Category Archive: Third Generation

For Holocaust’s loneliest survivors, young Israelis are a lifeline

Thousands of volunteers help ensure some ‘good feelings’ for the 160,000-strong community of survivors in Israel, the world’s largest

Israel-Lonely-Survivo_Horo-1AP — Surrounded by more than 100 fellow Holocaust survivors and young volunteers, a blind Ernest Weiner sat in his wheelchair with a puffy crown on his head as the crowd sang happy birthday and showered him with hugs and greetings.

Widowed and childless, 92-year-old Weiner lives alone and the cheerful gathering offered him one of life’s most valuable commodities — company.

As home to the world’s largest survivor community, Israel is grappling to serve the needs of thousands of people like Weiner who are living out their final days alone. Various government bodies and private organizations chip in to offer material, psychological and medical support to the survivors, still scarred by the horrors they experienced 70 years ago. But all agree that the greatest burden late in their lives is loneliness.

“It’s not pleasant to be alone,” Weiner said in his apartment south of Tel Aviv. “It gives a good feeling” to have people visit.

Some 160,000 elderly survivors remain in Israel, with a similar number worldwide. In Israel, about half receive special government stipends, but a third still live under the poverty line, well above the national 20 percent poverty rate.

That’s where the nonprofit sector gets involved. The Association for Immediate Help for Holocaust Survivors was established nine years ago for the purpose of aiding survivors anywhere in Israel, at a moment’s notice. Run solely on donations, it currently has some 8,000 volunteers around the country.

They help survivors with everything from legal assistance to paying their bills, buying their groceries to driving them to doctor appointments. Several times a year, they throw parties that become a highlight on survivors’ calendars.

The care continues even after death. The association’s modest office currently houses a number of orphaned dogs and cats left behind by their owners.

“Morally, not just as Jews but as people of the world, we must help them finish their life in dignity without them having to beg for warm food,” said Tamara More, the association’s voluntary CEO. “These are people whose lives were robbed from them because of the world’s silence, and we all have an obligation to give them something back in the little time they have left.”

Six million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust, wiping out a third of world Jewry. Israel’s main Holocaust memorial day is in the spring — marking the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising — while the United Nations designated Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945.

As the senior adviser to former finance minister Yair Lapid, Naama Schultz spearheaded the ministry’s efforts to boost previously paltry funding to those who survived camps and ghettos. Besides a monthly stipend, the state also provides expanded health care, free medication and discounts on various living expenses.

But Schultz said money couldn’t address their emotional needs. Many survivors kept their pasts to themselves for decades, often alienating even the people closest to them due to their trauma. Only in their final years are many finally ready to open up, and often then there is no one around.

“There is always more you can give them, but what they really want most is someone to just be with them,” she said.

Plenty of organizations try to answer that need by matching soldiers and students with survivors. One highly publicized initiative offered university students rent-free accommodations in return for living with lonely survivors and keeping them company.

Noga Rotman, a 32-year-old computer science student, said she decided to get involved several years ago when her grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, became ill.

“I couldn’t help but think about those who didn’t have that,” she said, amid the balloons and flowers at Weiner’s party, which was attended by dozens who were inspired to come by a Facebook post. “Anytime we have something like this, you just see how much it means to them.”

Weiner said he especially appreciated the company of youngsters. As for fellow survivors, he had mixed feelings.

“On the one hand, it feels good to have all these people. On the other hand it reminds you of such tough times,” he said. “Happy it can’t be, because it was not happy times, but it is nice to have someone listen.”

When the Nazis invaded his native Austria, Weiner and his sister fled to Holland while their parents stayed behind and died of illness. The rest of the family perished.

After the Nazis occupied Holland, they were placed in the Westerbork transit camp, from where his sister was sent to her death in Auschwitz.

Thanks to his work as an electrician, Weiner got to know the camp well and estimates he escaped deportation about 15 times, once after he was placed on a train for Auschwitz. But the harsh conditions took their toll. In the course of his work, he got so many electric shocks that it caused heart damage, and an accident blinded his right eye. Diabetes later deprived him of sight in his left eye and confined him to a wheelchair.

Now that his wife is gone, Weiner has a caregiver who stays with him and another who visits daily. But the volunteers who arrive several times a week provide most of the conversation.

