Friday, December 5, 2014

Shabbat in Haifa Dec 5-6

Here I am, reporting from Israel again. Sounds like a foreign correspondent? Well maybe. It’s always great to be here, even for a short time. And when I say short, I mean VERY short, as in 3 nights. That’s a quick trip by any standards. I arrived in Israel Wednesday at noon, went directly to Haifa, where I am an invited speaker at the joint meeting of the Israeli Allergy and Clinical Immunology Society and Immunodeficiency Canada. This is the first time there has been a joint meeting between these Canadian and Israeli groups and this is hopefully not the last. We have a lot of common interests and many Israelis have trained in Canadian Hospitals, so the synergy exists between our medical communities.

Welcome to Israel-Part 1: As part of being invited, I was to be picked up by a driver. You know, one of those guy’s with the signs? For once, you can actually look for you name (although I am sure we have all travelled and half hoped there is someone holding a sign with our name to surprise us…doesn’t happen though). I am picked up by a 70ish Israel gentleman, who takes me to his van and wants to lift my suitcase. It is stuffed with things for Elisha, Ariel and Gila, so I know it’s heavy and pass. We take off and he is very chatty. Along highway 2, he asks if I want to stop for coffee. I say, no, it’s OK, let’s go to the hotel. He asks again 10 minutes later. Then he gets off in Hadera, and announces with a smile that he called ahead, and we are stopping for coffee. I look for a special café or restaurant. Nope, we drive into a residential area a few minutes from Hillel Jaffe Hospital. Then we pull up to a house. Who lives there, you ask? See, my driver grew up in Hadera, and though he now lives near Rishon, he has a friend from first grade that he always visits when he is in the neighborhood.  The friend is very nice, serves coffee, we chat for 10 minutes, my driver asks his friend directions to the Dan Carmel (even though he has a GPS) then we get back on the road. Supposedly there are 15 classmates from first grade who are in close touch with each other. No wonder in retirement Zvi, the driver, decided on this vocation. Only in Israel! (everywhere else you would be mugged, robbed and left on the side of the road).

Welcome to Israel-Part 2: Haifa is extremely pretty. It is one of those jewels that people really don’t appreciate. I am staying at the Dan Carmel, where Barbara and I have stayed for conferences before. Haifa is a city built on the Mt. Carmel mountain and ending on the shore of the Mediterranean. The hotel is right on the top. The beautiful Bhai gardens are just below. From the hotel window you can see the bay, the water and the mountains in the distance (see picture!) The view is spectacular. That coupled with the sunshine and temperature in the 20’s and it’s a great escape from -14 in Montreal. Too bad I leave Saturday night.

Welcome to Israel- Part 3:the conference organized a concert Thursday night, which was actually quite cool. It featured the Shem-Tov Levi Ensemble. Shem-Tov Levi is a composer and jazz flautist who wrote many songs that were popularized in Israel by the King of Israeli Pop music, Arik Einstein, who passed away one year ago. For my Israeli colleagues, it was not only an evening of great music but of nostalgia.

The conference went very well and my talk was well received. It’s fun to network with people in the field and we discussed common projects and healthcare problems.   Gila, Ariel and Elisha have come for Shabbat, so that will be special.  

This past week was the Yahrtzeit (memorial anniversary) for our dear mother, grandmother and great –grandmother Mollie Samuel, Malca bat Moshe. This weekend is the Yahrtzeit of our grandfather and great-grandfather Moe Aspell (Elimelech ben Menachem Mendel). In honor of these very special people, I am including a short D’var Torah.

This week’s Torah portion is Va’Yishlach. The Torah portion chronicles Ya’acov (Jacob) and his family’s entry back into Israel. There are many important events that are described in this portion; Jacob’s tense reunion with his brother, Esav; kidnapping and rape of his daughter Dinah, the establishment of a home in the land of Israel, among others. Throughout, there is a very strong sense of the importance of family. Prior to meeting Esav, whose threat to kill Jacob caused him to leave his home over two decades before, Jacob prays that G-d will save him from his brother’s wrath. Not only does he pray, but he splits his family of 12 son’s and 4 wives into 2 camps so one can escape if the other is attacked. What is remarkable is that in his prayer, he does not only pray for personal salvation, knowing that Esav’s vendetta may be personal, but he implores “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike.”  The Hebrew text mirrors the slightly awkward syntax of this verse; there is no pause or conjunction between V’Hikani (strike me down) and Eim al Banim (mothers with children). Thus, the meaning is clear. The responsibility of a father ceases to be himself once he has a family; the responsibility is now for everyone, indeed you are one with your wife and children; it is not “he will strike me and the mothers and children”  but all are one inseparable unit.

