of the deceased. More than 500 babies have been named after the dedicated Shluchim and you can check the picture gallery here.

Today, Little Moishy will celebrate his 3rd birthday, and will get his first haircut. We all wish him Mazal Tov, and we promise to continue being at his side, and to always remember his dear parents.  

Check out this site dedicated to their legacy, with a video about their story (a must see), memories, pictures and more.

Shabbat with Shrek!

Shrek.jpgIn literature and movies, heroes are usually tall and strong and beautiful, their outer appearance supposedly reflecting their inner moral qualities. (Or maybe it’s just because people like to identify with this type of hero?).

Anyhow, this is not the case in the famous movie Shrek , where the hero is the antithesis of a Prince Charming: it’s a big green ogre that, despite its lack of physical appeal, charms Princess Fiona and us all viewers with his humor, wit and good heart.

No, I did not turn suddenly into a film critic. But I’m telling you about this movie because last Shabbat, we had the pleasure of hosting David Weiss, co-writer of Shrek 2 (as with all successful movies, Shrek 1 gave way to Shrek 2 and 3 and I hear Shrek 4 and 5 are on the way), who shared with us his amazing story.

Raised as a Reform Jew, David always felt something missing: spirituality, a connection to G-d. 30 years ago, Reform Judaism did not teach about G-d and G-dliness. It is a Christian friend that kindled a spark in David and led him to believe in G-d, and eventually to convert to Christianity. After all, that’s where he had found what he felt was missing in his life. Then, in Ireland, David discovered that there was much spirituality and a lot of depth in Judaism that he never knew about, and he started to learn more about his own heritage. This was the beginning of his journey back to Judaism, as David and his spouse grew in knowledge and observance.

David shared with us something interesting about Shrek 2. The directors had in mind to write the story of what happens AFTER the end of the story, after the prince and the princess find each other and get married. How does exactly look the “happily ever after”? In other words, they wanted to write the story of a real marriage, with the challenges, the problematic in-laws, the difference of expectations, the difficulties of communication. But why should people pay to see such a movie? After all, they have the same at home! :) That was already the job of the screen writers! They spiced up with humor and adventure what is basically the story a regular couple, which has to learn to accept and respect the other: Shrek has to cope with the hostile father-in-law, in a foreign environment with very different values of his own, all for the sake of his wife Fiona.

One moment is exemplary: the father-in-law invites Shrek for a hunting party (where he actually plans to have him killed – sorry spoilers!). Shrek is not at all excited by the outing, but the father-in-law uses the winning argument: “It will mean a lot to Fiona!”, and Shrek, sighing, sends a loving look to his sleeping wife and agrees. This is the secret of a happy marriage: respect what is important to your spouse. Even though you yourself don’t see the necessity, or the significance of something, if your spouse (or friend) cares for it, then respect it!

Recycling, Homeopathy and a Uniate monastery

Where in heavens can possibly 3 such different themes meet? At our Shabbat table, of course.

The Shabbat before this one, we had (as usual) a variety of interesting guests from different countries: UK, Israel, and the United States.

We had just landed from Israel the same morning, and in the evening, Hanna was complaining from an earache, probably due from the pressure of landing. By perfect Hashagacha pratit (Divine providence), one of our guests, Hadassa from Denver Colorado, who specializes in homeopathy, was able to advice me on how to soothe her and help avoid an ear infection.  

Amongst other interesting stories, Leon C. shared with us his experience as a child during the Holocaust. He was hidden, with 2 other children, in a Ukrainian monastery of the Uniate Church, an interesting branch which exists only on the border of Ukraine and Poland, follows the Eastern orthodox rite but accepts the authority of the Pope. The way Leon found back, many years after the war, the 2 other hidden children (one in Israel and one in Poland)  is a long story of amazing Divine providence.

One of Leon and Jean’s children, Dave is very involved with sustainable development. Jean told us about his amazing experience of spending one year without taking out his trash, and what lessons he learned. You can read more here. He is known as “Sustainable Dave” and there is a Disney character based on him!

His motto was very inspiring to me: “no one can do everything but everyone can do something”. Sometimes, we are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task of living an eco-correct life and stop our non green habits of waste. But we need not to be discouraged, we need to start with something and know that even a little change has an effect of the planet’s well being, and that all individual efforts added one to another eventually make a tangible difference.

It’s actually the same with the Mitzvot. Sometimes, looking at the state of the world, filled with violence, poverty, corruption, we can get pessimistic and think that our good actions here in our little corner of the world have little effect. But no! if each person, in his/her corner, makes the effort of changing one thing, only one little thing, give a coin, give a hand, give a smile, light a candle,  we will really see the light overtaking the world!


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