Joel Schatz

Joel Schatz offers a slightly off-center look at the news.


Grave matters, ancient curses … and romantic pogroms?

 Permanent link   All Posts

Grave matters

How do you find a grave if you have absolutely no idea where it might be?

As with most other things today, the answer, inevitably, is “check the internet.” There are sites specifically dedicated to locating the graves of Holocaust victims, fallen Israeli soldiers and many other types of heroes.

But Shelly Furman Asa realized one day that there was no such site for everyday Jews, the ones who might be heroes to someone (or not), but who hadn’t had a notable brush with history. So she created one.

According to, the site – – is a social network for the dead – not, of course, for the dead themselves, but for those seeking their final resting places. More than that, it is a site where the living can share their feelings and memories with others who have felt loss, and honor those who are gone.

Right now, Neshama, which is Hebrew for “soul,” has a database of 120,000 graves, complete with photos. All are in Israel and, while the website has both English and Hebrew versions, searches only can be done in Hebrew. That could change as more cemeteries participate.

Poor choice of words?

An ad on the website of a fancy-schmansy health spa in eastern Germany, the Kristall Sauna-Wellnesspark mit Soletherme, sought to entice couples to enjoy a “long romantic Kristallnacht” on Nov. 9 – the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the massive pogrom seen by many as the first violent act of the Holocaust.

On that date and the days that followed in 1938, thousands of Jews were attacked across Germany, hundreds were killed, 1,400 synagogues were burned, Jewish-owned shops were destroyed, and authorities stood by and did nothing, making sure the flames did not spread to non-Jewish institutions.

As news of the Kristall spa’s ad spread, the Jerusalem Post reported, it was quickly replaced by an apology: “We are ourselves ashamed of the mistake.” An employee insisted that nothing political was intended.


Ancient words of wrath, invoking the Roman, Greek and Mesopotamian gods of the underworld. Inscribed in Greek on a lead tablet, written by a wizard. And unearthed, centuries hence – under a parking lot in Jerusalem. (Hey, that’s just the kind of place Jerusalem is.)

According to Israel Hayom, the tablet, neatly rolled and remarkably intact after 1,700 years, contained what apparently was a curse procured by a woman named Kyrilla against a man named lennys. It’s not clear what her gripe was, but her anger leaves little to the imagination: "I strike and nail down the tongue, the eyes, the wrath, the ire, the anger, the procrastination, the resistance of Iennys."

Archaeologists from Israel’s Antiquities Authority say the curse may have been a wishful metaphor, or it could have been a literal description of a magical act involving hammer, nails and a small figurine that, in another part of the world, might be reminiscent of a voodoo ritual.

A taste of war

Every war has secret weapons and tactics. But during World War II, the U.S. had one with a distinctly Jewish flavor: kosher salami.

The half million or so Jews in the military, whether in Europe or the Pacific, had an insatiable craving for the deli-cacy, reported – so much so that rabbis and chaplains at home and on the front lines did whatever they could to keep the troops supplied. Deli owners posted signs encouraging customers to “Send a salami to your boy in the Army.”

While salamis played a significant role in maintaining morale, their broader military potential did not go unnoticed. Stockpiles that lingered too long in storage or took a wrong turn on the supply route occasionally developed certifiable offensive capabilities.

Meeting their match

Employers around the world offer a creative list of perks for their employees, but Israeli public servants now enjoy a truly unprecedented perk if they are single, divorced or widowed: a matchmaking service for government employees.

Israel’s civil service is staging what are vetted as “laid-back and discrete social gatherings” on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings when government offices are closed, designed to bring together unattached employees “with the same status level and pay slips” – not a bad idea, considering few can live on the single income of the average low-salaried government clerk.


comments powered by Disqus