Archive for May 2019

Nate Leipciger sits across from me at my dining-room table. He is a young man of 91 years. He is a  Holocaust Survivor. It is moments like this when I feel most alive, most real, as I am joined by someone who has vast awareness, who is highly inspiring.

Nate was eleven when his the hell called the Holocaust began. His personal road took him through ghettos, death camps and ultimately to Auschwitz. He was grabbed away from the safety he called home. He was stripped, de-loused and humiliated.  All of this persecution happened right next to his father, Jacob, the person in his life who was his protector – a partner with God in his creation, in his life.

One day, early on in the Holocaust, young Nate heard a noise outside his barracks. He jumped up on a bed, stared out of a broken slat and saw a site, “I never wish I had seen”. Lines of Jewish woman walked by crying, screaming, knowing they were about “to go up the chimney”. Later Nate, a beautiful Jewish boy, determined his mother, Leah, and his sister, Blima were two of those women. The mother of this boy, and his only sibling were executed, murdered by the Nazis. And that was it. They were gone.

And it was Yom Kipper day. And today Yom Kipper is “intense” for Nate and he remembers Leah and Blima and he says the name of all his cousins who went up that same chimney.

 

The war continued and men able to abuse Nate, did so, sexually, mentally, physically and….and….and. But Nate made it. He told me in this interview, his father saved his life a number of times. I found it quite something Nate could never satisfy his father prior to the war. Blima was the apple of his eye. Yet a father is a father, is a father and while a son may not size up intellectually or otherwise at an early age, there is an on-button inside a dad, inside Jacob, that never failed to flip on when Nate, a precious Jewish kid, needed saving. Imagine, your father or your mother does that. What must you feel in your heart?

I asked Nate if there was kindness in the camps. He said kindness was everywhere. “Give me an example,” I asked Nate. “My father and I worked different shifts. Once I threw my father a piece of bread (while he worked). He missed it. Another prisoner picked it up and gave it to him. That is kindness.”  Unlike Eli Wiesel who said his father was a burden to him, Jacob and Nate were intertwined and each survival, their breath, was dependent on the other.

Nate continued, “kindness was a nice word. Kindness was when I wasn’t pushed out of line even though I was little.”

You have a choice of being kind or not being kind,” Nate said. He applied this belief to today, and always.

After all this, after the brutality levied against him; after the murder of his Leah and Blima, after he become emaciated and no longer was able to walk, Nate Leipciger still had hope. And he stated with confidence during our schmooze, “I believe in humanity. Man is basically good, yet there are influences that make us bad.”  

Nate has that hope today despite his hardship, despite the fact a few short months ago, he and his beautiful wife Bernice, buried their daughter. Oy!

About the Jewish people, the man sitting across from me with that gleam in his eye said, “what did they do when they were liberated? They built synagogues. They said kaddish for those they had lost. And they got married and they had children.”  

About hatred, Nate Leipciger said, “Hate has no influence on the people you hate. I feel the hatred in myself. It destroys the person hating.”

Nate Leipciger is an author. He has returned to Auschwitz with Prime Minister Trudeau where they cried together. He speaks regularly to students about his experiences. Nate is alive. Very alive. And he made me feel the same during our conversation on Hatradio!

God bless Nate Leipciger.

Today I ask humanity to embrace him warmly and safely, as he has done to us.  Please listen to this interview. It’s important for your hope in humankind. Hatradio! The show that schmoozes. (Thank you to David Nefesh for the music, and Howard Pasternack for post-production)

Credit for music in commercial:
Slow Burn Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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David Rheaume, Canada's Norman Rockwell, is a big man. The bigness i'm talking about is found in this man's spirit.  

My old friend, joined me at my place on May 21. 2019 to do an interview. It was lovely to see David as it had been a while. 

David and I were inextricably bound together for three years, way back in the days when I was doing a TV series with Marty called, 'The Moveable Feast'. Dave was the director. He did a brilliant job of keeping me and Marty on the straight and narrow (well sort of) and ensured we got a very quirky show in the can every week that was delivered on time. He was inspiring and creative then, and equally so nowadays. 

So, the thing about David Rheaume is that he has greatness in his blood. His dad was Gene Rheaume RIP, a member of parliament, one of Canada's only Metis member, and a man described by his kids, all six of them, as being larger than life. Watch this YouTube video and you'll get a sense of Dave's DNA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-tEGTe81II  . David's mom is a lovely woman who raised the kid with consistency and love. David's brother Ross, is also a superlative artist and was a well-known rock-and-roller. His niece, Amanda, is a Canadian singer/songwriter and Juno award winner. Dave is part of a very successful family. 

 

Have a listen to Episode 21 of Hatradio! and learn about David Rheaume. Discover he is a father of three very beautiful kids who have accomplished mush so far in life. He's married and absolutely adores and respects his wife, Siobhan McCarthy, whom he calls 'selfless'. He figures if she can love him, she must be very special. Yes, David is self-deprecating in an endearing sort of way and that's what makes the two of us friends - insults!  

