Wednesday, August 15, 2018

5 Years Later: ‘Cancer Free’

The Cancer Journey
“Der mentsh tut hofen biz er vert antshlofen.”
Yiddish saying

Cancer Free After 5½ Years
Photo Credit:
©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

My oncologist gave me some very good news yesterday; we were discussing my latest and last CT scan. The good doctor (Dr. R.), sitting across me, first looking at the computer screen and then at me, said: “It’s five years and you are cancer free. How are you feeling”? I said, “In fact, very good. With this news, even better.” Indeed, I am one of the fortunate 64% of Canadians who are around five years later.

This is the news I was waiting to hear since I was first diagnosed in December 2012. Five-and-a-half years after being diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer, after surgery, after chemo treatments, and after post-chemo complications (CIPN) that persist, I am (finally) feeling good. You can read about the struggles, the ups and downs, the emotional roller-coaster, in “My Cancer Posts, 2012–2013.” It is a familiar journey to those who have had cancer, and yet each individual, no doubt, has his or her own story.

Other than a colonoscopy, which I have to do this year and which is a normal routine for most people my age, I will now be free of the years of medical tests and interventions. Truly, I never want to see the inside of a hospital. They are in many ways depressing places, despite the greater good they do, and despite how dedicated doctors and nurses are. Yet, it is one of those things; having a disease like cancer colors your views in many areas of life.

Even so, I want with great desire to return to a life that I love and know., a life that resonates with me. My plan is to both regain my life and rebuild my life to some semblance of normal. This includes gainful employment in doing what I know and love: writing; there is also, in my view, the necessity to have more enjoyable times with friends and family, and of course to pursue more healthy eating and living.

Not all these factors have been present in the last five-and-a-half years, at least not in sufficient degree. You see, cancer disrupts life, including the normalcy of family life. It makes other things more urgent, most notably, survival. Normalcy of life is what I seek; normalcy is what I want; normalcy is what I am working towards. Now with this good news under my belt this can and hopefully will lead to a good and better life in the near future. The sooner the better.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Columbia University in NYC Establishes First Yiddish Language Chair in America (1952)


Madame Yiddish and Her Escort. Cartoon depicting philanthropist Frank Atran escorting “Yiddish” up steps of Columbia University, celebrating the establishment of the Atran Chair in Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture, the first Yiddish studies chair in an American university (Morgn-zhurnal, 16 March 1952).
     Columbia University writes on its site: “The graduate program in Yiddish Studies began at Columbia in 1952 under the leadership of the renowned linguist Uriel Weinreich and reached international acclaim as the most important and influential center of research into the Yiddish language, Yiddish literature, and Yiddish culture. Under Weinreich and his successor, Marvin Herzog, Yiddish Studies at Columbia were located in the Department of Linguistics and were offered in close conjunction with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. As of 1989, graduate studies in Yiddish literature, linguistics and culture are directed by an Interdepartmental Committee on Yiddish Studies.”
     Other than this, I could not find out much about the history of Yiddish Studies on the Columbia University site, but did determine that Yiddish Studies at the undergraduate level at least, has been rolled into the Department of Germanic Languages. My guess is that this was an economic decision and not one based on history. I had always thought that Yiddish was its own language, but I guess such are the thoughts of a pashut Yid. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Monday, August 13, 2018

912 days of the Warsaw Ghetto (2001)

The Holocaust

“What we were unable to cry and shriek out to the world we buried in the ground….I would love to see the moment in which the great treasure will be dug up and scream the truth at the world. So the world may know ….We would be the fathers, the teachers and educators of the future….May the treasure fall into good hands, may it last into better times, may it alarm and alert the world to what happened…in the twentieth century….May history attest for us.”

