Memory and tomorrow

shoa

This is Betty Schimmel’s story. Her crossing with bare feet the iced land of Hungary during a snow storm. Her arrival to Buchenwald, a place which her enemies hoped she will never survive. This is her mother’s story. A woman whose nostrils were full of ash coming from burn souls and whose mouth did not stop to repeat every night, through lices, illness, murders and death, the words of the Shema Israel. This is Emma Tedeschi’s story. An Italian Jewish lady who took pen and paper during October 1943 and wrote. “Dear children, consider these words as my last will. I beg you, all of you, please, do not surrender. I know, there is dark and pain there outside. But if you let go everything, if you don’t hold strong to your faith, you will help our enemies achieving their goal. Don’t forget our traditions, don’t stop leaving as Jews. This is the only way we can survive this hell.” This is Elie Wiesel’s story. A man who lost all his family between Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The story of a person who denied G-d’s existence with all his anger and tears. A man who, full of his disbelief, decided to circumcise his son. Months and years brought him to decide. “I will never deny my forefathers heritage. I am not allowed to break the chain transmitted by one of my ancestors, Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki. And I cannot betray the trust my forefathers put in me. I will go on complaining against G-d, as Jeremiah in his pages, but I will also call Him and love Him”. This is the story of a nation that was tested by story more than any other one. People who dag secret tunnels six hundred years ago and prayed to G-d from the depths of earth. Lost souls who during 1942 went around looking desperately for potatoes. They were intended to become food for empty stomachs which hardly received one or two breadcrumbs a day. They were meant to engraved. In order to become the right place for Chanuka lights. This is the story of men, women and children, who, during history span, did never desist. But went on fighting against dark and evil through circumcisions, the observance of shabat and prayers to G-d. Ani Maamin, I believe in you, were their last words. Jewish eco can be heard through eternity only in one way. Going on in the same thoughts, actions and words that our proud and stubborn forefathers tried with all strengths to transmit to us, today.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

A little little drop…

candle flameI’m here. Alone. Almost everything was destroyed by the war. I have nothing to do but wait. Hope. And, though opposite to my nature, pray. Silence is all round me. And seems to bear not so good news. Then suddenly I hear them. Steps on the ground. Songs. Happy and joyful exclamations to G-d. I would like so much to be part of this special moment. But I cannot move.
They could do it. The Maccabees won. That small and brave group of fighters could overcome the enemy. Those non Jews who wanted to destroy the Jewish nation physically annihilating it spiritually. They won against those people, part of their own nation, who saw in the Hellenization of their tradition, in assimilation and furthering from religion, a way for modernity and emancipation.
They could do it. And now they are celebrating. In their typical Jewish way of doing it. No heavy drinks or revenge shouting. Only run to the Sanctuary with one sole intention. To relight and give again life to that candelabra called Menorah which light is stronger than walls and barriers and arrives to make brighter the exterior world.
I can see them. Looking for a small bottle oil still sealed and pure. They could use the open one, they are in war after all. And there are special laws for these tough periods. But they don’t want. To compromise with Law. After all these fights against those who wished to erase their tradition, their Torah, their soul, they are not ready to loosen the rules. They fought until now for showing they do not want to bend G-d’s will to human comforts.
“Finally!” shouts a man while taking me in his hands and making me see the light after a long period during which I was hidden here. “A pure oil bottle!” And everyone runs towards us. They touch me, they turn me in their hands, they check me. And then they all agree. “It’s pure” they announce. They pour me drop by drop, paying attention not to waste anything of me, in the Menorah.
“It will last for only one day” they sadly say.
But G-d, who sits there above just waiting for a sign of love from one of His sons, is giving me life hour after hour.
“You are the flame of hope” whispers one of the Maccabees when he sees me still shining. “You are the symbol of the eternity of Judaism” says his brother drying the tears from his eyes.
After eight days my task in this world is coming to its end. I am going to extinguish and leaving the place to the new pure oil just produced.
While my flame is consuming its last dose of oxygen and air I want to thank G-d for this luck of mine. I was part of this story of a battle against evil won by good. I had the honor of bringing in the future centuries and years the Jewish hymn.
That reminds every day the power of a little little light. Able to fight the most mean and deep dark.

Happy Chanukà!
Gheula Canarutto Nemni

What can I do for you?

