Category Archives: Cultural affairs

Interned and tortured at Breendonk before deportation to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen.

Catherine Annabel, who established in 2012 “Inspiration for Life” loves to write about the things that interest, challenge and move her. She is retired after many years working in higher education administration, most recently for the University of Sheffield.

She gave a talk at the 2019 Conference, Violent Spaces, of the Landscape, Space & Place group from the University of Nottingham, where she mentioned Winfried Georg Sebald who was born in Bavaria in 1944, in the last months of the war.

Born in Wertach, Bavaria Winfried Georg was one of three children of Rosa and Georg Sebald. From 1948 to 1963, he lived in Sonthofen, having his grandfather as the most important male presence in his early years, because his own father being in prison as a prisoner of war until 1947. His father had served in the Wehrmacht, but after he returned home, having spent a couple of years as a prisoner of war, the things that he had seen, and done, were never spoken of.

While at school in Oberstdorf the boy got to see images of the Holocaust. –  probably the liberation of Belsen – it looked unbelievable. No wonder that no one knew how to explain what they had just seen, because those who had to speak about it, where at the time of the events ‘part of the system’.

writes:

It was, in a way, what we’d now call a box-ticking exercise. Because, of course, the teachers were part of the context. Sebald, like many of his contemporaries, was unable to accept this collusive silence, and his increasing alienation from his homeland led to him working first in Switzerland and then moving to the UK, where he spent the rest of his life, teaching at UEA until his death in a car accident in 2001. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

Sebald’s work imaginatively explored themes of memory as they related to the Holocaust. His novels include Schwindel, Gefühle (1990; Vertigo), Die Ausgewanderten (1992; The Emigrants), Die Ringe des Saturn (1995; The Rings of Saturn), Logis in einem Landhaus: über Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Robert Walser und andere (1998; A Place in the Country: On Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Robert Walser, and Others), and Austerlitz (2001).

Catherine Annabel writes,

The Holocaust, indeed, became a presence in his poetry and his prose writing. It seems never to be very far away, invoked maybe by the name of a place, innocent in itself, but carrying the weight of history. In many of his works, it is addressed obliquely, but the figure of the refugee appears in several of his books.

Max Ferber, one of the four protagonists of The Emigrants, left his home in Munich (capital of Bavaria) in 1939, following Kristallnacht, his father having obtained a visa for him by bribing the English consul. We are introduced to Ferber via the narrator, who does not ask about his history, why or how he left Germany, until their second meeting, at which point Ferber tells how letters from his parents ceased, and he subsequently discovers that they were deported from Munich to Riga, where they were murdered. In Sebald’s final work, Austerlitz, the Holocaust becomes text, not subtext, foreground rather than context.

Sebald’s (fictional) protagonist, Jacques Austerlitz, is an architectural historian, with a particular interest in what he calls ‘our mightiest projects’ – fortifications, railway architecture, what they used to call lunatic asylums, prisons and law courts. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

We meet the narrator first in a carceral space – Antwerp’s zoo. After his first conversation with Austerlitz, he is moved to visit Breendonk, one of the fortresses that Austerlitz had mentioned.

But it is not the history of how such places were designed, the flawed theories of defence against enemy incursion, that confront him there, but the much more recent past, Breendonk’s conversion into a concentration camp in the Nazi era – a transit camp for deportation to Auschwitz, and a place of torture.

    • Originally built for the Belgian army 1906-13 to protect Antwerp – ‘it proved completely useless for the defence of the city and the country’
    • Covered by a five-metre thick layer of soil for defense against bombings, a water-filled moat and measured 656 by 984 feet (200 by 300 m)
    • Requisitioned by the Germans as a prison camp for political dissidents, captured resistance members and Jews
    • Infamous for prisoners’ poor living conditions and for the use of torture. Most prisoners later transferred to larger concentration camps in Eastern Europe
    • 3,590 prisoners known to have been imprisoned at Breendonk, 303 died or were executed within the fort itself and as many as 1,741 died subsequently in other camps before the end of the war. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