Dawid Graber, age 19, August 2, 1942, Warsaw Ghetto

912 days of the Warsaw Ghetto (2001) was commissioned by the The Jewish Historical Institute [also known as the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute] located in Warsaw, Poland. Narration is by Władysław Bartoszewski [1922–2015], a noted journalist, social activist and politician, and an honorary citizen of Israel, who was part of the Polish underground and who participated in the Warsaw Uprising. Stanford University writes of this documentary: “They present the daily lives and deaths of those imprisoned in the ghetto, their hopes and efforts to survive, their armed resistance and struggle, and finally their total extermination. Unique Polish and German archival materials were used in the preparation of these films. Before World War II, Warsaw was the biggest Jewish community in Europe and second largest in the world after New York; over 380,000 Jews lived there. It was the most important center of Jewish culture in Poland and one of the most important in the world.”
     An important point that should be noted is that there was considerable Jewish resistance, and there were heroic actions by many Jews against Nazi German oppression—a point that I will flesh out in greater detail in future posts. Survival under such brutal conditions is itself a daily defiance of evil—it ought never be viewed as insignificant or made redundant in recounting the “greater narrative” of The Second World War.
    Contributing substantially to our understanding and appreciation of such efforts is the documentary record of the Ringelblum Archive and the heroic actions of the Oyneg Shabes group to preserve the historical record, and whose contributions are undeniably important to the record of the Holocaust in general and to the memory of the Jews of Warsaw in particular. Ir zent ale heldn. At a time when, in some quarters, facts are viewed with suspicion and not only questioned but subverted, it is imperative to have the facts before us to keep us sane
Via: Youtube

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Czortkow Jews on a Sunday in August (1925)

Prewar Poland

Czortkow Jews on a Sunday in August: The shops are closed, so they sit on wooden crates outside the shop window and talk. The YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland writes about this photo: “On the wall behind them is a poster advertising what appears to be a talk by Alter Kacyzne titled ‘Literature: A National Treasure’. Various items are on display in the shop window.” This photo was taken on Sunday, August 9, 1925, by Alter-Sholem Kacyzne [1885–1941], a Yiddish writer, photographer and literary critic, who was born in Vilna (then part of Russia and now called Vilnius in Lithuania). Kacyzne opened a photography studio in Warsaw in 1910; and in the 1920s, he did considerable work for di Forverts (Forward), based in New York City, where, among other artistic and literary pursuits, he documented Jewish life in Poland.
    This photo is part of such a collection. Then the war and the Holocaust disrupted everything, everything, that is, which was good and normal and beautiful. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe writes: “After the outbreak of World War II, Kacyzne left Warsaw with his wife and only daughter and found refuge in Soviet-occupied Lwów, where he participated in state-controlled theater and radio programs. Fleeing before the German advance, he arrived in Tarnopol and was killed on 7 July 1941, along with thousands of other Jews.”
    His life’s work—decades in the making—including most notably his archive in Warsaw, was also destroyed. Yet, 700 of his photos had thankfully already been sent to New York, where there are housed at the YIVO Institute, from where this photo came. Czortkow is now called Chortkiv and is part of western Ukraine. But between the two world wars it was briefly part of Poland. In 1931, the town had 19,000 people, of whom 30 percent were Jews. In 1939 just before the war, there were an estimated 10,000 Jews, JewishGen writes, and after the war only about 100 Jews remained alive.
    You can read more about the life of the Czortkow Jews [here], which was named Chortkov (טשאָרטקאָוו‬‎) in Yiddish.
Courtesy: YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland; The Forward Association

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Jewish Berlin Cabaret: Paul Godwin Orchestra (1930)

Paul Godwin Orchestra & Max Hansen: This is Weimar German Kabarett music, or more precisely Jewish Berlin Cabaret, which was popular in the 1920s and ’30s before the Nazi brutes took over and destroyed all that was good and beautiful. (So much  good was lost, destroyed by hatred!) It is so wonderful to enjoy the playfulness and freedom of the language, so apparent in the singing of Max Hansen. The song is “Was kann der Sigismund dafür, dass er so schoen ist” [How Can Sigismund Help It If He’s So Beautiful?]. Paul Godwin [1902–1982], who was born Pinchas Goldfein in Sosnowitz (Russian Empire; now Poland), left Berlin in 1933, seeing the writing on the wall, relocating for The Netherlands, where he lived the rest of his life. Max Hansen [1897–1961], born Max Josef Haller in Mannheim, Germany, was a singer, actor and a cabaret artist. He left Vienna in 1938 after Nazi Germany's invasion of that country, settling in Copenhagen. He returned briefly to Germany (1951–1953) before returning to Copenhagen, where he lived out his days.
Via: Youtube