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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

The Perfect Storm

The fury of Hurricane Sandy
So this is how it was, deep into the night as we listened to the raging monster hurling itself at our quaking windows from the challenged safety of our apartment building, electric lights still on, food in the refrigerator, bottles of water in a neat row on the kitchen window sill. We knew her name, Hurricane Sandy, joining forces with a cold front from Canada and some other stalled weather system, swollen by the tidal excesses of a full moon, surging over walls, into tunnels and basements, hurling houses off their foundations, whipping ancient trees out by their roots. Nature's unleashed fury reduced humanity's swollen ego to a speck, as we watched scenes of unimaginable devastation unfold on television, checking that the slow-burn candle was in place as lights flickered and somehow held, grateful that we could still hear the voices of our loved ones on the phone, that Nature 's excesses would sweep on past us and be gone - for now...
Somehow safety lost meaning. Strength was an illusion. With Sandy's departure came the chilling realization that when she willed it, Nature could blast us all into oblivion with one fierce breath. Of course, we always knew, subliminally, and doubtless the knowledge will again vanish deep into the collective psyche as we go about our self-important lives, certain that we are the ones in control. Read More 
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Fall Reflections

Fall vistas upstate
Outside my city window float memories of London long ago. How did so many years speed by since my student days? Youth is a superb state. I do not remember, then, seeing the weather as anything more or less than challenge or delight.
A mild rain drips everywhere out of a leaden sky today. I have become addicted to the bright blue skies, brisk chill and flamboyant vistas of glowing leaves of my many years here in New York. Wisps of cloud-fog creep over rooftops I can see from my terrace, casting a film of unwelcome melancholy into the day. This was always my favorite season, more bite and brilliance than spring, and definitely to be embraced over the excesses of winter and summer, bitter winds or heavy humidity endured in the deep canyons of Manhattan.
I find myself wondering what the weather is like in all the places where my children and grandchildren are busy living their lives. I wish them weather to float their dreams and to streak flame colors everywhere to illuminate their days.
Now, as I confront the reality of autumn inside and out, I lose myself in a miasma of memory, nostalgia and gloom. Geography has become a state of mind...
The weather channel promises better weather tomorrow. I'll wait this out with a good book. Read More 
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Echoes of a past and intimations of a future

My parents on their honeymoon in Luxor in 1937
In 1937, my parents, Guido Mosseri and Joyce Smouha, were married in the Nebi Daniel synagogue, in Alexandria, Egypt. The synagogue was ablaze with flowers and candles and packed with relatives and guests. So it was with a gathering sadness that I read a recent blog in Tablet Magazine (see my biography page for the link) and learned that a handful of elderly Jews -all that was left in Egypt from a community 80,000 strong - will in fact be deprived of a rabbi and cantor and do not have enough men for a minyan as we approach the High Holidays. Rosh Hashana services will not be performed in Egypt in 2012, probably the first time in 2000 years.
As Egyptians riot in self-righteous clamor in the name of insults to their faith, and Libyans commit murder in the name of outraged religious fervor, I am struck by the irony lived by the Egyptian Jews, last guardians of their past, elderly, vulnerable, and unable to rise above the menace that surrounds them.
And what of the Coptic Christians? They who claim to possibly be descended from the Pharaonic splendors of old? Their churches are burned and their populations suffer silently in fear of exile from the only country that holds their roots.
Why is there not more clamor? Human values are at issue here. The Middle East hosts a war that destroys history and leaves the Arab lands in economic chaos, unable to fill the void they themselves have caused. This virus will not die, and it will compromise everything we hold dear unless an antidote is found soon.  Read More 
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1956-2012: We meet again in London and remember.

56 years later, Jean signing Brian Massey's book in London
Lost in wonder, we talk about the days when he was an earnest small boy, and I was his teacher, in a world we all invented to guide us to unknown worlds that lay ahead. Brian also brought a book about heroes that I had given him as an award for hard work, and he told me that it had been one of his favorite books growing up. I looked at the message Jean Mosseri had written carefully onto the flyleaf of his prize, then at his smiling face, then at the words Jean Naggar had just written into his early copy of SIPPING FROM THE NILE that had brought us back together after all these years, and I marveled at the ways of fate and destiny. Read More 
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Once Upon a Time

In 1956, Jackie Frescoe, Brian Massey and Susan Mosseri stood in a garden in Cairo with their teacher
In 1956, I took the teaching of three nine-year-olds very seriously, and filled the year when none of us could attend outside studies with cultural tidbits, general knowledge, spelling tests, and as much discipline as I could muster.
I never heard from Jackie Fresco or Brian Massey after we all left Egypt and settled in various distant countries, while our parents tried to darn our lives back into meaning.
Many years later I wrote a memoir for my grandchildren. It grew wings and flew out into a wider world, and on its travels it came into the hands of an attorney living and working in London, a grandfather himself.
One thing led to another, and finally to a memorable meeting in London in early August of 2012, where my husband and I spent three days on our way back to the States after a magical 50th anniversary trip that began in the Florentine hills of Italy.
Brian Massey, his little sister Corinne and his lovely wife Lili met with us at our hotel, and we wondered at the twists and turns that our lives had taken to bring us to this moment. Read More 
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The last Seder in Egypt

SEDER NIGHT in Egypt, 1957

The preparations for Passover went on for days as they had done for years in our large echoing house in Cairo. Carpets were marched out to the lawn outside the dining room window and beaten with flat bamboo beaters to eliminate the last crumb. My aunt Helen wielded her cane and her stentorian tones, berated the butcher, raided the store cupboard to make our traditional family haroseth, pounding nuts relentlessly into powder with mortar and pestle. We scoured our upstairs nursery rooms, emptying every closet, dusting every book and toy, knowing our rooms would have to pass our mother's eagle-eyed inspection. Read More 
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Exodus of Cairo's Jewish daughters

I was raised in a beautiful mansion on the banks of the Nile, in a multi-cultural multi-lingual Sephardic Italian Jewish family in Egypt: a Middle Eastern family, where men rose to prominence by their acts in a larger world, while women ran households, managed a large staff, volunteered their services to Jewish charities, and gained their reputations from their family backgrounds, skills at needlework and music, as cooks, and hostesses, and their elegance at all times.

My father was a mild man. He was gregarious and funny, a lover of literature and music that fate had pushed into finance. He left much of the parenting to my mother, whose fiery red hair was matched by an engaged and passionate nature. Read More 
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Egypt Revisited:

Egypt Revisited
With a timely memoir, a literary agent comes full circle
By Jean V. Naggar
Feb 24, 2012

Growing up, I always knew I would have something to do with books. I even dared to hope that I might write one. Books were my initiation into worlds far removed from my quiet nursery life in  Read More 
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Every Diaspora Echoes the Past

Omnivoracious
Hungry for the next good book®

"Every Diaspora Echoes the Past and Foreshadows the Future" by Author and Agent Jean Naggar
by Publishers Weekly Editor on February 15, 2012

These past months, reading with fascination of the turbulent events in Egypt, the fall of Mubarak, and the groundswell of energy and hope that galvanized the young inTahrir Square, I was cast back once again into the lost world of my childhood, a world I had summoned from the caverns of memory in order to write Sipping From the Nile, My Exodus from Egypt - a deeply personal memoir - not quite realizing that every diaspora echoes the past and foreshadows the future. Read More 
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