What Is Hope?

  

What Is Hope?

On February 8th, we attended the Russian Gala. It was organized by the JFCS, which this year celebrates 170 years. In 1850, three years after a small village called Yerba Buena became known as San Francisco, August Helbing established the Eureka Benevolent Society with the purpose to help new Jews arriving from Europe to settle in the new land. In 1939, the organization was renamed the Jewish Family Service Agency. It not only helped Jewish people; but also helped people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. In the mid-70s, the JFSA helped to resettle Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees. By the time we arrived in San Francisco in August 1980, the organization, which became known as the JFCS (Jewish Family and Children’s Services) was helping thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union to settle in their new home in San Francisco and the Bay Area. As time passed, many of those Jews who were helped by the JFCS, established themselves, became professionals and entrepreneurs, raised families and started paying back by helping those in need, and by giving their donations. And then nineteen years ago a group of successful émigrés decided to celebrate the organization’s good work with a party. As the years progressed, the event became known as “Russian Gala”, a sold out celebration that drew in many people of various backgrounds; not only Jews and émigrés.

Every year there were special keynote guests like Secretary of State George Schultz and celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz. But this year, it was a different event. The presenter was a violin. Rather the violinist playing on one of the violins which survived the Holocaust. It was one of the Violins of Hope, which were a symbol resistance. They were played in the Jewish Gettos and concentration camps, and after the war were saved and restored in Israel by a father and son team – Moshe and Amnon Weinstein. We were shown a heart-touching video about them. The Violins of Hope are on the display at the San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building. They can also be heard in a number of concerts. You can find more information at www.violinsofhopesfba.org.

One of the reasons for JFCS’ success, is its leadership. The organization is headed by Dr. Anita Friedman. In her opening remarks, Dr. Friedman pointed out that though the history of persecutions, extermination, pogroms, the Holocaust, and expression of Antisemitism in Europe and extremists’ killing of Jews in our country, the optimism is not a Jewish trait. However, Jews tend to possess a perpetual hope that in spite of the intentions of others, they survive and prosper and always will be in the forefront to make our world a better place to live.

P.S. Instead of showing images of the Violins of Hope, I decided to share with you four special bouquets of flowers to honor the memory of the musicians who played on those violins.

Do not give up hope and Share it with a Friend!

 

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Are You Planning the Rest of Your Life?

  

Are You Planning the
Rest of Your Life?

There were three reasons which led to this story. The first one was an obituary article in the local paper. My wife Elfa read it because the story was about a man who outlived his wife by three days after being married for seventy years. The other story was a dedication to a friend who died at the age of sixty, of lung cancer, about which I read in the book “Create Your Best Legacy” written by Michelle Lerman (I strongly recommend the book and Ms. Lerman’s Services). The third one was an article titled “Life Expectancy Ticks Up Slightly for First Time in 4 Years“ written by Janet Adamy, which appeared in The Wall Street Journal on January 31, 2020. The article stated that “Women are expected to live five years longer than men, to the ages of 81.2 and 76.2 respectively, according to the 2018 figures.” Since I just celebrated my 73rd birthday, it means that I only have (statistically) three years to be around. This math cannot be right. Recently I read in the Torah that the patriarch Jacob lived until the age of 147. According to this math, I am in the middle of my life. This makes perfect sense, since I still have so many things to accomplish while being alive. For starters, I still have to publish forty books in the “42 Encounters” series, which will take me to the age of 112, and then I will have 35 years to sell those books (just kidding). Of course, there are other things I will have to do while I am still around, like helping my clients find mortgage solutions, to better their lives. Well, all of this might not be significant for you, but at least I have the reason why and a plan to stick around. Do you?

In my life and because of my occupation, I meet a lot of people. Most live day to day without giving much thought about tomorrow. If some are lucky to reach retirement age, many have no plan what to do or how to support themselves. This is probably the main reason why those who have equity in properties apply for reverse mortgages, in order to get rid of their monthly payments. But often this is not enough, or even possible.

I met a new client recently. At the age of 67, she was fired from her job after forty years in the same medical occupation. My original inclination was to help her get a reverse mortgage. However, after we talked, I realized that getting rid of her mortgage payments was only a partial solution. I was fortunate to be able to help her to find a part-time job at an attorney’s office. Now she is considering learning how to become a paralegal. Meanwhile, in addition to her work, she is going to be busy and enjoy her life practicing yoga, making jewelry and spending time with her friends and family until at least the age of 81 (statistically speaking). As far as her mortgage is concerned, I was able to refinance her loan, combining and paying off her debts and lowering her payments by almost $1,000.00 a month. Not everyone is so lucky, but all have a choice to plan the rest of their lives.

P.S. These images show four people, who seem happy to have reached their retirement age.

Enjoy and Share with A Friend!

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Library Lovers’ Month

  

Library Lovers’ Month

While driving and listening to Public Radio, I heard that February 2020 is Library Lovers’ Month. When I checked about it online, the first thing I saw was a quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman philosopher, who lived 106-43 BC. “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”. Anyone who lives in San Francisco has both – Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Public Library. While Golden Gate Park opened in 1871, the San Francisco Public Library was established in 1878. It was funded by a specially created property tax (now you know where your money goes to fund the budget of close to 130 million).

Turns out that attendance of public libraries is declining. Not by me. I love books and buy them to fill my own library (lately photo-books). But before I buy, I first check the title on Amazon.com, then my first destination is the public library, and only if the title is not available, I buy it. Sometimes if they do not have the book I need in the system at my local West Portal branch, they order it from other branches. A library is also a place where people gather to listen to lectures, work on the computers or just relax with a newspaper. Since I listen to audiobooks while driving, I borrow them from the library. This is also my destination to donate boxes of the books I do not think I will ever have time to read.

