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GREEK ISRAELI RELATIONS – CHANGES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

I am sitting on the porch of the Cafein in the upscale community of Haifa in Israel known as Horev It is named after the mount where Moses received the ten commandments. In this area there is a small canyon or mall, several cafes and middle class homes. This community has a mixed population of Jewish, Christian and Muslims. I am eating Moussaka, drinking Arak a local variation of Greek Ouzo, and watching the pedestrians pass by which is my favorite afternoon pleasure except for the Shabat or Sabbath of course. I can see the namal or port where many of the workers trace their roots back for centuries to Salonika.
There is a lot of news currently about the changing relations between Israel and Greece, including the tripartite agreement between Israel, Greece and Cyprus. I decided to learn more about the history of the relationship between Judaic and Hellenic culture. We are one week away from Passover and I am surprised to find how amazingly the relationship between the 2 cultures has endured over the centuries. The Hellenic influence began in 332 BCE when Alexander the greatconcurred the world including much of this region. The two cultures at times clashed but ofter shared values. Many of the ancient Hebrews took Greek names, wore togas, and even the tallit was influenced by the Greek pissim or stripe. The Jewish Sanhedrin or higher court has a Greek morphology. During the Passover Sedar Jews are expected to lean rather than sit upright similar to ancient Greek aristocracy. The word afikoman is also a Greek word.
The Hellenic influence also extended to included Christianity. In Jerusalem, The Greek Altar of Calvary, Church of the Holy Sepulchre is widely considered the holiest site in Christianity. The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is an Autocephalous Orthodox Church within the wider communion of Orthodox Christianity and it is headed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem
The nature of modern ties between the two countries were rekindled on the rebirth of modern Israel in 1948. Along with Cuba, Greece was one of only two Christian-majority nations to vote against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Following the signing of armistice agreements confirming Israel’s survival in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Greece recognized the State of Israel on 15 March 1949, although it was diplomatically represented in Tel Aviv on lower-than-embassy level. For many years Greece was seen as very pro-Palestinian.
Since May 1991, however, relations between the two countries have been upgraded from Diplomatic Representation to Embassy level. Whilst relations between the two countries have been less warm in the late 20th century, since 2008 they have become the strongest relations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Greece consider each other as strong collaborator in the aspects of military intelligence, economy and culture. Both countries are part of the Energy Triangle which referred to the extraction of oil and gas from both Israel and Cyprus, these supplies being delivered to mainland Europe with a pipeline through Greece. Israel-Greece relations have been heavily influenced by the relation between Israel and Turkey. Haifa is the center of Israel’s energy industry and largest port. It is guesstimated that as much as thirty trillion dollars of energy could betraded in the future.
The joint Cyprus-Israel oil and gas explorations centered on the Leviathan gas field just west of Haifa is an important factor for Greece, given its strong links with Cyprus, the third member of the tripartite. The Greeks are looking to expand their economy with the western nations and see Israel as a conduit to this goal.

So what lies ahead? Greece sees Israel as a reliable secure source of energy in the years ahead in a turbulent region of the world. Israel sees Greece as a gateway to trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. May the relationship prosper.

This week is was announced that Israel and Turkey are moving closer to cooperation between the two nations. Turkey has a strong interest in Israels offshore energy supplies which will reduce Turkeys dependency on Russia for its energy needs. Israels Prime Minister has expressed confidence that an agreement will be in place within 60 days.

Building a Chabad Spiritual Home for Anglos in Haifa Israel.

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I am sitting at The Dan Panorama Mall writing this post at my favorite café. The upscale mall houses high end clothing and jewelry stores. There are several restaurants, a beauty salon, and a pharmacy. The community Chabad center is located here as well. It is my spiritual home and favorite place to buy religious artifacts and handmade paintings and home décor. The Rabbi is named Levi Yitzchak. He is about thirty, razor thin, dark hair, and smiles consistently. He has six children ranging from eleven months to eleven years in age. My favorite is his eleven month  old daughter named Devorah or bee. She already beams her father’s smile. I visit the store almost daily in the hope that the kids will be there.

In the course of two years Levi and I have discussed the need to promote English language courses in our community in various topics of Judaism. Chabad is recognized throughout the world for the superb quality of its spiritual teachings. I chose to study at a Chabad center for a year before immigrating to Israel. My classes included Talmud, Tanach or Bible, and tutoring in Hebrew. They have my deepest appreciation for their support.

