Thankful I am not a Jew Living in London Today

From my father’s personal collection

The featured photo is part of an ad campaign my father was photographed for by his famous father growing up in London. His father, Karl Schenker, escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

I’ve mentioned a number times that I’m not German because my famous grandfather, Karl Schenker, legendary photographer and stylist to the celebrities and politicians, had to escape Germany in the 1930s.

My father was brought up in a non-Jewish environment in the United Kingdom under the name Kersen, a surname using the same letters as Schenker. His father used him as a model for a series of breakfast campaigns he was hired to create on behalf of the British government. (There are some others that promote drinking milk but I can’t find them.)

From my father’s personal collection

As a young adult he studied mechanical engineering in France, designed airplanes for a bit, and then took a ship across the Atlantic to immigrate to Canada. That’s where my father met my mother, and had five kids. I’m the baby in the family.

We grew up in beautiful town called Rosemere, 30 miles North of Montreal, near the skiing. There were only 10 Jewish families living there and we used to get together on Jewish holidays. My father owned a very successful air-conditioning and heating business, that had a French name — BENOIT & KERSEN LTÉE, which he started in 1964, the year before I was born.

After doing grade 1 in a French school near my Dad’s business in St. Therese, my parents moved me to a private Jewish school in Chomedey, Laval, called Talmud Torah School. The fact that I was learning Hebrew, was supposed to be incentive for my big brother to learn for his Bar Mitzvah. They eventually moved my sister Kaly to join me at the private Jewish school, and then moved the whole family to Chomedey, to be closer to the Jewish community. Those are the years that my parents started going to synagogue and my oldest sister Lily started getting religious. When she got engaged to my ski instructor, Marvin Stenge, who I brought home for dinner one night, the first thing they did as a couple was take off and go live on a Kibbutz in Israel together.

When a cultural war broke out between the French and English speakers in Quebec, it started impacting my father’s business, so he sold it to his French protégée. It didn’t help matters at all that we were Jewish. My Dad was looking for his next adventure and decided to take a pilot trip to check out Israel. While he was there he bought us an apartment right in the center of Ra’annana. He called us one day and told us we were moving to Israel. Just like that out of the blue. I didn’t really know what to expect, but we were used to just going along with whatever next adventure my father had planned. This time, it was Israel.

That’s how we ended up sailing to Israel in 1978, on a 28-foot Cape Dory sailboat. We sailed in 21 days from Nova Scotia to Cork, Ireland, and then flew to visit my father’s sister Pila in London, before flying to Israel. Here is a photo of my Mom and I during the trip, I think it was the day we finally spotted land.

Josia and Selma Kersen — Sailing to Israel 1978

So based on all of the above, I could have grown up German if my grandfather hadn’t had to escape Berlin, French if my father had remained in France after his studies, or British if he hadn’t decided to check out Canada and ended up staying there. We could have remained in Quebec if my Dad’s business hadn’t started suffering because he was Jewish. (Those were the years that many Jewish families moved to Toronto, but we moved to Israel).

But thankfully, somehow my father got a push from above to take us to Israel. And today, with photos like this one below from London all over social media, and some insane anti-Israel Orthodox interviews making the rounds, I’m more thankful than ever to be in Israel.

Are We Learning Our Lesson?

According to the world’s foremost Kabbalist, Michael Laitman, all these events are only taking place to pressure the Jews to stop trying to be like everyone else and to unite. Even if it kills us, we have to unite. And then liberation from the ego and selfishness will come to the world. And all of mankind will find peace.

So the people of the world will continue to pressure us in any way they can to carry out our mission to unite. Today it’s London, another day it’s Germany or France, but eventually we will get the message.

Wishing you all a peaceful Rosh Hashanah from Israel!

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