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RABBI KAHANE LEARNED TO SMILE DESPITE THE HOLOCAUST

HUMAN RACE

RABBI KAHANE WAS A MAN OF WISDOM.

     For some, wisdom doesn’t come easy. Lots of people go through life with a half-a-thimble full. I knew a rabbi who could fill a barrel with his brand of knowledge collected over a lifetime. Seated amongst an early-morning gathering of mostly Christians sprinkled with other denominations at the Manhattan Beach Community Church, I told Rabbi Leon Kahane who was the lecturer that he was a man of wisdom. His reply: “Tell that to my wife. She makes me sleep in the garage!”

     Wisdom grows with pain and a touch of improv humor.

     Leon was a youngster growing up in Poland when in the mid-1930s, he said, “Germany brought anti-Semitism” into his country. “The writing was on the wall. We were a bright people, but our attitude was, ‘God will help us, don’t worry!’ We were sitting like passive ducks floating in a pond.”

     As a youngster, the rabbi had harrowing experiences evading the Nazi troops during the Holocaust. Hiding in bunkers, forests and once at a farm house half submerged in human feces, he wound up as the only Holocaust survivor of the entire Kahane family.

     He was a teenager when in 1943 on Yom Kippur he was hiding nearby when he heard the shots that killed his brother Jacob. His mother, father and relatives were all taken to death camps.

     The memory of a pleasant childhood that erupted in tragedy, plus finding the courage and inner strength to survive, eventually brought Leon and his wife, Peppa, to America.

     As refugees with a limited command of the English language, it was a lifestyle far removed from Poland. The fear, the heartbreaking emptiness of being wrenched from your loving parents by Hitler’s Nazis during the Holocaust when more than six-million European Jews were systematically killed is beyond my comprehension.

     How did this gentle, compassionate, mentally strong man, who in his late eighties died in 2011, manage to live with memories of such genocidal atrocities? Although his story of survival is poignantly horrific, it was a World War II tragedy suffered by untold millions who have their own nightmares to cope with.

     “When tragic memories enter my thoughts I hear my father’s words, ‘Be an overcomer!’,” he had told me. “It boosts my spirit and doesn’t allow me to be stuck in self-pity.”

     Another meaningful weapon he used to cope with unforgettable recollections of escaping the Nazi troops during the invasion of Poland was a sense of humor.

     “That’s how Jewish people survive.

     “Suicide is not a virtue. Forgiveness is. Yet I can’t forgive the Nazis for their vice. I owe that to the people who were massacred not to forget.”

     At the age of five, Leon began studying the Scriptures. The results of his never-ending examination of the holy words were, “You live up to the values of the Bible — serving God and others.”

     At war’s end, with anti-Semitism still rampant in Poland, Leon had joined hundreds of Jewish men, women and children fleeing his country on foot along “secret roads” in total darkness across mountains and valleys. Although the fate of their long journey was unknown, their goal was to reach the Holy Land.

     It was at a refugee camp in Italy where he was reunited with a pretty brunette named Peppa Gastfreund. Three days later they were married. Prior to that, they had met only briefly at a kibbutz in Poland.

     “My wife has been married to me for 63 years,” said the rabbi. “I have been married to her for 126 years and have the scars to prove it. Of course, they are all heart-shaped.”

     Catch that sense of humor?

     From his bucket Leon the Rabbi, a tall, slender man who has seen healthier days, poured his inspirational words willingly and unaffected.

     I listened as he addressed a gathering of intellectually hungry Christians — each searching for their own solutions to life’s problems. Impressed by his simple yet profound logic, they were also entertained by the obvious humor buried in his irony.

     He joked about the non-believer who announced, “Thank God I’m an atheist.” He spoke of greed: “If more is better, then whatever you possess is not enough.”

     For more than four decades the Rabbi had labored diligently on the words he delivered from the pulpit. With obvious pride, he claimed he had never repeated a sermon.

     What’s the secret behind the popularity of his spiritual and light-hearted words presented to diverse believers?

     “I’m talking to myself,” he said. “People just happen to be there to hear it.”

