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December 4, 2016 / 4 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust Day’

After Decades of Silence, Holocaust Survivors Open Up

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

By Jesse Lempel/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – When Pnina Katsir turned 80, she finally told her daughter a secret she had kept for decades: she was a survivor of the Holocaust.

“I didn’t tell anyone. My kids didn’t know,” Katsir told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) at a ceremony for Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Wednesday evening. “I decreed silence on myself in order to raise a normal, happy family – not living in the shadow of that awful time.”

Yet Katsir, now 86, boldly recounted her experiences before a crowd of dozens at the Jerusalem ceremony, including many fellow survivors, their children and grandchildren, as well as a group of female soldiers. They had gathered to share stories and commemorate the dead as part of the AMCHA organization, an Israeli psychological and social support group for Holocaust survivors, which Katsir credits with giving her the tools to finally express herself.

“There was a conspiracy of silence among survivors and Israeli society,” explained Elisheva Flamm-Oren, AMCHA’s director of planning and development. “They were afraid to tell their children and burden them with what they went through, and Israeli society also didn’t want to hear it – they preferred to project strength.”

AMCHA was started 30 years ago by Holocaust survivors and health care professionals to address this “conspiracy of silence” and provide survivors with the support they need. They now cater to 20,000 Holocaust survivors in fifteen centers across the country, boasting 480 mental health professionals and a thousand volunteers. In the past year alone they logged 186,000 hours of therapy, 30% of which took place in house calls to survivors too frail to leave their homes.

“There’s a lot of power in meeting other survivors,” Flamm-Oren told TPS. “AMCHA created a place where you can come and talk about the past without fear. We want them to know that they are normal people who went through unimaginably abnormal circumstances.”

And the survivors do more than talk. They participate in AMCHA’s creative writing seminars and theatre troupes—who recently staged a play starring a 97-year-old actress—all designed to give survivors creative outlets to process their past traumas and communicate with younger generations.

“They know how to get you to open up,” said Katsir, who read a moving composition describing her childhood in a Ukrainian ghetto, including the “nightly task” she shared with her sister to clutch their grandmother’s legs as she slept in the hopes of keeping her warm.

For many survivors, the creative process has been enormously satisfying.

“I have a kind of Holocaust disease – it actually makes me feel good to talk about the Holocaust,” Elias Feinzelberg told TPS after reciting the Kaddish, the solemn prayer for the dead, at the ceremony. Feinzelberg, a very active 98-year-old who was born in Lodz, Poland, endured nine different concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“I spoke at two schools today,” Feinzelberg said, proudly pointing to the pins on his blazer bearing the names of educational institutions around the world in which he has shared his story.

“Once I opened up,” Katsir told TPS, “I realized how much energy I had wasted all these years on not talking.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Kahlon: Half-Billion Shekels to Go to Holocaust Survivors and Elderly

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

By Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced plans on Monday to increase annual financial support for Holocaust survivors and elderly welfare recipients by a half-billion shekels (US$133 million) in advance of the country’s Holocaust Remembrance Day this week.

“Unfortunately, previous Israeli governments have not done enough on behalf of Holocaust survivors…the program is focused on pushing elderly Holocaust survivors over the poverty line,” Kahlon said during the annual Knesset event celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany. “In addition, there has not been enough done for the economically-disadvantaged elderly population—increasing their benefits was one of our conditions for entering the government.”

The new plans will benefit 60,000 survivors living below the poverty line and will add 350 million shekels (nearly US$1 million) earmarked for elderly welfare recipients.

“Two days from now, on Wednesday, we will enter Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), as we do every year,” Kahlon said. “As the years pass, we see a decrease in the number of Holocaust survivors in Israel. However, what is not decreasing is our desire to listen to their stories, which are an inseparable part of the country’s founding, as well as our desire to enable them to grow old with dignity”

Government funds towards survivors have increased in recent years, according to Aviv for Holocaust Survivors, an NGO dedicated to informing the Israeli survivor population of updates regarding grant allocation and changes in government policy.

“We believe that in 2016 there are not supposed to be any poor survivors—this is the last opportunity to help Holocaust survivors and that’s why everyone is trying to help,” said Aviva Silverman, CEO and founder of the organization, in an interview with Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It’s hard to say what impact and influence the project will have, but we truly embrace and treasure every and any kind of support and change. Any benefit given is a blessing.”

