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May 24, 2015 / 6 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘the Holocaust’

The Way We Were

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I though I might take a break from my regular fare here and talk a bit about my illustrious family. Many people know my New York cousins. Not so many know me. At least not outside my blog.

I found this picture not long ago in a box of pictures I have in my bedroom closet. It was a small black and white print which has been restored and enlarged. It is currently hanging in my den.

The two people in the photo were always referred to by my parents as “the uncle” and “the tanta” (Yiddish for aunt). Binyamin (Binny Mendel) Maryles was my father’s uncle – his mother’s brother. The tanta was his wife, Chaya. She was a Baumel and the sister of Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm’s grandmother.

These two figures had tremendous impact on my life. They were the one’s that sponsored my parents’ immigration to the US after the Holocaust. That was in 1946, the year of my birth. These two people and their children made it happen. The uncle and the Tanta were also the patriarchs of the much bigger New York branch of the Maryles family.

Their four children, Simon (Symie), Toby, David (Dave), and Joe (Yoshe) are patriarchs and a matriarchs in their own right. Two of them have passed away. Simon who joined the Canadian army during WWII so that he could fight Hitler before the US got involved – died a few years ago. David died very tragically from leukemia back in the 50s.

David is featured prominently in the ArtScroll biography of Mike Tress. Mike, Dave and a little known Askan by the name of Moshe Sherer were very active in Hatzalah during and after the Holocaust. They were also for all practical purposes the founding fathers of Agudath Israel in America. When I had an occasion to meet with Rabbi Sherer and he heard my last name, he immediately asked me if I was related to David.

David’s children have made their mark too, as did Yoshe’s children, Toby’s children and Simon’s children . Some of them were very active in Jewish education. Ironically David’s children all became active in modern Orthodox and religious Zionist organizations. His grandchildren attended MO schools. His great grandson and namesake, Binny -a Musmach of YU, is the rabbi of a Young Israel and is involved in he hierarchy of the Young Israel movement.

The uncle’s grandchildren run the entire gamut of Judaism. From Lakewood Charedi to Yeshiva of Flatbush modern Orthodox… to secular. One of his great grand-daughters is a Yoetzet. Another is an Orthodox Jewish feminist who was recently tapped to head JOFA.

While I have my differences with some of them on both ends of the religious spectrum, I could not be prouder than to be a bearer of the name.. and a member of the clan.

My father was not a Maryles. He was a Shapiro. My New York cousins – jokingly – do not hesitate to remind the Chicago branch of the family of that all the time. My father changed it to his mother’s maiden name –Maryles – during the Holocaust. That is a story in and of itself, but not for now. I was however born a Maryles.

What few people know is that the name Maryles has some very significant Chasdishe Yichus attached to it. The uncle was the fifth generation grandson of a Chasidic Rebbe by the name of Rav Shimon Elbaum – the Yaroslover Rebbe. He was a Talmid Muvak of the Chozeh M’Lublin. He changed his name from Elbaum to Maryles – which is a Hebrew acronym “Mei R. Yisroel Leib’s meaning “From Rav Yisroel Leib”. That was his father’s name.

Yisroel Leib was a Misnagid – a strong opponent of Chasidus. He so opposed his son’s “conversion” to Chasdidus that he said on his death bed that he should not say Kaddish for him if he included “VeYatzmach Purkanei V’Karev Meshichei”. That is the added sentence of Nusach Sephard that Chasidim use. I guess that R’ Shimon changed his last name because he wanted to pay tribute to his father in some way to sort of make amends for his break from tradition by becoming a Chasid.

A Leading Democrat’s Secret Advice On ‘The Jewish Vote’

Friday, September 21st, 2012

A senior member of President Harry Truman’s own administration secretly gave American Zionist lobbyists advice in 1946 on how to pressure Truman to support creating a Jewish state.

According to a documents I recently found at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, when Zionist lobbyists needed advice on how to use the 1946 midterm elections as leverage on the White House, they turned to Truman’s own Solicitor General (the official who represents the administration before the Supreme Court), J. Howard McGrath.

