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!  

 http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/Checking-the-orange-pages-348121
www.geulaart.com

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 .

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shabbat Feb 28th Welcome to the new Baby

This will be a short post, just to wish everyone a Shabbat Shalom and follow up on exciting news. Ariel and Gila are now the proud parents of a baby boy, born on Tuesday Feb 25 at app. 10:15 in Bnei Brak, Israel! Proud grandparent include Geulah and Rabbi Yitzhak Twersky and of course Barbara and Bruce. Barbara left for Israel the day that the baby was born, and has been occupied with fun things like visiting the hospital, cuddling the baby and transporting Ariel and various foodstuffs for Shabbat. As many of you may know, our children Elan and Nomi (who are in Toronto) are also expecting a baby, so Bruce hung out in Montreal for a couple of days to monitor the situation and the flight prices (as well as do some needed work in the hospital, keeping his patients from freaking out too much…) .Anyway, Bruce caught a flight out on Thursday PM (with great thanks to his MCH Allergy colleagues for covering!) and arrived in Israel  2 hours before Shabbat; a bit close for comfort but not really too bad.

The agenda for the next few days is hectic, with Shabbat, a Shalom Zachar on Friday night, a traditional celebration of the upcoming circumcision or Brit Milah on day 8 of life, plus a couple of days to help set up the kids at home now that they are three instead of two. Ariel and Gila are thrilled and seem to be naturals at being parents!  The baby had a wonderful first Shabbat and things are going really well. 


The Brit Milah will be in Neve Daniel (next to Efrat) on Tuesday morning 8 AM (Shacharit at 7 AM); breakfast following. 
We know the location is not the easiest, but anyone who is able to make it, we will be thrilled to have you. Please email and I will get the directions to you. 

 Wednesday we are on the way home. Stay tuned for more as we follow up on Elan and Nomi and we’ll send a full recap of the coming week, which is sure to be eventful!

Mazel Tov to all and may all have a wonderful, fulfilling Shabbat and a terrific week ahead!
Barbara  and Bruce
Happy Birthday to Gila!



Friday, October 25, 2013

October 18-25

Weeks in Israel are always great, with a lot of diversity and many ways to amuse yourself. This week there were lots of highlights in many realms of interest.

Politics: On Tuesday, municipal elections happened all over Israel. The last time there were municipal elections, we were on Sabbatical in Jerusalem and really followed the battles there. Indeed, the 2008 election was very entertaining; remembering back to then one of the mayoral candidates was wanted for Arms Smuggling into Angola, another who was to represent the religious faction fell out of favor with the other faction and finally, Nir Barakat won the election in Jerusalem. Since then he has done a credible job, completing the light rail in the city center and bringing festivals and even F-1 to Jerusalem (your need special tires for the cobblestones of the Old City!) This year the main opponent for Mr. Barakat has a local Montreal connection; Moshe Lion is the brother of our Consul General, Joel Lion. It was a very close race, but the incumbent won by almost 6%. In Netanya, where we have had the same Mayor for 15 years, Miriam Fierberg won once again. She has really improved the city; just take a look at the bright, new city center with huge screens, fountains and even an ice skating rink! One more mayoral connection: the Novosellers purchased the home of the current mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi.

Entertainment: Last night, we went to a movie at the Globus Max (not Gluteus Max) theater in Netanya. If you are waiting for a movie review, forget it! The movie (Prisoners) was fine, but the entertainment was the goings on in movie theaters in Israel! First, Israeli theaters give out tickets with assigned seats. This is a great thing, as it means you don’t have to rush in to make sure you have a good seat.  Of course, the polite Canadians came on time for the movie; we and 2 other couples who obviously did not know better. Seeing an empty theater, the others took better seats than they were assigned. However, AFTER the commercials, the previews and the other annoying stuff, the theatre filled up quickly, and of course there was a lot of “Excuse me, you’re in my seat….!” Also right in the middle of a crucial part of the 2 hour movie was…Intermission! Why? Because!

Diversity: It is hard to walk around the larger cities in Israel and not be struck by the sheer diversity of population. The Old City of Jerusalem of course has 4 sections, the Jewish, Muslim, Armenian and Christian Quarters. However, even a medium sized city like Netanya is extremely heterogeneous. Walking through the streets you see a tremendous variety of religious and secular Jews, Muslims and Christians. We shop in the same shops, frequent restaurants and the kids play the same parks. Looking at the array of kipot, hijabs, other head coverings and crosses makes one think that this enriches a society, rather than diminishes it. Maybe we should invite Mme Marois for Shabbat?

