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Sunday, 25 September 2016

She Performs, She Prays …


ANNA.02There must be precious few secular  musicians  invited to lead synagogue prayers.

But this happened last night  in Karmiel, Galilee when vocalist and guitarist, Anna Jagielska-Riveiro took part in a prayer service following a 60-minute solo recital at Kehillat Hakerem Masorti Congregation.

Riveiro was invited to perform and then help to lead prayers by the community’s rabbi, Dr Gil Nativ as they had become friends when he served the Beit Warszawa Liberal Synagogue in Warsaw, Poland.

aNNA.01Riveiro, also a voice coach and music producer, accompanied herelf on a mix of instruments including guitar and tambourine, while she treated the enthusaistic crowd to a range of Ladino – Judeo-Spanish melodies. These proved especially popular with fans who have emigrated to Israel from Spanish-speaking South America.


© Natalie Wood (25 September 2016)

5777 כתיבה וחתימה טובה



The first day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, falls next week, Monday 03 October 2016. May everyone who is celebrating have a great 5777.

With all these traditionally holy number ‘sevens’ in the year, we should be well sealed!


Best regards to all family and friends.

Natalie Wood and Brian Fink

Google-plus Tags: Rosh Hashana Greeting 5777

© Natalie Wood (25 September 2016)

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

PerfectlyWritePoetry: On Rachel’s Birthday …

PerfectlyWritePoetry: On Rachel’s Birthday …: Israelis love their writers so much that many  are lauded as latter- day seers and saints. So it is with Rachel Bluwstein whose 126th birt...

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

PerfectlyWritePoetry: Disinheritance and Continuation

PerfectlyWritePoetry: Disinheritance and Continuation: In less than a month this past summer American writer John Sibley William s has become the father of twins and produced a new collection of...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

PerfectlyWritePoetry: What Black Poets Know By Heart

PerfectlyWritePoetry: What Black Poets Know By Heart: A 20-year-old US black poet has won the prestigious ‘Most Promising Young Poet Award’ from the Academy of American Poets. Donte Collins sc...

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Like Chalk – and Ashes?

Chalk Dust StoriesAn ageing, virginal spinster dies unexpectedly, leaving her dispirited suitor  to dine alone.

An orphaned bull calf is reared on bottled milk and treated as a family pet by its master -  only to be cruelly slain in the ring.

A teenage boy holidaying with his father, watches as he dies on the floor of their hotel room – and is then torn between his own family and the dead man’s lover. But while his relatives regard her as an intruder, is her fondness for the boy unhealthy? Do we dare to ask?

There is much talk of mortality in Chalk Dust: Stories **,  a collection  of seven short stories set in Portugal  and self-translated into English by their discerning author, Pedro Freire Costa.

This is no surprise as Costa, a professor at the Nova Medical School in Lisbon who completed his PhD degree in Bristol, UK, is but the latest in a long, illustrious line of celebrated doctors turned writers. Indeed, not only does his website refer to Anton Chekhov but I suggest his  profile picture  even makes him appear a modern mirror image of the Russian playwright!  Pedro Freire Costa

Further, like those of  Chekhov, life  for Costa’s characters is simultaneously hysterically funny and hopelessly sad: A village idiot is made far wiser than a farmer who gambles away his wife’s inheritance while  the final story - which reads like a version of a jokey urban myth  - portrays a group of inveterate card players who are forced to exhume a body in order to honour a bet.

I really enjoyed this collection and Costa is the sort of writer I’d love to meet in person. But I suggest that while the tales read very well, they lack the ultimate finesse of a native English speaker. Perhaps he’ll consider that for future publications.

** Chalk Dust: Stories is available in English translation on Kindle @ $0.99.

** I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

© Natalie Wood (01 September 2016)




Friday, 26 August 2016

From Monster to Mensch!

Howard ShulmanThree days after his birth in July 1961,  American baby Howard Shulman developed a bacterial infection that devoured half his face. 

But far from taking him home to start to heal and nurture,  Shulman’s distraught parents abandoned him by signing him over as a ward of the State of New Jersey, believing falsely that he would be adopted.

Instead, he was placed in good-hearted foster care and became the patient of a cold-mannered, cack-handed surgeon who went on to perform scores of operations upon  him, many of which would now be considered barbaric.

But it is only in the final third of Shulman’s memoir ** that we learn for certain what we suspect from the start:

His parents were not only Jewish but deeply involved in synagogue and communal affairs; that Shulman was not their first child, but that he has two brothers and a sister who were  automatically granted the Jewish birthright that he has been forever denied.

Howard Shulman.01Because of what has happened to him, Shulman cares little about his Jewish background. But I can’t fathom why his parents did not look for help  from  the community in which they were so deeply immersed; arrange for a circumcision and – despite their revulsed self-loathing shame - for him to be cared for by a Jewish foster family which would have given him a solid understanding of his background.

Instead, he was cut adrift and bar the occasional flash of good luck and glimpse of happiness, he was left to live on his wits, enjoying some success and domestic fulfilment, despite the thousand obstacles flung in his way.

Shulman’s story, which appeared originally as Freak: Memoir of an Outcast, has since been most adroitly edited and reads like an engrossing thriller with an engaging, ugly-beautiful anti-hero who finds redemption.

The best tribute I can give this astonishing tale is to urge you to  stare into the author’s mirror for yourself!

Running from the Mirror**  Running from the Mirror is published by Sandra Jonas Publishing House LLC and is available on Kindle @ $5.99  and in Paperback @ $14.95.



© Natalie Wood (26 August 2016)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Should Buyers Beware the Seven Pillars of Success?

“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars.”

(Proverbs, Chapter 9)

The Art of Success  suggests James Melouney, rests on seven pillars.

James MelouneyBut the 134 ‘exemplars’ of achievement the business strategist cites in his self-help book** include neither the biblical quotation above nor the memoir of British soldier T E Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’) that helped to form the basis of the epic movie named after him.

As motivational speaking is not my subject, I came to Melouney’s book as a fresh, unbiased reader. Still, as an unreconstructed cynic, I’m the one he’ll never convince.

Sorry! It’s a cliché but also a useful rule of thumb that the world’s most successful people have always had a great sense of personal destiny mixed with inordinate hubris. They are natural-born leaders, incredibly pushy and impossible to embarrass, even when proven to be woefully ignorant.

Further, I resent being fed stirring messages from people who’ve died far too young from horrible diseases as it filters through as emotional blackmail. It cannot account for the fact we all have different intellectual as well as physical capabilities; that some people are simply born smarter than others and this is why ordinary parents sometimes produce geniuses.

I don’t know Melouney but he comes across as a very personable, likeable man with a deep understanding of his craft. However I have one other caveat:

He should reconsider some of the sources he quotes and figures he lauds. I researched many of his authorities and one pair, Chet Holmes (deceased) and Tony Robbins have faced accusations of false advertising. The allegations are not mine. I am simply passing on the information  from 2010-2011 for the benefit of anyone reading this.

** The Art of Success is published by Blue Cord Books @ $2.99 (Kindle);  $14.99 (Paperback); $24.99 (Hardcover).

© Natalie Wood (23 August 2016)