Contemplating emptiness and loss, from Birkenau to Lower Manhattan.
Special to the Jewish Week
Some holes, frankly, are not meant to be filled or tampered with.
Indeed, while equally empty, not all holes are the same. Natural geologic formations are one thing, man-made atrocities that claim human lives are quite another. One is a landmass of spectacle and curiosity; the other a burial ground and, therefore, especially sacred.
Jerusalem — Residents of Mamilla, a century-old neighborhood located right outside the Old City of Jerusalem, have been eyewitnesses to many important events in the city’s turbulent history.
In 1948 and 1967, they either fled or shuttered themselves in their homes as soldiers fought on their doorsteps. Now, during happier times, they watch tens of thousands of Israelis march to the Western Wall to celebrate holidays.
Thunderous applause greeted the first proposal for rebuilding the World Trade Center site unveiled last week by seven international design teams at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center.
The enthusiastic response by the victims' relatives, officials and reporters gathered under the indoor garden's palm trees might have been a collective expression of relief. The initial round of proposals, released in July, had been tossed out for lack of imagination and failure to inspire.
Was it really the “pro-Israel lobby” that scuttled the nomination of Chas Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council, as Freeman himself charged in an outburst after his withdrawal on Wednesday and prominent columnists like the Washington Post’s David Broder agree?
Well, it depends on you definition of “the lobby.”
As an architect, I believe it is not the literalness of what one sees in the built world that creates a Jewish environment. Instead, a Jewish urban space is more like street theater, which can be set against any backdrop. The Jewish people have never been identified by the material things of our culture (a building type, a style, a constant aesthetic), but rather by events, ideas, concepts, dialogues and other intangibles in the public realm.
When Jamie Mendelovici Geller was in the fourth grade, her mom, Goldie, contemplated building a new family home in Philadelphia — one without a kitchen. Goldie came to her senses and instead instructed the architect to place the kitchen off to the side of the house, near the garage, so she would never have to walk through the kitchen if she didn’t have to.
Berlin: The Jewish Museum Berlin is not a Holocaust museum. So insists the museum's new project director, Cilly Kugelman, who says, "We define ourselves as a German history museum that focuses on the Jewish minority in Germany." It's a distinction that may be lost on many first-time visitors to the museum's permanent exhibition, which opened to the public one year ago next week.
An influential ultra-Orthodox rabbi who supervises conversions has stepped down abruptly from the organization he has led for about five years.
Rabbi Leib Tropper resigned this week as head of Eternal Jewish Family, the Monsey-based conversion group he founded. In an official EJF press release issued late Monday, two days after Rabbi Tropper’s resignation took effect, the rabbi cited a desire to pursue “a variety of other interests.
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, a key architect of Israel’s breakthrough negotiations with the PLO in 1993 at Oslo, urged Palestinian leaders last week to stop insisting that Israel fully implement its most recent agreement with them, the Wye River Accord.
Berlin: It was a scene dripping with historical irony. On a street in this transformed former capital of Nazi Germany, a German man this week approached Philadelphia Rabbi Jacob Herber, here as part of a delegation of American spiritual leaders, and advised him to remove his kipa, fearing for his safety.
"He said, 'Sir, do you have to wear that,' " Rabbi Herber related. "It's very dangerous here because of Muslims."
"I was surprised," the rabbi said. "The fact that a German is protecting a Jew from a Muslim was unexpected."