The median age of survivors in Israel is 82, Silverman said, and many survivors need assistance in understanding and applying for these benefits.

“The main problem is that because there are so many changes and announcements, the Holocaust survivors are not aware of many of the benefits they can enjoy,” Silverman told TPS. “Our job is to inform them and help them apply for these benefits.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Arab MK Refuses Holocaust Day Invite, Says It Motivates Humiliating Arabs

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

MK Hanin Zoabi (Joint Arab List) on Wednesday refused an invitation to the final memorial rally of Holocaust Day at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai (named after Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the Jewish underground in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising). Zoabi said that “the lessons of the Holocaust should not be taught in order to increase the motivation to defend oneself by humiliating and repressing [others].” The organizers, the Havatselet group, invited all 120 Knesset members to the event on May 5.

Zoabi began her letter to the group saying she was honored to “participate in marking a human tragedy that took the lives of millions of people, and showed how far down it is possible to dive to the depths of human horror, to the boundary of the absurd and the loss of the human image.”

Then she noted, “It is an honor for me to stand in memory of the victims, but it is just as important to sound the alert for you regarding that which preceded the Holocaust and paved the road to it. And precisely for that reason I decided to refuse your invitation.”

“The memory you are reviving is not the same memory the victims now symbolize.” According to Zoabi, “the learning of the Holocaust lessons in the state is done selectively and manipulatively. … You shouldn’t teach the lessons of the Holocaust by adopting a policy of closure, extortion, robbery and murder, extrajudicial executions, arrests without a trial, torture, gag orders, persecution of demonstrators and political activists. It would be a cynical, selective, distorted exploitation against the spirit of the Holocaust.”

“You shouldn’t teach the lessons of the Holocaust when you don’t recognize the frightening likeness between what’s going on around us today and what took place in Germany in the 1930s,” Zoabi wrote.

The Havatselet group released a statement saying, “The assembly is a-political and the memory of the Holocaust is important to all mankind regardless of religion, race or sex.”

JNi.Media

Today is a Fast Day and not ‘Happy New Year’ Day

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

The Fast of the 10th of Tevet is today, January 1, and Chief Rabbi David Lau has asked Jews all over the world to say the mourner’s Kaddish prayer in memory of Holocaust victims.

He emphasized that with the ever-closer eventuality of the death of Holocaust survivors 70 years after the end of the Nazi death machine, there are less relatives alive to recite the prayer.

The fast marks the day on which the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began in the year 588 BCE, an event which eventually led to the destruction on the Temple 20 years later and the first exile from Israel.

The fast day, which is observed from slightly before sunrise to after sunset, is commemorated shortly after Hanukkah.

The Chief Rabbinate 64 years ago, declared that the 10th of Tevet also is “Holocaust Day” in memory of the Nazis’ victims whose date of death is unknown.

“According to Jewish Law, if the day of death is unknown, a relative chooses which day on which to say Kaddish.”

The government-mandated Holocaust Day is in Nissan, a month when Jewish law does not allow public eulogies. Israel’s secular media, along with foreign media, have a field day every year photographing Haredim who walk while others stand at attention when a siren sounds nationwide to mark Holocaust Day in Nissan.

Haredim also have a problem with the custom of standing at attention, which they consider a non-Jewish custom.

The same media fail to note that in the Hebrew month of Tevet, Haredim mark Holocaust Day, as well as fast, while most of the secular part of the country acts as if nothing happened, except for this year, when they also party without realizing that the day marks the circumcision of the same man in whose name millions of Jews have been massacred over the centuries.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

God Bless You Baroness Ashton for Leaving my Zeidi Alone

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

The Jewish media are very upset this week (Is there like a memo that goes out alerting everyone what to be mad at now? And how come no one let’s me in on it?), on account of the Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, making a statement in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day and not mentioning the Jews even once.

If you ask me, that’s a very good thing. I don’t want the world to commemorate my Holocaust. I don’t want the State of Israel inventing its own Holocaust commemoration day. I don’t want the ashes of my grandparents to be used by any politician, anywhere.

Look at the dates picked for Holocaust Memorial Day and Yom Hashoah. The former, being international and all, picked the Auschwitz day of liberation, because that’s when the allies finally got around to saving the Jews; and the latter, being Israeli, falls on the Warsaw ghetto uprising, meaning, we liberated ourselves, thank you very much. It’s so obviously political in both cases, it’s cynicism incarnate.

