The words we use

If you are at all like me, you have the occasion to visualize someone from your past for no particular reason. From there, you recollect one or more conversations with that person.

Sometimes you may be able to reconstruct those chats, completely or in part. Sometimes you simply can’t remember what was said by you or the other party. But what if somehow you had the ability to recover whatever part of whatever communication you wanted?

I’m not talking about some kind of voodoo or magic. But let’s imagine for just a quick second that you could go back to any time and place you choose. The reason for going back there is to remember precisely what was said.

The first step might be the venue. It could be a graduation or wedding ceremony an interview, a first date, or an accidental encounter. Maybe it was last week or maybe it was nineteen years ago.

Once that is established, the other party may or may not be a given. If I consider my college graduation, for instance, there were at least two or maybe three people there to celebrate the occasion. What I am seeking is the exchange of words between those present and me.

You may choose to delete a particular day or place and simply relive the experience of being with someone in particular. It may be an afternoon or an evening that you spent with someone who has since passed away.

The chances are pretty good that multiple have, do, and will think of you and the words you shared. We can’t control recollections of the past but we can certainly control remembrances of those conversations that we are having or are going to have.

My recommendation to students is never to say anything that they want to retract. While I hope that those who remember me recollect the good words I’ve uttered, I can’t guarantee it. All I know for certain is that since I’ve learned the importance of choosing speech carefully, I hope that I haven’t created an unpleasant recollection for anyone. Shalom.


These are my thoughts after publishing what I consider to be a milestone/landmark book. It’s unrealistic to expect that anyone can completely empathize. My feelings are a combination of relief, ecstasy, closure, sadness and satisfaction.

When I began my research into the Holocaust and World War II, I did not do so with the intention of writing this book or any other. In fact, I was learning as much as I could to help the gentleman whom I helped write a biography as a veteran and retired law enforcement officer. But as I continued to read, I soon recognized that while I had no ability to change the past, anything I could contribute would have the inevitable effect of making my statement to the future.

As I prepare for the next book, (part of a trilogy), I must reevaluate my motives and desired outcomes. Commercial success has never been and will never be one of my objectives. Achieving a level of knowledge on my subject, however, is intoxicating. Because I learned so much in writing Two papas – a tale of impossible Holocaust survival, how will I grow or be more fulfilled by the next phase of my authorial journey? From this vantage point, growth and gratification are inevitable.

Although some say that we spend too much time analyzing the Holocaust, I don’t believe that it is possible to know or say too much. And so I reach a few conclusions:

The process of researching, planning and creating the next book will represent a huge positive process for me. My hope is that many will appreciate the work and learn something important from it.

When I stop writing for whatever reason, I will feel confident that I have done everything possible to live up to my life’s philosophy – to inform and to educate. If you are entertained, enlightened or inspired along the way, I cannot possibly ask for more. Shalom.

Two papas – a tale of impossible Holocaust survival

Following is the synopsis of my new book, released this week. Book is available in paperback or Kindle format. If you enjoy the book, I will greatly appreciate your writing a review and sending the link to someone you know with whom you want to share my work. Here is the link:

Two papas: a tale of impossible Holocaust survival.

Two papas – tale of impossible Holocaust survivals is a twentieth-century story of hope, determination and vision. A baby girl is born in a Nazi death camp and she is hidden and raised by her two papas. They live through their Treblinka imprisonment and escape to begin a new life. Her partner will spend two years in a Warsaw attic to avoid Nazis who have destroyed the Warsaw Ghetto, making the city unsafe for Jews. Finally, they meet and find love in Soviet-occupied Warsaw. Together they relocate to Israel and create a family in settings that are removed from hate, oppression and terror. Their survivals become a tribute to faith in God, the powerful will to prevail and strength of the human spirit.

Growing forward

How old were you when people stopped asking what you wanted to be when you grew up? The question changes as you add years to your life but the older we become, the more prevalent the belief that we no longer need to wonder about our dreams.

Now I am thinking that we need to ask ourselves frequently, regardless of our ages, what we want from life that we don’t have. The reasons why our goals are unrealized can be simple or complex. But I suggest that aspiring to something (anything) is healthy, productive and quite rewarding.

Let’s back up a bit. When we entered college, many of us were quite focused about our career aspirations. In my case, I was determined to become a high school literature teacher. Some of that came to pass although I admit to having flirted with anthropology, journalism and law school.

While we may not need to make similar decisions later in life, not having to make a choice of careers doesn’t mean the same as mentally retiring. If your job doesn’t make you happy, what kind of activity would? Maybe you have always wanted to raise cocker spaniels. Maybe you wanted to grow orchids. Or maybe you’ve wanted to run a marathon.

All or any of those are aspects of growing forward (self-actualization, if you prefer). It often has nothing to do with money. In other words, you might not need a multi-acre estate to have a kennel. Most likely, you can do it on a smaller scale. Raising orchids would probably require less capital. And as far as running a marathon, it may be advisable to begin with a 5K or 10K before you tackle 26 miles.

