web analytics
October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Buys Permanent Facilities

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Executive Director Judy Margles and Board Chair Elaine Coughlin last week announced the signing of a purchase agreement for the facilities at 724 NW Davis in Portland—formerly the home of the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Margles wrote the following announcement:

As our closest circle of friends, I am excited to share something very special with you. OJMCHE is purchasing a new home, a 14,500 square foot unit in the De Soto building at 724 NW Davis Street (formerly the Museum of Contemporary Craft). I am also thrilled to tell you that we achieved the purchase of the building with the hard work of the OJMCHE Board and in particular outgoing chair, David Newman. This is the moment where we have finally fulfilled our vision and secured our mission for generations to come.

How did we get to this momentous possibility? July will already mark the two-year anniversary of the merger with Oregon Holocaust Resource Center. The merger enriched our institution in countless ways – we expanded our education staff to include a Holocaust educator, we are proud stewards of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, we bring thousands of school children to both the Memorial and museum, and, of course, we continue to be the community repository for the Jewish experience in Oregon. Most importantly, we have deepened our focus on Jewish values and traditions, while working even more strenuously to bring our work to the wider community as a vehicle that can unite all people in their common humanity. In short, the merger has greatly expanded and fundamentally strengthened our core mission.

And now we have the opportunity to take the next step in our evolution. In a stroke of great luck, the fortuitous arrival on the market of this building became the perfect space for our museum. While this was an unexpected opportunity, we were ready to receive it because of the long-range feasibility planning that we undertook this last year. This space—purpose-built as a contemporary museum with ample room for exhibits, programs, school groups, collections and archives—perfectly matches the needs detailed in our feasibility report.

I am also thrilled to tell you that we achieved the purchase of the building with the tremendous support of three lead gifts from Renee and Irwin Holzman, Lois and Leonard Schnitzer Family and The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation/Arlene Schnitzer & Jordan Schnitzer. To date we have received a total of 33 gifts to make this phase of the campaign possible. For this generosity and sign of confidence, we are immensely grateful. Our community campaign, to raise funds for operating reserves and move-in costs, will commence shortly and I look forward to engaging each and every one of you in our endeavors.

Now that our dreams are becoming reality, we shall start to focus on the use of the space. I can share with you our basic conception: we will have state-of-the art storage for our archives and collection; a café; a gift shop; a multi-purpose auditorium for public programs and school groups; two floors of exhibit galleries with temporary exhibits on the first floor; and on the second space for core exhibits about the Oregon Jewish experience, discrimination in Oregon and the history of the Holocaust using stories of local survivors.

The coming months may prove to be the most significant in our history. An exciting consensus is emerging among museum professionals. We see successful museums of the future as places where people can hang out and engage in real and diverse social issues to make a genuine difference in their lives: these museums of the future will blur boundaries between the inside of the museum walls and what occurs outside, where programs will address a rich variety of living community concerns, while always recognizing, remembering and honoring the past. These museums will link historical experiences of the past with needs of the living present.

I want our museum to be such a museum: a broker and filter of perspectives and shared wisdom, a repository for traditional learning and historical scholarship, and also a stimulus for creative thinking on the way forward for our community. I want us to represent the full plurality of voices in our community and I want our programs to address a full range of community concerns.

We, this circle of friends, now share a magically rare opportunity: to help each other make our beloved Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education thrive, in all these many and varied ways, for many, many years to come.


Judy Margles

Executive Director


Darwin, Jewish Theology, And The Holocaust

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in human history, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an English naturalist and geologist best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory, pursuant to which he argued that all species of life descended from common ancestors and that this evolutionary pattern resulted from a process that he called “natural selection.” He published his theory in the monumental On the Origin of Species (1859), one of the most seminal scientific works of all time, which even to date is the unifying theory of the life sciences.

After Darwin published Origin of Species, many translators and publishers vied to capitalize on his growing fame. Darwin favored Swiss zoologist and paleontologist Charles Forsyth Major (1843-1923) to translate The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, but Major was apparently playing hard to get with respect to the assignment.

Pictured with this column is the February 11, 1873 correspondence to Major, Darwin essentially threatens to award the translation project to (gasp!) a Jew:

I am very much obligated for your note, and I am sorry that you had so much trouble and have given up the intention of bringing out a translation. I will write by this post to the Jewish gentleman and inquire whether he still wishes to translate my book.


Expression of Emotion (1872), which continued Darwin’s attempt to address questions of human origins and human psychology using his theory of evolution by natural selection, was his groundbreaking work on how animals and humans express emotions using the muscles, tissues, and bone provided by nature. Even today it still provides the point of departure for research on the theory of emotion and expression.