   At one small gathering, with the help of a blackboard, he explained the difference between two religious factions. Traditional fundamentalism assumes that every story in the Bible is “literally correct.”   Non-traditional progressivism, he said, allows for “interpretation of the scriptures.”   

     Has the Rabbi ever questioned the existence of God? Although he gave no yes-or-no answer, he offered this response:   

     “I asked Him: ‘Where were you? Why didn’t you show up?'”           Then with humor Leon answered for God: “‘Look, I gave you brains… Intellect! What else do you want?'”

     When I read him a farewell toast from my Italian friend, “If I don’t see you again, have a happy death,” Leon’s instant reply was, “Death cannot be happy because you die alone.”

     Here are a few more Rabbi Kahaneisms:

     “We must have an anchor in life. If not, life becomes iffy.

     “The force of life is stronger than the force of death.

     “No matter how long we live, it’s too brief. So there must be a goal.   

     “Die doing something worthwhile.”

Boots LeBaron

Chapter 1 of my nearly finished Semi Autobiographical memoir is avail below. Tell me what you think.

https://bootslebaronsworld.com/2015/01/18/conversation-with-a-dead-man-5/

Also

In Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE,  Rabbi Kahane is one of many features, essays and light poetry available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. The popular work features humorous and inspirational views of life, death, love, courage, showbiz, war, the workplace and woman’s rights.

DISCOVERING THE POWER OF WISDOM WITHIN YOU!

THE HUMAN RACE

 BUILDING BLOCKS FOR THE POWER OF YOU!

      As you stumble through life’s dense garden collecting painful cuts and abrasions, like it or not, you will absorb knowledge. What might hurt like hell becomes an irrefutable lesson that builds wisdom. Such pain is a common denominator every human being must endure.     

    It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, brilliant, non-technical or simple-minded. You’re ripe for multiple doses of humiliation, infuriation, praise, bullying, vandalism, heartbreak, divorce, abuse.  

    You’re gonna get bonked as you walk the streets of civilization. Don’t search for wisdom. It finds you.

    So brace yourself. The experience will be etched like a tombstone on your memory banks.

    Once you the suffer the unpredictable wounds that play such a valid part in your life, only then will you enjoy the mental fortitude you’ve been hammered with.

    That’s wisdom, baby!

    No matter how famous or infamous you are, for better or worse, you must pay your dues. The distress might not always be exhilarating. But chances are, the final trophy you’ll hang on the wall is the inescapable lesson you’ve learned about life, death and everything in between.  

    Be grateful for the experience. You own it! You collected it!  You lived it!  It will always be available in that library between your ears.  Chances are, it will help enlighten your life.     Don’t let spurts of narcissism or greed distort your lifestyle because what you’ve learned on the streets, in the corporate towers, or behind locked doors, might lead to a better existence and a profound future. Not only for you. But for those who believe in you.           

— Boots LeBaron —

 (Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is now available on

Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.  The book contains stories

about people, essays and light poetry) 

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BEING INSIGNIFICANT

THE HUMAN RACE

 SEARCHING FOR THE ANSWER?  LOOK OUT THE BACKDOOR!

If total peace of mind could be

obtainable, life would be boring.

Earth dwellers have no choice but

to endure the pangs of existence.

That’s how we learn things.

And that’s why I believe in the

significance of being insignificant.

There are those I’ve traded lip

service with who have plummeted into

that bottomless abyss we all

know so well. Yet, somehow many

of us manage to find an elevator to

bring us back to whatever surprise

fate has scheduled for our future.

Everybody knows that bitterness

tastes lousy, anguish stings and

triumph is sweeter than sour.

I don’t need extreme isolation on a

mountain top to find enlightenment.

My Himalayas are everywhere. On a

crowded street corner, on a pier

overlooking the Pacific, surviving

a dull sermon, watching cloths dry

at a laundromat, trapped in a cave,

making love to a babe, doing solitaire in

The Big House, eyeballing the lantern moon,

spilling profound secrets to a pet pooch,

facing death in combat, driving home

alone, flying solo above the clouds.

Here’s a thought about the human

condition that might impress even

Confucius: We’re all a little bonkers!

