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Shabbat Bulletin - November 12, 2016

Two by Two

Reb Moishe asked young Jackie what his favourite bible story was.

"I guess the one about Noah and the ark, where they floated around on the water for 40 days and 40 nights" replied Jackie.

"That was a good story," said Reb Moishe, "and, with all that water, I bet they had a good time fishing, don't you think?"

Jackie thought for a moment then replied, "I don't think so...they only had two worms."

(tnx JB)


Rabbi Eli gave an excellent sermon this week with a novel interpretation that he has previously stressed, that is, that man was created to be active in his own development and not simply to exist and be the beneficiary of God’s benevolence.

All man can think about is evil all day long
Therefore I promise to never do this again.
To never come within apocalyptic destruction of the universe

Why is G-d limiting his options in dealing with his unruly children?
Man was bad ⇒ G-d brought on the waters to destroy the universe ⇒ we begin anew.

Throughout our infancy, this has been the reoccuring story of the Jewish people.
Man disobeys, G-d punishes man, rinse-repeat. (pun intended)

Maybe it’s not about wrong-doing and it’s not about punishing. What if we didn’t do anything wrong and what if weren't infact punished.

Parsha Noah is divided into three portions, the Garden of Eden, the flood and the Tower of Babel. In the Garden of Eden, man is completely dependent on God. He doesn’t know good and evil, or hard work. He, like a child, is completely cared for. Adam and Eve's first jolt comes from being removed from the Garden of Eden, realizing that there is good and evil, and needing to work for survival.

Adam and Eve take their first step towards independence. Was their action a sin? Was the punishment justified? Or, did G-d carefully orchestrate the whole scenario?

The Tower of Babel was a monumental project that could only come to fruition through interaction, cooperation and teamwork. G-d takes away language and the tower comes tumbling down. Clearly a setback for the tower, not so much for the people. Each having to now find their own way. Another step towards independence.

The flood, rather than being a lesson in destroying evil, is a lesson that people must themselves control the environment and take care of themselves in doing so. Similarly the Tower of Babel challenged people to grow when their communication abilities are disrupted.

With greater choice comes increased responsibility. Responsibility over the land we work, our communities, our very lives. Sadly, even the leaders we choose. Oy vey.

Our creator gave us the ultimate gift, to learn from what we do right as well as from our mistakes. To grow personally and to grow as a society. As in Parsha Noach, to embrace change and at the same time hold on to what we hold dear. Today, nowhere is this need to embrace change more evident than in our shul. If we don’t embrace change we risk losing it all.  Shavua Tov.  (RE inspired)

Question by JU: Is this a call for personal growth in our community; and for consideration of the Canadian aboriginals and general society’s reliance on the government for financial and other support?

The Lodzer Music Festival.

Hope to see you all in two weeks on Sunday, November 20 at 7 PM.

Jewish Music of The Middle East (part one) presented by Cantor Aaron Bensoussan


The Jewish people and their music have their roots in the Middle East, specifically in the land of Israel, and their branches everywhere. They have lived, for over 2000 years, amongst many cultures, both Eastern and Western - from Iran to Israel, to the Western Mediterranean and North Africa, to Europe, and most recently, the Americas.

Thus, there is a unique property of Jewish music that defies geographical location. This property can be called inter-cultural synthesis.

For millennia, Jews have been global wanderers; from the beginning of the common era, about 2000 years ago, until quite recently, they have lived amidst many cultures not their own. To preserve their identity, in a sea of foreign culture, Jewish people have always deemed it wiser to incorporate foreign cultural elements into the Jewish mainstream than to resist all outer influence absolutely.

Thus, to a large degree, Jewish Music is a cross-cultural phenomenon, the music of the wanderer. Undoubtedly, certain Jewish ritual musical forms have their sources in antiquity, but the idea of creative adaptation has been a hallmark of Jewish musical life for a very long time; thus, Jewish Music has many faces. (source)

Check out the videos from our “Sundays at 7” series on YouTube

  1. The History of Klezmer Music - Raisa Orshansky and Viktor Kotov

  1. Where Does that Tune Come From? - Charles Heller

  1. The Songs of the Yiddish Theatre - Faye Kellerstein

  1. Jewish Music of North Africa - Cantor Aaron Bensoussan

  1. Jewish Role in Jazz/Israeli Jazz Scene - Reuven Grajner

  • (When it becomes available.)