What do you want to do or be when you grow up, whether it’s 20 years or 20 days from now? It is a better time to think of growing forward rather than growing up. This may be the best chance you will have to fill your life with puppies instead of regrets. Shalom.

Check your sources

Several weeks ago, I ordered a book written by the famous author and storyteller, Sholom Aleichem. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, think of Fiddler on the Roof and you are in the right space. The book that I acquired was a collection of Aleichem’s stories that were expansions of the Fiddler tale and it is filled with wisdom, suggestions and quite a bit more.

As you might expect, the stories center around Tevye, the central and arguably most memorable character in the famous play and movie. But Tevye is a man worth knowing for many reasons. He is forthright about being of humble means  – he works hard for a living and often worries about his finances. This status is likely exacerbated by the fact that he describes his wife as not very smart and they share seven daughters.

Here’s what I value most about Tevye, other than his unabashed and unending dedication to his wife and family. Tevye believes that a man is incapable of being believed unless he liberally quotes the Torah (the Bible or Old Testament), the Talmud (explanatory/descriptive commentaries on the Bible) and Rashi, a well-known and highly respected French Biblical scholar.

My best guess is that most of us don’t use these as resources for the majority of work that we create, share or publish. But there is a message that I truly appreciate. If you are going to make a statement or take a position, make certain that your sources/resources are entirely credible and legitimate. Although you may never use religious texts as sources for your work, Tevye doesn’t think that you can do any better.

Life was quite a bit simpler in Tevye’s time, as he drove his horse and wagon to town to sell his milk, cheese and eggs. But the logic is impeccable and irrefutable. If I am receiving my guidelines from God, I cannot imagine anyone who would be so bold as to doubt my credentials. Shalom.


Because I’m hard at work on my first novel, I’ve had reason to spend some of my time on the differences between fiction and non-fiction. All of my previous work – books, blogs and miscellaneous editorial assignments – has been non-fiction. An easy distinction is to differentiate events that actually occurred versus those that were created. Whether it is the subject matter or a new set of discoveries, I am finding that there is more fact to fiction than I previously believed.

Let me provide an example. There are four major characters in my novel that takes place primarily in Poland during World War II. They are characters defined by extraordinary accomplishments and they overcome obstacles that few of us who are alive can imagine.

Although I develop their characters within the plot I have constructed, I now prefer to think of these characterizations as biographies. Yes, I realize that biographies require subjects who are alive or have been at some time in the past. But it’s much more gratifying, historically and authorially, to depict players in my book who could very well have existed. And if my purpose (at least one of them) is to commemorate and honor those deserving of recognition, why not believe that they existed at some time, whether or not in the geography of my novel?

As I run through the catalog of the literary works that I’ve digested, I subject that many included persons or occurrences that were actual components of these authors’ lives. In The Great Gatsby, (one of my favorite books) for instance, Fitzgerald generously alludes to parties that he had attended in Long Island, NY. Through those experiences, Fitzgerald intricately relates the greed, frivolity and corruption – all traces of reality that typified the Roaring Twenties of the US.

Because I’m also a fan of Stephen King, it may represent a more formidable exercise to find truth in his numerous creations. At the same time, King is fastidious about detail and I suspect that his work is founded in history and embellished by his incredible imagination.

No, I’m not positing that true fiction is impossible (or fictional, if you like). I’m simply suggesting that any decision regarding the genre of literary work may be a little blurrier than it may initially seem. Shalom.

Feeding brains

What would you expect a class of first graders to do when they are placed in a tech class filled with personal computers? Most of my reactions were surprises because I must have been out of touch with first grade tech sophistication.

Do you think they would be doing nursery rhymes or the inevitable children’s books such as Dr. Seuss? That would be incorrect. How about children’s games or puzzles? Once again, that’s incorrect.

One expectation was that a few students would have difficulty logging into the computers. Happily, I was a little correct. A few students (mostly girls) had difficulties with log-ins and site access. Just to be fair, a number of boys had some challenges as well.

The rest of my expectations were serious misplaced. One student was watching the construction of a video game control. One was walking around the tech classroom, helping fellow students log on and visit the sites they chose. Most of the rest were doing math games or similar educational pursuits. This may be because they understood the consequences of doing otherwise. Or it may be (we hope) an example of the quest for knowledge.

Happily, kids are equally excited to visit the library, the art class or the music room as they are tech. This may be because all exposures to knowledge and experience are desirable. As I must remind myself daily, most of my kids have only a fraction of what they ultimately need to know. They treat the process of being in tech as they do reading of a book.

Because tech was never part of my own educational development, I have no memories that replicate those of my first graders. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Some of us naturally excelled in math while others of us wrote dazzling essays. Everything in between is good, from algebra to zoology. Our most important mission, whether it’s hands on a keyboard or listening to percussion, is to instill an enduring love for learning in all shapes, colors and sizes. Shalom.