What is Chabad-Lubavitch?

Chabad-Lubavitch is a major movement within mainstream Jewish tradition with its roots in the Chassidic movement of the 18th century. In Czarist and Communist Russia, the leaders of Chabad led the struggle for the survival of Torah Judaism, often facing imprisonment and relentless persecution for their activities. After the Holocaust, under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak Schneerson and his successor, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, Chabad became a worldwide movement, caring for the spiritual and material needs of all Jews, wherever they could be found.

Today, over 3,000 Chabad centers are located in more than 65 countries, with a new center opening on the average every ten days. In South Africa, South America, Russia, Australia, the UK, and many parts of the USA, and of course Israel. Chabad has become a dynamic and dominant force within the Jewish community.

This week Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and I decided to act on our dream of establishing a study center for English speaking immigrants and visitors in Haifa.

We visited the Habad center in Safed to meet their leader there Eyal Riess.www.tzfat-kabbalah.org). He has decades of experience in planning and administering programs for English speaking individuals. He speaks the tongue of Shakespeare wonderfully but sounds a bit British. He actually was born and raised in Israel.

He is housed at The International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah was founded in the Old City of Safed in 2007 by the Jewish Federation of Palm BeachFlorida, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the Jewish Agency for Israel to promote Safed as a kabbalah center.

The center has a “Visitors center on the history of the Kabbalah of Safed”, a lecture and study room, and a library. The center holds seminars and workshops in receipt of Safed rabbis, visitors, and local residents.


Eyal Riess (on the right), yes, with Paula Abdul!

Eyal Riess and Rabbi Levy Yitzchak have a list of English speakers from Haifa and the surrounding communities who have inquired about starting classes in our city. We added a team leader Zecharya Gonsher, who was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He made aliyah at the age of 28 where he met his Israeli wife through the help of a Chabad shadchanit (matchmaker). Zach earned his MSW in family clinical therapy in St Louis, MO, where he connected to Chabad. He lives in adjacent Kiryat Ata with his wife, Liat, who works as a doula, pregnancy and birthing coach, and newborn twins.

The Reform Jewish Movement has some classes in our community. My very close friend Rabbi Edgar Nof hosts a Pirke Avot group one day a week, for example. However, there are those Jews who are more oriented to other streams of Judaism. We are planning to have an open house in the fall to build a garin or seed of those interested in supporting this program. It will be sponsored by our Dan Panorama center.

On August 20th, we held our first activity. Rabbi Riess hosted and spoke at a “meet and greet”. He presented a spiritually uplifting lecture about Jewish values. We had more than two dozen participants. Most committed to attend and support further activities in our program. They did and our group has grown.

We added a crash course on Yom Kippur, our most holy day of observance on September 10th. Two days later we celebrated the holy day together. We converted the upstairs café in the mall to a bet Knesset or synagogue. Dozens of people attended prayer and thanked us for the convenience of a prayer site in our community. “Several of us are senior citizens or have medical limitations and came to pray by local homes” noted one of those attended our make shift sanctuary. Israel does not generally permit transportation on Yom Kippur. I loved the fact that my home is directly across the street from the new place of prayer.

The host also hosted a Party in the Sukkah on the 23rd at the largest Synagogue in our community. Thirty to forty of us sang, told stories about Sukkoth, eat lots of food and drank a bit of Jack Daniels. Kids danced and laughed to the joy of us all.

We now have a Parashat Ha Shavuah twice a month led by Zacharia. Women study together in a group hosted by Zach’s wife Liat. Our group continues to grow and share the joys of studying our faith, Judaism together. We host people from all streams of the Jewish world join together to learn and enjoy friendships new and old.

Come and join us this week for our first Hanukkah celebration together and share the joyous occasion together. Come all and bring a friend!! Special Mazal Tov to our friend and mentor Rabbi Eyal Riess and his Bat Mitzvah “student” Paula Abdul.

Zecharya for details – 058-545 4770 from Haifa!

The Holy See and Israel: Building Bonds and Promoting Peace.

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Peace is Possible.

