rhu: (Default)
2013-01-13 08:51 pm
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Genealogy: Ermreuther

I haven't had much time to blog for the last few months, and the next few months will also probably be spotty.

You may recall that my last several posts were about my maternal grandmother's family. I wrote about her father, Hermann Friedmann: From research that others have done, I know that his parents were Jonas Friedmann and Babette Ermanreuther, but I do not know anything beyond that about his family.Read more... )
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2012-12-23 06:32 am
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Dvar Torah: Vayigash

In today's parsha, we read:

וַיְדַבְּרוּ אֵלָיו אֵת כָּל-דִּבְרֵי יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֲלֵהֶם וַיַּרְא אֶת-הָעֲגָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר-שָׁלַח יוֹסֵף לָשֵׂאת אֹתוֹ וַתְּחִי רוּחַ יַעֲקֹב אֲבִיהֶם.
And they spoke (vay-dabru) to [Jacob] all the words (divrei) of Joseph that he said (dibber) to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to him, and the spirit of Jacob his father was restored to life. (Gen. 45:27)

What struck me about this verse was the emphasis on the root D-B-R (which doesn't come across so well in the English.)

What were these words? Rashi quotes a midrash from the gemara that Joseph reminded his father that when last they were together, they had been studying the laws of the egla arufah, the calf with the broken neck, and that the wagons (agalot, a pun on egla) were an allusion to this, and this was a way to confirm his identity. I find that explanation.... fanciful.

Let's set this question aside for a moment and ask another one.

Why did Joseph test his brothers? Some commentators say it was to give them a chance to perform teshuvah gemurah, complete return from sin, by placing them in essentially the same situation they were in when he was kidnapped, so they could demonstrate that they would not respond in the same way. Some say it was so he could determine whether Benjamin needed rescuing from his brothers. Both are good answers, but I want to suspend that question for a moment as well.

Two weeks ago, at the beginning of Vayeshev, Joseph brings to his father a bad report about the activities of some of his brothers. And what does Jacob do?

וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לֶךְ-נָא רְאֵה אֶת-שְׁלוֹם אַחֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלוֹם הַצֹּאן וַהֲשִׁבֵנִי דָּבָר וַיִּשְׁלָחֵהוּ מֵעֵמֶק חֶבְרוֹן וַיָּבֹא שְׁכֶמָה.
And [Jacob] said to [Joseph]: Go now, please, and look into the shalom of your brothers ... and return word (davar) to me.... (Gen. 37:14)

Here's the word D-B-R again. Decades ago, Jacob asked Joseph to send him word about the shalom of his brothers. Usually, this expression means the person's well-being, but it can also relate to their shleimut, their wholeness. Perhaps Jacob wanted to know if his sons were whole people.

And so now we can return to my two questions. Perhaps Joseph remembered the task his father had given him, which he has yet to fulfill.

But now that his brothers appear before him, he doesn't know the answer to his father's question: Have his brothers become shaleim in the intervening years?

So he tests them. He finds out whether they have done complete teshuvah, so that he can finally complete his father's assignment and return word to Jacob that his brothers have indeed, after all that transpired, become whole.

Shabbat Shalom.
rhu: (530nm330Hz)
2012-12-02 09:30 pm

Pirates of Penzance

Saw PoP with the kids at MIT G&SP today. Wonderful production: most of the singers were great, and the direction was traditional with enough new ideas to keep it engaging. The kids had a blast, and I think the other family who joined us also enjoyed it.

A few thoughts -- and after all, any good production of an old favorite show should prompt some new thoughts about how I understand the show. Cut for length )
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2012-11-27 09:10 pm
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Update to the Erlanger family post

This week's posting is an update on my previous one. Cut for length )
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2012-11-21 10:09 am
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Rising inflection

When I was in college, one of my acquaintances had the practice of ending every declarative sentence with a rising inflection. I was told by a mutual friend that his parents, both psychologists, had experimented when he was a child by speaking to him that way, and poor soul, he was never able to break the habit.

I am now hearing this more and more in general society. My daughter has picked it up, I think from school. I heard it on an NPR report on Monday. I've started to notice several of my friends doing it. I even caught myself doing it the other day.

