Kejda Gjermani her miscellaneous musings

About

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blissfully disengaged, conveniently unaffiliated

Kejda, pronounced K-duh, is a 24-year-old Albanian expatriate currently dwelling in Manhattan. A veteran of the some of the bloodiest blog wars in the history of the Internet, she recently discharged herself from service—as honorably as one can, from that kind of service. Which is to say, not very much so. By no means a pacifist by either temperament or conviction, she nonetheless realized the futility of that fight and finally gave it up. In her most lucid moments she regrets it altogether. But all the while enjoying her retirement and revelling in the simple joys of civilian life, she still keeps a wary eye on the front.

This blog is a war relic. The fires now spent and the embers long cooled, Kejda likes to sprinkle a bit of commentary here and there atop the heaps of ashes. And no, she does not refer to herself in third person unless the occasion absolutely calls for it.

What more can she say? Caveat lector!

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  1. What outlets of Jewish expression did you have growing up in Albania? Was there any sort of organized community permitted under Hoxha? How did post-war Albanian Jews fit into the Albanian cultural landscape?

  2. Hi Nick,

    Jews in Albania have an unusual history. Most of them are Sephardic but there is also a small Ashkenazi contingent. The biggest wave of Jews came from Spain where they were being persecuted during the inquisition, and then more came from various parts of Europe throughout the 16th century. They settled in commercially active cities like Berat, Vlore, Elbasan, and mostly Gjirokaster.

    Because Albania has historically been a very religiously diverse place (with a mix of Catholics, Muslims, and Orthodox Greeks), the country has never suffered from serious divisiveness on religious grounds. This is also mostly because fighting for national sovereignty and repelling outside invasions had been a constant priority, making inner religious strife too dear a luxury.

    This is solely my opinion, but I think it is because Jews were largely left alone free to practice their religion, and were well integrated and respected in the Albanian community, that the lack of outside societal pressures (so common in most other European countries where religious sentiment and anti-Semitism were dominant) did not force them to stick together in religiously isolated communities. I think to a large degree, Jews in Europe had preserved their religion with fervor as a way of asserting their identity and reacting to outside ostracism from their host countries’ mainstream societies. It’s just a theory, but it would explain why many American Jews are assimilating or reverting to secularism today that anti-Semitism is at possibly record-low levels. In Albania, where they were free to live and practice as they wished, they got more assimilated with the general population.

    The existence of Jewish communities in Berat, Vlore, and Elbasan is well-documented. Interestingly, there is a town that has been historically almost all-Jewish, -Gjirokastra- but which is not commonly known as such! Remnants of various synagogues are scattered throughout the town, and the people maintain a largely Jewish culture, almost to a stereotypical degree. Gjirokastrits are outcasts of sorts in Albania: they are notorious for marrying only among themselves sometimes even in incestuous relationships (marriage among first cousins is commonplace), a custom very alien to the rest of the country, where it is considered improper even for people of the same village to marry, let alone in the extended family. They are also anecdotally poked fun at throughout the country for being unusually stingy and commercialistic.

    In some Ottoman records, it is mentioned that one Sultan was well-aware of Gjirokastra’s Jewish makeup, and calls Gjirokastrits “the fake Muslims” in reference to their Jewry, since the region had nominally converted to Islam throughout Ottoman rule.

    Like I said, Jewish communal life was not very strong in Albania, although there have been Jewish settlements of considerable size. Their numbers are vastly underestimated for two reasons: birth records were not great in Albania in general, a lot of records have been lost or damaged throughout wars, and the records of Jews in particular were deliberately destroyed during World War II, curiously enough, by no less than my Jewish grandfather’s great uncle. Let me tell you the story:

    Lef Nosi was a minister in Albania’s first cabinet since independence in 1912. He was a secular Jew from the Elbasan community, involved in the high ranks of government up to the time when the Italian fascists invaded Albania. When the Albanian government capitulated to the Italians in 1939, Lef Nosi had the rare insight to put an odd condition on the treaty with the fascists: that they had the right to withhold the census/birth records of Jews.