Sebald brings in a human witness here, the Austria-born essayist Jean Amery, born Hanns Chaim Mayer, who by his participation in organized resistance against the Nazi occupation of Belgium got detained and tortured by the German Gestapo at the Auffanglager Breendonk in Fort Breendonk, afterwards to be brought to other concentration camps, Auschwitz and later Buchenwald and finally being liberated at Bergen-Belsen in 1945. After the war the former Hanns Mayer changed his name to Jean Améry (the surname being a French-sounding anagram of his family name) in order to symbolize his dissociation from German culture and his alliance with French culture. He settled in Belgium, where he  lived in Brussels, working as a culture journalist for German language newspapers in Switzerland. He did not write at all of his experiences in the death camps until 1964, when, at the urging of German poet Helmut Heißenbüttel, he wrote his book Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne (“Beyond Guilt and Atonement”). It was later translated into English by Sidney and Stella P. Rosenfeld as At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities.

Haunted by nightmares of the horror he had witnessed he committed suicide in 1978.

Our narrator finds Breendonk to be a place of horror. The darkness inside is literal, but also metaphysical, and it becomes heavier as he penetrates further into the building. He begins to experience visual disturbances – black striations quivering before his eyes – and nausea, but explains that

‘it was not that I guessed at the kind of third-degree interrogations which were being conducted here around the time I was born’,

since he had not at that point read Amery’s account. Sebald is telling us that the narrator’s reaction to Breendonk is not, therefore, personal, not related in any way to his own experiences or even to things he had read, but intrinsic to the place, as if its use, or abuse, has changed its very nature, violence become part of its fabric.

Breendonk is the first of the trio of Holocaust sites around which the text is structured.

It’s built to a star shape, a six-pointed star. This was a favoured design both for fortresses, designed to keep invaders out, and for prisons, designed to keep wrongdoers in. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

According to Austerlitz this is a fundamentally wrong-headed design for a fortress, the idea that ‘you could make a city as secure as anything in the world can ever be.’ The largest fortifications will attract the enemy’s greatest numbers, and draw attention to their weakest points – not only that, but battles are not decided by armies impregnably entrenched in their fortresses, but by forces on the move. Despite plenty of evidence (such as the disastrous Siege of Antwerp in 1832), the responses tended to be to build the same structures but stronger and bigger, and with inevitably similar results. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

As the design for a prison, the star shape makes more sense. It does not conform to the original layout of the panopticon, but it does allow for one central point of oversight and monitoring, with radial arms that separate the inmates into manageable groups. The widespread use of existing fortresses as places of imprisonment for enemies of the Reich was primarily opportunistic, of course, but the ease of this transformation illustrates Austerlitz’s arguments quite well. {Marks of Pain: Architecture as Witness to Trauma in W G Sebald’s Austerlitz}

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Being a Writer Without a Dregree 

To remember

  • being a writer doesn’t take a degree.
  • to become a good writer = Being able to articulate your thoughts, being able to edit yourself, and avoiding being bias towards subjects in which you are writing.
  • 1. Avoid bias, 2. Use active verbs, 3. Eliminate most adjectives + adverbs, 4. Use concrete detail, 5. Tell a story worth telling, 6. Know your subject.
  • being an expert in something doesn’t necessarily mean your good at it.

C. Jaiter

Over the years people have made it a point to tell me, being a writer doesn’t take a degree. As much as I wanted to believe the words that were perpetually thrown my way; I was having a hard time coming to that conclusion. Growing up it was instilled in me that to become a writer,a good writer that shows promise, I had to have certain things. Being able to articulate your thoughts, being able to edit yourself, and advoiding being bias towards subjects in which you are writing.
I practiced this for so long. My writing whether it was articles, short stories, scripts etc. was getting better with time. A couple years ago when I was seriously contemplating going back to university to finish my bachelors someone I met on a bus from New York told me things that still stick with me. She said, “1. Avoid bias, 2…

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Do books with more reviews get better ratings?

