Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rwandan Survivor Unbelievable story: Emanuel Habiemma

I have heard many Holocaust survivors and the first story I heard from a survivor was 30 years ago.  Even 30 years ago Holocaust survivors were not only old but older than my parents.  I was thinking about this as I watched Emanuel Habiemma speak at Lakeside Congregation to tell us his story.  Emanuel is 29 years old and a survivor of the Hutu and Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.

To review Tutsi and Hutu history(from Wikipedia):
The origins of the Tutsi and Hutu peoples is a major issue in the history of Burundi and Rwanda, as well as the greater Great Lakes region ofAfrica. While the Hutu are generally recognized as the ethnic majority of Rwanda, in racialist ideology the Tutsi were identified as a foreign race, as opposed to an indigenous minority. The relationship between the two is thus, in many ways, derived from the perceived origins and claim to "Rwandan-ness". The largest conflicts related to this question were the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the 1972 Burundian Genocide, and the First and Second Congo Wars.

Emanuel was 9 years old when the the genocide began in Rwanda.  He saw his father first bullied and then killed by the Hutus.  He ran away after seeing his father dead on the floor and was found by Hutus.  He had such presence of mind to lie and say he was from Northern Rwanda and he was a Hutu. I can't imagine many 9 year olds today who would be able to take care of themselves the way Emanuel did.   He was eventually sent to a camp in the Congo which unlike Rwanda is in the savannah and there was no water available; because of the unsanitary conditions Emanuel then caught cholera at this camp and was very malnourished.  We could have listened to his story all night;  by the time he had come to Lakeside at 7:00 pm at night we were his 5th speaking engagement of the day. The Spungen Family Foundation sponsored Emanuel's visit to Lakeside and we hosted a dinner for our participants.

Emanuel told us about the 10 Commandments of the Hutus which after you see them you will see why I am sure they are crafted after the Nuremberg laws.  I never knew how much the genocide in Rwanda reminded me of the Holocaust. The Hutu's also tried to show that the Tutsi's were physically different.  We saw pictures of a Tutsi man's nose being measured to show he was Tutsi and not a Hutu.  It looked like this picture came from 1940 Germany and not 1990 Rwanda.  It is hard to believe in an era of technology and 24 hour news services that 1 million Tutsi's were killed within 100 days.  It deeply saddens me that the world stood by.  It reminds me that we must always act; even if acting is not an easy task.

Emanuel was taken with our sanctuary and although he has spoken with Holocaust survivors, visited Holocaust museums and related his experiences to the Holocaust he had never been in a sanctuary.  He is a Catholic and was taken with the Torah.  I invited him into our sanctuary and out of respect he put on a Kipah and a tallit.  When we walked into the sanctuary I saw that we had left out a Torah for our B'nai Mitzvah students to practice reading.  I invited Emanuel to look at the Torah and unrolled the Torah for him to see what was inside.  

After the evening was over and I had heard Emanuel's story I am glad he was also able to take something away from this visit; that he could see a Torah and see  a Jewish community in the States that is committed to practicing their religion as well as hearing his story. He gave so freely of himself and admitted that telling his personal story daily is not easy, but it is necessary.  He told us he is not sure why he is here, but reminded us to have hope and to make sure the next generation studies and learns from history.  I cried during the evening but felt at the same time uplifted by his words.  There is hope in this world.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Oh, Once there was a Wicked, Wicked Man and Hamen was his name sir.....

Jerry Michaels at Fox Valley Animal Hospital

Oh, Once there was a Wicked, Wicked Man and Hamen was his name sir.  This song is my father's (Jerry Michaels) favorite and only song that he remembers from his Religious School Days at South Shore Temple. Every holiday during the year my father true to his nature sings this song and asks if it is the right holiday.  This week I tell him, yes you can sing this song and it's the RIGHT holiday.  This week we are ready for the song Dad.

Purim Spiel
I tried to find Wicked Wicked man on ITunes but I couldn't find it but I did find this youtube version in case you can't quite remember the tune.  Oh Once there was a wicked wicked man....  I know once you take a listen that this tune will be in your head all day.  Plan on coming to Lakeside sometime this weekend to hear it in person  or visit the synagogue of your choice; everyone sings this song on Purim!

At Lakeside we are preparing not only a Purim Spiel but a Purim Carnival as well.  This week in the Jewish calendar is always a rough one for me.  Getting all the prizes ready, pricing them.  Really what is the difference between the frog with the bulging eyes or the teeth with grills.  What will sell?  What will be leftover that we will have to try to sell again next year.

Last week during Rabbi Serotta's Shabbat d'var Torah he mentioned that in the Olam Habah, in the world to come, the only holiday we will still celebrate is Purim.  I must have groaned out loud when he said that
Rabbi Serotta
and mumbled to myself, "Oy I will still have to organize the Purim carnival."  Rabbi assured me that I would be able to delegate out the running of the Purim carnival at that time.

Rabbi also told us that Yom Kippur should also be like Purim, Yom HaKi PURIM.  I am sure some of us might like that as well, but  two carnivals a year may be one carnival too many.

I know you will enjoy our carnival especially the prizes in our Shekel prize booth redemption center.  Every year I do enjoy myself as I pick out the best prizes.  I know that the dead chicken, the silly putty that makes fart noises and the sticky hand will always be a winner.  Unfortunately I couldn't find the nose key ring which when you squeeze it snot comes out.  (snotty nose king ring pictured below is on EBAY, who knew?) There is always next year.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

PJ Library or Start reading as soon as you can

I love reading books, reading books to others, reading books with others and any other combination that include books.  If you have a child age 6 months to 8 years take a minute and sign up for PJ Library at    The PJ Library Chicago program is available to families with children ages 6 months to 8 years living in the Chicago metropolitan area (Cook, Lake, Will, McHenry, DuPage and Kane counties).

What a great way to start your child's library.  PJ library has books about holidays, books about all things Jewish.  They are fun books and many of the books you can find in our own Lakeside Library.  I love this program and encourage our young families to take advantage of this program.  

My personal kids are too old for this program and I love that I can pass on how to sign up for this great program to Lakeside  and Children's Center families, and Chicagoland area friends.  

If you are reading books yourself please join me on Goodreads to see what books I am currently reading, those I have read in the past and the books I "want to read".  It motivates me to reach my yearly goal, lets me know if I am on track and I can easily see if when I am looking at a book if any of my friends have read the book and what they think of that particular book.  I am just finishing the Young Adult Divergent Series and can't wait to see the movie that comes out next week.  I also just finished  The List by Martin Fletcher am reading the Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  

Let me know what you are reading.  I love to compare notes on books, young adult, children's, whatever you are reading.