    The Italians didn’t care at the time and agreed to it, but when the German Nazis took over Albania in a few years and drove the less malignant Italian Fascists away, the first thing they asked for were the birth records, and they were immediately shoved in their faces this affidavit.

    Lef Nosi had destroyed the records in the meantime, and he might have done so with his own security and that of his family in mind, but today it is a relatively obscure fact even among Albanians that he himself was of Jewish descent. Only the Elbasan community is universally aware the the Nosis were Jewish.

    I still think it was amazing that he could have such insight back in 1939 when it was not at all obvious that we were on the brink of the Holocaust. This is what made it easy for virtually all of Albania’s Jews to be saved. Only the very outspoken Jews were at risk, and those were few in number and their communities took good care of hiding them, with only a handful or two being turned in to the Nazis in total.

    This is also the reason why if you look up official records now, only 10 Jews in total show, a number so disproportionate to Albania’s population compared to the relatively stable proportion of Jews throughout all neighboring countries, that this fact alone suggests there are big holes in the records.

    Enver Hoxha was himself from Gjirokastra, the Albanian town heaviest in Jewish population, but I don’t know that he was himself of Jewish extraction. His last name means “imam”, which suggests that he was probably one of the few genuine Muslims in town.

    The communist regime was not particularly oppressive to Jews, it just banned religion in general. The heaviest effect of this atheistic policy was felt in the Muslim segment of the population, where kids from the Communist Youth Organizations were encouraged to lit women hijabs’ on fire if they were spotted wearing them in public. Islam was considered the most backward of dominant religions, especially since the political elite was mostly from the more educated South and were of Greek Orthodox background, and although they professed themselves atheistic during the days of the regime, their efforts were mostly biased against the Muslims, which if you ask me, was actually a good thing. The prevalence of Muslim practices declined sharply in those 50 years: one generation of totalitarian atheism is enough time to severely hinder the passing down of religious norms in the family.

    Now Albania is still internationally known to be a Muslim majority country, but the truth of that statement is based on pre WW-2 census data, and today the Muslim population is a fraction of what it was. The Jewish population is there, but it too is barely Jewish by religious metrics. Jewish culture in Albanian settlements has mostly transcended from religious expression to a secular communal life of a certain recognizable flavor: Albanian Jews are somewhat culturally different from the rest of the country, but they still consider themselves Albanian. For example, my grandparents have only told me of our family’s Jewish extraction as a random background fact; they don’t attach particular significance to it.

    However, when I went to Elbasan two years ago and visited the Jewish neighborhood where my grandfather was born, I saw this place and I really had no idea what it was, but it certainly looks like a bizarre messy Jewish community center:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/mhussey/ElbasanAlbania/photo#5040757691470749858

    So there might be a revival of Jewish religious life, but I honestly have no idea. Hardly anyone knows what goes on in Albania outside of their own cities these days anyway. Here are the rest of the pictures of the town.
    http://picasaweb.google.com/mhussey/ElbasanAlbania

    And this is Gjirokastra. Enjoy!
    http://picasaweb.google.com/mhussey/Gjirokastra

    • Pershendetje zonjushe. Po kerkoja ne internet, pikerisht per kete teme dhe me kenaqi shume artikulli tuaj. Do te kisha deshire te dija dicka me teper dhe ndoshta nese do te kishte mundesi ndonje pike referimi ku une mund te gjerj ndonje material rreth kesaj ceshtjeje. Adresa ime elektronike eshte: andaluz28@gmail.com

      Faleminderit
      Me respekt

      Dritan Kardhashi Gjirokaster

    • Greetings…,

      The information is very interesting. I would like to find more materials about this. I don’t know why this is kept hidden from the people, and not mentioned in our history. It seems that someone is interested to keep this hidden from the public for certain reasons.

      Thanks again

  3. Wow! That is quite a story! Thank you, I definitely learned something I did not know before. I certainly hope that you manage to stay in the US and become an American. For now – Happy Hanukkah (belated) and Happy New Year!
    Best of luck,
    Eric.