I just finished dining at the exquisite Hotel Dan Panorama buffet in my home of Haifa. One of the managers is a Catholic born resident of this wonderful city. His family came to Haifa nearly one hundred and fifty years ago from Italy. We talked about the recent headlines which referred to a proposed visit by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The purpose of this post is to inform the readers about the history of relations between The Holy See and Israel and some of the efforts to strengthen bonds between Rome and Jerusalem.

Relations between Judaism and Catholicism have experienced centuries of tension, strife, misunderstandings, and, sadly often, hatred and violence. The nature of communications between Israel and The Vatican has been no exception.

The state of Israel was reborn in 1948 after a prolonged and, at times, agonizing wait. Two thousand years in exile and often great suffering had taught us that Judaism cannot exist, let along flourish, until we have returned to our eternal homeland. “Next Year in Jerusalem” has been on the lips and in the hearts of my people for centuries.

The Vatican resisted the establishment of both a Palestinian and Jewish homeland in the years of The British Mandate for a variety of reasons:

The Vatican wanted control of the holy places to be in the hands of neither group. The strains between Islam and Christianity already existed and some followers of Jesus still saw Judaism as contradicting their faith. I have come to understand the passions associated with these sites during my six years in Israel. I am still thrilled each time that I visit Jerusalem which has been the bastion of my faith for three thousand years.

Jerusalem was a primary focus of those in Rome.

At the time of the proposals that culminated in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine of 1947, the Vatican, the Italian and the French governments, continued to press their own legal claims on the basis of the former Protectorate of the Holy See and the French Protectorate of Jerusalem. The world body made the city an international entity.

Formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel were only established in 1993 after the adoption of the Fundamental Accord by the two States. This was more than forty years after the rebirth of the Jewish homeland. The years between 1948 and 1993 saw the interests of the Catholic Church in Israel were looked after by the Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custodian of the Holy Land, all of which continue to function.

Papal Meetings, Visits, and Historic Changes

Pope John Paul II: Diplomacy for a New Millennium

In 1964, Pope Paul VI traveled to Jerusalem on an unofficial visit. His visit was the first of a Holy See to the Jewish State. The event lasted just eleven hours and was for the purpose of supporting followers of Catholicism in the region. The trip was applauded by the international community. Though the Vatican did not yet officially recognize the State of Israel at that time, the Pope did agree to meet with the Israeli president.
The visit was hailed by media throughout the world as a groundbreaking step in international diplomacy. Unlike the previous visit of Paul VI, this one had official status. In addition to visiting Christian holy sites, John Paul II visited the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. The Holocaust is always in the hearts and souls of Jews throughout the world. We must never forget the loss of six million of our brethren. Their only crime was to pray in a Synagogue or come from such a background.

The visit of John Paul II in 2000 cast the relationships between the Holy See and Israel in a new light.

Pope John Paul II arrived in Israel March 21, 2000, for a historic five-day visit. During his trip he visited the holy sites of the three major religions and met with Israel’s political leaders and Chief Rabbis. The trip focused on religion, but the Pope also touched on political issues. He blessed Israel, expressed support for a Palestinian homeland and apologized for sins committed by Christians against Jews. Sadly, many Jews still judge our Christian friends on the basis of acts that occurred long ago and by a minority of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Israelis view our nation as primarily a political entity. The Vatican of course is the spiritual center of Catholicism. The difference in perspectives in this respect can often create tension between the Vatican and Israel.

The Pope’s confrontation with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust excited the gratitude and admiration of Jews worldwide.

It the first time that any Pope had visited these sites that is central to Judaism. He left a prayer note at the Western Wall in accordance with Jewish custom, and this note was later enshrined at Yad Vashem.

The Papal visit of 2009
Without doubt, a positive highlight of Ratzinger’s Papacy was the May 2009 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Gestures that could mean upgrading relations with Israel were taken into account prior to his trip. Before entering Israel, the Pope made an unexpected gesture in his speech on Arab-Muslim soil on Mt. Nebo invoking Moses, the Promised Land and its link to the chosen people. Moreover, on the same occasion he stressed the inseparable link of Christianity to the Jewish people while invoking their common heritage of the Tanach (OT) and their common tradition of pilgrimage.

