Break

Dear friends:

My sister-in-law Barbara and her partner Brian are visiting now from the UK and I haven’t been able to find time to catch up with my usual schedule of writing blogs posts. This week and next week I will be busy going on trips with them.

Be in touch soon.

Best

Jack

Genealogy from DNA Analysis

For many years I have believed, based on stories I was told from an early age, that my grandparents on my mother’s side were Dutch Sefardi Jews.  They were definitely Dutch, my grandfather Joel Kops went from Holland to England in the early 20th century and every evening he listened to the news from Hilversum in Dutch.  They were very assimilated, with essentially no Jewish practices, but they were definitely Jews (all of my grandfather’s family remaining in Holland – 51 people – were murdered by the Nazis).

In order to find out if the story of my Sefardi origin was true I had a genealogist trace my family back 4 generations, but all the surnames she uncovered were Ashkenazi names.   I also discovered that although ca. 5,000 Sefardi Jews moved to Holland from Spain after the expulsion of 1492 (Holland had been a Spanish colony and was very anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic), also soon after another 5,000 Ashkenazi Jews also moved to Holland.  So it was a toss-up.  Then I decided to do the acid test, a DNA test.

Without going into the details, one can analyze the sequence of bases in the DNA taken from almost any cells in the body (usually the oral mucosa), and compare the analysis to many others from different ethnic groups.  They can analyze the Y-chromosome to trace the patrilineal descent and the mitochondrial (mt)-DNA to trace the matrilineal descent, as well as the total DNA (genome) content.  The company called Family Tree DNA (see http://www.familytreedna.com ) has built up a large data base of such characteristic ethnic DNA sequences, particularly with a large Jewish database, and by statistical comparison they can tell you your individual ethnic background.  The tests cost several hundred dollars.

My results were that I am 89% Ashkenazi Jewish and only 6% Sefardi, with 3% West Middle East and 2% south-east Europe (Italy-Greece).  Given that my father’s family were Ashkenazi Jews from the Ukraine, assuming they had no Sefardi origins, this means that my Sefardi origin on my mother’s side was ca. 12%, certainly less than the 50% that I was expecting.  So the story of my Sefardi origins was perhaps somewhat exaggerated, but nevertheless is real.

 

Buying my books

Several people have complained that the information I gave recently to buy my new book “Life on Planet Alz” (see IsBlog February 3) published by Createspace, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, was apparently incorrect.  To order the book from Amazon.com you can go to the following url, where it is available (I presume dp means “direct publishing”):

Or you can order it in other countries from other Amazon sites.

Similarly my other books can be ordered at Amazon.com:

For further information about my books, including photos of the covers (designed by me) and information about the contents, go to my web-site:  http://www.jackcohenart.com . Most of these books are also available on Kindle.  I have published 9 books in 8 years (from 2009 until 2017), although I worked on some of them for 20 years before that. Of course, quantity is not a virtue in itself, but I urge you to buy and read at least one of them.  You won’t be disappointed and you will be hooked.

Visa games

I spent a very frustrating day at the Ministry of the Interior (Misrad Hapnim) office with the young Indian woman Jaya, the metapelet (carer) who looks after my mother-in-law Millie (who is 101 years old).  Jaya is going to India to get married and needs two visas before she leaves Israel , a work visa renewal and a reentry visa into Israel.  But, Millie also has to have a valid license to employ a foreign worker before they will give her these visas.

Unfortunately Millie’s license if due to expire at the end of Jan 2017, but this is not sufficient time since they require at least 3 months valid license time after the metapelet arrives back. This makes sense since there would be no point in her coming back if she couldn’t work here for at least 3 months. So we applied for a renewal of Millie’s license about 5 weeks ago.  The agent Daniella said it could take from 2 days to 2 weeks.  But because of the holidays (chagim) that took 3 weeks, when everything comes to a standstill in Israel, we have not yet received the renewal notice from the relevant government office.

Daniella said just go to the Misrad Hapnim office anyway and apply and see if they will give you the visas.  So we went early last Thurs morning, with all the signed papers. Jaya was there at 5,30 am to get a place in the queue and she was no. 3 and I joined her at 7.30 am, and the doors opened at 8 am.  But, because of people rushing in and the fact that they have changed the location of the office and the procedure since we were last there (two years ago) we only got number 7 to go in.

