Archive for July 2019

True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their
own." ― Nikos Kazantzakis

She lives in a pretty regular neighborhood. It's nice. She's in her mid-forties and is a Moroccan Jew. Her husband, Sasha, is a lovely fellow, an only child, a protector, originally from Serbia. She herself comes from an enormous family who "love hard". Really hard. They loved me hard.

She's someones daughter. She's many people's friend and her name is Rachel Mamann. The thing is, she is a superstar kindergarten teacher. That's what I say And I do because I've known Rachel for a long time and I've learned how she thinks, how she behaves. She is what we would call, 'out of the box'. I remember how my old, dear friend once had a sick tropical fish and she plopped a Tylenol into the aquarium. The fish got better. I tried that years later. My fish died. 

Rachel whispers in conversation, to get your attention, but more so to create peace. She comes from loud. She said in this interview, "I always want more friends." And then added that the idea of managing friendships is nonsense because friendships are not to be managed.

Like a kindergarten student's own perception of life, Rachel describes her love for Sasha, like the sky. "It's like the ocean".  You mean it's vast?  She smiled, a beautiful smile. And I detected tears of appreciation in her eyes. 

"I don't generally have to work loving someone." - Rachel Mamann

I believe Rachel is one of those teachers we'll talk about. I say this because her approach to teaching four, five and six year old children is organic. It is routed in love. I said to her, "you know how to love". Her response: "I was loved". I pushed the point and Rachel responded: "there's a lot to love". 

Rachel closes the door of her classrooms and dances with the children. If someone won't dance, "then we all hurt. It's like family". If one child in her classroom hurts another one, they form a circle, and talk it out.  It's what the Natives have taught us. Restorative justice.  

Rachel stated in episode 29 of Hatradio!, "We really, really, really need to know how incredible their (the children's) minds are. We dumb things down and that is wrong. I make an effort to not do that." She says that when the school year is over, and she and the students part, "it is horrible".

I said "horrible". She said "yes". I asked her if I could join her class. I don't care that I have to go back to kindergarten. She smiled and said, "join us". I might.

Rachel concludes: "I hope I taught (my students) to be mindful of others. To care about themselves and others."  I believe she has. 

I loved doing this interview with my old friend. Hopefully you'll enjoy listening. It is very special. Let me know your thoughts at

Rachel Mamman, the superstar teacher on Hatradio! The show that schmoozes.  

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” 
― Malala Yousafzai, I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was shot by the Taliban.


Thank you to David Nefesh for the show's intro song and extro. And thanks as well to Howard Pasternack for her post-production work. They make the show something special!

Music in Commercial:
"Slow Burn" by Kevin MacLeod ( 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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Welcome to Episode 28 of Hatradio! . This show is different than the others as I recorded it one on the road, in a low-cost housing environment. I did so I could have the chance to speak to two very charming, humorous and intelligent fellows, deeply impoverished, physically busted and essentially surviving from day to day. 

Here's what you'll learn throughout the show: The room was small and quickly filled up with smoke. Strangely, after having quit smoking close to thirty years ago, I wanted a cigarette. In my mind, I asked for one.

The two men, Vac Verikaitis and Danny Saroff are in their sixties. They are well-spoken, highly intelligent, funny as  hell, well-read and engaging. At one point Danny drew upon Greek mythology to make his point about the beauty of horses (and his love of horse-racing). 

Danny has been homeless on-and-off over the years. Vac got really close prior to securing a room in this building where mental health illness is abound, and curdling nightly screams jolt tenants awake. Throughout our schmooze both my guests drank beer and smoked. Danny has had lung cancer, two strokes and is an alcoholic. Vac has had heart challenges, numerous muscle injuries and recent surgeries and is an alchoholic. But regardless, they imbibed and dragged on smokes while we talked.

I'm not standing in judgement of Danny and Vac. Not at all. I know how smokes and drink can be a friend when you're suffering badly and family and friends aren't around. I have my own addictions. But clearly these habits, while part of their survival mode, are reflective of a certain hopelessness with comes with poverty. Poverty is expensive and knowing resources just won't come, pushes you down, over and over again.  Would you smoke or drink in their shoes? Damn right.

Vac was a semi-professional soccer goalie. He was a superlative Formula-1 journalist and is an award winning documentarian. My handsome Lithuanian friend from way back, speaks four or so languages and is an awesome cook. Danny, was a cab driver who made pretty good cash, and had two accomplished lovers whom he lived with, one of whom was a high-profile journalist with a Canadian newspaper. He looks younger than his sixty-six years, speaks intelligently and cogently about his atheism, passion for the ponies (which includes an appreciation of the smell of horse shit. I get that), excitement of Kentucky Derby day over Christmas and an acceptance of not being liked by everyone. "I wouldn't be doing some right, if everyone liked me," Danny said.

Both of them use a walker. Their gait is careful.


There were some technical problems during the show and you'll notice the interview stops abruptly. Equipment malfunction. That's bullshit. It was my ineptness. But you know, that was okay, because it just added to the rawness and unbridled nature of my schmooze with Danny and Vac. But I felt badly when the computer shut off, and I Vac was in the middle of an important soliloquy in which he rarely said 'um'. His eyes lowered knowing his voice had to stop. 

