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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘survivors’

As We Care For Survivors, Don’t Forget The Damage Done To Their Descendents

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The words “Never Forget” have become synonymous with the Holocaust, but as the actual horror of the Holocaust starts to fade, it’s time we add to the mantra an addendum: “Never Ignore.”

As the events of 60 years ago start to slip into history, the suffering of those who survived the Holocaust has been a steadfast reminder of the atrocities of which humanity is capable if we do not keep ourselves in check. Their scars are front and center, their tattooed arms impossible to ignore. And helping them heal will be our cause even as they enter the last stages of their lives.

Yet as we focus on that generation, often lost are those whose pain will endure long after the last survivor is gone – the generations of their children and grandchildren who have been traumatized by growing up with the pain their families endured during the Holocaust and scarred by the trauma of growing up with those in post-Holocaust shock.

The tales of some survivors are certainly famous, but most suffered in silence, refusing to discuss their terror as they tried to protect their children from pain. Their children grew up with parents who never dealt with their own trauma, and the silence was often deafening and painful.

Some have been able to deal with the silence constructively, teaching about the Holocaust, not letting the world forget what happened. Some fight it by being vocal about genocide. Others research the genocide in attempt to understand what happened to their parents.

Yet thousands more simply suffer from psychological disorders such at PTSD, low self-esteem, and hoarding, according to such publications as the Cambridge Journal.

Take for instance “Anna,” a 35-year-old architect and grandchild of survivors, who suffers from a hoarding disorder.

Her apartment is packed with things she will not throw out. Every counter space is covered and every draw is bursting forward. She keeps a pair of shoes that she swears she threw out 26 months ago. Walk into her apartment, and you’ll find one thing: stuff. The more that is available, the more she keeps. She just can’t escape the need to hold on to stuff.

Yet she can’t let go of things that even she knows are meaningless junk, and she can tell you. Why? Because that is how her parents acted – and how can she throw away an old pair of shoes, when her grandparents would have died for a pair of shoes?

It’s time we begin paying attention to the thousands of children walking around today with these disorders.

That’s why Yeshiva University students who are third-generation Holocaust survivors, and who still live with the repercussions of the Holocaust, have created a forum in which we can address some of the unique challenges our generation faces, and learn how to finally move forward.

We are hosting a conference that will discuss in scientific and medical terms what many of us still endure because of the Holocaust. We want to ensure that our generation is informed and sensitive about how the pain of the Holocaust lives on even today.

On October 21, we will bring our issues to the forefront and publicly grapple with them at a forum at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus that will include such speakers as Dr. Michael Grodin of Boston University, Irene Hizme, a survivor of Mengele’s experiments on twins, and renowned psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz.

As descendents of survivors, we have are responsible for remembering the six million of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation who were needlessly killed. We know that we need to keep alive their message. After all, it is we who have been privileged to hear their first-hand accounts, and we must inform our children of what happened.

But with that responsibility comes a price that many of us have paid. It’s time that we teach about that as well.

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor are co-presidents of Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society. Learn more at www.yumedicalethics.com.

For Victims of Abuse – A Warm Embrace

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: I usually take this time on the eve of the New Year to reflect on what kind if a year this was for me. The sudden death of my grandson Reuven who suffered from cancer was unexpected. Although his prognosis was never great, he had defied the odds by living as long as he did. People all over the world davened for him and for that I am still grateful.  But it was not meant to be.

On one unusually warm morning in early March of this year Reuven was taken from us as he suddenly collapsed – never to resuscitated. That was one of the hardest days of my life.  But I am grateful to God for all the blessings he as otherwise given me.  And with God’s help I look forward to a much better year ahead.
 
Aside from that personal note, I am going to relinquish the space I give here to any additional reflection or the Dvar Torah I usually give on Erev Yom Tov- to Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. He asked me if I would cross post an essay from his website on my blog. After reading it, I decided that there is no Dvar Torah that I could deliver that would be more important than his words.
With all the troubles facing Klal Yisroel now, I don’t think there is a single issue more important than the issue of sex abuse in our community. We all know the horror stories the survivors of abuse tell us. And we all too often hear of the devastating consequences they face – some for many years after.
 
In part the altered lives they live are a result of the abuse itself. But it is in part also because of the unfortunate negative reaction to the victims by their own community.  It is to this sad reality that Rabbi Horowitz speaks. The new year is not only a time for reflection. It is a time for change. If there is one thing we need to change as a community it is how we treat victims of abuse.
 
Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all. The following are Rabbi Horowitz’s words.
As we prepare to stand before Hashem in the days to come, and daven (pray) for ourselves, our families and all of Klal Yisroel, those of us who work with survivors of abuse and molestation ask you to publicly show your support for them in these yemei rachamim (days of mercy).
Part and parcel of the strategy employed by many of the predators in our community is to discredit their victims who have the courage to step forward and press charges against them. Typically, the molester will point to the victim’s 1) diminished level of religious observance and/or 2) self-destructive behaviors, like substance abuse, to “prove” his own innocence.However, for those of us who work with at-risk teens, the fact that one of our tayere kinderlach engaged in hard-core drug use, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, or left Yiddishkeit, makes it MORE likely that the accusation is true, not less. Why? Because we have known for many years now that the vast majority of our kids who have descended into the gehenom of these destructive activities have done so because they were molested.Of all the horror committed by predators against our innocent, precious boys and girls, the premeditated and deliberate defamation of their character is perhaps the most unforgivable; since it abuses them all over again and adds to their disconnect from our kehila – when what they need most is our acceptance and love.
With that in mind, I respectfully ask our readers to please stand with the brave survivors and their families who have the courage to take the lonely path of coming forward and pressing charges, with the other silent and silenced victims who are watching the high-profile cases unfold very carefully to determine whether they too should risk going to the authorities, and with all survivors of abuse and molestation.Precisely because the predators attempt to discredit and disgrace the victims and their families, is all the more reason why we need to reach out to them and let them know how much we respect and care for them.Kindly take a few minutes from your busy schedules and post a Rosh Hashana bracha in the thread* following these lines, and have them in mind in your Tefillos. Previous efforts to garner public support for victims were extraordinarily comforting to them, as they help restore their faith in humanity and let them know that the vast majority of our community members are behind them.
Please include your real names and the names of the cities where you live to personalize your message and to send a clear message that we proudly stand with the survivors and their families.
Abuse survivors are our heilege neshamosour holy souls. They have endured unspeakable trauma in their lives and had their childhood cruelly stolen from them, because they learned at a very young age, at the mercy of cunning and evil predators, to never trust again. Nonetheless, the vast, overwhelming majority of survivors seek no revenge or retribution. They only hope and pray that today’s children be spared from the horror they endured.
Regardless of their observance level, we ought to welcome these survivors as full and respected members of our kehilos. We ought to commit to them that we will do everything possible to remove from our community those who prey on our innocent children and speak truth to power if necessary in the coming year to keep all our children safe and secure.If the great tzadik, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev zt’l were alive, I imagine that he would embrace abuse survivors in his shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and proclaim to Hashem, “Master of the Universe, look at these heilige neshamos who have endured so much with such dignity, and in their ze’chus inscribe us all in the Book of Life.”
Best wishes for a k’siva v’chasima tova and may Hashem answer our tefilos b’rachamim u’vrazon.
*Harry Maryles: As always, I welcome all comments to this post. Rabbi Horowitz is also taking comments in the form of Brachos to survivors on his website. If you can, it would be wonderful to get as many readers of this blog as possible to do so. Once again, Ksiva V’Chasima Tova to all!

Crowning Miss Holocaust Survivor

Friday, July 6th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by his wife and co-host Malkah to talk about a beauty pageant for survivors of the Holocaust that recently took place in Haifa. They specifically discuss the reaction that the event created throughout the media. At 11:16, they begin to discuss the recently-passed regarding the banning of ritual circumcision in Germany and how it compares to a new Israeli law encouraging new mothers to breast feed. The segment wraps up with Yishai and Malkah talking about their experience with the Israeli post office and amazing gift that the Fleishers received.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Claims Conference Employee Admits to Stealing $550K from Survivors, $57 Mil. Missing

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

An employee of the New York based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the “Claims Conference”) pleaded guilty to defrauding her employers out of $550,000.

Zlata Blavatnik, 65, pleaded guilty to the charge that she had “produced falsified documents for myself” and “helped others in the same office” to make fraudulent “reparation” payments.

A total of 31 people have been charged in connection with the scheme, according to the FBI, including five former employees of the Claims Conference, which administered the programs.

