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The Madam.


The Madam.

I am writing this story from the Kapiot Café in Haifa Israel. My status in life is that of an oleh chadash or new immigrant to the land of Canaan. I moved here six years ago at the age of fifty nine from Western Colorado. Retirement has many advantages in this splendid city. The balmy Mediterranean climate, the beautiful beach and tiyelet or boardwalk make Haifa a wonderful place for hiking, swimming, fishing, and leisurely walks. There are many historical sites, three major universities, and spiritual shrines including the Bahia Gardens and Elijah’s tomb.

I was blessed to live most of my adult life in the beautiful woods of Western Colorado. Hiking, camping, fishing, and viewing wildlife made life a wonderful experience. My career was servicing the employment needs of people with disabilities for various government agencies. Blessings indeed adorned my life.

That brings us to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Life in the steel city of my youth was gray in the truest sense of the word. I often left for Taylor Allderdice High School in a white shirt in the morning. Many times I returned home in a grey shirt which was victimized by the infamous pollution of the era. School was either an hour walk in the cold and rainy climate or a crowded bus ride. The Pittsburgh Steelers were then the goats of professional football, but the Pirates blessed us with their 1960 miracle World Series victory and sadly little more than that.

Dad was a grocery executive and rarely home. Mom suffered from serious medical problems and was very distant from me and my two sisters. Life (except for golf) was bleak and dull. Thank goodness for the Madam.

Mom’s faltering health necessitated the need for nearly full time domestic help. Lulu was an African American woman in her fifties when she first came to our service. She was thin and walked softly. One of many joys that we enjoyed with the Madame was ongoing quips about her age. She was born and raised in Tupelo Mississippi in the late nineteenth century and refused to tell us her true age. We found out when her time came that she was born in 1870. She died in 1971. She was blessed to live a long and healthy life. She was still active at the age of 97! The good do not always die young.

Lulu (the Madam) was raised in a sharecropper’s family of nine children. She married an alcoholic mill worker who abused her physically and mentally. Life for a blacked skinned woman anywhere in America in those days was a disgrace. She ran away from her husband after nine years and settled in Memphis Tennessee where she worked as a seamstress and housekeeper. Pittsburgh became her home in 1955 when her family moved there to work in the steel mills. She came to us through a friend Mrs. Feldman and was a part of our family until the end.

She took care of mom’s health, served as a surrogate mom to us, cleaned our home, cooked, and served as the secretary of her church. Many of us go through life with frowns on our faces; she always had a bright smile on hers. I learned to appreciate Chili Stew with egg noodles, lemon meringue pie, Chicken Fricassees, and most importantly spirituality from this humble yet brilliant and talented woman. She was a wonderful public speaker and outstanding singer. Her greatest talent of course was her ability to motivate and bring joy to the lives of others. Dad often mused about her potential in a world with more equality and justice.

I left Pittsburgh at the age of eighteen and never returned. There were the wonderful visits with family especially Lulu. We spent hundreds of hours discussing the value of faith in life. She was a fervent Christian yet urged me to explore, understand, and adore my Jewish faith. “The Golden Rule should be universal”. She admonished me to live by it. Hopefully, I have not let her down.

Lulu was so humble that she rarely talked about herself. We discovered after her death that she was a passionate civil rights activist and traveled in very famous circles. She refused to fly and traveled by bus to confront injustices in America. “I want to be as far away from my maker when my time comes”, she explained to us often. The only time that she broke her sacred rule was to attend my wedding.

She was born Lulu Robinson but spent her last thirty years known as The Madam. How did this occur? There were many times during my high school years that a man only known as the Bishop called our home to speak to her. “Is The Madam there he would quiz in a deep apparently southern voice”. She was the secretary of his church and her title was Madam Robinsom. I never understood it but loved the title and never ceased to tease my friend about her name.

I think often about my best friend as I pursue my greatest passions in life that of promoting interfaith dialogue and peace in this trouble region. Is there hope for these goals? Who knows” I was blessed to have a great mentor and hopefully can do my small share to bring these blessings to our region.

