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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Refugee Who Rescued Husband from Dachau, Dies at 111

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Soon after Kristallnacht, when she was 36, Gisela Kohn Dollinger persuaded the Gestapo to release her husband from the Dachau concentration camp, and the two of them fled Austria for Shanghai, where she almost died of typhoid.

After that, death seemed to forget all about her — until last week, when Dollinger passed away peacefully at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Hospital. She was 111 years old.

Dollinger’s passing came just weeks after Alice Herz-Sommer, a pianist and the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary who was believed to be the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, died at the comparatively young age of 110.

Known by her friends and family as “Gisa,” Dollinger was the youngest of 15 children. She was born in Baden-be-Wien, a Vienna suburb, on Aug. 30, 1902, according to her relatives.

Widowed in 1993 after more than 60 years of marriage, Dollinger never had children but leaves behind scores of nieces, nephews and their offspring in numerous countries, including the United States, Israel and England.

“To everyone in the family she was always Aunt Gisa or Tante Gisa,” recalled Dr. Mark Horowitz, a grand-nephew who lives in Manhattan.

Dollinger retained her full mental faculties and was able to remain in her New York apartment until the end, although in her final years her vision and hearing deteriorated — a source of frustration since reading, conversation and listening to music were her favorite activities.

Horowitz described his great-aunt as “well educated and well cultured,” a frequent theater and opera-goer who spoke several languages.

Carole Vogel, a great-great-niece who is the unofficial family historian, told how in 2005, at the age of 103, Dollinger returned to Austria for the first time since she and her husband, Bernard, had fled in December 1938.

She had been invited to speak at the rededication of the synagogue her father had helped found in the 1880s and decided to use the trip as an excuse for a family reunion. At least 22 family members came along.

“I don’t know how many 103-year-olds go on trans-Atlantic flights, but she did,” recalled Vogel, who attended the reunion.

During the trip, the centenarian guided family members around Baden-be-Wien, pointing out where family members and other Jews lived.

“She also pointed out the homes of the Nazis and their names,” Vogel said. “She’d say, ‘I went to school with her, and she married a Nazi.’ She had a phenomenal memory up until the end.”

Shortly after Kristallnacht, when her family-owned dry-goods store was destroyed and Bernard was deported to Dachau, Dollinger went to the Gestapo in Vienna — putting herself at risk — and asked for her husband’s release, arguing successfully that since he was not an Austrian citizen (he was Polish), he should not have been included in the roundup.

Some family members have speculated that her persuasion included a bribe, but Dollinger never mentioned that when recounting the story, Vogel said.

“She credited the release of her husband to the fact that someone had advised her to speak to a certain Gestapo officer who was known to be more open to reason and that she showed him a valid Polish passport belonging to Bernard,” Vogel explained, adding that “open to reason” might have meant bribes, because “with Gisa everything could be in the nuance.”

Upon his release, Bernard was told that if he did not leave Austria within two weeks he would be returned to the concentration camp. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation, the couple managed to obtain two first-class tickets on a boat to Japanese-occupied China, one of the few places where Jews could easily obtain visas at the time.

Orthodox NY Father of Seven Missing

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

A father of seven from New York’s Rockland County is missing after making suicidal comments.

Search efforts continued on Tuesday for Peretz Sontag, who has been missing since Friday morning. Sontag lives in Pomona, located nearly 40 miles north of New York City. He made references to harming himself before he left home on Friday, according to reports.

Sontag, 50, is well known in the Orthodox community for his work for charitable causes, The Journal News reported. Special prayers were held Monday night at a synagogue in nearby Monsey for his safe return.

Sontag’s last-known location, when his cellphone was pinged by police, is in or near Harriman State Park, according to the newspaper. About 60 volunteers searched the park on Monday.

The family is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to his safe return.

 

New Yorker Suing Munich Collector for Return of Nazi-Looted Art

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

A New York man has gone to court for the return of several Nazi-looted artworks from the controversial collection of Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich.

David Toren, 88, whose father and uncle were art collectors in the pre-war German city of Breslau, sued in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., earlier this month to demand the return of the 1901 paintings “Two Riders on the Beach” and “Basket Weavers” by the German-Jewish artist Max Liebermann.

Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, purchased the ”Riders” painting in 1942 while working for the Nazis, according to news reports. Hildebrand Gurlitt had told post-war American military authorities that it had been in his family since before the Nazis came to power.

Documents show the painting was among those confiscated by the Nazis from Toren’s great-uncle David Friedmann in Breslau — today Wroclaw, Poland — in 1939. Toren, an attorney, is Friedmann’s only surviving heir. The Nazis noted the Liebermann painting in the collection and in recent years it was listed in German’s Lostart database.

While the younger Gurlitt still possesses the “Riders” painting, he sold “Basket Weavers” at auction to an unnamed Israeli collector in 2000 for about $92,300, Haaretz reported.

Toren, a native of Germany, also is suing Germany and the state of Bavaria for having failed to inform his family of the find after they confiscated more than 1,400 works from Gurlitt in 2012 in the course of an investigation for tax evasion. He had inherited the art from his father, a dealer hired by the Nazis to buy art for its museums, as well as art that it considered ”degenerate” that could be sold for profit.

