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SisterSchmooze: The Art of the Schmooze

Marcia Stark Meth / Emmy Leah Stark Zitter / Miriam Stark Zakon

You’ll gaze at a story from the past, view a shalom bayis tip for the present, see a concerned look at writing’s future

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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Are three sisters who each month write about the same topic essentially participating in a verbal paint party? We don’t think so. What we love most about our Schmoozes (besides the sisterly schmoozing that goes into planning them) is how in the end, we each create our own piece

R emember coloring books, where you used your Crayola crayons and carefully “stayed inside the lines”? Paint-by-number picture sets that told you where to splash on which color? Perhaps you’ve noticed art students sitting in a museum, copying a masterpiece. Or attended a paint party where friends combine camaraderie and canvas, and all come home with the same picture.

All these activities can be good fun, and they certainly give useful practice to budding craftsmen. But they all create cookie-cutter products. They don’t create… art.

Are three sisters who each month write about the same topic essentially participating in a verbal paint party? We don’t think so. What we love most about our Schmoozes (besides the sisterly schmoozing that goes into planning them) is how in the end, we each create our own piece. Story or satire, musing or schmoozing, memory from the past or commentary on the present, each of us uses words to create a unique picture. Cookie cutters? No. Same dough, very different cookies…

Join us now as we enter the world of pictures. As you look at the Schmoozes hanging on the walls of our literary museum, you’ll gaze at a story from the past, view a shalom bayis tip for the present, see a concerned look at writing’s future. Each comes from a unique voice and an individual vision.

And sometimes we stray out of the lines. 



Marcia tells a tale…

The Story Behind the Picture

The president of Poland was coming to town. The town: Zator, not far from Krakow. The year: 1933. The place: the town square near the castle of Graf (Count) Potocki — a nobleman known throughout Europe for his wealth and power. (Our mother a”h who came from faraway Czechoslovakia, had a Yiddish expression whenever we asked for something pricey: translated, “She thinks she’s Graf Potocki’s daughter!”)

 

The town’s Yidden wanted to be mekabel panim the visiting dignitary. To show respect for their country’s leader, they came in a procession led by the head of the community, Reb Shlomo Zalmen Grunapfel. Holding a sefer Torah beneath a chuppah, the town’s rav beside him, Reb Shlomo welcomed President Moscicki.

The greifeneh (countess) witnessed the event, fascinated. A Jew with a long flowing beard speaking such fluent Polish? Impressed, she asked permission to take a picture. With no real choice in the matter, Reb Shlomo reluctantly agreed, asking only to receive a copy when the film was developed. She held her camera — a rarity at the time — at waist level, peered downward into the lens, and snapped. She then gave him her “calling card” and bade him come to the castle sometime later to pick up the picture.

A few days later, Reb Shlomo knocked at the imposing castle doors. A butler answered, emitted some anti-Semitic slurs, and denied him entry. Refusing to be intimidated, Reb Shlomo handed over the countess’s calling card. Snapping it up, the butler left him standing in the doorway. Several minutes later, he returned, mumbling an apology through gritted teeth. “Right this way, honorable sir,” he muttered and escorted him inside.

The greifeneh graciously presented Reb Shlomo with two copies of the picture.

So what happened to the pictures? One copy was destroyed in the war. Not surprising, as nearly the entire Grunapfel family Hy”d was wiped out: Reb Shlomo Zalmen, his mother, mother-in-law, wife, three daughters, two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a small grandson. But one daughter survived: Raizel (Rose). After the war, Raizel made it to America, married, and had three sons. She named her oldest son after her father…

Shlomo Zalmen. My husband.

And the second copy? It made its way to Chicago, to Reb Shlomo’s sister, Bessie. After the war, Aunt Bessie gave it to my mother-in-law, Rose Meth a”h. This black-and-white photo was my mother-in-law’s greatest treasure. She had it enlarged and set into an exquisite gilded antique white frame. It was the first thing to greet anyone who stepped into the living room of her elegant Bensonhurst home. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 559)

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