One of the many lessons I’ve learned in the classroom is the power of helpers. Every day that I teach, I have one or two or more students who immediately present themselves for designation as my assistants.

This doesn’t include having them teach or enforce discipline. In some cases, I have the rules of enforcement squad who will work toward establishing order. The jobs they complete include such tasks as line leader, attendance sheet runners and IT helpers who are adept at in-class technology.

What’s magical, however, is what happens to kids once they are able to help. The rowdiest of children become docile and pleasant when they are instructed to be role models. This translates to words such as “leaders” or “captains” or “assistants.”

And those students who are always helpers will remind me whenever I see them of their elevated status. In some ways, this dynamic is no different than the rest of life. Some of seek to be better, smarter, more successful, wealthier, happier or some other advanced position. Some don’t, I realize, and unless I am instructing them and they are in my space, I have no jurisdiction. It’s very rare, inside or outside the classroom, that we encounter those who aspire to mediocrity.

Often I wonder what part of our brains is responsible for distinction. Is there a genetic, still small voice that urges us to do more and improve? If that’s the case, where is that voice in the case of under-achievers and criminals?

My best guess is that there will always be that student who wants to occupy a noble distinction. As an educator, my job is to remind students that they all have the potential to do or be whatever they choose. If enabling them as helpers contributes to that growth, I have succeeded at establishing the first step.

Friday was popcorn day and my sweetest, most devoted pupil rushes to advise that he left his popcorn money in class when he left for recess. After I confirmed that he didn’t need any popcorn money, I escorted him to the classroom. He thanked me profusely and ran to secure his treasure. Ten minutes later, he returned from the popcorn vendor, walked up to me and wordlessly handed me one of his two bags of popcorn. Somehow, I think I must have done something right. Shalom.

Gathering rosebuds

If gathering rosebuds doesn’t sound familiar, I invoked the first line in a poem by 17th century poet Robert Herrick. He suggests, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” in addition to other important wisdom.

Several times per week, I spend some time wondering how much time I spend doing things that are entirely frugal or sensible. These activities are the result of many years of needing to save money, simply because there was no choice.

It now occurs to me that I do many of these out of habit rather than necessity. This process takes many forms. When I get close to the end of any of the cosmetic or cleaning items that I use, I always transfer the last few inches or ounces to another bottle of the same product, rather than lose a few days of use. In the kitchen, I will perform the same type of miserliness, using the last stalk of celery or last mushroom when those items may have been more properly discarded.

This is a lesson in the fragility of life and the imperative to live each day as it is made available. There is no secret to the reality that I have already spent more years on earth than I likely have in my future. And so, it seems to be time to enjoy my life with greater freedom rather than by maintaining unnecessary habits.

Translated into everyday life, if I want to buy a pair of shoes that are not within my normal guidelines for work or weekends, I buy them. If I want to add a few blue streaks into my hair, I do so. and if I feel like buying a brand new flavor of coffee to try, I buy it.

Make no mistake. By no means am I suggesting that you abandon everything that resembles care and conscience, spending money recklessly. My bills are paid and my responsibilities are all satisfied. But I firmly believe that without sounding morbid, I must do what makes me happy while I still have a clear mind and the resources to do so. Tomorrows are guaranteed to no-one and I am living life as if today is the last one, just in case that may be true.

Or in the words of Mr. Herrick,  And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying. Shalom.

$5 magic

Those of us who spend all of our time in adulthood sometimes forget how much fun magic can be. Mine came totally without warning and now that I have experienced it, I can begin orchestrating the next event.

The setting was fourth grade. While I normally avoid grades beyond third, it occurred to me that it was a good way to begin spring break. At this point I have no doubt about revisiting fourth.

Not surprisingly, my new school district presented me with a collection of twenty-seven courteous, sweet, intelligent young people. They offered help, direction and a gratifying amount of appreciation.

Here’s where the magic began. As usual, I brought my Magic Substitute Bag that is filled with candy, stickers and pencils. The first student who saw me remove a bag of pencils timidly requested one. It was all over.

One by one, they presented themselves at my desk. How could I give one pencil to a child and say no to twenty-six others? Fortunately, I had enough reserves. Giving out pencils and a few pens was not the magic. It was the behavior that followed.

You’re the greatest teacher I’ve ever had.

You’re the greatest substitute I’ve ever had.

Can you be our regular teacher?

Can you always be our substitute?

Why did you do this for us?

For the rest of the day, I observed twenty-seven writers closely guarding the pens and pencils that had just appeared out of nowhere. We are so accustomed to having to earn something or beg for something or trade for something. Is it so strange to be given a gift simply because I could give it?

It was a $5 investment for fifty mechanical pencils. There’s no doubt that I’ve spent a great deal more on quite a bit less, in terms of creating happiness for anyone including me. In this case, the good feelings were all throughout the room, with punctuation marks in lead and ink. Shalom.