A Book for Children


Over the weekend I read two very different books that deal with WW2 and to a certain extent with the Holocaust. One is The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Boden while the other one is The Pages In Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home by Erin Horn.

The first book is aimed primarily at children but can be equally enjoyed by grown-ups. Hans Augusto “H.A”. Rey together with his wife Margret, were the authors and illustrators of children’s books and are particularly famous for their Curious George series. The two went to Brazil separately, married in 1935 and moved to Paris that same year. In 1940, Hans and Margret Rey fled the French capital as the German army was advancing. Hans assembled two bicycles and they rode down to the Spanish border where they bought train tickets to Lisbon. They managed to sail to Brazil and from then on to New York City.

The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Boden relates the Reys’ amazing journey through text as well as full-color illustrations, original photos and documents. The book is divided into two parts: the first provides background on the couple’s childhoods in Hamburg and early life together in Rio de Janeiro and then France; the second half deals with their escape from France when they realized that as German-born Jews they were no longer safe safe and had to leave without delay.

I found that The Journey That Saved Curious George is a great book to read with primary school children to give them insight into WW2 without scaring them. The watercolors by Allan Drummond and the numerous documents make the book look like a travel journal and encourage discussion. In the end, both child and adult will enjoy the captivating story, the richly-detailed illustrations and the attractive layout.

Book guide for The Journey that Saved Curious George

Poor Teacher: Surviving Panic


A number of parents I know, including colleagues, freak out when their children get a “bad” teacher. As a teacher myself, I’d like to reassure such parents and offer a few tips.

– First try to stand back and get a bigger picture. You’ve had bad teachers yourself and you are not a failure. Most kids can get over one year of poor teaching and still do well. Especially with a little help from parents and/or grandparents.

– Don’t try and be your child’s teacher. You are a parent, not his teacher. If you attempt to replace the teacher you’ll probably lose a lot of energy for very little result. Your kid goes to school every day and even if he doesn’t learn as much as he should he still learns something. Like his peers, your child needs to rest and relax after a full school day. However there are lots of things you can do to develop your kid’s potential.

– Books: read to your child, go to the library with her and encourage her to choose both books you can read and books your child can read herself.

– Art: give your child paint, papers, scissors, glue, play-doh and encourage your child to develop his artistic skills, even if you don’t feel artistic yourself. Similarly don’t hesitate to show your child how your camera works from time to time and let him take a few shots.

– Go to the zoo, the museum, an exhibition and use these visits as opportunities to teach your kid a few facts about science, history or art.

– Take your kid to the movie, to the theatre and sometimes sit with her while she watches TV. Talk before and after the show. Encourage her to express her opinions about what she has seen and help her formulate her thoughts beyond “I loved it” or “I didn’t like it”.

– Cook with your child. Cooking is a great way to juggle with figures, measures, temperatures and volumes.

– Look at family albums and talk about your childhood, your parents and ancestors. Name the places and times where you or they lived. Don’t hesitate to use a map or an atlas. Point out to objects that are no longer in use. Tell them who was president or king/queen at the time you mention.

– Use your imagination and welcome unexpected opportunities: a guest from abroad, a religious or secular holiday, anything that can involve your child in talks and preparations.

Children Are Likely To Be Less Healthy Than Their Parents


This is what French nutritionist Dr Laurent Chevallier reckons. In his opinion the food industry adds far too many artificially made compounds to food products and thus we are bound to pay the price sooner or later.

The additives Laurent Chevallier denounces are :
flavor enhancers, chemical flavorings, sugar substitutes, trans fats and sulfites.

He also condemns vague labelling. For instance a label on a Coke bottle reads plant extracts. For him the consumer should be entitled to know what the plants included are.

Children ar more at risks as they eat more processed food than we did when we were their age. As a consequence by the time they are 40, they will have eaten far more of these additives.

Dr Chevallier also denounces food agencies as he finds them too lenient. They prefer to forbid products that are deemed dangerous rather than allow safe ones.

Finally he suggests we read labels more attentively and refuse to purchase food products which contain more than 3 of these additives even if he acknowledges that they are not equally dangerous.

Is this something that worries you? How do you encourage your kids to eat healty food?

