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August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘shoah’

Listen To Sarah

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

First published: Jewish Business News.

I’m writing this about half an hour after having heard the news of the murder of at least four Jews who were praying in a synagogue in a Haredi neighborhood in West Jerusalem. If anyone has had any delusions about this not being a religious war, and anything but a religious war, one need only connect the images that are emerging from this morning’s massacre of four Jewish men in the middle of their morning prayer to the images of Jews massacred in Hebron, in 1929.

In both instances, and in so many others, many of them in just the past few weeks, it was always an enraged, maddened Arab attacker, having been stuffed to the gills with hate by his environment—real and virtual—who exited civilization to become the avenging angel of whatever god he imagined was blessing this horror.

Being a pragmatic person, I, like so many of you, immediately started thinking of, well, what to do next. One really has to be nearly as mad as this morning’s two grocery workers-turned murdering butchers, to suggest they went on their murder spree to advance the cause of independence for their downtrodden Palestinian brothers and sisters. Clearly, they were out to kill as many Jews as they could before some policeman managed to shoot them dead. They were driven by religious hatred, determined to strike at the conquering enemy, wherever they could find him.

They must have talked about it beforehand. Schemed just how to acquire a gun, collect and hide butcher knives, coordinate their attack so as to inflict maximum damage before the unavoidable end. They were seeking only one thing: kill as many Jews as they could, while they still could. They had no concern for their own well being or even their lives. They sought death, willingly, lovingly.

Over the past two decades, the imaginations of a billion and a half Muslims have been ignited by a call to arms the likes of which they had not experienced since the crusades. With 9/11, followed by the emergence of Muslim zeal everywhere on the planet, and recently with the undeniable rise of the new caliphate in Syria and Iraq, Muslims young and old are awash in orgiastic fantasies of the rebirth of their old glory.

This is not a conspiracy, nor is this the actual wish of most Muslims in the world, it’s a fantasy. And the longer Western countries, including Israel, continue to respond to events around us as if they were localized emergencies, to be solved, managed, contained – the fantasy will grow more powerful.

Already we hear the president of Egypt accusing the Turkish secret service of supporting Muslim terrorists. And we’ve known for years of Pakistani secret service support for the Taliban and, by extension, Al Qaeda. The secret services of Muslim countries represent the vanguards of these nations. They’re not only living the fantasy in their everyday lives, they also know how far it can be taken if only they could master whole countries and their weapons.

Left unchecked, this Muslim fantasy will only fester and grow beyond anything our leaders in the west can imagine. I suspect that every erupted murder episode like this morning’s attack on Jews in prayer represents hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, yet unquenched.

Unfortunately, the only way to end this fantasy before it becomes so big it will envelope whole countries, is to crush it.

Which brings me to our beautiful matriarch, Sarah.

Sarah saw through Ishmael, the offspring of her slave girl Hagar and her husband, Abraham. He was up to no good, either plotting to rape her son Isaac or kill him, depending on which interpreter you prefer.

At another point, an angel of God told Hagar exactly who her son, Ishmael, father of all the Arabs was: “This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” (Gen, 16:12)

Biblical prophesies can be so annoying when they come true right in front of your eyes.

Sarah was no fool. She was, actually, the greatest prophet of her time. So she ordered her husband, Abraham, to get rid of the kid and his mother. Chase them out, she told him, in no uncertain terms.

She had no delusions about Ishmael.

This was the hardest moment in Abraham’s life. He just couldn’t being himself to do something this cruel. He resisted. He wouldn’t do it.

And so, according to our biblical account, God intervened:

God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you.” (Gen. 21:12)

And so Abraham, finally, obeyed his wife. There was no discussion of rehabilitation for the boy, no talk of cultural assimilation. He had to go.

I have no idea what will happen next in our war-torn Middle East and in the rest of the world. I suspect Sarah’s command still seems too harsh to most of us, myself included. It’s one thing to chase a woman and her son out into the desert, but what do you do with millions of Muslims? How do you recover from something like that? It’s one mad fantasy touching on another, evoking a third.

