World Briefs

Settlers Protest Outpost Dismantling

Jewish settlers protested at an illegal outpost in the West Bank to oppose army plans to dismantle mobile homes there. According to witnesses, protesters beat up journalists and stoned their cars Wednesday, damaging camera equipment. At midday, Moshe Zar, who founded Havat Gilad, called on the protesters to leave peacefully, saying his family had decided to leave the outpost. Havat Gilad was set up last year after Zar’s son, Gilad, was killed by Palestinian terrorists.

Israel Remembers Rabin

Commemorations marking the seventh anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination were to begin Wednesday evening with a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. The events, which are being held on the Hebrew anniversary of the assassination, were to include memorial ceremonies in Israeli cities and a special Knesset session Thursday. Rabin was killed on Nov. 4, 1995, by Yigal Amir, a right-wing religious student opposed to Rabin’s land-for-peace policies with the Palestinians.

HUC-JIR Inagurates President

Rabbi David Ellenson was inaugurated Sunday Oct. 13 as president of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati. Ellenson, 55, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of Jerusalem and lecturer at Hebrew University and UCLA, will become the eighth president in HUC-JIR’s 127-year history. Ellenson has written extensively on modern Jewish history, ethics and thought.

Hungarian Jew Wins Nobel

Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian who survived Auschwitz, won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The prize committee singled out his 1975 debut novel, “Fateless,” about a young man deported to a concentration camp.

“For him, Auschwitz is not an exceptional occurrence,” the committee said. “It is the ultimate truth about human degradation in modern experience.”

Kertesz, a 72-year-old Jew born in Budapest, was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, then to Buchenwald, where he was liberated in 1945.

Georgia Jew Sues County

A Georgia Jew is suing his school district for challenging the theory of evolution. Jeffrey Selman filed the lawsuit against Atlanta’s suburban Cobb County School District, following the school board’s decision in August to place stickers in science textbooks calling evolution a scientific theory, not a fact. Then, the seven-member boarded unanimously voted in September to allow educators to teach both creationism and evolution. Selman, who has the backing of the Anti-Defamation League, may expand the lawsuit to include the September vote, which he said kowtows to a “vocal, myopic, sectarian minority.”

IBM Used at Auschwitz?

IBM technology was used at Auschwitz, according to a journalist. Until now, Edwin Black has built a case against the giant computer company because of the role IBM technology played during the Holocaust. But there was no link to Auschwitz, the most infamous concentration camp.

A recent discovery prompted by a coincidental finding in a phone book from the 1940s, however, shows that machines produced by IBM — such as punch card machines, sorters and tabulators — were in fact used at Auschwitz’s slave labor camp, according to Black, author of “IBM and the Holocaust.” IBM denies aiding the Nazi regime, but acknowledges that the Nazis used equipment manufactured by IBM’s German subsidiary.

Federation Drops Nimoy Over Book

The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle dropped actor Leonard Nimoy from its Oct. 23 fundraiser because of images in his book of photographs. The cover for Nimoy’s book, “Shekhina,” shows a woman wearing tefillin and her right breast visible through a translucent garment. The work is entirely “reverential,” Nimoy told The Associated Press. “It’s a photographic essay on the subject of the Shekhina, which is the feminine presence of God, the feminine aspect of divinity.”

Federation director Barry Goren told The Seattle Times that he dropped the former star of “Star Trek” after receiving “some expressions of concern.” He added that he had little choice. “If you were running a charity fundraising dinner and there were going to be images of naked women or naked women with Jewish ritual objects draped on them, that might be offensive to some folks,” he said.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

6 Million Memorialized

At Yom HaShoah commemorations across Los Angeles, the Jewish community and friends looked to the past to remember and to the present to engage.

The Citywide Youth Commemoration at Wilshire Boulevard Temple on April 9 was a by-the-kid, for-the-kids affair, with elementary, middle and high school students presenting artistic renditions of their understanding of the Holocaust. Through song, story, poetry and the testimony of survivors they had interviewed, students from 15 Los Angeles area schools ensured that the memory of what happened will be passed on to the next generation. After the Emanuel Academy sang the Yiddish "Partisan’s Song," students from Fulton Middle School recounted a survivor’s testimony, "Seven Days Locked Up," in English and Spanish.

The state got involved in Yom HaShoah in part by honoring a Holocaust educator. Peter Fischl had spent his childhood in hiding in Budapest, and though he lost his family, he moved to America and forged a life for himself, working as a security guard for Pinkerton. Though he claims, "I am not a poet — you cannot ask me or pay me to write a poem," Fischl was so inspired by a Holocaust-era photo that his poetic response has become the basis of a high school curriculum on the Holocaust.

The photo, which Fischl first saw in a November 1960 Life Magazine, shows a young boy, arms up, fearfully walking away from Nazi gunmen during the roundup of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Fischl’s poem, "To the Little Polish Boy Standing With His Arms Up," reads in part: "And the monument will tremble/ so the blind world/ Now/ will know/ What fear is in the darkness." It ends: "I/ am/ Sorry/ that/ It was you/ and/ Not me."

Fischl’s poem inspired Morristown, N.J., English teacher Nancy Gorrell to develop a high school curriculum called, "Teaching Empathy Through Ecphrastic Poetry," to teach students to put themselves in the emotional place of Holocaust victims.

