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September 24, 2014 / 29 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Heritage’

Two Kinds of Jews: Ashamed and Proud

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

I write this in memory of my father, Lyle B. Federman, who was killed on April 21, 1998, the victim of police misconduct.

My father grew up with little to no Jewish tradition. No Shabbat. No Passover. No Menorah. No Kosher. He spent much of his life searching for an identity. He eventually discovered and embraced his Jewish heritage at an Oglala tribal meeting on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

My father had no interest in Judaism. He strived for a belief system that was all-inclusive. Connected with nature. With a social justice mission. Those values were reinforced by his exposure to the countercultural and environmental movements of the late 60’s.

He found those values in the Native American way of life. His began his journey by providing aid for food and clothing on the poverty stricken Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He also volunteered at the sobriety meetings to fight the rampant alcohol and drug abuse. Soon he started practicing Native American rituals like the sweat lodge (or ceremonial sauna) and learning the traditions and history.

Eventually he was called to a tribal meeting where he would be formally inducted into the Oglala Lakota tribe. At the meeting, the tribal elders asked my father what he had observed on the reservation.

“I observe two kind of Indians,” my father explained. “One with short hair, head down, drunk and ashamed of who he is; and one with long hair, head up, sober and proud of his people.” The elders nodded in approval.

They asked my father about his ancestry. My father explained that he was Jewish. The tribal leader paused, squinted in thought, and said: “There are two kinds of Jews. One with his head down, ashamed of who he is; and the other with his head up and proud of who he is.” He continued, “be that Jew who is proud of who he is.” That was the most transcendental moment in my father’s life.

But what does it mean to be proud of your heritage? Is that ethnocentric? Even supremacist? The Torah was given on a small mountain to teach one to be humble toward others. To recognize and value other peoples way of life. If that is so, then why wasn’t the Torah given on flatland? Wouldn’t that be an even greater metaphor of humility? It was given on a small mountain to teach that one should still have pride but that pride should be measured and humbled.

My father then traveled to Berkley California where he came in contact with Chabad-Lubavitch, a Jewish outreach organization. He started learning Jewish philosophy, observing the Holidays and eventually married an Orthodox woman – my mother, a direct descendant of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

President Obama Declares Jewish American Heritage Month

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared May “Jewish American Heritage Month”.

In a ceremony kicking off the month, the president praised Jewish Americans for bearing “hardship and hostility” with the “deep conviction that a better future was within their reach”.

He also noted the achievements and national contribution of Jewish Americans such as Supreme Court Jusice Louis Brandeis, physicist Albert Einstein, and writer and art collector Gertrude Stein.

“Our country is stronger for their contributions, and this month we commemorate the myriad ways they have enriched the American experience,” Obama said.

The first Jewish American Heritage Month occurred during the presidential term of George W. Bush.  It was introduced by Jewish Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- FL) and passed in December 2005.

In Washington DC, events for Jewish American Heritage Month will take place at the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Gallery of Art, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Events will also take place in various locations throughout the United States.

Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Noah Robbins at the Museum of Jewish Heritage April 3

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The Flea Theater will present a reading of “The Vandal” by Hamish Linklate (best known as Matthew in the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine) on April 3 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, with Golden Globe winners Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman and Outer Critics Circle nominee Noah Robbins.

“The Vandal” is set on a frozen night in Kingston, New York, where a woman (Weaver) who’s lost everything tags her name on Death’s door.

Linklater told Playbill magazine that “the play is about how we live and the stories we tell ourselves when we’re haunted by the people we’ve loved and lost.”

For more information visit www.theflea.org.

Po-Lin

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Dynow


 


      Cleaning works are underway on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery in Dynow. The works are being carried out by the members of the local Town Sport Club “Dynovia” in cooperation with the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

 

 



Dynow - Cleaning the undergrowth in the Dynow cemetery


 

 

Jewish Calendar For The Year 5770


 


     We are happy to inform you that a new Jewish calendar for the year 5770 is available at the Foundation’s office. Richly illustrated, the calendar gives the hours of beginning and ending of Shabbat and Festivals for Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, Wroclaw and Budapest. All interested parties are invited to contact us at fodz@fodz.pl.