My hypothesis is that this is the ultimate fate of ending every sentence with "y'know?" I think that the speaker wants to make sure that the listener is following and doesn't disagree. Back in the 1980s, lots of people would use the interrogative "y'know?" at the end of sentences to provide that opportunity to check in, but now it seems to be done with just intonation.

But I have to say? This drives me nuts?

Y'know?
rhu: (Default)
2012-11-12 08:03 pm
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Review: Derashot Ledorot - A Commentary for the Ages on Genesis by Rabbi Norman Lamm

Koren Publications has sent me a new book of theirs, Norman Lamm's Derashot Ledorot - A Commentary for the Ages on Genesis. I enjoyed it very much.

This book is a collection of divrei Torah (sermons) that Rabbi Lamm gave in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s when he was a pulpit rabbi. (For those who don't know the name, Rabbi Lamm is now the chancellor of Yeshiva University.) There are three sermons on each of the weekly parshiyot.

These sermons are very much a product of their time. The Jewish experience in mid-20th-centruy America was one full of tensions. There was the pull of assimilation; there was the struggle among the Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox communities to define what American Judaism would look like. There was the fight for civil rights in the South. You cannot read these without being strongly reminded of the upheaval the world was undergoing during those decade.

At the same time, these sermons are timeless. Rabbi Lamm writes well and powerfully. His topics are not fleeting; the details of the issues he grapples with may have changed, but fundamental human needs and Judaism's perspective on them haven't.

To his credit, the editor of this volume, Stuart Halpern, has not tried to modernize the sermons in any way. Rabbi Lamm's voice comes through, authentic and unfiltered. I am looking forward to the remaining volumes in the series.
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2012-11-12 06:50 pm
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Addendum to the Friedmann genealogy

I forgot to include some "supporting evidence" in last night's post. Big pictures behind the cut )
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2012-11-11 09:47 pm
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Chapter 2: The Friedmanns and (the recent generations of) the Erlangers

We're going to switch over to my mom's side of the family now. And to keep things symmetric, since we started with my father's father, we'll start with my mother's mother, born Frieda Friedmann on 21 May 1911 in Nurenberg. Continued behind the cut for length )
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2012-11-09 12:45 pm
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Kristallnacht

Today is the anniversary of "Kristallnacht". That, of course, was the Nazi's name for the pogrom that, for many, marks the beginning of the Holocaust.

I'm going to post three images. The first is a paragraph from my grandfather's "book". The second is a document from Dachau. The third is a photograph. I will translate the German as best as I can.Behind a cut-tag because of the pictures )

May his memory be a blessing.
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2012-11-04 10:17 pm
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Geneaology Chapter 1 part 3 (4?): The rest of the Greene story

In this installment, we'll look at what happened to Ida and Barnett's children. For clarity, I'll tell each one's story in birth order. As usual, cut for length and pictures )

Next time, we'll set my father's lineage aside for a while and take up the story of my mother's family.
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2012-10-28 08:14 am
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Interlude: Genealogical methods: a case study

A brief interlude on methodology. I found something mildly interesting last night; this post is about how I tracked it down. It was a chance to combine tools from four different websites and is a great example of how this sort of genealogical research is a lot like solving a puzzle. Long and with pictures, as usual. )
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-28 08:14 am
Entry tags:

Interlude: Genealogical methods: a case study

A brief interlude on methodology. I found something mildly interesting last night; this post is about how I tracked it down. It was a chance to combine tools from four different websites and is a great example of how this sort of genealogical research is a lot like solving a puzzle. Long and with pictures, as usual. )
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-27 10:34 pm
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Chapter 1, part 2: The Greenes in America, 1900-1919

This week's post will continue the story of the Greenes, my paternal grandfather's nuclear family, bringing it up to the passing of Barnett and Ida. Long, with pictures )
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-27 10:34 pm
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Chapter 1, part 2: The Greenes in America, 1900-1919

This week's post will continue the story of the Greenes, my paternal grandfather's nuclear family, bringing it up to the passing of Barnett and Ida. Long, with pictures )
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-26 10:50 am

Health insurance and fire insurance

I was struck this morning by something on the radio. They played an excerpt from Romney, in one of the debates, arguing that government shouldn't provide health care, because the private market could do it just as well. And I was reminded of the early private fire departments. Here's Wikipedia on the subject:

The Great Fire of 1666 started in a baker's shop on Pudding Lane, consumed about two square miles (5 km²) of the city, leaving tens of thousands homeless. Prior to this fire, London had no organized fire protection system. Afterwards, insurance companies formed private fire brigades to protect their clients’ property. Insurance brigades would only fight fires at buildings the company insured. These buildings were identified by fire insurance marks.