But we also have other sources for books like the “Little Free Library”, that are located throughout many areas of San Francisco. In our neighborhood, Monterey Heights, there are four little boxes on a pedestal. I even created a walking routine with Max to visit each of them to check out what is new and to bring some of my books for an exchange. The trend started in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin by Todd H. Bol. Nowadays more than 90,000 public book exchanges are registered with the organization and they are present in 91 countries. Their purpose is “To inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity by fostering neighborhood back exchanges around the world.” You do not have to travel around the world to find a good book. Just visit one of your neighborhood libraries.

P.S. Max cannot read books, but he likes to visit Little Libraries and to pose for you. And if you want to give someone you love a gift for Valentine’s Day, (or any other event) “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” could be a perfect idea, check it on Amazon.com.

Enjoy and Share with A Friend!

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Where to Experience The Food of the Gods

  

Where to Experience
The Food of the Gods

In the article titled “Chocolate”, which appeared on December 21-22 in The Wall Street Journal, written by Simran Sethi, I learned that the botanical name of chocolate is “Theobroma Cacao”, which means Food of the Gods. In the article I also learned that by 2024, the cocoa growing industry is expected to reach over 161 billion in revenue. It seems that I am not the only one in the world who loves chocolate. I first discovered good chocolate in the late 90s. A friend introduced me to Robert Steinberg, co-founder of the chocolate company, Scharffen Berger. We visited the one room factory located in South San Francisco (which later relocated to Berkeley). It was acquired by Hershey in 2005, and was the first American company in the past 50 years to make chocolate “from bean to bar”. Online I found the list of the World’s top 10 chocolate bars (Scharffen Berger was number four). Many chocolates later, it seems that that the field of chocolate making is getting crowded. There are so many artisanal brands, which vary in taste, ingredients, components, and of course price. The question remains – what is a good chocolate? Turns out, that the bottom line for defining a great chocolate is the amount of cocoa solids present. To be dark, it has to be over 70 percent. Anything below is considered milk chocolate. This is why 72 percent chocolate bars are so popular.

There are many stores where we can buy chocolates, such as a boutique that specializes in chocolate varieties from around the world, located in San Francisco, on 24th Street. Years ago, before chocolate bars became as popular as they are now, the owner of the Chocolate Covered boutique told me to let him know if I find chocolate that he does not have, he will add it to his collection. And then there are chocolate truffles. You can buy them from many companies like Godiva or many other manufacturers. One of them, Christopher Elbow Chocolates boutique located in Hayes Valley, sells creations of a Kansas City chocolatier, Christopher Elbow. It is also one of the places to taste real hot chocolate. However, recently I discovered a new place, which brought chocolate truffles to a completely new level. The first time I just stumbled upon this place, which seemed to be a coffee shop called One 65, located next to the O’Farrell/Ellis Garage in downtown San Francisco, across from Macy’s. The name of the place reflects the address. Turned out that the coffee shop was just part of the French restaurant, located in in a six-story building, created by Michelin star lauded chef Claude Le Tohie. A few days later, we came back for a delicious dinner in the bistro. And it was here where we recently celebrated my 73rd birthday. With all of the wonderful culinary experiences, it was chocolate which brought me back. On the second floor in the Chocolate Lab, chocolate Chef Vincent Fredureux creates his artistic masterpieces.

As it often happens when I am looking for information for my stories, it appears as a book. This time it was “Bean to Bar Chocolate. America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution” written by Megan Giller. There I found a lot of valuable information about chocolate as well as recipes for hot chocolate. The book also gave me an idea for one of my next photobook projects – “42 Encounters with Chocolates”.

P.S. Until the book is going to be ready, please enjoy these four images that I photographed at One 65, and do not forget to visit the place to have a real chocolate experience.

Smile, Enjoy chocolate and Share with a Friend!

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How To Celebrate Being Alive

  

How To Celebrate Being Alive

My original title for this story was “How To Celebrate my 73rd birthday“, which was on January 13th. Some people think that I cannot be that age, since I have a younger look, in spite of my gray hair. And for those who ask for my secret, the answer is very simple – I feel young in my heart and enjoy being alive every day. Since I am not planning to retire, I have all the reasons to be alive. I enjoy everything I do and work on becoming a better mortgage broker, writer and photographer. To celebrate my birthday, we decided to spend some time with our daughters. The oldest one Alona, lives not far from Palm Springs with her boyfriend Jeff. We flew there on Thursday and stayed in a resort hotel.

It was very relaxing. We swam in a pool with warm natural water, rested and ate good food in the local restaurant. Usually in many of our previous trips to the Palm Springs area, we stayed close to the downtown area, with the busy life. This time, without realizing it, I followed my own resolution to start the new decade with a sense of calm, which I wrote about two weeks ago.

From there, we drove to West Hollywood, where our younger daughter Tamar lives with her husband David. There we spent quiet family time, visited the LACMA museum to see Thomas Joshua Cooper’s photography exhibit, ate at some of the local restaurants, and otherwise relaxed in preparation for a very busy year, since mortgage interest rates are quite low and many of our clients will benefit from refinancing. I also found two interesting books about chocolate, the subject I am going to write about next week.

We flew back on the day of my birthday, which we celebrated with the dinner at the “One 65” Bistro located on O’Farrell Street, the place I will write about next week, as well.

P.S. The sense of calm, while being alive, already started to produce results. During the trip I obviously photographed and got a few interesting images.

The flowers you see are wonderfully simplistic. I photographed them in the desert and the images I posted last week.

Enjoy and Share with Friends!

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