  4. Artan, sadly you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t care about the Serbs nor the Greeks, and I have nothing in Albania to “sell” them. Also, even if I did, there’d be nothing wrong with such transaction: voluntary trade. Your entire world-view is warped around this idiotic notion of “nationalism”, they’ve succeeded in brainwashing you with their silly stories in school that make it sound like we are in a state of constant war with our neighbors, and even with Turkey still. It’s pretty backward, get over it!

  5. Wondering what your take is on the Kosovo independence thing. (taps fingers, waits).

  6. lucius septimus,

    thanks for asking. Too bad I missed the Kosovo thread on LGF while it was still active. I nevertheless posted my reply over there, and you can direct “marwan’s daughter” or anyone else who was wondering about my opinion to these comments:

    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/lgf-showcomment.php?n=877&c=4888771
    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/lgf-showcomment.php?n=878&c=4888776
    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/lgf-showcomment.php?n=879&c=4888791
    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/lgf-showcomment.php?n=880&c=4888797

    They’re posted in the right order.

    And here is the whole shabang, with more back and forths

    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=28971_Kosovo_Declares_Independence#comments

    More smart-ass commentary here

    http://www.stephenbainbridge.com/index.php/punditry/comments/russias_military_options_in_kosovo/

    Thanks, and please feel free to email me if you want to discuss the issue any further.

  7. Thanks for the posts — confirms some things I had already been thinking, and thanks for your honesty.

  8. Happy independence day of KOSOVA everybody, whe are free finaly
    P.S Savage sorry if i have goten in to your nervs but i was waiting for this day sins my birth day, so i am good now, so have the best live ever Bye Bye everybody

  9. Congrats Artan,

    Now it’s time for Kosovars to prove themselves mature enough for their shiny brand new state, and stay above the fray with all the provocations sure to come from the Serbs and Russians. Kosova needs to set a good example in the Balkans.

  10. Hi Kejda, wow it’s really you I have if front while reading to all this stuff. It’s really the way you talk. It’s a really nice blog, keep writing. Bye

  11. eagle85,

    Mire, po ti ca ben? Kush je?

  12. Hey there girlfriend. Kejda, It has been so long. So much has changed. I see that you are married. How wonderful. I told you that you would find someone that would fulfill your life. Congratulations. I’m really enjoying your blogs. You haven’t changed much. And I haven’t either. I still fall asleep during movies. Would still love to get back in contact with you. See what you can do. Seem to chat back and forth with your mom than you. How is your family? Your grandparents health? Take care of your self and Michael. Love you always~ Momma C (Connie Svoboda)

  13. Its nice to know that you really do work on supporting your point instead of using profane words to legitimize it. However, I felt great indignation upon reading your blog “Beyond Conservatism: Freedom in a Godless Future.”
    I have a lot of Muslim friends because I live in Danbury, CT. I think that they have a right to wear a burqa or a headscarf since people have the right to wear as little as they want. Even if I don’t cover like them, I respect their relgion. Can you provide an article for me that states a case where a woman actually hid weapons in her garment. If you can send me your sources, I will highly consider your argument.
    Peace,

    Jade

  14. Jade,

    I did not discuss the burqa at all in “Conservatism: Freedom in a Godless Future”. Did you perhaps mean to tell me you felt indignant upon reading “Dissecting the Burqa”?

    In any case, just as you respect Muslims’ religion, I hope you would for the sake of consistency also respect others’ right to criticize aspects of their religion. Why should someone’s dogma, however holy it is considered by them, be beyond criticism, while ordinary citizens’ free speech exercised in critically analyzing such dogma be considered blasphemous?

    As for sources, here is someone robbing a bank in a burqa: http://www.abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=3745402

    Here is an entire blog entry dedicated to documenting many instances of crimes being perpetrated under a burqa; a great and comprehensive summary:
    http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2006/11/the-niqab-and-burqa-as-security-threats.html

    Please do check out the link above. It is very informative. What do you think of it?