At the party, children handed him drawings. Soldiers and scouts gave gifts, and there was even a surprise visit from Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli — who heard Weiner was a fan and stopped by to snap some pictures with him.

But the most moving moment was when a Dutch-speaking volunteer whom he has grown close to leaned in to let him know she was there. He teared up, and then she did too.

“The fact that he is glad, that brings me joy,” said Liel Van Aalderink, 22. “I don’t do really much extraordinary. I just give him attention and talk to him because he is alone in the world.”

Source

Global initiatives virtually commemorate the Holocaust — in a very real way

Meaningful social media campaigns by Israel’s Yad Vashem and the World Jewish Congress make history and remembrance accessible to all ages

World-ort-CROPIt is remarkable to feel a connection with someone you’ve only met online. Even more so when he has been dead for the past 75 years. And yet, a random matching program on Yad Vashem’s IRemember Wall connects between a Facebook user and victim of the Holocaust in a deeply personal way.

For this writer, the name Chaim Gindel was drawn from the museum’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names. He was born to David and Leja in Ołyka, Poland, in 1928. He was a 14-year-old student when he was murdered in the Shoah. His cause of death is unknown.

The too-short story is recounted on a Page of Testimony that was submitted in 1997 by a surviving cousin in Woodmere, New York. If interested, that handwritten page can be viewed, as well as the names of his siblings who also perished in the Holocaust.

Somehow, after pairing with this once anonymous stranger, the concept of the “6 million” is less about a quantifiable number and more a short hand for a collective of individual humans.

“Many, if not most people, don’t have a particular person or name that they know and commemorate,” said Dana Porath, Yad Vashem’s Internet Department Director.

Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, is one of several museums and institutions tapping into the potential of online presence and social media campaigns to raise awareness among an audience that increasingly has little first-person contact with the horrors of the Holocaust.

“We realized in the last couple of years, particularly in social media, that people want to do something more participatory. It’s fine to read, learn and explore, but with the opportunity to engage with a particular topic or issue, people really want to do something,” said Porath.

Porath, who was a Jewish educator for 15 years in North America before moving to Israel, began working at Yad Vashem in 1994 and joined the fledgling internet department in 1999. Today, the museum’s online presence is robust and growing.

“In 1999 I don’t know that we really had any expectations, we couldn’t envision what could happen and what the possibilities were,” said Porath. In addition to the myriad of educational materials, the museum has presented some 150 curated online exhibitions — currently “Last Letters From the Holocaust: 1941” — and dozens of social media projects.

Five years ago, Yad Vashem began the IRemember Wall project in which participants are linked with specific names of victims. The algorithm is purposefully random, because, said Porath, “Every victim deserves to be remembered.”

The project is held only once a year for International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Said Porath, it becomes “a collective experience” that combines the wall and the comments it garners. She said she expects to reach at least 3,000 participants this year.

“The possibilities created by technology have allowed us to reach out and engage in ways we couldn’t imagine,” said Porath.

Prompting the next generation’s memory

Leading up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, some 250,000 posted on social media using the hashtag, “#WeRemember” — from New York Senator Chuck Schumer to Dr. Ruth Westheimer to French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy. Some 120 million were reached in the World Jewish Congress campaign, according to a spokesperson. The international organization represents Jewish communities in 100 countries.

“The goal is to reach those who don’t know much about the Holocaust, or who might be susceptible to those who deny it, and to remind the world that such horrors could happen again,” said World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer.

Singer said that through the tools of social media, WJC hopes to engage the youth, “because, soon, it will be their responsibility to tell the story and ensure that humanity never forget.”

The project was adopted by Jewish schools around the world, with many pupils creating short films that were posted and shared widely.

Stefan Bialoguski, the public relations officer for World ORT, said that well over 1,000, “perhaps in the thousands,” of students in schools and colleges across the former Soviet Union, Israel and Europe took part. World ORT claims to be the largest global Jewish education and vocational training NGO.

“The energy which World ORT students have devoted to the #WeRemember project should reassure us that not only has the history of the Holocaust been passed on intact to a new generation, despite the worst attempts of deniers, but also that our children are unbowed by the weight of what happened to our people within living memory,” Bialoguski told The Times of Israel.

