A Busy Week in April, 2015:
Presenting “The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe”
Wednesday April 15: Commemorating Yom HaShoah –
Holocaust Remembrance Day
Hebrew Center of Martha’s Vineyard
Our friends, Linda and Gaston Vadasz, residents of Martha’s Vineyard, had been discussing the possibility of inviting me to speak at the island’s Hebrew Center. The opportunity arose when the Center was planning their Yom HaShoah commemoration and I was engaged to be the presenter for the event.
And so my wife Elaine and I left our winter home in sunny Florida early, returning to the still cold Northeast. We were looking forward to visiting with Linda and Gaston, but not quite before warmer weather came. In addition, Martha’s Vineyard is not the easiest place to get to, with air travel very expensive and the ferry about five hours from our Long Beach, LI home. Getting our usual slightly late start on Tuesday, we arrived at the 2PM ferry with plenty of time, in spite of the incessant rainfall all the way there. On a positive note, we enjoyed wonderful New England clam chowder on board. This was also the first time we were visiting Linda and Gaston since their recent relocation to Martha’s Vineyard from their previous home in Budapest, Hungary. We had fun cooking together, producing a great meal, followed soon after by a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday was a warm picture perfect day. Linda made breakfast with rather pricey local range free eggs – six dollars a dozen! The afternoon was spent exploring The Vineyard. At night we headed for the Hebrew Center. There we attended a special service for Yom HaShoah, followed by my presentation. I arranged this talk to highlight not only the events of the Shoah relating to my art, but also including information about the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1653. This event saw the death of a large percentage of Jews in Eastern Europe, targeted for death by the nationalist Cossacks of the Ukraine. The presentation was so very well received and I was, of course, quite pleased. . We spent the day relaxing, touring and celebrating Linda’s 70th birthday Party.
Friday April 17: Commemorating Yom HaShoah on LI
Temple Beth Torah
We left the Vineyard with the usual Farran drama. With so many changes in our plans, I had changed our Ferry reservation from Thursday at 10:30 AM to Friday at 8:15AM. Although I wrote it down, 10: 30 time stayed planted in my brain. On Friday at 7:30, I called the Steamship company to ask if we could get catch an earlier ferry. The answer was that we already had an 8:15 AM reservation! With Keystone Cop music running in our heads, we literally threw everything into the car, said our goodbyes and made the ferry with ten minutes to spare; our car was next to last on the ferry to Cape Cod. From the Cape, we travelled to New London, Connecticut where we ferried to Long Island, and then drove in pouring rain, arriving at Beth Torah in Melville with plenty of time to spare.
I was invited at the behest of George Borsuk, a member of the congregation to be the speaker for their commemoration of Yom HaShoah. The Friday services had run overtime, giving me ample time to set up and display my art around the room before my scheduled appearance as the after-dinner speaker. Fifty nine people were prepaid and twenty more paid on site. It was a full house! How cool! My presentation was almost the same as the one did in Martha’s Vineyard.
Before the presentation began, Rabbi Susie Moskowitz reminded the assembled group about their fund raiser, which is to purchase an “ambulance cycle” for Israel, enabling first aid personnel to arrive at accident scenes with lightning speed. I offered to donate 50 percent of my sales to the cause. I was able to fulfill my promise rather generously because of the volume of purchases made by the congregants.
This presentation was one of the best I have ever given because of the enthusiasm expressed by the , and I was “really in the moment” with them. There were so many questions and comments that Elaine and I did not arrive home until midnight.
Saturday April 18: Unveiling My Artistic Rending of a Synagogue
Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek
Arriving home late from Melville, we jumped into bed in Long Beach, only to quickly awake and be on the road by 6:50AM – a Farran record! After driving three hours, we arrived in Chester on time – another Farran record. However, on this day I was not presenting, but rather “unveiling” the art work I was commissioned to create by the Congregations’ Wednesday Minion Group (the “Minyonaires”). First we participated in their beautiful and inspiring Shabbat service. The Rabbi wove a discussion of the “lost synagogues” into her remarks about Yom HaShoah. She called me to the Bimah to take an Aliyah. Following services, a ceremony was held to unveil the art work. Steven Davis, the president of the congregation, introduced me in a way that seemed larger than life. I was deeply touched. The loved the art and, along with Linda Pinn, coordinator of the Synagogue Art Gallery, began to make plans to do fund raising using my commissioned art work as a vehicle. Since they do not want copies for this purpose, we decided that I would create original works ordered in advance by Congregation members.
I was especially honored by the Congregation’s gift to us of synagogue membership for a year. Elaine and I look forward to spending more time with this extraordinary congregation at their many exciting events and services.
After a special lunch we bid farewell to “our synagogue” and our new friends there, and made our way back to Long Beach for some well-deserved rest.