How factors like number of ratings and number of reviews have an impact on book ratings.

Book-reading is an activity that a lot of people enjoy. It is one that places one’s mind in a different setting while providing one with an empathetic feeling.

Mubarak Ganiyu

Mubarak Ganiyu was stunned by his discovery that The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown got a rating of 3.8/5 from the book collection website Goodreads.

Stunned by this discovery, he decided to look into the highest rated books on Goodreads. As he got higher up the list, he noticed a trend that highly rated books generally got more reviews.

Therefore, it became a task for him to confirm this hypothesis of him which is: Do books with more reviews get better ratings?

Read more about it: Do books with more reviews get better ratings?

+find a 3-d image to perfectly show how the relationship occurred between the books’ average ratings, the text reviews count and the ratings count.

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What might there be interesting or not to miss to read

In this world there is so much to read. I just have no time enough to read everything which might catch my interest. I also know there are certain articles and books which certainly deserve my and your attention.

We can help to bring more eyes to such interesting writings, be it articles and books for adults but also for children.

On the net we may find lots of interesting writings from people who write about the things they have experienced. Lots of people bring a self-reflection, and share a view on their self-awareness. Many also give their thoughts about society and social issues.

Some also mention they would love to find like-minded people or want to share their thoughts. With “From Guest Writers” there is a place for many guest writers, people who do not mind sharing their ideas, be it musings, poetry, thoughts about our way of living, criticism, reviews, etc..

Martijn Scheijbeler, currently VP Marketing at RVshare RVshare, wrote blog posts (2019, 2018, 2017 & 2016) listing the books that he read in the past year and that he wanted to be reading during that year. Problem with him, as with me, is to find time to read all those books one wants to read.  He confesses,

As always, the past year I didn’t read all the books that I’ve listed out in the blog post as I discovered some new ones and changed my focus on some others. But I did read a lot, as I finished ~25 books (and put two books aside that weren’t worth finishing). {What books am I reading in 2020?}

Saadia Peerzada is one of those many bloggers who

Hope to help people, let them know that all emotions are valid and necessary, they are pointers to where we should or shouldn’t go. {About}

She always had a special place for books written for children, be it the unassuming descriptions, marvellous adventures, vivid descriptions of the country and food or the lessons that many adults seem to have missed out on. As parent and later as grandparent we are confronted by bringing something inspiring to our kids and grandchildren, which we do hope can give them some lessons for life. Peerzada presents a list of 10 such books that have brought not only her sustained joy (10 Children’s Books that will bring you Joy).

We would love to find such writers who also could present our readers such lists and reviews of stories to be known and read.

Are you an avid reader? Do you think there is something interesting to read? Let it be known to us and our readers.

Help us to build up a “Readers Digest”.

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a Path to explore more

When I started with this website, I wanted to share common thoughts or give similar minds an extra open door to reach others, as well as to present a selection of websites, blogs and writings I thought (and think) worthwhile reading or looking at.

For years on all my websites I also presented a “Related” articles list, to give my readers other opportunities to find more writings on the subject. After the many complaints having linked to their article, and having to search for placed links I was asked to remove, from this year onward, I stop to invest time looking for related articles, investing time to read them for after approval, placing links after the posted articles. Now much more time shall come available to publish more articles which are in unison with my thoughts and not bringing readers away from my own sites. (From the statistics more readers from this site went looking at the mentioned site, than receiving readers from the linked site.) At the same time on my websites I shall not any more bringing people to websites which are against me or my beliefs.

After giving all my energy to the world of dance my body could not fit any more the physical world of exuberance and graceful unlimited mobility. Having reached a certain age where they consider a human being not able enough to give enough to the world, I was made redundant, considered to be part of the ‘third age’ group.
First having been very disappointed by the way I was treated, the first two years I did not want to do much with ballet or theatrical dance. Not having to work full time for our living, receiving retirement fund, I could spend more time to my church work. My religious activities started even taking so much time I had less time to write at my own personal blog. (Because pensions not enough to survive I still have a few days a month I work for my living.)