A lawyer by profession, McGrath rose quickly in the ranks of the Democratic Party in his native Rhode Island. He was vice-chairman of the state party by 1928 and chairman two years later. After a four-year stint as U.S. district attorney in Providence, McGrath was elected governor in 1940. In 1944, he was one of the organizers of the Democratic National Convention and helped line up the votes to replace Vice President Harry Wallace with Senator Harry Truman. In the process, McGrath forged close ties with both Truman and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Yet at the same time, he was straying far from the party line on Jewish issues. Starting in 1942, McGrath’s name began appearing among the endorsers listed on newspaper ads by the Bergson Group, a political action committee that criticized the Roosevelt administration on the issues of Jewish refugees and creating a Jewish state. He also served as a sponsor of Bergson’s 1943 Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe.

Associating with Jewish critics of President Roosevelt was a risky move for a rising Democratic politician. Certainly McGrath would need to maintain good relations with the White House to advance his political career.

Why McGrath took an interest in Jewish affairs is not clear. Perhaps his Irish heritage and resentment of British control of Ireland created a sense of solidarity with the Jewish struggle to oust the British from Palestine. Other Irish-Americans who were active in the Bergson Group, such as attorney Paul O’Dwyer and Congressman Andrew Somers of Brooklyn, cited their resentment of the British as a factor. The feeling was mutual: in one internal British government memo I located, a Foreign Office staffer slurred Somers as “the less happy type of Irish-American Catholic demagogue.”

It is unlikely McGrath was motivated by pursuit of Jewish votes, since Jews comprised barely three percent of Rhode Island’s population. But McGrath had plenty to say on the subject when Benjamin Akzin, a senior lobbyist for the American Zionist Emergency Council (precursor of AIPAC), came seeking advice on “the Jewish vote.”

Akzin, who in later years would found and chair Hebrew University’s political science department and would serve as president of Haifa University, met with McGrath on March 14, 1946. He began by expressing his distress at “the lag between promise and performance” in the Truman administration’s Palestine policy. “Friendly statements” about Zionism were not matched with deeds.

“I came to ask what he could advise,” Akzin reported afterward to his colleagues, “and what he could do to help us in order to obtain some action.”

McGrath responded that “not being in the Cabinet, he could not raise the Palestine issue.” Moreover, “he has to stick to his own job, and any attempt by him to influence the policy of other Departments would be strongly resented.”

Then he turned around and proceeded to advise Akzin on how best to influence those other departments.

The Zionists’ “technical arguments” about rights and history would not succeed, McGrath said. They needed to adopt “a political approach” that would highlight the likelihood that Jewish voters would turn away from the Democrats in the upcoming midterm congressional elections. “He was very emphatic on this point.”

McGrath suggested organizing “a group of Democratic congressmen in threatened areas” to “take up the [Palestine] matter collectively with the Administration…After all, the real issue in the coming elections concerns the control of the House, rather than that of the Senate.” The administration might take heed if warned that the Democrats could lose control of the House over the Palestine issue.

Another “effective means of pressure on the Palestine issue, McGrath said, would be for the Zionists to contact “the Democratic candidates for governorships and for the Senate in the key states with a considerable Jewish population.” Each of those candidates “is going to have several talks with the President, with [national Democratic Party chairman Robert] Hannegan, and with the other key persons of the Administration.”

Memory And Belief In The Wake Of The Holocaust: An Interview with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, formerly the chief rabbi of Israel and currently chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, visited the United States recently to address the Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium and to appear at a Chabad Shabbos retreat in Fort Lauderdale.

Rabbi Lau spoke with The Jewish Press about his account of coming of age during the Holocaust, first published in Hebrew as “MeMaamakim” and translated into English as “Out of the Depths: The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last” (Sterling/OU Press).

The Jewish Press: How were you able to recollect so vividly what you lived through as a very young boy during the Holocaust?

Rabbi Lau: This question has been asked of me many times. There are three answers.

First, God blessed me with a wonderful memory and so I was able to recall events that occurred many years ago.

Second, I am sure you remember something about first grade when you were six years old, like the name of your teacher and the first day of class. Well, if you can remember something like that, which was perhaps dramatic but certainly not traumatic, how much more can someone remember something that is not only dramatic but, unfortunately, traumatic?

Third, every time I finished a chapter, I would fax what I had written to my brother Naphtali, who is eleven years older than I am, and I would ask him to be my fact checker. Naphtali was surprised that all my facts were correct and he himself wondered how I was able to remember what happened to me during my awful experience during the Holocaust at such a young age.

There are those who survived the Holocaust and turned away from Hashem in terms of the observance of mitzvot. What do you say to people who have gone through the same experience as you but turned out so different?

