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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘the Holocaust’

Is Natalie Portman Right and Jews Need to Chillax about the Holocaust?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

(JNi.media) Israeli born actress Natalie Portman, whose great grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, told the Independent that she believes Jewish education puts too much emphasis on the Holocaust. “I think a really big question the Jewish community needs to ask itself is how much at the forefront we put Jewish education, which is, of course, an important question to remember and to respect, but not over other things. We need to be reminded that hatred exists at all times and be reminded to be empathetic to other people who have experienced hatred also. Not used in a paranoid way of thinking that we are victims.”

Portman, 34, who starred in all three Star War’s prequels (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith), also portrayed Anne Frank in a 1997 Broadway revival. She recently made her directing debut with an adaption of Israeli novelist Amos Oz’s “Tale of Love and Darkness,” a story based on the life of his parents at the dawn of the Israeli state after the nightmare of the Holocaust. The actress returned to Jerusalem to shoot some scenes of the film. She was born in Jerusalem, but her family left for America when she was three years old.

“Sometimes the Holocaust can be subverted to fear mongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen.’ We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, anti-Semitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I don’t need to make false equivalencies. We need it to serve as something that makes us empathetic to people rather than paranoid.”

Natalie Portman is a Harvard graduate, and, while enrolled at the University, responded to a an essay in the Harvard Crimson critical of Israeli actions against Palestinians. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and worked as a research assistant for Alan Dershowitz, author of “The Case for Israel,” “The Vanishing American Jew,” and “Chutzpah.” Portman also took graduate courses at Hebrew University.

Portman said she started forming these attitudes about Holocaust education when she realized that, when she was attending college, the Rawandan genocide was going on, and not nearly enough was being done about it. In 2007, she traveled to Rwanda to learn more about the genocide there. “I was shocked that the [genocide] was going on while I was in school. We were only learning about the Holocaust, and it was never mentioned what was happening while I was at school. That is exactly the kind of problem with the way it is taught. I think it needs to be taught, and I can’t speak for everyone, because this was my personal education.”

Not surprisingly, Natalie Portman’s remarks drew criticism. Colette Avital, former Labor MK and Chair of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust survivors in Israel, said, “While I agree with Natalie Portman that hatred exists in every part of the world, our area included, her understanding of the Holocaust seems limited. Natalie should understand that the Holocaust that befell us cannot be compared to other tragedies–our empathy notwithstanding. It was not merely hatred, it was a policy whose aim was to systematically wipe out a whole people from the face of the world.”

Aaron Goldstein of “The American Spectator” says the reason Portman’s comments about the Holocaust are so disturbing is not that she is just another pretty actress with an opinion, not that she, as stated by Colette Avital, has “limited” understanding of the Holocaust. But because her great grandparents died in Auschwitz, because she was born in Israel, and if “the Allies had been unable to liberate the concentration camps 70 years ago, and had Hitler and the Nazis triumphed, there would be no Natalie Portman, no Israel and no Jews. If an Israeli-born Jew whose ancestors were killed in Auschwitz doesn’t understand what separates the Holocaust from all other acts of genocide, then we have a big problem,” Goldstein writes. He thinks Portman’s views may be an indication of the feelings of other Israeli-born young Jews who are descended from Holocaust survivors. In addition, she is a public figure with a fan base, and is likely to influence others. Her statements arrive at a time when fewer and fewer people are still alive who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust, and at this particular time, she questions the role of the Holocaust in Jewish education. Goldstein points out that Portman’s support for President Obama and her criticisms of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu over remarks he made on the eve of his re-election–which were offensive to Arabs–means that she might have been using her allegation to suggest that the Holocaust is used to promote “fear mongering” and “paranoid thinking” by those who oppose Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. “If she thinks Iran isn’t serious about wiping Israel off the map,” Goldstein writes, then it simply supports the idea that she doesn’t get what separates the Holocaust from all other acts of evil. That is why her comments are so deeply disturbing.”

Research: Holocaust Trauma is Genetically Transmitted

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

A new medical study has just proved the trauma of the Holocaust is transmitted genetically through the generations.

This is a known fact to mental health experts and anyone else who works in the field. It is an unstated reality to anyone who is a descendant of a Holocaust survivor. In fact, anyone who has been touched in any way by the trauma of the Holocaust is forever traumatized by that nightmare in a real, visceral manner. Ask them. Or just look at their eyes.

But now medical research has caught up with this reality. Scientists at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center have tracked down the genetic changes in which the trauma is forever inscribed.

The findings will have deep implications for the Jewish world which cannot be addressed in this article.

The study examined “epigenetic inheritance” – the theory that says environmental influences such as smoking, stress and weight loss can create genetic changes in one’s children and grandchildren.

The Mount Sinai study focused on a gene associated with the regulation of stress hormones which is known to be affected by trauma.

The study, which included 32 test subjects and 22 of their adult offspring, focused on Jewish men and women who survived the Nazi concentration camps, witnessed or experienced tortured, or were forced to hide from the Nazis during World War II. The control subjects were Jewish families who did not live in Europe during the rule of the Nazis.

