This is my sixteenth trip to China since 1995, when I met Jonathan for his spring break during the semester abroad that apparently sealed his future. This is my first trip as a Nainai, grandma on the dad’s side! Not only have Eli (aka, Yeye, whose fourteenth visit it is) and I done all of the conventional Beijing tourist sites, we’ve delved deeper into arts developments, have explored museums, kept up on new shopping malls, visited embassies, attended Jewish services, taken the subway. There’s usually somewhere new to go, but this time we have our new granddaughter here, and that’s all the new we need.

It’s likely that, when we get home, people will ask us about what the Chinese think of Trump, how the air is, and other generic China questions. But let me say that our focus has been elsewhere. Like Mirah’s first “swimming lesson.”

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I thought my previous blogging absence was long, but two and a half years–ridiculous. Obviously, no new book out in that time. (See future posts.) It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say in that period of time–God knows! Most likely, Facebook has taken over as the forum for this lazy blogger’s opinions and publicizable life events. As I’ve posted, the opportunity to get away from Facebook, an opportunity readily available in Beijing, is both the good news and the bad. Why do I say this?

For one thing, Facebook can occupy a lot of time and function as a major distraction and procrastinating factor for writing and other activities. Second, it’s begun to creep me out when I run into or hear from people who know so much about my life from FB posts. Some are what I call “Facebook voyeurs” who never post themselves but only observe the posts of others. Still others have expressed anger that we have visited their cities and not seen them, unmindful of the fact that Facebook friendship is not necessarily anything like the real thing. Which leads to the question: can FB damage friendships and/or elicit and reveal latent damage?  A recent exchange with a longtime–real (we thought), not just Facebook–friend aired his disapproval of my kids’ Beijing residence for environmental reasons. When Eli and I cut it off as politely as we could, he defriended us.  Should we have just ignored the comments? Was the exchange just an excuse to end a relationship that, unbeknownst to us, was already frayed? And, finally, on a global scale, Facebook has earned a bad rap as the enabler of the Russian interference with Election 2016.

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It borders on the scandalous that I haven’t written a blog post since announcing the publication of The Lost Torah of Shanghai. In today’s world I should be banned from calling myself any kind of an author. It’s not for lack of anything to say. Never my problem.

The past few months have been…well, busy. We moved from San Francisco back to, part-time and possibly temporarily, our hometown of Milwaukee. The move was quick, as real estate transactions in the Bay Area don’t give the seller, in August, the luxury of giving occupancy in December. Which would have been the next most convenient time, given the travel plans we knew were ahead. In fact, even when we learned the contract was confirmed, Eli and I were in Poland. We arrived home September 4 and moved out September 21. Between HIPPY travel in my last two months as HIPPY USA national chair and a long-planned weekend in Chicago, I was away from our rented home in Milwaukee 14 nights out of the first month, and then we left for a month in Israel, returning to the US in time for Thanksgiving.

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Well, the birth of this baby sure took a long time, but it’s now available in print and eBook formats at all the usual suspects, including this website. I hope you like it. It doesn’t exactly follow the “formula” of After the Auction, but it’s definitely a sequel–branding Lily as the “Jewish Miss Marple.”

The route she takes on this caper starts in New York City, moves to San Francisco, thence to Shanghai, and ends again in Israel. And there’s a back story section in letter form that begins in Bombay (before it was called Mumbai) and progresses to Shanghai and finally to Hong Kong. Baghdad and Iraq are shadowy references throughout.   

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As I approach the publication of novel #2, The Lost Torah of Shanghai, Lost Torah coverI’m constantly in catchup and explanation mode. Yes, it’s done,  but no, it’s not quite ready. The formatted manuscript sits in a drawer (to keep it together) awaiting my final proofread before it goes to press, cover and all. It’s coming, it’s coming…

What am I doing that takes the time away from this? Well, there’s HIPPY USA, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, of which I’m board chair, and that takes tons of time. Why? Because I’m passionate about this program that coaches parents to give their kids school-readiness skills, and it does so through paid home visitors, the parents’ socio-economic and cultural peers, “trusted messengers” who deliver HIPPY’s curriculum to the parents and trains them in using it with their kids. Many of these home visitors are working their first-ever jobs. HIPPY is now in 23 states and DC, and we’re trying to expand it. 