Posted by eshugerman 06:00 Tagged freedom pittsburgh inspiration interfaith dialogue Comments (0)

Who Has the Right to Call it Football?

Who Has the Right to Call it Football?

I grew up in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the years when today's football heroes the Steelers were the goats of the beloved game. I am now the tender age of sixty four. The Steelers of my era lost more games than they won, but they established a tone that still defines their teams of this era -- the blood and-guts, hard-nosed style of Pittsburgh's Team. In the '50s, the Steelers were 54-63-3 under four different coaches and finished with more wins while lossing only twice. The Steelers owned by Art Rooney were then called the Pirates.The Steelers of the early 1960s were not much better if at all; however, we still loved them and derived great joy from following our anti-heroes. They played their games in Pitt Stadium and Forbes Field. The Steelers made the playoffs for the first time in 1947, tying for first place in the division at 8–4 with the Philadelphia Eagles. This forced a tie-breaking playoff game at Forbes Field, which the Steelers lost 21–0. That would be Pittsburgh's only playoff game for the next 25 years; they did qualify for a "Playoff Bowl" in 1962 as the second-best team in their conference, but this was not considered an official playoff.

I was blessed in those years to live near Pitt Stadium and Forbes Field. I enjoyed watching the Pirates, Steelers, and Panthers compete and even saw the last game of the 1960 baseball World Series. It was the first time that the Pirates brought a championship to the city. Bill Mazeroski became a hero to sports fans everywhere.

It is now forty six years since I left the steel city in 1966. The team currently belongs to the North Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL)/ The Steelers are the oldest franchise in the AFC. Pittsburgh has won more Super Bowl titles (six), won more AFC Championship Games (eight) and played in (fifteen) and hosted more (eleven) conference championship games than any other AFC or NFC team. The Steelers share the record for most Super Bowl appearances with the Dallas Cowboys (eight). The Steelers won their most recent championship, Super Bowl XLIII, on February 1, 2009. Yes, things have certainly changed since my era.

I still follow my beloved Steelers in my new home of Haifa Israel. I watched their last Super-bowl appearance from 6,000 miles away in Israel. The game was broadcast on several networks in the Middle East. I watched it through the METV while sipping a beer at a local pub. I was stunned to listen to the game both in English and in Hebrew simultaneously. All the other patrons were non-Americans, but many of them understood the rules of the game and helped me cheer for my favorite team. Still, there were tears in my beer when the game was over. The Steelers lost a heart breaker to the Packers.

The national sport of Israel is soccer. In Hebrew it is called football. My friends and I joke a lot as to which country has a right to call its national sport football. I enjoyed a certain glow from the sense of solidarity from sharing my football ardor with my new Israeli neighbors. It has indeed become a small world since my days growing up in the steel city. One of my toughest challenges in life is adjusting to the world of modern mass communications, however when it comes to the Super-bowl- thank goodness for satellite television.

The contemporary history of the world's favourite game spans close to one hundred and fifty years. It all began in 1863 in England, when rugby football and association football branched off on their different courses and the Football Association in England was formed - becoming the sport's first governing body.

Both codes stemmed from a common root and both have a long and intricately branched ancestral tree. A search down the centuries reveals at least half a dozen different games, varying to different degrees, and to which the historical development of football has been traced back. Nevertheless, the fact remains that people have enjoyed kicking a ball about for thousands of years and there is absolutely no reason to consider it an aberration of the more 'natural' form of playing a ball with the hands.

On the contrary, apart from the need to employ the legs and feet in tough tussles for the ball, often without any laws for protection, it was recognized right at the outset that the art of controlling the ball with the feet was not easy and, as such, required no small measure of skill. The very earliest form of the game for which there is scientific evidence was an exercise from a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BC in China

American football was started in 1879 with rules instituted by Walter Camp, player and coach at Yale University.