A 3D virtual ‘eyewitness to history’

It is this same impulse to preserve historical continuity in an era of fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors that has propelled another unusual project, the New Dimensions in Testimony by the USC Shoah Foundation. Using some 50 cameras at once, a dozen Holocaust survivors have individually been filmed giving 10-25 hours of testimony in an effort to create a 3D virtual “eyewitness to history.”

Set to launch in two museums this year, New Dimensions was in beta stage for some five years and had a 2015 trial run at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, with the first completed interactive testimony of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter of Toronto.

In addition to recounting the horrors of the Holocaust, the interactive hologram survivor can be asked questions, prompted to sing songs and tell of life before the tragedy. For many who wouldn’t dare ask personal questions for fear of insulting, interacting with this artificial intelligence can be freeing.

According to project literature, a survey of the Illinois pilot found over 95 percent of visitors felt the technology “enhanced their ability to connect” with Gutter’s story. Additionally, 68% of students reported “above average critical thinking ability after the interaction.”

“Everything is now in post-production to meet expected deployment in 2017,” state project materials and the project should open at the first two confirmed museums: the Illinois Holocaust Museum and in Terre Haute, Indiana, the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

In an era of technological leaps and bounds, the ability to engage a new audience is vastly magnified and the impulse to ride social media buzz is strong.

To capture the world’s attention, said Yad Vashem’s Porath, her team strives to make the commemoration of the Jewish victims and their life before the Holocaust accessible through contemporary issues such as the Olympics or International Women’s Day.

“We are always trying to have meaningful, relevant and respectful content,” said Porath. “But to make the Holocaust respectful in 140 characters — that’s a challenge.”

Source

New online generation takes up Holocaust denial

Conspiracy theorists are flocking to outlandish websites, warns lecturer

3000A new generation of Holocaust deniers is emerging through a clutch of popular “gateway” conspiracy theories, according to one of the UK’s leading experts on the subject.

As Denial, a film about the disgraced historian and notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, hits cinemas later this month, attention is focusing on the ageing generation of deniers who emerged with Irving at its vanguard and are now dying out. But it appears that Holocaust denial has found new momentum in the digital age.

The UK’s foremost academic on the subject claims a new internet-based generation is embracing denial, having been drawn to it out of antisemitism or a belief in conspiracy theories.

Dr Nicholas Terry, a history lecturer at Exeter University, estimates that there are now thousands of “low-commitment” Holocaust deniers online. Rather than recruiting from established far-right denial forums, they are attracting followers drawn to outlandish theories such as those surrounding the assassination of JFK, 9/11, the moon landing and the Sandy Hook school massacre.

“In one sense, the internet means Holocaust deniers have got a lot of competition,” Terry said. “On the other, in this more free-form world, deniers have been able to attract a certain minority from the world of conspiracy theories. There’s a sense of disorientation taking place when it comes to where people are getting their news from.

“This kind of free-for-all on the internet creates a milieu that has seen people who would normally identify along the left of the political spectrum gravitate towards ideas that are more at home on the far right.”

The release of Denial – which centres on the libel trial brought by Irving against the Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt – follows the controversy that erupted when it emerged Google’s algorithms were recommending antisemitic, white nationalist and Holocaust denier websites for searches of the question: “Did the Holocaust happen?” The film has already been attacked by the new generation of deniers on YouTube, Reddit and Twitter.

Terry, who has monitored Holocaust denial online for 10 years and is co-editing a forthcoming book, Holocaust and Genocide Denial: A Contextual Perspective, has personal experience of their tactics, having been trolled online. He founded the anti-denial blog, Holocaust Controversies, to “debunk” their claims.

He said that many claiming that the Holocaust did not happen were often less intellectual than the earlier generation of deniers. They were an “international crowd – lots of Americans, British, Scandinavians, and west Europeans, as well as some Brits” – who made little attempt to justify their views with facts, resulting in what Terry termed a “Twitterification” of denial.

Several of the new generation of deniers have become well known online. Eva Lion, a Canadian nationalist on the extreme right, was banned from YouTube having amassed tens of thousands of followers. Reality-TV star Tila Tequila was thrown off Celebrity Big Brother after it emerged she had posted messages defending Hitler, as well as antisemitic and white nationalist comments.

While the majority of new deniers are young and hail largely from the “alt-right”, a significant number are middle-aged or older, Terry said.

