Category Archive: Together

Rivlin, Netanyahu join thousands in Holocaust remembrance campaign

‘We Remember’ project projects images from around world, including Pakistan and Bolivia, on screen at Auschwitz

berlandThousands of people from around the world shared photos remembering the Holocaust in Facebook campaign ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

The “We Remember” campaign, organized by the World Jewish Congress, has reached 100 million people across the globe, with more than 200,000 participants.

As part of the project, people of all faiths and nationalities have shared images of themselves holding up the words “We Remember.” Starting Tuesday, in partnership with the Auschwitz Museum, thousands of these images were projected on a screen on the grounds of Birkenau, next to Crematorium II. The screening will continue until Thursday and is also being streamed via social media.

Participants included President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and political party leaders Yair Lapid and Isaac Herzog.

In the rest of the world, the project drew contributions from US politicians Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Congressmen Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler; a wide range of European MPs and officials such as Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon, and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. Israeli actresses Moran Atias and Odelya Halevy and Jewish public figures such as Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Bernard Henri-Levy also joined the drive.

“Anti-Semitism is more prevalent today than it has been at any time since World War II, and bigotry and discrimination still rear their ugly heads all around the world,” WJC CEO Robert Singer said. “This is why we all must declare, together, that we remember.”

Singer said that this project showed a new way of commemorating the Holocaust.

“This project has taught us that history can be taught in a new way, and shown is the power of social media. We have learned that it is indeed possible to bring people of all ages and from all over the world together remember the past using a shared language,” he said.


Czech President accused of withholding state medal from Holocaust survivor

George Brady survived Nazi persecution, including the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland, where his sister and parents perished.

zemanCzech President Milos Zeman has decided against awarding a state medal to a Holocaust survivor after the man’s nephew, a Czech government minister, met exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama against the president’s wishes, the minister said on Friday.

The Czech Republic has been engulfed in political furor over the Dalai Lama’s meetings this week with Culture Minister Daniel Herman against the wishes of China’s government – which sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist – and Zeman, who has strongly pushed for a closer economic relationship with China.

The drive to focus on Chinese investment has met opposition from many corners of the EU member country whose post-communist policy set by the late leader Vaclav Havel strongly promoted human rights. Havel was a friend of the Tibetan Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Herman confirmed in a text message to Reuters that the president’s office had requested he cancel his meeting with the Dalai Lama or his uncle would not be granted an award.

Herman’s uncle George Brady, 88, was supposed to receive the honour for his lifelong campaign for Holocaust remembrance at an annual celebration at Prague Castle, the seat of the president, next Friday on Czech state day.

Brady survived Nazi persecution, including the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland, where his sister and parents perished.

“My uncle informed me he had been contacted by the president’s office with information that his award was being prepared. Now there is news that this has been postponed for this year,” Herman told Reuters.

Asked if he was given an ultimatum not to meet the Dalai Lama in connection with the award, he said: “Yes.” Herman later told Czech public television that it was the president, who tried to persuade him not to meet the Dalai Lama.

“The president directly told me that if I meet the Dalai Lama, my uncle will be taken out of the list (for awards), and that is what happened,” Herman said, adding the conversation took place in front of witnesses at a banquet held by Slovak Embassy in Prague.

A spokesman for Zeman declined to comment directly on Herman’s statement. He said the president had completed the list of nominees “some time ago,” and had not subsequently dropped anyone.

The office never releases the names of the recipients of the state medals before the traditional ceremony.

George Brady moved to Canada after the war. In 2000, a suitcase with his sister Hana’s name surfaced in a Tokyo Holocaust Museum, whose director discovered her relation to George. Hana’s suitcase later inspired a book, theatre play and a film.


Holocaust survivor, 100, takes the oath in order to vote

After 16 years in the US, Menia Perelman of South Florida, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, becomes a citizen in time for November elections

asdsadasd-e1474842837111-635x357A 100-year-old Holocaust survivor has officially become a US citizen in order to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Menia Perelman of South Florida, who arrived in the United States at the age of 84, told local media that she wanted to become a citizen so she could vote in the November election.

She took the oath of citizenship in Florida on Friday with more than 100 other new US citizens.

