The fate of The Canadian Jewish News, as I write this, has not been sealed, and it’s very possible I might be a writer soon without this platform. So I’ll write this piece as if our time together is limited.
I’m currently working on a book centred on some of the 400 or so columns that I’ve written since 2001, when CJN editor Mordechai “Be Well” Ben-Dat gave me the chance to write for the paper I’ve been in love with since childhood.
My first go-around was about a colleague bathing in a dilapidated shower in a developing nation. She explained, water is limited so she had to scrub hard before she poured a pail of water over her head. I imagined she likely walked around with suds in her hair for months. Anyway, the idea was, how lucky we are to shower with hot water galore, standing there for an hour if we wanted, taking in the Zen of the shooting spray. Our brachah.
I’ve written columns that fall into six categories: Israel; Avrum and family; general viewpoints; Judaism; Jewish life; Ve’ahavta: the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee. The ones that garnered lots of noise were about my son. A writer struggles with finding the chord that will touch the reader, and I guess the love I have for my boy, Noah River, and his witty perceptions (I asked him why God gave the Jewish People the Torah. He responded, “Who else should have, Daddy?”) compelled people to consider the children in their world and their own childhood. Children are our future and deserve our love and respect. People seem to get that.
I’ve attempted different writing styles over the years, including articles in which the voice was of two people. As an example, I wrote one recently about two women whose religious denominations are different than their spouses’. I love experimenting and writing about community members.
I have favourites. One is called “A Sunny Day in Auschwitz” and was written as a short story. “A Sunny Day” is about a women walking to the gas chamber with a little boy she does not know. She instructs him how to be in the ovens and tells him tells him he will soon fly freely. He will be an angel. The article finishes with the boy flying high above Auschwitz, indeed free like an angel, together with the woman. She cries out, “We can do better.” While I prefer not writing about murder of our children, this piece was important, to remind me and the readers about those walks, how tragic they were, with some hope sewn in.
I wrote about the late Neil Mernick, the Walking Man, a fellow many of us used to see on his long treks, alleviating the stress of life. I wrote often about Israel’s parents, and what we, in the Diaspora, owe them for agreeing to put their children on the front lines to defend the Jewish People, while ours go off to university. I also penned a number of pieces on our government’s insensitivity toward refugees, Aboriginals, and generally the harsher Canadian landscape.
I hope this gig continues. I love The CJN and have since I used to read it in its entirety in my parent’s library in Kitchener. If it doesn’t, I’ll remember it as a life-changer and a blessed opportunity to voice my thoughts every week in the world’s greatest Jewish newspaper! Thank you for listening. I hope I helped.