Where We Celebrated Our 50th Wedding Anniversary

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Where We Celebrated Our 50th Wedding Anniversary

When my wife and I were considering how to celebrate our special date, it was not how big a party to throw, but rather where to travel. Our original idea was to visit Riga, Latvia, where we were both born and married. Another consideration was a trip to Israel, where we lived in the 1970s. But for a long time, Elfa has talked about wanting to take a cruise along Norwegian Fjords. Of course we could combine Riga with Oslo, but what kind of celebration is without our family? Elfa’s brother and his wife, who were at our wedding fifty years ago, live in Berlin. It was a great opportunity to celebrate with them and their family. Coincidently (or not) our daughter Tamar and her husband David had planned to visit Berlin at the same time. We had a celebratory dinner at a restaurant located on the bank of the River Spree, in the area that borders with former East Berlin. Our first visit to Berlin was in 1986. At that time it was an island, separated from the rest of the world by a concrete wall. After World War II, Germany was divided among American, British and French controlled territory, which became West Germany and the part controlled by the former Soviet Union, which became the DDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik or East Germany. Then during the Cold War period on August 13, 1961, the DDR built the wall, completely isolating West Berlin. Finally on November 9, 1989, the Wall came down, and Germany was unified again, and became an industrial power with a population of over 80 million, out of which 3.5 million live in the unified Berlin.

During our many trips to Berlin to visit family, and to travel together throughout Germany and other parts of Europe, I used to get sick, imagining that I was killed by Germans during the war, and after reincarnating in 1947, I still carried those memory of past events in my subconscious.

However, one day I decided to leave past in the past and since then I’ve enjoyed my visits there. Today the city offers diversity and the subtle beauty of an old European city. People are polite and many, especially the younger generations, speak English.

At the same time, as an encounter/people photographer, I have found Berliners to be very reserved. To me, it seemed that they are afraid of something (perhaps their past memories) and are very protective of their privacy. Online I found out that it is OK to photograph people, for my personal pleasure, but to use the image for anything else requires their consent (in writing). Of course this did not stop me. If I will ever publish a photo-story book about Berlin (which I might in the future), their images would be photographed from the back, with the title “42 Encounters in the Invisible Berlin”.

P.S. Perhaps these four images, showing the invisible part of the Berliners, their backs, will be in the book. I photographed them at the Krummelanke, a lake which has curved shape. It is located in the south-western Berlin, and is a popular area for swimming and walking along the lake.

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Make It a Good and Sweet New Year

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Make It a Good and Sweet New Year

On Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, we often greet one another with, “Shanah Tovah u Metukah” – “Happy Good And Sweet Year”. Today, Friday 22, 2017, is the second day of the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The literal translation of Rosh is “head”, as in head of the year, and it symbolizes the 5778 birthday (according to the Torah) of the creation of the first human being. “So God created Man and His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). This primordial man who was called Adam, was later (on the sixth day) divided into two separate beings. “This shall be called Woman, for from man was she taken. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24). After all the work was done “And God saw all that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Since the described story, many things and events have happened in human history. But what went across the Torah narrative was the concept of choice. Toward the end of the fifth book, called Deuteronomy, Moses tells his people in his final words, “See, I have placed before you today the life and the good, death and the evil” (Deuteronomy 30:15). And then He reiterates, “I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse, and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offsprings” (Deuteronomy 30:19). From the beginning of the creation till the fulfillment of their life’s journey, and before crossing the boundary and entrance into a promised land, the Israelites were presented with a choice. If we would follow God’s guidance, we would choose the life and the good.

In the Jewish tradition, at the end of the second day of the Rosh Hashanah there is another greeting “G’mar Hatimah Tovah”, which means “A good final sealing”. According to the Jewish calendar, that time is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when all the decrees for each person for the next year are going to be sealed.

During those ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are called Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe, one has an opportunity to ask God for the appeal of the judgement for our lives for the next year and, forgiveness for our transgressions. This is accomplished through prayer and good deeds. But how do we know what is expected from us, and which good choices to make?

In the book “Talks on the Parasha” Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinzaltz writes: “When the Torah says that we have before us “life and good”, sometimes a shell must be cracked to reveal the good. Sometimes one must chew quite a lot before the good can be tasted. Sometimes one must educate himself, and many years might pass until one can discern what is truly good. Things that are obviously good are easily perceived, but to perceive the things that are truly good, one must develop this skill over time.” As always, it is easier said than done.

Doing good is always about others, though we might get personal satisfaction from the act. One of the opportunities is to help those whom you do not know personally. Recently I met Jessica Hansen, the Global Engagement Manager for the international organization KIVA. This is a remarkable lending organization. If you would like to do something good, check their website www.kiva.org. and get involved. Your small loan might change a person’s life.

Another perhaps more unusual way of doing good is to get a puppy. You might be wondering what is good about that? Well, here I would like to quote Rabbi Steinzaltz again. “Things that are obviously good are easily perceived, but to perceive the things that are truly good, one must develop this skill over time.” Perhaps this is why for our fiftieth anniversary, I got us a gift – a ten week young labradoodle puppy. Stay tuned. Make it a Good Year!