I feel blessed that I am allowed to work at three Bible translations, even when it might consume also a lot of time and lots of thinking-work, being it a seriously very faithful responsibility, not to add or change anything in the saying or purpose of the original words supplied by God. Therefore, those translations in Judaic Dutch (Yiddish Dutch or Flemish), with the eye of two (or three) different groups (namely a Jeshuaist, a Jewish and an Orthodox Jewish public) is and shall be a time-consuming job with lots of thought and consideration).

This does not take away that I would have lost my interest in humanity and how man treats other people, animals and plants. I even became more active, spending also time in meetings concerning our way of life, necessary political actions a.o..
I must admit at meetings and conferences I seem to belong to a minority who strive to get unity in Europe, with some liveable world for everyone. Convinced we have to do something against this capitalist greedy world which does not show respect to the gross of people, animals and plants, I keep going strong and letting my voice being heard.

From  the moment I got retired I did not stop to seek a connection of like minds, to share common positive beliefs, and to be able to learn from each other about how to live life to the fullest.

Jonathan Hilton seems also on such a track. He writes:

Even when things don’t go as we plan, we all know no matter how hard we plan, life will throw us curve balls designed to engender growth. Our lives are defined by the lessons we learn at this moment and the way we handle ourselves. {Mind Connections}

Raising his level of consciousness has become Jonathan Hilton’s passion in life.

and understanding that when I follow and focus on certain core principles in my life and live in alignment with them, things go well. {Mind Connections}

He writes on the opening of his blog Mind Connections, admitting:

When I fall off, and my focus isn’t so sharp, then things are not so pleasant. Conscious thought about where my attention goes allows all of my energies to flow in that direction. {Mind Connections}

With the knowledge that each viewpoint may bring a different set of emotions, a different thought process, and a different reality to the perceiver it only can be enriching to share thoughts and to get to know more people from all over the world and getting to know how they manage to make the best of their life.

We have little control over the perceptions of others, but we may not forget that when we utter our ideas, share our thoughts, we might bring others to other ideas too.

How often do we not wonder if what we are doing is or would be right? How often do we not wonder if we should openly write what we think or if we should write in ways and words others would love to hear? I always have been a bad one at that. By creating my ballets I did not mind criticising the way our society was moving. I never tried to be popular by my creative works. [Choreographing fashion shows was a totally different matter, there I tried to bring the customers to find a connection in a future world to form. (We always had to be seasons ahead, manipulating the fashion trends – and yes, there stimulating human desires of consumption.) There it was also part the business to know beforehand what others would love to wear and see. ] In such way I also kept busy to try to find out what others would like to see and read.

On the surface, it is a simple choice, but in reality, it is a constant battle, {Life is a Mirror}

Hilton notes.
According to him

story-of-your-lifeThere is only a short time allotted to each of us to write the story of your life and with that time, we are tasked with a lot of things to accomplish. You have really only one life to get things right and sing the song that you want to sing. {The Story of Your Life}

We can try to make our dreams so compelling, that we will that we can’t wait to work on them, because waiting to experience them, in reality, is too painful. Often it is that enthusiasm which gets us to be restless and gets us up in the middle of the night to scribble something down or even to write certain texts.

A difficulty might be to:

Tune your enthusiasm to the size of your goals and attack it like your story depends on it because it does. That is how you write the story of your life. {The Story of Your Life}

At this blog I want to give, as many people as possible, the opportunity to share their thoughts which they and I find interesting enough to think about. I keep chasing my dreams that we can find enough people all over the world willing to bring others to see how we have to be careful which way of life we want to choose. As a Christian I also would love to see more people sharing the faith in One God and in His Gift and Good News of the coming Kingdom.

Once more, I dare to invite people to join us to share positive thoughts, but also to bring warnings how to tackle ecological and other problems.