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I met Elizabeth Rynecki a few years ago at a lecture at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, here in San Francisco, during its exhibit “Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker.” That exhibit focused on the Goudstikker family’s efforts to reclaim highly valuable masterpieces Jacques, a prominent Jewish art dealer in Amsterdam, left behind when escaping the Netherlands in 1940, just after its invasion by the Germans. In the process of escaping, Mr. Goudstikker died accidentally on the ferry taking him across the English Channel. He had in his pocket a notebook detailing every painting in his abandoned collection, which, of course, soon fell into Nazi hands, especially those of Hitler’s greedy and art-loving deputy, Hermann Goering. After World War II, Allied art procedures repatriated the Goudstikker collection to the Netherlands, but the family began a longterm effort to regain some of the paintings, and were ultimately successful with a portion of the holdings.

Elizabeth introduced herself as the member of a family also searching for its lost art, though the paintings she sought weren’t masterpieces of famous Dutch Old Masters or celebrated Italians. Elizabeth’s search focuses on the work of her great-grandfather, Moshe Rynecki, a Polish-Jewish painter somewhat known in local circles before the war, who depicted Jewish life in Poland in more than 800 works that were often well-reviewed but not commercially profitable. Before going into the Warsaw Ghetto, he deposited groups of his paintings with trusted friends in locations in and around the city and left notes with his wife. Although Rynecki perished in the Majdanek concentration camp, she and their son survived the war but could not retrieve most of the hidden paintings before immigrating to the United States.    gyw_water

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Sooner or later, it’s all about IRAQ! 

It’s been a few months since ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) became a household word and the debate about what the US should do about Iraq began—again. Then war between Israel and Hamas and the crash in Ukraine of Malaysia Flight #17 pushed Iraq off the front page for a while. But it’s back! With President Obama’s decision on air strikes, Iraq again became the crisis du jour. Or should I say the ISIS du jour?

Ok, Iraq is back in the news, but what makes it a Ripped From the Headlines topic for this blog? 

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This fall’s revelation that a trove of 1500 Nazi-looted paintings stayed for years in a Munich apartment spread shock waves around the world. Not only was this startling news for art scholars, curators and collectors. The political and legal aspects of the ongoing story are equally astounding, not the least being the fact that the German government raided Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment and found the cache nearly two years ago. And no one leaked it. Probably the most amazing!    cornelius

One of the more interesting tidbits relates to the composition of the collection. Many works in it were those of so-called “degenerate” artists, including German Expressionists of the early 20th century, such as Grosz and Nolde, but also Chagall and Kandinsky. Despite Hitler’s scorn for them, his henchmen made sure they were swept into the looting parties, and a German exhibition in 1937 showcased them. They may not have been the Fuehrer’s taste, but more savvy and value-conscious connoisseurs such as Goering managed to take a few home.  Gurlitt’s father, a dealer to those fine clients, stashed plenty. What was leftover in his son’s lair is said to be worth more than $1 billion in today’s art marketplace.

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It’s been a banner couple of months for marketing both AFTER THE AUCTION and the forthcoming THE LOST TORAH OF SHANGHAI. (Forthcoming in 2014.)  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect storm of real-life events to validate the truth/fiction synergy of the subjects I include in the novels.   Unknown

First, in October, came the news that a family in Shanghai was keeping a cache of books for a Jewish man, a refugee who’d escaped Europe and who entrusted the books to their late father in 1943. The English language Chinese TV report asserted that the Jewish man returned to Germany at that time and sent a postcard back to his book holding friend that sounded suspiciously like Holocaust stories about postcard messages sent, at Nazi behest, by concentration camp prisoners to people still back home: “Reunited with our family…” 

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As the nursery rhyme goes, “I’ve been to London to see the Queen.” And I did! BOTH of them!

Last month Eli and I stood alongside the Mall to view the parade going to the Trooping the Colour ceremony, an annual pageant marking Queen Elizabeth’s Official Birthday (her real birthday is in April, but June in London is deemed to have better weather). And then we high-tailed it down to Buckingham Palace for the balcony scene afterward. And what a shot Eli got! This was Princess Kate’s last public appearance before giving birth.

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