While it is not the purpose of this article to present a dissertation on the Torah’s views on evolution, suffice it to say this is a very controversial topic and that strong arguments exist on both sides.

With the advent of Darwin’s theories, the Jewish community found itself engaged in controversy regarding the apparent dissonance between Jewish theology and modern science. Although many believe evolution is wholly inconsistent with belief in a Creator and is contrary to the Genesis creation narrative, important Jewish authorities, including the Netziv, have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with fundamental Jewish belief and that traditional Jewish texts are reconcilable with modern scientific findings concerning evolution.

Thus, Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, while carefully noting that he did not personally agree with Darwin’s theory and that it had never been empirically proven, wrote that evolution through natural selection presents no challenge to Jewish theology because it would mean only that Hashem, rather than creating a multiplicity of species, had instead brought the incredible diversity of life into existence through the creation of a singular life-form accompanied by a divine law of adaptation.

Some evidence exists that Darwin received direct support from Jewish leaders emphasizing that his theory of evolution is entirely consistent with scripture. In one of the few recorded incidents evidencing Darwin’s contact with Jews, Naphtali Lewy (or “Halevi”), a noted writer, sent him a cover letter and his book, Toldot Adam, in which he argued that the subtleties of Hebrew vocabulary and the choice of particular Hebrew words in the Torah favored evolution, as did some passages in the Midrash Rabbah and the Talmud. As Darwin could not read Hebrew, he arranged for its translation and the letter, translated by an unknown “learned rabbi,” is in the Darwin collection at the Cambridge University library. In The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Darwin boasted that that “even an essay in Hebrew has appeared on it, showing that the theory is contained in the Old Testament” and, though he did not specifically cite the essay, he may well have been referring to Toldot Adam.

Saul Jay Singer

NYC World Trade Center Goes Blue-and-White For Elie Wiesel

Monday, July 4th, 2016

New York’s World Trade Center was all lit up Sunday night in blue and white — the colors of the Israeli flag — to honor the memory of Holocaust survivor and renowned author Elie Weisel.

The gesture by the City of New York was made as the body of the Nobel Laureate was laid to rest at the Sharon Gardens cemetery in Valhalla, New York, in Westchester County.

The Nobel laureate passed away in New York on Saturday at the age of 87 after a long illness. He is survived by his wife Marion and his son Elisha, a partner at Goldman Sachs.

Wiesel, who dedicated his life to ensuring future generations would never forget the Holocaust, lived to see and enjoy his two grandchildren after having survived the Auschwitz death camp.

Hana Levi Julian

Israeli Leaders Bid Farewell to Holocaust Survivor and Writer Elie Wiesel

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

By Jonathan Benedek/TPS

Several top Israeli officials expressed their condolences on the passing of author, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, speaking of his untiring work on behalf of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and humanity.

“Elie Wiesel was the collective moral compass of the Jewish people,” said Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet refusenik and Prisoner of Zion. “He was the first to break the silence surrounding the plight of Soviet Jewry, and he accompanied our struggle until we achieved victory. We will miss him deeply.”

In his 1966 book The Jews of Silence, Wiesel wrote of the struggle of Jews living in the Soviet Union, which he had observed during a visit to the USSR the previous year. Many believe this work was one of the main factors that led to American Jewry’s call to action on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

“This was a sad evening for the Jewish people,” said Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem. “Only a few months ago I had the honor of bestowing the Honorary Citizen of the City of Jerusalem award upon Professor Elie Wiesel.”

The Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem award is given to distinguished people who have made significant contributions to Israel’s capital city.

“In your Zionist, principled, and moral mission, your numerous writings and your public activities, you have contributed greatly to the State of Israel and to its capital city of Jerusalem,” Barkat told Weisel during the award ceremony in December 2015. “You are a faithful ambassador and true friend of our city, and through your work you have demonstrated uncompromising support for those who dwell in Zion, as well as a truly shared destiny.”

Wiesel replied to Barkat: “In my life I have published more than sixty books, but believe me when I tell you, Mr. Mayor, that Jerusalem is the heart and soul of my work. I am moved to receive the title of Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem, and I will continue to act for Jerusalem and for the State of Israel.”

In response to the news of Wiesel’s passing, Mayor Barkat said last night: “When I bestowed the award upon Wiesel in an emotional ceremony, I said it was a great privilege to express the deep appreciation Jerusalem has for his heroism and his life’s work. Elie Wiesel was a loyal ambassador and a true friend of Jerusalem, and has demonstrated unwavering support and empathy with the people of the city.”

Elie Wiesel was known for speaking out not only about Jewish suffering, but also on behalf of oppressed groups throughout the world. Noting this, the Nobel Prize Committee described him in 1986 as a “messenger to mankind.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Through his unforgettable books, moving words and personal example, Elie personified the triumph of the human spirit over the most unimaginable evil. His life and work were a great blessing to the Jewish people, the Jewish state and to all humanity.