  1. The Golden Age of Cantorial Music - Cantor David Nemtzov

  • (When it becomes available.)

Arthur’s Perspective - A Champion of Dual Loyalties

On Sunday afternoon, I attended the Tuwim lecture at the Lodzer, and was overly delighted to hear not only an excellent rendition of the Polish writer and poet, Julian Tuwim (pronounced Yulian Tooveem), but the highly personable presenter, Ryerson professor, Siemiatycki also gave us an exuberant and informative slice of wartime Poland.  

We learned that the fully Jewish Tuwim was born in Lodz and loved the smokestacks of the industrial Lodz textile industry, which Siemiatycki compared to Manchester, England. We learned that 'hands down', Tuwim was, and still is embraced and idolized as a kind of National Hans Christian Andersen of Poland, to all who were schooled in the Polish education system, in the last 100 years.

Tuwim's contribution was unique at the time, where he publicly wrote in his poetry and literature, of his intense love for the Polish culture and ancestry, while at the same time emphasizing publicly, his pride and devotion to his Jewish heritage, although not religious.

Siemiatycki describes that the unabashed Polish response to Tuwim's declared tenacity to his own Jewish culture was met with accusations of being a traitor to his beloved Poland, while at the same time, Jewish Poles also kept their distance from Tuwim, accusing him of not being exemplary of a Jewish icon, due to Tuwim's overblown rantings about the wonderful Poland which of course, despite some exceptions and bravery of select righteous Gentiles, otherwise had a rampant history of antisemitism.

Needless to say, Tuwim had a self-admitted troubled psyche throughout his life as a result of his dual loyalties.

During the war, Tuwim seemed to evade the brunt of the war by serving as a kind of befuddled war correspondent and fleeing the war to eventually live the rest of his life in the U.S. (Siemiatycki brought Tuwim a little closer to home, by citing the fact that Tuwim had visited Toronto for a few weeks staying at a friend's house in the Lawrence-Bayview area.)

Tuwim was married in a synagogue to his Jewish wife and they had one daughter who was known to be living in Sweden.

In some comparison to Tuwim's troubled life with his Polish-Jewish dual loyalties, do we Canadian (and American) Jews, sometimes feel guilty about our dual loyalties to our North American nationality while we support our beloved Israel, albeit at arms length -- from afar?

Kindest regards, Arthur Zins✡

Dr. Myer Siemiatycki


Tuwim recognized that cross-culturalism could land you in a cross-fire. Nor would he capitulate. In a 1924 interview he declared: “For anti-Semites, I am a Jew and my poetry is Jewish. For Jewish nationalists, I am a traitor and a renegade. TOUGH LUCK!” It was for Tuwim however, that sustaining cross-culturalism would get tougher and tougher.

Poet Julian Tuwim


Let me tell you, “We Polish Jews…”

I was born in Łódź, in that city of factory chimneys, where the misery of the conditions of the workers was most apparent. I know the worker and his life. I know how early he has to rise to go to exhausting work and how he returns home in the evening tired and worn-out. As a young boy, I witnessed the 1905 revolution in Łódź. To me, what is most important is the awareness of the injury to which people are subjected. …Pain, injury and human misery always arouse the most vigorous response from me. Whether I am writing about a poor clerk, a hunch back or an old maid, my point of departure is general human sympathy, without any clearly socialist concept. (Julian Tuwim)

Polish poet Julian Tuwim (1894-1953) created a remarkable body of work, and public profile, attempting to bridge both his Polish and Jewish identities. And sometimes bridges are swept away. Tuwim's writing and life reflect a commitment to Jewish diasporic hybridity in a more monolithic time and place. His triumphs and tragedies cast him as the interwar voice of Polish poetics, the most searing Jewish voice of Holocaust testimony, and the lost returnee to postwar Poland who brought his life to a premature end.

Julian Tuwim is too little known in the West today. He is a major poet, reflecting the dilemmas of Jewish identity in 20th century Eastern Europe. Memory has been kinder to Tuwim in his homeland. In recent years, Poland has seen a flurry of memorials and celebrations in his honour. (The ‘new Poland’ has erected a monument to Julian Tuwim on the main street of his home-city Lodz.) Is this how bridges are rebuilt?