Think about it. Look into the mirror.

The significance of being

insignificant is where we’re at.

Live with it!

 

Boots LeBaron

 

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available on

Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. It contains

human interest stories, essays and light poetry

focusing on people just like you. Read it!)

KUNG-FU MASTER WEIGHS REALITY WITH HOLLYWOOD.

THE HUMAN RACE

 

HOLLYWOOD VS TRUTH IS LIKE ‘YIN AND YANG,’ HE SAYS.

 

      Gerald Okamura is to Kung-Fu what Babe Ruth was to baseball, cowboy Casey Tibbs was to rodeo, Muhammad Ali was to boxing and Jim Thorpe was to football. He is a master of his art.

      When I asked the 73-year-old grandpa what he did for a living, he gazed at me with dark, unrelenting eyes accentuated by menacing eyebrows. The head was clean shaven. The well-groomed billy goat beard reached below his muscular neck.

     “I am an actor-stuntman,” he said.

     With that beard and hairless dome, I told him, he looked like one of those Shaolin priests who performed with David Carradine in “Kung-Fu,” a popular TV series in the mid-1970s.Kungfu

    “That was me,” he admitted.

    “What kind of actor are you?” I asked.

     “A lousy actor,” he said as his tight lips cracked into a smile. “For God’s sake, Gerald, you’re smiling!” I teased.

     “Those who look into this face don’t realize there’s a sense of humor behind it,” he said. “Society is too caught up in images. Though I’m a lover at heart, I guarantee that Hollywood would never cast a guy with this face to replace Brad Pitt in a romantic lead. If you asked my wife (Maude), my three daughters and four grandkids, they’ll tell you I’m a sweetheart.”

    Yet Gerald, a Japanese American born in Hilo, Hawaii, had delivered karate chops to stars ranging from Mel Gibson to James Caan. How does a Grand Master in Kung-Fu and San Soo compare Hollywood with martial arts?

     “Yin and Yang,” he explained, “is an ancient Chinese philosophy: Two different worlds representing the passive and active forces of life.”

     When I asked, “What if I yanked on your beard?”  Mr. Kung-Fu warned, “You wouldn’t want to try that.”

     When I asked the Carson, Calif. resident for a philosophic thought for a quote, he quickly replied, “Even after death, you can still change the world.”        

     Then he added with a laugh, “But don’t take me too seriously.”

— Boots LeBaron —

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406497409&sr=8-1&keywords=boots+lebaron

(Boots’ current book, “THE HUMAN RACE,” is available

on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. It contains

humorous, inspirational and philosophic essays,

light poetry and interviews about life, death, love,

courage, Showbiz, religion and everything in between)

LAPD BOMB SQUAD LOOKS AT LIFE AND DEATH

Whenever Harry Lathrop or his partners go to work, everybody in their right mind scatters.  That’s because they’re members of LAPD’s elite Bomb Squad unit.

If you received a buzzing package delivered to your doorstep, wouldn’t you do like a guy in the San Fernando Valley did:  Call the cops?  When the bomb squad arrived with all its sophisticated gear, what did they find?  A vibrator — a gift from the victim’s girlfriend.  It had turned itself on in transit.

Is that funny?  In retrospect:  Hell yes!  But on an emergency call:  Hell no!

When Harry or the two dozen men and women who work the Hazardous Devices/Materials Section for the Los Angeles Police Department respond to a call, it’s always a potentially explosive situation.  As we shared a booth at the Corner Bakery Cafe in Manhattan Beach, Harry impressed me as a knowledgeable professional, an unpretentious lawman with a serious sense of humor.  With his short-cropped butch, Popeye forearms and ball bearing shoulders, the husky 200 pounder was just as intimidating as Clint Eastwood’s fictionalized Dirty (“Make my day!”) Harry.

The only difference was that Harry Lathrop was a real cop with more than 30 years on the force.  Eastwood was prettier, taller, richer and a far better actor than the man in blue seated across from me.

More than a decade earlier, he had gone through a special F.B.I. training program at the Redstone Military Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to qualify as a bomb squad technician.

Before that, he was one of the original members of the LAPD’s Bomb K-9 unit at Los Angeles International Airport.