Please do not hesitate to contact me, for becoming a part of joining hands across this globe.

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A great five-minute “film” from Bianco, a Danish shoe brand

Receiving followers of my personal blog, it gives me also more possibilities to find writers from all over the world who have something good to contribute or giving others possibilities to discover other things.

Today I found my way to a

“Husband, dad, brother, uncle, nephew, friend, teacher, ex-swimmer, blogger, vegan, juggler, learner, introvert”

and as such someone who many more people could fit this cultural stereotype. As a “60-something guy trying to figure out the world, and his place in it” he does not mind going into minds of others or showing what others might think and feel. Doing that he gives us the opportunity to have some nice feeling coming over us. Sometimes he even might write a post he had not planned. {The 18 Uses for Dr. Bronner’s Amazing Soap}

I am not so good in following the fashion world any more (though I must admit I also made my way of living of it by choreographing fashion shows in the past). We should not be afraid to know presents brands, soon our children or grandchildren may let us know about them or give it to us. {The 18 Uses for Dr. Bronner’s Amazing Soap}. Mr. Jim Borden may always be looking for something to write about,

it almost became a necessity to proactively go out into the world and do things or to simply observe more closely what is going on. {Writing Is a Symptom of Thinking}

The blogger may know that the essence of Wheeler’s Which is that the customer should always be given a choice between something and something, not a choice between something and nothing. {What in the World Is Wheeler’s Which}

Good to notice that last year, the company Bestseller made great strides towards sourcing 100 percent more sustainable cotton and made a significant commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions plus revealed plans to build its own solar power plant. More: Fashion FWD seems to be Bestseller’s ambitious strategy that will make sustainability central to its way of doing business. Bestseller wants to do its part to transform the fashion industry for a sustainable reality. It’s the right thing to do and it also makes good business sense.

foto van Bianco.

There you can get shoes of Bianco, which was founded by René Piper Laursen in 1987 with a vision of developing an international brand based on a profitable franchise concept. Bianco tells its customers that it offers fashion-forward footwear with sublime international standards and at an affordable price to a wider audience of women and men. Bianco is represented in more than 100 retail stores (a mix between own stores and franchise) and wholesalers in Scandinavia. I must confess I do not know if they succeed to make great shoes, pumps, stilettos, trainers, hi-tops, boots, bootees, ballerinas and other cool accessories like bags, belts, clutches, scarves and jewellery, but for sure I was pleasantly surprised when by the article of Mr. Borden I could enjoy one of their “spectacular ad campaigns”.

Lovely to see they dare to touch social strings.

He presents a film of the Danish shoe brand, part of Bianco’s “Step Out of Your Head” campaign and gives their description of it from the campaign web site:

In this year’s campaign, we’re encouraging you to silence your worst critic, yourself. Most of us tend to let our thoughts run away with us, and let our insecurities take hold. But by giving our inner thoughts its time in the limelight, we might inspire a more positive way of thinking about ourselves.

He too had never heard of Bianco before watching this video, and he also would not have known that it was a footwear company based on watching it. {Falling in Love on a Lift} (Though when they look down at their feet one could perhaps notice the Product Placement – and by law in Belgium it should have the PP logo in the right corner when screened publicly.) (- On the video there is no PP-logo, so viewers might stay in the dark. -)

I loved the short film.

In any case it is by such findings and people writing about their explorations we too can find some other worlds and interesting things to see. Therefore, now my turn to introduce you to Mr. Borden his blog and the Bianco film. Please do enjoy his trying to figure out the world, and his place in it.

Borden’s Blog

Falling in Love on a Lift

foto van Bianco.

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Busy minds and words

Often our mind can be full of ideas and words rambling from very floor high stairs.

Sounds me seem very loud into our head but by others the busy mind keeps on talking to them silently. Akhila, the founder of wordsandnotion.com and qualitynotion.com reminds us:

And when there is a time to speak, to add a flavour of spoken words to the emotions, the otherwise busy mind just shuts down automatically and thus pushing me to a hell of silence.

