Thursday, May 21, 2015

New Homeland For The Jews (May 2007)

Originally published in May 22, 2007 by Miralee Munro

JEWS ALL AROUND THE WORLD and in Second Life have a new 'home' with the opening last Sunday of the Ir Shalom "City of Peace" sim by Carter Giacobini and his very talented team of co-creators, CryptoMorph Lake and Lyric Wilberg.

In his opening ceremony speech, Carter told the crowd that when he started building the Jewish Historical Museum and Synagogue (JHM&S), he had planned on opening in September, or even later, but the desire of the Jewish community to set down roots had been so strong, the whole project had been completed just three months after the JHM&S had opened.

"I think that's a testament to the desire of the Jewish community to set up roots wherever we are," he stated. "Throughout our history, we have adapted and succeeded in every environment that diaspora has led us to. And, even though exile didn't bring us to SL, we still bring with us the desire and ability of adaptation, unity and community."

"We bring with us the need for family ties, to be with fellow Jews in an environment that we have made our own."

"My hope is that this place will serve as the foundation of the Jewish community on SL. To be the main place where Jews can come to take classes in our community centre; have parties at the country club; develop their businesses in our shops and Jewish Business Development Group; learn about our history in the museums, and to be able to be with each other in a safe environment."

"This is your city. This is your new home."

Carter went on to explain that the main focus of the site was locating the Temple Beit Shalom in the centre of the city, so that all things would be an outgrowth from that. Project contributor, CryptoMorph Lake, began construction on the temple, the day the island was born.

"The temple was the first thing to begin here - as it should be anywhere in any Jewish community," continued Carter, who paid tribute to the "wisdom and knowledge" of his co-creator Crypto and acknowledged the "amazing gifts of time and decorating sense" of Lyric Wilberg and the exhibition construction of Tomaso Rall.

Crypto wished "a big mazal tov and shehachianu" to the island, thanking everyone who had helped out in creating the final creation the crowd now beheld.

He referred to Ir Shalom as "a very unique place, one that is fully dedicated to serving the group with content you can't get anywhere else. A place of community and learning."

When Tomaso called out, "Here's to life!", the rousing response of "L'chaim" rang out throughout the crowd.

One of the highlights of the day was the announcement of the winning Torah design for the temple.

Photo above: Judges were unable to choose one winner from the entries above, so selected three Torahs for the synagogue. The winning entries were made by Mushund Mills, Janae McLeod and Nightspy Rebus & Rafi Tulip.

Among the many interesting sites to visit at Ir Shalom, is the Holocaust Memorial Museum which, to be expected, is a solemn testament to the darkest days of Jewish history in modern times. One of the saddest information plaques reads:

"On the walls, you can see scratch marks made by people trying to escape. To the left is where the crematory was placed. After the prisoners were murdered, they would be vaulted into the crematorium by use of a crude catapult to be disposed of."

No matter what you think of, or how you feel toward, Jews - this type of scar is bound to set you apart from others. An injury of this magnitude lasts forever.

Next door, at the Historical Centre, famous Jews featured include Modigliani, Leonard Bernstein, Marcel Proust, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, Albert Einstein, Ann Landers, Golda Meir and Goldie Hawn.

The most poignant display is of Nazi Holocaust survivor, Liviu Librescu, who was also an aeronautics engineer and teacher. Liviu was recently murdered at the Virginia Tech massacre. More than any other display there, I was moved to bend my head for a moment's silence in honour of this simple man. Librescu used his body to barricade a classroom door to protect several students, but was gunned down.

The information sheet on Liviu urges, "Let those he saved now make the most of it."

(Photo above: Liviu Librescu (centre) is flanked by Ann Landers (on left) and Modigliani (at right).

Shops and businesses at Ir Shalom include the very wittily named "Mitzvah Bar Gift Shop" - specialising in alcohol and hats! (If you can help the also very wittily-named bar owner Jieux Shepherd, refine his chair scripts, he'd be ever so grateful!)

There is also a Rabbi's Attic shop; a Sisterhood of Ir Shalom drop-in centre and Bubbe's Bakery and Jewish Deli, offering chocolate chip cookies, donuts, and Bubbe's chicken soup, reportedly "good for what ails you".

One of the many people who made it to the opening (international time differences made it difficult for European and Israeli Jews to participate in the event), was Orthodox Jewess, Tam Hyun who said she had been keeping an eye on construction work for the past couple of weeks.

"It's tremendous - more than I ever thought was possible," she enthused. "It makes me feel welcome and not so much a stranger to SL. The island brings a bit of real life home to me."

RebMoshe Zapedzki took me on a tour of the shul, which is Yiddish for synagogue and showed me the ahron, where the torah, the set of guidelines on behaviour to God and man, is stored on a raised platform.

He paid tribute to what has been achieved, saying, "Communities are built by a small handful of people like Carter and Lyric and Beth."

Another guest, Kafka Schnabel who has been tracking Jewish developments in SL since the beginning, said, "I think this is a big step for the Jewish community of SL. We are creating a Jewish shetelt. I hope that this will lead to interesting new developments in SL Judaism, and hopefully also interfaith."

People celebrating the opening of Ir Shalom included Chana Beck, who describes herself as "Jew Crew", Yoni Schwartzman, Nemi McCoy, TamaraEden Zinnemann, Blayke Allen, Ghahir2 Binder, Cajh Writer, GruvenRueven Greenberg, Yoni Schwartzman, Gavriel Beerbaum, Charles Houston and Kirk Claymore.

Comments about the site ranged from Chana Black's, "This will be a wonderful community, I just know it" to Gavriel Beerbaum who said, "Wait until I spread the word about this at the Beit Israel Group in Portugal."

Another memorable event of the evening was a 'Magical Mystery Tour' in a bus, driven rather chaotically but with great panache, humour and enthusiasm, by sim owner, Carter Giacobini.

I would like to say that I took this tour, but for most of it, I was either running behind the bus, or flying above it trying to get on! At one stage, I did manage to board the double decker, but I got thrown around so much I fell out the back, with a great appreciation of how a cocktail feels in the shaker! When the journey (ordeal!) was over at last, there was the odd mention of "hire a limo next time!" "with a driver!"

At the end of the festivities, while we danced to the grooviest music I've heard yet on SL and I listened to the happy banter of Jews 'at home', I almost felt Jewish myself.

Photo above: CryptoMorph Lake, Carter Giacobini and Ever Student (front row) with one of the guests beside Tomaso Rall and Tam Hyun (middle) and RebMoshe Zapedzki, Gavriel Beerbaum and Nemi McCoy (rear)

(Photo above: TamaraEden Zinnemann (centre) and her friends who engaged me in a stimulating discussion of Judaism the day before the opening) More on this and other Jewish-related issues in later editions.

Miralee Munro

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Miralee Munro would eventually retire from Second Life Newspaper some months later. But she is still active in Second Life, sometimes found at the artistic community at Perfect Paradise. The Ir Shalom sim is gone, but there has been a longtime Jewish presence in the Nessus sim.

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