“The State of Israel and the Jewish people mourn the passing of Elie Wiesel.”

President Reuven Rivlin said, “[Wiesel’s] life was dedicated to the fight against all hatred and for the sake of man as created in the image of God. He was a guide for us all. Tonight we bid farewell to a hero of the Jewish people and a giant of all humanity.”

In November 2013, during his term as Israel’s president, Shimon Peres awarded Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction, Israel’s highest civil medal, to Elie Wiesel for his for his work commemorating the Holocaust and promoting tolerance in the world. In his address to Wiesel at the ceremony, he said, “You are waving the flag of humanity, preventing bloodshed and challenging racism and anti-Semitism, as well as preventing war. You personally went through the most atrocious horrors of humanity, and as a Holocaust survivor you chose to dedicate your life to deliver the message — never again.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Holocaust Author and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel Dead at 87

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel who in 1986 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is dead, according to a Saturday announcement by Yad Vashem. He was 87 years old. Wiesel died in his New York home. He was survived by his wife, his son and two grandchildren.

Wiesel was born in in Sighet, Transylvania (Romania), in the Carpathian Mountains, on September 30, 1928. Wiesel’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of a Vizhnitz Hasid who spent time in jail for helping Polish Jews enter the country illegally. Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, encouraged him to learn Hebrew and to read literature, while his mother encouraged him to study the Torah. Wiesel had three siblings – older sisters Beatrice and Hilda, and younger sister Tzipora. Beatrice and Hilda survived the war and were reunited with Wiesel at a French orphanage. They eventually emigrated to North America, with Beatrice moving to Canada. Tzipora, Shlomo, and Sarah did not survive the Holocaust.

In 1944, the German army deported the Jewish community in Sighet to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Wiesel and his father were sent to the work camp Buna, a subcamp of Auschwitz III-Monowitz. He managed to remain with his father for more than eight months as they were shuffled among three concentration camps in the final days of the war.

On January 28, 1945, just a few weeks after the two were marched to Buchenwald, Wiesel’s father was beaten by an SS guard as he was suffering from dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. He was also beaten by other inmates for his food. He was later sent to the crematorium, only weeks before the camp was liberated by the US Third Army on April 11.

For ten years after the war, Wiesel refused to write about or discuss his experiences during the Holocaust. However, a meeting with the French author François Mauriac, the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature, and a discussion he had with the Lubavitcher Rebbe were turning points for him. His first memoir, in Yiddish, titled, And the World Remained Silent, was published in Buenos Aires. He rewrote a new version of the manuscript in French, which was published as La Nuit, and translated into English as Night. Wiesel had trouble finding a publisher and the book initially sold only a few copies.

In 1960 Hill & Wang agreed to pay a $100 pro-forma advance and published it in the United States in September that year as Night. The book sold only 1,046 copies, but attracted interest from reviewers, leading to television interviews with Wiesel and meetings with literary figures such as Saul Bellow. “The English translation came out in 1960, and the first printing was 3,000 copies,” Wiesel said in an interview. “And it took three years to sell them. Now, I get 100 letters a month from children about the book. And there are many, many millions of copies in print.”

Night has been translated into 30 languages. By 1997 the book was selling 300,000 copies annually in the United States alone. By March 2006, about six million copies were sold in the United States. On January 16, 2006, Oprah Winfrey chose the work for her book club. One million extra paperback and 150,000 hardcover copies were printed carrying the “Oprah’s Book Club” logo, with a new translation by Wiesel’s wife, Marion, and a new preface by Wiesel. On February 12, 2006, the new translation of Night was No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list for paperback non-fiction and the original translation placed third.

Wiesel and his wife started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. He served as chairman for the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust (later renamed US Holocaust Memorial Council) from 1978 to 1986, spearheading the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, during which he pleaded for US intervention in Yugoslavia after a visit there in 1992.

Wiesel and his wife invested their life savings, and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity invested nearly all of its assets (approximately $15.2 million) through Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, an experience that caused Wiesel deep pain.


1,000 Letters Add Poignant Perspective On Holocaust

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Snippets of Holocaust history. Portraits of Jewish children pining for their mothers and fathers in Germany. Next month, a select group of teachers will be the first to view a unique collection of 1,000 letters written by, and to, children sent east by parents who hoped to save their young ones from the Nazi menace.

Deborah Dwork, professor of history and founding director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Massachusetts, told The Jewish Press that the collection derives from the estate of Elisabeth Luz, who lived in a small town near Zurich, Switzerland during World War II. “When war began,” Dwork said, “civilian postal services ceased between belligerent nations, so what happened was…parents wrote letters to [Luz] in neutral Switzerland, and she copied every letter and sent them on to their children. And children wrote to her, and she copied every letter and sent the letters on to the parents.”

