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Trancoso and the Jews of Portugal

For Adele and me your article in the last issue of ESRAmagazine regarding the Jews of Portugal closed the story on an experience that began 35 years ago in the town of Trancoso, Portugal.

We were travelling with another couple and stayed overnight in a small hotel just outside the walled city of Trancoso. We stayed on at the hotel to make a phone call to Israel, whilst the other couple went off to walk through the town. Later we went out on our own to tour the town, and were immediately accosted by an elderly lady who approached us and asked "Israelitos?" You can imagine our surprise, but we answered, using our best Portuguese, "si".

The elderly lady swept us up and took us to a part of the town which had obviously been the Jewish Quarter, since many of the walls had Jewish symbols carved on them. She spoke only Portuguese. We speak none at all and yet we spent a fascinating three quarters of an hour with her. We wrote down her name and address, and on returning to Israel went to the Diaspora Museum and made other efforts to find out about Trancoso, all to no avail. We wrote her a letter, which a friend translated into Portuguese, but received no reply, nor did we ever see or hear from her again.

When we met the other couple we told them of our strange experience, and they told us that they had tried to develop a film in the town, and the shop owner, who spoke some English, asked where they were from. On hearing their reply he showed them a book, in Portuguese, which was history of the town of Trancoso, including its Jews. On the back cover was a picture of the author, an elderly lady.

We can only guess that she was the lady who had accosted us, and must have thought we were the other couple. But this is pure conjecture. And thus the story ends until we read your article – for which we thank you.

Mike Rubin


Thank you for publishing Norman Silbert's English translation of Michael Tuchfeld's excellent article on "Portugal's Talking Stones" (ESRA magazine 171, 55). This article was based on a tour conducted under AACI auspices, which visited places of Jewish historic interest in Portugal in May 2013. I was a participant on that tour and I also have written a description of the visit in my blog Isblog ( (May 12-16) which was published in The Casa Shalom Journal, 2013.

In the Journal 2012, one can find similar articles, such as "Sheila's friend's trip to Portugal - a Journal", by Sheila Becker and "Where the Stones Speak" by Pere Bonnin. Any article that brings the reader's attention to the history of the Jewish Anusim or Marranos of Spain and Portugal and the fate of their descendants is welcome. To obtain a copy of The Casa Shalom Journal see

Jack Cohen


Connecting with your Kibbutz volunteer friends

You asked for it, and we listened and responded. We got many requests from past volunteers and our Facebook friends, to help you find and reconnect with your fellow volunteers. We are very proud to have launched the newest application that will take you a few steps forward in finding and connecting with your long lost friends, from your volunteering days at the kibbutz.

An interactive map of all the Kibbutzim was created to help you find the kibbutz you volunteered in (and some moshavim). All you have to do is to find your Kibbutz (from either the map, list, or search box), click it, and post about yourself. Now wait for your friends to resurface and connect. You can also read and be updated with basic information about the kibbutz.

To find this wonderful tool, either go to the app on our Facebook page, or visit it on our KPC website.

Aya Sagi

KPC - Kibbutz Volunteers Program Center

Where are you, Young Poalei Zion, UK?

What better way to look up old acquaintances than through ESRA? If there is anyone out there who was a member of Young Poalei Zion in England in the late 1950's and 60's, please contact me. I have been living in Israel since 1968 and never bump into old members. Where are you all (if you made aliyah, that is)?

Linda Hermelin (nee Pressman)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

054 454 8457

09 861 4273

It was worth visiting Israel for the ESRA Golan hike alone 

Thank-you for arranging a ESRA wonderful hike on Wednesday. I was delighted to meet so many interesting people and share the day with you all.

It was well worth coming to Israel a week before my conference in Haifa. While engaging in some strenuous exercise, I also enjoyed the memorable scenery, gushing waterfalls, and learning about the Golan from the highly knowledgeable Reuven, who answered all my questions patiently. The golden autumnal sun, more like summer to me, meant that the day had a glowing aura which added to my pleasure.

It was most impressive that everyone rallied around when one of the hikers was feeling weak and helped in whatever way they could. This is a most impressive example of a community embracing people of different types but united in our love of hiking. It was fascinating to hear the hikers' experiences of settling in and adapting to life in Israel.

So that I can combine a visit to Israel with another one of your hikes, please let me know the dates of future hikes, regardless of their region or level of difficulty.

Stewart Dresner

United Kingdom

Thank you ESRA Community Fund for scholarships

Thank you for listening to my story and for deciding to help me. It is hard to be alone and to try to succeed. Your assistance gives me confidence in the feeling that there is someone who notices and listens to me. Thanks to your generous contribution. I can now complete the payment of this year's and most of next year's tuition fees. For me this means that this summer I could put aside for a while the never-ending worry about money and study in peace, and even enjoy the summer like everyone else. I will keep your generosity in my heart and know that one day I will do my best to pass it forward.

Tali S.

Tel Aviv

I am very grateful to ESRA for your scholarship given. This assistance will enable me to continue my degree and to concentrate on my studies instead of on my financial situation.

You are doing a great thing, helping students like me who have no support to fulfill their dreams. Thank you very much for your support,

Ilya I.


