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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Soviet Jewry’

‘A True Brother’

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Jack Kemp, who died on Saturday at the age of 73, was, in the words of longtime public official Alan Steinberg, “not only a friend to the Jewish community – he was a true brother to us.”

In a tribute on the Politicker NJ blog, Steinberg remembered listening to Kemp speak at the 1987 March on Washington for Soviet Jewry. “No other member of the House of Representatives more effectively and ardently championed the cause of Soviet Jewry,” Steinberg wrote. “In fact, the issue of Soviet Jewry was a cause not only of Jack Kemp but of his family as well – his wife, Joanne, for years served as co-chair of Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry.”

In an interview with the Monitor’s alter ego back in 1996, Kemp explained his enthusiastic support for Israel:

“Just look at the Middle East – there isn’t any other country there that has been as strong and loyal a friend to the United States as has Israel. There isn’t any other country in the Middle East noted for democracy and human rights. Where else in the Middle East, besides Israel, are there free and open elections? Peace – real peace – will come only from Israel’s remaining strong.”

More recently, on the occasion of Israel’s 60th birthday, Kemp wrote:

To be historically accurate, instead of celebrating 60 years, we should be calling this the “3,000 plus 60” celebration, as the Jews were the original inhabitants of that ancient land and displaced by the Romans who were among the first colonial powers in decimating the Jewish population, thus leading to the Jewish Diaspora of these 3,000 years plus.Having been to Israel often since my first trip in 1972 as a rookie member of Congress, I’m always amazed at the incredible progress, juxtaposed against the virulence of its enemies, many of whom would annihilate not only the state of Israel but Jews writ large.

It’s equally hard to believe how much opposition there was 60 years ago this month to a Jewish homeland as the remnant of European Jewry, 6 million of whom were burned and gassed by the Nazis and incarcerated by the brutal despot Joseph Stalin.

One of my foreign policy heroes, Gen. George Marshall, tried to dissuade President Truman from recognizing the new state of Israel in 1948. He and his Arabist allies in the State Department thought it would erode our credibility throughout the whole world. On the contrary, Truman’s support gave moral standing to our nation in keeping with our founding democratic ideals and shared values. Today, Israel is unambiguously our most loyal and steadfast strategic ally in that part of the world, notwithstanding our increasing trade, diplomatic, and strategic friends and allies in the Arabian Gulf.

I appreciate the perspective of former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Zalman Shoval, who recently wrote, “Israel’s triumph should not be seen primarily in terms of victories over its enemies. Instead, it should be considered in light of its achievements. Without natural resources, without any substantial foreign aid during the first 20 years of its existence and in spite of its ongoing security concerns it has created a thriving economy. Israel is a leader in high technology, medicine and related fields, and is a major cultural center.

No appreciation of Jack Kemp would be complete without noting that it was thanks to him that the Jewish community knew what it was up against with former secretary of state James Baker.

In March 1992, former New York mayor Ed Koch revealed in his New York Post column that during a recent White House meeting Baker had said of Jews: “[Expletive] ‘em. They didn’t vote for us.”

Koch, of course, could not reveal the identity of his source. But he finally broke his silence last year and disclosed that it was Kemp, who in his capacity as secretary of housing and urban development was at the meeting.

Kemp, wrote Alan Steinberg, “was one of those rare individuals of both goodness and greatness.”

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Hadassah Honors Bergson Group

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

WASHINGTON – The campaign to win public recognition for the Holocaust rescue activists known as the Bergson Group took another step forward recently when Hadassah became the latest major Jewish organization to pay tribute to the 1940′s activists.

The occasion was an event at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, just outside Washington, D.C., cosponsored by Hadassah’s Greater Washington division and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. The Wyman Institute has been leading the effort to publicize the work of the Bergson Group.

The focus of the Chevy Chase event was the late Mrs. Dorothy Naftalin, who in the 1940′s served as president of Hadassah in Washington and also as a leader of the Bergson Group’s D.C. chapter.

D.C. Hadassah president Arlene Steinberg, programming vice president Saradona Lefkowitz, and Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff presented Mrs. Naftalin’s son, Micah, with a plaque honoring his mother for her “tireless efforts, with both Hadassah and the Bergson Group, on behalf of rescue from the Holocaust and creating a Jewish State.”

Naftalin is director of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. In his remarks, he said his mother’s devotion to both Hadassah, an establishment group, and the Bergsonites, who used unorthodox activist tactics, represented a “spirit of pluralism that all Jews should emulate.” He also praised the local Hadassah division for resisting pressure from other Zionist leaders in the 1940′s to repudiate Bergson.
 
 
Hadassah leaders Arlene Steinberg and Saradona Lefkowitz, with Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff, present a plaque to Micah Naftalin (second from left) honoring his mother’s work with the Bergson Group.
 

Recalling his own years of activism on behalf of Soviet Jewry, Naftalin compared the Jewish leadership’s treatment of the Bergson Group to its later treatment of activist groups like the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry and his own Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry.

However, just as the Soviet Jewry activists eventually received community-wide recognition for their accomplishments, the achievements of the Bergson Group too have slowly gained acknowledgment, as the Hadassah-Wyman Institute event demonstrated.

Wyman director Medoff, in his remarks at the Chevy Chase event, described his recent research on Hadassah’s relations with the Bergson Group. He said that documents he has uncovered indicate that Hadassah did not share the mainstream Jewish leadership’s extreme hostility to the Bergsonites. Among other things, he found evidence that one Hadassah leader in Washington gave the Bergson Group logistical advice to help with the group’s 1943 march by four hundred rabbis to the White House. He also found a memo by an American Zionist leader complaining to his colleagues that “women of prominence in Hadassah” were supporting the Bergson Group’s efforts to smuggle Jews from Europe to Palestine during the early months of World War II.

The Hadassah-Wyman event in Chevy Chase comes on the heels of the crowning success of the Wyman Institute’s campaign – the recent decision by the U.S. Holocaust Museum to recognize Bergson in its Permanent Exhibit. Several years ago, Medoff, Naftalin, and other sons and daughters of Bergson Group activists met with Museum leaders to make their case for inclusion of Bergson. More recently, the Wyman Institute organized a petition by Jewish leaders, historians, and other public figures urging the Museum to recognize Bergson.

The Wyman campaign also attracted the sympathetic interest of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Wyman Institute researchers recently found documents showing that Ms. Pelosi’s father, Maryland Congressman Thomas D’Alessandro, Jr., was a Bergson supporter. In a message to a Wyman Institute conference on the Bergson Group last year, Pelosi said she was “thrilled” to learn of her father’s link to Bergson and “deeply proud to know that he was one of those who stood up for what was right, at a time when too many people chose to look the other way.”

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the keynote speaker at that Wyman conference, said that while the Bergson Group worked “day and night” to promote rescue of Jews from the Holocaust, “the Jewish community’s leaders didn’t do what they should have.” Wiesel said, “Even now, it makes me despair.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/hadassah-honors-bergson-group/2008/01/30/

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