Tag Archives: Jewish immigrants

Death and Love in the Holocaust: The Story of Sonja and Kurt Messerschmidt Book Review

Love can get us through the toughest of times. It gives us hope like few things can.

Death and Love in the Holocaust: The Story of Sonja and Kurt Messerschmidt, by Steve Hochstadt was published last month. The book tells the story of Sonja and Kurt Messerschmidt, a married couple who survived the Holocaust.

They were born in Berlin and were among the last Jews deported out of the country. Married in Theresienstadt, Sonja and Kurt were in Auschwitz and among the lucky ones to walk out alive. Finding each other after the war, they emigrated to the United States and rebuilt their lives.

Lady And The Tramp Love GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

What I liked about this book was the dual narrative. The historical facts are interspersed with interviews with the book’s subjects. What I find amazing is not just one of them survived, but they both were among the few to return to the land of the living. What I got from the story was that love can get us through the darkest of times, even when hope seems lost.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Death and Love in the Holocaust: The Story of Sonja and Kurt Messerschmidt is available wherever books are sold.


1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business Book Review

The word “genius” is often thrown around without anything to back it up. One of the few people who can legitimately be given that title is Mel Brooks. He has made audiences laugh for 70+ years, taking comedy in a direction that few have dared to.

His new autobiography, All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business, was released last November. The youngest of four boys, Brooks was born to a Jewish immigrant family in 1926. Raised in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn by his widowed mother, he grew up during the Great Depression and served his country during World War II. After the war, he joined one of the greatest comedy writing teams of all time as a co-writer of Sid Ceasar‘s Your Show of Shows.

Married to actress Anne Bancroft for five decades, Brooks directed (and in some cases starred in) such classics as Young Frankenstein, To Be or Not To Be, The Producers, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, History of the World: Part I, etc. Telling his story as only he can, Brooks reveals his heart, his humor, his work ethic, and his acute ability to use laughter to delve into topics that many would not dare to touch.

In his mid 90’s, he has more energy and gusto many are half his age. It was an incredible insight into a man who has made generations of audiences laugh. What I loved was the revelation of the man behind the jokes. He reminds me of someone’s old uncle who is not quite politically correct. They know that they are crossing the line. But it is not out of spite or to cause trouble. It’s to make the audience laugh and while they are laughing, perhaps think about the message behind the joke.

As I read the book, two things jumped out at me. The first was that there was no mention of his first wife and not a lot of time focused on his older children. The second is that he refers to almost every woman first by her looks and then by her talent. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s a generational thing. I get that it could be construed as a compliment, but I would rather be known for my abilities first and my looks second.

Other than that, do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Mel Brooks Comb The Desert GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

All About Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business is available wherever books are sold.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Judaism, Movies, New York City, Star Wars, Television

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots That Shook New York City Book Review

Food is more than the nourishment our body needs to survive. It tells the story of the people who prepared it.

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots That Shook New York City by Scott Seligman was published last year. One of the major tenets of traditional Judaism is keeping kosher. That means that certain foods are off limits. Meat and dairy dishes cannot be combined in the same meal. There must be two sets of dishes and two sets of preparation tools. Most of all, the only acceptable meat is kosher. The problem with kosher meat is that it is more expensive than its non-kosher counterpart.

In May of 1902, many Jewish families who resided in New York City were poor immigrants, barely struggling to get by. But in spite of the hardships, they were determined to maintain their traditions. That included the food they purchased and consumed. When the price of the animal based proteins rose beyond what many could afford, women took to the streets, believing that price gouges were responsible for the increase. What started out as a non-violent movement turned into a battle for the hearts and minds of the community. Led by women who lacked the education and opportunities of their uptown peers, it is a story of not just economic survival, but the average person fighting against the powerful.

This book is obviously a niche subject and right up my alley. This is my history and the women I come from. Instead of keeping silent, they stood up for themselves and their community. In doing so, these women blazed a path and helped to created the blueprint for the modern non-violent protest that we see today.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

9 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City, Politics

The Treatment of the Haitian Immigrants is Wrong and Un-American

America is made for and by immigrants. With the exception of being Native American, most of us can say that at least one person in our family came from another part of the world. The problem is that there are many people who forget this, or even worse think that they can amend our immigration policies to fit their racist ideals.

The truth is that no one wants to leave their homes if it is not necessary. If we live in a nation with a stable economy and political system, feel safe, and have access to education, jobs, and other opportunities, there is no need to go. But there are many places around the world in which life is harder than it needs to be, forcing many to flee in hopes of finding what they did not have in the land of their birth.

Last week, as Haitian migrants gathered at the US/Mexico border, they were attacked by law enforcement on horseback. Some were whipped as they tried to get away, creating reminders of the treatment of runaway slaves who were caught before they could reach freedom.

I can’t blame these people for wanting to leave Haiti. Between multiple natural disasters and the presidential assassination of Jovenel Moïse that has resulted in chaos and lawlessness, what reason is there to stay? We have every right to protect our borders and make sure that those who we allow to enter are not going to make trouble. But at the same time, we should be treating them as human beings. We are not obligated to let everyone into the country. But we are obligated to give them a chance.

This is not the America I know. The America I know welcomed my relations more than a century ago, providing safety and the chance to thrive that did not exist in Europe. If we do not at least attempt to live up to our promises and our values by letting at least some of the Haitians at the border into the country, we will be nothing more than a fraud and a lie. That is nothing short of heartbreaking and disgusting.

2 Comments

Filed under International News, National News, World News

Here, Right Matters: An American Story Book Review

Sometimes, fate gives us a choice. When our conscious speaks, we can either listen to it. The other option is to do nothing.

Former US Army Colonel Alexander Vindman tell his story in his new memoir, Here, Right Matters: An American Story. Published earlier this month, the reader is taken into his world and the Biden-Ukraine conspiracy as he experienced it. Born in 1975 in the former Soviet Union, he emigrated with his widowed father and brothers in the late 1970’s. Raised in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, he joined the military as an adult.

On July 25th, 2019, Vindman had to make a decision. He could stay silent as a certain former President acted in a way that was completely unprecedented (not to mention cross a moral and legal boundary). Instead, he spoke up. This, as we all know, led to the impeachment trial and the public slander of Vindman by certain people in the government and the press.

This book is amazing. It counters the lies and the trash that accuses him of being disloyal and unappreciative of what this country has given him. He was willing to forgo his career and his reputation to stand up to a President who is not only a con-man, but had no intention looking out for anyone except for himself.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Politics