A First Person Account from Gaza

Jehad Al-Saftawi1 wrote a moving piece entitled Hamas Built Tunnels Beneath My Family’s Home in Gaza. Now It Lies in Ruin:

Since Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, the bustling and beautiful streets I knew have been dominated by terrorist chaos. Hamas is driven by an ideological stand originating in the concept of annihilating the state of Israel and replacing it with an Islamic Palestinian one. In striving to make this a reality, Hamas has continued to normalize violence and militarization in every aspect of public and private life in Gaza. They have in the process obliterated the chances of a successful Palestinian state alongside Israel, even if the prospect of one had increasingly looked dim amid successive Israeli governments that worked against that.

[…]

[Hamas] began destroying my family home in 2013 when they built tunnels beneath it. They continued to threaten our safety for a decade—we always knew we might have to vacate at a moment’s notice. We always feared violence. Gazans deserve a true Palestinian government, which supports its citizens’ interests, not terrorists carrying out their own plans. Hamas is not fighting Israel. They’re destroying Gaza.

The full piece in Time is worth reading.


  1. Jehad al-Saftawi is the author of My Gaza: A City in Photographs and is founder of Refuge Eye, a nonprofit organization which supports refugee journalists. ↩︎

Japan Loses Spot as Third-Largest Economy

AP reports that Japan’s economy is now the world’s fourth-largest after it contracted in the last quarter of 2023 and fell behind Germany:

Japan was historically touted as “an economic miracle,” rising from the ashes of World War II to become the second largest economy after the U.S.. It kept that going through the 1970s and 1980s. But for most of the past 30 years the economy has grown only moderately at times, mainly remaining in the doldrums after the collapse of its financial bubble began in 1990.

The U.S. remains the world’s largest economy by far followed by China and India. Russia is now number 11, just ahead of Mexico. You can see the full list here.

New Car Prices Escalating

WSJ:

The average price of a new vehicle rose from $39,813 in January 2021 to $47,358 in January 2024. Median income in the United States is about $44,225. Average personal income in the United States is $63,214.

Report: Former Google CEO Bought Former Jackie Kennedy House in Georgetown

Politico:

Former Google CEO ERIC SCHMIDT and his wife, WENDY, are the anonymous buyers of the historic Georgetown mansion that JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS used to own and that sold at auction for $15 million in November, a Georgetown neighbor familiar with the purchase told Daniel Lippman. The N Street house is formally called the “NEWTON D. BAKER House” after a former secretary of War and also known as the “Jacqueline Kennedy House” since she lived there for a year after JOHN F. KENNEDY was killed (she paid around $175,000).

USC Shoah Foundation Lecture Series on Antisemitism

With anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence on the rise around the world, the USC Shoah Foundation has launched the Daniel and Marisa Klass USC Shoah Foundation Lecture Series on Antisemitism. Leading scholars will guide audiences through the latest research and explore a diversity of approaches to understanding and combating the current upsurge.


Upcoming Lectures

Watch Past Lectures


The USC Shoah Foundation houses over 56,000 audio-visual testimonies conducted in 65 countries and in 44 languages. Steven Spielberg founded it in 1994 to videotape and preserve interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust.

London’s Wiener Holocaust Library Celebrates 90 Years of Service

The Wiener Holocaust Library in London is celebrating its 90th birthday. It is the oldest continuously functioning archive documenting Nazi crimes.

The Library has its origins in the work of Dr. Alfred Wiener (1885-1964). Dr. Wiener was a German Jew from Berlin who campaigned against Nazism during the 1920s and 30s and gathered evidence about antisemitism and the persecution of Jews in Germany.

Dr. Wiener and his family fled Germany in 1933 and settled in Amsterdam. Later that year he set up the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO) at the request of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association. This archive collected information about the Nazis, which formed the basis of campaigns to undermine their activities.

Following Kristallnacht (the November Pogrom of 1938), Wiener prepared to bring his collection to the UK. It arrived the following summer and is believed to have opened on the day the Nazis invaded Poland. 

During the war, staff gathered evidence to document and publicize reports of Nazi efforts to annihilate European Jewry, including an eyewitness account of Kristallnacht.

Throughout the war, the JCIO served the British Government as it fought the Nazi regime. Increasingly the collection was referred to as ‘Dr Wiener’s Library’ and eventually this led to its renaming.

Wiener’s recognition of the danger posed by the Nazis didn’t begin after Hitler came to power in 1933. Instead, he can justly lay claim to having been one of the first intellectuals to raise the alarm about the rise of antisemitism after World War I.

Horrified by the surge in anti-Jewish right-wing nationalism that he encountered when he returned from the trenches to his homeland, in 1919 Wiener published a tract, “Prelude to Pogroms?”, in which he warned: “A mighty antisemitic storm has broken over us.” If left unchecked, Wiener predicted, this antisemitism would lead to “bestial murders and violence” and the “blood of citizens running on the pavements.” 

