Israel’s Cabinet raises budget for Holocaust survivors

JERUSALEM Israel’s Cabinet increased the amount of money available for services for Holocaust survivors. Tuesday’s decision, on the eve of Yom Hashoah, raises the budget for the basket of services for Holocaust survivors to about $60 million for 2012.
The Cabinet also decided that more than 8,500 Holocaust survivors will receive a more than $150 supplement to their monthly support payments, which run from about $530 to $1,860.

Knesset committee approves bill prohibiting use of Holocaust terms

JERUSALEM — A Knesset committee has approved a measure that would prohibit the use of Holocaust and Nazi terms and symbols. The Ministerial Legislation Committee on Monday approved the bill, which would level a fine of up to $26,000 and six months in jail for using the yellow Star of David or the term “Nazi,” for example. The bill comes on the heels of a haredi Orthodox demonstration in Jerusalem in which the demonstrators, including many young children, wore yellow stars as Jews were forced to do in Europe during World War II, and after the distribution of a poster depicting Jerusalem’s police chief dressed as Hitler, as well extremist right-wing settlers calling police and soldiers “Nazi.”

Uncovering the S.S. St. Louis

A United States Holocaust Memorial Museum representative recently revealed a once unsolved mystery to the local community. The director of curatorial affairs discussed the museum’s ten-year project to uncover the fate of every refugee aboard the passenger liner S.S. St. Louis, which carried 937 people fleeing Nazi Germany, was refused safe haven by Cuba and the U.S. and returned to Europe.

In Israel, gathering fragments of the Holocaust

NETANYA, Israel — The elderly men and women trickled in one by one, carrying physical scraps of memory: yellowing letters and postcards, old photos, personal belongings and frayed documents left behind by relatives who lived through the Holocaust. At tables set up in a senior citizens home in this coastal city, the visitors talked as interviewers listened and took notes. The stories swirled through the room — told in Hebrew, Russian and Yiddish, conjuring up the painful past as pictures and papers were carefully passed back and forth, examined, read and registered.

Yale Library digitizes Holocaust testimonies

Yale University Library is in the midst of the digitization of the Fortunoff Video Archive’s roughly 4500 testimonies from the Holocaust, many of survivors, without which the testimonies would soon become inaccessible. The machines that play the 13,000 tapes in the archive are no longer in production, so the transition to a digital format is essential for preservation.

MDA pledge for Israel’s Holocaust survivors

Holocaust survivors living in Israel and in need of emergency medical care will no longer have to worry about finding the money thanks to the efforts of Magen David Adom donors in Britain and France.
The contribution, which affects the more than 240,000 Holocaust survivors in Israel, was revealed at Britain’s annual MDA dinner in London on Wednesday.
Stuart Glyn, the chair of the UK branch, explained that the organisation and its French partner would now underwrite all MDA-related costs incurred by survivors. At present, those expenses are paid for from insurance or individual savings, yet more than half of the survivors live below the poverty line and struggle to pay bills.
Israel does not have a national health service, and individuals often have to pay when MDA, which is largely staffed by volunteers, is called out to their rescue.
Mr Glyn said that when MDA UK was alerted to the plight of survivors, “we were moved to act”.
“Over half [of survivors in Israel] are unable to pay for the most basic of medical services,” he said. “We believe this situation to be unacceptable.
“No Holocaust survivor ever need worry about the cost of seeking medical help.”
The plans chime with those of the British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould. Earlier this year Mr Gould announced plans to help combat loneliness amongst survivors by raising £2 million for social projects.
He called the MDA UK plans a “wonderful gesture”. “We owe it to the survivors to ensure that they live out their lives in comfort and dignity. This announcement is an important step towards that goal.”

Evoking my father’s defiant Zionist spirit


For one ‘extreme Zionist,’ love of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel was the most important element of Jewish leadership.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly last month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared that he had come “from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him).”

No mention of Kings David and Solomon, nor of the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, or of Rabbi Akiva, or of Hillel and Shammai, the most prominent members of Jerusalem’s Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus’s birth. He failed to recall Rabbi Yokhanan ben-Zakkai who established his yeshiva at Yavneh only decades later, or, for that matter, of Yehuda Hanasi, who compiled and edited the Mishna in the second century of the Common Era. All these men lived in Abbas’s “Holy Land, the land of Palestine” long before the birth of Muhammad. Indeed, the very words “Jews” and “Jewish” are conspicuously absent from Abbas’s speech.

Abbas’s deliberate refusal to acknowledge that before either Christianity or Islam ever appeared on the historical or theological scene, Judaism had been firmly ensconced in what is today the State of Israel speaks volumes.

And when Reuters reports that “the issue of whether and how to suggest that Israel should be a Jewish state ultimately sank” the Quartet’s recent diplomatic efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks,” it is time for all of us, in particular those of us who have long supported a legitimate peace process, to draw our line in the sand.

“My people,” Abbas declared, “desire to exercise their right to enjoy a normal life like the rest of humanity. They believe what the great poet Mahmoud Darwish said: Standing here, staying here, permanent here, eternal here, and we have one goal, one, one: to be.”