Walter Camp was born April 17, 1859, in New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Yale from 1876 to 1882, where he studied medicine and business. Walter Camp was an author, athletic director, chairman of the board of the New Haven Clock Company, and director of the Peck Brothers Company. He was general athletic director and head advisory football coach at Yale University from 1888-1914, and chairman of the Yale football committee from 1888-1912. Camp played football at Yale and helped evolve the rules of the game away from Rugby and Soccer rules into the rules of American Football as we know them today.

The NFL, or the National Football League, was formed in 1920. The popularity of college football grew as it became the dominant version of the sport in the United States for the first half of the 20th century. Bowl games, a college football tradition, attracted a national audience for college teams. Boosted by fierce rivalries, college football still holds widespread appeal in the United States. The Super Bowl is one of the most widely watched sporting events in the world including my new home in Israel.

While Israel is technically part of Asia, the sporting landscape makes the tiny nation more in line with the European continent. Soccer rules in Israel, as it does in the rest of the non-American world, and while the country has its own hierarchy of professional leagues, Israeli teams often face European competition in international matches through UEFA (Union of European Football Associations). In Hebrew the term for soccer is football. It is the national sport of Israel and most of this region. I have learned the rules of the game as part of my new life and enjoy watching and playing somewhat. It is still not the same to me as the American gridiron.
Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. At the turn of the 21st century, the game was played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world's most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field of grass or green artificial turf, with a goal in the middle of each of the short ends. The object of the game is to score by driving the ball into the opposing goal.

In general play, the goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms (unless the ball is carried out of play, where the field players are required to re-start by a throw-in of the game ball), while the field players typically use their feet to kick the ball, occasionally using other parts of their legs, their torso or head. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins. If the score is tied at the end of the game, either a draw is declared or the game goes into extra time and/or a penalty shootout, depending on the format of the competition. The Laws of the Game were originally codified in England by the Football Association in 1863 and have evolved since then. Association football is governed internationally by FIFA—Fédération Internationale de Football Association(English: International Federation of Association Football) — which organises the FIFA World Cup every four years.

The structure of Israeli soccer, which is governed by the Israeli Football Association, is similar to that of English soccer and a number of other continental soccer federations. The best teams play in Ligat Ha'al, the Premier League; second tier teams play in Liga Leumit, or the National League; and third tier teams play in Liga Artzit, or the Nationwide League.

Each of these leagues has twelve teams. Big cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa are typically represented by at least one or two teams in the Premier League, and teams from smaller cities populate the other leagues. At the end of the season, the teams in each league with the two worst records are relegated to a lower league, and the two best teams move up a league.

Soccer has been a part of Israeli culture already before the modern state existed. Prior to 1948, men and women making aliyah from Europe founded social movements that they hoped would guide the cultural and political development of the future state. These movements were all encompassing--creating their own settlements, building their own infrastructure, establishing societal norms, and even fielding their own soccer teams. Two of the most prominent movements--the right-wing Revisionist Zionist Movement (Beitar) and left-wing Workers' Federation (Hapoel)--survive today on Israeli soccer fields.

Israelis of all ages, backgrounds and both genders love the game. Many Israeli youngsters dream of being future stars of the sport. Israeli football stars are indeed heroes to the citizens of this great state. The malls are adorned with shops that specialize in "football" equipment and memorabilia.

That brings us to the question of 'Who has the right to call it football?'. I have to lean toward soccer which involves a far greater use of the foot than the American genre of the game. Nonetheless, I still prefer the American version of the game and of course the greatest heroes of the game - the mighty Steelers.

Posted by eshugerman 12:55 Archived in Israel Tagged football soccer super haifa pittsburgh bowl steelers Comments (0)

Pittsburgh Before Mean Joe Greene!