But if you’d like to know what our great grandmother Sarah, if she woke up today, would have told us, I can assure you, she would have said: “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Ge. 12:10)

Kites for Survivors

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Members of Machnot Olim youth movement along with Holocaust survivors, flying kites for the 72 year rememberence of the execution of Yanush Korjack and his students in Treblinka at Yad Vashem on August 7, 2014. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Yad Vashem Recognizes First Peruvian Righteous Gentile

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yad Vashem recognized its first Righteous Among the Nations from Peru.

Israel’s national Holocaust memorial on Thursday posthumously honored Jose Maria Barreto, a diplomat in Switzerland who used his position to attempt to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. A ceremony for Barreto will be held at a future date, Yad Vashem said in a statement.

As the consul general of Peru in Geneva, Barreto issued 27 Peruvian passports to 58 Jews, including 14 children, even though the government of Peru by 1938 had given instructions to its consulates in Europe not to issue visas to foreign immigrants — with an emphasis on barring Jews in particular.

Barreto was acting on the request of Abraham Silberschein, the head of RELICO, a Jewish relief organization in Switzerland funded by the World Jewish Congress, to issue Peruvian passports for Jews under German occupation.

Silberschein in a letter from August 1943 said, “Mr. Barreto, deeply moved by the suffering of millions of human beings in the occupied countries, wished to participate in helping to alleviate the plight of these innocent people, and decided to agree and provide us with a certain number of passports so that we could send them to different persons in the countries under German control. Mr. Barreto was convinced that by this highly humane deed he would save a number of people.”

That year, the Peruvian foreign minister canceled the passports and ordered the closure of the Peruvian consulate in Geneva. In addition, Barreto was fired and dismissed from Peru’s Foreign Ministry.

Significance Of The Smallest Book Of The Torah

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

The words we recite when taking the Torah from the ark are found in this week’s portion: “And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moshe said ‘Rise up O Lord and let Your enemies be scattered; and let them that hate You flee before You’ ” (Numbers 10:35).

This sentence is unique in its importance as it is inserted between two inverted letters nun that almost look like brackets. The Talmud says this sentence actually constitutes a book of its own (Shabbat 116a).

In this way, it is actually the smallest book of the Torah. What truly is the meaning of this sentence? What is the relationship between the Ark and the scattering of our enemies? And, finally, what makes this sentence important enough to be recited when taking the Torah from the ark?

Ultimately the Torah is a book that reflects a system of ethics that comes from God. From that perspective, the Torah is at war against paganism and other practices that are contrary to God’s ethical systems. Thus, when we take the Torah from the ark, we declare that its very motif is to scatter those who are antagonistic to Torah to its fundamental ethical principles.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch offers a variation of this theme. In Nechama Leibowitz’s words: “Hirsch remarked that Moshe was aware that enemies would rise up against the Torah from the moment that it was given. Its demands for justice and altruism were bound to antagonize aggressors and tyrants and stand in the way of their design. The Torahs call to holiness would not only arouse hatred, but also active persecution.”

Just seventy years after the Shoah, this concept especially resonates. Some have actually suggested that Hitler’s hatred of the Jews was precipitated by his understanding that Judaism stood firmly against his positions. Thus, when taking out the Torah we say that the enemy who would oppose the Torah should be defeated.

Another thought comes to mind. The test of one’s ethical behavior is how we act in the most difficult of situations. One of those situations is in war itself. Therefore we see the juxtaposition between Torah and scattering the enemy. In other words, the Torah declares that when we go to war and are hopeful the enemy will be dispersed, the Torah must always be kept.

This concept has contemporary meaning. When Israeli soldiers are inducted into the army they make a commitment to what is called purity of arms. In other words, they declare that even in the most difficult situations, when they must use force, they commit themselves to do so with purity, with goodness, with a sense of what is right.