“What I’ve observed in the last 10 years is that, while the majority of deniers one encounters are still rightwing and Nazis, they are always peppered with a number of unaffiliated individuals who would consider themselves to be liberal or leftwing and have arrived at their position having been anti-Zionist or anti-Israel.”

Their attraction to Holocaust denial, Terry said, had coincided with an upsurge in antisemitism on the internet. Many drawn to such beliefs, he suggested, were vulnerable to lies being peddled as truth.

“They are people who have reached their 40s or 50s and have embraced the internet as it has grown and new platforms have come along. They have moved away from quality newspaper-reading mentality; maybe they’re professionals, some may have degrees, but they are not skilled in assessing sources in history. When you interact with them, you realise that they have no clue as to how we know anything about the past, about how history works, what information is available. They are willing to go along with certain ideas that are summarised for them and simplified in web articles or videos.”

He added: “Lipstadt said that arguing with a denier was like trying to nail jelly to a wall. I would say it’s now like trying to nail smoke to a wall. There’s almost no substance.”

Source

At the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, a virtual encounter with a Syrian refugee

In ‘Genocide: The Threat Continues,’ visitors can sit down with asylum-seekers living in Berlin who have seen enough pain to last lifetimes

ushmm-portalWASHINGTON (JTA) – He’d rather talk to young women than answer my insistent line of questioning. He speaks in terms that make me feel like a Luddite, and when I bring up stuff he’d rather not talk about, out comes the smartphone.

Omar, a Syrian refugee passing time in a Berlin cafe, is not much older than my teenage son — and his mannerisms and conversational strategies make me feel, well, like a dad.

But he has seen enough grief to pack into several lifetimes, and the difference between Omar and the millennials and teenagers wandering through the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, on a recent Wednesday becomes evident when I ask him what was the best thing that happened to him this week.

“Nothing,” he answers, immediately. “Like, the news is coming always, too… I mean the last two weeks is really crazy, my aunt has died, there was an attack in Berlin, my friend had to go to the army, we don’t have water in Syria, we don’t have electricity but we have to say ‘thanks God’ because it just happens, we can do nothing.”

Omar — he only wants his first name used — appears to be in his late 20s. He’s participating in an exhibition at the museum, “Genocide: The Threat Continues,” and we’re conversing, face to face, via video chat. I’m in DC and he’s at the cafe in Germany’s capital.

Once a visitor traverses an exhibit covering genocides recent (Yugoslavia, Cambodia) and current (Syria), you reach the “portal.” It’s designed to look like a shipping container, replicating the makeshift shelters that have been built for refugees in Jordan and Kurdistan. Inside is a large video screen that allows you to see and chat with a refugee in real time.

The museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide describes the exhibit as part of its mission “to bring attention to the people and places at risk today for genocide and other mass atrocities.”

Visitors can make appointments using an online schedule, though many of the visitors are drop-ins.

I didn’t notify the museum, wanting to replicate as best I could the experience of an average visitor, so Omar at his bustling café is matched with me at random. Berlin’s refugees are mostly from Syria. There are other portals in Kurdistan, where refugees from areas in Iraq controlled by the Islamic State interact with visitors, and in Amman, where there are refugees from the fighting in Aleppo.

Admittedly, my question, “What is the best thing that happened to you during the past week?” is a bit moronic. But in my feeble defense, it’s also on a list that the museum and the company operating the temporary exhibit, Shared Studios, provides visitors entering the portal.

My immediate sense is an oxymoron — I feel both disjointedness and intimacy. Omar is right across from me in his dark, welcoming eatery, but he isn’t. I pose in front of the screen for a selfie (he begrudgingly agrees, extracting from me a solemn pledge not to share it), and in the image he stands beside me, frowning, like a glittering ghost.

I want to know more about Omar’s aunt; I know from loved ones dying far across an ocean. But I can’t press too hard because I don’t know this young man, who sports a goatee, a green sweater and a green cap. He’s already wary because I’m a reporter — and wary, I think, because I’m a reporter for a Jewish news agency.

But these simple lines of questions, I later learn, are kind of the point.

Cameron Hudson, the director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, says the idea is for the museum visitor to transition from informed to emotionally involved.