What stands out about this very humble man is his artwork. He is the consummate storyteller and has developed a style which he refers to as cinema-art -- with an ever-present eye for the story and lighting.

David feels that we've lost 'the need for artwork to tell stories" so he is on a journey to change that. Essentially, to start off a picture David will dive into the Canadian archives and chooses pictures which represent a Canadian moment, in particular those with snow. "I grew up in Ottawa and my whole childhood was spent literally in snow. When I think of being a child I think of snow," David states.

About his art, this mid-fifties painter says, "I like to think of these paintings as one frame out of a film strip. There is a before and after (frame) you can sense on either side of these pictures." David continues, "part of my goal is to take these stories, lift them out of the archives, put them in the canvass and tell those stories to Canadians."

When you see David's art, you'll immediately recognize the characters in them. While you can't see their faces, as frequently they are depicted with their backs to us, you'll be drawn into the picture in a bid to get to know the people, such as the skater or the iceman. (David qualifies  'The Iceman' as one of his best pictures). David's ability to familiarize us with the characters in his art without drawing faces on them, is impressive! 

Most importantly, David's art reminds us of what life was like then, way back when we were rushing to be with our family, after a day of toil on that freezing Canadian winter night or when we were kids and things seemed magical. "As Canadians we can really identify with these people. We've been there. We’ve been like the guy in 'Heading Home' walking through that winter evening home to get home after a long day of work. We’ve been like the skaters in the Christie Pits painting - those guys in the ravine late at night. You can almost hear the skate blades on ice, and hear the puck hitting the boards."

In essence, David Rheaume's art brings back characters who are long since gone. He believes they are "ready to jump to life" and he makes that happen through the process of painting. David brings happiness to the Canadian viewer and a sense of pride in who we are a nation and as a people.

David Rheaume personifies better than any other Canadian artist the slice-of-life we call home and those moments we identify with to create our personal and national identity and narrative.  David Rheaume - Canada's Norman Rockwell on Hatradio! The show that schmoozes. Be in touch at avrum@hatradio.ca . 

Thank you to Howard Pasternack for a great job on post-production and David Nefesh for the Hatradio! Blues Song. Kicks ass! 

 

Credit for music in commercial:
Slow Burn Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

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You know when you meet someone who wrote a book when they were twelve-years old or competed in the Olympics at fifteen. You know that sense you get, they will just fly high with success throughout their life. Well Dr. Sandy Buchman is one such person. 

Sandy, our guest on episode 20 of Hatradio!, was born and educated in Toronto. He dropped out of high school at the end of grade 11 because “I was unhappy.....bored....”. So you’re thinking he went to work in a gas station. Wrong. He started his own school with other guys in his situation and it was accredited by the Ministry of Education. The school rocked.

“I studied everything from calculus to Zen Buddism. For Shakespeare we hopped on our bikes and rode to Stratford to see it performed." Funnily, their school required an adult be the 'principal' so his buddy's dad was. "My grade 13 diploma was signed by him. He was a used car salesman." 

Sandy has always been like that, a creative independent thinker. Later on he wanted to get into medical school. The entrance interview at McMaster University. included the question, what have you done in life where you had a problem and you need to determine a solution. Sandy's response was, 'I started a school in grade 12.'  He got in. They liked that.

Sandy became a family doctor. He did because, "family medicine was about the social dynamic between the patient and the physician. within the context of their family and lives.” In essence he liked family medicine because it was about relationships

About 15 years ago, Dr. Buchman's family practice evolved into that of palliative care where he felt he could help minimize the suffering of his patients, be compassionate toward those who are dying and accompany them on their journey.

Since then Sandy has tended to many people in a loving, caring fashion including his work out of a hospice for the homeless. He is deeply saddened by the reality the average life expectancy in Canada is 83. For a homeless person it's about 40. This driven doctor is currently launching a Jewish hospice in Toronto, the first of its kind, called Neshama (soul). So far he and his team have raised $11 million out of the $18 million required. 

Sandy has traveled to Guayana, Zimbabwe and Malawi with non-profits, to play a role in medical care in these very poor countries. He is also part of a team of physicians who participate in medically assisted dying.

In short, Sandy is a type-A person and has been that way since the launch of his school at sixteen. He has worked hard to alleviate the suffering of many through countless programs and projects, many of which he's founded.

Sandy is an inspiring human being, someone who feels deeply blessed for what he has. Listen to Episode 20 and be inspired and challenged by Dr. Sandy Buchman.   

Hatradio! The show that schmoozes.

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Rabbi Daniel Korobkin was born in California. His father was an entertainment lawyer with clients such as the enormous metal band, Megadeth. Daniel's mother is a Survivor who at 6 years old was on the Kinder-transport

Daniel was a fine thinker then, and an even better one now. He loves nothing more than to develop complex ideas which he can impart to others, simplistically.   Daniel received his Master of Arts degree in medieval Jewish and Islamic thought from UCLA's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and his Master of Science degree from the Johns Hopkins University School for Engineering at the Applied Physics Laboratory. 

