Friday, June 17, 2016

Shabbat June 17-18 Mazel Tov to Ariel

For all those fans of this blog who thought that we were in Israel a few weeks ago (but we were really in Buffalo!) we decided not to disappoint you! At this very moment I am writing from our apartment in Netanya on a very quick trip (4 days!?!) Of course the trip has a purpose aside from the terrific entertainment that the blog brings and the great pictures of our grandchildren.
We are celebrating Ariel being called to the Israeli Bar and his official installation as a lawyer.

First, let’s start with the main subject of the story. Ariel completed law school in February 2015, and worked at a large law firm, Fisher Behar Chen in Tel Aviv as a legal intern for a year. He apparently did quite well, as at his exit interview he was offered a position to start this coming August. That was great news, of course. To fully benefit from the position, he needed to pass the Bar. He completed his stage on Feb 29 and Bar school started on March 1 for an exam on May 2! Needless to say, after countless hours of reading and studying, Ariel distinguished himself very well. Following the written, there is also an oral exam, which also went really well, which brought us to the Ceremony on June 15th. 1450 new lawyers were invited to receive their license/certification at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. The pass rate was 53%, actually lower than last year when 1900 were licensed. The ceremony was divided in two parts: a formal welcome to the new grads in the main convention hall, and then they were split up into smaller groups to receive their diploma certificates. Interestingly, families were only invited to be present during the diploma distribution; they were left to watch the proceedings on big screens in the diploma rooms. More about that in a minute.  The cast of speakers was very distinguished: The President of the Israeli Bar Society, the President of the Israeli Supreme court Miriam Naor; the minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked; and other well-known legal experts in Israel. Everyone imparted words of wisdom, and there was a lot of praise for those who were able to pass the Bar considering that almost half fail. There was musical entertainment and a cool light show at the beginning. Then the groups went to their respective rooms to meet their proud families.

Of course, for Gila and I and all those consigned to sit in the rooms away from the main stage, we were amazed at how a technologically savvy country like Israel can put together an amazing, high class program and still have people laughing and shaking their heads. I will give you a few examples: we in the peanut gallery were treated to the first 20 minutes of speeches with no audio. Apparently there was a glitch in the sound system. We could see the speakers (the dress code was for white shirts and black ties for males, but the MC wore an orange tie, which stood out, but not in a good way). We were able to read the speech in subtitles that were being typed as they spoke, which was obvious since the transcriptionist made lots of typos and kept erasing what he/she was writing. Finally, the sound came on, and we were treated to the president of the Israeli Bar promising to make the exam harder and harder-he campaigned on the platform that Israeli schools graduate too many lawyers. We can discuss that another time. Then the singer came on, but all we heard was static! Plus the minister of justice, Ms. Shaked, sent a You-Tube Greeting, but she was staring into the camera with a horrified expression as if someone was trying to heckle her as she spoke (LOL). A few more speeches, then a graduate gave a kind of valedictorian speech, and then they were to come to the diploma rooms to see their proud but now very fidgety families. Finally, the piece de resistance: they called up the three top scores on the Bar Exam. Number one, a young woman, Number two: another woman and Number three: a young man. Except, that they got the names mixed up and they had no diploma for him, and then called up one more person- who was not there. I guess they were not to be outdone by Miss Universe (ask Ariel if you didn’t get that one). Finally, Ariel arrived in our conference room, received his diploma and we took some great pictures. AND we are extremely proud of all he accomplished. We also give many kudos to Gila and Elisha, who had to deal with countless late nights and all the accompanying hard knocks it takes to deal with a legal intern (sort of like a peds resident, right Daniella?)

Since the ceremony ended in Jerusalem at about 7:30, and we would not get back to Gila and Ariel’s home till after Elisha went to bed, we saved the celebratory dinner for Thursday. I spent the night in Netanya and did some work and came to Givat Shmuel to meet Elisha, Gila and Ariel in the park. We had lots of fun, in spite of the parking cop’s over-exuberance (we got a parking ticket while I was walking back from the meter to put the receipt in the car), and then had a great dinner at a new Japanese restaurant near their home. Of course we will also celebrate when they come to Montreal to visit on June 22! Elisha is terrific, talking long sentences, and very active (as it should be). He takes great pleasure in somersaulting backwards down a mini-side at the play structures in the mall (much to his parents’ horror)!