Pope Benedict XVI was the first chief pontiff to make a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity. I have rarely suffered this injustice but friends and family have endured this type of attack. Hopefully, people of all backgrounds will learn from this great leader and practice “The Golden Rule”. I was in Haifa during this historic event and was thrilled as were many Israelis by this wonderful act by a great leader.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis began his papacy with an expression of friendship towards the people of Israel when he met with Israeli president Shimon Peres at the Vatican on April 30, 2013. During a meeting with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin on June 6, 2013, the Pope announced it was his intention to visit Israel, but did not specify a date. His has promised the world to continue efforts to promote friendship and justice between our faiths.

“I would like to underline that the problem of intolerance must be faced in its entirety,”… “When any minority is persecuted and marginalized on account of its religious beliefs or ethnic origin, the good of society as a whole is placed in danger, and we must all consider ourselves affected.” Quote by Pope Francis on topic of religious intolerance.

Religious intolerance and lack of unity has been a primary source of conflict and war since the beginning of time. The Golden Rule should be a guide to followers of the major faiths and is an integral part of their teachings. In my opinion, Catholicism is making sincere efforts to promote peace and brotherhood throughout the world.

I urge everyone to learn about the efforts of The Focolare, to promote interfaith dialogue in the Middle East and throughout the world. During the past six years, I have been blessed to participate in many interfaith events with The Focolare in Israel. They have included a monthly study session in both the Old and New Testaments. We enjoyed interfaith youth sports events in both Haifa and Caesarea. There was a concert at The Technion in Haifa in the spring of this year. Youth from Israel, Palestine, and several nations shared these wonderful and inspiring activities. Below are some examples of their efforts to promote unity. I feel so blessed to consider these people to be my friends.

For further information, please view these websites:
www.waysofpeace.com
http://www.unitedworldproject.org/en/
United World Project – home
www.unitedworldproject.org
Kampala, August 2011From the 10th to 13th May 2013, the little town…
http://www.run4unity.net/2012/en/terra-santacesarea2/ run4nity Caesaria
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jhF6oRrbRU run4unity Haifa
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DaJoxj63Es Interfaith retreat in 2010 in Northern Israel
http://www.focolare.org/area-press-focus/en/news/2013/10/25/premio-…

My documentary showing a side in life in Israel/Palestine that will amaze you!

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Please view my documentary about my life in Haifa since I immigrated to this wonderful city in 2007. It has earned its title of “The City of Peaceful Coexistence”. 
Leaders throughout the world support these efforts.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws6kaH0EDUw

GOOD AND EVIL BY EARL J. SHUGERMAN: Israeli and Palestinian Claims to Statehood.

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In his recent speech at Bar-Ilan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his passionate claim – the occupation is not the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He stated that the process by which the conflict started in actual fact in 1921 on the day on which the Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigration hostel in Jaffa. “Clearly, this attack was not about territory or settlements; it was against Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu also mentioned the Arab rejection of the 1947 United Nations Partition plan, which predated the occupation as well as the Arab hostility toward the State of Israel prior to 1967. The Palestinians have yet to formally recognize Eretz Cnaann. Just two of our neighbors Egypt and Jordan have done so.

Indeed, the conflict between the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel and the Arabs did not begin in 1967.  Arabs long ago viewed the Jewish settlement and state as foreign bodies. They began to fight them as soon as it became clear that the Zionist movement’s political goals included the establishment of a political entity in areas they considered to be theirs.

The roots of the conflict lie in the fact that the Arabs are not a mob, stated Bibi, but are part of a national movement. These two national movements have demanded sovereignty over the same territory. So if Netanyahu was trying to make a historic point, he was right in my opinion. The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not in the occupation of 1967 but date back many centuries. The struggle for control of the holy land can be traced to Biblical as well as historic roots.

The historic and legal rights of the Jewish people to claim the State of Israel, including its eternal capital Jerusalem as its national homeland, date back more than three thousand years.

G-d promised this land to the patriarch of Judaism, Abraham. In my opinion, this is the most important and binding of the claims. History has shown that Judaism cannot flourish spiritually or physically without its home in the Promised Land.

The early history of the Jewish people’s connection to Israel begins in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 12. God first speaks to Abraham, and continues through to the end with the death of Jacob and Joseph. This segment can best be described as the development of the “family” of Israel, which, in the Book of Exodus, will become a “nation.”

God said to Abram: “Go from your land … to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)There has been a continual presence of the Jewish people in the land of Cnaann for nearly three thousand years. Even after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in the Land of Israel continued and often flourished. Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberius by the ninth century. The Crusaders massacred many Jews during the 12th century, but the community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of Rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent Rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem and elsewhere during the next 300 years. The Talmud and other Jewish teachings were compiled in the Galilee and other parts of the area.

