Jewish Book Month: One Book, One Community
At least 10 Portland organizations plan programs Nov. 4-Dec. 2 about My Fathers Paradise, by Ariel Sabar, as part of National Jewish Book Month. Schedule: www.oregonjcc.org/jbm
by Jennifer Greenberg
“I am the keeper of my family’s stories. I am the guardian of its honor. I am the defender of its traditions. As the firstborn son of a Kurdish father, these, they tell me, are my duties. And yet even before my birth I resisted.” So begins the story of a son’s journey to discover his father’s roots, a son who was embarrassed by his thrifty father’s outdated outfits and tendency to smuggle Manischewitz into restaurants in travel shampoo bottles. In the midst of 1980s Los Angeles culture, the author drove himself away from embracing his heritage and his father. This break between father and son lasted until the author became a father and awoke to questions about his father’s history and culture.
As Ariel Sabar takes the reader back in time to the Kurdish Iraqi village of Zakho, he paints a vivid picture of the intimate moments in his ancestors’ lives, from a grandmother’s stolen baby to a fervently religious great-grandfather who stays up at night to talk to spirits in a dark synagogue. We witness the author’s father, young Yona, growing up in this remote, isolated and dusty world and come to understand Kurdish Jewish culture through his experiences. We meet compelling characters who infuse him with traditional values and ethics, but we soon see the regional tides of anti-Semitism as the state of Israel comes into being. Sabar’s family flees, and is confronted with the reality of the new state of Israel.
Reading this book one travels through time, following a successful family to the new state of Israel, where hardships await in an already well-defined cultural hierarchy. Central to the story is Yona Sabar, whose steadfast, humble character and hardworking nature, coupled with the luck of often being in the right place at the right time, brings him education and opportunity. Yona Sabar, now a UCLA professor of Aramaic and folklore, takes a path from night school for working children to a full ride at Yale. The reader roots for him every step of the way.
At the end of the book Ariel Sabar literally journeys back into his father’s past, traveling to modern-day Zakho in an effort to uncover a mystery. My Father’s Paradise is an engaging and entertaining read and serves as an education in the Kurdish Jewish experience.
Portland hosts Women of Reform
The Women of Reform Judaism Pacific District’s 51st Biennial Convention is being held in Portland Oct. 25-28. The theme, “The Journey Continues,” refers to Lech L’cha, the Torah portion for the week of the convention, in which God tells Avram to “go forth” and establish a new community. It is hoped that the district convention will inspire women to go forth and deepen their bonds to Sisterhood and to Judaism.
The convention will be held at the Embassy Suites-Downtown, bringing 150 women from 12 states and two Canadian provinces. Beth Israel Sisterhood Past President Ellen Bick will be installed as the District President on Saturday evening at a Havdalah service, followed by a gala celebration.
Beth Israel Sisterhood will host the Kabbalat Shabbat service Oct. 26 at 6 pm in the main Temple dome (1931 NW Flanders St.). The community is welcome.
For more information or to register for the convention, visit the WRJ Pacific District website: www.wrjpacific.org/convention-2012.
Find “The Sweet Life” with Federation,
Ben & Jerry’s founder
“How the community can come together and make things sweeter,” says event chair Lauren Shleifer Goldstein, is the inspiration for the Jewish Federation’s Annual Kickoff Event La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)!
Indulge in innovative cocktails (designed by a local celebrity bartender), sumptuous desserts and the inspiring thoughts of Jerry Greenfield – co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream.
As co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, Greenfield helped to create a $300 million ice cream empire built upon social responsibility and creative management.
“He turned the ordinary into the extraordinary,” says Goldstein. “That is our vision for our community. Now is the time for innovation in our community.”
Learn how Jewish Federation of Greater Portland strengthens the community and helps make the world sweeter. You will have the opportunity to pledge your support at this event.
The 2013 campaign kickoff will be at 7 pm, Oct. 28, at the Gerding Theater at The Armory (128 NW 11th Ave., in Portland’s Pearl). Organizers expect a sold-out event, so RSVP soon at 503-245-6219. Tickets are $36 until Oct. 10.