 

 


Calendar - The cover of the newly published calendar for 5770

 

 

 

Zuromin


 


    On July 15, 2009, a ceremony commemorating the Jewish community of Zuromin took place at the local Jewish cemetery on Zeromskiego St. Participating were over 100 guests, among them representatives of the Jewish community, local authorities, descendants of the Jews from Zuromin and inhabitants of the town. The ceremony, related to the recent renovation of the cemetery, was organized by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

 

 


Zuromin - Ceremony in front of the gate of the restored cemetery in Zuromin

 

 

 

Galicia Jewish Museum Receives Mezuzot


 


     During the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, on Friday 3 July 2009 a Chanukat HaBayit ceremony took place at the Galicia Jewish Museum to affix mezuzot to the museum entrances. The mezuzot were donated by the Fundusz Michaela H. Traisona dla Polski, and affixed by Michael Traison and Jonathan Webber, Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. Chief Rabbi of Krakow, Rabbi Boaz Pash, also attended the ceremony.

 

Israel Artist Builds Mock Kibbutz In Heart Of Polish Capital


 


      Construction of a mock Israeli kibbutz began last week in the heart of the Polish capital, Warsaw. The unprecedented art installation is the brainchild of Israeli video artist Yael Bartana and is to serve as the set of the second in her trilogy of films focused on the symbolic revival of Jewish life in Poland after the Holocaust.

 

    While Bartana usually focuses on Israeli-Palestinian issues, the current project uses imagery from the Middle East to address the history of Polish Jews.  “In this film we are concentrating on the moment when Jews are coming actually back to Poland,” Bartana said.

 

    Kibbutzim are collective communities based on agriculture, originally built by Jewish settlers from Europe in the land of Israel in the early 20th century, well before the May 1948 Declaration of Independence by the modern-day state of Israel.

 

     Before the Shoah there were Kibbutzim set up in Poland by Zionist youth groups to train young Jews to work in agriculture, preparing them to move to Israel.

 

    Bartana’s grandparents, as Jewish immigrants to pre-state Israel prior to World War II, had no direct experience of the Holocaust. But the idea for the kibbutz installation arose after a visit to Poland in 2006.

 

    “I went to different cities and communities where Jews used to live and I came up with the idea that it would be really fantastic to revive the Jewish spirit,” she said.

 

     “What does it bring to the collective memory? What does it mean for the Israelis, what does it mean for Jews, what does it mean to the Poles? And I wanted to kind of cross over emotional elements.”

Polish Prisoners To Help Maintain Jewish Cemeteries

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

As I have reported many times over the past 12 years that I have been writing this column, one of the major problems in Poland today, even greater then anti-Semitism, is the poor condition of Jewish historical sites. Many of the cemeteries are overgrown and synagogue buildings are in disrepair.

 

Lack of funds is one of the major reasons for this sorry state but even when money is available manpower is often not available.

 

Last week a unique solution to the problem of manpower was realized, a solution that can serve as a model for other countries where there is a similar problem. But it will only work if it is in a country that is at least sympathetic to Jewish history, culture and memory as is the case with Poland.

 

The Polish Government and the Warsaw-based The Foundation For the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland have signed an unprecedented cooperation agreement under which prison inmates will help to refurbish Jewish historical sites throughout the country. The deal that was linked between Poland’s Central Board of Prisons Service and the Foundation is believed to be the first of its kind in Europe.

 

The program will make use of funds provided to Poland by the European Union under a program, which sponsors a variety of projects for those serving time in the correctional system.

 

Inmates From 85 Polish Jails Expected To Take Part

 

“The agreement is based on the idea that prisoners will help to maintain and fix up Jewish cemeteries and other historical Jewish sites as part of their rehabilitation process,” Foundation CEO Monika Krawczyk said.