I encourage you to explore the writing, life and legacy of Julian Tuwim. (Dr. Myer Siemiatycki)


Happy Birthdays to:

Nov. 9    Malka Arluk
Nov. 9    Cheryl Zaidman
Nov. 9    Barbara Zimmerman
Nov. 10  Miriam Epstein
Nov. 10  Neil Manley
Nov. 10  Joseph Shedletzky
Nov. 11  Josef Ber

Nov. 12  Eytan Broder
Nov. 12  Jim Rubin
Nov. 13  Ryan Rotstein
Nov. 14  Esther Kaufman
Nov. 16  Reisa Grunberg
Nov. 16  Lorraine Landis
Nov. 16  Elaine Taran
Nov. 17  Herman Auslander
Nov. 17  Esther Steiman
Nov. 18  Cathy Zeldin


Nov. 13  Mark & Anita Johnson
Nov. 17  Victor & Malka Arluk


Nov. 8  Alfred Freedman, father of Hugh
Nov. 10  Sara Grunberg, mother of Richard
Nov. 10  Edward Kafeman, father of Helene Gooding
Nov. 11  Martin Kazman, son of Rose

Nov. 13  Morris Super, father of Dora Usher
Nov. 16  Rose Spitzen, mother of Irving

Jonathan’s Rant - Let's call a spade a spade

This letter to the editor was sent to the National Post for publication on Oct 31st. It was not published. It related to an article stating that from 2001 - 2006 all terrorism was jihadist terrorism - not terrorism from the usual sources of right wing fanatics, the disenchanted or emotionally disturbed citizens.

Despite the headline of religion being the No.1 terror motive, it is not all religions but Islam that is the culprit. The March 2006 study said that “All ‘religious' terrorism dating back to 2001 was "motivated by jihadist beliefs”. Judaism emphasizes morality based on obeying and interpreting religious laws. Christianity comes to very similar conclusions based on love and the example of Jesus. Islam follows the same pathway except where it deviates by jihad, the portion of Islam which is a warlike political ideology.
This part of Islam results in terrorism and the oppression of non-Muslims and the Muslims themselves. It makes Islam different than other religions./ju


Tell it like it is - most people will get it wrong  (I did)




November 9

7:30-8:30 pm



Parsha of The Week

with Judy Hazan

Join this lively group every Wednesday night at 7:30 PM at The Lodzer where we study the week’s sedra together.

Classes are informal and no prior knowledge or preparation is required.

The purpose of the class is to learn the story of the parsha, determine its most important elements and tie its morals and lessons into our daily lives.

This is open to the public and there is no cost.

For more information contact:

Judy Hazan 416-704-1693


November 12

11 Heshvan



9:12 AM

Led by

Frank Steiman

Please help us out by coming early…

We need a minyan to start!


9:30 AM


Torah Times

Torah Reading: Triennial Year 1

Parashat: Lech Lecha
Triennial Year 1

1: 12:1 - 12:3
2: 12:4 - 12:9
3: 12:10 - 12:13
4: 12:14 - 12:20
5: 13:1 - 13:4
6: 13:5 - 13:11
7: 13:12 - 13:18
matirf: 13:16 - 13:18

Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 - 41:16

Candle Lighting: 4:37 p.m. – Friday

Havdalah: 5:44 p.m. – Saturday



November 19

18 Heshvan



9:12 AM

Led by

Frank Steiman

Please help us out by coming early…

We need a minyan to start!


9:30 AM


Prayer is meant to be a powerful, relevant and meaningful experience.

As you sit in synagogue (this Shabbat) you are joined by millions of Jews in synagogues all over the world. You are a Jew and you are making a powerful statement about your commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people.


November 20

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




Jewish Music of The Middle East:

Part One.

Presentation by:

Cantor Aaron Bensoussan


November 27

7 PM




12 Heaton St.


All classes are on Sunday at 7 pm:

Free of charge.

Donations are welcome.

Refreshments will be served following

each presentation.

This project is funded

in part by the

Government of Canada


Jewish Music of Eastern Europe.

Presentation by:

Raisa Orshansky & Viktor Kotov



December 4

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




Jewish Music of The Middle East:

Part Two.

Presentation by:

Cantor Aaron Bensoussan


December 7

Early bird




the Baltic States

With Rabbi Eli

August 7-16, 2017

Full details at


Seize the opportunity!

Early bird discount

ends today.