“I am Jewish, my name is Perelman and I went through many difficult times for so many years,” Perelman said after the ceremony.

Perelman was born in Romania and survived the Holocaust, including four years in a concentration camp. After World War II she was not able to enter the United States due to restrictions on the number of refugees, and instead moved to Panama then Peru and later Venezuela. She came to the United States in 1993 to be closer to her daughter after the death of her husband.

Perelman was joined by four generations of her family at the swearing in: her two daughters and their husbands, her granddaughter and her husband, and her six-month old great-granddaughter.

Asked by the CBS local affiliate whom she would be voting for, Perelman replied that she preferred the Democratic nominee. “You know, it’s a personal secret, but I will tell you. Hillary. Hillary Clinton.”


Making a difference in people’s lives


The Jerusalem Foundation works with vulnerable populations in the city, from at-risk teens to Holocaust survivors.

group-gathering“‘David’, a 16-year-old with a reputation for violence, was invited for a 4 p.m. interview at the day center,” recalls Eitan Yogev, director of the Yaelim Nature Therapy Center at Ein Yael. “The mother called to say that the boy refused to come, but that we should wait. They finally showed up at seven. His mother was afraid of him, and the staff worried that he lacked motivation.”

The mother promised the center that if David were accepted at Yaelim, she and her husband would get him on the bus.

“In the end,” says Yogev, “David didn’t miss a single session. He started to become successful at Yaelim and he took control of himself at school, too. The school couldn’t believe the difference.”

The Yaelim Nature Therapy Center is just one of several projects funded by the Jerusalem Foundation that make a difference to old and young among the vulnerable populations every day in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Foundation established the Ein Yael Living Museum in 1989, buying the land around a natural spring and ancient settlement in the southwest of the city. The museum houses the Yaelim Nature Therapy Center, which serves 250 at-risk youth each year.

“Yaelim works with teens who are failing at school or ‘acting out,’” explains Oded Regev, director of Ein Yael.

Many have a history of disabilities, abuse, or neglect.

“After we see that the children are connecting with the agriculture, we ask them to train as young counselors. It’s a dramatic turnaround, when a teen about to drop out of school gets asked to become a leader.” Once they graduate the year-long course, counselors work at Yaelim’s day camp and serve as guides at the Ein Yael museum.

Teens at the center learn a range of skills such as gardening, recycling, composting, climatology, ecological systems, use of tools and pest management.

“The welfare services refer the teens to us,” says Yogev.

“After a year of training, they get a salary, along with supervision and support. They don’t just learn agriculture. They learn to take responsibility, work in a team and speak in front of groups.”

At-risk teens attend a day center at Yaelim twice a week.

“This gives them a year to get organized and connect to themselves, to the community,” Yogev explains.

“In addition to the nature program, the teens learn about entrepreneurship, computers, culture, and current events.

Yaelim provides ongoing mentoring to help the children recognize and develop their unique strengths. While accepting the child’s difficulties, we give them supervision and support for making productive choices.”

“A typical child at risk, who dropped out of school, may not only have no money. He likely has no boundaries, no attention, nothing. At Yaelim he builds himself up from scratch, in the field, by completing tasks. He has to make food, he has to learn what he is good at. Gradually he learns what skills he can take with him as an adult.”

“The goal isn’t to throw teens into nature. It’s to provide a safe ‘home’ where they can test boundaries.”

The Welfare Ministry also refers families to Yaelim for therapy. One case involved eight children whose father was in jail for murdering the children’s mother.

“The children lived apart from each other in foster or institutional care,” recalls Yogev. “A few had had private therapy, but the siblings had virtually no connection. The social services decided something had to be done to rehabilitate the family.”

Yaelim provided a young counselor trained by the organization as a Hebrew-Arabic interpreter. When they started, the children barely spoke at all. Through their shared experiences at Yaelim, including activities like hiking, cooking, and crafts, the children developed shared experiences and began to bypass the psychological barriers.

“At first there was some regression, which is typical in cases where victims have not processed trauma,” explains Yogev. “But now the children have begun rebuilding their relationships with one another.

All of us involved in the case found it very emotional.”

Among other projects that the Jerusalem Foundation funds is Café Europa, which runs several programs to serve the approximately 22,000 Holocaust survivors in the Jerusalem area.