The parasha highlights the birth of Binyamin and the death of Rachel in childbirth. Rachel is buried near Bethlehem, and the site is marked till today on the road to Jerusalem. Why was she not buried in the family gravesite in Hebron, Ma’arat Hamachpela?  We are taught by the Prophet Jeremiah that Rachel laments over her children’s exile. The sages teach that when Israel was destroyed by the Babylonians and the Jews were exiled, Rachel interceded and begged for mercy for her children, and her prayers were answered.  This teaches us again the tight bond of a family.  A mother’s love has no bounds; it is the most natural behavior for a mother to do everything in her power on behalf of her family.

The place where Rachel is buried is marked and visited until today. People use it as a place of inspiration in times of trouble. Interestingly, it is the only time in the Torah when it explicitly says that a monument was placed to mark a burial. This custom today is universal; to have a memorial is to be remembered for generations.  As we mark the anniversary of the passing of our loved ones, we remember the powerful example that Molly Samuel set as a mother who would go to great lengths for her children and extended family.  May her memory always be a blessing for us and may we hold true to her values of family and generosity.

Shabbat Shalom

Barbara and Bruce

Happy 3rd Birthday to Talia Bella Mazer!
We wish Nomi, Shoshana, Shlomo and Nadav a Nesiah Tova as the travel to Israel, and to Elan who will join them shortly!

Refuah Shlema to Zisel Bat Bella, Yirmiyahu Shimon ben Dvorah, and Ha-Rav Haim Yechiel ben Malca. 

Sincerest condolences to Nomi's father, Robert Goldberger, on the recent passing of his father Aryeh Goldberer. May his memory always be a blessing

And to my wonderful wife Barbara, I definitely wish you were not stuck in the cold so we could enjoy this wonderful shabbat together!

Friday, July 4, 2014

From Montreal to Mexico

These posts are usually crafted during travels, but almost always with some Israeli connection, either passing through a place on the way to Israel or actually being there. That’s where the name Mazer-in –Jerusalem came from since the blog started there. But there are always exceptions…like this week. We will take you from Montreal to San Diego to Mazatlán, Mexico, and back to Montreal. It’s been a fun week of conferences, teaching and exploring some new and beautiful places and learning new lessons.

The genesis of all this started about a year ago, with a colleague and friend from Mexico named Juan Antonio “Tony” Sacre. Tony is a pediatric allergist in Mexico whose daughters live in Montreal (studying at McGill and Concordia). When Tony is in Montreal, he visits us at McGill and the Children’s and at Meakins Christie. We often discuss cases and medical problems as well as family and life. Tony was elected secretary of the Mexican College of Pediatric Allergists and Immunologists (Compedia), and as part of his job was to coordinate the Annual meeting of Compedia. In our discussions, he suggested that he would like to invite me to speak at the meeting, in a resort in Mexico. I asked if I could bring Barbara and he said, absolutely! So began the journey…

The Compedia meeting was to be from June 25-29; but soon after our trip to Switzerland this March, I was invited to speak at another conference in San Diego on June 23-24; since the Mexican meeting was to be held on the Pacific coast, this would be feasible. So I set out for San Diego for a two day meeting at the University of California in San Diego in La Jolla on “GlycoImmunology”. Not to go into the technicalities, it was a really interesting meeting and an opportunity to meet some really good scientists. Of course, La Jolla is always a treat to visit.   The temperature varied between 17 and 22C, palm trees were everywhere and the setting was really pretty. We stayed at the Sheraton La Jolla, which coincidentally is across the street from a Ralph’s supermarket with a large Kosher take-out and deli and a Trader Joe’s. We were also a 20 minute walk away from the La Jolla JCC which has a Kosher restaurant. So California travelers, if you are planning a few days in the La Jolla area, and would like to have convenient access to provisions, this is the place to stay. Barbara arrived on Tuesday afternoon, had some time around the pool, then we shopped (more about that later) and went to the JCC for dinner. We were due to leave at 6:30 the next morning, so we called it a night somewhat earlier to be ready to go to the airport.