December 8

7:30 PM


Book Chat

with Cathy Zeldin

Black Widow-Daniel Silva_w200.jpg

A network of terror.
A web of deceit.
A deadly game of vengeance.

Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.


December 18

7 PM




12 Heaton St.




Israeli Music.

Presentation by:

Cantor David Edwards


January 19

7:30 PM


Book Chat

with Cathy Zeldin

Telling the tale

of a gay,




Siman Tov U'Mazal Tov: Shul Side Entrance



Q: Why don’t you have steps or a ramp leading to the parking lot?

A: When the door swings open, it would block people from entering the building.

People dependent on wheelchairs and walkers

must use the elevator at the rear of the building


Arthur’s Perspective - Jews in Georgetown, Ontario in 1927 ??

Last Thursday, I attended a fascinating lecture at Beth David synagogue about a Jewish Ukrainian philanthropist named Morris Saxe, who settled in Georgetown, Ontario in the 1920's and brought over 79 Jewish orphans from Poland between the years of 1927 to 1933, in order for them to train at the farming school that Morris established in Georgetown, exclusively for these Jewish orphans.

Morris was also a successful farmer-entrepreneur, having established and operated the Georgetown, Acton and Muskoka Creameries, at the time.

The lecture showed an interesting 20 minute film produced and aired by the CBC, however the audio visuals left much to be desired, as some of the footage were motion films of Morris himself (a robust, jovial guy similar looking to previous Ontario premier John Robarts).

The film also featured heartfelt reminiscences of several of the 'orphans' who were still alive when the film was edited some 20 years ago.

Morris and his wife, Dora, took good care of the 79 orphans, (females included,) over the years, (and beyond 1929.) Lodging and meals were provided including a big Shabbat dinner for them every Friday night at their home in Georgetown, Ontario.

The lecture was led by Morris' architect grandson, David Fleishman, and elaborated upon, by noted Toronto Jewish scholar, Dr. Jack Lipinsky.

You can see the summary of this particular 1920's Jewish immigration story in an article from the Canadian Jewish News 1 year ago, by clicking the url below:

You can also tap in below, to an exquisite 15 page online dissertation by Dr. Jack Lipinsky, on the details of Morris' story and the anti-Jewish Canadian government immigration policies at the time, headed up by then deputy minister, Frederick Blair.  (pdf download)

Kindest regards, Arthur Zins✡

Morning minyanaires - sayings for prayings

O L-rd,

Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile,

And to those who slander me, let me give no heed.

May my soul be humble and forgiving unto all.


Pirke Avoth Perek 3 Mishnah 8

Note: The ‘Commentary” sections in italics are taken from Ethics from Sinai by Irving M. Bunim.  In some cases I have taken them verbatim (in quotes) and in others have summarized. All relate to Mishnah 8.  The questions are my own.

Mishnah Eight: Rabbi Elazar of Bertotha said: Give Him of His own, for both of you and whatever is yours are [entirely] His. And so also in [his prayers] did David say, “For all things are from Thee, and from [the bounty of] Thy hand we have given Thee.”

“Our Sages lived what they preached; they meant what they said, and practiced what they taught. Theirs was an integrity not found too often among the thinkers and writers of this world. Too often we find the mental processes and official ‘ethics’ of a ‘great man’ divorced from his private life, and his public pronouncements quite a distance removed from his personal code of conduct.”

Question: Is this fair? Our sages preached morality. Our “great men” preach politics, practical action, and success. Is it reasonable to expect men in search of power to be as moral as men in search of morality?

Is this a fair description of politicians or of our sages who also participated in communal affairs?


“If someone leaves 100 gold coins in your care, and later you give him back fifty, do you deserve thanks or gratitude? The Almighty has given us everything; should we be thanked or applauded because we give some part of His bounty for charity in accordance with His will?”

“This is indeed a fundamental concept of the Torah: charity, giving to the poor, is simply returning to the Almighty what the Almighty has given to you… Again, give charity so that in turn you will be further rewarded and blessed.”   

“There is no doubt that in the view of the Torah, the person who has been blessed from Heaven with a ‘surplus’ of material wealth beyond his needs, is a steward, a caretaker appointed by Providence to provide for the poor, the needy and the destitute.”

Question 1: Do we look at charity and our money in this way?