Ikea and Co: What would a trip to Israel be without some shopping at Ikea? It is really a magnet for most of Central Israel, to browse, shop, play and eat. One thing that is really striking is that people follow the paths and signs and stand in orderly lines to look at items, get their merchandise, go to the restaurant, etc. If Israeli’s can be so orderly in Ikea, why can’t they apply this to the roads and bus stops?   

Visiting Friends: After our first week of catching up with the time zones, we decided to catch up with friends. As mentioned last week, we picked up Gila and Ariel and were off to Jerusalem on Friday morning, and had brunch with Bilha and Orly Fruchter at Café Rimon. From there, we went to the Gush Etzyon area south of Jerusalem to Nevei Daniel, where Gila’s parents Geula and Itzhak Twersky live and visited with them (and the Ami-Kodesh’s Pirate Ship!) From there, we crossed the highway and went to Efrat to the home of Carol and David Novoseller who have lived there for just over 2 years. Avi and Yael Miller and 2 of their children were there as well, as they are moving to Israel next summer. Carol and David are doing really well, as are all their girls. Saturday night we returned to Jerusalem for tea with Ann and Jonathan Homa, ex-Montrealers who arrived in Israel 2 months ago after living in New Jersey.  They are living in a great apartment and it looks like they are well settled in. 

Tuesday, we were joined by Nomi’s parents Karen and Robert Goldberger and went to Ramat HaNadiv near Zichron Yaakov. This is where Baron Edmond Rothschild is buried; it was his concept to build an experimental agricultural area there to determine what plants would grow best in hot, arid Israel. It is now has beautiful gardens, including roses, palms and fragrant plants, huge parkland for hiking and a nature sanctuary with indigenous animals in the wild. Thanks to Daniella for the great tip to go there. 

Wednesday we met Ariel and Gila for lunch near Bar Ilan and then visited the Shomron Community of Ma-alei Shomron, where Michal and Rav Ronen Sela have moved. They have built an amazing home there plus married off two daughters Moria and Meytal in the past 6 months. Many may remember the Selas from their two years in Montreal at Hebrew Academy.  Thursday PM we picked up Ariel and Gila as well as our niece Jenna (the birthday girl) from Givat Shmuel and then met the Homas at one of our favorite restaurants in Netanya (Gehalim). In between we assembled some Ikea furniture, bought a sofa and otherwise tried to be both on holiday and domesticated at the same time!

So, for this Shabbat we are having Gila, Ariel, and Jenna in Netanya; it should be a lot of fun. Next week we wind down this trip and will be anticipating the return to chilly Montreal. We’ll try to get in a couple more walks in the sunshine to fortify ourselves!

We wish everyone a very joyous Shabbat Shalom!

Happy Birthday to our daughter in law Daniella!
Happy Birthday to Jenna!
A belated Happy Birthday to Haim Fruchter (last Shabbat)!

May all our friends and indeed all who are currently suffering from illness have a Refuah Shelema, a very speedy and complete recovery.


Friday, October 18, 2013

October 10-18, 2013

We decided to do something a little crazy this year…take a holiday in October! There are some practical reasons, really, such as Barbara is teaching starting in November, and we had the great pleasure of sharing the recent Jewish Holidays with our children and grandchildren in Montreal. That, and the fact we had not been back to Israel since Monty’s graduation in June. The summer was great with our kids relocating. Monty is now in Buffalo, NY doing a pediatric residency at Buffalo Women’s and Children’s and he, Daniella and Tali have settled in very well, in spite of a very busy work schedule. Elan is in Toronto as a Shaliach of the Israeli government, that is an educational emissary representing Israel. He is teaching at Yeshivat Or Chayim, a boy’s high school and at Ulpana, a girl’s school. So far it’s going very well, and Nomi, Shoshana and Shlomo have also acclimatized to the new surroundings. Nomi, being from Toronto, knows the lay of the land pretty well, her father works there (commuting from Israel!) and 3 of her grandparents are also there. So far so good for everyone. Ariel and Gila visited us for the month of September and spent most of the holidays with us. So, that leads us to the present and the current trip…

