Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Great Synagogue of Basel


The Great Synagogue of Basel was built in 1868.

But, it says on the plaque, the first synagogue of Basel existed already in 1200.

A friend took me to Basel on a cold gray day in December.
We looked at the exterior of the impressive building but everything was locked up.
It was a Shabbat afternoon and not a soul was to be seen.

But we can learn from the Jewish Virtual Library website that

the Great Synagogue is a national landmark.  The synagogue, first built in 1868, was expanded and renovated several times over the past century-and-a-half. The Great Synagogue, at Leimenstrasse 24, houses two synagogues, a choir, mikveh, and is beautifully designed. Next door to the synagogue is the community center, library, and day school.
That website, by the way, tells the not always happy history of Jews in Switzerland since the Middle Ages;  very interesting, and not what you'd expect.

The nice website of the Basel Jewish Community, however, paints a rosy picture of today's Jewish situation:

Around 2000 Jews live in and around Basel, a dynamic commercial and industrial city with a rich culture and located in the heart of Europe. Founded over 200 years ago, the Israelitische Gemeinde Basel (IGB) is one of the largest Jewish communities in Switzerland. It is equipped with all the necessary organizations and a well-developed infrastructure. The community is an institution under public law, and legally on equal terms with the churches. As a so-called united community, the IGB includes Jewish members of any religious orientation. It is run according to the rules of the Halacha.
While the majority of the members of the IGB identify with a non-practicing direction of Judaism, there is still a vibrant religious life in this Community. Daily Shacharith as well as Minchah and Ma’ariv services are carried out. Before the Shacharith service, a Daf Yomi takes place daily. On almost all shabbat mornings, the Synagogue Choir Basel contributes to the service. The IGB is one of the few communities in Europe, in which all shabbat as well as Yom Tov services are led by a full-time and professional chazan [cantor].

You can click on my photos a few times to see the details.
And don't miss  panoramic views of the interior at Synagogues360.
UPDATE: The building has undergone many changes in its long history, including the addition of the two domes.   Here is how it looked in 1930:

(Linking to ABC Wednesday and Our World Tuesday.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Go in peace

A funeral is beginning right now in Chicago, at Emanuel Congregation. 
My beloved Rebbetzin, Lotte Schaalman, died on Friday, at home, exactly on her 102nd birthday. 
I wish my equally beloved Rabbi, who is nearing 101, the strength now to carry on without his helpmate. They were married for 75 years. 
I thank them both for all they have given me and my family. 
Mrs. Schaalman so often impressed upon me what I think was her life-philosophy, saying "I never promised you a rose garden."   -- We take what comes and make the best of it. 
Rest in peace, dear Lotte, you deserve a little rest after a long lifetime of taking care of everyone else. 
May God bless you and welcome you.

(A photo, not my own, from ca. 2014, maybe.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Door in the window for an indoor/outdoor cat


This cat and I were friends in Switzerland but only once in my two months there was I lucky enough to see her go up the cat ladder and into her humans' home.

Here she is jumping up to the first ledge.

Then up the ladder to her first-floor apartment.

And in she pushes through the ingenious cat door in the window! 
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Centuries-old furniture still in daily use


A is for antique furniture.
I think they might be from the 17th century and they are still in everyday use in the monastic community's refectory in Switzerland!

And you really must enlarge the photos to see the exquisite detail of ornate carving.

Are those numerals?  Do they really say 1663??

Two antique chairs flank an old clock.
The swinging pendulum and the loud ticking are almost hypnotic.
I soon learned not to sit near the clock in the semi-darkness and silence of early breakfast.
(Linking to ABC Wednesday.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Birds in the moonlight


Right around twilight the pigeons in my neighborhood gather together on the wires.
If I am walking home at that time, I cross to the other side of my street, just in case.
I wonder where they fly off to for the night's sleep.
(Linking to Camera Critters.)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Russian Orthodox Nativity icon


Today being Christmas for many Orthodox Christians, I am fondly remembering my visit a year ago to the beautiful St. Nikolas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Vienna.

If you enlarge my photo with a few clicks, a strange (to the Western eye) Nativity scene will open to you.
The fresco on the wall of St. Nikolas church shows a baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and another young Jesus being bathed by Mary's, shall we say, personal assistant.
Joseph is off to the side, looking worried.
And who is that guy in the black hairy coat?

There are some surprising answers in this rather "un-orthodox" post in a museum researcher's blog.
His post is titled "Have yourself a gloomy little Christmas: The traditional Nativity icon." 

If you prefer a more religious interpretation, see the blog "A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons."

By the way, some say the ox and ass stand close to the manger to warm the baby with their breath.
That I quite like!
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Friday, January 6, 2017

"We three kings of Orient are ..."


The three magi or wise men have arrived, perhaps as in this old manger scene in Grandchamp.
Happy Epiphany to all the Western Christians who celebrate it today.

And it is the Feast of Nativity (Christmas) for many Eastern Christians, including the Orthodox in Israel.

For more about Epiphany, please see my other posts.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"In Basel I founded the Jewish State."

For ABC Wednesday, Z is for Zionism.

While I was volunteering at the monastery in Switzerland, a nun-friend took me to Basel on the train and guided me around the beautiful city for a whole day.
We made it into a kind of Zionist "pilgrimage."
We walked over to the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, also known in German as Hotel drei K├Ânige, famous since at least 1681.

This is where Theodor Herzl stayed while he chaired the First Zionist Congress in 1897.

Perhaps this balcony is where he stood when the famous photograph was taken of Herzl gazing over the Rhine and into the future, envisioning a future homeland for the Jewish People.

Indeed, the wide river flows right next to the hotel.