 

“It will also involve an educational component, such as teaching them about Jews and Jewish history in Poland,” she added.

 

The idea behind the program arose after the Polish Prisons Service and its Israeli counterpart agreed several months ago to cooperate in jointly restoring the Jewish cemetery in the city of Radom, 100 km. south of Warsaw.

 

“After that initiative was launched, we thought: Why limit it to Radom? Why not do it more generally throughout Poland?” explained Krawczyk, whose foundation is responsible for more than 1,100 Jewish cemeteries across the country, many of which are in dire need of repair.

 

“I think this agreement is a good and very constructive example to follow, because it is based on respect for history but is also directed to the future,” she said.

 

The refurbishing of Jewish burial grounds will be carried out under the supervision of the Polish Rabbinical Commission on Cemeteries, which is headed by Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich.

 

Memorial Plaque Unveiled At Former Synagogue In Przemysl

 

On June 23, 2009, an official ceremony took place in the city of Przemysl in Poland. A memorial plaque in three languages (Polish, Hebrew and English) was unveiled on the front of a building, which served as a synagogue for the town’s Jews prior to the Holocaust. Among the dozens of participants attending the ceremony were: Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Mr. Zvi Rav-Ner; Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, who initiated the event; Monika Krawczyk, CEO of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland; a representative of the US Consulate General in Krakow, as well as members of the local city council and other official organizations in Poland.

 

The building originally housed the Przemysl New Synagogue, which was completed in 1910. It was also known as the Scheinbach synagogue, named after Moishe Scheinbach who initiated its construction. The synagogue served as a house of Jewish prayer until the Nazi invasion of Poland. After the war it was confiscated by the Polish Government and turned into a library.

 

Speaking at the ceremony, Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel, said: “I am deeply moved that after so many decades, a sign has finally been posted here on the front of this synagogue to remind everyone that Jews once prayed here, including my relatives. This is an important step towards ensuring that what happened to the Jews of Przemysl during the Holocaust will not be forgotten. I urge other Jews and Israelis whose families came from towns in Eastern Europe to become more involved in preserving what remains of the priceless Jewish heritage that once flourished there.”

 

Then, turning to the audience, Freund addressed Przemysl Deputy-Mayor Wieslaw Jurkiewicz directly, urging him to return other Jewish sites in the city, such as the Old Jewish cemetery and the grounds of the Old Synagogue, to the Jewish community. “Mr. Jurkiewicz, I appeal to you in the name of the Jews who once lived here and played such a central role in the development of Przemysl: restore these holy places to their rightful owners,” Freund said, adding, “We cannot change the past, but we can – and must – do it justice. The time has come for the city of Przemysl to return the Jewish communal property into its hands to the Jewish people.”

News From Poland

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Przemysl


 


            On June 22, 2009 a tablet commemorating the former Scheinbach Synagogue building (today the town library) will be unveiled in Przemysl. The ceremony will take place at the former synagogue at 15 Slowackiego St. It is anticipated that there will be hundreds of guests from Poland and abroad. The tablet is a joint initiative of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and Mr. Michael Freund of Ra’anana in Israel.

 

Siedlce


 


            On June 6, 2009, pieces of matzevot found in the gate of a tenement house on Pilsudskiego 14 St. in Siedlce were transported to the local Jewish cemetery. During the World War II the Germans used the matzevot from local Jewish cemeteries to pave the town’s main road.

 

Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland provided a transport and a supervision of the tombstone fragments return to the cemetery. The work was accomplished with the cooperation of the Town Office, Municipal Police and the students and teachers of Podlaska Academy who in 2008 carried cleaned the cemetery ground.

 

Leczna


 


            A group, led by “Rainbow” Association of Homeless and Unemployed People in Leczna, in cooperation with Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, is cleaning the Jewish cemetery.  

