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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jewish Life in Krakow (1939)

Jewish Life in Krakow is archival footage that forms part of the collection of The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive of Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It depicts an aspect of Jewish life in prewar Poland, in its chief  cultural centre, a city where Jews contributed a great deal. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum writes that “on the eve of the war some 56,000 Jews resided in Krakow, almost one-quarter of a total population of about 250,000.” After the war, the numbers tell a different story, writes JewishGen: “In 1948, the post-holocaust Jewish population had been decimated to about 5,900, and by 1978, the number had dwindled to a mere 600.” Along with the death of the men, women and children was the death of a rich and vibrant Yiddish culture. A culture cannot be sustained without people who give it life. Mayle, what was destroyed by human hands can never be regained, only remembered with great sadness. Vos iz geven iz geven.
Via: Youtube

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Arbetlose Marsch (1937)

Arbetlose Marsch [Song of the Unemployed] was written and composed by Mordechai Gebirtig [born Markus Bertig; 1877–1942].  Like so many other Polish Jews at the time, he was murdered by the Nazi/Fascist beast in the Warsaw Ghetto. Another version that I would recommend is by Daniel Kahn [here], a modern version yet telling the same story of rusted factories and people not working. The singer here is Ernst Busch [1900–1980], a lifetime communist who fled Nazi Germany in 1933, settling initially in The Netherlands before going to the Soviet Union, eventually settling in East Berlin. Wikipedia writes: “A beloved figure in the German Democratic Republic, he is best remembered for his performance in the title role of Brecht’s Life of Galileo and his recordings of workers songs, including many written by Hanns Eisler. He also made a memorable recording of Peat Bog Soldiers.”
Via: Youtube

The first verse and translation is found below:

Eynts, tsvey, dray, fir, arbetsloze zenen mir.
Nisht gehert khadoshim lang
in fabrik dem hamer klang,
s’lign keylim kalt fargesn,
s’nemt der zhaver zey shoyn fresn.
Geyen mir arum in gas,
vi di gvirim pust un pas.

One, two, three, four, we are unemployed.
We have not heard all month long,
in the factory the hammer sound.
Tools lie cold, forgotten,
the rust is beginning to eat them.
While we go around on the streets,
like the rich, idle and aimless.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Primo Levi: Back to Auschwitz (1983)

Primo Levi: Back to Auschwitz (1983), recounts Primo Levi’s [1919–1987] return to Auschwitz, in 1982, as a free man but with memories of the horror intact; this was broadcast by the Italian State Television, Rai, in 1983. The interviewer is Daniel Toaff, the son of Elio Toaff, the former Chief Rabbi of Rome. Part 2 can be viewed here. Primo Levi, a trained chemist, was a lucid writer and his books rank among my favourites, which might surprise a few people when one considers what he writes about. It is precisely for this reason that I view his work as not only important but essential reading for every human being who has a conscience. Levi’s understanding of humanity, and his articulation of it, is among the best of the best. On a final note, I am among the many who view his death as accidental and in no way intentional, a dizzy spell and a fall from the interior third floor landing outside his apartment. Yet, his writing is accessible; do me the honour of reading his books. Your understanding will assuredly increase. For more, go [here], [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Via: Youtube

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Jan Peerce: Vu iz dus gesele?

Jan Peerce: Vu iz dus gesele?  [Where is the little street?] as recorded in 1963 by the great operatic tenor born as Jacob Pincus Perelmuth. The song was composed by Shalom Secunda and the lyrics by Israel Rosenberg. This song, says Yidlid, emanates from the musical “Mashe oder Margarita” (1926) and is inspired by a Polish and Russian folk songs. There is also a wonderful rendition by the incomparable Barry Sisters [born as Bagelman].
Via: Youtube

Monday, August 6, 2018

Rivkele, Rebeka: A Yiddish Tango (2016)

Rivkele, Rebeka, sung by Olga Avigail with Tango Attack, a musical ensemble composed of Hadrian Tabęcki (piano); Grzegorz Bożewicz (bandoneon); and Piotr Malicki (guitar). This is Polish-Jewish composer Zygmunt Białostocki’s [1897–1942] most beloved and often-recorded song.  This was performed at the Cultural Center Wilanów in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As one Polish cultural site puts it: “The latest project initiated by Olga Avigail Mieleszczuk is "Yiddish Tango". In 2015 the artist invited leading musicians of tango in Poland - Tango Attack to create the new arrangements of the pre-war tangos based on tradition, but in more modern formula. The singer is fascinated by the phenomenon of Warsaw of the 30's, which was the European capital of tango. The vast majority of tango pieces was composed by Polish Jews and it's uniqueness came from combination of Slavic and Jewish elements mixed with Argentinian musical influences. Tango hits were composed in Polish and Yiddish as well. ” I find this rendition hauntingly beautiful. Bialostocki was murdered by the Nazis during the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Via: Youtube