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At the Arrival in Auschwitz

Dear friends,

When I went to visit my dear friend and holocaust survivor George Pal yesterday, as I do regularly, I didn't expect the personal discovery that I was about to hear. 

After George graciously invited me in and offered me a cup of coffee, he pointed to a pile of paper on the table and said "I think you will find it interesting..."

"Last week I was searching for a live interview with Prof. Elie Weisel, and I got on to the website of the Claim Conferance.

George Pal.jpgIn the homepage of the site they featured a picture of the selection in Auschwitz. I looked at the picture and right in front I saw myself, at the age of 17, arriving at this death camp!"

George lifted up the picture and it was very clear that it was him, standing at that famous tragic line before facing Josef Mengele, now known as 'The Angel of Death'.

George told me of his last encounter with his grandfather, who was taken to the gas chambers. I had heard the story before, but when George was holding that picture in his hand - it sounder more real than ever.

And the message, to me, was also very real. I'm pleased to share it all with you: 


One of the most special blessings in Jewish practice is the "shehecheyanu" blessing. When we get to celebrate a Jewish holiday again, when we move into a new home, and even when we get to taste the first fruits of the season - we say a blessing thanking G-d for reaching this joyous occasion.

This week I heard this bracha (blessing) with such kavanah (intention) that I have never heard before.

A few days ago our dear friend and accomplished artist Naomi Spiers completed the third and last portion of the Mechitzah (divider) for our Shul, made with paper cut art inside a glass panel in a wooden frame.

Many of you have seen the other two parts of the Mechitzah of the seven species of Israel and the twelve tribes. Now, if you think the first two were amazing, you will be astonished by the fine details of the third panel on the theme of Jewish Holiday!
Last Tuesday, Naomi traveled from her home in Salt Spring Island to deliver the third panel to the Shul. After placing it - she called out-loud with tears in her eyes this blessing of Shehecheyanu, "blessed are you G-d...who granted me life, sustained me and enabled me to reach this occasion".

When sitting with Naomi afterwards, I was interested to know the amount of hours she put into this project, but she was reluctant to give me this information… With the help of her brother-in law we figured that over 3,000 hours went into making this master piece!

Naomi had one request "I need a new project” she said “this was what I would wake up in the morning for, it gave me meaning to my life...”

I had the privilege to hear the blessing of "Sheheciyanu" from a woman who wasn't only grateful for living to see her project completed, but who lived three years of her life with one purpose - to beautify a house of prayer!

I invite you to honour Naomi at the Kiddush tomorrow in Shul for her great artistic accomplishment, and perhaps even more importantly – to get inspired by her commitment and devotion.

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