Yes, unfortunately, there are many whom I encounter who have turned their back on the synagogue. I refer them to the third chapter of Tehillim, where King David, speaking from the perspective of the Jews’ enemy, states, “They say let us eradicate them [the Jews] as a nation,” which refers to the physical destruction of the Jews.

But then King David continues, “and there will be no remembrance of the Jews ever,” which refers to their spiritual eradication, chas v’shalom. I explain, with a great deal of empathy and sympathy, to these survivors that they are handing the ultimate victory to the Nazis, for although they physically survived, their spiritual survival has been eradicated. And instead of bringing solace and comfort to their parents and great-parents who were killed by the Nazis, they are bringing gratification to the Nazis.

I know these words penetrate many of the survivors and give them pause to think about how they should lead their lives. It is not easy. I also refer them to Tehillim 92 where King David says “How great are your wonders O God,” which refers to the absolute marvels of the natural world we see around us and can barely understand.

King David continues, “Your ‘thoughts’ are so deep” and not comprehensible by humankind. I ask them, “If we cannot truly fathom God’s wonders in what we can physically see in nature and the world around us, how can we understand God’s intent and reason for this horrible tragedy that befell our people?”

Would you describe your book as an autobiography or as a story of the Holocaust and the beginnings of the state of Israel – or a little of both?

The book is not a biography or even an autobiography. It is a book of emunah, of faith. It was my desire to give strength to Holocaust survivors and their families, to know that despite what we went through, we can succeed and prosper.

Why is there little if any Holocaust education in yeshivas, particularly among haredim?

This is something I have been working on for many years. I was the first person appointed to the Yad Vashem Council who had a “yeshivish” background. I soon discovered there was a haredi department at Yad Veshem that was rarely used or visited. I succeeded in obtaining the cooperation of thousands of haredi rebbeim and teachers to visit for several days and to learn lessons on the Holocaust to be taught to their students. I also was involved in publishing various kinos that recall the Holocaust.

Maryland Congressman Apologizes for Holocaust Reference

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

A Maryland congressman apologized for referring to the Holocaust as he discussed his opposition to federal involvement in providing student loans.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) apologized Thursday for the remarks, which drew criticism.

“While explaining my position on an important Constitutional issue I regrettably used an extreme example as a comparison that was ill-advised and inappropriate,” Bartlett said in a statement. “I should never use something as horrific as the Holocaust to make a political point, and I deeply apologize to anyone I may have offended.”

In his initial comments at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Bartlett had argued that the federal government lacked the authority under the Constitution to offer student loans and warned of a “slippery slope” if the Constitution is ignored.

“If you can ignore the Constitution to do something good today, tomorrow you will be ignoring the Constitution to do something bad,” he said, adding: ” The Holocaust that occurred in Germany — how in the heck could that happen? And when you start down the wrong road, it can be a very slippery slope.”

How the Holocaust Never Happened in Rumania

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The virus of antisemitism is alive and well in Eastern Europe, and so is the denial of the Holocaust. It is particularly disconcerting that a younger generation in Rumania, and more than likely everywhere else in the world, should be infected with this virus, and is — or claims to be — ignorant of the real treatment of Jews in the 20th century.

Dan Sova, a 39 year old Rumanian lawyer and Social Democrat, who has been a Senator in the Parliament since 2008, was promoted to the position of Minister for Parliamentary Relations by the Prime Minister Victor Ponta on August 6 after saying on a television broadcast on March 5, that “no Jew suffered on Rumanian territory (during the Holocaust) thanks to Marshal Antonescu.” Two days later Sova was removed “temporarily” from office as speaker of his political party. He has also said that “only 24 Jews were killed during the Iasi pogrom (of June 28-29, 1941) by the German army.”

Both statements by Sova were false and malicious. Ion Antonescu, the pro-Nazi dictator of Rumania during World War II was “leader of the state,” prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister, and self-appointed Marshal. He joined the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy, and Japan against the Allies in November 1940, two months after it had been signed. He also established close personal contact with Hitler. It was Antonescu who on June 27, 1941, ordered the commander of the military garrison of the town of Iasi, in northeast Rumania, to “cleanse” the city of its Jewish population. The action was not instigated by the Nazis but by the Rumanian authorities and the Rumanian army on their own initiative.

