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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Europe’

EU Counter-Anti-Semitism Czar: Our Goal to Allow Jews Fear-Free Life in Europe

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

The EU’s coordinator for combating anti-Semitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, this week told the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs about the European Union’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism. “The goal of all this activity is that Jews will be able to live in Europe without fear,” she said. “The fact that we have reached a situation whereby Jews send their children to schools behind barbed wire fences or send them to public schools without knowing whether they will be exposed to incitement there – this situation is unacceptable. The fact that we see security guards outside synagogues – and we have grown used to this – this is also unacceptable. But it doesn’t end there. There are security guards outside government buildings. The security situation is no longer limited to Jewish communities. We are convinced that it is the responsibility of society as a whole to combat anti-Semitism.”

Von Schnurbein said the general increase in anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe and the “atmosphere of hatred,” particularly online, are very worrying. She said that since her appointment in December, the EU’s activity against anti-Semitism has included dialogue with the major Internet companies — Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft — which brought about the formation of the Code of Conduct. Under the code, the online giants pledged to fund organizations that would help them monitor the situation and train people who will report any inciting content online.

Committee Chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) thanked von Schnurbein for the Code of Conduct legislation, which he said would allow social media companies to “remove hate speech inciting to violence within 24 hours,” which is “a correct and important step, the fruits of which I hope we will see immediately.”

Neguise told the meeting, which was also attended by EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen, of a survey conducted ahead of the meeting among rabbis and Jewish community leaders in Europe. The survey, commissioned by the European Jewish Association and the Rabbinical Center of Europe, indicates that anti-Semitism is intensifying in Western European countries, but pointed out that the involvement of Muslim refugees in anti-Semitic incidents is marginal. The same survey showed that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Eastern Europe is decreasing.

“We are currently monitoring the process to see if there really is a change. We want to see a real change on the ground,” von Schnurbein said. “Today, only 13 of the 28 member states properly apply the [Code of Conduct] law . . . We are pressuring them to implement it.”

Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg of the Rabbinical Center of Europe said, “You cannot on the one hand constantly try to undermine the foundations of Judaism – be it brit milah (male circumcision ritual) or kosher shechitah (slaughtering of animals for food in accordance with Jewish law) – and on the other hand talk all the time about wanting to eradicate anti-Semitism.”

Yogev Karasenty, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s Director for Combating Anti-Semitism, said “It is not at all certain that the legislation trickles down to the ground level. There are Internet companies which declare a policy [of removing inciting content] but do not implement it.”

Yaakov Haguel, head of the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Countering Anti-Semitism, mentioned an EU survey conducted a few years ago which revealed that 74% of the victims of anti-Semitic attacks do not report them to the authorities. This indicates, he said, that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe is significantly higher than what the official figures show.

Addressing von Schnurbein and Faaborg-Andersen, Haguel said, “These Jews are your citizens, they are European citizens, proud citizens who want to live in Europe, who want to raise their children in Europe, who pay taxes. Before legislation and enforcement and education – what kind of atmosphere is being created for your citizens there? For us, the Jewish people, it is very concerning, but you, who represent the sovereign governments of each country, are responsible for the Jewish citizens, just as you are responsible for all the other citizens.”

NGO Monitor President Gerald M. Steinberg spoke of the “new anti-Semitism” and said the rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents and terror attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions “is directly linked to the incitement we hear about every day in Europe and the world. It is obvious that phrases such as ‘war crimes,’ ‘genocide,’ ‘violation of international law,’ ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘apartheid’ — which are said repeatedly in reference to Israel — feed this anti-Semitism.”

Ido Daniel, Program Director at Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism, mentioned that in 2014 the organization filed some 14,000 complaints with new media companies regarding anti-Semitic content online, and in 2015 the number of complaints to Twitter, Google, Facebook and Instagram rose to about 29,000. The trend is continuing in 2016, and the organization expects to file over 30,000 complaints by the end of the year, he told the committee.

“The social networks allow many people to disseminate inciting messages which are then translated into physical acts against Jews,” said Daniel, who noted that Jewish students from Brussels told him that they conceal their real last names on Facebook to avoid receiving hateful and insulting messages.

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) said, “History has already shown us what happens when displays of hatred and violence are not dealt with. There is terror all over the world now, and the social networks serve as a [broad platform] for this activity. This is not only Israel’s — it is the problem of entire world. Terror strikes in Brussels, Paris, Turkey and the United States. It’s a global problem.”

Rut Zach of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Combating Antisemitism said that since von Schnurbein’s appointment “we can see concrete action against anti-Semitism in Europe,” adding that the left in Europe must take the lead on this issue. “The left is supposed to protect human rights,” she said.

