PICTURE #1: Where once a synagogue stood. What happened to it? I don’t know. Odds are something tragic, though we can fantasize that the locals abandoned it to build a duplex. In a popular Hebrew song written about the Western Wall, it is said that there are people with hearts of stone and stones with a human heart.
There's an old joke
about a Jewish fellow who is stranded on a desert island. Passing
sailors find him and ask about the two synagogues which he constructed.
"This one," he boasts, "is my synagogue. I pray here every day".
"And the other building?"
"Oh, that shul?," he says, nodding his head and waving his hand, "I wouldn't step foot into it."
From ELEGY FOR MY SHTETL by S.L. Shneiderman (translated from Yiddish)
The synagogue is sinking
deeper and deeper
And mold blooms on the frescoed walls.
We can still make out a lion's head
And pale hands raised in priestly benediction.
PICTURE #2: Yan rightly pointed out that the second photo is very Chagall.
To that end, I am tempted to cut out the goat and have him hover over the headstones.
A couple of months ago I read a touching article by a Jewish-roots enthusiast who traveled to formerly Jewish Eastern European villages, once famed for their idyllic beauty and cultural flavor. He wasn’t stirred as he anticipated he would be, concluding that it was ultimately the inhabitants who made the shtetl what it was.
Two men came to Rabbi Yitzhak of Ponovezh. They had both bought plots in the cemetery, and each wanted the better of the two. After they had argued back and forth for some time, Rabbi Moshe Yitzhak rendered his verdict: "Whoever dies first gets the better plot."
Never again did they argue the issue.
From CITY OF THE KILLINGS by Hayim Nachman Bialik (translated from Hebrew)
To the graveyard,
beggars! Dig for the bones of your fathers
and of your sainted brothers and fill with them your bundles
and hoist them on your shoulders and take to the road, fated
to merchandize them at all the trade fairs;
and you will seek a stand at the crossroads where all can see,
and lay them out in sunshine on the backs of your filthy rags
and with a parched voice sing a beggar's song over their bodies
and call for the mercy of nations and pray for the kindness of gentiles,
and where you've stretched your hand you'll stretch it further,
and where you've begged you will not stop the begging.
And now what have you left here, son of man, rise and flee to the desert
and take with you there the cup of sorrows, and tear your soul in ten pieces
and your heart give for food to a helpless fury
and your great tear spill there on the heads of the boulders
and your great bitter scream send forth--
to be lost in the storm.
I am a second generation American.
My grandparents were variously from Nowy Dwor & Lomza (Poland), and Kamenetz Podolsk (Ukraine). When I was a little girl, my zeide told me that he emigrated to America because he'd heard that the streets were paved with gold.
What won’t Jews say
to get other Jews on the boat?