Question 2:  Do “very religious” people, or perhaps all of us, expect a return from G-d for their mitzvoth or charity? If so, is this not a ‘wrong’ reason for giving charity, as charity is just returning part of what G-d has given you? In practice do we give charity because we “should” give charity, because it makes us feel better, or just as a way of life.

Rabbi Wasserman suggests that at the beginning of the year we assign and separate 10% of our income into a special account earmarked for charity. The money no longer is ours.  It is easier to disburse money which is already considered as charity, that has been already given, than money which could possibly be used for oneself.

Question 1: Is this a good idea?

Question 2: Is this what we do with taxes?

Question 3: Are taxes a form of charity?

“Grains in the corners of farmland, or which are dropped by the harvesters; or sheaves which are forgotten and left behind, are designated for the poor.  Usually in Jewish law the person seeking the right to possession of an object has to prove his case. However in the case of farmland, the burden is on the farmer to prove that grain picked up by the poor was such that it was not designated for the poor.”

Question: Is this reversal of the usual legal requirement for proof fair?

“Give him from that which is His … applies not only to our wealth but also to our abilities, talents and capacities. All that we have comes from Him. If a poor neighbour of ours, next door, is ill and must have an attendant through the night to help nurse him back to health – if he cannot afford a night nurse, it may well be your duty to care for him. Your strength and energy belongs to the Almighty. Expend some of it in His behalf. …As Rabbi Elazar says so aptly, you and everything that is yours are in the hand of God. None of us can truly control our destinies or even ensure our existence. Often enough you will find a person ready to say, ‘I made a fortune through the use of my wisdom and my skill.’ But is anyone entitled to think so? What arrogance and foolishness can delude a man into thinking that he created himself, that he can take credit for this talents and abilities?”

“Once you become aware of talents – the gift of oratory, the power of song, the courage and ability to lead – recognize that you should use these talents to serve the Lord:  ‘my words should be for the King.’ If  ‘G-d has blessed you’, utilize all your good qualities for worthwhile endeavours, ‘for the sake of Heaven.’”

Question 1: When choosing a career, should we choose or at least consider using any special talents that G-d gave us? Do we think of those abilities in those terms?

Question 2:  Should those of us who were given special abilities such as writers, doctors, lawyers, inventors, or rich businessmen, spend more time thanking G-d and appreciating their abilities and less time praising themselves? Do they?

Question 3: Do we consider ourselves to be given by G-d, so that, like money earned, a percentage of our talents must also be given to G-d by being used and not being wasted?   

When you are asked to contribute to charity, consider the following:

  1. Money that you have now can be easily lost.

  2. Your money has been achieved by the grace of G-d

  3. If you expect more from G-d you must give a part of what you have received from Him for charity.

  4. G-d owns both us and our possessions, and we must eventually give an accounting. Now is the time to prepare for that time.

“The lesson for us is clear. If the Almighty has blessed you with a certain talent, use it in the service of the Lord: harness it for the sake of heaven; serve with it the interests of Him who gave it to you. If you have a fine singing voice, lead your congregation in prayer.”

“Through all the complex forms and modes of urban life the same principle holds true: we are all indeed in the ‘hands of God.’ In all our ‘giving’ therefore, we are really ‘returning’ what is His.”

Question 1: Do you agree?

Quotes of the Week

They are both in love: he with himself and she with herself.

(she: Hillary, he: Trump)

You can't sit on two horses with one behind.

(Make a decision, “Hillary or Trump?”)

Worries go down better with chicken soup than without.

(A Trump Presidency?)

Rejoice not at thine enemy's fall - but don't rush to pick him/her up either.


Haimishe Humour -

A Briton, a Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden.

"Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Brit. "They must be British."

"Nonsense," the Frenchman disagrees. "They're naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."

"No way! They have no clothes and no shelter," the Russian points out, "They have only an apple to eat, and they are being told they live in a paradise. Obviously, they are Russian."

Come Forth
Of all the people in the whole of the human race, God chose Adam for a chance at eternal life without aging.

His decision made, he called, as loud as he could, ”Adam! Come forth.”

“Sorry Adam, you came in fourth. Your prize is a toaster.”