The “Riders” painting was among those works shown to the public at a news conference in Augsburg last fall, after Focus magazine revealed the find.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Toren was 14 years old in August 1939 when his parents sent him to safety in Sweden. His entire family, except for one aunt and one brother, were murdered in the Holocaust. Toren immigrated to the United States in 1956 with $100 and a photograph of his parents, the report said.

A task force has been established to research the provenance of all works in Gurlitt’s collection, and Gurlitt’s attorney recently announced that he would cooperate with heirs making legitimate claims.

NY Man Pleads Guilty to Violently Forcing Husbands to Free ’Agunot’

Monday, March 10th, 2014

A New York personal trainer has pleaded guilty in federal court to being part of a group of men who used violent means in exchange for pay to force Jewish men to give their wives religious divorces.

David Hellman, 31, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. and could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison with a fine of $250,000 at his June 12 sentencing hearing.

Nine other men, including two Orthodox rabbis, were arrested in October 2013 as part of an FBI sting operation. The ring charged some $60,000 for its services. According to a complaint filed in court, the men kidnapped and beat up recalcitrant husbands until they agreed to the religious divorce.

Hellman was charged with “traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion,” and the others were charged with kidnapping, Reuters reported, citing court documents.

Orthodox Jewish women waiting for a divorce, or “get,” granted by a rabbinical court, are known as “chained women” or “agunot” because recalcitrant husbands refuse to sign the divorce documents, although some husbands, and wives, withhold a get in order to gain more favorable terms for alimony or custody of children.

A Kosher Supermarket is About to Close and the Question is Why

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The announcement by the 75-year old Crown Market in West Hartford, Connecticut, that it would be closing sent shock waves through the Jewish community.

Mark Bakeoff, who bought the market five years ago, said tough economic conditions and increasing competition have made things difficult, but the biggest blow came with “one of the worst winters on record in a decade.” Despite attempts to save the market, the owner is not optimistic. Sources told Kosher Today that the store did not cater to the community’s small but growing Orthodox community.

Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford, explains that one of the reasons Crown Market is closing  is because “the Ultra-Orthodox did not believe the market was kosher enough and refused to patronize it.” Silk goes on to explain that modern Judaism has seen a decline among what he terms the “Modern Orthodox” and an increase in the number of Ultras. Rabbi Ilana Garber, a Conservative rabbi and a loyal Crown customer, is leading the efforts to save the supermarket.

The announcement of the pending closure resulted in some soul searching by many Jews in the community. One blogger wrote: “I chose to shop at the new neighborhood Wal-Mart because we wanted to save money. What I realize now, much too late, is that if I had shopped at Crown and paid a little bit more, I would have been supporting this important part of the Jewish community that we cherish and love. And now, with a heavy heart, I admit I was wrong. I apologize. I know that isn’t enough. I wish it were. I wish I could promise to shop there for now on. I wish I could get 500 families to pledge to do the same. I wish I had known they were in trouble so I could have done something, anything.”

Other bloggers also shed tears and one vacationer in Turks and Cacos even placed an order long distance. Many markets and even restaurants have opened because of a pledge of community support only to close when the support was not forthcoming. The upscale Le Masada Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency in Chicago was one such case in the late ‘90’s.

Second Orthodox NY High School Allowing Girls to Don Tefillin

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

A second Modern Orthodox high school in New York has announced it will permit girls to wear tefillin during prayer.

The Ramaz School in Manhattan said it will allow girls to wear tefillin during coed worship, going one step further than SAR High School, which drew a flurry of media coverage earlier this week for allowing girls to use the phylacteries during women’s prayer services.

Ramaz, one of the oldest and most prestigious Modern Orthodox day schools in the United States, sent its parents, students and board members an email Tuesday afternoon announcing that it “would be happy to allow any female student who wants to observe the mitzvah of tefillin to do so.”

The email, from head of school Paul Shaviv, noted, “Women should be taught that they do not need to wear tefillin in order to lead Jewishly-religiously meaningful lives, at least equal to men. But they have the right to make their own decisions.”

In an interview with JTA, Shaviv said “a small number of girls” have donned tefillin at the school’s prayer services in past years “without anyone making a fuss,” although none have asked to do so in the past three years.

Shaviv said the school decided for the first time on Tuesday to “formalize” its policy and “clarify our position” because journalists were calling to inquire about it.

“The parental response has been completely positive,” he said.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, longtime principal of the Upper East Side school and spiritual leader of Kehilath Jeshurun, told JTA that no female student has requested to wear tefillin recently, but that if one did “we would honor that request.”

“We’re not encouraging this; we’re accommodating this,” he added.

NYC Drops Suit against Hasidic Stores over Dress Code

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

New York City has dropped a lawsuit against Hasidic-owned stores that posted a dress code for shoppers.

The New York City Human Rights Commission reached a settlement with the seven Hasidic-owned shops in a lawsuit the city had filed alleging that the stores’ posted dress codes implied gender and religious discrimination, according to the New York Daily News.

On Tuesday, the day before a trial was to begin, the city dropped the fines it had proposed, and the shop owners agreed that any future signs requesting modest attire would indicate that all people are welcome.

Attorneys for the stores, located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, argued that the modesty codes are no different than dress codes in upscale establishments.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/nyc-drops-suit-against-hasidic-stores-over-dress-code/2014/01/22/

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