The next morning, we were on our way to Mexico. We learned that the resort in Mazatlán was unable to work things out with a Kosher caterer, so we brought some schnitzel and turkey cold cuts, which a local Chabad Rav had said would not be a problem. Of course, Mexico has crazy laws about food, and we were told 10 times on the plane to declare all foods, so we did. And guess what? Our chicken was confiscated. No amount of cajoling or explaining about kashrut or illness or pain of death would let them let it pass. So, we were transferred from the airport to the Emerald Bay Pueblo Bonita resort on the beach of Mazatlan, sans chicken! We did get to keep rolls and Yves fake meat, so all was not lost. It did lead to us eating lots of fish wrapped in aluminum foil, which worked out well, except for the night the chef wrapped 2 cans of tuna in foil (don't ask....)

We stayed at the Peublo Bonita Emerald Bay. The resort is secluded, built just above the public beach, right on the Pacific Coast. It’s full of beautiful gardens, pools, and spectacular sunsets.  It would be an amazing place to take long walks, except that it was 34 degrees outside (with the humidex it’s 42!). OK, so we took short walks, used the pool and especially appreciated the air conditioning. All the hotel rooms are large suites with bedrooms and large living rooms with kitchenettes. The windows face the ocean and the lovely sunsets. Pretty spectacular.

As faculty at the conference we have been treated really well. Wednesday night, the opening program included a cocktail party, a group of traditional dancers and a “Banda”, a traditional local band. There was quite a show. On Thursday, the professors were taken to a restaurant in a home built 151 years ago, including a fig tree growing through the roof of the first floor into the second floor.  I spoke at the conference on Thursday and Friday and the talks were very well received. There were lots of questions during and after the presentations. The crowd was very Latin American, enthusiastic, ebullient, and very fun loving.

We had a great, quiet Shabbat, with some down time to hang out and read. In contrast, the conference had their closing dinner Friday night, with dancing till 3 AM! These guys have lots of energy!

So what is so special about Mazatlán? We found out quite a bit on a tour of the city Sunday afternoon. The city is nestled along the coast and really was developed in the 1800s. It has an 11 km boardwalk along the beach which is filled with people, especially after dark (considering the heat). Like many Mexican cities, it has many plazas and squares and especially monuments, to everything from the city’s name (Mazatlan means “Deer”) to the continuity of the Family. There is even one to the city’s most famous industry, the Pacifico Brewery. Now, how does a land known for Tequila become the home to many excellent beers? There was a huge influx of Austrian and German immigrants in the latter half of the 1800’s. Three German immigrants started the Brewery in Mazatlán. And, as you know with the coming of Europeans, there has to be a Jewish connection…

This brings us to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Center of Old Mazatlan. (“What?” you are saying, “He’s lost it, too much sun….that name does not sound remotely Jewish!”) This cathedral is truly beautiful, as cathedrals often are, very ornate, and full of religious imagery. However, there is a difference. When we arrived, our guide asked what is unusual about the Cathedral? Look at the stained glass window in the picture. See it? Each stained glass window, 28 in all, are crowned with a Magen David, a Star of David. This is in tribute to three Jewish families, who, in the late 1880’s and 90’s aided in the construction of the church with large donations and contributions of the marble for the floor and other things. The 28 windows? In honor of the 28 days of a typical lunar month in the Jewish calendar. Now, I am sure that in many circles, this would be considered a sacrilege. Personally, though, I think this really represents a Kiddush HaShem, a sanctification of G-d. This is proof of the good that can come from people working together, and respecting each other. According to Wikipedia, in the 1800’s there were barely 200 Jewish families in all of Mexico. In Mazatlán, it would have been surprising if there was even a minyan (10 Jewish males required for communal prayer). On the other hand, the agrarian community of Mazatlán was likely not overly wealthy, much like today. So when the Catholic majority built their house of G-d, the minute Jewish community chipped in and the gratitude is forever etched in the magnificent stained glass for all to see.

Mexico was a great place to relax, enjoy the sun and learn about another culture with tremendous joie de vivre. However, in this very trying week, with the loss of three precious boys in Israel and escalation of violence across the entire Middle East, we can learn a lot from the stained glass in Mazatlán about co-operation, mutual respect and helping one’s fellow man.

May we all be blessed with a peaceful and warm Shabbat

Barbara and Bruce

PS: Many thanks to Pancho and Rose-Marie for making sure we stayed out of trouble

Happy Fourth of July to all our US friends (and our kids living in the US!)
Happy Birthday to Steven Fiter
Happy Birthday to Andy!
Happy Birthday to Cousins David (Weinstein) and Karen (Morrison)
To my beloved wife and best friend, Happy Anniversary!