The parallel is striking: those who could afford fire insurance would subscribe to it, and sometimes would pay more than one insurance company because (1) you never knew which brigade would be faster to arrive at your house, and (2) if the first brigade to arrive didn't see their company's sigil on your building, they'd actually interfere with the arrival of your insurance company's brigade!

And those who couldn't afford insurance would stand by and watch their houses burn down.

Until government decided that an effective firefighting system was a necessity for society, and took over that responsibility.

I'm not arguing in favor of a particular form of government intervention in the health care crisis. The current mess is a result of the 1960s tax code and it will take some time to unwind it. My point is simply this:

The private market cannot be effective at providing anything universal, and therefore if we as a society decide that something must be available to everyone, government must inevitably be involved, either as a provider, as a guiding hand on a licensed monopoly, or through mandates.
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-26 10:50 am

Health insurance and fire insurance

I was struck this morning by something on the radio. They played an excerpt from Romney, in one of the debates, arguing that government shouldn't provide health care, because the private market could do it just as well. And I was reminded of the early private fire departments. Here's Wikipedia on the subject:

The Great Fire of 1666 started in a baker's shop on Pudding Lane, consumed about two square miles (5 km²) of the city, leaving tens of thousands homeless. Prior to this fire, London had no organized fire protection system. Afterwards, insurance companies formed private fire brigades to protect their clients’ property. Insurance brigades would only fight fires at buildings the company insured. These buildings were identified by fire insurance marks.

The parallel is striking: those who could afford fire insurance would subscribe to it, and sometimes would pay more than one insurance company because (1) you never knew which brigade would be faster to arrive at your house, and (2) if the first brigade to arrive didn't see their company's sigil on your building, they'd actually interfere with the arrival of your insurance company's brigade!

And those who couldn't afford insurance would stand by and watch their houses burn down.

Until government decided that an effective firefighting system was a necessity for society, and took over that responsibility.

I'm not arguing in favor of a particular form of government intervention in the health care crisis. The current mess is a result of the 1960s tax code and it will take some time to unwind it. My point is simply this:

The private market cannot be effective at providing anything universal, and therefore if we as a society decide that something must be available to everyone, government must inevitably be involved, either as a provider, as a guiding hand on a licensed monopoly, or through mandates.
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-21 02:49 pm
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Chapter 1, part 1: The Greenes in America, 1887-1915

Since my initial goal was producing the book for my nephew, my first focus was on areas where I didn't have already have a lot of information. Long and with lots of images )
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-21 02:49 pm
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Chapter 1, part 1: The Greenes in America, 1887-1915

Since my initial goal was producing the book for my nephew, my first focus was on areas where I didn't have already have a lot of information. Long and with lots of images )
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-14 10:23 pm
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Genealogy, part 0

So before I start talking about the research that I did, I should start by introducing you to the names that I knew when I started. Behind a cut for length )

Returning close to home: I have one sister; both she and I have one son and one daughter. My mother is an only child; my father's brother also has two children. So growing up, I thought that, with the exception of the Erlanger branch, which was reserved for special occasions like weddings and reunions, our family was small.

It turns out I was wrong.
rhu: (Default)
2012-10-14 10:23 pm
Entry tags:

Genealogy, part 0

So before I start talking about the research that I did, I should start by introducing you to the names that I knew when I started. Behind a cut for length )

Returning close to home: I have one sister; both she and I have one son and one daughter. My mother is an only child; my father's brother also has two children. So growing up, I thought that, with the exception of the Erlanger branch, which was reserved for special occasions like weddings and reunions, our family was small.

It turns out I was wrong.