I don’t care at all about what the gentiles have to say about my murdered family. And I don’t care at all what President Shimon Peres or any other Israeli politician has to say about my dead zeidi, either. Why should I even consider what these people, most of whom feel and act in ways that are incomprehensible to me, have anything meaningful to say about the core loss of my life?

What does it mean to me when half the Knesset is flying to Auschwitz to walk among the ashes and look sad? I don’t think they know what they’re doing about the living, why should they be expected to do anything meaningful about the dead?

Every Yom Hashoah, the Israeli press catches a Haredi guy who dares to continue walking while the country stands at attention in honor of the siren permeating the April air from Eilat to Metula. And I secretly applaud this guy who is brazen enough to show the world what he thinks about their commemorations. I’m a coward, so I stay at home, in my seat.

I do honor the Israeli Memorial Day, on the eve of Independence Day. It’s a legitimate event. But the Holocaust cannot possibly be a matter of states and organizations. Which is why I applaud the fact that Ashton has done so much to remove the Jewish aspect of her memorial thing.

There are two dates in which I participate in our national commemoration of the killing of my family. One is the Tenth of Tevet, which the Israeli Rabbinate innovated to be the Kaddish day for the Shoah victims whose date of death is unknown. And so I stand up in shul and say Kaddish for my holy grandfather, grandmother, six aunts and uncles and their children. I feel connected to them on that day, and I’m also pretty sure they can hear me. In my head I hug every one of them (we were Ger Chassidim, but we weren’t so makpid on negiah-touching), and tell them how much I miss them, and how sorry I am for the horrors that ended all their lives.

Then, on the Ninth of Av, I spend the entire day screaming at God for allowing my loved ones to be murdered. I tell Him just how angry I am at Him. I even show him my anger by not putting on Talit and Tefillin until Mincha. What were You thinking? I cry at Him. You took the people who loved You so much and just let them be devoured by pigs? How could You?

Yori Yanover

Chief of Staff, Son of Holocaust Survivor, Visits Auschwitz

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

IDF Chief of Benny Gantz, whose mother survived the Holocaust, wrote in the visitors’ book at Auschwitz Sunday that “the IDF will make sure that a horror [like the Holocaust] will not happen again.”

It has been said the true revenge for the Holocaust is to bring more Jews into the world in Israel and to return to the Nazi chambers with head held high to show the world who were the eventual and eternal victors over evil.

Gantz will fulfill that concept Monday as the first Israeli Chief of Staff to lead the “March of the Living, when he will lead 10,000 Jewish youth from around the world from the site of the Auschwitz death camp to that of nearby.

“On a clear, cold day, it is hard to understand or sense the gap between the silence all around and the horror that took place here, among the camp barracks, and inside of them, ” Gantz wrote. “The State of Israel is the security that an atrocity like this will not happen again. The IDF is the shield for the national home – the safe haven for the Jewish people….

“I am proud to stand at the head of the army and the delegation that, with great humility, seeks to bow its head in memory of the deceased and respect for the survivors, and to shoulder the responsibility of learning lessons from the past and ensuring future security.”

Israel began to mark Holocaust Memorial Day Sunday night at the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial.

Most of the nation will stand in silence when the one-minute siren wails Monday morning in Israel.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Musical Putsch: Balkan Beat Box Gig in Munich on Holocaust Day

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The Israeli band Balkan Beat Box will continue its successful world tour with a concert on Wednesday evening in Munich, Germany – striking a nerve for some in Israel because it is the start of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. All entertainment venues, from shows to restaurants, are shuttered in Israel on this day.

Band members said they were not aware of the problematic date and location when the show was booked, but after discussing the situation they decided to perform and deliver their message of embracing equality and being against racism.

After the performance, perhaps the band members would like to visit the beer hall where, on November 8, 1923, storm troopers under the direction of Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler burst into the place, causing instant panic, and Hitler fired a pistol shot into the ceiling, yelling “Silence! The National Revolution has begun!”

There’s a song in there, someplace…

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/yoris-daily-news-clips/musical-putsch-balkan-beat-box-gig-in-munich-on-holocaust-day/2012/04/18/

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