Of course, he wasn’t wearing the 80-pound bomb suit that makes him and partners like Tony Doyen look like spooky aliens from another galaxy.  If he wore his EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) outfit into the cafe, he guaranteed:  “The place would clear out real fast.”

What follows is a question-and-answer conversation we had, bearing in mind that Harry didn’t want me to reveal any company secrets.

Screwing around with a bomb… for God sakes, you could be blown to smithereens!  How do you handle that emotionally?

“For law enforcement people and fire fighters, that’s part of the job,” he told me.  “You don’t need a PhD to be a bomb technician.  But you must have the knowledge and the common sense to cope with a variety of devices.”

Have you disarmed many bombs?

“We don’t say ‘disarm,'” he said.  “It’s ‘render safe.'”

How many bombs have you personally rendered safe?

“I never counted.”

A bunch?

“A few.  In Los Angeles, we run about 900 calls a year.  You might get four or five calls in a day; then you could go for weeks with no calls.”

What’s it like to roll on call?

“Usually, when you arrive, the street coppers have already evacuated everybody.  You don’t always know what you’re going to find.”

Harry told me about “rendering safe” a huge homemade bomb, a situation he described as “ugly.”  He said that he had to “make it go away.”  Since the case was pending litigation, I can’t use the story but I can quote him as saying:

“I put on my 80-pound business suit and went in with what we call an equipment disrupter.  I’ve gotta be careful talking about this.”

Was it like in the movies where seconds before the bomb is to explode, George Clooney or Matt Damon have gotta figure which of the colored wires to snip?

“Oh, no, no!”  We both laughed.  “That’s all Hollywood crap.  No, we put on our protective gear and go in with our disrupters.  Depending on what kind of device you’re trying to render safe, you choose specific rounds for a target.”

A beach cities minister told me about discovering a large, suspicious looking, gift-wrapped package left at the entrance to the church where he was about to perform a wedding ceremony.

After evacuating the bride, groom, and about 75 guests, a bomb squad officer, dressed in heavy protective gear, tested the package for explosives.  The box, said the minister, contained “horse droppings,” compliments of the bride’s hostile ex-husband who was later arrested.

On every job, you’re gambling with your life, aren’t you?

“We don’t even think about that nonsense.  The focus is:  ‘What do I need to do to make this thing safe?'”

Has your unit ever lost anybody?

“In 1986 we lost two men.  Ron Ball and Arleigh McCree, a counter-terrorism specialist.  They were in a murder suspect’s garage in Hollywood when two pipe bombs exploded.”

Does your wife ever worry about you?

“No.  We talked prior to my joining the unit.  She said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, go for it.’

“She knows that we’re well trained; have good equipment.  She knows I wouldn’t do anything stupid,” he smiled, adding, “I expect to enjoy my retirement.”

Who are the culprits who plant these bombs?

“They can be anyone from kids to home-grown terrorists.

Do you understand fear?

“For me, it’s knowing that I’ll have to pay taxes again this year,” he joked, then grew serious.  “Fear is an individual phobia.  What scares me might not scare somebody else.  In this line of work, you don’t allow those things to come into play.  You focus on your job.  It’s something you’re trained to do.”

How do you cope with facing death?

“I don’t think about that.  We concentrate on situations we have to deal with.  I think about the street coppers.  They see more than their share.  They’re the guys who have it rough.  They’re the ones doing the real work.  Not me!”

When you’re not wearing your Darth Vader paraphernalia, what do you do during the day?  Play checkers?  Watch soap operas?

“You’d be surprised.  We do our own kind of forensics.  We

train continually.  We dissect all the bombs we’ve rendered safe.  We’re constantly learning, refining techniques.  We practice getting into suits and handling explosive devices.”

So it’s not like selling real estate or working at Macy’s?

“Not quite.”

How long does it take to get into a bomb suit?

“A couple of minutes.  You can’t do it alone.  Your partners have to help.  You’re wearing a big thick cumbersome piece of bulky armor.  You can maneuver in it, but your movement is limited.  Each technician has a suit that’s individually fitted.”

