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Colgate, Art, and Judaism

Revelation, Elbert Weinberg, 1963

Revelation, Elbert Weinberg, 1963 (Chapel House, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY)

When my alma mater, Colgate University, announced that former Israeli President Shimon Peres would be speaking on campus, I decided I wanted to be there. My rationale was really nothing more than, “Hey, I visited that guy’s country last year. I wonder what he has to say.”

The biggest challenge was that he was speaking during Family Weekend. This meant there was no room at the inn – any inn – within about 60 miles. But I have a very good network of archivists, and soon found a place to stay.

As I approached the highway entrance ramp in Hartford, I looked down to see that my odometer read 10,013 miles. My car knew it was going to Colgate.

Label accompanying the sculpture

Label accompanying the sculpture (click to enlarge)

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Hamilton was to walk up to Chapel House. I was intent on finding the sculpture by Elbert Weinberg that I knew was there but, to the best of my knowledge, had never seen before. Weinberg was, among other things, a Hartford native, and a Jew. Here in Hartford his work can be seen in front of the State Armory building on the corner of Capitol and Broad (center of photo), at the Mandell Jewish Community Center on Bloomfield Ave in West Hartford, and at Hartford Public Library. Earlier this year I was processing his papers, which are held by the Library. I had previously seen old photographs of the sculpture at Colgate, but it was great to have the opportunity to see it in person.

Shimon Peres is still jet setting across continents at age 91. In conversation with Colgate alum and ABC News’ Bob Woodward, Peres delivered a message of peace. He promoted science and technology, and was encouraging to students (I certainly hope) and non-students (I can vouch for that).

Whether or not anyone else is impressed, it was fascinating to me to be able to combine my love of Colgate, archives work, and involvement with the Jewish community in one weekend trip.


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Moving – this time without boxes

This time it’s just my blog that is moving. For several years now I have had my professional website in one location, and my blog here. I won’t bore you with the details, but I am combining the two over at http://cyclingarchivist.com. I haven’t really decided yet whether I will leave the blog up for posterity. Regardless, I have copied all the content over to the new site. I wish I could promise that there will be exciting, regular updates on the new site, but my life (at least the parts I can post on the internet) is just not that interesting. Hope you will stop by from time to time, though, to see what is there.

Thanks for reading!


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Movies!

We are four days away from the opening of the 18th annual Hartford Jewish Film Festival. It is once again a great selection of films, and I hope to see many of you there. Every one of us on the film fest committee has our favorites. I have managed to narrow my list down to five full length films, and one short. Susan Dunne of the Hartford Courant has written about a couple more that are also quite worthy, including 50 Children – The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus and Next Year Jerusalem.

Visit the Festival web site for information about showtimes, costs, and more complete descriptions. The links below will take you to each movie’s trailer.

Judging by the ticket sales, one that is proving very popular is The Jewish Cardinal. This is the story of Jean-Marie Aaron Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris and the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. There are many of us in the area who are interfaith, and it raises some interesting issues. 

Interested in photography? Life in Stills is for you. There are other twists and turns, as you might imagine with a family business, but this documentary focuses on a photography store that has been in business since the beginning of the modern Jewish state. It blends art, history, city planning, and more.

Ordinarily I would not sit through a film described as a “gripping spy thriller.” But as those of us on the film fest committee screen all of the selections, I can now recommend Bethlehem. The ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the focus, and the viewer gets a sense of the emotions on both sides.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are looking for something light and cheery with a happy ending, check out Cupcakes. It is a spoof on the Eurovision contest and just generally cute.

Several of the films, including Cupcakes, are preceded by shorts. There will be four opportunities to see GentleDog. I’m not saying it’s worth buying a ticket just to see the short, but if you are choosing between a film that screens with GentleDog and one that doesn’t, go with the dog.

Sometimes fiction strikes a nerve, and such was the case when Aftermath was released in Poland. It is not an easy film to watch, but the issues it raises are worth being aware of.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. See you at the theater!

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Homeownership: Off with a Bang

Or at least with the results of a bang.

Though, if a radiator bursts in a house and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

On May 6, I put in a bid on a house. The next day the offer was accepted. It was a short sale (the seller owed more than the house was worth), and we knew it was going to take longer than usual because the seller’s banks (yes, plural in this case) had to approve the deal. Thirty-two weeks to the day after the offer was accepted, we closed.

The only thing short about this sale was my temper by the time we reached December. May through August was fine, all things considered. Hoping for the Luck of the ‘Gate, I originally chose August 13 as my closing date. That is when the extensions began. I’ve lost track as to how many there were. Finally, at the end of October, I got the call. We would close November 26. However, there were questions I could not answer while I was in Israel. At this point I could still handle a delay of a day or two.

What I could not handle was the next phone call, advising me that I needed to bring an additional $6000 to the closing because one of the seller’s banks was demanding cash, and who better to bring it than me? I’m not sure the word “livid” adequately describes how I felt. Of course I had an extra $6000! And of course, throwing it at a bank is so much better of an idea than repairing the roof. Why didn’t I think of this myself?

I don’t even want to recall the final week. I’m convinced we had further delays because the short sale negotiator had to attend the office Christmas party.

The day arrived, complete with a snow storm. My realtor and I went to the house for the final walk through.

There were a few more phone calls, and I received some compensation at closing for the damage. I left my attorney’s office with a set of house keys. My first official duty as a homeowner was to shovel the sidewalk.