Refuah Shlema to Zysl bat Bella

Monday, April 21, 2014

Passover 2014, Part 2

Close your eyes…picture yourself flying over desert, seas, ancient ruins, mountains, forests, lakes and castles, then across oceans, rocky cliffs and large cities…and at the end of the journey, you have arrived in a place with friendly faces into the loving arms of family. Imagination? Perhaps, but actually, this was what we did in the middle of the week, flying from Israel to Toronto to end the holiday with the rest of the family. Now to fill in the blanks!

The Passover Seder: Last Monday seems like a long time ago, considering the busy week, but we will wind the clock back to the Seder night at the home of Geula and Yitzhak Twersky. I have written about the Seder each of the past 4 years, and reflected on the amazing educational event that it is. It is much more than telling the Passover story of the Exodus of the Jewish People from Egypt.  Done properly, it is truly a re-living of events, an opportunity to place oneself right into the story and feel the power of the experience. The Twersky home was a terrific and unique example of how to accomplish this. Gila has 9 brothers and sisters and 8 of the children (plus Ariel and Elisha) were there for the Seder. Geula had procured a “bag of tricks”; a large sac of toys and games that mirrored themes in the story and were given out throughout the evening to the kids. There were also new books, Haggadot that told the story of Passover, given to the younger siblings. The Twersky teens also prepare a Passover play for all to take part in; a terrific adaptation of the music of Annie to the Pesach story!! As we talked and sang into the wee hours of the morning, everyone seemed to gather more energy as the evening went on, not less!  

The next day we were invited to lunch at the home of Chani and Reuven Or. The Ors were our next door neighbors for almost 2 years in Denver. When we were all Denverites, their then teenage daughters were our babysitters and their sons were playmates for Monty and Elan. Fast forward to the present, and there are a lot of grownups and 12 grandchildren! Besides catching up with Reuven and Chani, we had a lot of fun talking to the rest of the family, reminiscing and marveling at where the time has gone. Of course, seeing our own kids and grandchildren means that we are caught in the same time warp!

The Festival of  Freedom: One of the beautiful things about our trips to Israel is the joie de vivre, excitement and liveliness in the streets. This is no more apparent than during Passover, when the weather is perfect, most people are on holiday and just about everyone is out on some type of “tiyul” (Hebrew for trip or outing). The streets and squares are packed, the restaurants are full (as if we don’t eat enough on this holiday) and things are really buzzing.  Passover is called the holiday of Freedom due to the Exodus from Egypt. Outside of Israel, it seems that everyone is still slaving in the kitchen or in the supermarket, preparing for the holiday for weeks in advance. In Israel, the sense of freedom is palpable as you marvel at the masses of people travelling everywhere.

Oleh Leregel: OK, now it’s time for your bible lesson.  Lets’ check Exodus Chapter 34, Leviticus, Chapter 23 and Deuteronomy ,Chapter 15. What is the main theme in common? There are three Jewish holidays, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, which were marked by the entire nation gathering in Jerusalem from the Ancient Biblical times until the destruction of the second Temple in 70AD. These holidays were the Shalosh  Regalim; the three festivals that one walked to Jerusalem to gather with the rest of the nation. Although this is no longer part of the official celebration (until such time as the Third Temple is built!) people still flock to Jerusalem on the holidays. Wednesday, before we left for Toronto, Barbara, Gila, Ariel, baby Elisha and I went to Jerusalem and met with Lynda and Alan Zysblatt, Barbara’s cousins. We had lunch just outside the Old City and then walked to the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall. We were joined by thousands of people, Israeli’s and Tourists, streaming through the streets of the ancient Capital. It was an amazing sight, as we jostled to descend to the plaza where the Western Wall is situated and joined groups in prayer next to the Wall. It’s very humbling to think that you are next to the structure that belonged to the Second Temple and that has outlasted over 2 Millennia. This was an appropriate way to say farewell to this leg of the trip, as we headed back to Netanya to pack and prepare for the flight the next morning.

Shabbat: We arrived in Toronto on Thursday evening, just in time to help with dinner and to tuck Shoshana and Shlomo into bed.  Friday was a catch up and prepare for Shabbat day, which led into a reunion with the other side of the family! Shabbat was spent at Elan and Nomi’s home in Toronto, and Monty, Daniella and Tali joined us, along with Nomi’s parents Karyn and Robert and sibs Adina and Daniel.  Just seeing everyone was great, but watching the kids play together was phenomenal. This was made even more special by seeing Nadav, one week post-op, looking amazing, drinking, playful and smiling like a six week old should! The comment of the weekend was Shlomo’s exclamation this morning that that was the best Shabbat, ‘cuz he could play with his cousin! I think we would second that; having our kids and their kids around makes all of these the best possible Shabbat. 