According to the Jerusalem Foundation’s community and social welfare project director, Adit Dayan, Café Europa aims to meet the social, not the therapeutic needs of survivors.

“For many, the only thing they remember from their childhood is the war,” says Dayan. “But a culture existed in Europe before the war. Café Europa’s activities trigger positive memories of childhood, by creating a social experience through shared memories.”

Café Europa meets in Rehavia for the general population of survivors, and in Romema for the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector, with separate groups for men and women.

An additional program, called Café Moscow, serves Russian speakers in Pisgat Ze’ev and Neveh Ya‘acov, northern neighborhoods in the capital.

“The Russian speakers are Jewish World War II refugees, yet they were not recognized as survivors,” notes Dayan. “But they also lost everything, and have social issues that were never dealt with. They are telling stories that have never been told. Some of them join a therapeutic group that we have set up for that purpose.”

Ruchami Merenstein, coordinator of the Holocaust division of Misgav Lakashish (“refuge for the elderly”), describes the significance of Café Europa for the group of haredi women.“ The meetings start with each survivor telling about the [happy family events] during the previous week. Many are the matriarchs of large families.

They also ask after friends who didn’t attend.”

The first hour consists of a lecture, musical program, or workshop, with the second hour devoted to an exercise activity or health education.

They are served coffee and cake, and a light hot meal before they go home. About 100 women attend each week, while 40 to 50 attend the men’s program.

Aside from the activity at the café, survivors go on monthly trips around the Jerusalem area and throughout the country.

A range of additional programs, also supported by the Jerusalem Foundation, are available for survivors, according to Tamar Schiff, CEO of Misgav Lakashish. These include a library, computer education and meals for the homebound.

Large numbers of volunteers speaking a variety of languages attend Café Europa to assist the survivors. The volunteers also visit the survivors in their homes, bringing videos of the Café Europa cultural events, teaching computers, or whatever the survivor asks for. “We try never to say no to requests,” says Schiff.

Holocaust survivors can also visit the Center for Verification of Rights and Eligibility for Holocaust Survivors, also supported by the Jerusalem Foundation.

“Every survivor should check,” urges volunteer translator Dr. Ruth Flosshauer, “as new funds continually become available. Survivors from Morocco and survivors who were babies are now eligible.

One can never know.”

Mrs. Glendwar, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, never went out of the house, according to her daughter Shoshi.

“She dedicated her entire life to her children and grandchildren.

Café Europa was the first event she attended just for herself.”

Glendwar’s participation in Café Europa led to her talking about her prewar childhood with her adult children. The cultural activities and trips via Café Europa gave her a peek into her grandchildren’s world, enabling the third generation to form a stronger relationship with their grandmother.

The Jerusalem Foundation’s programs provide services for members of vulnerable populations to lead richer, more productive lives. David, the teen who didn’t want to attend the interview at Yaelim, now works at the center in the summer and visits often.

“At the end-of-the-year party,” recalls Yogev, “when asked how he had changed, David said he no longer ‘causes trouble in the neighborhood.’”


Nazi hand stamps used to mark visitors to Ecuadorean jail

Government condemns warden’s practice of using symbol of swastika; head of security at prison fired

hand-stampQUITO, Ecuador — A prison warden in Ecuador is in hot water after it was discovered that security guards were marking visitors to the penitentiary with hand stamps featuring the Nazi swastika.

Ecuador’s government on Thursday immediately condemned the practice after photos of the hand stamps appeared on social media and caused an immediate uproar.

The Justice Ministry in a statement said the warden of the prison in the capital Quito had been disciplined for negligence and the head of security fired for using a symbol associated with the Holocaust.

The stamps featured the emblem of the Nazi Party with an eagle atop a swastika and the year 1939.


Israel buys gas masks from firms that outfitted Nazis at Auschwitz with protective gear

Companies who kept SS guards safe from the Zyklon B they used at gas chambers now sell to Israel’s Defense Ministry, police, fire department

Mideast-Israel-Chemical-gasIsrael for decades has been purchasing gas masks from the same German suppliers that once supplied protective equipment to Nazi soldiers operating the gas chambers in Auschwitz and other death camps during the Holocaust.