The FBI is charging that, in exchange for kickbacks, those insiders, who were supposed to process and approve only legitimate applications, have knowingly approved nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications, resulting in payouts to applicants who did not qualify for the programs.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters: “As I said when the initial charges in this case were announced, my office, working with our partners at the FBI, would not stop until we brought to justice those who are alleged to have stolen more than $57 million from the Claims Conference, thereby diverting money intended for survivors of the Holocaust.”

Bharara thanked the Claims Conference for “their outstanding, ongoing assistance in identifying the participants in this scheme.”

The Claims Conference, a not-for-profit organization which provides assistance to victims of Nazi persecution, supervises and administers several funds that make reparation payments to victims of the Nazis, including “the Hardship Fund” and “the Article 2 Fund,” both of which are funded by the German government.

Applications for disbursements through these funds are processed by employees of the Claims Conference’s office in Manhattan, and the employees are supposed to confirm that the applicants meet the specific criteria required for payments.

According to the FBI, as part of the scheme, a web of individuals—including five former employees of the Claims Conference—systematically defrauded the Article 2 Fund and Hardship Fund programs for over a decade.

The Claims Conference first suspected the fraud in December 2009, and immediately reported their suspicions to law enforcement, which conducted a wide-reaching investigation, resulting in unsealing the charges last October, 2011.

The Hardship Fund makes a one-time payment of approximately $3,500 to victims of Nazi persecution who evacuated the cities in which they lived and were forced to become refugees. Members of the conspiracy submitted fraudulent applications for people who were not eligible. Many of the recipients of fraudulent funds were born after World War II, and at least one person was not even Jewish.

Some conspirators recruited other individuals to provide identification documents, such as passports and birth certificates, which were then fraudulently altered and submitted to corrupt insiders at the Claims Conference, who then processed those applications. When the applicants received their compensation checks, they kept a portion of the money and passed the rest back up the chain.

From the investigation to date, the Claims Conference has determined that at least 3,839 Hardship Fund applications appear to be fraudulent. These applications resulted in a loss to the Hardship Fund of approximately $12.3 million.

The Article 2 Fund makes monthly payments of approximately $400 to survivors of Nazi persecution who make less than $16,000 per year, and either (1) lived in hiding or under a false identity for at least 18 months; (2) lived in a Jewish ghetto for 18 months; or (3) were incarcerated for six months in a concentration camp or a forced labor camp.

The fraud involved doctored identification documents in which the applicant’s date and place of birth had been changed. The fraud also involved more sophisticated deception, including altering documents that the Claims Conference obtains from outside sources to verify a person’s persecution by the Nazis. Some of the detailed descriptions of persecution in the fraudulent Article 2 Fund applications were completely fabricated.

From the investigation to date, the Claims Conference has determined that at least 1,112 Article 2 Fund cases it processed have been determined to be fraudulent. Those cases have resulted in a loss to the Claims Conference of approximately $45 million.

Manhattan federal Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman on Tuesday informed Blavatnik that she was facing a possible 40 years in jail for conspiracy and mail fraud.

But, according to the NY Post, Judge Pitman did not divulge the terms of Blavatnik’s plea deal, neither would the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office release a copy of the plea, which means that Blavatnik is probably cooperating with authorities in return for leniency in sentencing.

Victim Or Survivor?

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Everyone, at least one time in his or her life, gets knocked down, and most of us have trouble getting back up. Let’s face it – we all get depressed at times. Sometimes we get stuck in a funk and we don’t know how to get out of it, especially if we’re constantly being knocked down. Eventually, we don’t even want to get up anymore. Why should we get back up, just to get knocked down again?

That’s when we have to catch ourselves and be conscious of our thoughts. What does being self-aware have to do with getting back on our feet, you ask? Just about everything.

Most of us aren’t really aware of our thoughts. If we would pay attention to the thoughts going through our heads, we would notice that more than half of them are negative: towards others and ourselves. We’re our own best critic. From when we wake up in the morning until we go to bed, we constantly put ourselves down and pick on ourselves.

The most common thing we do is victimize. Sounds like some therapeutic technical term? It is. There is a popular therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short. Suppose you failed a test. Along with this situation comes either a feeling, thought, physical reaction, behavior, or perhaps all four. You failed the test so you feel sad, maybe angry or frustrated. You’ll probably be thinking, “I’m stupid” or “I could have done better.” Maybe you’ll cry, or scream. And then your behavior will be probably to give up and not try on the next test since you failed this one. That’s the gist of CBT. Situations trigger the four reactions and each of these four lead to each other until it’s a vicious cycle of thoughts and feelings and behaviors and a whole big jumble.