The furnace is on and the pipes are defrosting. When the new radiators have been installed, I will move in. Eventually there will be a “The Nightmare is Over” party, to which many of you will be invited. In the meantime, I have started moving some of the essentials.

My first road bike in front of my first house!

My first road bike in front of my first house!


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Israel Trip: A Look Back

I was asked to speak tonight about the trip at the Federation’s board meeting. Though I spent time considering what I would say, it didn’t quite come out how I hoped. I decided I’d give it another try here.

As I have previously mentioned, much of this trip was about making connections. Some of the connections were quite simple, a-ha moments. I knew of the Dead Sea, but reading about something like that, and actually swimming in it, are two completely different experiences. Similarly, when I was in third grade (regular school, not religious school) we did a social studies unit on kibbutzim. I recall pushing our desks together to represent the community. Certainly I knew that a kibbutz would be larger than for child-sized desks, but until I drove through kibbutzim and moshavim, I had no idea just how vast they are. I never considered that one might be on the Lebanon border and be staffed by numerous soldiers. These visits connected me with Israel, helping me to better understand why the US Jewish community actively supports it.

At the Lebanon border.

At the Lebanon border.

Much of what I have learned in the past two years about Israel, I learned from the films we have screened for the Hartford Jewish Film Festival. Our opening night film this year will be The Jewish Cardinal. It is based on the true story of a man, born Jewish, who converted to Christianity at age 14. After watching the film this fall, one aspect I did not contemplate was that there would be others like him. While listening to a speaker at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, I heard of a researcher at their archives who was born Jewish and later became a priest. This certainly isn’t a Nobel prize style discovery, but it helps me to see the bigger picture. Another film in the 2014 festival is Life in Stills. The subject of the film is the photo house opened by Rudi Weissenstein. Weissenstein was known for his photographs of the early days of Israel, including images of the signing of the Israeli declaration of independence. During my trip, I sat in the room where that happened. I know that when I watch the films again during the festival (these and many of the others that will be shown), I will have a stronger understanding of the issues presented.

Independence Hall, Tel Aviv.

Independence Hall, Tel Aviv.

Never before have I felt so connected to a group of people. Most of the others on the trip were strangers to me before we left West Hartford. We had such a wonderful time together and now I can truly call them my friends. Both in Israel and since we’ve been back, they have helped me learn, offered welcome advice, and even invited me to join a cycling group! These are all people I want to continue to get to know, which is a wonderful feeling.

About to exfoliate in the Dead Sea.

About to exfoliate in the Dead Sea.

Overall, this trip connected my past and present learning. It connected me with a country 5000 miles away, and a community in my backyard. The experience was not one I was looking for, but I am so incredibly glad I found.


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My dear friends, some facts for you

Some things I haven’t discussed yet…

Breakfast – for family and friends who know the Wausaukee Club, breakfast was just about the same. Just missing the bacon. For the rest of you, it was a huge buffet at the hotel. Eggs, cheese, fruit, pancakes, yogurt, salads, breads, and more! Other meals were at restaurants. While there are McDonalds all around, native fast food is falafel. There has been a lot of eggplant and many salads. Yesterday we actually got hungry because we went about seven hours without eating!

Our bus – we have been riding in a very nice tour bus, with wifi, driven by a great guy named David. It did not have a restroom, so we constantly made bee lines from the bus to the rest rooms. The only other foreign country I have traveled in is Russia. The bathrooms here have been fit for royalty in comparison. Only one didn’t have toilet paper, and only one had a suggested fee (two Shekels).

Our tour guide – while on the bus, and for non-museum tours, we were led by Ron Sinai. Ron is an Israeli who knows his country like the back of his hand. Either that our he makes it up very convincingly. As we traveled, Ron always referred to us as his dear friends. He doesn’t mince words; we are quite aware of his opinions! We have also compiled a list of all the jobs he claims to have had.

Why we are here! – this is a mission trip run by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. For about two thirds of us, this is our first trip. Most of the younger people were invited to participate for having completed the Federation’s Frank Stavis Leadership Forum. We are a varied group; singles, couples, and married people without their spouses. The youngest traveler is 30 and the oldest is a spry 86. One just converted a month ago, one is not Jewish and has not converted. Some are affiliated, others are not. For some, keeping kosher is a must. One of us admits to eating a turkey, cheese, and bacon sandwich while sitting at the El Al gate in New York. The purpose of the trip is to introduce us to the land of the Jewish people, encourage us to support the country, excite us to return, and continue to support Judaism in our own community.

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The final countdown

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After our final buffet breakfast, our luggage was loaded into the bus. Before leaving Kibbutz Lavi, however we participated in a fabulous ritual, planting a tree. It is a gift for future generations, as we will not be able to enjoy them.

Back on the bus, we headed south toward Tel Aviv. Along the way we passed Armageddon! Our final museum visit of the trip was the Underground Amunition Factory, Machon Ayalon. Between 1945 and 1948, under a threat of being killed for making or possessing munitions, 46 kibbutz members secretly manufactured bullets for their cause. It’s a pretty nifty story.

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A boxed lunch was waiting for us in a room at the museum. After we ate, we shared our thoughts and feelings about the trip. There was laughter and tears, but that is as detailed as I will get. What happens in the bullet factory, stays in the bullet factory.

We took one last group photo when we arrived in Tel Aviv and then had some time to relax. Dinner was at a nearby restaurant. Those continuing on to Petra ate and ran. After the rest of us finished our meal, we made our way to the airport.

Most of us have cleared security, etc. and we are waiting to board. Can’t believe the week has come to an end!

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