Friday noon is the Wedding of Nomi Zysblat, cousin Linda and Alan’s youngest daughter, to Adi near Jerusalem. This should be quite an experience as Nomi has many musicians friends (we saw Nomi perform last year and she is amazing) and a lot of their friends/guest will be bringing instruments.  The wedding was awesome and I promised Linda a special blog about it next week! Ariel and Gila will be in Jerusalem too, and we will return to Netanya together for Shabbat. We are really looking forward to some down time after a hectic week; in fact, next week Gila finishes classes, Gila, Ariel and Elisha will come to Montreal for a few weeks. Stay tuned!
We wish you all a warm and sunny Shabbat Shalom!

Happy Father’s Day on Sunday, to all the Dads!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Welcome to Ezra!

It’s hard to think of a much more exciting or heartwarming event in life than the arrival of a new baby. Everyone is moved by the miracle of a new life, by the unlimited potential of the new baby, and by the joy of the parents and the whole family. So, this Israel-based blog takes a turn to the North, as we are in Buffalo to celebrate the arrival of the newest Mazer, Ezra Moshe, born last Wednesday May 25th, 2016 to Daniella and Monty and to big sister Tali.

We (Bruce, Barbara and Grandma) left Montreal for Buffalo on Tuesday, in order to celebrate the baby’s Brit Mila, or ritual circumcision, on Wednesday morning. If you think about it, this creates another link in an unbroken chain that connects Ezra to the Jewish people starting from Abraham through the millennia to today. The custom is that a baby boy is circumcised and receives his name on the 8th day of life if he is in good health. Thank G-d that all was aligned and Monty and Daniella and Daniella’s parents Rochel and Chuck Wagner, planned out a lovely celebration with the help of the local caterer Bob Alt. We chipped in with some Montreal delicacies from Kosher Quality, including cheese bagels, mini-danish and pretty cookies. The cheese bagels will get some repeat business for Mr. Klein, that is almost guaranteed! The service was performed by Rabbi Koropkin of Toronto, the Rabbi of the Wagner’s Synagogue.  We were joined by a large number of the Young Israel of Buffalo Community, as well as family and friends who came from near and far to join; Daniella’s siblings Yonati, David and his wife Sharona, and Adin; Elan and Shoshana came from Toronto, Chuck’s sisters Jeannie and Evy, Andy and our nephew Jonah, as well as friends from T.O., the Greens (x2), the Shields, the Piwkos, the Hermanns, and Zev Kessler from Cleveland. To top it off, we had a surprise special appearance from Nina and Rabbi Mordechai Glick from Teaneck NJ! All went well with the baby, the breakfast was terrific and a great time was had by all.

After the Brit, we spent time at our hotel (conveniently located across the street from the synagogue and only a few minutes walk from Daniella and Monty’s house. We spent the afternoon chatting with Zev and Andy, and playing with Tali, hanging around the pool, playing soccer (Sabi has to learn how to play goalie; the ball kept going through his legs!!) and starting the numerous art projects that Savti is THE expert at. As long as it has purple, we are cool, right Tali?

Like any new baby, sleep time for the parents is precious, and Daniella’s mom and dad have been super helpful. We have chipped in with errands and some of the cooking as we head toward Shabbat. Yonati is coming back for Shabbat and we will soon pick up Tali from school. I think we can all agree that there is nothing like family being together and we treasure these special moments.

To end, I think it is appropriate to include a thought from the D’var Torah Monty delivered at the Brit. The weekly Torah portion is called B’chukotai, meaning “with my laws”; it begins “If you observe my laws and follow them” and proceeds to describe the blessings of following the laws and subsequently the curses of not following G-d’s ways. The concept is really that of a covenant, or “Brit” in Hebrew. In the next week we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, which is the holiday commemorating when the Ten Commandments and the Torah were given, the most concrete sign of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish People. We welcome Ezra with the Brit Mila to be a full member of a people who have had many ups and many downs, just like the blessings and the curses that are described in the Torah Portion. We pray that our new arrival, Ezra Moshe, will have nothing but blessings and many many years as a healthy productive member of our people and society!

We wish you all an amazing Shabbat!

Happy Yom Yerushalayim!

Happy Birthday to Grandma!
Happy Birthday to our niece Aviva!