So you see, the way we think has a huge effect on pretty much everything. Like it says, “A person is where his or her thoughts are.”

Now, how can we change that entire situation?

You failed the test. You feel bad and upset and you start picking on yourself. Wait – STOP.

Seriously, picture a stop sign and yell out to your racing thoughts to hold up and slow down. Now that your thoughts are frozen, think about what you were just doing. You were victimizing.

Let’s talk about a victim versus a survivor.

Isn’t it interesting how they could both mean the same thing but totally different things at the same time? “She’s a victim of the war.” “She survived the war.” They both went through a war. They both got out of it. But one’s a victim, and one’s a survivor. Why is that? What makes one a victim and the other a survivor? It’s their thoughts, the way they think which changes the way they hold themselves and creates who they are.

The victim thinks “Why me?” She spends the war and post-war angry and sad – which is totally normal, but the victim lives in her anger and sadness. It becomes her; it’s who she is.

The survivor has a totally different way of thinking. Sure, she gets angry, sad, and depressed. But it’s different with the survivor. Instead of thinking, “Why me?” she thinks, “This happened to me, and it’s difficult and awful and it just plain sucks. But I can get through this; the war will be over soon.” She doesn’t live the war. The war hasn’t taken her over and controlled her. She hasn’t become a victim, she’s a survivor.

How do we become survivors? Let’s be more self-aware. In every situation stop yourself, and be aware of your thoughts. Are you in victim mode or survival mode? Is this never going to end or is it long but over soon? Notice how different the positive thoughts are, and how different and happier we are because of them. It’s all about thinking positively, being a survivor, taking those victim thoughts and dumping them in the trash. Sounds cheesy? It is. But it works.

The only way to pick ourselves up again is to change our thoughts. We have to train ourselves to slow those thoughts down so we can interrupt them and turn them into positive thoughts.

Believe me, once you’re in survivor mode, your whole life changes. It’s almost exciting, like you’re a brave soldier battling through wars and winning. You’re a survivor, rather than a sad lonely victim who had to fight the war.

So think those survivor thoughts. Make a list of them. Write them down, memorize them, and live them. And then that’s who you’ll be: a survivor.

The above article was originally posted on Maidelle.com, an online magazine for Jewish teen girls to speak their mind. Check out the site and read more articles and poetry submitted by girls worldwide who made the choice to use their voice.

The Yellow Star

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

A little more than six months ago, my sister-in-law passed away after battling a serious illness. For more than 30 years she had given symposiums on the Holocaust to youngsters in the Philadelphia area, and we talked about her activities many times on our visits to the U.S. After her passing I was determined to do some kind of volunteer work for Yad Vashem in her memory.

I contacted a wonderful person there who works on the Names Project, recovering names of victims that have yet to be placed in the database. Believe it or not, there are still nearly two million names that are not on the list – millions of wonderful people who lived, worked, studied and raised families in cities, shtetls and villages who must not be forgotten. Many of the survivors or family members are elderly, or their memories have been clouded by the passage of many decades. And so the saying “if not now, when then?” is never more applicable.

After my initial meeting with Sara Berkowits, my contact at Yad Vashem, I received some training from another field worker who is also recovering names through interviews, visits to shuls, etc. He gave me the names of survivors to be interviewed in order to reclaim these missing names. Although excited about the opportunity, I was nervous about how to do the job properly, how much the survivors would actually remember, and if they would even allow me to come into their lives and homes. What I was not prepared for was how wonderful and eye opening the experience – every discussion actually – was going to be.

The very first interview I conducted was with an elderly man born in Romania. My friend, Rafi Freudenberger, and I listened intently to his stories (there is another department at Yad Vashem that records personal stories, but we were interested to hear about their families in order to get to the actual names), and heard the names of Transnistria and Bukovina. I asked him to repeat these names many times, having never heard such names before. Oddly enough, in the weeks following that first interview, I came across many articles that mentioned those same places, and the tragedies that befell the Jewish communities there. Many thousands of Jews were caught between the claws of Russia, Romania, and Germany. In October 1941 the entire Jewish community was deported en masse to Siberia.

As Mr. Geller was elderly, I limited the time we spent at his home sorting out the families and the names he recalled. I scheduled a second meeting with him for the following week. But after speaking to his wife the day before I was to return, it became clear that the process of remembering was just too much for him. I would have to give to Yad Vashem only the few names that I had gathered.