Never mind, our number was called and we had a young clerk. We explained the situation that Jaya is getting married.  She looked at her computer and immediately said I can’t give you the visas because the license will be out-of-date. We tried to call Daniella but there was no reply at that time.  So we decided to go to her office knowing she should be there at 9 am.  We walked across Netanya, but when we got there she wasn’t there, but now she answered the phone.  She said go back to the Misrad Hapnim office and let me talk to the clerk.  So we took a taxi back and went to the girl and I called the agent on my phone and she talked to her and she still said no.

So Daniella said find the clerk named Ruthie who apparently she knows and let me speak to her.  She seemed to be the person in charge.  So finally I managed to ask Ruthie to talk to Daniella, but she said I don’t know anything about it and I’m busy, and she hung up.  But, she heard enough to say “OK, write me a letter and sign it.”  So I went and wrote a letter explaining the situation and I gave it to her and she took Jaya’s papers.  But, she made us wait while she saw three other clients.  Then she finally relented and took Jaya’s papers and looked at them and spoke to the other clerk and then she said  “Sorry, no, we can’t help you, come back another time.”

So we gave up.  Now Jaya has to decide what to do, since she is supposed to be flying Weds Nov 2.  She can wait, but if she has to change her flight she can’t leave it to the last minute, or she’ll lose all her money.  The day after this event Daniella sent an e-mail to the Manager of the Misrad Hapnim office explaining the situation.  She told Jaya to go back today, Sunday, and try again.  I chose not to go with her, I think my presence only exacerbated the situation.  This time they gave Jaya the visas without any problem.  I am not interested why,  I am only very relieved.  Now Jaya can go home and get married and come back to look after Millie.  Luckily we have a substitute carer to take over while she is gone.  I took Jaya to the Airport at 4 am this morning (Weds) and she is now flying to India.

My trip to the USA

I went to Miami in order to participate in the Conference “Reconnecting 2016: Reinvigorating Shared Latino-Jewish Roots and Heritage,” that I was involved in organizing as a Board Member of the Institute for Sefardi and Anousim Studies at the Netanya Academic College. I will write about this conference separately, but just to mention that it was a great success, a historic event that brought together Hispanics and Sefardim, as well as Bnei Anousim (descendents of forced Jewish converts to Christianity) from many countries – Brasil, USA (New York, Puerto Rico, New Mexico), Colombia, Cuba, etc.  We wanted to attract 200 attendees and there were about 235, and the hall was filled.  The sessions were excellent and there were many great speakers, including Henry Cisneros, a leading Hispanic American from San Antonio, and Pastor Hagee, a leading Evangelical Christian and the founder of Christians United for Israel (with 3.5 million members)..

We met in the Trump International Resort Hotel (that has nothing to do with that Presidential candidate).  Just to show you that I was so busy, I never even set foot on the beach.  Now after returning home to Israel I have no recollection of my trip to Miami, except that I did get my emergency US passport just in time.

After the Conference I flew to Washington DC to stay with my friend Frank Portugal and his partner Evie in their lovely mansion in SE Washington.  They were very hospitable and hosted a memorable dinner for a group of 3 couples who were old friends of ours from the days more than 20 years ago when we lived in the Bethesda area.  For my birthday that occurred during the visit, Frank bought me a Groucho Marx nose and mustache glasses, a thoughtful present, that I have above my desk to remind me not to take myself too seriously (was that his intent?).

From DC, I was due to fly to San Francisco to be met by my son.  Just to show you how a minor mistake can have almost serious consequences, the airline or travel agent had changed my flight to an earlier one, instead of via Houston to go via Chicago O’Hare.  But, the updated flights were listed in red in my itinerary, and when I printed this out it was against a black banner background, and so the airline and flight number did not show up (usually it was white lettering against black).  Since I could not see the airline or flight number, I went to the last airline I had flown with, American.  After some messing around they concluded that my ticket was not for their airline and sent me to United.  United confirmed my code, but the ladies could not issue the boarding pass.  After some further messing around they called the central office and then hung up.  I thought I was doomed to remain in DC, but then they explained that when the airline had changed my flights they had by mistake not changed the flight number.  Now they had corrected it and now they could issue me a  boarding pass, phew!