Happy Anniversary to Nomi and Elan!
Happy Anniversary to Daniella and Monty!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Feb 5-12 Shabbat Parasha Teruma

Well, my plane landed on schedule and I made it to Netanya last Friday in plenty of time for Shabbat, even though I missed my train. My bad, really. I did not realize that 1) the track I was on was the correct one and went up to the information area only to get the information that no-body knew anything; 2) I did not read the signs to figure out that (like in the Montreal Metro) the trains are called by the last stop and I needed to get on the Binyamina train, since there is only one train that ends in Netanya every 4 hours; 3) by the time I figured it out, I found that I had been on the right platform only to watch my train leave. At least there is a Binyamina train every half hour, so it was not too close to Shabbat. Barbara and I did something very Israeli; we picked up falafel for lunch from an amazing place right near the train station. That is actually a unique feature of Israel. Some of the best places to eat are in train stations or attached to gas stations. The best shawarma on route 4 is attached to a gas station near Ariel’s house, for example, and Jerusalem’s train station has amazing restaurants. And now you know where to go when you are hungry….

Shabbat with Ariel, Gila and Elisha was great, with Elisha not minding the extra attention one bit (in fact he kind of liked it!). The weather was lovely, and we all got some much needed rest. Thanks to Barbara and Gila the meals were terrific. An interesting sidebar: our synagogue here, the Young Israel of North Netanya is hiring a new Rabbi. The candidate the search committee felt was the best fit spent last Shabbat in the shul and spoke and met the congregants. The Rabbi came across very well; He is young (early thirties) yet experienced, a polished English speaker who grew up in Israel, then in Denver CO, then back to Israel and worked recently in England.  The selection process was interesting to say the least; the search committee interviewed several candidates but presented only one to the community. That led to a bit of discussion, I am sure. In addition, while the name of the synagogue in the You
ng Israel, the average age is well over 60 if not older; one acquaintance in Toronto calls it the “Grumpy Old Men Shul”. It is made up primarily of retired British citizens from London and Manchester, with a smattering of Americans, Canadians and Israelis. Sometimes you wonder if you have not actually been transported to London. In fact, I am not sure grumpy is the right descriptor; more like “Prim and Proper”” in a distinctly British way. But on Simchat Torah, there was plenty of good whiskey and people were anything but grumpy!

As you heard here exclusively last post, this trip was primarily for Barbara attending the Israeli Science and Technology in Rehabilitation meeting which took place Monday through Wednesday. Barbara gave two presentations and we stayed at a lovely Art Deco Hotel, Herod’s in Tel Aviv. Three mornings of great Israeli hotel breakfast! (PS, if you don’t know what that really means, ask, I will be happy to give details and watch you drool). The conference was really good, but there were some quirky things, primarily that the locale was in a suburb of Tel Aviv (Rishon LeTziyon) which was 20-25 minutes from the hotels, and there was only one shuttle per day going and coming back. Considering the shuttle left the hotels areas at the crack of dawn but the meetings did not start till 9, this left a lot of participants shaking their heads. However, since we had a rental car anyway, we were able to shuttle ourselves and some of Barbara’s colleagues around pretty well at more reasonable times. Monday evening, we had dinner with Debbie and Chaim Feldman at a pretty upscale place called Meatos. As we were finishing, a large group of Montrealers on a fundraising mission, including Rabbi Poupko, walked into the restaurant. I guess the Feldman’s (who suggested the place) have good taste!
While Barbara was at the conference, I was also working. I had meetings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with scientists that I know, about a project we are developing on understanding how food allergy begins in early life. I also had meetings about making more connections between the Montreal Children’s Hospital and Israeli medical schools and research institutes. Lots of interesting and fruitful discussions took place. In the evenings, we visited with Elisha (and his parents) picking him up from day care and playing in the park (yes, Canadians, we were in the Park in February). He is now sleeping in a toddler bed and will be two at the end of the month! He is as also easy to spot, with a great head of red hair and a huge smile.

Thursday and Friday were more laid back. Yesterday we picked up Elisha at daycare at noon and went to have lunch with Abba (Ariel) which means a trip to Tel Aviv which is super exciting.  We went back to Netanya to do all the things two year olds like; wander up and down steps, play with the fountain, be chased, and get rides on backs and shoulders. Ariel joined up last night for a take out sushi dinner. Friday was more outdoor time, with walks along the boardwalk, to the city square and finally to the beach. It is very bright and sunny, and 18-20C, which is just fine to walk in the sand and splash in the surf! We brought home a very tired Elisha just in time for a nap so the rest of us can prepare for Shabbat.

Wishing you the most amazing Shabbat and a warm and restful weekend (with an accent on warm!)

Mazel Tov to the Broncos!

Mazel tov to Gail on the birth of a new grandson, third child for Dassy and Ashi

Happy Birthday to Lenny!
Happy 2nd Birthday to Elisha!
Happy Birthday to Gila!

We wish a Refuah Shlema to Zysle bat Bella, Naama bat Devorah, and Noam Shmuel Chaim ben Yehudit