Dear soldier  sitting there on the heights of your land while waiting for an order. With black color on your face for hiding yourself in case of war. With your heart beating for the fear of hurting an innocent life. Dear soldier full of anxiety and tension. With your eyes closed and the thought directed to your mother’s smile and embrace full of apprehension and worry. With your heavy shoulders of a responsibility that no one has in the world, at your age. With your  rolled sleeves and the tfilin on your arm while directing your heart to G-d. Dear soldier I think of you while you sit there during the cold of the night. While the radio plays together with the noise of the rockets thrown by an enemy that shouts “ we love death as you Jews love life”. While your soul is trembling because you know you are there, to defend the future of your people. I think of you. And I would like, really like, to do something for you. For all the soldiers, for my and your nation, for the members of my family who have fifteen seconds since that sound breaks the sky, to run and save their lives. I would like to be part of this clash between opposite ways of intending man and the reason for which he is in this world. I cannot wear a military uniform. Nor I cannot take a weapon in my arms. But I know, I truly know, I can help you though I am far. Because we both belong to a nation which is able to fight not only through weapons and strenght. A nation which is able to break all natural rules, winning enemies which are more numerous and powerful than it. We have a secret ally. Who is able to turn upside down all the situation in a few instants. Who is able to decide if a rocket will explode in the hands of the enemy who is preparing it or it will fall in the middle of the sea instead that on a building full of families. In order to help you I know I need to call for that secret Ally once again. Doing something more between all the things He commanded us to do in this material world. More tzedakà, some more kosher, more prayers and shabat. More Torah study moments and concentration of our children education. Dear soldier, dear brother who lives in Israel, may our awakening be appreciated by our Eternal Ally, and may He protect us from the hands of everyone who wants to harm us. Amen.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

Nobel Peace Prize 2012

It goes up and own. Right and left. But it never, never disappears. It is too radicated in the European souls, too engraved in European minds. And so, when it comes to the Nobel Peace Prize, the deep trace of antisemitism is still there. Mr.Nobel was very specific about how and whom to assign the Peace prize. ‘The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/)’.
This year this prize went to European Union. Yes, the same place where a few months ago a father and his two children were killed in front of a school. Only because they were Jews. Yes, the same place where people have the right to shout, scream, violate others’ freedom rights, only because there are some Israeli guys who sing. Or an Israeli movie on the screen. Or an Israeli theatre company on the stage. Or an Israeli professor giving a lecture.  Yes, the same place where in 1940 people had to walk towards death wearing a yellow star and crying shema’ Israel. Yes, the same place where the blood of innocent 6 millions of Jews is still there.
But for every phenomena there is an explanation. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five persons who are chosen by the Norwegian Storting (Parliament of Norway), Oslo, Norway (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/)’. According to the European definition several Norwegian cabinet members are anti-Semites ( Dr.Manfred Gesternfeld, Behind the Humanitarian Mask-http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=280323). Consider former Prime Minister Kare Willock’s reaction to President Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his first chief of staff: “It does not look too promising, he has chosen a chief of staff who is Jewish. (March 29, 2011’Norway to Jews: You’re Not Welcome Here’ by Alan Dershovitz, law professor at Harvard).  And please do not forget that the Nobel Peace Prize 2001 was assigned to United Nations ( a place where people who declare their inner will to destroy a whole country are free to speak and spread hate) and its Secretary General, Kofi Annan. So when the Nobel Peace Prize 2012 is awarded to European Union (EU) “for over six decades contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”,  a legitimate and very scaring question arises: Is Antisemitism considered an advancement of peace and reconciliation, of democracy and human rights?

Gheula Canarutto Nemni

When a Rebbe changed a world

It was not easy to stand for 10-12 hours, smiling at and blessing the person who was standing in front, as it was the first and only one. While there, just behind that man or woman, the was a queue that arrived four blocks further.

Being a leader means giving a special value to each person.

It was not simple to receive hundred and hundred of letters every day and answer to each one as it was written by your best friend.

Being a leader means being able to listen.

It wasn’t usual to send just married couples at the other limit of the world with the only goal to awaken and renew judaism between people who forgot who they are.

Being a leader means to be able to convince people they can really change the world.

Not everybody accepted the idea of putting tfilin around an arm able to bring non kosher food to its mouth and switch a light during shabat. An arm so important as the person to whom it belonged only because it was jew.

Being a leader means to love everybody and not judging anybody.