The companies — Dräger and Auer (now owned by American firm MSA) — have been selling gas masks and filters to a number of Israeli government institutions since the 1967 Six Day War, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported on Thursday.

The decades-long relationship was exposed by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem in a recent study on the gas chambers at Auschwitz, and based on previous research of French Holocaust scholar and Auschwitz expert Jean-Claude Pressac.

In his 1989 book “Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers,” Pressac found that all SS soldiers involved in gassing Jews at the death camp were equipped with a jointly made Dräger-Auer mask to protect against the cyanide-based poison Zyklon B that was used to murder millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

According to Yedioth, the museum found that both companies regularly supply gas masks and other equipment to the Defense Ministry, the Firefighting and Rescue Commission, Israel Railways, Israel Police and the Israel Prisons Service.

In preparation for the 1991 Gulf War, Israel distributed gas masks to civilians fearing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would launch a chemical weapons attack on the Jewish state.

With fears that a potential US-led military intervention in neighboring Syria in 2013 would trigger a retaliatory chemical weapons strike on Israel, public demand for the masks quadrupled, and many distribution points were massively under stocked.

The government continued the costly policy of supplying millions of Israelis with protective gear until January 2014 when the distribution was halted over what Israeli officials said was a “drastic” reduction of the threat of a chemical weapons attack from Syria.

In response to Yad Vashem’s findings, Dräger this week issued a statement saying that while it was ordered to provide gas masks for the Nazis, the company was told at the time they were for civilians.

The American company MSA also addressed the report, saying their equipment has “kept firefighters, police officers, emergency teams, industrial workers and soldiers — including in the Israeli army — from harm. The American MSA did not provide the Germans with equipment during World War II, it acquired the Auergesellschaft factory in 1958, long after it was no longer providing gas masks to the German army.”

Meanwhile the Defense Ministry said it was “unfamiliar with claims about their past history,” while the Firefighting and Rescue Commission simply confirmed it purchases equipment from the companies and praised their products as “among the best in the world.”


Congress calls on Germany to up aid for Holocaust survivors

US House of Representatives overwhelmingly backs resolution calling on Germany to increase aid to Holocaust survivors

holocaust_survivorThe U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging Germany to increase funding for Holocaust survivors.

The nonbinding resolution, which passed by a vote of 363-0 on Tuesday, urges Germany to “ensure that every Holocaust victim receives all of the prescribed medical care, home care, mental health care, and other vital services necessary to live in dignity” and to provide “additional financial resources to address the unique needs of Holocaust victims.”

The resolution, initiated earlier this year by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., estimates the number of survivors worldwide at 500,000, with 100,000 in the United States, and tens of thousands living in poverty.

Holocaust survivors “shouldn’t have to worry about their medical, mental health or home care needs, but the assistance promised to them by Germany has been slow coming and inadequate to cover the full range of their unique needs,” Ros-Lehtinen told JTA in an email.

“Today, the House passed my resolution urging Germany to honor its promises and obligations to all survivors so that they can live out their final years in the dignity and comfort they deserve,” she said. “Now Germany needs to do the right thing and show its leadership by resolving this directly and without delay.”

In her remarks on the House floor, Ros-Lehtinen decried what she depicted as the inadequacy of existing mechanisms in delivering assistance to survivors, singling out for criticism the Claims Conference, the body charged with negotiating claims with Germany and delivering assistance to survivors.

“The current system is broken and full of fraud and corruption,” she said. “The Claims Conference has failed survivors, placing caps on assistance and adding unnecessary burdens on those in dire need of assistance.”

The Claims Conference would not comment on Ros-Lehtinen’s remarks, although an official told JTA that the conference distributed $800 million last year.

Greg Schneider, the Claims Conference executive vice president, praised passage of the resolution in an email to his board, although his statement notably did not name Ros-Lehtinen. It did name Deutch, as well as the sponsors of a parallel Senate resolution still under consideration, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

“As you know, we are continuously talking with the government of Germany about the increasing unmet needs of aging Holocaust victims,” Schneider said. “This bill sends a clear message to Germany that increased home care and welfare services for survivors is a priority to the American people and Congress.”

The Claims Conference continues to deal with the aftereffects of revelations in 2010 that employees had defrauded the organization of at least $57 million.


