12/14 Links Pt2: BHL: Jews, Catholics Must Confront ‘Looming Barbarism’; WH Smith & ‘Mein Kampf’
Following a meeting with Pope Francis I, and ahead of his
upcoming trip to New York to speak at a United Nations event dedicated
to Catholic-Jewish relations, famed French philosopher Bernard-Henri
Lévy spoke with The Algemeiner, in an exclusive interview, about the Church’s relationship with Jews.
The Algemeiner: You will be at United Nations headquarters in New York on Wednesday for an ecumenical meeting of Christians and Jews, is that right?
Bernard-Henri Lévy: “Ecumenical” is not the right word. The event is a celebration — open to the public, including your readers — of the 50th anniversary of the remarkable revolution within the Catholic Church that brought about the decision to move beyond antisemitism. And it was indeed a revolution — one of the few successful revolutions of the 20th century. At the end of it, the church banned antisemitism. That is a far cry from the fancy phrases and hollow dialogue that often fall under the heading of ecumenism.
The Algemeiner: Who conceived the idea of the meeting at the United Nations?
Bernard-Henri Lévy: The Vatican, in part. But also the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), which I think is accurately described as a coalition of the major Jewish groups in the United States. The architect of the event is Michael Landau, a leader in the American Jewish community. One thing of which I am completely certain is that the two sides have an equally strong interest in seeing the alliance prosper, something that is really critical in the terrifying world we now live in. Together Jews and Catholics will have to confront the looming barbarism. And not just us, of course; we are going to need millions of practitioners of other religions, too, as well as nonbelievers. Joining me at the UN on Wednesday afternoon to take stock of the past half-century and look forward to the next will be Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, as well as prominent Jewish leaders, among them Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom.
Jakob Augstein, a partial owner of and columnist for German newsweekly Der Spiegel, drew parallels last week between the Netanyahu government and historical European fascism, France’s National Front party and the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD).
Volker Beck, the Green Party spokesman for interior affairs and religion, in what appears to be the first public criticism of Augstein on the issue by a Bundestag deputy, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that in the publisher’s eyes, “Israel is to blame for everything – somehow also still for the right-wing populists of the AfD. Mr. Augstein is once again on the wrong track with his Israel obsession.”
In a column subtitled “Fascism is not a phenomenon of the past,” Augstein wrote, “so right-wing like the German right-wing populists is the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.” Augstein discussed Israel’s government within the context of the National Front.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post on Sunday, “Sadly, Augstein’s anti-Semitism is not a phenomenon of the past. Unfortunately, his latest article dumping the democratically elected Israeli government in the same basket with far-right and xenophobic parties confirms an anti-Israel bias so extreme that he merited criticism from a leading member of Germany’s Green Party.”
France has hurriedly backtracked after calling a site in west Jerusalem “Palestinian territory” in a recent job advertisement, saying the statement was “a mistake.”
In a recent post to Careerjet.com, a job search engine, the French Consulate wrote that it was looking for a new employee in the French Institute of Jerusalem, located in Safra Square (which also houses City Hall) near the Old City.
Though Safra Square is indisputably a part of western Jerusalem, under the job’s “location” the ad said: “Jerusalem (Palestinian Territories).”
A pre-Hanukkah celebration sponsored by the Hillel chapter at York University in Toronto was interrupted by an anti-Israel student demonstration, The Canadian Jewish News reported on Friday.
On Dec. 3, supporters of Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) were holding a “silent protest” for a “YU Divest” campaign, when they noticed Jewish and other students enjoying a holiday event — in the university’s Vari Hall — featuring an inflatable Hanukkah menorah and other items, including a photo booth.
The anti-Israel protesters then began to chant slogans and hand out leaflets right near the Hillel event, according to the report.
“What was planned as a silent protest turned into chants and the blocking of the hallways,” Hillel said on its Facebook page. “While Hillel prides itself on promoting respectful discourse on all campuses, we find tactics of harassment and intimidation to be intolerable.”
Anna Baev, director of Hillel York, said the university’s administration confirmed the booking of the Hanukkah event on Nov. 23, but Hillel staff members were only told about the nearby protest on the morning of the party. She told The Canadian Jewish News that about 400 students, many of them not Jewish, participated in the two-day event. Some students approached Hillel organizers and said they felt frustrated that a protest was taking place during the festivities.
Phyllis Chesler: Challenging the right to ‘Birthright’
Posters which demonize Israel-only have been hanging all over the Connecticut College campus for 48 hours now. The Administration has not ordered them taken down. Some Jewish students are both frightened and sickened by the stepped-up pace of anti-Semitic hate speech on this campus and have just reached out to me.
According to them, the same Global Islamic Studies Program that targeted Professor Andrew Pessin earlier this year; that got the administration to move instantly against alleged hate speech against Muslims; has now plastered the campus with anti-Israel and anti-Birthright posters obtained from Electronic Intifada. Here is what one student wrote:
“As you all may remember, last spring at Connecticut College a witch hunt transpired as Professor Andrew Pessin’s words were taken out of context by many students, faculty and staff. Thankfully, many of you covered the story and were able to bring national light on the horrible and gross situation. I hope you can continue to do so as the climate at Connecticut College has only gotten worse.
Recently (I believe as of Thursday), a group called Conn Students in Solidarity with Palestine (CSSP) was created, effectively putting a clever twist on SJP to gain more support as the “solidarity” movement on college campuses is far and widespread.
The troubling news is that this club put up many posters (which I have included below) that are truly propaganda and challenge the legitimacy of Birthright, among other things. Additionally, the club is highly associated with our new Global Islamic Studies department, and the new Chair of the Department, Professor Eileen Kane is the faculty advisor of CSSP. We fear that next is an attack against Hillel, and then — an apartheid wall.