Choosing a School


My niece in Hong Kong is almost two so her parents are looking for a preschool for her. Since I am a teacher, they turned to me asking me about the EYFS (The Early Years Foundation Stage) – a set of Welfare Requirements and a set of Learning and Development Requirements in the UK- and about Montessori schools.

For such a young child, I tend to believe that developing potentials is more important than acquiring knowledge per se. In other words I think it is better to prepare the mind for learning through different methods and techniques. That’s why I’d favor the Montessori method.

Since my brother and his wife are expatriates I gather my niece will mix with more different children at the International Montessori school rather than at a school with a UK-based curriculum. It is probably preferable as in the long run they will end up going back to France, not England.

What’s more my maternal grandmother, who was quite modern for her times, sent my mother and her siblings to a Montessori school. They have lovely memories of their years there and did well academically later. I also find they are well-balanced people who have managed to keep a sound equilibrium between personal development and academic demand with their own children.

What do you expect from a school? How did you choose for your own children?

For a broader approach of this issue, you might find the following useful: Questions to Ask When Choosing a School for Your Children, a post by Mom in Israel.

A Heart for Peace



It is well-known within Jewish circles, but unfortunately not elsewhere, that Jews will do for Arabs things that Arabs would never do for them. This morning’s edition of a French Jewish TV program has just provided us with one example.

This program is called La Source de Vie and is hosted by a French Orthodox rabbi Josy Eisenberg. It deals with all aspects of Jewish life in France and abroad.

This morning it presented the organisation A Heart for Peace at Hadassah Hospital where Palestinian children with congenital cardiopathy can be treated without paying and can receive the same level of care as Jewish or Arabic Israeli children. The children’s pathology requires advanced heart surgery which is performed in the cardiothoracic surgery department of Hadassah Hospital.

This organisation has two goals. First and foremost its aim is to save lives; a duty both for a Jew and a doctor. The second objective is to lessen hostility towards the Jews through the Palestinian families whose children are saved thanks to a Jewish hospital. Although this is by no means an easy task, it seems worth trying.

Meir Panim


After writing about justice and tzedakah, I thought I would write a short post about one of the nonprofit organizations I support.

Meir Panim is an Israeli network of relief centers. It was founded by David (Dudi) Zilberschlag, a Petach Tikvah–born haredi man, whose son Meir died of a rare metabolic disorder called Glycogen Storage Disease two months after his bar mitzvah. The disease prevented Meir from consuming and digesting food normally.

However the idea for Meir Panim came to Zilberschlag several years before Meir passed away. It all started after Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination on November 4, 1995. At that time, Zilberschlag became involved in post-assassination talks between people from al walks of life.

“During the talks, I realized that talking was good, but limited. We needed to do something active together—a mitzvah—something that would bridge the gaps between us … We can learn to live together, and influence people to do the same. We can create a more cohesive, tolerant, loving society in Israel.”

Today Meir Panim has expanded and has 15 soup kitchens spread throughout Israel as well as a number of other projects. Here is a selection of what exists:
Meals for Children delivers hot, nourishing lunches to 10,000 needy youngsters in kindergarten and elementary schools.
Meals on Wheels delivers packed meals to the handicapped, elderly, and Holocaust survivors.
Occupational Rehabilitation hires emotionally challenged individuals capable of preparing and packaging food for the soup kitchens, meals-on-wheels, and school lunches.
Training for Battered Women helps abused women regain critically needed independence.
Youth Clubs are set up to keep needy children mainstreamed and provide them with a supportive environment.
Computers from the Heart collects used computers and teaches dropout and at-risk teens to repair them. The refurbished computers are then distributed to children in needy families and young victims of terror attacks.

I heard about Meir Panim for the first time on a TV program and a lot things appealed to me about this organization.

I liked the fact that at the soup kitchen religious as well as non-religious young and older folks work together. I also admired the emphasis that was put on dignity when the people were served: the staff made sure the place looked like a restaurant rather than a soup kitchen so they sit at a table and are served several dishes.

Similarly the have developed a food card to prevent the shame often associated with having to stand in waiting lines; thus low-income working families get a magnetic cards for food products at supermarket chains.

Last, but not least, they have not forgotten the Holocaust survivors who can hardly make ends meet.

What organizations do you support?