- WORK TOWARDS FAIRNESS | Opening Event
- -After WTF-
A Brief Foray Into Belgium– Exploring My Foundation Through the Constructs of David Moed, My Great-Grandfather
Thank God these refugees, my family, were strong enough to run and pick up the pieces. And thank God for Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the man who opened the portal into the next phase of life: New York, New York- the city that I’ll be going home to soon.
- Sunday | June 16
The Work Towards Fairness press coverage has begun! Please check out the below links for TV spots & articles. It was validating to see that the project, the Sousa Mendes story and my family’s story are getting shared. It is even more heartwarming to receive all of the feedback and support from those who are touched by the Casa do Passal and want to help. A big thank you to everyone who reached out. See below for the Press links..
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday | June 11 & 12 & 13
This week was a week of planning and ‘panels’ – we placed and secured all 60 panels with 30,000 signatures into the pavilions starting with the pavilion roofs and moving on to the rest of the walls. I am also finalizing the plans for the opening. I truly cannot wait, after studying, designing proposing, pondering and emoting about this home and the project, the opening event is merely a week away. I am starting to feel a full-bodied sensation washing over me as I get further into the deep rooted emotional state that comes with doing the work you love for the ultimate purpose: gratitude. And with that I’m off to Guimaraes- the birthplace of Portugal.
Before I go I thought it would be fitting to share a few thoughts regarding the ultimate purpose of this project along with a few facts about it!
- I view this project as Step One to inspire a plan to restore the Casa do Passal- proof that something can be done at this site and that it must be done!
- This project is unique because I can use the specific skill that Aristides enabled 3 generations of my family to pursue personally and professionally, architecture, to honor him.
- The exhibition is meant to teach about Aristides and the need for tolerance in today’s times, and to inform the public about the need to restore the home
- This is the first act of building that has taken place at the Casa do Passal in over 50 years
- The project took months to design, over 2 months to build, has well over 100 structural pieces and over 300 exhibition pieces. It took over a month to ship by container from Brooklyn, NY to Oporto, Portugal finally reaching it’s destination at Cabanas de Viriato
more after the jump..
- Share and disseminate the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes and the Sousa Mendes family and the need to restore the Casa do Passal
- Unify those rescued by Aristides
- Galvanize the Village of Cabanas to explore and celebrate their history
- Galvanize the local community to return the property of Sousa Mendes to its rightful place, the home.
- Unify and unite the Jewish communities of Lisbon, Oporto, and Belmonte
- Unify the Sousa Mendes Family
- Unify the Sousa Mendes Foundations
- Educate about the Holocaust
- Show that I am alive directly because of ASM. My family and I, and tens of others are living proof of the power of his actions
- Show the third generation that we are directly connected to our history.
- The design is completely comprised of units of ’3:” 3 Pavilions, Each gridded into sets of 3 panels, 30,000 signatures on all of the panels, even sets of 3 bolts to tie each detail together- from the largest scale to the smallest- just as Aristides cared for all people- with steadfast focus so that no ‘detail’ was overlooked.
- I can only express what has changed for me since hearing the news of my family’s rescue using geography as an analogy. Going from Brooklyn, NY [+ living in/near cities my whole life], all the way to Cabanas de Viriato, a place I would have never known existed, let alone visited, is much like the corner of [personal] history I never knew existed. Now I am here, living in this history, waking up to the same church bells that Aristides did and gazing upon his broken home each morning- a cathartic experience- a place at once a black hole and a halo.
- As time passes the Casa do Passal deteriorates. WTF : Work Towards Fairness, focuses on the proposal of a fresh schematic design for the Casa do Passal through the use of a temporary pavilion instillation. I intend to show in specific terms, how this now-decrepit home, can turn into a meaningful and dignified museum celebrating the life of its former inhabitant- the heroic Aristides de Sousa Mendes. Through the design process I hope to garnish recognition for this newly-landmarked building. This freshly harvested recognition, along with the cognition required to carry out a successful and immaginative scheme, can kick-start a new era of thought regarding this long-stalled project. Discussion can foster action; action that can lead to finally making something special occur at this meaningful site.
A recap of last week..
- Monday | June 10
- Sunday | June 9
Porto was crazy. Let’s leave it at that- virtually zero sleep for three days due to the amazing crew I met and the non-stop 48h Serralves arts festival at the museum of the same name! Also hung out in an Alvaro Siza building- his first! Felt great to hang out in the same city that was home to my family for 2 months over 60 years ago while they were searching for passage to the Unites States.
- Friday | June 7
After a long week of work: all three Pavilion structures are up! Off to Oporto for the weekend!
- Thursday | June 6
- Tuesday | June 4
- Monday | June 3
We got a car! A mayonnaise colored Mercedes SL 300 from 1991 or something. BOSS. It locks and unlocks from the trunk and who knows what other ‘features’ are in store as I drive this boat/tank around Portugal..
- SUNDAY | JUNE 29
I am finally gaining an understanding of Portuguese culture- both in regard to it’s oft-overlooked/interesting modern culture and of course through it’s extremely rich history.It’s a very quirky country. At once super formal and simultaneously free-spirited. Rooted in Catholicism and steeped in bureaucracy and surprisingly liberal and relaxed. Examples of this: Workers are prompt to work but often drink on the job take about FOUR ‘official’ breaks during the day: an hour-long breakfast, ‘onze’ a snack at 11 [usually a small sandwich], a TWO HOUR lunch from 12-2p and more breaks for beer/wine/cigarettes throughout the day. Another example: eating with ‘Padre Marco,’ our host here in the Parochial House, at a restaurant in Viseu- there happened to be a TV with a show called ‘Splash’ playing in the background- a show consisting of ‘celebrities’ performing diving routines. We ate with the ‘Padre’ as scenes of a semi-clad transvestite diving played in the background. Above all people are hospitable. I have yet to meet a person who has not offered their help and their home, and not just in a polite way. On the other hand people seem quite suspicious of others.
Often times it seems that no work gets done. Between the breaks, the snacks and after the TWO-HOUR lunch from 12-2 WITH WINE, you can imagine how things go after that.. but somehow things happen.
Alternatively, I just got back from an INCREDIBLE weekend in Lisbon. Coincidences, sun and spontaneity abounded- big time. After being in the village of Cabanas de Viriato for 1.5 weeks being in the city [my natural environment] was quite a shock! However I got used to it quickly. I stayed at a fantastic hostel downtown and met a bunch of great people from everywhere- Australia to Portland to Russia etc. On Friday night I went to the old synagogue- a beautiful stone and wood structure [with a ton of security outside- you get grilled/questioned before you can enter it, something we dont have to go through/take for granted in the US] and then on to dinner at Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld’s home- on the way to his apartment I met a couple that were neighbors with my grandparents in the US! It turns out the my late grandfather Henry used to dispence ‘free-advice’ and his hooch [a homemade alcohol] in great quantities and they still visit my grandma. At the table I met people from Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Israel, Mozambique, including an architecture student- [Hi Alan!] and learned so much about Portuguese history, specifically that of its Jewish population. Unfortunately these days there is little ‘glue’ and almost no outward presence for the Jewish community- a result of many years of silent persecution and a rich history of expulsions and massacres. With that said the two Rabbis in Lisbon are trying, and succeeding in changing all of that. It is truly promising to see.
- WEDNESDAY | MAY 29
Building has commenced! I got two painters/welders.. one looks like a complete caricature of a painter- Super Mario in real life! Today we are sanding and welding to prep the pieces for painting- super excited to see the structures go from greasy steel to glossy white.
A few notes about the project:
-First act of building at the Casa do Passal in over 50 years
-The project took months to design, over 1 month to build, has over 100 pieces and took over a month to ship by container from Brooklyn, NY to Oporto, Portugal
-The design is completely comprised of units of ‘3:” 3 Pavilions, Each Gridded into sets of 3 panels
-This project is unique because I can use the very tool that Aristides enabled 3 generations of my family to pursue personally and professionally, to honor him.
-I can only express what has changed for me since hearing the news of my family’s rescue using geography as an analogy. Going from Brooklyn, NY [+ living in/near cities my whole life], all the way to Cabanas de Viriato, a place I would have never known existed, let alone visited, is much like the corner of [personal] history I never knew existed. Now I am here, living in this history, waking up to the same church bells that Aristides did and gazing upon his broken home each morning- a cathartic experience- a place at once a black hole and a halo.
- TUESDAY | MAY 28
Today started out in a frustrating way- waiting for a rental car that never came and a trip to Porto that never happened. That all changed when Padre Marco, our host invited us to join him for dinner- we went to “Pedro’s” a tiny restaurant on dark street- family run by none other than Pedro, his wife and his daughter. Although we didnt get a rental car Pedro brought out a ‘speaker car’ – it’s just like what it sounds like, a speaker in the form of a car.. Padre Marco proceeded to do Karaoke with Pedro’s daughter, which of course we joined and then something incredible happened.