“Certainly, the experience that we’ve had is to help people tell the story of what they fled, and why they fled, and what the experience was back in Iraq and Syria, so the sense we can take away is common humanity,” Hudson says in an interview the day after my visit. “That’s not a bad thing. It’s to shine a light on the human dimension of these genocidal conflicts.”

However, my profession has thrown off Omar. As much as I want to pretend I’m an American casually acquainted with the genocides now underway, professional courtesies mean I have to start by explaining who I am, what I do and for whom I work. He shares information about how he got to Berlin and where his family lives, but he asks me not to repeat that information. He casts his eyes down for much of the talk.

Our conversation has moments when he conveys the frustration of interacting with someone who Just. Does. Not. Get. It. But I think this is a product of our age gap.

“What do you do like about Berlin?” I ask.

“Syrian food, friends, shisha,” or waterpipe smoking, he answers.

“When was the last time you had shisha? Today? Last week?”

“No,” he says — and it’s in that response, followed by a chuckle, that I detect the impatience of the young for a hopelessly clueless elder. Not sure why it’s ridiculous to ask, I move on.

Berlin has a growing Jewish population, so I ask if he’s met Jews. Yes, he says. A man who tutors him in computer code is Jewish and “even speaks Arabic.”

“We are the same, but we have different religions,” Omar says, adding quickly, “I mean Jewish people, not the Israeli people.” Perhaps registering whatever expression flickers across my face across this electronic void, he corrects himself again.

“Even that, I don’t have a problem with both,” he says.

Is he aware of Germany’s history with the Jews? Yes, and for the second time, his voice becomes emotional, and I feel like we’ve connected.

“We visited the history museum here in Berlin, it was really interesting and a shock at the same time. We cannot imagine how they kill people that easy, you know,” he says. “We saw the way they killed them, in rooms, they closed the door, they opened the gas.”

And then, just as sure as we connected, he drifts away. He starts examining his phone. He’s developing an app, he tells me.

It’s time for me to go. A young woman who has signed on recently as a docent for the museum enters. Omar seems more interested in her.

“Where in New York are you from?” he asks her. Maybe he’ll exchange Facebook info with her, as he did with the women who preceded me.

Hudson loses patience with me a day later when I describe the interaction with Omar about the Holocaust, in the polite way activists for social change tell those of us less focused to, well, focus.

“It’s about shining a light on these crimes that have been committed in Syria and Iraq, and the human face of genocide in the world today,” he explains. “It’s in the Holocaust museum, but my mandate is to work on genocide where it is occurring.”

That’s true. What’s also true is I’m a bit of a Luddite in late middle age who cannot help but be unsettled by the experiences of the young man who is missing his family, thinking of his aunt, who has been unsettled by the scope of the inhumanity that occurred both in his home country and on the soil beneath the hardwood floors of the cafe where he now sits chatting with strangers.

Source

Descendant of Holocaust survivors leads assault on Holland’s far right

Dutch Deputy PM Lodewijk Asscher is taking people to task for a glut of hate-speech masquerading as politics

lodewijk-asscher-965x543AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Even in a country where hate speech is the subject of intense political and judicial review, Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher’s Facebook post from February about the phenomenon was unprecedented.

Titled “Disrespectful Dog,” the 735-word essay by Asscher, a descendant of Holocaust survivors who last week became Dutch Labour’s candidate for prime minister, featured a compilation of racist insults used against him on social media. Asscher, 42, explained that anti-Semitic attacks over his Jewish roots were causing him to limit his use of Twitter and Facebook.

The text, a sarcastic open letter to online abusers, stood out in a country where the media typically keep out of the private lives of senior politicians — and where politicians, in turn, rarely speak of their ethnicity or religion. The post made the front pages of leading dailies and earned praise for Asscher. The top political commentator of the RTL television and radio broadcaster, Frits Wester, called the post “brave.”

This outspokenness by Asscher, an eloquent yet down-to-earth statesman who once served as deputy mayor of Amsterdam, was key to his comfortable victory last week in the Labour primaries. He ran on a relatively aggressive platform that promised left-wing voters an unrelenting assault on Holland’s rising far right ahead of the general elections in March.

After thanking his predecessor at Labour’s helm, the first goals that Asscher listed in his victory speech were “the need for unity against right-wing politics” and a “progressive and uniting answer to Wilders.” Geert Wilders heads the far-right Party for Freedom, which has emerged as the country’s most popular party in five major voting polls conducted after November 25.