To the world we must echo the words of this week’s portion. We must declare, “Blessed is the nation that has as its army the Israel Defense Forces, which is among the most moral armies on the face of the earth.”

Aging Rescuers of Holocaust Survivors Paid Debt of Gratitude

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Thousands of non-Jews from across Europe and Eastern Europe saved Jewish lives from the horrors of the Holocaust, placing their lives and the lives of their families at risk. Over 25,000 known non-Jews have been recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” including Christians and Muslims.

Today many of these rescuers are aging and living in poverty. The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) founded by American Rabbi Harold Schulweis in 1986 is one non-profit organization that seeks to repay the debt of gratitude by providing financial support to those non-Jewish rescuers in need.

JFR provides on-going monthly financial assistance to 654 rescuers in 22 countries to pay for food, housing and medical expenses. The rescuers are often reluctant to ask for help, having acted without expecting a reward then or now according to the organization’s website. One of those recipients is Czeslaw Polziec, whose family took in a Jewish family and hid them for two years on their farm in Zawadka, Poland. This past Chanukah, JFR reunited Czeslaw Polziec with a member of the Jewish family that his parents rescued, Dr. Leon Gersten of Cedarhurst, New York.

Leon Gersten grew up in the Jewish shtetl of Frysztak, Poland. His mother, Frieda Tepper Gersten was a peddler who traveled throughout southern Poland to support her family. Her parents, Yitzchak and Necha Tepper raised Leon.

Gersten recalls how on Rosh Hashana in 1939, all the Jews of his community were praying in the shtetl synagogue, when the Germans surrounded the building and started shooting. “We all laid down on the floor and started praying Shema Yisrael. After killing a few Jews, they let us out – that was our first introduction to the Germans,” remembers Gersten.

“It’s one thing to kill a few people, it’s another to kill everybody, where every Jewish soul, every baby was on the most wanted list,” says Gersten.

On July 1942, the Germans ordered all of Frysztak’s Jews to gather in the animal marketplace. Around 1,600 Jews were rounded up- mostly elderly and children – and taken outside of town, where they were killed and buried in a mass grave. Leon’s grandparents, Yitzchak and Necha, were among those murdered.

After the mass killing, Leon’ s mother, Frieda, went out to the countryside dressed up as a Polish Catholic woman to try and find someone to take in her family. She went to Polish families who had purchased goods from her, and although a number of homes turned her away, one couple, Maria and Stanislaw Polziec agreed to provide shelter for her family. Maria, a seamstress, and Staninslaw, a farmer, had five children and barely enough food for their own family, but they were willing to house the five desperate Jews.

For more than two years, Leon Gersten, his mother, Frieda, her sister and brother-in-law, Celia and Herman Wiesenfeld and their son Moshe, were kept hidden from the Nazi occupiers in the Polziecs’ attic.

The Polziecs also built an underground earthen bunker that they covered with a grain storage bin in case of a raid. One night, recalls Leon, German soldiers raided the farm. “We were very organized and ran down to the bunker but the German soldiers heard us. They suspected the Polziecs of hiding Jews and proceeded to beat Stanislaw who tried to tell them it was his children sleeping in the attic that had run down scared.”

“We could hear Stanislaw screaming and the cries from the Polziec family but not one of them said a word about us,” recalls Gersten. “There was one goal and that was to keep Frieda and her family safe until the Soviet Army arrived,” said Czeslaw, who was the oldest son in the family and responsible for bringing the Gerstens food and standing guard.

$10 Million Awarded to U.S. Holocaust Museum for Shoah Studies

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., received a $10 million grant from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation.

The museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies will be renamed the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies and will concentrate on Holocaust studies throughout the world. The center sponsors new Holocaust scholarship, training new scholars in the discipline.

“The Mandel family generously helped establish the museum in its early years, and now through this campaign gift they are helping us lay the foundation for the institution’s future, ensuring the permanence of Holocaust memory, relevance, and understanding,” said Museum Director Sara Bloomfield.