Not sure why exactly, but there was a certain comfort I felt in their environment, more so than what i often feel in rich opulent homes I've been in; a particular safeness I experienced with these fellows who spend their days surviving. Vac and Danny have no airs about them. There was no falseness in that diminutive room (except perhaps for what I missed). What ever exited my friend's mouths, was fine.  There masks had left them many years prior - no strengths to keep them on or simply no reason.  I felt a type of authenticity myself. Their's was somewhat infectious. But I've always felt this. My Dad translated that into having 'bad friends'. Dads! 

So that's what you'll hear in Episode 28 of Hatradio! Joy and melancholy. Intelligence and street. Coughing, hacking and elegance. What you might illicit from this show is that Vac and Danny were once little boys, someone's children, who grew into men battered by poverty, a system that can rip the kishkas out of you, but who did so with huge doses of style and peonage. 

Take out of this show, that those indigent guys and women you see leaning against a wall to brace themselves from falling, might explain Neitzsche better than Professor Grossbaum could or certainly more astutely than those idiots who go around physically bashing homeless in the head, because of their disgusting demons.

Know that Vac and Danny will share a beer with you (not sure if their last one), when people with affluence might horde their suds;  that within poverty is a clarity about life, a generosity of spirit sometimes couched in vomit, but that sloughs off that layer of 'I'll be who you want me to be'.

Is this simple to get, or even to explain? No. But I know something important happened in that room. Listen closely. Tell me what you hear from Vac and Danny. Tell me what truth you uncover from my time with two very complex and simple guys on a hot, muggy day in downtown Toronto. 

Hatradio! It's the show that schmoozes.    


Yisha ko'ach (yiddish for 'well done') to Howard Pasternack for his post-production work, accomplished like a true engineer. Thank you too, to David 'Middleman' Nefesh for the Hatradio! song. Have a listen to David on has a voice like an angel. 

Credit for music in commercial:
Slow Burn Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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Welcome to Episode 27 of Hatradio! with our guest, Benjamin (Benjy) Shinewald

A question I always ask myself when I write these blurbs is, why did I bring this particular person on Hatradio! I'm not willy-nilly about my choice of guests. Not at all! I am very particular in fact, as I want to interview folks who are articulate and can express their narrative in a cogent fashion. I delight in schmoozing with a man or woman who has a colorful past. And mostly I enjoy nice people who are thoughtful and by definition, inspiring.

All of that being said, Benjy was an obvious choice 0as a guest because he is a fine person who is highly inspiring. He has a sweet disposition and from what I know about him through the time we worked together at Ve'ahavta (Benjy is on the board), and when he was the CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress, Benjy has always displayed generosity of spirit - a trait that is paramount to the strengthening of our world.

A good example of that, is Benjy's thoughts on his memorial article in the Canadian Jewish News having to do with his Jewish school teacher, the late Mr. Berger. Benjy didn't eulogize the man as if he was a superstar or a hero. Instead he recognized the passion his teacher had for the kids and for learning and turned that into something organically epic, small town big. He reminded us that our teachers, often lead us intellectually and ethically, quietly, stick in hand, in a way that can impact on us forever. And we can imagine Mr. Berger's leadership. And that image parks itself on a shelf somewhere, deep down in our soul.

That generosity of spirit is a big deal in our day and age, in fact at any time in history. It's the niceness, the decency, the caring for others that allows our world to edge forward ever so slightly, a step at a time. Listen to this show. Be conscious of Benjy's compliments for his family (especially his 106 year-old grandma), his colleagues and the kind words he directs toward me. It's subtle but incredibly important.

We like people like that. Mostly, they are the ones we want to make our friends.

The other thing that compelled me to ask Benjy to be a guest is that he is bright. The man has developed his intellect. Not so much like a Talmudic scholar, but more so like a well-read neighbor, with a fertile curiosity and a drive to know and uncover. You'll detect this in our guest a number of times when he replies to a question, "I haven't really thought of this", or "Good question, Avrum". It's clear from these short retorts, that Benjy did not come Hatradio! to simply toss out answers to stuff. He's not fluffy. Benjy was there to share with us truths he'd arrived at or postulations he'd mulled about, or to say, "I don't know". We had an honest, thoughtful dialogue, one which I believe will compel the listener to consider alternatives. 


There's a lot more to the interview like: Benjy's many trips abroad and visits to synagogues in far away lands like Beijing, where he saw a mother-of-pearl inlaid ark; like his no-holds-barred challenge to Jewish leadership for being somewhat namby-pamby in its response to anti-Semitism; like his 9-year old wonderment and magical thinking, as to why his tie-wearing Dad, the boss, didn't ride the forklift at his work all day instead of administering systems from his office. And yes, we're privy too, to Benjamin's work on the Privy Council and his toil today bringing green to buildings in Canada and around the world. 

I chose Benjamin Schinewald as a guest on Episode 27 of Hatradio! because there are aspects of his character that I'd like to emulate, and suspect others would as well. Again, this father of two girls, is a decent sort full of love for all personkind, caring and he's bright with the nuts to be contentious. And yes, Benjy is a tad off balance just like the rest of us.  But that just adds to the layers of excitement in our schmooze.

Enjoy! It's a good show. I liked doing it with Benjy. Please share it with others and be in touch with any questions or suggestions for guests at

Hatradio! The show that schmoozes (with regular folk).


Thanks to David Nefesh for the Hatradio! blues song. A pat on the back to Howard Pasternack for his post- production, like deletions of coughs and finger tapping on the Hatradio! table, and goofy things I said that I'm too embarrassed to share with you. :) 

Credit for music in commercial:
Slow Burn Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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