It is estimated that during the two days of the pogrom in Iasi, between 13,000 and 15,000 Jews were massacred in the streets or else died in the death trains on which 100 Jews were herded into each boxcar; most died of thirst, starvation, or suffocation. The actions of the Rumanian regime in the Holocaust led to the deaths, not of 24 Jews, but a number estimated to be between 280,000 and 380,000 Rumanian Jews — most likely the larger number, in the territories under its control.

It was not Nazi policy that triggered the massacre of Jews but the Rumanian government itself — with the enthusiastic participation of the military, and the endorsement of the broader society, similar to the better-known participation of the French Vichy regime and French authorities during the war.

In the period after World War II, from 1945 to 1989, Rumania was under Communist control, first by the Soviet Union and then as an independent country; information about the country’s actions during the war was largely suppressed. Few Rumanians were aware of the involvement of their country during the Holocaust. Perhaps the kindest thing to be said of Dan Sova is that his schooling did not include any information about the Holocaust.

It is difficult, however, to believe that a young lawyer educated at the University of Bucharest could be so ignorant. When criticism arose of his promotion on August 6, four days later he confessed that his remarks on the Holocaust were “completely wrong.” It would be nice to take at face value his plans to take concrete actions on the matter, one of which will be a course of lectures on the Holocaust.

No matter the degree of sincerity in Sova’s apologies and regrets, a few lessons could be drawn from his case: there is a critical need to keep on discrediting Holocaust deniers, ranging from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran to Ernst Zundel, a German who lived in Canada. Education, especially of the young, about the Holocaust is urgent and essential to put an end to the falsehoods of distortions of history by individuals such as David Irving in Britain, Robert Faurisson in France or Louis Farrakhan in the U.S. Both the young and the old should continue to be informed of the assertions of the deniers — the allegations that the Diary of Anne Frank was a hoax because parts of it were written with a ball point pen, or that Auschwitz was too small to have been an extermination camp — to be able to refute them.

Joy To The World, We’re Jewish

Friday, August 17th, 2012

When I began this article, I had intended to write about Anna Breslaw’s article in Tablet (www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/105853/breaking-bad-karma) where she basically defamed Holocaust survivors and called them “villains masquerading as heroes.” As I tried to organize my thoughts, I wondered how many young Jews agreed with Anna’s article. I realized that maybe the problem isn’t one article but that Judaism is not being taught correctly to my generation.

One of my dear friends is a Christian and she is on fire for her faith. It glows in her eyes, it brings a smile to her face and it makes her love life. She is proud of who she is and holds her head higher because of what she believes.

I may not want her religion, but I definitely want that fervor brought to my faith. I want Jewish kids on fire for Judaism, I want us smiling when we talk about our faith, I want us to be proud and happy to be Jewish. Anna Breslaw isn’t on fire for Judaism and I want to know why.

As much as we like to kvetch about it, being Jewish is really awesome. It’s an ancient system of beliefs that has survived massive persecution to produce immense scholarship and achievement. We resurrected a language, we got a country and we have a unique contract with the One Who Created the World. Why aren’t Jewish youth walking around with a light in their eyes?

One reason a friend mentioned is that modern society seems to reject rules in favor of freedom and personal expressions. I’d accept that theory, but I see so many religious Mormons and Evangelical Christians observe long lists of rules and do it voluntarily. More importantly, they do it joyfully.

Maybe that is the problem. In a survey of Metropolitan Chicago Jews, 81% of Jews said that remembering the Holocaust was an important part of their identity and 80% said that stopping anti-Semitism was the most important. 49% felt it was important to take positive steps like donating to Jewish causes. If our relationship to Judaism is just suffering, it is no wonder that it is being rejected. It’s hard to be on fire for something so negative. If being Jewish is about remembering the Holocaust and avoiding it happening in the future, I’d mock such a faith myself.

As vital as the Holocaust is, as terrible as anti-Semitism is, it’s not what being Jewish is about. When I smile at the harried neighbor and ask how she’s doing, that is being Jewish. When I give up my seat to an elderly person, that is being Jewish. I live my life as a stich in an incredible tapestry and I am so proud of who I am. I know he might not be the best example of Judaism, but Disraeli had it right when he said that his ancestors were priests in the temple of Solomon. We have a glorious history and an even more glorious future!