    Anyway, I think you may be missing the point here. It is conservative Muslim women wearing the hijab/burqa who are offending other women, by deeming their own radically ‘modest’ attire as the only proper standard of public morality. You respect their religion, but do you really think they respect your liberal life-style? Respect for misogyny is a one-way street. I don’t necessarily feel threatened by someone in a burqa, but I find it disgusting what it implicitly says about women and their role in society.

  15. HI KEJDA , me beri shume pershtypje kur thua qe jam 60 per qind shqiptare dhe 40 izraelite, doja te thoja si e ndan ti ket perqindje , mos ke ndonjerin nga prinderit nga izraeli apo si ?se edhe po te kishe njerin nga andej nul do ishte 60 /40 .nuk e di ndoshta kam une pershtypjen po me dukesh pak anti shqiptare , me falnese kam mare wrong idea…

  16. AM SORRY TO SAY THAT YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA OR VERY LITTLE WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT HISTORY IN ALBANIA , YOU ARE MAKING YOUR OWN FAIRITALLE STORY HERE .ALBANIA HAS IT MOST RESPECT FOR ALL RELIGION IN ALBANIA AND ONLY FEW MONTHS AGO IT WON AN INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR IT , AND YES IT IS ALSO WRONG TO SAY THAT IS NO LONGER A MUSLIM COUNTRY ,IT IS BUT WE ARE WERY EUROPIEAN MINDET VERE WE DONT FOLLOW RELIGION VERY MUCH BUT VE DEFINATELY RERSPECT OTHERS MORE THAN ANY ONE OF OUR NEIBOURS IN EUROPE.

  17. HI ARTAN , how are you doing. me too have been waiting all my life to see kosova free i just hope they can do well and i really hope to live and witness the day when albania becomes what it once was , a great country whith honest and welcoming peoplle . wish you well

  18. Toni,

    I don’t know what makes you think I am anti Albanian. My mother is of Jewish extraction from Elbasan, but I am sure even on her side there has been intermarriage with non Jews. 60/40 is just a number I pulled off the top of my head. Albania is not a Muslim country but a secular country.

  19. AM SORRY IF I GOT THE WRONG IMPRESION , IS JUST THAT YOU HAVE A PRESIDENT ELECT WHOS DAD CAME FROM KENYA AND HE SAYS HES AMERICAN . I DONT UNDERSTAND PEOPLLE WHEN THAY SAY MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER CAME FROM THERE AND AM FROM THERE TOO, I THINK IT SHOULD BE WHERE YOU ARE BORN BUT DO NOT FORGET YOUR ROOTS ASWELL SO WHEN I SAW TAH 60/40 NUMBER I DIDNT GET IT , ALL THE BEST .

  20. KEJDA , sa vjet ke ne amerike, kur ke jetuar per here te fundit ne shqiperi, une shkoj dy here ne vit dhe cdo here po shikoj ndryshime te medhaja, mos te harrojme se nuk mund ta krahasojme me angline apo ameriken se ne efect ne jemi si shtet nga 90 e siper dhe kto kane me shekuj.pashe qe ishe e martuar, fat te mbare ne jete …

  21. Toni,

    Kam 5 vjet tashme: Qe ne 2003.

    Ke te drejte qe nuk mund te presesh cdo gje nga Shqiperia qe ne fillim. Vendi eshte i ri dhe ka gjithe ate rruge perpara. Por ama, nuk me pelqen askap sesi trajtohet cdo promblem nen lensen e justifikimit te “periudhes se tranzicionit”. “Periudha e tranzicionit” nuk do perfundoje kurre derisa njerezia te haje pyke. Sa here qe vij per vizine (vit per vit) shoh goxha ndyrshime te siperfaqshme (ndertesa, autostrada) por ideologjia dhe mentaliteti nuk kane ndryshuar aq sac duhet, dhe aty i matet pulsi progresit te vendit.