This Week’s  Parsha - excerpts




Woody Allen's Torah

Woody Allen's 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors is a fascinating cinematic essay that wrestles with the moral and ethical underpinnings of the modern world. Dr. Judah Rosenthal, a successful ophthalmologist, is at the center of the movie's drama. Having been involved in an extramarital affair for many years, his cover begins to collapse. As Delores, his mistress, threatens to expose everything, Dr. Rosenthal seeks the spiritual guidance of one of his patients, Rabbi Ben (who is nearing blindness). Sadly, the doctor ignores the rabbi's advice, and turns instead to his gangster brother to have Delores murdered. The brilliance of Allen's film arises from his portrayal of the ethical corruption of each of his characters and the extent to which he plays on the sense of sight. Ironically, the ophthalmologist, who specializes in physical sight, is corrupted by ethical blindness, while the rabbi, who represents morality, is physically going blind. Indeed, the juxtaposition of sight and insight figure prominently in both Allen's film and this week's parashah, Lekh Lekha. By focusing our exegetical lenses on the parting of ways between Avram and Lot (Gen. 13), we discover not only a physical separation between the two characters, but also a spiritual and ethical divide that cuts to the very core of their world views.

(In choosing which land to farm) Lot raises his eyes only to be blinded by the beauty and richness before him. He shows no desire to learn anything about the community in which he will reside or its inhabitants. He is seduced by his eyes, and as such, proves to be nothing more than a simpleton. Thus, Rashi and earlier midrashic sources are perceptive in their interpretation of the verse "Lot journeyed from the east [mi'kedem]" (Gen. 13:11). Rashi writes, "He separated from Avram and went to the west—journeying from the East to the West." Midrash explains this in a disparaging way vis-à-vis Lot: he removed himself from the Creator of the Universe (Kadmono shel Olam), saying, "I don't want Avram, nor his God" (Genesis Rabbah 41). So not only does Lot's journey represent a physical separation from the person of Avram, but it also symbolizes abandonment of Avram's way and, more crucially, the parting from God.

Also critical to our understanding is the Torah's description of the plain of the Jordan as being like that of Egypt. In a thoughtful and insightful devar Torah delivered this past Passover at a nationwide United Synagogue seder retreat, Rabbi Dr. Steve Brown, former dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary, asked his students to consider the nature of fruits and vegetables grown in Egypt versus those grown in the Land of Israel. The Israelites wax sentimental for the "cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic" of Egypt (Num. 11:6). Harvesting such produce requires that one bend down, focusing one's sight on the ground. Conversely, the fruits of the Land of Israel require that one be postured upward toward the heavens. Pomegranates, dates, olives, and grapes, the signature fruits of Israel, require the farmer to reach heavenward for the harvest. The physical stance needed for the gathering of produce reflects the spiritual realities in each of these locales. Egypt espoused a culture of earth-bound materialism. When the Israelites left Egypt, they needed to learn to raise their eyes heavenward—physically and spiritually—to match the spirit and yearnings of their lives in the Land of Israel.

"We are the sum total of all our decisions." Avram is indeed a role model of what it is to examine each decision thoughtfully and deeply. Laypeople and clergy alike must consistantly raise our eyes toward God in weighing both choices in our personal lives and visions for our respective communities. Without such perspective, we are doomed—if not to the same physical destruction as Sodom and Gomorrah, then to a spiritual and ethical demise. When we do allow the Torah's timeless ethics to guide our decisions, when we cherish life's intangibles as well as its material gifts, we affirm God's presence in this world.

The publication and distribution of the JTS Commentary are made possible by a generous grant from Rita Dee and Harold (z"l) Hassenfeld.

Arthur’s Perspective

How does a Jew fight alongside German soldiers in WWII and go to shul on Shabbat at the same time?


The little-known story of the Jews who served in the Finnish army, fighting alongside German soldiers against the Soviet invader. Despite an alliance with Nazi Germany against the Soviets, the Finnish army protected their Jewish compatriots from German harassment in the field and in the barracks.

Yes indeed, last night I attended a lecture at the Beth Tzedec synagogue on the Jews of Finland, and found that on the record, some 350 Jewish soldiers of Finnish nationality actually fought alongside the German soldiers during WWII.

At the same time a 'field' shul was established for Jewish Finnish soldiers during the war, in southeast Finland near the Russian front.  

Word has it that this 'field' shul had regular Shabbat services as well as holiday services.

Narrative in the lecture indicated that even when the Finns took Russian prisoners of war, some of which were Jewish, the Jewish Russian p.o.w.'s were allowed by the Finns to join them for prayer services at the Finnish field shul.