Carol Nuriel, Acting Director of ADL’s Israel office, presented the findings of a poll showing that one in every three Europeans holds anti-Semitic opinions. Another survey conducted by ADL after the terror attacks at the offices of the satirical weekly French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the kosher supermarket Hypercacher and the Jewish Museum in Brussels indicated a 10-20% decrease in anti-Semitism in France, Germany and Belgium.

“The awareness of the danger of violence against Jews created a sort of solidarity with the Jewish communities, and it is very important to preserve this solidarity,” Nuriel stressed. “Another conclusion is that when elected officials act – and we all remember French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s historic speech – there are results on the ground.”

Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen said, “We are all in agreement about the urgency of the battle against anti-Semitism, which is a despicable phenomenon. The EU is committed 100 percent to this fight.”

Chairman Neguise concluded the meeting by saying that the committee calls on the EU to act against anti-Semitism through legislation and education. He also urged the organizations combating the phenomenon to work together.


Vatican invites Exorcist Director William Friedkin to Meet a Real Dybbuk

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Jewish American filmmaker William Friedkin, 80, who directed the truly terrifying 1973 horror movie “The Exorcist,” this week told an audience at the Cannes film festival that he was invited by the Vatican’s chief exorcist to film a real exorcism earlier this month, AFP and The Local reported.

“The Exorcist,” named the scariest film of all time by multiple critics, including Roger Ebert  and Stanley Kauffmann, became one of the highest-earning films of all time, grossing more than $441 million worldwide, and was the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

A scene from The Exorcist

A scene from The Exorcist

Friedkin, who was born in August 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, told the Cannes audience at a late night masterclass, “I was invited by the Vatican exorcist to shoot and video an actual exorcism which… few people have ever seen and which nobody has ever photographed,” and, he insisted, was very similar to his own film. “I was pretty astonished by that. I don’t think I will ever be the same having seen this astonishing thing. I am not talking about some cult, I am talking about an exorcism by the Catholic Church in Rome,” he said.

“There must be something in there,” said Friedkin, who also made “The French Connection,” “Sorcerer,” “Cruising,” “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Jade,” “Rules of Engagement,” “The Hunted,” “Bug,” and “Killer Joe.”

The late Rabbi Elyah Lopian, one of the leaders of the Mussar Movement in late 19th century eastern Europe, related to his students that Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, the Chofetz Chaim, sent ten of his students in Radin, Poland, to exorcise a dybbuk from a woman. Rabbi Elhanan Wasserman would repeat the story every Purim. If you’re seeking confirmation of the fact that great Orthodox rabbis also performed exorcism, kindly check A Dybbuk Story.


Honoring the ‘Jewish Schindler’ You’ve Never Heard Of

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – It’s the Holocaust rescue story that often goes untold—Jews who put their lives on the line to save their fellow Jews.

Shmuil Markowitz Pevzner (1912-1991), a Jew who saved 300 children from the Druskininkai Soviet Pioneers Camp during Operation Barbarossa, was honored by B’nai B’rith World Center and the Jewish National Fund at their 14th annual Holocaust commemoration ceremony on Thursday at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest Scroll of Fire Plaza in Jerusalem.

“We are unique in the sense that we are the only ceremony that recognizes Jewish rescuers on an annual basis,” said B’nai B’rith Director Alan Schneider in an interview with Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It’s not an area of strong academic research, though that is something we would like to encourage.”

Born in Belorussia, Pevzner served as director of the Polish troupe at the Druskininkai camp in Lithuania. He brought the 300 children—150 of whom were Jewish—by train to the Soviet Far East while under German aerial attack. Pevzner established a home for the children in the Udmurtia Republic, where he cared for them through extreme weather conditions until the end of the war.

Pevzner was represented by his son, Dr. Mark Pevzner, and grandson, Boris Pevzner.

According to Schneider, while commemorations in previous years have included rescuers from Germany, France, Slovakia, and Eastern Europe, this is the first year the organization is recognizing a Russian.

“The organizers seek to right the historical record by giving due recognition through the ceremony and citation to Shmuil Pevzner for rescuing these vulnerable children, some of whom were as young as seven,” Schneider said. “We salute his dedication to the children and support for them through emotional and physical hardships to become upstanding youngsters and adults.”

Schneider explained that obtaining first-hand testimony is increasingly difficult as the survivor population ages.

“As these annual events take place, people hear about it and they get in touch with us to have their rescuer recognized, which is what happened this year. We are constantly active on our Facebook page and many people write to us,” Schneider said.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Murdered Israeli Tourist Beaten to Death in Hungary

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Hungarian media have reported that murdered Jerusalem resident Ofir Gross, z’l, was beaten to death with bricks, according to the initial findings of a police investigation.

Gross had just completed his studies in medical engineering and had traveled from Debrecen to Budapest a week earlier.