Watching the Super Bowl from Israel

Growing up in Pittsburgh was fun, even though I was one of the few Jewish kids in those times that didn't grow up in Squirrel Hill. I was so blessed that we lived in Oakland near Shady Side and in Point Breeze, in the days when Shady Side was world known for its famous jazz clubs, chic restaurants, and fashion boutiques. I could romp in Frick and Schenley Parks, and even walk to Downtown Pittsburgh on an energetic day. My friends and I cheated the law by drinking beer at the Frick Park Memorial where Mr. Heinz reportedly invented modern processed Ketchup. Those were the days when Downtown was composed of large General Stores that ranged from the very basic Woolworth to upscale Gimbles. I did commute to Taylor Allderdice High School to get the best education in the area. Mom also wanted me to meet nice Jewish girls.

I had access within a walking distance to all the major sports activities of that era. I am dating myself by admitting that I fondly remember the days of Forbes Field, Original Hotdog Shop, and the years when Pittsburgh's sports were actually the goats of professional sports. I even remember Forbes Field when it was the home of both the Pirates and the Steelers. My parents also remembered the days when the Pirates and Steelers were both named the Pirates.

In those days, Pittsburgh really was the "Steel City", as the United States Steel was still dominating the industry. Yes, we really left for school in the morning with clean white shirts that were a faded grey by the time we came home in the afternoon. Air pollution was a problem then as it is today. My two sisters and I still have the occasional sinus problems decades after we left the region.

One of the major reasons that H. J. Heinz holds a fond memory for me is that in those days students toured the Heinz Factory where we received free spaghetti with pickles and ketchup. Sports tickets in those days were fifty cents a person. Hotdogs, peanuts, and cotton candy were the main tastes of the diet in the stadium.

Dad was an executive for Foodland Supermarkets. That was the main reason that I developed my life-long love for food. Mom was a housewife- in the days when most women did not work. My grandfather, Sam and our black dog- Archie were my two best friends. I might also add my parrot Homer. Grandpa and I used to take Archie on walks in Schenley Park with Homer riding contently on Archie's back. Needless to say, the scene o f Homer riding Archie's back produced a lot of mirth in the community and made us rather well known.

My Grandfather managed a shoe-store. He was always chewing a stogie. In those days they actually believed that tobacco was good for the health. As grandpa stood by this belief he also was convinced that alcohol was good for the body and the soul- therefore I had my first whisky sour at the age of 12. Not to worry, this was limited to Friday evening supper. Like many people in Pittsburgh he was an immigrant from Eastern Europe. Polish was widely spoken in those days and people took great pride in their ethnic heritage. There was also a tragic side to ethnic issues of the days, as people of color were indeed second class citizens.

One of the things I developed growing up in Pittsburgh is the strong commitment to social issues. I spent the rest of my career/personal life promoting programs for people with disabilities. Even though discrimination was rampant in Pittsburgh, there were a lot of leaders in Pittsburgh that stood up - like Mr. Heinz who believed in equal rights for all. Later, his son- John Heinz went into politics to bring about the positive change. He helped promote legislation for equal rights for women, reforms in banking, and in expanding Medicare insurance. He was also active in promoting rights for senior citizens, and legislation toward protecting the environment.

I still follow my beloved Steelers during the Super-bowl from 6,000 miles away in Israel. Last year's Super Bowl was broadcast on several networks in the Middle East. I watched it through the MeTV while sipping a beer at a local pub. I was stunned to listen to the game both in English and in Hebrew simultaneously. All the other patrons were non-Americans, but many of them understood the rules of the game and helped me cheer for my favorite team. Still, there were tears in my beer when the game was over.

The national sport of Israel is soccer. In Hebrew it is called football. My friends and I joke a lot as to which country has a right to call its national sport football. I enjoyed a certain glow from the sense of solidarity from sharing my football ardor with my new Israeli neighbors. It has indeed become a small world since my days growing up in the steel city. One of my toughest challenges in life is adjusting to the world of modern mass communications. However, when it comes to the Super Bowl- thank goodness for satellite television.

Posted by eshugerman 09:56 Tagged football soccer israel side super pittsburgh heinz bowl oakland steelers shady gimbles Comments (0)

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