The Times of Israel

Sources:

Blogs I Like

I like traditional blogs, which harken back to the early days of the internet when people wrote to share for the joy of sharing. The main goal wasn’t to make money via advertising or subscriptions. It was people sharing and connecting with other people. There aren’t as many blogs like this around anymore. I value the ones that remain and share this list in the spirit of sharing and connecting person to person:

The list is in no particular order. Please suggest other blogs to follow.

Last updated: February 14, 2024

Forgetting Doesn’t Mean President Biden Can’t Do the Job

Dr. Charan Ranganath, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, writing in The New York Times:

Mr. Biden is the same age as Harrison Ford, Paul McCartney and Martin Scorsese. He’s also a bit younger than Jane Fonda (86) and a lot younger than Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett (93). All these individuals are considered to be at the top of their professions, and yet I would not be surprised if they are more forgetful and absent-minded than when they were younger. In other words, an individual’s age does not say anything definitive about their cognitive status or where it will head in the near future.

I can’t speak to the cognitive status of any of the presidential candidates, but I can say that, rather than focusing on candidates’ ages per se, we should consider whether they have the capabilities to do the job.

Podcast: ‘Travel with Rick Steves’

Travel with Rick Steves is a weekly one hour podcast with guest experts and callers about travel, cultures and people. This, in my opinion, is the best travel podcast.

Steves is well-traveled, bright, articulate, positive and most of all curious to learn about the world and the people who inhabit it. Although Steves’s guidebooks and organized tours focus on Europe, the podcast covers the world.

Guests include authors and professional guides Steves uses for his tours and guidebooks. The information he provides is timely and accurate. For example, Steves has interviewed great authors such as Paul Theroux and David McCullough (1933-2022).

After listening to the interview of David McCullough, I was really charged up to get out and explore the world, in part because McCullough started his life and explorations in my hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. McCullough has written extensively about the United States starting near home with the The Johnstown Flood. He was also a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. That’s the caliber of guest Steves can corral. And he does it once a week.

Why Having Your Own Home on the Internet is Important

Om:

Why do “creatives” forget that the platform exists for one reason—the platform’s overall growth and viability?

The Substack founders are staying true to form — trying to save/grow their business. They have to grow in order to raise their next round of funding. If they don’t, then it’s lights out.

Dave Winer:

Yes, Substack is blogging, and it’s totally valid for a blogging system to be better at publishing one kind of writing.

What’s wrong with Substack, and why it will ultimately need to change or be replaced, is that they require writers to use their editor.

That’s lock-in.

More inspiration

My Perspective on WordPress

I’ve always thought of WordPress as the default for personal websites focused on writing. However, I have never found a WordPress theme I love. Some themes are feature rich and slow and others are fast but, at least to my eye, not visually appealing. And I know there are many WordPress themes.

The theme I’m using on this site is called TinyTheme. The developer, Matt Langford, even helped me to customize it. It now suits me perfectly. Both the hosting on Micro.blog and the theme are fast.

Having said that, for photography, I haven’t found anything I like better than Squarespace, where I also have a site. Squarespace sites aren’t fast but I want to post large images so there is a tradeoff, especially because I don’t know how to code.

Recommended TV Series

These are among the TV series I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order:

Last updated: February 10, 2024

Daniel Lubetzky, CEO and Son of Holocaust Survivor


Daniel Lubetzky, the CEO of KIND, is the son of a Holocaust survivor and a Mexican Jew. KIND makes popular fruit and nut bars. He was born in Mexico City and moved to the United States as a teenager. He’s also a Stanford-educated lawyer.

Lubetzky’s father was liberated from the Dachau Concentration Camp. When Lubetzsky was just nine years old, his father started describing his experiences during the Holocaust. His father felt that if he lived through the Holocaust, his son could hear about it even at an early age.

Lubetzky explains in his book entitled Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately:

Being the son of a Holocaust survivor marks you and makes you acutely conscious of our human frailty. My burning com­mitment to build bridges stems from a survival instinct: to pre­vent what happened to my dad from happening again to other human beings. Part of the reason I exist today is that my grandfather and my father were always kind to people.

KIND is privately owned and has nearly five hundred employees.

Portrait Of: The Founder and CEO of KIND - Latino USA

Abram Enzel (1916-1994)

Abram Enzel, was born in Częstochowa, Poland on June 18, 1916 to Chaim and Faigle Enzel. Chaim worked as a Kosher butcher. They had five children; three boys and two girls. Abram was the first born. In 1939, there were 28,500 Jews living in Częstochowa, which is 124 miles (200 km) southeast of Warsaw.