About a decade ago Rabbi Korobkin came to Toronto to step into the position of rabbi at Beth Avraham Yoseph Synagogue - one of the largest Orthodox Shuls in North America. While it took awhile to learn his way around the very big edifice, and around the membership, he ultimately took the community by storm with his fierce passion for learning, teaching and caring for his congregants.

What I really liked about schmoozing with Rabbi Korobkin was being with a man, a Jewish leader, who is courageous. He accepts the fact there are more than just Orthodox Jews within the Jewish family and in his own way, a very important way, he embraces them. He tells the Jewish man who is a homosexual and not accepted by the community, 'you are special and they don't know you like I know you. You hold your head high.' He's a man who is prepared to take the shots from other leaders, knowing he's doing the right thing. 

In essence, Rabbi Korobkin subscribes to King Solomons’s statement that, “there is no such thing as doing good and doing no evil.”  And he believes, like a great (mussar) Rabbi of the 19th century, ' you can lock yourself in a closet and you’ll never do anything wrong but, you’ll never do anything good either.

And what I respected about the man is his well developed sense of unity. This statement he made during our interview says it best:  "If we would only recognize the value in each and every Jew, what each person brings to the table no matter how different they are from us, we would have a much greater nation, a homogeneous nation that is made up of diverse parts. We would really bring redemption right away.”

This is Rabbi Daniel Korobkin. He is a bright, compassionate human being, a lover of the Jewish people and Israel, and a man who embraces all Jews and all of person-kind. This is a special edition of Hatradio!.

(Thanks to Howard Pasternack for his post-production on this show and every other we've done. And a hearty 'way to go' to David Nefesh for his blues song, 'In the Hat'.)

This is a beautiful edition of Hatradio! . 

Hatradio! The show that schmoozes.

 

 

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Somewhere, sometime, a young boy or girl sits together with their bar/bat mitzvah teacher learning the ancient art of singing the trope - the notes devised two thousand years ago to celebrate every syllable of the Torah.

The ‘day of’ arrives – the Bar/Bat mitzvah day – and the thirteen year old boy, or the twelve year old girl walks up to the open scroll, the Five books of Moses, and begins to sing. Carefully they manage the revi’i, a note that modestly ends a Torah thought. They breathe deeply to chant the pazer, a noise that curls up, then goes higher, then dips half way back down.

Today they are a man. Today they are a woman. Their meticulously read Torah reading proves this. 

 

This week I had the distinct honor to interview Sadie Domb, a bar/bat mitzvah teacher, in fact my son’s bar mitzvah teacher. She is a delicate and very sure religious woman. Sadie carries herself as if a character in a Renoir painting - well coiffed, elegant and proud. 

Throughout our one and half hour schmooze I learned from Sadie that “I love what I do”. She repeated this sentiment several times. I knew it to be true because her voice rose and strengthened as she said so. She was intent.

"I just love being part of people's lives and watching them go through a metamorphosis," Sadie adds. 

As we talked, Sadie shared with me that she became a bar/bat mitzvah teacher in 1980. Since then she has taught around 1000 boys and girls their Torah portion and other aspects of Jewish services required for their ‘day of’. "I'm now starting to get the children of my (former) students," Sadie said.

Sadie continued, that every student, on the first day of lessons, makes an agreement with Sadie they will be diligent about their studies, prioritizing them the way Torah requires them to do. "We working as a team toward the common goal", Sadie said. 

She assures her student she believes in them and “I will get you there” and sure enough she does. 

With great pride the bar mitzvah teacher relates to me her memory of the child she taught who has autism. Sadie explained, every student is unique and in this case she taught the boy four songs to sing on the 'day of' as well as a dance.  It was good. It worked out well because both of them loved to dance.

Sadied recalled the child who was scared of chanting the long and winding Pa’zer, one of the trope (Torah notes) dotting a syllable in the scriptures. Sadie told the student, “lets just try it. You might be surprised." And sure enough he mastered the sound, was surprised and grew as a person because of it. 

I truly loved conducting this interview with Sadie?  I did because she is my son’s bar mitzvah teacher and such a person will only come along once in his life and mine. I did because the role of the bar/bat mitzvah teacher is special. They enter into a young person’s life, our offspring, as they transition.

Her responsibility is enormous and that is, to ensure with little hesitancy the bar/bat mitzvah will stand tall on their ‘day of’, pronounce all the words of the holy scripture and manage the challenging trope the way a seasoned ba’al koreh (a regular Torah reader) might.

Sadie is the guardian at the gate of my child's right of passage. I trusted she would be gentle as my progeny walked through that entry way into adulthood. She was. She is.

Sadie Domb is my son’s bar mitzvah teacher. A magnificent human being and our partner in my child's, many family's children, as they become a man, as they become a woman. 

Have a listen and remember your own bar/bat mitzvah. Remember your teacher and celebrate them, if you are able, as I am celebrating Sadie Domb and her responsible and loving approach to my son's ‘day of’ - his bar mitzvah.

Hatradio!  The show that schmoozes.

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