Scientists found epigenetic markers on the same part of the gene in both the survivors and their children. That correlation was not found among Jewish families who did not live in Europe during World War II.

The researchers also found that children of Holocaust survivors were three times more likely to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if they were exposed to a traumatic event, than demographically similar Jews whose parents did not experience the Holocaust.

The findings were published in the most recent edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry. Dr. Rachel Yehuda, who led the study, said, “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents.”

Children of Holocaust survivors were found to have the same neuroendocrine and hormonal abnormalities as Holocaust survivors and other people suffering from PTSD. The researchers thus concluded that the risk for conditions such as PTSD was associated with having a parent who had PTSD.

The transmission of trauma from one generation to the next is a known phenomenon to social workers and other therapists in the field of psychotherapy. Dr. Yehuda, however, was able to quantify it in physical, neurochemical terms.

What sparked the research, however, was the desire to document that which she and others were seeing over and over at a clinic for survivors at Mount Sinai.

“Offspring were reporting that they had been affected by the Holocaust in many different kinds of ways, but in a very coherent and cohesive pattern,” she said.

“They talked about feeling traumatized by witnessing the symptoms of their parents. And they talked about being traumatized by some of the expectations that the Holocaust had placed on them, such as that they are the reason their parents survived and therefore there was a whole set of things that they would now have to accomplish so that all the people that died… they could give their lives meaning.”

Increased Security for US Ambassador to Israel after Death Threats

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro is currently under increased security protection at his home and at the U.S. Embassy which is located in Tel Aviv. The security has been increased because Shapiro apparently received death threats related to the Nuclear Iran deal.

Several threatening letters arrived at the Embassy over the past week, numerous Israeli media outlets reported. In addition, someone posted on the Ambassador’s Facebook page that he is a “kapo.” That term was used to refer to Jews who did the work of the Nazis during the Holocaust. The anonymous Facebook post also claimed the Ambassador had “abandoned Israel.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a press release in response to the incident, in which the Center’s leadership denounced the threats.

“Words have consequences and we denounce death threats made against a great American and a proud and knowledgable Jew,” said rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, founder and dean and associate dean of the leading Jewish Human Rights organization.

“The Wiesenthal Center is opposed to the controversial Iran Nuclear deal and hope that the US Congress will reject it.

“We are also deeply troubled by the the campaigns that have labeled opponents in the United States Congress, ‘warmongers’ akin to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and who put Israel’s concerns before those of America.

“We have urged our political leaders to denounce such language. We also denounce those who would vilify and question the motives of those who back the deal,” they added. “Death threats and demonizing the ambassador of Israel’s closest ally is an outrage that must not go unchallenged,” Hier and Cooper concluded.

British Teens Accused of Holocaust Theft at Auschwitz

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Two British teenage boys were caught stealing precious historic artifacts at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camps, Polish police said Tuesday.

The two 17-year-olds were detained Monday by police on suspicion of stealing belongings of prisoners who were inmates of the camps during the Holocaust in World War II.

They were spotted Monday afternoon lurking near a building where German Nazi guards used to store belongings confiscated from the prisoners in the camps, said a spokespersons for the museum at the site.

Both of the boys are students at the Perse School of Cambridge, England and were participating in a school history trip at the time of the incident, according to a statement by the school.

The teens “attempted to keep some items of historical importance which they had found on the ground,” the school claimed. “We understand they have explained that they picked up the items without thinking and they have apologized unreservedly for the offense they have given, and expressed real remorse for their action,” said the Perse School spokesperson.

A body search turned up a piece of spoon, a number of buttons, two pieces of glass and a fragment of a razor, which may have been stolen from the site, police said.

Both boys were questioned through an interpreter, according to regional police. If found guilty, they could face up to 10 years in prison for the offense. The spokesperson for the Perse School said the students are cooperating “fully” with the authorities.

Apparently it is not unusual for visitors to try to steal artifacts from the death camp, as horrific as that may seem to some. According to the museum curators, a Swedish man was imprisoned in 2010 for masterminding the theft of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes Freedom) sign posted over the entry gate and which heralded the arrival of prisoners at the death camp at Auschwitz.

Lauder at 70th Bergen-Belsen Liberation Ceremony: ‘Silence Emboldens Tyrants’

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

A ceremony was held today, April 26, in Lohheide, Germany, to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Nazi death camp which took place on April 15, 1945.

More than fifty thousand people perished in the Bergen-Belsen camp, which was really several connected camps that housed and killed Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and others considered “undesirable” by the Nazi regime. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were among the tens of thousands who died at Bergen-Belsen.

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, gave an impassioned speech to the gathered crowd.

Lauder spoke not only of the specifics of the horrors visited upon the world and, in particular, the Jewish people, during World War II, but he also made pointed references to the dangers of similar horrors lurking on the horizons at the present time.

Lauder reminds everyone that it was not only the Nazis, and not only the German people and not only the rest of Europe which were complicit in this horror, but everyone who was silent and failed to act.