The Germans entered Częstochowa on Sunday, September 3, 1939, and persecution of its Jews began at once. More than 300 Jews were killed on the following day, which became known as “Bloody Monday.” On December 25, 1939, a second pogrom took place and the Great Synagogue was set on fire. The family survived both pogroms.

On the morning after Yom Kippur in September 1942, Abram was separated from his family. One brother, Nathan, had previously been taken by the Germans to a concentration camp. The other living members of Abram’s family were gassed and cremated three days later in Treblinka, a nearby concentration camp.

The Germans sent Abram to work in a munitions plant operated by HASAG (Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft-Metalwarenfabrik, Leipzig), one of the privately owned German industrial companies that used concentration camp prisoners to manufacture armaments. HASAG was the third largest of such companies, after I.G. Farben and the Hermann Goring Werke. HASAG operated four camps in Częstochowa, Poland. The largest, HASAG-Apparatebau, held seven thousand Jewish prisoners. The wages of the Jewish forced laborers were paid directly to the SS, the elite guard of the Nazi state. In general, the policy of Vernichtung durch Arbeit (“extermination through work”) was applied. Selections were held and those no longer fit for work were killed. From July 1944 to early 1945, HASAG transferred most of its equipment and Jewish workers to Germany. No HASAG personnel were put on trial by the Allies in the later Nuremberg war crimes trials.

In 1944, the Germans sent Abram from the HASAG munitions plant to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp and from there to the Flossenbürg and Dachau concentration camps. One of Abram’s most poignant memories was of his forced move from the Flossenbürg concentration camp to Dachau, along with 500 other prisoners. In a 1973 interview with the Pittsburgh Press, Abram explained that “They made us march at first. But later they herded us like cattle on some old freight cars.” Out of the 500 prisoners who left Flossenbürg, only 18 arrived in Dachau alive, Abram among them.

On April 29, 1945, the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions and the 20th Armored Division of the US Army liberated Abram from Dachau, near Munich, Germany. The very next day Adolf Hitler committed suicide. At the time of Abram’s liberation, he weighed 78 pounds, compared with a healthy 130 pounds before his ordeal.

After the war in June 1946, 2,167 Jews had returned to Częstochowa to rebuild their community. Abram did not to return. He first recovered in Germany and then operated a grocery store in Bayreuth until 1951, when he emigrated to the United States and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After settling in Pittsburgh, Abram met Dora Weiss, who also settled in Pittsburgh after World War II. She was born in Munkács, Czechoslovakia, now known as Mukačevo, a city in Ukraine. Her parents died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. On June 8, 1952, they married and had a son David who was born on January 21, 1955.

Dora was later diagnosed with cancer. She passed away on July 30, 1958, at the age of 35. Abram did not remarry. In Pittsburgh, Abram worked in the H. J. Heinz plant and later moved to the Concordia Club, a private Jewish city club in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. He started as a bus boy and eventually moved up to maitre d’. The 30 years Abram spent at the Concordia Club were the happiest of his life.

David moved to Washington, DC in 1979 and Abram moved to Washington soon after his retirement from the Concordia Club in 1981 to be near his son. Abram passed away on May 10, 1994 in Washington, DC, the capital of the country that liberated him.

Abram’s oral history is available online from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Another oral history is in the American Jewish Committee Oral History Collection, which is part of the New York Public Library (Dorot Jewish Division). This collection includes over 6,000 hours of taped interviews.

Remembering Pittsburgh’s Concordia Club

The Concordia Club was a part of Jewish life in Pittsburgh from the late 19th century until 2009.

Foundation on Pittsburgh’s North Side

In 1874, a group of approximately forty Jewish men, primarily of German origin, met to organize an association, whose purpose, according to its charter, was “to promote social and literary entertainment among its members.” The first president of the Concordia Club was Josiah Cohen, a prominent teacher, lawyer, and judge. Jacob Eiseman was president in 1884, when the club was chartered. The majority of the Club’s early members and almost all of its early officers were members of Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Establishments such as the Concordia Club sprang up across the United States at a time when Jews were typically denied membership in prominent social and business clubs. Such discrimination was common in most major cities in the United States, including Pittsburgh. The Duquesne Club, in downtown Pittsburgh, did not begin to admit Jews until 1968. The Concordia Club was sometimes called the “Jewish Duquesne Club.”

The Concordia Club’s first location was a rented home on Stockton Avenue in Allegheny City, now the North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. At that time more than 95 per cent of the Club’s membership lived in Allegheny City. By the late 1870s the club had grown sufficiently to need a dance hall, which was created through renovation of the original structure. The Stockton Avenue clubhouse property was purchased by the club in 1890 but a new building was later erected on the same Stockton Avenue site, at a cost of approximately $75,000. At that time, the club had 175 members.