I had a few days with my son Simon and daughter-in-law Sharon in Livermore CA, a beautiful place.  I greatly enjoyed sitting in the shade by the pool doing nothing and having a session in the jacuzzi.  I gave a talk in their Reform synagogue on the situation in Israel (to be written up later). We dashed around and bought presents, and then it was already time to leave.  On-line we could not get me an aisle seat, but when I got to the check-in one mysteriously appeared.  So I had a smooth and uneventful direct flight home, watched two movies, dozed and read a book (also more of that later) and here I am, back home in my reality.  I want to thank my daughter Miriam for stepping in for me and helping my wife while I was away.  I’m lucky, I have two great children (we must have taught them well).

Apotropus report

I am an Apotropos.  This is a Greek word of German usage that is legally used in Israel to denote guardianship, particularly of an older mentally or physically handicapped person (it is different from “power-of-attorney” because that is granted by someone who is compus mentis, while the Apotropus is granted by the court for someone who is not compus mentis).  I am the Apotropos for my wife who has Alzheimer’s Disease and for my mother-in-law who is 100 years old and is senile.  In order to become their Apotropos I had to apply to a special family court.  There are two kinds of Apotropos, one that is for the medical/health of the individual and one that is for their finances.  This means that one can make all decisions regarding the medical treatment and/or the financial transactions of the individual.  I have both kinds of responsibility.

Every year or two the Department of the Justice Ministry that deals with Aprotropi requires one who is in charge of the finances of someone else to submit a report on their financial dealings.  This is to ensure that the person who is unable to deal with their finances themselves is not being taken advantage of by the person appointed as their Apotropus.  A very reasonable requirement, since there are undoubtedly people out there who are itching to get their hands on the old witch’s money.  So it was not surprising that I received in the mail a package (in Hebrew of course) requiring me to make such a financial disclosure for 2013 and 2014.   But, what was unusual in this case was that the package included a list of approved accountants and the requirement that I pay a standard fee and take my financial records (including bank records) to an accountant from the list. Since there were no accountants on the list from Netanya I chose one from the nearest town Hadera (rather than go to Tel Aviv).

I called the number given and spoke to a nice young man, who when he heard my story suggested that he shouldn’t need to prepare a report and said he would call the Department and ask them.  Then he called me back and said, no, they insist that he prepare the report, and I need to give him all the information from the bank about my and my wife’s accounts as well as all my receipts for utilities, credit cards, etc. for 2013 and 2014.  I ordered the information from the bank, and I started gathering together all the bills/receipts for services etc.  This required a lot of work, since it included electricity, gas, water and telephone bills, as well as municipal rates (arnona) and such things as insurance payments, and credit card bills.  For those utilities that I did not have the bills for that period I had to call and ask for them (my daughter helped me with this, since her Hebrew is much better than mine).

Finally after a week, I had all the papers and was ready to go and meet the accountant.  He gave me the name of his street in English (HaHoman St.) and told me that their building was no. 17, the last at the end of the road.   Well on the morning I tried to put this information into Google maps for the GPS and it did not find a HaHoman St. in Hadera. So then I tried Waze, and this worked, even when I put the name in English, it found it in Hebrew (very clever).  And then with some help I got the spoken directions in English, even though the map was in Hebrew.  It was raining heavily, but with Waze I found my way to the right place.  But, then I discovered that in English the street is spelt HaUman Street, and the last building was very new and had no number on it, but at least I knew it was the last building on the street.

The accountant was very pleasant, he examined my papers and quickly concluded that since I pay all the utilities from my account and none from my wife’s, he did not in fact need my account nor any of the utility and other bills I had so painstakingly collected.  He only needed my wife’s account that showed that I intermittently transferred funds from it to my account to help pay the bills (strictly it should be half each) and also the payments for the carer (metapelet) who looks after her.  So that was easy, and I left him to make the report.  He advised me that my case was simple, there should be no problems and I should write a letter to the Department and suggest that in future I do not need to have an accountant prepare my reports.