For his part in the curriculum, along with his long history of outreach in local schools, the state Lottery awarded Fischl its Hero in Education Award. The award ceremony will be broadcast on KCAL Channel 9 at 7 p.m.on Saturday, May 18. Educators can download lesson plans using the poem at’pb.

At Valley Beth Shalom on April 12, Rabbi Harold Schulweis and the VBS congregation continued their Yom HaShoah tradition of honoring the stories of Holocaust heroism. In previous years, VBS has celebrated the efforts of people in Denmark, Italy and Spain to save Jews. This year, the little known but extremely successful efforts of Bulgarian leaders was spotlighted.

Princess Maria Louisa of Bulgaria and Metropolitan Galactyon, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church of Bulgaria, attended a Shabbat dinner at the synagogue honoring King Boris III of Bulgaria (the princess’ father), who worked with Bulgarian Orthodox Church leaders to convince the Nazis that Bulgaria’s Jews were needed to work in Bulgaria.

Before World War II, there were approximately 48,000 Jews in Bulgaria. Immediately afterward, there were approximately 50,000.

Yom HaShoah is about more than the past. It is a day of remembrance, but also a day of vigilance. This was apparent at Sinai Temple on April 14, where tight security measures were in place for the dignitaries in attendance.

Among the officials on hand at the temple were Gov. Gray Davis; Mayor James Hahn; Rep. Brad Sherman; City Councilmembers Jan Perry, Nate Holden, Eric Garcetti, Jack Weiss and Alex Padilla; District Attorney Steve Cooley; L.A. Board of Education members Julie Korenstein and David Tarkofsky; Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke; Sheriff Lee Baca, and state senators and members of the Assembly.

The Temple Sinai event focused on the present, with Ambassador Dennis Ross (see below) and Davis devoting their remarks to the violence in Israel, connecting unjustifiable death past and present.

Israeli Consul-General Yuval Rotem urged Palestinian leadership to take heed of the lesson of our shared ancestor Abraham: "Our sons cannot be sacrificed, for any reason." Davis drew some of the loudest applause as he acknowledged "the shared values that Israelis and Americans hold," and told the multigenerational crowd "We unequivocally declare our support for the state of Israel."

Yom HaShoah Eternal

Last week’s Yom HaShoah observances in Los Angeles demonstrated that as new generations of Jews mark the day with no personal memories of the Holocaust, themes and practices evolve to ensure that 6 million Jews are not forgotten.

The focus of the Yom HaShoah commemorations remains, while it is still possible, on the testimony of survivors.

Highlighting the April 18 "From Darkness to Light" community event at Congregation Beth Jacob was the keynote speech of retired U.S. Army Major General Sidney Shachnow, a survivor from Lithuania.

Shachnow recalled friends and family murdered "the old-fashioned way," shot into a mass grave in the Kovno ghetto. A true hero, Shachnow survived the Nazi destruction of his hometown to serve in the U.S. military — in an ironic twist, defending Germany against his liberators, the Soviets. As commander of U.S. forces in Berlin, he became a symbol of Jewish survival, with headquarters in a building formerly occupied by Hermann Goering.

The symbolism and ritual that are so necessary for carrying meaning beyond experience came to the forefront in the evening’s solemn candlelighting ceremony. Upon the lighting of each of six candles symbolizing the 6 million, the audience responded with "We shall never forget. Zachor." Each candle was said to stand for a group involved in the Shoah, from the infants killed in the camps to the heroes of the resistance and the survivors.

The high school students who participated in the Jay Shalmoni Memorial Holocaust Arts and Writing contest, who had each interviewed a survivor, were invited to light another six candles in a symbolic passing of the torch of memory.

The next day at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the focus was again on continuing memory. Students from across Los Angeles arrived in busloads to hear and to tell, in poems, songs and sketches, the stories of children like themselves, of some who survived the Holocaust and of many who did not. In telling these stories, modern, American high school students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, took on the personae of those suffering under the Nazis. The feeling of a haggadah reading was inescapable, a "When we were in Europe" appropriated memory of the sort that has made Passover so powerful.

At Sinai Temple on April 22, the memory of the Holocaust was very clearly not just a Jewish priority. Political figures, including Gov. Gray Davis; mayoral candidates James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa; Consul General Pieter Launsky-Tieffenthal of Austria and the consuls general of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and the Czech Republic joined Jewish Angelenos in paying homage to martyrs and survivors.

In impassioned musical performances and speeches, the focus of the Yom HaShoah V’HaGevurah event was on geulah (redemption). Peter Z. Malkin, the man who captured Adolf Eichmann, emphasized this redemption as he spoke of bringing Eichmann to justice, not revenge. As Rabbi Steven Z. Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple proclaimed, "Rage is not our way forever." Noting that his grandchildren would be as far removed from the Shoah as we are today from the Civil War, Leder spoke of memory as redemption. "We must turn this darkness forever into light."

In the end, these commemorations make clear that Yom HaShoah as a holiday is not another Passover, for the simple reason that this time we were not spared. Yet the urgent need to remember and pass the story from generation to generation remains the same. When the survivors of the Shoah, with their firsthand accounts, pass on, new generations will carry their stories and the stories of the 6 million dead through the ages, as Jews have always done. As this year’s commemorations proved, the generations born after the Holocaust, from middle-school students to the children of survivors, already have begun to internalize those stories.