The city of Jerusalem is, was, and will remain the spiritual center of Judaism. The Western Wall or Kotel is a remnant of the ancient edifice that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism. According to the Tanakh or Bible, Solomon’s Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. Two thousand years ago Jews were expected to pray in The Temple. According to classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative “footstool” of God’s presence and a Third Temple will be built there in the future. Many of the religious practices and customs in modern Judaism trace their origin back to the ancient Temples in Jerusalem. 

By the early 19th century which was years before the birth of the modern Zionist movement there were more than 10,000 Jews living throughout what is today Israel. The 78 years of nation-building, beginning in 1870, culminated in the legal reestablishment of the Jewish State and homeland in 1948.

Israel’s international and legal claim to be the Jewish homeland validated the promise of the Bible. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration, the United Nations partition resolution of 1947, Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states support Israel’s legal, moral, and political right to be an independent and recognized nation.

The 1947 United Nations Mandate for Palestine did indeed divide the British colony into a Jewish and Arab nation. Every Israeli leader since Ben Gurion accepted this resolution. Those who reject this resolution negate the right of both nations to their homelands.

Do the Palestinians not have the right to a homeland? Many are not terrorists or a threat to the State of Israel. The Palestinians now control much of the territory granted to them by The United Nations Partition Plan. 

The law states that the residents of Israel and Palestine have the legal right to their national homelands! The rule of law must prevail! The majority of citizens on both sides of the border want their own and independent nations. Why should this right be denied to them? Israel has been the spiritual, religious, and national homeland of the followers of Judaism for thousands of years; Many Palestinians trace their roots in the region back for centuries as well. Why should these historical rights be denied?

I sincerely hope and pray that the leaders in this region will learn to respect these historical, spiritual, and legal realities and reach compromises that lead to peace and justice for both nations! Both the Jewish and Palestinian people have the right to live in peace, safely, justice and with dignity. Neither side is entirely good or evil or right or wrong but nations claiming their rights to exist.

Again, Alone in Haifa Israel.

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By Sharon Amov and Earl Shugerman: Sharon is an eighty six year old widow and recent immigrant to Israel. I immigrated to Israel at the age of fifty nine alone as well. She is from California. My home was in Colorado. Below Sharon tells her story.

My dear husband died a few years ago. I was desolate. The loneliness was overwhelming. I missed him terribly. For many years I struggled to regain my balance, and then I decided to move to Israel, to live near my daughter and family. They made aliyah or immigration to eretz Israel fifteen years ago.

I remember my flight to Israel, peering out of the airplane window, viewing the outline of Israel’s shoreline. Many people in the plane were clapping as we approached the landing field. My response was a combination of quiet joy and apprehension.

“What will it be like to actually LIVE in Israel” I thought to myself? I have visited my daughter and my family s often, but always with my husband. To reside alone in Israel….although I had made the decision seemed absolutely unreal to me.

Southern California was my home since birth. I was eighty-four years of age and frightened. Terrified might be a better description.

My daughter and son-in-law would be waiting for me in the public area. I picked up my luggage and off I went to my uncertain future.

There she was, my one and only daughter….waving at me, all smiles. Perhaps she expected me to be exactly as she had last seen me, a year or so ago. And I expected her to be as I had last seen her. Oh our expectations–how very difficult, if not impossible to meet.

How unprepared I was for the depth of pain, separation from relatives in the United States, and lifetime friends, along with familiar voices and places. I missed the beautiful beaches, the familiar shopping malls, and even the traffic jams at rush hour.

We manage to arrive at the car in the airport parking lot, numb with our own overwhelming feelings. We drove to the nice little house that my daughter and son-in-law had prepared for my arrival. The physical work of making a house into a home ahead lay ahead of me. The mental and emotional work would be a daily project.

I plopped right down in the middle of relationships and lives that have been going on without me for fifteen years. I knew that my main priority would be to keep myself separate and still stay close to my loved ones. How very difficult that is especially in a new homeland.

We went for a drive, to once again see the lovely Israeli countryside. I lost my way in the twisting roads, unfamiliar buildings and lush green fields. The people seemed helpful but not overly friendly.