US House calls on Germany to ‘fulfill moral obligation’ to Holocaust survivors

Resolution urges Berlin to reaffirm financial commitment to fully address unique needs of victims of Nazi regime

Poland-Auschwitz-Anni_Horo-1WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday evening to pass a resolution calling upon Germany to increase restitution support for Holocaust survivors in what one of the legislation’s sponsors described as a last chance to support the dwindling number of Nazi victims.

The resolution, passed unanimously by a vote of 363-0 with strong support on both sides of the aisle, was sponsored by a bipartisan team of south Florida representatives – Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Ted Deutch.

Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Ros-Lehtinen said that around one-quarter of the slightly over 500,000 living Holocaust survivors in the world live in the US, and some 15,000 of those live in south Florida.

Ros-Lehtinen noted that more than half of all survivors worldwide live at or below the poverty level, but expressed hope that Tuesday’s vote would help alleviate some of the pressure.

“Today, the House once again demonstrated its commitment to achieving justice for all Holocaust survivors in overwhelmingly passing the resolution Ted and I introduced, urging Germany to honor its obligations to Holocaust survivors,” Ros-Lehtinen said shortly after the resolution passed. “It’s been over 71 years since the end of World War II, and even though they’ve lived through the unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the Nazis, Holocaust survivors today continue to face lingering injustices. It would be a travesty if humanity once again failed these individuals by ignoring their plight.”

“The current system is broken and full of fraud and corruption; the Claims Conference has failed survivors, placing caps on assistance and adding unnecessary burdens on those in dire need of assistance,” the Florida congresswoman continued. “Germany needs to show its leadership and do the right thing by fulfilling its commitments and obligations to all survivors by taking action to provide mental health, medical and home care needs for all survivors directly and immediately. Time is of the essence and survivors can no longer afford these delays – they deserve to live out the remainder of their days in the dignity and comfort they deserve.”

In hearings on the resolution, Ros-Lehtinen argued that although Germany has assisted survivors since the 1950s, “even by its own admission, the German government’s efforts to address the medical, mental and home care needs of all Holocaust survivors have been woefully inadequate.”

Ros-Lehtinen told her colleagues Tuesday that frequently, Holocaust survivors’ needs are more complex and costly than many others of their generation due to the psychological and physical impact of their wartime experiences.

Speaking after Ros-Lehtinen, Deutch warned representatives that “time is sadly very much of the essence.”

“Holocaust survivors are not receiving the care that they need,” he complained. “For decades, the German government has been committed to responding to survivor needs, but the survivor community is aging and their needs are greater.”

Deutch emphasized that many survivors lack the family support to assist mobility and that many need in-home care, after their war experiences left them terrified of leaving their homes and being placed in a caregiving institution.

Under the current system, Deutch said, even the poorest survivors are only entitled to 25 hours of home care every week – a gap addressed by the resolution which also calls for an end to limitations on home care hours.

The resolution states that it aims to ensure “that all Holocaust victims live with dignity, comfort, and security in their remaining years.” It calls on Germany “to reaffirm its commitment to this goal through a financial commitment to comprehensively address the unique health and welfare needs of vulnerable Holocaust victims, including home care and other medically prescribed needs.”

The resolution was drafted following 2015 correspondence on the subject between Congress and the German Finance Ministry. The resolution’s supporters said that in this correspondence, Germany acknowledged that the care financed by the German government was insufficient to address survivors’ needs.

The House resolution was intended to emphasize Congress’s demand for additional aid, which Ros-Lehtinen stressed, emphasized the need for direct assistance to survivors — aid which the sponsors said was urgently needed. “We expect the German government to hear what we are saying,” Deutch proclaimed during a floor speech Tuesday.

“In the coming days, decisions will be made in Berlin that will determine whether survivors will receive the funding and the care that they need,” Deutch explained. “I’m not sure that our ally Germany recognizes the true scope of the need.”

“It is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge that these negotiations are the last opportunity for Germany to address the health and wellbeing of these survivors,” he warned.

“While no amount of money can erase the horrors of Holocaust victims, there is a moral responsibility to fulfill all the needs so that they can live out the rest of their lives with dignity,” he added.