The meetings of the First Zionist Congress took place in the ballroom of the Stadtcasino, another famous building in Basel.
(It is closed for now, undergoing renovations.)

It was here that the Basel Declaration was formulated and Hatikva adopted as the Zionist anthem.

On September 3, 1897,  Dr. Theodor Herzl wrote in his journal:

"Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word - which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly - it would be this:  At Basel I founded the Jewish State.  If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it."

Monday, January 2, 2017

A blessing on your house!

City Daily Photo bloggers have to choose one of their own photos at the end of each year as their Photo of the Year.
You can see who chose what at the CDP website.

My picture has a message for the new year!

PAX HUIC DOMUI  --  Peace be to this house

It is the wish and the blessing of all who enter this wonderful Swiss house built in the 1700s or maybe even earlier in the tiny hamlet of Grandchamp in western Switzerland.
Now the house, named l'Amandier,  is part of a monastic community of nuns from the Reformed churches of Europe.
I lived there these past two months as a volunteer.
See my room and the whole building in an earlier post.

On December 31, on Facebook,  poet Jan Richardson shared her poem-blessing  that seems to be speaking about my beloved l'Amandier as well as about the new year.
Here is what she wrote:
"A blessing for you, from me, in this turning of the year. May this new year hold solace and hope; may it—through us—hold welcome and grace. Deep peace to you."
A Blessing
Think of the year
as a house:
door flung wide
in welcome,
threshold swept
and waiting,
a graced spaciousness
opening and offering itself
to you.
Let it be blessed
in every room.
Let it be hallowed
in every corner.
Let every nook
be a refuge
and every object
set to holy use.
Let it be here
that safety will rest.
Let it be here
that health will make its home.
Let it be here
that peace will show its face.
Let it be here
that love will find its way.
let the weary come
let the aching come
let the lost come
let the sorrowing come.
let them find their rest
and let them find their soothing
and let them find their place
and let them find their delight.
And may it be
in this house of a year
that the seasons will spin in beauty,
and may it be
in these turning days
that time will spiral with joy.
And may it be
that its rooms will fill
with ordinary grace
and light spill from every window
to welcome the stranger home.
—Jan Richardson

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ten candles tonight


Lots of light tonight, with the two Sabbath candles joining the Chanuka lights.
The chanukia, made from a liquid-filled bottle, and the candlesticks are both gifts from my sweet daughter, Naomi.
Tomorrow night we kindle the 8th and last candle of the Festival of Lights.
So happy Chanuka and Shabbat shalom!
Oh, and also chodesh tov (a good month) to you, as the Hebrew month of Tevet begins today.
And enjoy the last day of 2016.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A wet, cold, windy welcome home


The easyJet small-ish jet left Geneva promptly at 7:05 am while it was still dark.  A crescent moon hung in the sky as it gradually got lighter and lighter.

Snow on the Swiss Alps made the mountains visible even in the semi-darkness of pre-dawn.  

The pilot was happy to announce that with our strong tailwind the flight would take only 3 hours 40 minutes, but to expect some turbulence.  

Just before reaching the eastern end of the Mediterranean, our clear blue skies got full of clouds, and snowflakes rushed past my window. 

The pilot said Ben Gurion airport was experiencing severe weather and we would have to "hold" over the sea until a landing was possible.  
We flew slow and low over the water for some 40 minutes, just drehing around in that holding pattern. 
Finally the Israel coastline appeared and we went in on an unusual route I've never seen before.

The landing, thank God, was fine and everyone applauded.  
There were big puddles of water everywhere.  
When we walked out into the Arrivals Hall a tall crane was inside, and two men were fixing the ceiling panels.   
All it takes is a big rain (usually the first rain) to flood and paralyze this country. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The star


Follow the star!
You may end up in Sonnenhof, the House of Stillness, in Switzerland, where I photographed the nuns' bright Moravian star.

It is also called a Herrnhuter Stern.
You can find out why in a previous post.

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends and happy Chanuka to my family and Jewish friends.
The two holidays starting on the same night; this has happened only five times in the last 111 years!
Double joy!
(Linking to inSPIREd Sunday.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Up out of the fog, into the sunlight!

The river flows right next to the Community of Grandchamp, a canal diverts some water through and even under the monastery, and we are also close to Lake Neuchatel.
Having all this water around, the air is saturated with humidity for many months during the gray winter.
Sometimes the nuns just get the urge to drive upward in search of the sun.

And last Sunday we did!
First you go up the Jura Mountains a few hundred meters and enter a dense band of fog.

The band of fog is even worse than our misty greyness down on the plain.

But finally, at about 1,300 meters up, you come out into the bright sunlight!   Yay!

And as the hotel's name promises, at the top you have a view of the spectacular Alps way on the other side of Switzerland!

If you enlarge the photo you see the jagged alpine peaks in the distance and the rounded Jura mountains in the foreground; the white stuff in between is fog.

Lots of beautiful places to hike to.

Just across the cattle guard, one of  the trails ascends.

It was freezing cold windy up there, but look at all the Swiss folks climbing up there!
The ski lift is on top.  But no snow.
It's OK. We'd rather see sun than snow.
(Linking to SkyWatch Friday.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Old stones stand strong


In the previous post we saw the dazzling sunlight inside the upstairs chapel here at the monastic Community of Grandchamp.
But here at the entrance to l'Arche, on the ground floor,

where the nuns hang their warm capes before going upstairs to pray,

you can still see the original stones of the wall, from back sometime in the 1700s!

Just inside the door is a little corner with little boxes for writing your prayer requests (intercessions), so that the sisters will pray for the person or situation you mention in one of the four daily offices.
Enlarge the photo for the simple instructions in French and German.