Why Luz? She was in the right place at the right time. A small refugee camp was situated near her town, and the first time she visited it, someone asked her to please write to his wife in Vienna on his behalf. Soon, by word of mouth, Luz became the intermediary between hundreds of Jews who couldn’t write to one another directly.

Luz never married. “When she died,” Dwork said, “her nephew was going through her apartment, sorting out her effects, and he found a suitcase of these letters. He knew my first book on the history of the Holocaust, called Children With a Star, so he wrote to me and said, ‘Would you be interested in these letters?’ and I wrote right back, ‘Absolutely!’”

The Strassler Center is currently curating an online exhibit revolving around these letters – along with translations and teaching material– which it hopes will be ready in 18 months. Dwork herself is writing a book on the letters, to be published in 2018. In the meantime, Sarah Cushman, who is the head of educational programming at the Strassler Center, will be co-running a Summer Holocaust Institute from July 25-29 for 15 middle- and high-school teachers. During its duration, participants will discuss how best to use these letters in teaching about the Holocaust.

The Holocaust has of course long been a subject of instruction at many schools, but these letters are a particularly helpful teaching tool, Dwork said, because “students respond with greatest interest to the life histories of people who were just about their age.”

Said Cushman: “These letters allow students to gain some personal meaning and personal access to the history of the Holocaust. It’s a way for them to interact with people who were actually affected by Nazi anti-Jewish policies so young people can have a sense of what kid of daily impact these policies on young people’s lives.”

Elliot Resnick

Freida Sima’s Family And The Holocaust

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth installment of a multipart series on the life and times of the author’s grandmother, Freida Sima, who as a young woman came to America on her own in the early 1900s and made her way in a new country. The eighth part (“Freida Sima Goes to War”) appeared as the front-page essay in the May 13 issue; part ten will run in July.


While Freida Sima and her extended New York family lived through the war years worrying about the family in Europe and their own sons fighting in the American army, the Enzenbergs (as the Eisenberg family was called in Europe) were going through very different travails. This month we tell the story of Freida Sima’s parents, brothers, and sisters in the Bukovina, and what they experienced during the war.

Fifty years after the war’s end, Sheindl, the youngest Enzenberg, recalled how the family was deported from Mihowa:

“There was a man in Mihowa who we used to go to for paskening shailos [determining religious matters], Berel Surkis. When we left Mihowa every transport was accompanied by thunder and lightning like the heavens were crying. Berel Surkis went with us. I said, ‘Reb Berel, what are they doing to us?’ And he answered, ‘Sheindeleh, this way will take us to Eretz Yisrael, but it will take a very, very long time, and a very sad time.’ I asked ‘Where is God?’ and he answered again, ‘This way will bring us to Eretz Yisrael, but it will be very shver [difficult].’ How could he know already then? But he did.”

Only years after the war’s end did Freida Sima learn the details of what the family in Europe endured during the Holocaust. Initially, she and her brothers read the bare facts in family letters from Romania. The full stories were shared only later. Sheindl eventually left a recorded testimony of her experiences. Other accounts were pieced together over time.

* * * * *

In August 1939, Freida Sima’s parents, Nachman and Devorah, were living alone on the farm while the rest of the family was scattered throughout the Bukovina. Marium and Feivel lived in Mihowa. Sheindl, Shaja, and their daughter lived in Behromet, an hour away. The two newlywed couples, Leibush and Frieda and Elish and Lola, lived in Czernowitz, as did Srul, Anna, and their son, along with Tuleh, the last unmarried Enzenberg.

All the Enzenberg men other than Elish, an accountant, worked in wood-related professions they had learned from Nachman.

Even before the war, the Romanian nationalists had shown their colors, forbidding any language but Romanian to be spoken in public. During the first few months of the war Romanian officers entered the villages, billeting themselves where they wished. While the women continued with their lives, men were taken to forced labor before eventually being sent back. “You didn’t know which world it was, you didn’t know what to think,” recalled Sheindl. “And then all of a sudden, the yeshia [salvation] came – the Russians.”

In June 1940 Northern Bukovina was ceded to the Soviet Union. Considered “productive,” Nachman was allowed to continue working his farm. He hoped his good relations with the local peasants who had worked with him on the farm and had used his well – the only one in the area – would hold him in good stead.

Nothing would last. In 1941, as some of the Eisenbergs in New York were moving from the Bronx to Washington Heights in Manhattan, the Enzenbergs of the Bukovina were also moving – not by choice but due to forced conscription or deportation.

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/freida-simas-family-and-the-holocaust/2016/06/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: