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It was a deal that some say never should have been made and it may well be the last of its kind, but the prisoner swap that sprung Gilad Shalit from captivity to freedom after more than five years in a Hamas dungeon in Gaza uplifted and unnerved a nation that is no stranger to the trauma of trying to reconcile opposing and often highly emotional views. What cannot be forgotten is that the hardest of adjustment of all belongs to Gilad Shalit himself.
It was to have been a day of rejoicing with the Torah. Instead, the dazed members of Antwerp’s Portuguese Israelite Synagogue awoke to discover their shul in ruins, destroyed by the blast of a powerful bomb. Thirty years later, members of the kehillah recall both the pain of that horrifying day and their subsequent efforts to rebuild.
While Jews are rarely at a loss for words, not many of us can rattle off an obscure word’s definition, etymology, and pronunciation. But Sol Steinmetz, who passed away last fall, was such a person — a true “lexical supermaven” who also never forgot what it meant to be a mentsch.
Master artist Shimon Levi is a familiar figure in his Bucharim neighborhood, where he embosses the images of our gedolim in shades of gold and silver in his modest studio. But though his artwork is well known, few know the details of his life — a fascinating story that began in a town in Spain and took him on a voyage on the deep blue sea, before planting him firmly in the city he loves best of all, Jerusalem.