Recently, I spoke to another survivor who was born in Den Haag in Amsterdam. Shlomo first gave us a detailed list of family members who had perished in the Shoah – where they were born; where and when they died. He showed us a detailed list from the government of Holland that had all the information, and he wanted to correct some erroneous details that Yad Vashem had listed. At one point he opened up a drawer with documents and pictures. One of the pictures was that of a family wedding, and every person was wearing a yellow star – a badge of honor and pride. Unfortunately most of the people were killed in the Shoah, including his parents.

At one point I asked Shlomo about the bookcase and the very old-looking volumes. He told me that the non-Jews had taken these and many other volumes from his father and grandfather’s homes. The ones I was looking at were the “survivors.” The others had been taken, their bindings sold and the precious pages destroyed.

Shlomo’s story of his family was also the story of a very special cousin who went through Bergen-Belsen and Trobitz with him. (Of the 2,500 prisoners who were transported from Bergen-Belsen on April 10, 1945, 600 died from disease or malnutrition.) Both lost most of their family members there. Joe Holstein, my wife’s cousin, lost his parents and one brother in Bergen-Belsen, and lost another brother in Trobitz. One of his five sons was named after his two brothers. Shlomo’s parents died only a few weeks before the end of the war, and he has not gone back since. But cousin Joe and his wife returned to visit the graves at Trobitz, and took pictures of Shlomo’s relatives’ gravestones as well.

Joe raised six wonderful children, but died of a heart attack at the sound of the first siren of the first Gulf War. Like Yosef of biblical fame, Joe had also been a yoetz (Joe was a school guidance counselor). And during the year that my wife and I met, he advised us on many different matters. Twenty-one years later Joe has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each of them is testimony to the fact that am Yisrael chai – the Jewish people are alive and thriving in the Holy Land.

Two Holocaust Survivers Reunited 70 Years Later

Monday, March 12th, 2012

“They had all but given up the search for relatives who had survived the Nazi extermination effort, to find each other was almost overwhelming,” reports the Florida Sun Sentinel. And I have nothing funny or ironic or cynical to say about this one, I’m simply touched.

Lemel Leo Adler, left, and Leon Schagrin are cousins, the sons of two sisters. After the invasion of Poland, they were transported to the Tarnow ghetto, and then to several labor camps, and finally to Buna, “a chemical plant taht also known as Auschwitz III.” In there they met only briefly, between shifts.

In January 1945 they were separated and didn’t see each other again. “A far as they know, everyone else in their families were killed.”

They both immigrated to the US, where Adler was restaurant manager and Schagrin was in the plastics trade. They continued the search for relatives, but found no one.

Last week Adler received a copy of “The Horse Adjutant,” Schagrin’s 2001 book about being forced to care for horses owned by Nazi officers. A friend told him there were names in the book of places Adler had been to during the war.

“I don’t usually read such books, because I lived through the Holocaust,” Adler told the Sentinel’s James D. Davis. “But then I started scanning it and found family names – like my mother’s maiden name.”

He researched the records of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in South Florida and learned about Schagrin – who represents the center about the Holocaust to South Florida students.

He called Schagrin on the phone to say, “I know you!” Then he cited family members the two had known.

Schagrin’s reaction was: “You know how it is when nerves are tickling all over your body? I couldn’t believe it after 70 years.”

According to Miriam Fridman, president of the survivors’ club (Schagrin is vice president), these reunions are becoming more and more rare,. For one thing, many survivors have passed away. The club had 1,400 members in the 1990s, but only around 300 today.

Illinois Republican Candidate for Congress Says ‘Holocaust Never Happened’

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The Oak Lawn Patch reported that Arthur Jones, 64, a Lyons, IL, insurance salesman who organizes family-friendly, neo-Nazi events around Adolf Hitler’s birthday, hopes to be the Republican candidate chosen to run against Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews,” Jones said. “It’s the blackest lie in history. Millions of dollars are being made by Jews telling this tale of woe and misfortune in books, movies, plays and TV. The more survivors, the more lies that are told.”

Jones is running against Jim Falvey and Richard Grabowski in a district that has sent a conservative Democrat to Congress for decades. The district includes the descendants of Irish, German, Polish and Czech immigrants.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/illinois-republican-candidate-for-congress-says-holocaust-never-happened/2012/02/29/

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