So we are now entering in to the end of the Passover holiday, which in general corresponds with the Easter Holiday, so hopefully everyone reading this will have some special time with their friends and family as we move through this long weekend!

Wishing you a Chag Sameach and Happy Easter!

Barbara and Bruce

Monday, April 14, 2014

Passover 2014

So, here we are, a few hours before Passover. This is the fourth year that we are spending Passover in Israel. Passover, or Pesach, is the holiday of freedom. The Jewish people were taken from slavery to freedom, going from a broken people to becoming a nation. The concepts of Passover are amazing universal messages: no man should lord over another, no man should own another, no nation should think that others are beneath them or inferior to them. The Seder tonight reenacts the Exodus from Egypt, and the acceptance by the Jews of the responsibility of being a nation; to build a society and to serve G-d. I think these are messages that are no less important today as 3000 years ago; in fact, maybe more so. When we look at the world today, people clearly have not embodied what had been taught millennia ago.

The past 10 days have been ultra-eventful, so get set! We left off in Switzerland, in the lovely town of Interlaken. We were attending the 7th International IVIg Congress which was a small meeting of about 200 researchers in Immunology and related fields. The unifying theme was the use of intravenous immunoglobulin in treatment of diseases. I recently published a paper that received quite a bit of notice at the meeting, so it was a lot of fun to discuss theories and practicalities (and politics) in the field with the others. We had a really nice Shabbat, with nice mild weather, perfect for a long walk to one of the lakes, which took up a good part of late Saturday afternoon.  The lakes were nestled between a series of mountains, making it quite idyllic, a lot like Aspen (but not quite as built up or affluent in the town).

Sunday morning, we were off to Israel, taking the first train of the day from Interlaken to the Zurich Airport. Not only is it super convenient to take the train to the airport, but the luggage drop off is in the train station, so you are free of your bags in minutes. Then off to the terminal and a flight to Israel, landing at 2:30.  The next major stop would be Bilha and Chai’s wedding, with a few minor stops in between….Car pick up, Netanya to drop off our bags and get dressed , Givat Shmuel to pick up Ariel, Gila and Elisha and then to the wedding hall. Luckily, the wedding hall was a five minute drive from Ariel’s house! That made things work out just perfectly. The wedding was gorgeous, with many highlights, including the fact that Bilha’s brother Yacov was the Mesader Kedushin,  the presiding clergy for the wedding. That made it all the more meaningful. There was a nice cohort of Montrealers, both present and past, who came to celebrate with the Fruchter family. Of course great food and terrific music topped off the evening.

The next two days were ideal grandparent days. Since Gila and Ariel are both in school (although Gila has been off for maternity leave) they took advantage of the “free” child care to have us hang out with Elisha. As you can see by the accompanying pictures, he is a real sweetie! He is beginning to be playful, looking at toys and following, an occasional smile…perfect 6 week old behavior. So, we strolled him around the local mall and around campus. He played his part really well too, sleeping or lying contented unless he needed feeding.  Definitely a classy baby.

Mixing a bit of business with the pleasure, I visited Tel Aviv University and gave a lecture to the immunology group,which was well received. My host was a superb immunologist named Ariel Munitz, who’s work I have followed as he trained with a good friend, Marc Rothenberg.  Here is a new security wrinkle. You don’t just press up or down to call an elevator in the medical school building. You tell it which floor you want to go to and it tells you which elevator to take. When you get it there are no buttons to push. I am not sure why that is helpful, but it was a great conversation piece.

The rest of the time was punctuated with visits with Sylvia and Haim Fruchter in Netanya, and with Michal and Ronen Sela and family on a beach outside Netanya. Sylvia and Haim were in post wedding mode, visiting family and friends and criss-crossing the county. We picked up Gila and Ariel and the baby on Thursday to give them a bit of a pre-Passover holiday near the beach. We took some very nice sea-side walks, hung out and had a really nice Shabbat together.  Sunday included Passover preparations, although this year, things would be a bit different for us, as we were not hosting the Seder, but rather we are joining Gila’s family for Seder on Monday night. We’re very excited about spending the next couple of days in Neve Daniel. Check out an article about Geula in this week's Jerusalem Post and her painitngs!