Two men were arrested in connection with his murder earlier this week. The Attorney General told media the two men, ages 19 and 21, found Gross sleeping in an abandoned yard and attacked him in order to steal his mobile phones, laptop computer and whatever money he had with him.

The attackers hit Gross with bricks, beating him to death, and then moved his body to a wooded area near a demolished house, covering it with debris.

The family was notified by Israeli foreign ministry officials when Gross was found, and flew to Hungary to identify his body.

Hana Levi Julian

Western Leaders Head to Ukraine to Try for Peace with Russia

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all intend to try and make peace between Ukraine and Russia this week.

Kerry is already in Ukraine to show America’s support for the Kiev government.

Hollande told international media Thursday in Paris that he and Merkel would head first to Kiev and then to Moscow on Friday to present Russian President Vladimir Putin with a proposal “based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

NATO, meanwhile, is unveiling details of a plan to bolster its military presence in eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis, according to the BBC. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the news service it will be the biggest reinforcement of its collective defense since the end of the Cold War, centering on a “spearhead” force of up to 5,000 troops with lead units able to deploy within two days. A network of command centers is being established in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Stoltenberg said, in response to “the aggressive actions we have seen from Russia, violating international law and annexing Crimea.”

The French president described the months-long conflict with pro-Russia rebels that wreaked havoc in Ukraine as a full-fledged war. “Ukraine is at war. Heavy weapons are being used and civilians are being killed daily,” Hollande said.

Kerry told the BBC in Kiev that the U.S. wants to see a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but will not close its eyes to Russian aggression.

“We want a diplomatic resolution but we cannot close our eyes to tanks that are crossing the border from Russia and coming into Ukraine,” Kerry said at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

More than 5,000 people have died in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebel troops, some of which include Russian “volunteers,” since April 2014. The eastern Ukraine cities of Donetsk and Lugansk are both under rebel control.

Hana Levi Julian

Sobibor Death Camp Gas Chambers Uncovered

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

The location of the gas chambers at the notorious Sobibor death camp has been revealed, Yad Vashem announced Wednesday.

On October 14, 1943 some 600 prisoners rose up in revolt and escaped from the camp. Most were recaptured or murdered, but 100 to 120 managed to survive. Of those, 60 made it through to the end of the war, when Allied Forces arrived to free the captives.

But a quarter of a million Jews were murdered at the death camp in Poland, where the Nazis worked hard to cover up their evil crime. After the uprising, the Nazis bulldozed the site and planted evergreen trees to conceal the mass graves.

Now, an archaeological dig has uncovered the truth nevertheless.

Dr. David Silberklang, a senior researcher at the Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust research said, “The discovery of the exact location of the gas chambers at the Sobibior Camp is a discovery of the utmost importance in Holocaust research.”

He said it was important to understand that “there are no remains from any Jews who worked in the area of the gas chambers, and therefore these findings are the only thing left from those who were murdered.” Silberklang said “a small window has been open into their daily suffering.”

Personal effects of the victims who lived and died in the tragedy have been found near the gas chambers. Among the items uncovered were jewelry – including wedding rings – and perfumes, medicine and utensils.

Archaeologist Yoram Haimi added that “we found near the gas chambers wedding rings with the inscription in Hebrew, ‘Harei at mekudeshet li” (Behold, thou art consecrated unto me.”)

Silberklang said that for the first time the excavation taking place at the site would enable researchers would be able to better understand the murder process in the camp and what the Jews went through before their deaths.

Hana Levi Julian

Time to Go Home

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Here’s the mausoleum in the old Jewish cemetery in Medzhybizh, Ukraine, of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the holy Baal Shem Tov, who changed and healed Eastern European Jewry.

The “Besht” appeared in about 1740, a little less than a century after the holocaust of 1648 (Gzeirot Tach-Tat, the decrees of 5408-9), which were followed by the catastrophe of false messiah Shabtai Tzvi, who heaped even more ruin and chagrin on Eastern European Jews, from about 1655 to 1670.

This man of mystery, whose teachings sounded a whole lot like Shabta Tzvi’s, except for the part about trumpeting himself the messiah, has been used as a model by every known Jewish movement, from extreme Haredim to Soviet Socialists, channeled into the world a wondrous spiritual and psychological change, without which we may have looked very different as a nation—and some say we may not have survived at all.

This is a particularly mysterious looking night image, of a relic in a foreign land, long emptied out of most of its Jews, one way or another.

I bless all of us that we’ll have the courage and the wisdom to turn our backs on these relics, including the very beautiful and mysterious ones, face east and start moving.

Next year in Jerusalem (or Netanya, or Haifa, or Tel Aviv – take your pick).

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/time-to-go-home/2014/01/01/

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