Grodno, Belarus — Tsilia Brido remembers her early Belarus Passover in her Polotsk hometown, her grandfather leading the seders in Hebrew, women from the neighborhood baking their matzahs in her family’s large wood stove.
“It was before the war,” she says, referring to World War II. Belarus was the first of the former Soviet Union’s republics to be invaded by the German army.
Brido remembers the seders ending after 1941, first under the Nazis, then under the communists.
On a Friday in January 1973, Jesse Perlstein retired from his job as a district manager for the Robert Hall men’s clothing chain.
The following Monday morning he walked to the Samuel Field Y, a few minutes from his home in Little Neck, Queens, and signed up as a volunteer.
The next morning he walked to the Marathon Jewish Community Center, his synagogue a few minutes away, again to volunteer.
Thirty years later, Perlstein is still donating his time.
Buenos Aires — At first glance, the once-thriving capital of Argentina looks as thriving as ever. The downtown commercial area, near the banks of the Rio de la Plata river, is filled with people. The shelves of the upscale shops are stocked with the latest goods. The city’s distinctive yellow-and-black taxis cruise the streets.
But at second glance …
They come from South America, they live in Israel and they made history in Australia.
Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, Israel’s top men’s doubles team since they met at the Wingate Institute in the 1990s and competed at the highest levels of international tennis, won the doubles title at the Australian Open last week.
Their victory marked the first Israeli championship in a Grand Slam tournament — Ram had twice shared a Grand Slam mixed doubles title with a woman from another country.
The Super Bowl, this Sunday’s National Football League championship game, isn’t the only notable sports event to take place on a Feb. 3 — there was also the 26 points scored by Phil Rabin of the Kingston Colonials against the Brooklyn Jewels in a 1937 American Basketball League game, and the Buffalo Bisons’ Max Kaminsky’s 1943 appearance in the first American Hockey League All-Star Game.
The social hall of the Queens Jewish Center, an Orthodox congregation in Forest Hills, will be filled with football fans watching the Super Bowl Sunday evening. But only one will be wearing a Super Bowl ring — Alan Veingrad earned it as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, who won the 1993 National Football League championship.
Her two small children in tow, a 30-ish mother walked out of the Central Queens Y and down the front stairs this week.
A few steps away on 108th Street, her children, who had spent the morning at the Forest Hills Y’s nursery program, announced that they were hungry. Mom gave them a few dollar bills to buy snacks from a machine in the Y front lobby.
The kids raced back up the stairs; their mother trailed behind, watching them the whole way.
“I never let them out of my sight — always,” she declared.
Sofia, Bulgaria — Lili Vrangova and Richard Kanter invited only their closest friends to their wedding here the other day. But Sofian Jewry showed up. Some 500 members of the city’s Jewish community, about one-sixth of the Jews who live in the capital, came to the synagogue one Sunday morning. Uninvited but welcomed, they crowded into the sanctuary of the 91-year-old building, listened to the ceremony on loudspeakers in the courtyard and danced in the aisles.
Warsaw — At the podium was the prime minister of Poland, who began his speech with a quote from the Talmud.
In the crowd were several hundred Polish Jews — parents and grandparents of children enrolled in Warsaw’s only Jewish day school.
In the front rows sat some of the most prominent leaders of American Jewish organizations and a few hand-picked American philanthropists.
Elbasan, Albania — Maybe I should have picked another city or a different group of students.
I was teaching English to a classroom of Kosovar refugees at a refugee camp in Albania a couple of weeks ago. Introductory stuff. “Hello.” “My name is …” “How are you?”
For one’s day unit — a pretentious description for a seat-of-the-pants curriculum — I had my score of students perform drills asking and answering “Where are you from?”