The success of Wilders — an anti-Islam provocateur who on Friday was convicted of incitement for having promised to “arrange” for Holland to have fewer Moroccans — is part of a surge of popularity for the far-right in Europe amid fears of home-grown jihadist terrorism.

Wilders “rides a wave of fear and uses societal divisions,” Asscher said in his victory speech on Friday. “But the politics of blame can never be the answer.”

Asscher also referenced the rise of populist causes elsewhere, from the British vote in June to leave the European Union to Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

“We have four years of President Trump ahead of us, and in our own country, Geert Wilders is ahead in the polls,” he noted.

To be sure, Asscher’s predecessor, Diederik Samsom, is no fan of Wilders and has spoken out against him. But Samsom’s priorities in the government, where Labour is a junior partner to the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, have been largely economical and too pragmatic for some Labour voters who see him as overly accommodating to the free-market policies of the ruling party.

“Asscher is more value-driven than Samsom, who some critics saw as focusing too heavily on economic growth charts while the far right was surging,” said Ronny Naftaniel, a Dutch Labour member and a prominent member of the country’s Jewish community. “I think his election enriches the Dutch political system and gives progressive voters a voice through which to express their rejection of extremism.”

In an interview for the NOS television and radio broadcaster, Asscher said, “Wilders needs to be confronted in debates, among voters, not in courtrooms.”

It was a criticism of the general strategy of the mainstream Dutch left wing, which some observers accuse of doing too little to block Wilders.

Whereas Labour has focused on the economy, the Dutch left-of-center Socialist Party has been less enthusiastic about defending multicultural values that are seen as controversial for its working-class voter base. With the ruling party reluctant to bleed rightist votes by picking a fight with Wilders, vocal opposition to his policies fell to smaller parties that are seen as elitist, thereby strengthening his image as the enemy of the elite.

While Wilders’ prominence on Asscher’s to-do list is new, Asscher has consistently been quick to denounce other expressions of hate speech — including against Jews and Israel, Naftaniel said. He noted Asscher’s strongly worded reaction in 2014 to a remark by a Labour member and government-employed cybersecurity expert who said that the Islamic State terror group was a Zionist invention to malign Muslims.

“It made me sick to my stomach,” said Asscher, the senior-most politician to comment on the incident.

To Naftaniel, this demonstrated a zero-tolerance attitude in Dutch Labour to left-wing anti-Semitism. And that, Naftaniel added, sets his party apart from its British counterpart under Jeremy Corbyn, who has expressed support for Hamas, Hezbollah and some attempts to boycott Israel.

“Corbyn is a radical,” Naftaniel said of the man whom many British Jews accuse of allowing anti-Israel rhetoric by some party members to morph into open anti-Semitism. “And while Asscher has his [own] values, he is a pragmatist.”

Asscher’s great-grandfather, Abraham, was a leader of the Jewish council set up by the Nazis to control Dutch Jews ahead of their extermination in death camps. He is not the first Labour leader with Jewish roots; former Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen led the party for two years until 2012.

Whereas Cohen has downplayed his Jewish origins — “I have a Jewish name, and that’s about it,” he said in a 2010 interview — Asscher, who has three sons with his non-Jewish wife, “is more at ease or open to talking about his Jewish roots,” Naftaniel said.

This openness was on display in Asscher’s unusual Facebook post from February.

“Many of you possess a keen historical insight,” Asscher wrote sarcastically in that letter, which he addressed to the people who hurl anti-Semitic insults at him online, including those accusing his great-grandfather of collaborating with the Nazis. “You found out that I’m related to Abraham Asscher, who was a chairman of the Jewish council. Chapeau,” he wrote, using a French-language expression for “well done.”

Despite his eloquence, Asscher does not appear to be in an advantageous position to take on Wilders, according to Manfred Gerstenfeld, a former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who has authored several books about the Netherlands.

With anti-immigrant sentiment running high and the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service warning of the “sudden and explosive renewal of Dutch jihadism,” Asscher’s anti-Wilders rhetoric “will likely not change or even address the very real social problems, created by many members of the Muslim minority, that Wilders is pointing out in his populist style,” Gerstenfeld said.