 

Bilgoraj


 



One of the Chumashim found in Bilgoraj


 


 


            Recently 25 tombstones and fragments were found in the city of Bilgoraj. The Jewish cemetery in Bilgoraj had recently been in the news when a large section that had not been enclosed by a fence had been disturbed during a construction project. The construction had been stopped due to the protests of the Israeli-and-American-based survivor/descendent groups. Along with the matzevot a number of Chumashim and other Jewish books had been found. They were taken to the cemetery grounds and buried with all due respect.

 

Lublin


 


            On June 4, 2009, a group of American Jewish students visited Lublin. Their plans included a visit at the Jewish cemetery, sightseeing at the Old Town and a meeting with the students of local Zofia Nalkowska High School No.7. After the meeting the students walked together to Majdanek. The meeting was organized by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland within the framework of the “To Bring Memory Back” educational program.

 

Bialystok


 


            Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland assumed honorary patronage of “Zachor” Festival of Jewish Culture, which will take place in Bialystok from June 14-16, 2009. The festival is being organized by Poland-Israel Center for Citizenship Education in Bialystok and Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw.

 

Radom


 


            From May 27-30, 2009 the second Jewish Culture Days took place in Radom, organized by the students of the Col. Dionizy Czachowski 3rd High School. The program included lectures, concerts, workshops, movie shows and exhibitions. Third High School is a member of the “To Bring Memory Back” educational program led by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

 

Reszow


 


            Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland issued a protest letter to the President of Reszow due to the localization of an amusement park at the grounds of former Jewish cemetery near the synagogue in Reszow. The park was installed on a parking lot, built on the grounds of the non-existing cemetery, for the coming weekend by the organizers of the Carpathia Festival.

 

Zuromin


 


            Restoration works are underway at the Jewish cemetery in Zuromin (Mazowiecie Province). Within its framework the cemetery will be fenced and cleaned up and a gate will also be built. A rededication ceremony will take place on July 15, 2009. This project is being realized by the Zuromin Jews Landsmanschaft from the USA and the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

 

Chrzanow


 


            The police identified the culprits who vandalized the Jewish cemetery in Chrzanow in March 2009. Three local middle school students damaged about 60 matzevot. Total repair cost is estimated in dozens of thousands of zlotys. The youths are now facing charges against family court.            

Po-Lin

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Purim in Tarnow

 

     On March 9, 2009, the first Purim celebrations in many years took place in Tarnow. The program included the reading of Megillat Esther and tasting traditional Jewish dishes. The event was organized by The Michael H. Traison Fund for Poland; the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland; Chabad-Lubavitch Warsaw; Adam Bartosz and the Committee of Protection of Jewish Monuments in Tarnow; and the Galicia Jewish Museum of Krakow.

 



Rabbi Stambler, the Chabad Shaliach, Reading the Megillah in Tarnow.


 

 


Co-operation In Siedlce


 


     A few weeks ago a group of Israelis and Polish students got together to explore the Jewish heritage of Siedlce. Despite the weather (heavy wind and snow) the visit to Siedlce was a success. Polish kids came in numbers and the little Jewish girls won their hearts immediately. Working together they managed to decipher some names on the matzevot and gathered few bags of trash as well.

 

 



Jews and Poles working together in the Siedlce Cemetery.


 

 

     The headmaster of the high school saved the day by bringing loads of hot tea and distributing it among the students. Rabbi Zarczynski created a nice atmosphere and the vice-president of Siedlce delivered a speech and placed flowers on a mass grave of local Jews murdered during the Holocaust. All in all, both Polish and Jewish kids will surely remember that day.

 

 


Two Israeli students at the new sign in the Jewish cemetery of Siedlce.

 

 

    A memorial tablet commemorating the Jewish community of Siedlce, financed by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Jewish Community of Warsaw, was unveiled on the cemetery wall. A road marker in the shape of a Star of David – funded by Michael Traison Fund for Poland – was placed on an access road to the cemetery.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/po-lin-4/2009/04/01/

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