Varied VOICES: August 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

PEOPLE IN TEL AVIV: The Cat Feeder Lady


She has to be in her late 60S. Probably new in the neighborhood—I did not see her before. A shaven head, bright eyes, a hippie gown thrown on her slim body, I met her in my office parking lot while walking to my car after work.

She caught my eye. She was feeding the stray cats. Talking with them, it looked like she hurried from home to fulfill her mission. One glance was enough to see it is more than a hobby for her.

Several cats gathered around her. A street gang. Some strong and looking healthy, others shy and beaten. One was waiting several meters aside, patiently. I opened my car window, asking her how the babies are.

“Hungry,” she replied.

“There is another one there,” I say, while opening the parking lot barrier, rolling slowly into the street.

“I know,” she says. “She does not mingle with the crowd. She is a princess waiting for me to come over.”

And indeed, the Princess is waiting patiently, and finally gets her share.

It was several evenings that I saw this, and every time we spoke a few words through the open window, the lady and I.

Last week I stopped to talk with her before getting into my car. She told me she is relatively new here, and moved in with her own cat.

The cat took a while to get acquainted, and at first she had to shut the windows as the cat would jump out of the window every time while she was away at work. Plus she could not keep the windows closed or she would suffocate. Hot, humid Tel Aviv days and nights. She had to let the cat go. Then she decided to adopt the stray cats. She has three different gangs, in different corners. Each gang has a different menu; I did not catch exactly why.

She watches who else feeds them, and then decides what she will bring, whether cat food (Does she buy it? I will have to ask, but that’s certainly what it looks like), or table scraps. We keep talking. She says the cats need company, and I can see how fond they are of her.

She needs company too, and does not seem to have much of it. Eager to talk and talk.

I walk to my car, heading home.

Tel Aviv, a hot summer night with lonely people and lonely cats.

Many readers will remember Nachum Katz from his 1997-1999 stint as Israel shaliach, or emissary, at the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. Back home in Hadera, Israel, he is currently COO of SDM Sales & Direct Marketing. His varied career includes service in the IDF from 1975-97. He was Colonel of the Artillery and Education Corps upon retirement.

Monday, August 23, 2010

IMPACTING MY WORLD: The Mosque That Roared


The discordant din of the 911 mosque controversy has taken a nasty turn. Not surprisingly, supporters of constructing the mosque, just a stone’s throw from Ground Zero, are outraged at those opposed to putting a mosque there. Unfortunately, their predictable knee jerk reaction to its opponents is to label them racists and bigots.

The opponents to erecting the mosque on that spot claim that it is in deference to the sensibilities of tens of thousands of victims, whose number includes the family and friends of the 3,000 murdered innocents. Rather than respond to the opponents' explanation as to why they oppose the mosque at Ground Zero, their claims are unceremoniously brushed aside as anti-Muslim, by the very folks who profess tolerance. They do not allow that opposition to the mosque is based on the abhorrence of acts of murder perpetrated by terrorists in the name of their misguided understanding of Islam.

Fortunately, the majority of adherents to that faith have an understanding of its 21st Century imperative, which is to live harmoniously with those of other faiths.

It is the anguish of tens of thousands of victims, which includes family and friends of the 3,000 souls who perished on that site that warrants a special kind of sensitivity. The ‘rights’ issue is a non-issue and only serves to deflect and dishonor those who have suffered an irreplaceable loss.

There is no question that the proponents of building the mosque have a right to do so, but that is not the ground upon which the issue stands. There are other places to build the mosque and at the same time build bridges spanning an abyss born of suspicion and mistrust.

The resolution of differences does not depend upon the gratuitous proclamations of politicians and pundits, but rather upon the gift of an open heart and outstretched hand reaching out to those sorely in need of compassion, empathy and kindness. Those who have no legal right, nor claim, to that hallowed ground, nevertheless need to have the issue put right—for they only have one site, Ground Zero, upon which to build a lasting memory of those they love and remember, even as they grieve over their loss and pray for their souls.

Steven Wenick, a retired systems analyst, says that blogging enables him to “satisfy my need for self expression and dialogue with my audience.” A past president of Cong. Beth El, he and his wife, Bobbie, frequently travel to Israel to visit one of their three daughters and their two sabra grandchildren. Wenick has written for Attitudes Magazine, The Friday Forum and New Business Opportunities Magazine.

Monday, August 16, 2010

ON MY SOAPBOX: Pleasures of the Jersey Shore are Timeless

Pleasure of the Jersey Shore are Timeless


While sitting by the ocean on one of our many hot summer days, I observed how timeless is the pursuit of pleasure at the Jersey shore.

Children enjoy playing in the exact same manner that I did as a child. Toddlers alternately run towards and away from the waves that crash at their feet, while laughing and shrieking. Equipped with brightly colored pails and shovels, their older brothers and sisters spend hours happily digging in the wet sand, carting endless buckets of water back and forth from the water’s edge to create their castles and other architectural splendors. Those buckets and shovels, which were metal when I was a child; are now made of plastic…but provide just as much fun. Seagulls, sand crabs, and ice cream men are pursued unmercifully by this age group.

The pre-teens are ever so slightly more nonchalant as they go about their shore pursuits. The boys pretend to ignore the blossoming young girls who gaze longingly at them as they ride their surfboards out towards the beckoning whitecaps. Perhaps realizing that they may have to bide their time for awhile, these pubescent young lades revert back to being little children again—shrieking and giggling as they jump the waves. Later, when the boys return from their surfing, or if they pass a lifeguard stand, the girls may regret that their hair got all wet.

Like the seagulls, the teenagers strut their stuff in a slightly more conspicuous fashion. Teenaged girls, more practiced at the art of unspoken seduction, apply sunscreen or adjust their bikini straps in a casual yet semi-suggestive manner while appearing not to notice the appreciative glances of the opposite sex.

This effort is not entirely lost on the guys, who although still embroiled in endless surfing and games of volleyball, cast overt glances at the better endowed females. When at last they tire of their games, some preening and grooming usually precedes the casual flop on the sand next to the young lady of their choice. There are, after all, hormones to be dealt with and evening plans to be made.

Hardly anyone under 21 is reading, but this seems to be a favorite pastime of both young and not-so-young adults. Those who are tending young children, of course, don’t have time to do anything else. Regardless of their age, women are usually talking while either walking or sitting on their beach chairs, while men are busy playing something—it really doesn’t matter what. They are all still little boys at the beach.

You may not see a lot of them, but the older folks are perhaps the sweetest sight of all. If they are at the beach at all, it’s because they really love it. I know because I am becoming one of them. They take it all in—remembering the faraway times when they played with children of their own at the beach, and perhaps wistfully remembering when their bodies were capable of doing so much more. And is there a more beautiful sight than that of a grandparent happily playing with a grandchild in the waves or the sand or sharing an ice cream treat?

And when it’s really hot, what could be a more timeless pleasure than to drag your chair to the water’s edge, allowing the cool water to wash over your legs, as your chair tilts crazily in the shifting mud? And can anyone forget the delicious taste of an ice cold fudgie-wudgie? The ice cream man is still the most popular person on the beach.

Our daily lives have changed a great deal over the years. Family picnics and drives have given way to more air-conditioned and high tech activities. Computers, television, cell phones, Ipods and blackberries compete for our leisure time. Yet, cell phones and the occasional Kindle are about the only modern-day intrusions that have made it to the beach.

Other than that, it’s exactly the way we all remember it. And how many other things can you say that about?

The photo shows my granddaughter, Maxie Mandel, at about two years old, playing with my 35-year-old bucket.

Sherry Wolkoff, in her own words, blogs to add her perspective as a “somewhat curmudgeonly and occasionally cantankerous observer of the wrongs she thinks need to be righted in this world.” She is the Director of Communications for Samost Jewish Family and Children’s Service, a Federation agency; and has written for many local publications, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Courier Post, Attitudes Magazine, Inside Magazine, The Jewish Voice, and The Jewish Exponent. \