The reality of the Finnish-German alliance during WWII was to fight the Communist Russians and keep them from invading Finland.  It was not a 'Jewish' war on the Finnish-Russian front.

The presenter was an astute young Jewish gentleman named Ariel Nadbornik who lives in Finland with his Israeli born wife, Avital, with his 3 young daughters. Ariel Nadbornik's parents and grandparents on both sides were all born in Finland.

Ariel is highly educated from both Finnish and Israeli institutions and has served in both Finnish and Israeli defence forces, and currently serves as a gabbai at his shul in Finland.

The history of Finland goes back to the 1600's when it was a part of Sweden, then in 1809 fell to Russian control until 1917, when it achieved independence. Jews were first recorded to be living in Finland in 1753.

Aside from small pockets of Jewish immigrants over the last 100 years from Sweden, Poland, England and Austria, the vast majority of Jewish Finns originate from Russia, and were former 'cantonists'.

This term 'cantonists' refers to Jewish boys ages 10-13 who were 'recruited' by edict, by Russian Czars typically from hundreds of small Russian shtetls into the Russian army, in the 100 years prior to 1917.

The period of 'tenure' in the Russian army, for these 'cantonist' was 25 years, after which, the retired Jewish soldiers could opt to settle in Russia's grand duchy of Finland.

The presenter, Ariel indicated that the 'cantonist' scheme was a 'silent pogrom' of the Czarist regimes to snatch young Jewish men away from their Jewish culture and in effect, whitewash and decimate the Jewish populace of Russia.

At any one time over the past 200 years, the Jewish population of Finland numbered between 2,000 to 3,000 people, centred primarily in Helsinki.

However, there are several synagogues among 3 cities in Finland, including Helsinki, where there is also a Lubavitch centre, and a secular Jewish school for some 100 kids.

In WWII, there were a number of high ranking Jewish officers in the Finnish army, and the Jewish soldiers were mostly free from harassment from German soldiers, and were well respected by Finnish soldiers, and even enjoyed conviviality with German soldiers.

At the end of the war, 3 Jewish Finnish officers were offered the German Red Cross for bravery, but all 3 Jewish officers refused to accept the German medals.

As part of the Lodzer’s upcoming trip to the Baltic states, you might want to take the Helsinki option, to revisit some of the Jewish-Finnish history, described above.

Kindest regards, Arthur Zins✡

This is Not a Book Review

On Nov. 2, the winner of the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction was announced in Toronto.

Matti Friedman’s Pumpkinflowers: An Israeli Soldier’s Story was one of the five nominated books.  Here’s an excerpt...

The Pumpkin finally introduced itself to me on the night Natalie was going to get undressed. I remember the anticipation with clarity because of the events of that evening but also because of Natalie’s unusual beauty — she was like an exquisite Sephardic elf, bewitching even clothed.

The old TV set that struggled from one of the top bunks to pick up the transmissions from Israel was advertising the upcoming episode of a dramatic series of no memorable merit. It starred Natalie, an actress hardly older than us. In the advertisement, or at least in the version replayed in my memory, you saw Natalie engaged in conversation before her right hand went toward her left hip and her left hand toward her right, and she lifted the bottom of her shirt toward her head, and there was nothing underneath — but at the crucial moment the camera cut away. The idea was that the viewer would have to watch the episode to see the rest.

Amid our menial lives the importance of this moment of televised nudity can’t be overstated, however pathetic it seems now. I believe that at this time most of us had yet to encounter the real thing. After rotating out of the line and boarding a civilian bus home a girl soldier would sometimes slip in next to me — a clerk or instructor coming from one of the safe bases inside Israel where such olive-drab unicorns roamed free, their uniforms concealing wild pinks and reds — and nothing more than the scent of synthetic flowers from her hair would render me senseless, sending my head falling forward, forcing my eyelids shut and the air from my lungs, my fingers clutching the grip of my rifle until my faculties returned. So potent was the effect of women’s shampoo on my nervous system in those days that I am still vulnerable to it now.

The usual criticism: ...against the backdrop of war.

The 2016 Winner:

Deborah Campbell - “A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War”

Another winner! (sarcasm)

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Who won?

Who cares?

Either way, it’s a sad comment on so many levels.