It was not a common scene to see prime ministers, presidents, generals and scientist all coming to take an advice from the same person. Who usually was not even graduated in the topic he was giving precious advices about.

Being a leader means to be searched for your wisdom and ability to solve impossible problems.

Not everybody is able to pray for the sake and healing of people never seen before. With the same concentration and devotion as a father does for his son.

Being a leader means to care for every single member of the group. More than for you.

Not everybody had the courage to speak and shout about the right of Israel to keep all its lands for itself. And the absolute danger there is in giving a piece of land in change of something our enemies really don’t want. Though international pressure and political wars, Israel had to stand for its right to exist without compromises and mean ways.

Being a leader means to do something that most of the people are scared to do.

No one was speaking of mashiach, of better times, of prophecies becoming true of bottons to shine as the last step for the redemption.

Being a leader means to have a vision and being able to share it with the whole world.

Leaders are there because there is work to do.

There are people who need, problems to solve.

Challenges to undertake, dreams to be shared.

Leaders know when it’s time to light on a candle instead of staying there criticizing the dark that is everywhere.

A leader is there 24/24, 7/7 to serve his people.

These are only a few features of a person who dedicated every minute of his life to make this world a dwell for G-d and a better place for life.

Rebbe, may we deserve to see you again with our flesh eyes.

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Will your grandchildren be Jewish?

Go around and look. For a logic reason for Jewish survival. Look for the explanation through the physical boundaries of a land that has been dreamt for thousands years but reached only some more than a half century ago. That land so yearned was a common denominator for Jews spread all around the world. But even without living there, even on the opposite sides of mountains and sea, even so far away, Jews could exist. That land explains partly the secret. But not all. Shift your attention on the Jewish culture. The way of writing, the ability of looking at the daily troubles with humor lenses, the courage of asking questions and trying to find a philosophical answer, the usage of musical notes to transmit hope. That culture was a common denominator for that nation which you could find in the four corners of the earth. But even those who did not know how to write a nice novel, to compose a touching melody, or repeat by heart Aristo’s quotes, could survive thorough time and pogroms. That culture explains only partially that above the nature phenomena. Pick up the Hebrew language. Its unique characters, its infinite combinations, its high diffusion among Jews, its being the Esperanto ancestor. Many Jewish families spoke this language. But, through history, many even did not. And though, even if they spoke Spanish and Ladino, Yiddish and French and could not understand the meaning of many Hebrew words in their prayer books, they were able to go on breathing through history and centuries. That language used to create the world can explain only a part of that irrational happening. Open and read. A research article conducted by Antony Gordon and Richard Horowitz a few years ago. In which they try to find an explanation for Jewish survival. Through statistics, numbers and graphics. In which they try to find out the secret combination, that magic common denominator that made the Jewish nation arrive until now despite all prognostics. In front of a big crowd, of intellectuals and professors, they stand on a Harvard podium and declare. That there is only one way for guaranteeing your grandchildren will be Jewish. And it consists in going on and teaching to respect Shabat, keep kosher, put on Tefilin. In one simple sentence, staying attached to mitzvoth. If you want to answer yes to this question, just rinse down your family ground with that gift given to Moses on Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago: the Torah.

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The miracle of love

Take a man and teach him. To put on tefilin. If you explained him well the incredible bond he will be able to create with G-d through these leather laces, you will have high probabilities, the next morning this person will put the tefilin without the necessity to be convinced anymore. Take a woman and transmit her. The secret staying behind a dancing flame of a shabat candle. If you will be patient enough to tell her about the infinite dose of light she will be able to bring in this world through a simple flame, you can be sure the next friday she will not need to be told twice. And she will use a match and a candle to add positive light. Take a child and try to describe him. The connection that exists between a biscuit and the faculty of a soul to perceive and serve G-d. If you will be a good teacher a non kosher cookie will never enter in that litttle mouth. Take a human being and force him. To love his fellow Jew as it was himself. To avoid doing others what he would not like people would do to him. If you’ll stay the whole night teaching him about the fundamental concept as love for a fellow Jew is. If you will dedicate him whole days telling him about what rabbi Akiva used to define a big rule of the Torah. If you will convince him that all the rest is only a comment, as Hillel did with that person who dreamt to become a Jew, than start to pray. And hope. That the effect of your words, the impact of your teachings, will last for more than two minutes. Because between 613 commandments that G-d gave to His children, there is one that does not involve hands, does not require a book, nor a kosher logo. It asks only that you, for a while, forget about your problems, your shopping, your wishes and dreams. And try to think with the head of somebody who is another one. But you. G- d knows its creatures, their defects, their limits, their nature. And this is why between the 613 commandments, there is such a thing that reminds it is a duty to love one’s fellow. It is not only a suggestion. It’s a mizvah. As eating kosher and respecting shabat. I know it is hard. Even Rabbi Akiva’s students did not have the strenght to fight against their egos. But the Torah asks to serve G-d with all yourself. And the minimum we can do is to start and try. To put aside for one minute our egos and needs and love our fellow as all his life was ours.