Our unambiguous response must be that we insist on precisely the same rights that Darwish demands for the Palestinians. For us, permanent, eternal Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel is not only non-negotiable but must be, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust, one of the cornerstones of any authentic, and hopefully lasting, peace.

When the remnant of European Jewry emerged from the death camps, forests and hiding places throughout Europe in the winter and spring of 1945, they looked for their families and, overwhelmingly, discovered that their fathers and mothers, their husbands, wives and children, their brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins had all been murdered by the Germans and their accomplices. Yet they did not give in to despair.

On the contrary, almost from the moment of their liberation, Holocaust survivors’ defiant affirmation of their Jewish national identity in the Displaced Persons camps of Germany, Austria, and Italy took the form of a political and spiritually redemptive Zionism. The creation of a Jewish state in what was then called Palestine was far more than a practical goal. It was the one ideal that had not been destroyed, and that allowed them to retain the hope that an affirmative future, beyond gas chambers, mass graves and ashes, was still possible for them.

AT BERGEN-Belsen, the largest of the DP camps, a popularly elected Jewish leadership headed by my father, Josef Rosensaft, made Zionism the order of the day. At the first Congress of Liberated Jews in the British Zone of Germany, convened in September 1945 in Belsen by my father and his colleagues without permission from the British military authorities, the survivors formally adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. They expressed their “sorrow and indignation that almost six months after liberation, we still find ourselves in guarded camps on British soil soaked with the blood of our people.”

Two months later, my father denounced the British government’s stifling of “Jewish nationalists and Zionist activities” at Belsen in the pages of The New York Times. He further charged “that the British exerted censorship over the inmates’ news sheets in that the Jews are not allowed to proclaim in print their desire to emigrate to Palestine.”

In December 1945, my father told representatives of American Jewry assembled at the first post-war conference of the United Jewish Appeal in Atlantic City, according to a report in The New York Herald Tribune, that the survivors’ sole hope was emigration to Palestine, the only place in the world “willing, able, and ready to open its doors to the broken and shattered Jews of war-ravaged Europe.” The following week, The New York Journal American quoted him as declaring at an emergency conference on Palestine at the Manhattan Center in New York City, that, “We know that the English are prepared to stop us with machine guns. But machine guns cannot stop us.” In early 1946, he told the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine that if the survivors would not be allowed to go to Palestine, “We shall go back to Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald and Auschwitz, and you will bear the moral responsibility for it.”

Small wonder, then, that according to British Foreign Office documents, my father was considered an “extreme Zionist” and a “dangerous troublemaker.”

My father, who taught me that a love of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel is the most important element of Jewish leadership, understood that the goal of a Jewish state was a spiritual lifeline that gave the survivors of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belsen and all the other centers of horror a sense of purpose and a basis for hope. He died precisely 36 years ago, on the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, midway between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I cannot think of a worthier way to observe his yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death, than by evoking his spirit and his uncompromising dedication to the creation of a new Jewish commonwealth to refute each and every refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The writer is adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, lecturer in law at Columbia Law School, and vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

‘Gov’t must respond to growing needs of Shoah survivors’

With a recent study revealing that more than one-third of the country’s Holocaust survivors are in dire need of assistance, the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel has called on the government to respond immediately to make sure this population can live out its final years with dignity and respect.
“The younger generation will never forgive us if we do not take care of the older generation with the respect they deserve,” said Maj.- Gen. Elazar Stern (res.), the voluntary chairman of the foundation. “I urge the relevant parties within the government to deal with this matter as soon as possible. There is no way that we can wait until tomorrow.
Stern pointed to the findings of a recent study carried out earlier this year by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Myers Brookdale Institute, which found that the social and economic needs of Israel’s Holocaust survivor population is expected to increase dramatically in the next four years.
“The needs of Holocaust survivors will only continue to grow,” he said.
“To see even just one Holocaust survivor go hungry or feel lonely over the holiday period is a failure of the State of Israel.”
Awareness of these needs has grown in recent years, Stern said, but it is now time to translate the awareness into political action.
According to the study, some 208,000 victims of Nazi atrocities live in Israel today, compared to 233,000 in 2009. It said that on average, 12,800 survivors pass away each year (35 people die per day).
The study highlighted that even though the number of survivors will have dropped by an incredible 30 percent to 145,000 by 2015, the number of those in need of financial assistance and medical aid will have risen sharply. Today roughly 33%, or 60,000 individuals out of the 208,000, are considered “needy.”
The increased need is clearly linked to the aging of the survivors, found the study, noting that while today 3% of the survivors are under the age of 70, 47% are between 70 and 80 and 50% are over 80. By 2015 more than two-thirds will be over 80.
Last April, representatives of some 15 government and nongovernmental organizations working to aid Holocaust survivors in Israel came together for the first time at a special parlor meeting organized by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, together with the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims.
However, five months later, there has been little improvement, as survivors still face an intense bureaucratic process even before they can understand what exactly their rights are.
“We’re fighting this difficult situation every day,” said Col. (res.) Rony Kalinsky, the foundation’s CEO. “We are assigning volunteers and social workers to help the survivors and also providing financial help, but unfortunately we cannot meet all the needs of survivors in this country.”