Lauder also points out that there was a voice that was silent, but not because they chose to look elsewhere, but because they were silenced: the Jews. And he points out that the Jews need not be silent ever again in the face of threats to their existence, because there is a Jewish homeland whose purpose is to ensure the continuance of the Jewish people.

No doubt he is talking about Iran.

Lauder also speaks at length about the resilience and self-reliance of the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust. How the Jews left the Displaced Persons camps and never looked back.

“They refused to be victims,” Lauder said. “Jews all over the world helped their fellow Jews get back on their feet. They were never used as political pawns.”

Do you have any doubt to whom he is referring?

The following is Lauder’s speech in its entirety. It is worth your while to read the whole thing.

We come here today to remember. We remember the evil of this terrible place. We also remember that world silence led to this evil.

And we gather with an uncomfortable awareness that anti-Semitism has returned to Europe once again.

Seventy years ago, as Nazi Germany was collapsing, and the greatest war in history was coming to an end. The saddest irony was that Jews, the people who should have been happiest about Hitler’s defeat, were not to be heard.

There were no Jewish victory celebrations like those in New York or Trafalgar Square or Moscow. There was no jubilation. The reason is all around you. For Jews, the awful realization of loss suddenly set in. Mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, over one million children – all gone. Half of the world’s Jews murdered.

Right now, we stand on one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world. But there are no gravestones. There are no markers. The victims buried here lost not just their lives; the Nazis took their identities as well.

When British troops entered the gates here at Bergen-Belsen they took pictures and, for the first time, the world finally understood the extent of the Nazi horror.

We saw the bulldozers pushing naked bodies into open pits. The walking skeletons. The unbelievable sadness and loss. It has always struck me that battle-hardened soldiers, who saw some of the worst combat in Europe, became emotional years later when they talked about entering Bergen-Belsen.

Seventy years on, we all know about the crime. We know the perpetrators – but they were not just Germans and Austrians. There was complicity in practically every country in Europe. My own country, the United States – the beacon of liberty – shut its doors to Jews desperately trying to leave.

Surviving Auschwitz: Kate Bernath’s Testimonial

Friday, April 17th, 2015

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined in-studio by 88-year-old Kate Bernath, grandmother of his wife, Malkah, to hear her Holocaust testimonial: What was it like as a Hungarian Jew getting off the train at Auschwitz, and how it felt to have your mother separated from you forever by Dr. Mengele.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
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Goal of the BDS Movement: Delegitimize Israel

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led attempt to harm the Jewish state by  misappropriating the language of the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. While it portrays itself as a national self-determination and human rights campaign, the BDS movement denies two key facts: 1) Israel itself represents the national self-determination of the Jewish people, and 2) the political landscapes of Israel and apartheid-era South Africa bear no resemblance, making any attempt to compare the two nothing more than anti-Israel propaganda.

While there are 49 Muslim nations, Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. After countless expulsions, the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms of Eastern Europe, the Holocaust, and other atrocities and persecution throughout thousands of years of history, the need for a sovereign nation in the Jewish people’s historical homeland cannot not be denied.

Despite the historical record, BDS completely denies the Jewish people’s legitimate claim to the land of Israel. BDS also conveniently ignores the fact that Israel is not an apartheid state and that  prominent South Africans who lived under the apartheid regime repeatedly confirm this.

Once BDS’ deceitful ruse is exposed, it is clear that its true goal is simply to eliminate the State of Israel.  According to BDS’s founders, the movement seeks to destroy the Jewish character of the State of Israel by promoting the so-called “Palestinian right of return,” which is the main obstacle to peace and – if implemented – would turn Israel into the twenty-third Arab state and the fiftieth Muslim-majority nation. BDS also wants to force Israel to withdraw from all “disputed” territories, regardless of current realities on the ground or treaties to the contrary.

Omar Barghouti

BDS’s true colors were revealed when movement head Omar Barghouti said, “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution; you’d have a Palestine next to Palestine solution.” Pro-Palestinian activist Norman Finkelstein claimed that the BDS Movement wants, “the end of the occupation, the right of return,” and “equal rights for Arabs in Israel.” He recognized that the result of implementing all three is that there’s no Israel!

Indeed, BDS has no interest in promoting a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Barghouti rejects peace talks with Israel or cooperating with liberal Israelis who support a two-state solution and instead advocates one-state in which the Palestinian Arabs are the majority. In other words, even if a Palestinian state was instantaneously created based on the 1967 borders, BDS would still lead an international campaign to boycott Israel.

BDS protesters

Thus, the BDS Movement has more in common with the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses than it does with past boycott movements aimed at achieving social justice because its main purpose is to harm Jewish interests. As the Simon Wiesenthal Center pointed out, “Unlike the Montgomery Bus Boycott— which invoked Christian love against white racism—BDS habitually crosses the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies to historically toxic language demonizing the Jewish State and its supporters everywhere.”

While the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa fought to give black South Africans equal rights within their own country, the BDS movement attempts to deny the Jewish people their homeland.

Visit United with Israel.

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