We returned ‘HOME’. I sat alone and the enormity of my move to Israel engulfed me. How would I find a comfortable place within my family again? How would I make new friends, develop interests and start anew at my ageWell, we shall see what the future shall bring.

However, in the meantime, here I am again, alone.

The Madame.

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I am writing this story from the Kapiot Café in Haifa Israel. My status in life is that of an oleh chadash or new immigrant to the land of Canaan. I moved here six years ago at the age of fifty nine from Western Colorado. Retirement has many advantages in this splendid city. The balmy Mediterranean climate, the beautiful beach and tiyelet or boardwalk make Haifa a wonderful place for hiking, swimming, fishing, and leisurely walks. There are many historical sites, three major universities, and spiritual shrines including the Bahia Gardens and Elijah’s tomb.

I was blessed to live most of my adult life in the beautiful woods of Western Colorado. Hiking, camping, fishing, and viewing wildlife made life a wonderful experience. My career was servicing the employment needs of people with disabilities for various government agencies. Blessings indeed adorned my life.

That brings us to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Life in the steel city of my youth was gray in the truest sense of the word. I often left for Taylor Allderdice High School in a white shirt in the morning. Many times I returned home in a grey shirt which was victimized by the infamous pollution of the era. School was either an hour walk in the cold and rainy climate or a crowded bus ride. The Pittsburgh Steelers were then the goats of professional football, but the Pirates blessed us with their 1960 miracle World Series victory and sadly little more than that.

Dad was a grocery executive and rarely home. Mom suffered from serious medical problems and was very distant from me and my two sisters. Life (except for golf) was bleak and dull. Thank goodness for the Madam.

Mom’s faltering health necessitated the need for nearly full time domestic help. Lulu was an African American woman in her fifties when she first came to our service. She was thin and walked softly. One of many joys that we enjoyed with the Madame was ongoing quips about her age. She was born and raised in Tupelo Mississippi in the late nineteenth century and refused to tell us her true age. We found out when her time came that she was born in 1870. She died in 1971. She was blessed to live a long and healthy life. She was still active at the age of 97! The good do not always die young.

Lulu (the Madam) was raised in a sharecropper’s family of nine children. She married an alcoholic mill worker who abused her physically and mentally. Life for a blacked skinned woman anywhere in America in those days was a disgrace. She ran away from her husband after nine years and settled in Memphis Tennessee where she worked as a seamstress and housekeeper. Pittsburgh became her home in 1955 when her family moved there to work in the steel mills. She came to us through a friend Mrs. Feldman and was a part of our family until the end.

She took care of mom’s health, served as a surrogate mom to us, cleaned our home, cooked, and served as the secretary of her church. Many of us go through life with frowns on our faces; she always had a bright smile on hers. I learned to appreciate Chili Stew with egg noodles, lemon meringue pie, Chicken Fricassees, and most importantly spirituality from this humble yet brilliant and talented woman. She was a wonderful public speaker and outstanding singer. Her greatest talent of course was her ability to motivate and bring joy to the lives of others. Dad often mused about her potential in a world with more equality and justice.

I left Pittsburgh at the age of eighteen and never returned. There were the wonderful visits with family especially Lulu. We spent hundreds of hours discussing the value of faith in life. She was a fervent Christian yet urged me to explore, understand, and adore my Jewish faith. “The Golden Rule should be universal”. She admonished me to live by it. Hopefully, I have not let her down.

Lulu was so humble that she rarely talked about herself. We discovered after her death that she was a passionate civil rights activist and traveled in very famous circles. She refused to fly and traveled by bus to confront injustices in America. “I want to be as far away from my maker when my time comes”, she explained to us often. The only time that she broke her sacred rule was to attend my wedding.

She was born Lulu Robinson but spent her last thirty years known as The Madam. How did this occur? There were many times during my high school years that a man only known as the Bishop called our home to speak to her. “Is The Madam there he would quiz in a deep apparently southern voice”. She was the secretary of his church and her title was Madam Robinsom. I never understood it but loved the title and never ceased to tease my friend about her name.

I think often about my best friend as I pursue my greatest passions in life that of promoting interfaith dialogue and peace in this trouble region. Is there hope for these goals? Who knows” I was blessed to have a great mentor and hopefully can do my small share to bring these blessings to our region.

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