  22. HI KEJDA ,ke shume te drejte kur thua qe mentaliteti nuk ka ndryshuar shume , ky eshte nje mentalitet qe e kemi te gjith ne ballkan, une punoj me italiane greke dhe croat qe kan ngo 20 30 vjet ktu dhe akoma nuk kane ndryshuar,cfare dua te them qe eshte shume e veshtire po te jetosh ne shqiperi dhe te nderrosh mentalitet,apo me mire te behesh njeri.pasta ato politikanet tone jane te gjithe te korruptuar dhe nuk duan qe njerezit te behen njerez sepse su levedis pastaj.kejda me duhet disa ide per nje web side qe sapo e kam hapur , a mund te me japesh ndonje ide te lutem , shikoje nje here po pate kohe Albanianfood.8m.com vetem mos qesh te lutem se eshte cope cope, nuk jam shume mire me komputerin , faleminderit ,gjithe te mirat

  23. wow kejda,,,,,,,,, some good comments you got there, a bit of advise do not hate Albania, as you said that you or your family came from Spain due to the war, and Albania and Albanian people saved you,

    i have been in London since 1995, i don’t hate no one, but i LOVE ALBANIA is my home my country home regardless to where i leave my heart is there, so i am sorry but you sound to be intelligent girl, so stop the hate about the country you grown up, not just cos u r in a better place of the world u step down on Albania…………….good luck with whatever u do in your life

  24. Armando,

    Where did you get the idea that I “hate Albania”?

  25. Thank you for the response, going through some of your comments it make me feel that you just hate us,
    I am sorry if i have misread it,
    i hope that you can prove me wrong,
    Best wish
    Armando

    RROFTE SHQIPERIA dhe te GJITHE SHQIPETARET KUDO QE JAME

  26. meduara , i have to say exatly the same , reading your comments , you come across as a muslim hatter and an albanian hatter bearing in mind it is the country you were bourne , am very dissapointed at some of your comments and religions ower all paticulary islam
    yes ARMANDO . rrofte shqiperia dhe shqiptaret

  27. oh also to remind you that albania and the albanian people are good people, and if you consider yourself an albanian then you must a a good person too, so lets all say GOD Bless Albania and all the albanians around the wourld
    thank you
    Armando

  28. Toni,

    I heard you the first time, but I wish you would be so kind as to quote whatever part(s) of my writings gave you the impression that I hate Albania.

    Armando, Albanian people are not “good people”. They are just people, whose “Albanianeness” is not (or at least should not) be an overriding feature. There are good people, bad people, smart people, stupid people, sensible people, crazy people, and more varieties in Albania, just like there are such people to be found across all nations.

    I do think that at the margins, Albanians are impressively less insane than their neighbors (Greeks and Serbs) when it comes to issues of national myths and hyper-nationalistic ambitions. Good for them!

    In general I just don’t think being Albanian (and for that matter, being of any particular nationality) is relevant to a person’s character. I am far more interested in people who share my particular ideas than in people who merely share my nationality and/or my mother language. That does not at all mean that I hate Albania or Albanians, only that I find ethnicity an irrelevant concept in our modern world: whoever fails to understand that after having the distinction patiently explained and re-explained is sad and twisted.

  29. meduara
    you have so much writen in here that is hard for me to exatly say which part is against albania , however is not just me who thinks that alot of albanians are writing to you about it .but you did not mention anything about being anti muslim ,which clearly you are ,you say you looking for peoplle who share your ideas and opinions , fair enough but at the same time you have to listen to other peopllesideas and opinions becouse not every one will agree whith your opinion ..

  30. OK Medaura getting ridiculous, i don’t like the comment of you saying that (Albanians Are NOT GOOD people, so therefore am asking you to give me an example of why we are not good,,,,,, as i am going to treat you as a foreign person,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    some where along the comments i read that because of people like you that Albania have been sold several times,
    cos of people like you Traitors, Albania is the poorest country in the Europe.
    but also let me tell you something sweetheart, there is a lot of Albanians out there that love, will love and die for Albania, the same as UCK that made kosovo independent, And if you hate or don’t think that albanians are not good, then you are very wrong,
    Regards
    Armando
    ALBANIA RED&BLACK

  31. Tony,

    I am listening. If you think I am ‘anti-Muslim’ read my pieces about Robert Spencer, and think again. I am an atheist and I have a lot to disagree and disapprove of all world religions, but I don’t HATE Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus because of their religion.

