Days of Awe: Perfection and Apology

September 18, 2017

The High Holy Days of the Jewish tradition are nearly here. During these days, we ask for the forgiveness of anyone we may have harmed. We look at ourselves deeply, examine our motives and actions, and atone for any negative effects, intentional or otherwise, we have caused. We do this to repair any harm we have created, and also to repair our own imperfections. It’s an opportunity to make the…


Confusion, Disaster, and Empathy for the Invisible

September 14, 2017

As if the environment were reflecting the chaos and confusion resulting from reactionary extremism, natural disasters have thrown any sense of normality off its footing: multiple hurricanes tore into the southern coastline of the U.S., a massive earthquake shook Mexico, wildfires scorch the American West, and floods have devastated South Asia. The world is disorienting and disoriented, tilting beneath our feet. Meanwhile, the more I work on this book, the…


Anger, Love, and Daring Acts of Compassion After Charlottesville

August 15, 2017

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, many are responding with anger toward those who tote the symbols and rhetoric of hate. Why I’m Angry Seeing swastikas and Nazis all over the internet makes me irate. It is deeply painful, and it’s exhausting. That alone feels like an assault. Seeing the confederate flag openly waved and other confederate symbols publicly displayed is detestable. The racist, antisemitic, and misogynist slurs spewed by white…


Charlottesville, WWII Hungary, and the Eruption of Hate

August 13, 2017
Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Right now, many of us are in shock, outraged, furious. How could an event like yesterday’s Neo-Nazi, white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA happen? It’s the 21st century. Aren’t we beyond this? Hasn’t humanity evolved, learned from past suffering and atrocities? And behind that anger and disbelief is pain–pain that is hundreds, if not thousands of years old. It’s the pain of pogroms and lynchings, the pain of segregation, of…


Right-Wing Rage and Humanity’s Identity Crisis

August 8, 2017

Are we a species motivated by brutality and hate, hell-bent on self destruction, or will we shift, en masse, to an agenda that sustains life, guided by intelligence, understanding, and compassion? Will we move into the worst or the best of our human potential? As the ruthlessness of conservative extremists is exposed, their rhetoric heats up. The volume of right-wing bitterness and hatred is turned up to a piercing high—in…


Hungry for Truth, Hardwired for Empathy

July 18, 2017
My grandparents, from the Beaver County Times, Alquippa Ambridge Home Edition (Pennsylvania), Saturday, April 6, 1963

Empathy is the opposite of prejudice, persecution, and oppression.This is why I’m writing the epic story of my great uncle Stefan’s survival across the forests of WWII Eastern Europe.


Kinds of Blue: Searching the Past for Clues to Our Uncertain Future

July 11, 2017

This blog is the “story behind the story” of one man and his life before, during, and after WWII, a survivor of Eastern Europe during some of its darkest days. I write this blog in parallel as I write the story of my great uncle Stefan, who withstood forced labor, torture, an 18-year sentence for sabotage, seven months of solitary confinement in Hungarian prison, a Serbian-lead prison break, and escape…


Ways to Seize Power: A Brief Review

June 27, 2017

How many ways can a leader or a regime wrest control from a government or a people? Following are three examples from history. Overthrown Coup, short for Coup d’état, is “the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. The chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements.” 1 This is what happened—or, at least,…


High Crimes and Atrocities: Testimony

June 15, 2017
My Uncle Steve (Stefan) with his parents, Rosa and Moritz (my great grandarents), before the Holocaust

JUNE 15, 2017: As the nation investigates an elaborate corruption that has ties to its highest offices, the term testimony has been broadcast far and wide—in print, over wires and airwaves, and in countless individual conversations. A testimony is a story in one’s own words, a formal telling of one’s experience, a public account of an event or condition in order to clarify, illuminate, or prove its existence. A testimony roots…


Me, the Kremlin, and the Fall of an Empire: Moscow, 1991

June 1, 2017

In the summer of 1991, I toured the Soviet Union with a group of “student ambassadors.” Just a few months later, that entity no longer existed. The U.S.S.R. had collapsed, splintered into 15 separate states. Student Ambassadors We crossed 11 time zones over four weeks, traveling by train, bus, and plane. We went as far east as Irkutsk, Siberia, north of the Mongolian Border, to Lake Baikal, the deepest lake…



My Great Uncle Stefan
My Great Uncle Stefan