September 23, 2019

Moving and shaking: Black Earth, David Siegel, Chiune Sugihara and more

Yale historian Timothy Snyder, author of the 2015 book “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning,” discussed the causes of the Holocaust on March 21 at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus.

“How could a people so established on a continent suddenly come to a violent end?” Snyder asked of 1930s European Jewry.

The answer, he suggested, is that Adolf Hitler was an anarchist who thought it natural for human beings to compete for the world’s finite resources. The German leader was committed to the destruction of a state system that considered all kinds of people equal, and this, more than anti-Semitism, enabled the Holocaust, he said.

“Many genocides make a lot more sense if we see the failure of the state as the cause,” said Snyder, who also is the author of the 2010 book “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.”

During the Q-and-A, a Shoah survivor, Renee Firestone, stood up from her seat and said: “The Holocaust cannot be explained!”

Caught off guard, Snyder agreed that historians cannot capture the essence of the Shoah. But, he told the Journal later, one can try. “We can, and have to try to, understand,” he said. 

Wendy Lower, John K. Roth professor of history and George R. Roberts fellow and director of the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College, moderated the discussion, which was organized by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). 

Approximately 150 people attended, including USHMM Western Region Director Steven Klappholz, who delivered closing remarks. “This is really the beginning of a conversation,” he said.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) honored Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel with the Shalom Peace Award at the Women for Israel (WFI) Yom Ha’Atzmaut Luncheon on May 12. 

From left:  Fred Toczek, with his daughter, Ella, who is the youngest Jewish National Fund (JNF) Chai Society member in the country and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles and JNF honoree David Siegel. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund 

“I am so deeply appreciative for this recognition,” Siegel said at the luncheon. “My relationship with JNF is deep and personal. Having grown up near a JNF forest, I’ve seen firsthand the work of JNF and its significant impact in Israel. JNF has been a vital and close partner during my tenure: from supporting local fire stations on Sept. 11, to educating hundreds across the southwest at JNF Water Summits.”

Luncheon co-Chairwoman Gina Raphael remarked that “Consul General Siegel has led our Jewish community in Los Angeles for the last five years, and he has been a true friend to JNF, and to me by helping bring my commitment to Israel to life. … We are so honored to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut with him and help raise money for a fire station in Jerusalem, one of the many important projects JNF works on in Israel.”

Ariel Kotler, the JNF Israel operations development officer, spoke about Israel’s firefighters, and Israel’s Eurovision star Moran Mazor performed “Jerusalem of Gold.” Cantor Nati Baram and Siegel performed a rendition of “Avinu Shebashamayim,” the prayer for the State of Israel. 

The amount of money raised at the event is not yet known, but it will enable JNF Los Angeles to pass its $7 million fundraising goal. 

— Avi Sholkoff, Contributing Writer

Temple Ramat Zion honored the late Chiune Sugihara at its Holocaust memorial commemoration on May 1. Sugihara was a Japanese consul general to Lithuania who in the 1940s ignored his government’s regulations and issued visas to thousands of Jews, saving their lives by enabling them to leave Lithuania. Sugihara, who died in 1986, was sanctioned by his country and spent time in a Soviet prison as a result of his actions.

Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Hidehisa Horinouchi. Photo by Caryn Baitel

Attendees at the recent event included the current consul general of Japan in Los Angeles, Hidehisa Horinouchi, who delivered a tribute to Sugihara at Temple Ramat Zion, and spoke of Sugihara’s 1984 recognition as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel.

Other speakers included the German consul general in Los Angeles, Hans Jorg Neumann; Temple Ramat Zion Rabbi Ahud Sela; Temple Ramat Zion Cantor Daniel Friedman; Valley Beth Shalom Cantor Herschel Fox; Northridge United Methodist Church Rev. Karen Murata; Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Northridge Rev. David Loftus; the Temple Ramat Zion Choir and Temple Ramat Zion USY members. 

— Avi Sholkoff, Contributing Writer 

Hilda Eisen donated an ambulance to Magen David Adom in honor of her 99th birthday and in memory of her husband, Harry, who died in 2012. The event took place May 8 at her home in Beverly Hills. 

Hilda Eisen donated an ambulance to Magen David Adom in honor of her 99th birthday and in memory of her husband, Harry. Photo courtesy of Michael Rubinstein

Both Hilda and Harry survived the Holocaust. Harry survived Auschwitz and was president of the Lodzer Organization, a local group of philanthropic Holocaust survivors. He founded Norco Ranch, which until 2005 was the largest egg producer west of the Mississippi. Hilda was a partisan fighter in the Parczew forest during the war. 

Yossi Mentz and Tricia Harris, from the American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), along with Michael Rubinstein and Rita Statman, Eisen’s grandchildren, helped organize the event. Mentz, the Western regional director of AFMDA, spoke at the event and detailed the process of building the ambulances. 

— Avi Sholkoff, Contributing Writer

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