Have you experienced this awkwardness? If yes, “You are not the only one” who have failed to explain yourself properly with spoken words.

When you are neither an introvert nor a less confident person you may continue to read:

Are you failing to formulate the thoughts into speech?

You would be good listener or a good reader, still sometimes mess up with words and ends on the contraries which even you might haven’t imagined.

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Unedited Thoughts

We all have to choose between life and work, words between people or words on paper, white screens or social and other media.

Everything around us may inspire us and bring us further “on route”, so let the words, be it vocally or on paper or in books, always bring life into us and spread life to others.

Chai & Biscuits

The following is the unedited thoughts; inspired from the quote below.

Books

Because they don’t leave us,

Yes some of them may break our heart

But they never leave you, no matter what.

Some of them become a part of you

Some keep you in the bench

Like those benches at the railway stations

At the wintry or that rainy nights

The benches which had witnessed

The silent departures,

The happiest reunion

When you complete a book

It imbibe your soul,

It trades your heart

For the secret it had shared with you.

Then with that infected thought

You look for someone to share,

To explode. Peace.

You look at the book

Then at the clock

You make up your mind

To let the words conjure you

You pick the book

Books

Are better than people

And those who argue

Validate the statement

They are better than people.

Okay! Now…

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For One More day

Problem for those who have found their 7th or 8th decade on this world, finding they start loosing the capability to remember words from the many languages they could speak before they retired. (Is it dementia causing such problems in our head?)

I do agree at times, we can feel exhausted with words we are looking for or with looking for ways how we can say what we want to say. Half a century ago we could play with words and write poems, but this seems all to have gone at a certain age (and for me after some serious accident where I encountered even loss of memory in 1997 and was parallelised for half a year. After getting movements back it looked like the language-capability got paralysed.)

So, when we got the feeling of being drained out to write a sentence, which could gradually accumulate into paragraphs, and many other paragraphs which finally would have helped us to create an article worth reading, our head can be bouncing like mad of frustration or wondering if it would come over like it is intended?!?

What my problem is by reading my own texts is that I often read what should have been written their, so at first I do not notice the faults … only days later, after having taken distance of the article I am more able to see the shortcomings and faults.

For me, never would I like to compare my writings with legendary writers, because I consider my scrabbles just personal musings and furthermore thoughts to have others to get moving or doing something. We need more people taking action in this world, and that is my concern and on religious level I only hope with those more religious articles I write to bring people closer to the Most High Divine Creator. (Me just offering myself as a servant to Him.)

As the writer Josh, of this re-blogged article rightly noticed “what matters the most is the one who cares for us, not the one we care about.” We must be very careful not to be blinded by those who are against us or do not like our ideas. The world is full of people who would love to silence the others. For them we may be a nobody. It would be wrong in this chase, to forget to see the ones who are there for us and care for us. If we can find time (which there is a shortage of) it can be lovely to have books to remind us of that and to show us how precious each moment of the day is.

When I was younger I always had to laugh with those retired people when they said that had not enough time. Now being already a few years in the same boat I too must admit I have not enough time to do what I think I need to do. For sure I have not enough time to read the many books I would find or could be useful to read.

We should be careful when saying (like Josh does) “That is why I always say: Books are better than people. ” because it is always better to go in real conversation with people; and no human book can surpass the Bestseller of all times, the Bible.

To delve into the bags of memories and post some magical books that may impact many lives positively I would recommend the writings of some of my favourites like Charles Dickens, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky,Boris Leonidovitsj Pasternak, Rabindranath Tagore, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, Knut Hamsun, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Charles Baudelaire, the Brontë Sisters, Jan de Hartog, Jan Terlouw and Toon Hermans.