Is there a bomb squad tailor?

“No.  Our suits come in small, medium and large.”

Is your suit something like what the astronauts wear?

“We’re more like Sir Lancelot.”

“Have you seen ‘The Hurt Locker’?” asked Harry, referring to the low-budget film which won six Oscars in 2010.  “It’s a good movie.  Very entertaining with a lot of Hollywood.  But the bomb suits are very accurate.  Right on.”

Hollywood, he said, “adds a lot of fuel to make big incendiary fireballs.  In real life, most explosions aren’t that spectacular.”

When you go on a call, how do people react?

“Usually, everybody’s been evacuated.  So we don’t have to deal with the public.  We just show up.  Make things safe.  Then leave.  But we take everything serious.  We always assume that we’re going to find something very ugly, very nasty.  You never know what you’re dealing with until you do your diagnostics.  It’s either, ‘OK, this is nothing!’ or ‘This is something and we’ve got to make it go away — safely.'”

Tony, Harry’s bomb-squad partner, recalled an explosive incident that occurred at 2010’s 82nd Academy Awards’ ceremony at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

As K-9 bomb-sniffing dogs “swept” the theater for hazardous devices, one canine “pooped” on the famous red carpet, then did it again on the kitchen floor of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

Can you give me one suspenseful incident that happened to you?

“There was a pipe bomb with exposed wires in South Central Los Angeles.  I’m wearing a new bomb suit which my partner helped me get into.  Looking at those loose wires, I’m thinking:  ‘Wow, if those wires touch, this thing could go!’

“As I’m bending over the bomb, my face shield — it’s pretty heavy — falls on the wires.  Nothing happens.  The bomb was fake.  I knew that my partner was very capable, a really good guy; he wasn’t trying to do me in,” said Harry whimsically.

Why did you ever become a cop, Harry?

“I joined the department right out of Torrance High School.  After a while I realized:  Law enforcement is a pretty cool job.”

Many bomb squad units like LAPD’s Hazardous Devices/Materials Section — and there are literally hundreds across the country — are equipped to handle a diversity of emergencies.

Besides EOD suits, technicians carry their own tool box, work with water canons or bomb disrupters that can shoot a powerful stream of water or fire varying projectiles at a specific target rendering it safe without disturbing the contents.  They also operate disrupter robots that can lift packages and climb obstacles, X-ray machines and work with bomb-sniffing dogs.

When we talked, LAPD’s latest bomb-fighting toy — created by LAPD technicians — was a rumbling 39,000-pound radio-controlled vehicle named The Batcat.  It was like an armor-plated Tyrannosaurus rex with huge tires and an extension that reached 50 feet.  Its forklift arms could pick up a SUV containing an explosive device, drive to a safe distance and deposit it into a high-impact chamber.  There it could go BOOM without harming citizens or the stalwart bomb squad guys and gals who had to cope with such hazardous devices.  The mammoth unmanned remote ground vehicle was being touted as LAPD’s futuristic defense weapon.  Since LAPD now has its Batcat, what do you call the vehicle that carries all your bomb squad equipment? I asked Harry.

“A truck,” he replied.

 With all the years working first as a regular street cop and now as a bomb technician, what have you learned about yourself?

“I should have stayed in school.  Maybe I could have become a neurosurgeon.”

Boots LeBaron

(Note:  There are more stories like this in THE HUMAN RACE BY BOOTS LEBARON, my newly-released book on Amazon through CreateSpace.  It consists of interviews with people ranging from astronauts to actors to strippers, plus essays and light poetry.  Take a look by clicking on the link provided below.)

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392610985&sr=8-1&keywords=BOOTS+LEBARON

Boots New Book The Human Race is available now at Amazon/Kindle! Click the link and go check it out!

Boots has just published his new book The Human Race by Boots LeBaron.  Its available now on Amazon and in the Kindle Select Library.

Boots has just published his new book The Human Race by Boots LeBaron. Its available now on Amazon and in the Kindle Select Library.

http://www.amazon.com/HUMAN-RACE-BOOTS-LEBARON-ebook/dp/B00FECDGD2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1383000404&sr=1-1

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