Of course, life is not always about vacations and fun. A few people noticed that I didn’t send out a post in the customary way on Friday afternoon. This was because at the time we were a bit pre-occupied about things going on in Toronto. Our youngest grandson, Nadav, had been vomiting for a few days, and was evaluated at the Hospital for Sick Children. They diagnosed a small intestinal obstruction (pyloric stenosis) which required a small surgical procedure on Wednesday night. He improved nicely, but as of the beginning of Shabbat in Israel, we did not know if he would be discharged.  We are happy to report that he left the hospital on Friday midafternoon, and based on a great Skype call yesterday, it is clear that he is back to normal! He fed really well Saturday and Sunday . Shoshana and Shlomo were super happy to have their little brother (and parents) home and everyone was back to the daily tasks like shopping and cooking for Passover! Kudos to the nursing and medical staff at Sick Kids for a job very well done!

So, Thank G-d, everyone in the family is at home (or at least in someone’s home!) and will be celebrating Passover with loved ones; we with the Twersky’s in Israel, Elan and Nomi and co. with Nomi’s family  in Toronto, Daniella, Monty and Tali with the Wagner clan in Toronto, my mom in Edmonton with my sister Roanne, etc…! As we sit around the Seder table discussing the Exodus from Egypt and the concept of freedom, we will pause to be thankful for both the ups and downs of life, because without the challenges, it may be hard to truly appreciate the good things.

Wishing everyone a Happy Passover, and Chag Kasher v’sameach and a Happy Easter!

Barbara and Bruce

Mazel Tov to Bilha and Chai on their marriage last week! Mazel Tov to our great Friends Sylvia and Haim 
Fruchter and family on this wonderful simcha!

Mazel to to Ashi and Dassy Stenge and Grandma Gail on the birth of a baby boy!

Mazel to to Moti and Sarah Stenge and Savta Gail on the birth of twin boys! Busy week!!

Happy Birthday to R’ Elan in Toronto
Happy Birthday to David Weisz in Edmonton
Happy Birthday to Josh Samuel in Montreal!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Shabbat April 4, 2014

The travels continue!  I am happy to provide a short post to you all to share where we are and let you know about upcoming events! We will be spending Shabbat in Interlaken, Switzerland, where we are attending the 7th International Immunoglobulin Congress, a meeting related to the research that Bruce is involved in.  Interlaken, like most of Switzerland, is very pretty.  It is situated between two lakes, and at the foot hills of a large numbers of mountains in the Swiss Alps. The famous peaks nearby include Jungfrau  (the “Summit of Europe”) Grindenwald , and at least a dozen others. Barbara commented that it looked a lot like Aspen, where we used to spend time in the summer when we lived in Colorado may moons ago.  We arrived early Thursday AM after an overnight flight, and took the train from Zurich to Interlaken. As an example of how tightly coordinated the Swiss trains are, our Zurich-Berne train was delayed 5 minutes and that did not leave us enough time to catch the connection to Interlaken! No big deal, the next train came 30 minutes later, right on time!

We caught up on some sleep and wandered through Interlaken, through the town, and along the river bank towards the lakes, taking in some picturesque mountain views. Being a cloudy day, it wasn’t a great time to actually go up to a mountain, but the area was really beautiful.  Friday a conference day for Bruce, and Barbara had time for catch up and to see the village. Shabbat will be in the hotel; unlike Lucerne (or Zurich or Geneva) there are no synagogues here.

What is equally exciting is what is in store for the next weeks. On Sunday we are leaving for Israel to attend the wedding of Bilha Fruchter to Chai in Petach Tikvah! That should be a great celebration. In fact, we flew together with Sylvia and Haim Fruchter. Then we will be spending time in Netanya and will get to see our new Israeli grandson Elisha.  We will spend part of Passover with Ariel, Gila and Elisha and Gila’s family.  So by this time next week, we’ll have more news and pictures!

We wish you all a wonderful Shabbat Shalom!

Mazel tov to Sylvia, Haim, Yaacov, Ryla, Shilo and Orly Fruchter on the upcoming marriage of Bilha to Chai!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 8-14, Shabbat Zachor

Can you believe that we are doing this again? I guess it’s not such a surprise, since we knew that we were expecting two new additions to the family, but still when it happens, it is no less amazing, no less breathtaking and no less exciting. To paraphrase Elan, who spoke beautifully both at the Shalom Zachar last week and this morning at the Brit Milah, bringing a child into this world is an amazing miracle, and every time it happens it is no less miraculous.