Morton Mandel, chairman and CEO of the Cleveland-based foundation, said in a statement: “Our Foundation is delighted to have been an ardent supporter of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum since its inception. We are pleased to place the Mandel name on the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, one of the world’s principal venues for Holocaust scholarship.”

Last month, the foundation announced a $13 million grant to Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

UPDATE: Holocaust Day Commemorated with Hate

Monday, January 28th, 2013

January 27, the date in 1945 on which Auschwitz was liberated by the Allies, is the day designated by the United Nations to officially commemorate the Shoah.

But there are some who cannot permit a mention of the Holocaust without insisting, sometimes in lurid pictures, that Israel is a modern day version of the grand masters of genocide: Hitler and the Nazis.  And there are armies of willing collaborators for that concept, which include many in the chattering classes. These second level haters repeatedly insist that Jews use the “Holocaust” card to block what they say is  just criticism of Israel’s “Apartheid,” and brutal “occupation” of the Arab Palestinians.

The cartoon in this week’s British Sunday Times is a stellar example of the first category.

Notice the hulking presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Raheem Kassam, of The Commentator, describes the depiction as the stereotypical Jew anti-Semites love to hate: “the large-nosed Jew, hunched over a wall, building with the blood of Palestinians as they writhe in pain within it.”  He is slathering the bricks of the infamous “Apartheid Wall” – which is neither about a separation of the races, nor is it a brick wall – more than 97% of it is fencing.  Also, instead of mortar, the cartoon depicts the substance being used to cement the “wall” is blood.  And whose blood? Why, the blood of Arabs, of course.

The words printed beneath the wall say “Israeli Elections.”  Perhaps the author never got the memo that rather than a huge right-wing surge by the Israelis, this election instead brought in an almost perfectly balanced knesset of members from the right and the left.  The scrawled words beneath the picture state: “Will Cementing Peace Continue?”

Many people were horrified not only that the Times ran the cartoon, but that it was run on Holocaust Rememberance Day.  The Anti-Defamation League condemned the cartoon by calling it a “blood libel” and “grossly insensitive,” according to a report in the Algemeiner.

The Times of London is indirectly owned by Ruport Murdoch.  Murdoch, as the Algemeiner points out, has been the recipient many times of honors from Jewish groups, including the ADL, for being a friend to Israel.

The cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, is well known not only for his Sunday Times work, but also for drawing musicians.  Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that one of his best known album covers is for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”  Roger Waters, lead singer of Pink Floyd, is a virulent Israel hater who penned an appeal to fellow artists to boycott Israel, and most recently compared Israel to Nazis.

Which brings us back to Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the use by anti-Semites to accuse Israel of being the new Nazis.

Merry Olde England had another bout of “Let’s Call Israel Nazis” just a few days ago, on January 25. David Ward, who is a Liberal Democrat member of Parliament, wrote the following in his personal blog after signing his name in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons during an event in anticipation of Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.

After a flurry of criticism, Ward invoked the standard excuse given when caught with one’s pants down and anti-Semitism showing: “I never for a moment intended to criticise or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which my words caused.”

And many hours after the Sunday Times began receiving criticism for the “grossly insensitive” cartoon it ran on Holocaust Remembrance Day, its editors used the very same excuse, to wit: it isn’t Jews we were criticizing, just Israel.

The Sunday Times firmly believes that it is not anti-Semitic. It is aimed squarely at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people. It appears today because Mr Netanyahu won the Israeli election last week. The Sunday Times condemns anti-Semitism, as is clear in the excellent article in today’s Magazine which exposes the Holocaust-denying tours of concentration camps organised by David Irving.

Oh my: we don’t insult dead Jews, only live ones, especially the kind that firmly believes in, and practices, self-defense.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/holocaust-remembrance-day-commemorated-with-hate/2013/01/28/

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