Thank you for your generous donation. It surprised me very much – I wasn't expecting it – and certainly not such a large sum. In all my four years of studies I have never received such help and encouragement. I feel that this has rekindled a fire in me that was ebbing.

I bless you for this, for giving me this great opportunity and tremendous motivation to start my fifth year with dignity and to complete my degree in a relaxed manner.

For me, this outstanding scholarship is an expression of support, faith and appreciation, and that, more than anything, moves me deeply.

Again, thanks and appreciation for your good deed.

Ruth T.


ESRAmagazine office back in Hanadiv

The ESRAmagazine office is back in 49 Hanadiv Street, Herzliya.

For five months whilst building works were going on, the office was generously hosted by our administrator, Rhonda Abramson. She turned her apartment into our office, welcoming our volunteers to work there, intruding on her personal life and that of her daughters and guests. She did so with warmth and graciousness. This enabled the magazine's production to continue smoothly and saved ESRA the cost of rental. For all this we thank Rhonda sincerely.

Brenda Katten and Merle Guttmann

Befrienders: Who is getting the most from this relationship? I think it's me

I've just come back from another wonderful morning with Esther, whom I befriend.

We have formed a special bond and I hardly see it as volunteering anymore; it's more like spending a morning visiting a friend.

Although her health has deteriorated over the last three years since I paid my first visit, our relationship has blossomed.

She has an amazingly positive attitude to life at 83, and never feels sorry for herself, in

spite of her ill health and living alone. This has been a great lesson for me! . Sometimes it's hard for me when Mika is not at kindergarten, or we have visitors staying, but I try as hard not to cancel. She is my one 'non-negotiable' of the whole week.

We try as much as possible to converse in Hebrew, which has been fantastic for my fluency and conversation. She speaks many languages, is extremely intelligent and she is very patient with my mistakes.

Although I am the befriender and she is my client, if I were to ask who was getting the most out of our relationship, I think, on reflection I would have to say "I am!"

Thank you for pairing me with such an inspirational lady.

Janine Levy

If you're caring and can spare just an hour a week of your time, then please read on

ESRA Befrienders has been in operation for over 17 years and I have been the coordinator for just over four of those years. We have 30 people visiting the lonely and the elderly all over the Sharon area.

To be a befriender, you have to be a caring person who is prepared to give just one hour a week of your time. ESRA has a training program for new befrienders and there is always backup should you have any problems.

I receive some wonderful testimonials from my group and one of them is "It is I who benefit most" from Janine Levy who lives in Raanana and as you will read, has an incredible relationship with her client. It gives me a good feeling to know how successful our group has become.

We are always looking for new befrienders, in all areas. ESRA would like to start a Befrienders group in the north, and also in Jerusalem. If you are interested please give me a call at 054 773 4392.

Glenis Bertfield

Raymond Sher, winner of bowls singles gold at the Maccabiah

There was an error in the article on bowls (ESRAmagazine #171 p. 45). It said that my son David Trappler had won the gold medal for singles. The winner of the gold medal was Raymond Sher. David won gold medals for the fours and the overall gold medal.

Jack Trappler


Retirement home invites you to play Mah Jongg

AS A follow-up to Carol novis' article on "Ma young?" (ESRAmagazine 171, p. 28) I am inviting Mah Jongg players (also beginners) to join us for games to be played here at the Vera Salomons' retirement home in Kfar Saba, at a suitable time to be decided on.

Contact Helen Koven, tel: 09 885 4847: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

IF any residents of retirement homes wish to learn to play Mah Jongg, I would be happy to teach them.

Contact Carol Novis, tel: 09 744 7255: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


This photo of the boy by the sea which appeared in issue #171 of ESRAMagazine in connection with our photographic contest was, in fact, taken by Shani Modlin, and not, as stated, by her grandmother, Rika Meyerowitz. Apologies to all concerned. 

Here's what you should do in the Event of a national disaster

For information and instructions in english on what to do in the face of natural disasters – earthquakes, tsunami, fires, floods – go to the website of the home Front Command:

Berlin writer and I were at university together

Being very short on reading time I don't always manage to read as much from ESRAMagazine as I would like, but this time, when paging through, I found it full of fascinating material. to mention only a few articles that interested me, I landed by chance on the article, "Berlin: A city of contrasts "by my old friend and colleague, Luba Zuk. She and I studied physiotherapy together at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, and though we only see each other occasionally, have remained friends. the article brought us through a most interesting visit to Berlin. now that we are both retired, I was delighted that Luba, like me, was finding an outlet in writing. Then I read with great interest "Guns 'n roses" by Lydia Aisenberg. Its opening description of policemen handing out flowers to Arab drivers was indeed encouraging and optimistic. However, much of this very well written article gave a profoundly honest and disturbing picture of what is being allowed to happen in the Arab villages of Wadi Ara – both by price-tag terrorists and by official Israel. There were several other excellent articles, including one on Portugal, where we recently toured. Of course I was surprised and most gratified to find my own short piece, "My freedom Psalm", written after reading David Grossman's "Writing in the Dark". Thank you for this.

Richelle Shem-Tov Kiryat Ono 



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