We left off last week as we started Shabbat in Toronto. Sorry everyone, not all of these come from Israel, but I am sure you don’t mind sharing these terrific occasions where ever they are. So we will pick up where we left off last week. Elan and Nomi came home from the hospital just before Shabbat with a beautiful 8 lb 3oz little boy in tow. Being 2 weeks late, this new addition seems to be a bit more mature than the average as you will see from pictures. He was very alert from the start, eyes open, looking around, seemingly very curious about taking everything in. Of course, he was showered with attention from the beginning, not only from his parents, but from his siblings Shoshana and Sholomo, and from his grandparents on both sides. We had prepared for the Shabbat meals and for the Shalom Zachar (in celebration of a new male child) so we were ready to roll.  Robert, Nomi’s Dad also stayed for Shabbat, and Karen, Nomi’s mom, was arriving from Israel on Sunday. Shabbat was really nice, with lots of time to for playing with the kids at night and during the day. Elan and Nomi live above the school Elan teaches in and there is a synagogue in the building as well, which means that we basically did not have to leave the building and brave the cold for the entire Shabbat! The Shalom Zachar was beautiful, attended by Elan’s students, his friends and other community members. There was lots of food and drink, singing and Divrei Torah, words of Torah, in new honor of the new baby and in appreciation of his and his mother’s  health and speedy arrival home!

Sunday was our baby sitting day, as Nomi and Elan took the baby for a quick check and blood test; Barbara took Shoshana to gymnastics and a birthday party, and I hung with Shlomo. Then we went to Yorkdale to play in the Lego store and have a frozen yogurt treat!  The kids are amazing, and we had a great time. Bruce left Sunday night, and Barbara had the (fun) task of taking the kids to school Monday AM before returning to Montreal. Karen was to take over this job for the rest week. We went back to mundane things (like work) for a few days. Yesterday we took the train back, accompanied by Grandma, and arrived in Toronto late but ready for the next phase of celebration.

The Brit Milah in Toronto was held at Or Chaim where Elan teaches. This was an incredible experience for several reasons, primarily because the circumcision ceremony introduces a new Jewish male into the community of Israel, equally because this was really a community celebration. We had friends and family in attendance (including my brother and sister-in-law Andy and Mara, Jacob and Jonah, our in-laws Chuck and Rochel, Daniella and Tali as well as Nomi and Elan friends, and the boys and girls from the school where Elan teaches. Not only was it a great celebration, but an incredible educational experience. There will be a couple of You Tubes that I will post that one can learn a tremendous amount about the importance of this commandment and how it unifies us. Elan spoke wonderfully and his students were drawn into the auspicious occasion as much as friends and family were. We welcomed  Nadav Amichai into the fold with great joy! This was followed by great food and then the a high school kids went off to what would be a very memorable school day.

To let Elan and Nomi have a bit of down time with the baby, we took Shoshana and Shlomo to Casa Loma, to see the Dr. Seuss exhibit. Lots of fun meeting The Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am, the Grinch, and participating in lots of activities. Then home to prepare for Shabbat and to bring to an end another incredible week.

As you know, I frequently reflect on other things that at going on around us. There is no shortage, with a particularly divisive  election coming up in Quebec, a bad week of missile barrages in southern Israel, timed to coincide with the visit of David Cameron of Great Britain, the carnage going on in Syria and the repeated cat and mouse games being played with Iran.  The global situation is not a very positive one. In sharp contrast, I look back on what we have achieved as a family in the past few weeks and over the years. The world may look pessimistic, but I think we should all draw strength from the things that bring smiles to our faces, warmth to our hearts. We have three wonderful couples who have brought into the world 5 gorgeous grandchildren. As I write this, Shoshana and Shlomo are playing a few feet away, laughing and enjoying. Our sons are doing amazing things in their respective career, as are our daughter’s in law. We see the celebration in the eyes of the great-grand parents, be it my mother, or Nomi’s grandparents. We should all look at the microcosms of our worlds to see the amazing blessings and cherish them. 

We wish you all an amazing Shabbat Shalom, a Purim full of happiness and many, many blessings!