P.S. One of the four images of our puppy Max show him on Elfa’s shoulder when we just met him 18 days ago. He is very handsome, as you can see from the other images. There is one more good thing which is happening this year. On the day when we got Max, I started working on my next book “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers. Plus 42 Days in Max’s Life.” I intend to finish this photo story-book before the celebration of the other New Year 2018.

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How Many Hats Does One Need?

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How Many Hats Does One Need?

To find the answer to this question, I had to visit an exhibit “Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade” at the Legion of Honor Museum. There I found out that the actual question was, “Which hat do you need?” According to the Journal des Demoiselles’ suggestion in 1867, “If your purse allows you two hats, you will have one of straw, which can go with everything, and the other will go with your best outfit.”

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. He is well known for his depiction of Parisian Dancers. But he, together with other well-known impressionists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, depicted one aspect of modern life in the French capital – high fashion hats and the women who created them. The exhibition at the Legion Museum of Honor features more than 40 impressionist paintings and pastels, as well as a number of the hats from the period of around 1875 to 1914.

I was fascinated not only by incredible artistry of the painters, but also by the history of the millinery trade and by the hats.

In modern times, unless you are the Queen of England or British Aristocracy, women wear beautiful one-of-a-kind hats only on really special occasions. When I checked online for “Hat Stores in San Francisco”, I found quite a few of them. But the question remains, “On what special occasion could women in San Francisco wear a hat? And how about men?” When I was growing up in Riga, my father wore a Fedora hat. He had a few of them. It was common and fashionable for men at that time. A few years ago I bought one for myself. It is a crushable fedora Hat, which I keep in my coat pocket when I travel to New York in the winter.

The fedora hat first appeared in 1882 as a female hat. It was named after the production of the play, “Fedora” by the French author Victorien Sardou. Today, fedora hats are popular again with women, as well as men, who want to look different as well.

To answer my own question, I decided to count how many hats I have. Turns out that besides my crushable fedora, I have six baseball caps, which I wear regularly to protect my head from cold weather plus two hats named “Hooligan” Driving Caps. My wife has also quite a few, among them three made of straw. She also has a few nice ones, but rarely wears them. After all, fashion trends change rapidly. But if you want to experience the forgotten era and see some beautiful art, you still have time. The exhibit is open till September 24, 2017.

P.S. My daughter Alona went to the opening of the exhibit, where many women wore different hats. I was not so lucky, but I still was able to capture at least four images.

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The Wisdom of Centenarians

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The Wisdom of Centenarians

One of my morning rituals is to look through and read books with the images of great photographers. My current book is “If I live to be 100. The Wisdom of Centenarians.” In the book there are fifty-four beautiful black and-white portraits photographed by Paul Mobley and interviews and essays by Allison Milionis. I am in awe of the remarkable women and men who were blessed to live such a long life.

Here are some of the stories, where they shared their wisdom.

Margaret Wachs, who was born in 1913, marked her 100th birthday by swimming ten laps to help raise money for her church. She was ninety when she took up swimming. On her good days she swims twenty laps. “I don’t say “I’m getting old”, she said. “I don’t even think that way.”

Inger Koedt was born in 1915. “Not a day passes without her reading the newspaper. Inger attributes her long life to many things: a close family, nature, and a healthy diet, to name a few. Resilience also comes to mind as well as the ability to focus on the positive, even in the darkest days. “Yes, hang on to the good things; don’t hang on to the bad things’, she said.

And there is Clara Anderson who was born in 1905. “In her 110 years, Clara has seen the dramatic effects of war, technological advancements and social and environmental changes. When asked to describe how she felt about various events as they were happening, Clara took her time to respond. “A lot of times I think one way, when I collect data and change my mind”, she said. “So I’m consistently learning. It pays to observe your surroundings.”

I reflected on Clara’s comment after reading an article in “The San Francisco Chronicle” on July 9th, 2017 by Jonah Goldberg titled, “Ignorance and Arrogance Fuel Political Polarization”. We are all exposed to the news, which we choose according to our beliefs. And then we act accordingly. But how much do we really know? The article points out, “It struck me how a lot of our political polarization is fueled by plain old ignorance.” He continues, “The problem is that ignorance, being of knowledge, is a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum”. He also quotes Historian Daniel Boorstin, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” To support his point, he uses the words of Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn; “It’s a universal law – intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

To contribute to the words of wisdom, 110 years young at heart Clara Anderson suggested, “Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut and you’ll learn a lot.”

P.S. Since I am only seventy, my wisdom is limited. But I learned a long time ago that my thoughts and words create my reality. Age does not make you wiser, but your outlook on life, which sometimes comes with age, does. Therefore, I wrote this story thinking about you with love in my heart. Make it a good day and enjoy the images of four wise people, whom I encountered in my journeys.

This book inspired me to work yet on another project. Since my wife and I were blessed to be married for fifty years, I am going to photograph other couples, who managed to be together for 50 years. This project might take awhile. Meantime you can start your library with “42 Encounters in San Francisco.” The book has a side benefit. It might help you to become wiser.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature