Century Marks

Century Marks

Least of these

The Vatican is opening up recently renovated restrooms and showers for use by what it calls “homeless pilgrims.” The facility, just off St. Peter’s Square, will offer free haircuts on Mondays given by volunteer barbers and students from a local beauty school. The homeless are also given kits containing underwear, soap, deodor­ant, and other toiletries. These services are funded by donations and through the sale of papal parchments (AP).

Righteous gentiles

Near the end of World War II, Shalom Linden­baum and his father were released from a concentration camp in Poland and sent on a death march. Freezing to death, they were taken in by Katarzyna Froeh­lich and her 20-year-old daughter Dorota Froehlich Kuc. It was a risky act; if discovered, they could have been killed by the Germans. Kuc said she and her mother did it because as Catholics they had been taught to help the poor and needy. Lindenbaum, now 88 and a re­tired literature professor in Israel, has kept in touch with Kuc over the years. He has visited the Polish village a number of times, most recently during the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. He also hosted Kuc, now 90, during a trip she made to Israel. Kuc and her mother have been designated “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Israeli Holocaust center (RNS).

Head count

To little fanfare, Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, joined a team on the streets of San Francisco doing a head count of the homeless. It was part of a survey required of cities every two years in order to qualify for federal funding for homeless programs. The president had told Mc­Donough he wanted to know firsthand what the city was doing about the homeless. San Francisco has been able to get 19,000 homeless off the streets during the past decade by expanding housing and support services, but it still had over 6,000 people on the street during the 2013 count. “This is the same sort of challenge we face all over the country. The numbers tell the story,” McDonough said. “I had no idea anyone gave a damn,” one homeless man told the team (SFGate.com, January 30).

Gospel in another key

Israeli music teachers Ofer and Iris Portugaly have formed a gospel choir that sings Hebrew translations of songs like “Oh Happy Day,” plus gospel arrangements of Jewish prayers. The Portugalys encountered gospel music as students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and they started their own choir after being inspired by gospel music in Nigeria. So far, the Portugalys’ choir has not been invited to sing in any synagogues in Israel, although they have sung in New York synagogues (PRI, February 4).

Kindest ever

At a public event, a teenager asked Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, “What advice do you have for my generation? And where do you think we are going wrong?” Gilbert responded that the teen’s generation is doing nothing wrong. “I love your generation. You guys are wonderful. And don’t listen to anybody who says otherwise.” Compared to her own generation, she said, youth today don’t smoke or drink as much, or have as much sex, or beat up on each other as much. They may spend too much time on their cell phones, but they are the most sensitive, most compassionate, and kindest young people ever (Gilbert’s Facebook page, January 22).