Mazel tov to the 4 generations who are fortunate to celebrate the arrival of  Nadav Amichai
Nomi's parents Karen and Robert Goldberger of Modi'in, Israel
Great grandparents : Phyllis Mazer of Montreal
Judith and Aryeh Goldgerger of Toronto
Lynn Direnfeld of Toronto

Oscar Direnfeld Of Ra'anana Israel

Mazel Tov To Akiva and Jamie Garellek on their recent marriage

Happy Birthday to our Aunt Sandra (Ruffie) this week!
Happy Birthday to Aunt Ida (ad mea V'esrim!)
Happy Birthday to Lori Small
Happy Birthday to Tammy Samuel -Zein

Friday, March 7, 2014

February 28 - March 7, 2014, Welcome to new baby II!

What an amazing week and what an adventure! We started off last week with a new addition to the Mazer family and we end this week with another baby boy entering in the world. We thank G-d that both mothers and babies are healthy and looking forward to wonderful things in the future.

When we last communicated, Bruce was landing in Israel a little under 2 hours before Shabbat. We went to Givat Shmuel, the community near Bar Ilan University where  Ariel and Gila live, to spend Shabbat and greet Gila and their new baby home. Barbara had been shopping, running errands and helping to prepare for Shabbat and for the baby’s arrival to their apartment. Friday night, 3 of Gila’s siblings joined us for Shabbat (Pnina, Nechemia and Ruhama) and we took turns eating and holding the baby.  He is beautiful, small and fair with sandy hair, a lot like his dad. That evening, a group of friends and family joined together for the Shalom Zachar, a greeting to a new male child on the Friday night after his birth. People talked, sang, ate and celebrated the birth of a son. Finally the crowd went  home at 11, everyone else cleaned up and, exhausted, went to sleep.

Shabbat was nice and quiet, as it should be when it’s the first full day at home for the new arrival. The baby cooperated and Ariel and Gila had a good, well deserved nap, and we enjoyed being able to help out and just all being together. After Shabbat, we went back to Netanya as home base. Sunday was Ikea day, and Barbara set up the kids with a new changing table and lots of other supplies.  Monday was laid back for the most part, with the main event being picking up Gila, Ariel and the baby to go to Gila’s parents, the Twersky’s in Neve Daniel for the Brit Milah, the circumcision that takes place on the 8th day of life (if the baby is healthy, of course).

Tuesday morning was “the big day”, and it was held in the new community Synagogue right near the Twersky’s home. We were all up early, and members of the community, friends and family arrived.  We were excited to see a lot of Ariel’s friends from Yeshivat Hakotel, as well as Nomi’s mom Karen, Ann and Jonathan Homa, Carol and David Novosellor and a large number of the Twersky’s friends. The baby is officially named at the Brit Milah, and he was named, Elisha Michael, after Barbara’s father, Michael Samuel. Papa would be very proud!

Ariel explained the name to all. He and Gila were looking for a name that embodied characteristics that they felt were important, such as generosity, selflessness and commitment to family. Barbara’s father embodied that and so much more. His entire focus was family, and his generosity knew no bounds. He was a most amazing father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend. His legacy absolutely lives on in the actions of his children. We pray that Elisha Michael will grow to completely embody this important legacy as well.

After the Brit, there was a beautiful breakfast at the Twersky’s home, a group effort by Geula, Yitzhak and their kids. Tons of food and lots of singing, people wishing each other mazel tov.  That afternoon we drove Ariel and Gila home, and started to plan the next leg of the trip, which was to be Toronto.

We left Israel in the early hours of Wednesday, with a flight to Toronto via Frankfurt.  We arrived Wednesday PM, and went right to Elan and Nomi’s to visit and see Shoshana and Shlomo. Now, as many of you know, Nomi was also due to give birth, in fact a week before Gila. However, by our arrival the baby still did not wish to face the cold snowy Toronto winter, so….Thursday, being a full 2 weeks after the due date, was induction day. Nomi and Elan were given a 2 PM appointment, and we were in charge of the grandchildren, which was an absolute pleasure!  I won’t give too many details, but bottom line, a beautiful baby boy, 3700 gm was born at about 2:30 AM!  

So now, we can really feel like its “déjà vu all over again!” Not wanting to spend Shabbat at Mount Sinai Hospital, the parents and new arrival are on the way home as of this writing! We will once again celebrate the baby with a Shalom Zachar and plan for the next celebrations. Truly an amazing time and a wonderful blessing! Stay tuned for more next week!

We wish everyone a Shabbat Shalom, full of joys large and small.

Mazel tov To Gila and Ariel on the birth of Elisha Michael!

Mazel Tov to Nomi and Elan on the birth of their new son, brother to Shoshana and Shlomo!

Times like these are precious and we all should be very appreciative!

 I’m just glad I can share them with my best friend in life, Barbara .