+

To remember

  • writer’s block: Josh like to use that term to accentuate and make it sound like some cool gadget > we at times are lazy while at other times we are emotionally overpowered by the words + we are scared about damaging our reputation by writing the unedited version of the out-pouring of our emotions.
  • take a pause + increase reading time
  • writers who make you feel encouraged + push you to write <= by use of their simple + powerful usage of words => Their works make it more comfortable for your pen which in turn starts to fill the paper with emotions => that makes you feel free.
  • The Time Keeper.jpgRuskin Bond, Cecelie Ahern, Nicholas Sparks, + Mitch Albom are the ones who make Josh feel great after muddling an emotional breakdown.
  • Mitch Albom works: The Time Keeper + For One More day => He’s like that friend with whom though you wouldn’t talk much, yet he comes and stands with you when you need it the most.

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From the 18th century museums to the present Jewish Museum in New York city

The great museums of the 18th and 19th centuries — the British Museum in London (1753), the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg (1764), the Louvre in Paris (1792), the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (1891), and many others — were encyclopedic in scope and ambition. Born, in part, of an imperial impulse, they aimed to demonstrate the geographical and intellectual range of great national powers by becoming repositories of some of the most precious objects on earth. Simultaneously, they were shaped by the Enlightenment conviction that both the natural and human worlds could be understood and even mastered by subjecting their diverse offerings to scientific analysis and discerning the universal laws at work in the midst of miscellany. The Enlightenment museum tried to answer great human questions: where did we come from? what is the significance of what we see? how have we come to be its overseer?

For humankind such questions are important and should regularly be posed. At the same time musea should be a reflection of peoples and their culture. One expects than enough artefacts, letters, paintings and objects that can be a witness of the culture spoken about.

By the turn of the 20th century everywhere, interest in ethnicity and folk heritage was growing. In 1908, the composers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály traveled the Hungarian countryside, memorializing the music of Magyars; the American ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore, foremost American authority of her time on the songs and music of American Indian tribes, and widely published author on Indian culture and life-styles, was recording, for the Smithsonian, 3,000 wax cylinders of songs by Indian tribes. In Eastern Europe, Shlomo Zanvl Rappoport (pen name S. Ansky), educated in a Ḥasidic environment was as a young man attracted to the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala) and to the populist doctrines of the Narodniki, a group of socialist revolutionaries, became conducting an ethnographic survey among the rural Jewish communities of Russia and Poland.

Cyrus Adler 001.jpg

Cyrus Adler (1863–1940), American educator, Jewish religious leader and scholar.

Along with the amassing of music and oral testimony came the amassing of objects. At the Smithsonian, a Judaica collection was begun in 1887 by Cyrus Adler, who, having obtained the nation’s first doctorate in Semitics at Johns Hopkins University, would found the American Jewish Historical society in 1892. In 1904, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York received a gift of 26 artifacts that it displayed in its library; they became the seeds of the Jewish Museum, which after World War II would move into its current home in the Warburg mansion on Fifth Avenue. A similarly small-scale collection, mainly of family heirlooms, was housed in the Hebrew Union College, the seminary of Reform Judaism, in Cincinnati. In 1913, the holdings became incorporated as the first Jewish museum in the United States; today its successor is the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

Such were the halting beginnings of the Jewish museum in the United States, and once again a difference is to be observed. In other museums, collections of artefacts were often associated with a culture’s thriving continuity; the objects were there to testify to that culture’s power and range. By contrast, a Jewish religious object put on exhibit was no longer playing its vital role in synagogue or home; taken out of its context and function, it had been turned into a relic, more closely resembling the artefacts of a fading Native American tribe in a museum of natural history than a 17th-century Dutch portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

JTS building at 3080 Broadway in Manhattan

Warburg mansion in New York, today the Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum was founded in 1904 with only 26 pieces and was originally located in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1946 the museum moved to the Felix Warburg mansion (see Warburg family) located on New York City’s “Museum Mile.” The Jewish Museum is one of the foremost museums of its kind.

The present exhibition and the position of the museum is reviewed in the article: New York Jewish Museum’s Discomfort with Religion

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