Move to Oakland

During the next 20 years, the Concordia Club became a significant social institution for the Jewish community, even as the community’s demographic center was shifting from Allegheny City to Pittsburgh’s East End communities, particularly Squirrel Hill. By 1913, when the Concordia Club moved to its new location on O’Hara Street in the Schenley Farms district of Oakland, more than 95 per cent of its members lived in Squirrel Hill. The new clubhouse was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1913, with a gala banquet. The building contained a banquet hall, ballroom, library, lounges, sleeping quarters, billiard rooms, and bowling alleys.

When the Concordia Club moved into its building on O’Hara Street in 1913, it was described as one of city’s most opulent with notably elegant china, crystal and linens along with profuse flower arrangements. A 1915 article in the Jewish Criterion commented that the new club was “entirely complete with billiard rooms, banquet hall, rest and lounging parlors, reading quarters and sleeping accommodations.” Later the club would add to its interior by installing elaborate dark-stained oak paneling rescued from the Fort Pitt Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh when the hotel was demolished in 1967.

The Club over the years staged elaborate themed dances, vaudeville performances, musical stage revues, amateur theatrical productions and holiday parties. Private social functions of all sorts were held in the clubhouse, which continued to be a gathering place for Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. At its peak, the club had nearly 300 members.

Sale to Pitt and Renovation

After 135 years, the Concordia Club voted to sell the historic building to the University of Pittsburgh due to declining membership and financial shortages. It closed its doors on December 14, 2009.

Pitt undertook $5.8 million in upgrades, preservation, and renovations that were completed in April, 2011 and provided almost 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2) of space in order to help alleviate shortages in student group event, meeting, and office space at the William Pitt Union.

Upgrades included tearing out walls, updating the heating and cooling systems, replacing the roof, and upgrading the lighting. The first floor contains the oak paneled space for studying or socializing as well as a dining room that can double as a meeting room. A staircase, with original wood railings, leads to a second floor contains a 450-person capacity, sound system-equipped ball room – shown above – that includes an open balcony, arched windows, and a small stage. From a previous renovation more than 50 years ago, the ballroom contains three chandeliers, one larger than the others, and a number of sconces. Renovations to the ballroom included restoring access to the balcony, applying gold leaf trim to the wall panels, and a restoration of the chandeliers, including replacement of the light bulbs with LEDs, by the original lighting fabricator located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

The basement of the Student Center is used as a storage area for student groups. The facility also houses the Math Assistance Center, the Freshman Studies Program, and the student Writing Center.

Pitt’s renovation of the Concordia Club was very respectful of the Club’s history. The University preserved the Club’s gorgeous oak paneling and its elegant ballroom which continue to be enjoyed by the Pitt community, which now dominates the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.


Sources:

See also, Abram Enzel (1916-1994)

A Useful List of Blogging Platforms

Manuel Moreale, an Italian freelance developer and designer, posted this list on his blog. He’s been blogging since 2017. I can’t tell what platform he’s using and I’m curious.

See also, Blogging Platforms.

Even Smart People Get Scammed

Cory Doctorow:

I was tricked by a phone-phisher pretending to be from my bank, and he convinced me to hand over my credit-card number, then did $8,000+ worth of fraud with it before I figured out what happened. And then he tried to do it again, a week later!

You can’t be too careful. I think it’s great that at least some folks share what happened to them. It serves as a warning to us all.

See also:

French Language Resources for Francophone Francophiles

I have found these resources helpful for keeping up and improving my French. This list is a work in progress. I welcome suggestions of other resources.


TV Series


Film


News


Music


YouTube


Last updated: February 15, 2024

Migrating from Substack to Ghost

Molly White left Substack and went to a self-hosted Ghost1 newsletter, in large part over its policies. I applaud her for leaving Substack. It’s better to have your own home on the internet.

Molly explains step by step how she did it. It was a lot of work and not as easy as Substack would have you believe.

If you are thinking of starting a publication, the open web is, in my opinion, the way to go.

I had a couple newsletters on Substack, which I deleted because of its tolerance of Nazi supporters. They were small newsletters, one of which shared news about the Holocaust. I may start again on Ghost. I will never again build a house on someone else’s property.


  1. Molly considered WordPress but prefers JavaScript to PHP and finds WordPress bloated with features she doesn’t need or want. ↩︎

Hommage aux victimes du 7 octobre en France

Discours d’Emmanuel Macron aux Invalides.

Cet hommage intervient quatre mois jour pour jour après l’attaque du groupe terroriste islamiste palestinien, qui a entraîné la mort de plus de 1 160 personnes, tuées par balles, brûlées vives ou mutilées, en majorité des civils et déclenché un conflit toujours en cours à Gaza.

Le président de la République a bien fait. Très émouvant.

Times of Israel