The taste of freedom

What is freedom? Asked themselves Jews the day in which they left Egypt. What are we going to be? Went on saying those who did not dare to ask themselves such questions little before. What is the taste of getting up in the morning not being forced by anybody to do things you don’t want to? Dared to think people who were still bearing on their bodies the signs of a cruel slavery. Freedom is to sacrifice the god of your oppressors to the true G- d answered Moses explaining the rules about the Passover lamb. You are going to stop being the slaves of men. In order to be free to be the slaves of G-d, went on to explain Moses. You will taste the real freedom since the exact instant in which you will be commanded to observe the sanctity of shabat, when you will not enjoy anymore the opportunity to eat any kind of meat you might like, with the duty to eat only unleavened food during the days of Passover. Time went by. New generations arrived. People who did not find satisfying answers for the questions they had. Is this real freedom? Ask themselves Jews everyday when coming back from an uninterrupted seven days of work. Is this my true identity? Go on saying people who are not used to ask themselves what is the real purpose for which G-d put them in this world. Is this the true taste of freedom? Dare to think some Jews challenging a world that thinks Divine rules are a limitation for human expression. Freedom is to be able to think as a Jew. And not as the world wants you to, answers Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Rebbe, whose main purpose in life was to save his brothers and sisters from having similar thoughts and life approach to all other nations on this earth. Freedom has the taste of kosher food. Of matzah, maror and charoset. Freedom lies her. In the daily strenght to eat unleavened food when all the world around you eats chocolate eggs. Freedom is to be able to sit at a seder table and to tell without shame and fear the story of the Exodus from Egypt for the hundredth and thousandth time to your children. Freedom is this. To raise your head when the world would like you to stay down and cry. And shout with all the air you have in your lounges: am Israel is still chai. We are still here, thanks to all Moses of each generation. And no evil, no assimilation will ever have the power to erase matzah from our seder table.

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may your soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life

We are here again. For the 14th time. Since that Nissan 3rd during which it was decided from Above, your life was at its end. How could I imagine the kiss I received from you was forever the last one? How could I know I would not feel your strong arms around me before leaving my home? How could I foresee that one day I would have found myself  thinking of you as a light ray, a soul staying under the Heavenly throne, a person who comes to visit his dears only during night and dreams? For every tear I am sheding for you today, I have a special memory to think inside me. As those hot days spent in the Jewish Cemetery of Venice, washing and cleaning tombal stones of Jews dead five hundred years ago. Because you were scared that, one day, nothing will last of those precious engraved words. Discovering the symbols of ancient Jewish Italian families, as the two hands for the kohanim, the lion for the famous Leon da Modena, the eagle for the nobles. Or those endless journeys to Stasbourg to buy  kosher food and meat when you decided it was worthy to travel one and a half hour more in order to go and see the beth hamidrash of Rashi, where he used to study and bring down to this earth heavenly words and explanations. And that Menorah Lego shape. Which you proudly showed me after having worked on it for nigths and days. It should have been the realizzation of your dreams. The Menorah was a miniature plant of the Italian Jewish Museum you were dreaming to build. But in Heaven there was a different plan. And it was decided you were desired there, directly under the Celestial Throne. During this day in which it seems to me I can still hear your voice and not  the kadish said in your memory, I wish you look from above and you smile. Because you are proud of your children. Whom, in every moment of their life, try to go on with your interrupted job spreading and showing the only thing will last after we are not here anymore, is our good deeds and beliefs. Your love for Judaism, for its roots, for its ancient messages perfectly fitting future generations, is always with us. As you are. My dad, my dear papi. May your soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life (as you taught me to say for those who were not with us anymore)

Gheula, Aviva, Ronnie, Gady and Naty