We have so much positivity in our faith. There is no joy like playing Vashti in a Purim shpiel and then downing far too many Hamantashan at a merry feast. There is no sport like negotiating hard for an afikoman, or looking up at the stars peeking in between the sparse roofing of a Succah. There is no feeling that can compare to seeing the Western Wall and crying with hundreds of strangers who are instantly your family. My personal week’s highlight is when my dad lays his head on my head and gives me a blessing before he makes kiddush.

The problem is that many Jews today are missing out on those amazing experiences and all they have is the Holocaust as their heritage and the eternal terror of anti-Semitism. Who wants that?

Judaism faces a unique challenge today. We can live where we wish, work in whatever fields we wish and even marry whom we wish. There is no badge that marks us as Jews; people of the Tribe have reached the greatest heights in every single area of American life. That kind of freedom is wonderful, but it also means that unless a fundamental choice to be Jewish is made, there is little holding back assimilation. Judaism must market itself attractively and some are already ahead of the trend.

Family Breakdown (Part One)

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

In the past few columns I have focused on the tragic breakdowns in our families that have become all too common. The response has been overwhelming. I’ve featured a couple of those responses, but it would take weeks to run all the letters and e-mails that have come in. This week I will share some of my own thoughts on the subject.

As most of you know, my family arrived in this country after the Holocaust. We came from Bergen Belsen, where we saw and experienced satanic evil. Our bodies and souls were exhausted. The strength had ebbed out of us, but our emunah, our faith in Hashem, never ebbed.

My saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, imbued us with a mission: to rekindle the light of Torah that once illuminated the shtetls of Europe. Our hearts reverberated with hope – hope of reigniting that eternal light from Sinai that Hitler was determined to extinguish for all eternity. Yet with all that, my saintly mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, a”h, looked with fear at our new surroundings.

“How can parents raise children in this country?” she asked fearfully.

Having come from a place where starvation was our daily fare, where vermin and rodents were our constant companions and where the silence of the night was shattered by pitiful, anguished cries of the suffering, what could my mother have seen that prompted her to ask that question – that made her fearful of America?

Surely she should have exulted in this blessed country. She should have been at peace in the knowledge that now we would not go hungry, that we would sleep in beds with clean blankets, pillows and sheets, that our nights would be silent and peaceful and that the sun would shine brightly announcing a new day. So what could have made my mother’s heart tremble?

My mother had a quick eye and often spoke like a surgeon. She would cut to the source of the problem and without embellishment identify the festering tumor. And so it was that even when no one else saw it, she pointed to the disease that was infecting America: the breakdown of family, the absence of respect in the parent/child relationship. She bemoaned the fact that parents not only tolerated the unbridled chutzpah of their children but encouraged it, albeit unknowingly. She was ahead of her time and foresaw the tragedy that was about to destroy the solid foundation of family life.

Reverence for parents is the pillar on which faith in Hashem and strong, stable families are built. When it does not exist, the very foundation stones of our lives collapse and crumble. When children are allowed to believe they “know better” and have the right to relate to their mothers and fathers with condescension, the children begin to rule and the parents lose their authority. When chutzpah is regarded as “friendship” – being a “pal” to your children – there is a loss of authority that is mistaken for good parenting. That is what my mother saw and feared.

My father, in his gentle way, always endeavored to find the sunshine behind every cloud, so he tried to reassure my mom. “Dee Ribbonoh Shel Olam vet helfen – Almighty G-d will help us to protect our children in the solid enclaves of Torah,” he said with confidence.

But, tragically, while those mighty walls of Torah insulated many families, many others were infected by our secular culture. The damage was done. Today the disease is everywhere and every individual and family must be vigilant. No one can be confident of immunity.

My mother’s words were prophetic. Family breakdown, alienation between the generations, contempt, anger and dysfunctional relationships are everywhere. The toxic fumes have left devastating damage on not only children but grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles – entire families.

What can we do about it? I’m afraid nothing much that is positive. Yesterday, children felt indebted. Today they feel entitled. Yesterday, parents taught children to speak; today children teach their parents to keep silent.

Yesterday, the young rose in honor of their elders; today the elders rise in honor of the young. Yesterday, children reverently greeted their mothers and fathers; today parents are grateful if their children take a few seconds to look up from their computers and grunt in their direction. Yesterday, adult children tried to attend to the needs of their parents; today parents keep their wallets open and their mouths closed.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/family-breakdown/2012/08/09/

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