Amidst the singing [which consisted of drinking during every instrumental] Padre Marco asked me to show Pedro and his family the project at the Casa do Passal. I happily obliged and showed them photos of the construct and explained my family’s story and how it led me here. That culminated with my showing Pedro the visa [pictured above] that my Great-Grandfather David Moed received. He studied it for a moment and then I saw his eyes light up.. he looked straight at me and said “28 Maio!” I looked down and saw that this date 73 years ago— May 28th, 1940, was the very day that my great-grandfather David Moed received a visa from Aristides de Sousa Mendes. This was by far and beyond the most emotional moment of my sojourn here thus far. I am speechless as I am thankful.
Padre Marco and Pedro suggested we drink [champagne] to that- and that we did, with the entire restaurant.
- MONDAY | MAY 27
THEE big meeting at the local Municipality took place today- meeting with the president and vice-president of the municipality, which consists of several local villages grouped together, the municipal engineer and my new translator Rosa! I phased out the project build with them in detail and then began the intense negotiations revolving around getting a car- a necessity in the middle of nowhere.. after a lot of back and forth we went to a friend of the vice prez who hooked it up! We’ll see how long it takes to actually get one- still deciding whether to learn to drive manual or not.. Bottom line.. the work starts on Wednesday!
- SUNDAY | MAY 26
Antonio Moncada de Sousa Mendes was kind enough to stick around to show me the relevant places & homes that pertain to the Sousa Mendes story- especially the “solars-” beautiful estates that once belonged to the Portuguese aristocracy. We started on a circuitous path that led us to the birthplace of Aristides de Sousa Mendes and his twin brother Cesar. The home was destroyed save for it’s brilliant kitchen chimney [pictured] and private chapel. We also saw the Solar belonging to Aristides’ grandmother in Oliverinah as well as the home where Aristides’ wife Angelina, the unsung hero of the Sousa Mendes story, was born in the Village of Beijos. Big thanks to João Pedro Tavares- who we ran into in Cabanas [where we are based] as we needed a miracle car to see all of the above- you provided it!
Tomorrow is a big meeting with the municipality of Carregal do Sal [which represents the many villages in the area] to determine whether I can solidify three very important factors for the project: a translator, skilled workers, an engineer and a car. All were promised in a jointly signed ‘protocol’ but we’ll see what the famous Portugese red-tape and bureaucracy has to say about that..
- SATURDAY | MAY 25
Well.. this was an interesting one..
The normally quiet village of Cabanas was taken over by 650 ‘Scouts’- Portuguese kids ranging between the ages of 7 and 18. Along with them came Antonio Moncada de Sousa Mendes, a grandson of Aristides de Sousa Mendes. The scouts choose one inspirational person to study each year- this year happened to be.. you guessed it.. Aristides de Sousa Mendes.
What ensued was the discovery that the scout’s priest Father Gerald knew hebrew. He introduced himself by wishing me a ‘Shabbat Shalom” [!!!!] the first person who seemed to understand the fact that I don’t roll on Shabbos. To make matters more interesting, he started singing a famous hebrew song – Henai Matovu Manayim– which Antonio de Sousa Mendes asked us to sing to the 650 children present. Needless to say [we]/I did. It ended up being a solo, until.. I got the group to sing along! Luckily Max, my filmmaker cuaght it on camera for posterity. You’ll know when I release it..
What followed was a heartfelt speech by Antonio about his family’s history. We then spoke together, the “first time he had spoken with someone who was from a rescued family,” he told me. I spoke in one-two line phrases and he dutifully translated. I ended the speech by saying that if there was one message I wanted to convey to the kids it was the message that ‘just like Aristides sometimes there won’t be anybody to ask you to do the right thing, you simply have to do the right thing.’ Before Antonio could translate I was met with applause.
Another important person entered the picture as well- Max Bartick– my filmmaker for this project/recent Columbia University graduate! The kid basically left to Portugal from graduation to film the construction and experience here, which is proving to be filled with a much more mysterious set of stories surrounding the Casa do Passal then we could have ever imagined.. more on that later..
- FRIDAY | MAY 24
WEDNESDAY | MAY 22
I have arrived!Cabanas de Viriato, Portugal.A village with less than 1000 people.. Damn this place is small! Definitely country living. A prototypical Young American going to a foreign town with a lot to accomplish and a tiny bit of local knowledge- sticking out like a sore thumb wearing Levi’s..Regardless the container with the project is set to arrive to the village tomorrow. Let’s hope that the offloading goes well..