Continuing my tradition of themes related to my writing, this year I’m featuring places and things from my WIP, The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, and its sequels (each following a different group of characters), Sweet Miracles and Rebuilding the Remnants. Branches in turn begins with three of the characters from The Natural Splash of a Living Being escaping a death march, while Splash continues without them.
Branches is set in locales including Abony, Budapest, Florence, Paris, Béziers, Montpellier, and Nantes. Sweet Miracles follows the characters who immigrate to Newark in November 1948 (the name taken from the mousery and rabbitry one of the couples starts), and Remnants follows the characters who immigrate to Israel after the British are finally gone.
You’ll learn about topics like:
Dohány Utca Synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Budapest and one of the largest in the world, which Eichmann used as his headquarters during the Nazi occupation.
Jewish Newark, which is now sadly just a fading memory. In the mid-twentieth century, Newark had the sixth-largest Jewish community in the U.S., with countless synagogues, schools, bakeries, cemeteries, and other communal institutions.
Machal, the all-volunteer fighting force from abroad which helped Israel to win its War of Independence.
La Samaritaine, a historic department store in Paris.
Hashomer Hatzair, a Socialist–Zionist youth group which supported a binational state. (Contrary to what many people on the modern-day Left believe, it’s very possible to be both a Socialist and Zionist without any conflicts!)
Vailsburg, a Newark neighborhood which now has a much different character than it did at mid-century. It includes a former movie palace which today serves as a church.
Košice, Slovakia, the hometown of my character Artur Sklar and Slovakia’s next-largest city. It was also the first European settlement to get a coat of arms.
Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, Florence’s oldest hospital, founded by the father of Dante’s love Beatrice.
Basilica di Santa Croce, an impressive complex that’s so more than just a church. It contains Dante’s empty tomb, waiting for Ravenna to return his bones already.
Neology, a uniquely Hungarian denomination that’s akin to Liberal Modern Orthodox Judaism.
Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze, the breathtaking Great Synagogue of Florence, which was saved from Nazi destruction in 1944 by brave members of the Italian Resistance. They managed to diffuse almost all of the explosives left by the retreating occupiers.
University of Montpellier, one of the oldest universities in the world, and home to the world’s oldest med school still in operation.
Pasarét, a Bauhaus neighborhood on the Buda side of Budapest.
Gellért Hill, a beautiful, storied hill on the Buda side, with lovely outlooks of the entire city.
Lower Galilee, a beautiful, peaceful region I hope to someday live in, far from the maddening rush of the big cities, and with wonderful interfaith relations. You’ll learn the story behind the most bizarre grave I’ve ever seen!
Several letters have two or three topics, but I kept everything within my usual average of 400–800 words. All non-public domain photographs are properly credited. Since I’ve been to the Lower Galilee, many of those photographs are my own work.
My names blog will feature (mostly) names from Greek mythology. Since the Greek alphabet doesn’t have certain letters, I found mythological names from other cultures for those days. In the interest of fairness, I always do both a female and male name on each day.