    Unless you are interested in discussing specific things I said that make you uncomfortable, don’t even bother.

    Armando, I don’t know whether you are misunderstanding me because we are communicating in English, or because you just cannot conceive of an ethnic Albanian not being an Albanian nationalist while at the same time not hating Albania/Albanians.

    Albanians are NOT “good people”. Serbs are not “good people”. Americans are not “good people”. Merely belonging to a certain country or nationality does not make one good or bad. Speaking in such broad strokes is highly uninformative and counterproductive. There are good and bad people among all nations.

    I don’t subscribe to your nationalistic mentality so deal with it!

  32. MEDUARA
    this is what hapens when people leave their country and they forget where they come from,and they become big headed, they also thing they knowit all . whatever you say ?

  33. Hi Kejda,
    My name is Kejda too. I come from Vlore. I lived in Italy for ten years and I live in Germany from 3 years. You are the only girl i know who have my the same name as me.
    We have more or less the same age and you also look like me…as i saw your photo was i bitb surprised!!
    i study business law and i´m also married.
    Nice to know you.
    Kejda

  34. Well spoken Tony Well done mate i agree with you, we are ALBANIANS and that’s it,
    one day we will all go back to our homes and family the same as the traitor Lenka Zogu, but instead we will go with honour,,,,,,,,,, SO good luck Tony,,,,,, and you Medaura keep it up i also wish you the very best of luck and maybe one day you will change your mind

  35. Hi Kejda,

    I take it your husband is German, right? I actually have met a few Kejda’s in Albania, but then again I was from Tirana where it’s more likely to meet someone sharing our unique name because the population is much bigger than in any other cities.

    How’s life in Germany? I studied financial economics and I’m considering going into law school.

    Take care and you’re more than welcome to check back often.

  36. hey ARMANDO , HOW YOU DOING? WHERE DO YOU LIVE IN ENGLAND,I LIVE IN BIRMINGHAM . TAKE CARE

  37. hi tony i live in london
    me cfar merresh aty?

  38. hi armando, punoj ne restorant , jam head chef ,cfar thote londra .

  39. hi tony, londra ka rene shume, eshte mbushur plote me bulgar, sa kohe ke ne angli?

  40. hey armando , hows things, u bone 11 vjet qysh nga 97ta me cfar meresh ne londor ?

  41. happy new year to all albanians around the wourld
    from thegreatarmando.com

  42. Kejda-Just when the thread got interesting the Age of Aquarius breaks out. What gives?

  43. Kejda,ajo dhoma tek fotoja siper duket si bodrum.
    Ashtu jane gjithmone ne universitete apo s’dallohet mire?

  44. Kejda, here is some information I can provide you regarding global warming:

    On Wikipedia “Scientific Opinion on Climate Change”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change
    http://www.ipcc.ch/
    http://www.apa.org/science/about/publications/climate-change.aspx
    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf

    Having on Honours Degree in Financial Economics is quite an accomplishment and I commend you for your acheivement and your lovely website. Before dismissing global warming as hysteria please try to look into the science carefully (use the scientific method)and consider Naomi Oreskes’s book “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”
    http://www.amazon.com/Merchants-Doubt-Handful-Scientists-Obscured/dp/1596916109?tag=wp-amazon-associate-20
    http://www.sciencebuddies.com/mentoring/project_scientific_method.shtml

  45. Hello,

    I was hoping you could give me some more information on the Jewish population in Gjirokastra. I am currently in Albania, working on a project to create a museum for the Gjirokasta region. We have a section on faith and religion and we are hearing for the first time that there was a significant Jewish population.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Best Kim


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