We left Montreal last Thursday night, and arrived in Zurich at 6:15 AM. Not having much sleep, we stumbled around and found our train to Luzern, where we would be spending Shabbat. We have to thank Raffi Faust for this idea; he really mapped out this trip for us. Luzern is a beautiful, small city on the banks of Lake Luzern. The city is very compact; no important point is more than 15-20 minutes from the city center, and the city is built on both sides of the Reusse River. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel, which was two blocks from the train station and city center and 5-7 minute walk to the synagogue in Luzern. After a bit of a nap (having not gotten much sleep on the plane) we wandered around the old town, saw the famous Lion monument carved out of a mountainside, crossed the Kapelbruche or Chapel Bridge, a covered bridge across the river which dates back to the 14th century (1333) and still has some of the original paintings that decorate the cross beams. Many paintings unfortunately were destroyed in a fire in 1993. The city also has a fortified wall with towers that you can walk along, and of course many ubiquitous shops and even 2 Starbucks! I noticed that even in Switzerland, Starbucks stores say “Starbucks Coffee”. We also learned that Schmuck (see picture) means decoration or jewelry in German and Swiss-German. That was a relief….so many stores were selling schmucks it got us worried….

Shabbat was really lovely. The Jewish community in Switzerland is under 20,000, with the majority in larger cities such as Zurich and Geneva. The community in Luzern was once several thousand, and in 1912 they built a beautiful 3 story synagogue with a large sanctuary, ornate painted walls and a balcony. At one time, it was difficult to find a seat on Saturday in the synagogue. Unfortunately the community is now very small, and there are usually not more than a handful of people attending services. There was a celebration this past weekend, a young man from Luzern was getting married (this week here in Israel) and his family celebrated his “Aufruf”. Even with that there were only 16 men in shul and about a dozen women. However, they were extremely spirited and vibrant and very friendly. Several people asked if we had meals (thanks to Avi Brook, we certainly did!) and one family told me on Shabbat Morning “We’ve set places for you for lunch.” Everyone was extremely kind and I would recommend anyone who would like a very nice place in Switzerland to visit to check out Luzern. (Ask for Ruben Ehrlangen or Rabbi Rabinovich).

The highlight of being in Switzerland of course is the Alps. Luzern is right in the foothills of the mountains, very close to several very high peaks, including Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus. We chose to visit Mount Pilatus, being the highest peak in the area. The mountain gets its name from Pontius Pilate, who legend has it was buried in the lake near the mountain. Must have taken a bit of time to get there from Jerusalem in those days. The Swiss 
have, typically, a super organized schedule that allows one to see the mountain in a compact package that takes 4-5 hours! We took a boat from Luzern to the base of Pilatus (you can also take a train) and then we took the world’s steepest cogwheel railway up the mountain at a 48% angle much of the way! We then hiked around the top with breaks in the hotel built on top, seeing a couple of the steeper peaks. Although it was 15 degrees in Luzern that day, it was -4 on top with snow and ice. Good thing we were bringing Ariel’s winter coat to Israel for him. After the hiking and the amazing scenery of snow-capped mountains, green valleys and lakes we took two cable cars down to the village of Kriens, and then a bus (perfectly timed, of course and fastidiously mapped out) back to Luzern. After a quick trip to the Impressionist museum and a special Picasso exhibit across the street from our hotel, we took a train back to Zurich for our late night flight to Israel.

We arrived here early Monday AM, and honestly, we are still in a time warp! However, the jet-lag was not enough to keep us from some great walks on the beach here in Netanya, a real nice dinner with Ariel and Gila, and of course some shopping. As fall moves on slowly in Canada (the great stretch of weather from Mid-September has continued) we are enjoying sunny skies, 28 degrees and minimal chance of rain. A great setting for a holiday. We will be in Jerusalem on Friday, hopefully to see Orly and Bilha Fruchter and Chai, and then on Shabbat we will be in Efrat at the home of Carol and David Novoseller, ex of Montreal. The next week promises to be one where we will visit with other friends and do a bit more travelling than usual, so stay tuned!

We wish everyone a spectacular Shabbat Shalom!


We wish our daughter in law Nomi a very Happy Birthday!
We wish our sister in law Mara a very Happy Birthday!