In Dutch politics, the party with the highest number of votes is tasked by the monarch to form a coalition government. The leader of that party usually becomes prime minister.

The scope of Labour’s challenge is visible in recent polls that show Labour trailing Wilders by more than 20 seats, Gerstenfeld said. Asscher’s party is expected to garner approximately 11 seats in Parliament out of 150, compared to the 30 or so seats the polls predict for Wilders’ party.

Source

In Polish city, a wedding celebrates Jewish rediscovery and revival

wroclaw-wedding-copy-e1403634448979-1024x667

WROCLAW, Poland (JTA) — When Katka Reszke and Slawomir Grunberg tied the knot at the historic White Stork synagogue in this southwestern Polish city, they were determined that the occasion would be more than just a wedding.
They wanted it to be a symbol of how thousands of Polish Jews — like themselves — have found their way back to Judaism and Jewish identity.
The couple, who are based in New York but spend part of each year in their native Poland, also wanted the ceremony — the first religious Jewish wedding in Wroclaw in 14 years — to be a learning experience for both local Jews and non-Jews.
To this end, they opened Sunday’s ceremony to everyone in the city and turned their nuptials into an hours-long, open-air public event with klezmer bands, kosher food, two officiating Orthodox rabbis and loudspeaker explanations of each step in the traditional wedding ritual.
“Jewish community members told us that they had never been to a Jewish wedding, so we made it into a sort of festival,” said Reszke, 35, an outgoing woman with spiky reddish hair who was born and grew up in Wroclaw. “By explaining the wedding to everyone, we’re trying to break down the mystery that separates people.”
The couple’s personal histories drove their desire to make a statement and vividly reflect the complex dilemmas of post-Holocaust and post-communist Jewish experience in Poland.

Read More:

A Daughter’s Love for Jewish Dad — and Soccer — Spans Generations

Soccer and the Shoah: Jill Klein’s father is second from left with his team members in a displaced person’s camp in Austria, wearing a sweater as his goalkeeper’s jersey.  Read more: http://forward.com/articles/200054/a-daughters-love-for-jewish-dad-and-soccer-spa/#ixzz34qUug9Ay

Soccer and the Shoah: Jill Klein’s father is second from left with his team members in a displaced person’s camp in Austria, wearing a sweater as his goalkeeper’s jersey.

My father and I will watch every game that the United States plays in the World Cup that starts this weekend. We live on opposite sides of the world – he is in Florida and I am in Australia—but today’s video technology will allow us to cheer the team on together.

My father’s love for soccer goes back more than 80 years. On Sundays, starting from when he was only five, he used to ride on his father’s bike to the soccer stadium at the edge of their town in Czechoslovakia. He sat in a small seat on top of the handlebars, his legs dangling in front of him. The bike swayed from one side to the other as my grandfather Herman pedaled through the town square, and my young father felt every bump of the cobblestones.

The two of them shared a passion for soccer that drove my grandmother to tears. For years they supported their local team, rejoicing in occasional victories against their rivals from a larger, nearby town. My father played every day after school, and when he was a teenager, he joined the town’s Jewish youth team. Herman would watch my father—the shortest kid on the team—play in goal, producing diving saves that made Herman proud.

Read more:

Remains of Dachau victims come to rest in North Carolina

On Memorial Day Weekend, son of US Army soldier hands ashes hidden for seven decades over to Jewish community for burial

Human remains from Dachau will receive a Jewish burial in Durham, North Carolina this Memorial Day Weekend, sixty-nine years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp.

Hundreds of people, including some from out of state, are expected to attend the ceremony Sunday morning at the historical Durham Hebrew Cemetery. Durham mayor Bill Bell will be among the dignitaries and members of the public on hand to witness the internment of a cake of ashes given to an American soldier by a Dachau survivor in 1945. The ceremony will include Memorial Day commemorations, as well as Jewish funeral rites.

The cremated remains were given to David Walter Corsbie, Jr., then a US Army soldier, within weeks of the camp’s liberation.

When Corsbie was discharged, he returned home to his wife Martha and their children — and took the ashes with him. He kept them in a metal cigarette case and did not speak about or show them to anyone for decades.

Eventually, he passed them to his son, Joseph Corsbie, who placed them in a small yellow plastic container and tucked them away in a dresser drawer in his trailer home in Dobson, NC.

Read more