It is a sign of the times that Lord Weidenfeld, a lifelong Zionist, is mounting one of the most effective defences of persecuted Christians in Syria, while many mainstream Christians remain silent and concentrate their energies on demonising Israel
Tveit and the WCC say nothing about the persecuted Christians. Like all Westerners of good will, Lord Weidenfeld and his colleague Sir Charles Hoare Bt., remain baffled by the lack of real support, and only meaningless rhetoric, from mainstream Christian churches and organizations to help Christians being persecuted in Syria and elsewhere in Muslim countries.
Unlike Tveit and the WCC, Weidenfeld is calling and acting for the rescue of those persecuted Christians.
Too many in the mainstream Christian churches have in recent years frittered away their time and energy in discussing the desirability of boycotts of the State of Israel. They are much less concerned in any real way to respond to the reality that the Christian community in the Middle East is facing its greatest crisis.
What is significant in this is that it is being largely left to a proud Jew and Zionist George Weidenfeld to rescue Christians. When will those champions of boycott against Israel and Jewish institutions wake up to the truth?
The United States ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, spoke at the Haaretz Conference in New York on Sunday, where she criticized Israel for “continued settlement growth” and urged both Israelis and Palestinians to renew peace efforts.
“We are under no illusion that achieving peace is easy – it takes tough choices by both sides,” she said before criticizing both sides and adding that “we have not seen sufficient commitment from either side to create conditions for peace.”
Specifically with regards to Israel, Power claimed that “continued settlement growth raises questions about Israel’s long-term objectives,” according to remarks quoted by the newspaper.
She said that the United States will always stay Israel’s partner, and noted U.S. efforts against attempts to delegitimize Israel at the UN, a place where “Israel hasn’t always been treated fairly.”
Power said the bias against Israel at the UN persists, and blasted what she called the “absurdity” of Israel being the only country with a standing item on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council – “not Syria, which gasses its citizens.”
Speaking at a conference organized by the Haaretz daily and the New Israel Fund, the president also praised Israel’s security services and military.
His appearance at the event prompted criticism from some right-wing quarters in Israel. The organizers of the event were also criticized for removing the Israeli flag from the stage at the request of another speaker, PLO official and former chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat.
“Once in a while the obvious should be said, especially in these days of dangerous terrorism: The IDF does everything in its power to keep the highest standards possible,” Rivlin said, in remarks apparently designed to counter criticism of the IDF by the left-wing group Breaking the Silence, which was also a participant in the conference. “No other army in the world is as moral as the IDF” in the face of persistent terror threats. “For that we are very proud, very proud of them. And really owe them all our support and appreciation.”
“The State of Israel has the duty to defend its people, and this is what the IDF and all our security services are doing,” Rivlin went on. But, he added, “promising that Israel remains strong and safe is not only a military mission. We have to find new diplomatic ways, because finding new diplomatic ways is just as important for our safety and security. And for that we need to think out of the box.”
How the Feisal-Weizmann Deal Relates to the Situation Today
The Feisal-Weizmann deal demonstrates that the Jews made a valiant effort, from the start, to work with the Arabs of the region. That stands in contrast with claims that we were/are a colonial force that bulldozed our way onto the land and took over without regard to the Arab population that was living here at the time.
It was a sincere attempt on the part of the Zionists to reach a quid pro quo agreement whereby each side to the conflict gives something to get something. The problem can be partly attributed to the fact that Weizmann drew up a deal with someone who was not a member of the local population and, therefore, did not have a sincerely vested interest in the results.
Might that not be similar to the situation today where the Arab Palestinian leadership with which Israel is supposed to make peace likely has no more interest in making peace with the Jews than Feisal did? Feisal tried to use the Jewish shlep he thought we had with the Europeans to secure his hold over the throne as King of the Arabs, and the current Palestinian Authority leadership seems to be using the conflict to line their pockets with European and American money.
There will probably only be a solution to the conflict when the Palestinian Arabs rise up against the leaders who keep them shackled and demand freedom to live in the contemporary world in peace. I’m not holding my breath.
No country in Eurasia has closer or warmer ties with Israel than Azerbaijan. The relationship between the two countries is particularly surprising because Azerbaijan is a majority-Muslim country. But the reasons for this close relationship lie in the longstanding friendship between Azerbaijanis and Jews living in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan, a predominantly Shi’a Muslim country, is also home to several other ethnic and religious groups, including ancient Zoroastrian, Christian, and Jewish communities. Respect and tolerance for national minorities has played a vital role in the development of the country from antiquity to the days of the Silk Road to modernity. Minorities, as well as women, have been ubiquitous in Azerbaijani government since its independence from the Soviet Union. Unlike many cultures, Azerbaijanis have never viewed Jews as foreign or alien. Israelis with roots in Azerbaijan are doing a great deal to foster the emerging economic and even geopolitical cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel.
Relatively few people outside the Azerbaijani or Jewish communities know about the remarkable role that the Jewish community has played in Azerbaijan. The first health minister of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic of 1918-20 was Jewish, and there were representatives of Jewish groups in parliament. In addition, during the existence of the Republic from 1918-20, Jewish communities published a Caucasian Jewish bulletin, the “Palestine” newspaper, and a biweekly magazine, “Youth of Zion.” Moreover, throughout the Soviet period, Jews played a major role in the intellectual, economic, and political life of Azerbaijan.
The publication of the EU’s product labeling guidelines (November 2015) marked a major step in the pressure directed towards Israel, in the wider context of the BDS campaign. Highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs), many of which are deeply involved in BDS and working against two-state peace models (official EU policy), played a central role in this decision.
As documented below, these NGOs and their allies, including members of European Parliament and other officials, consider labeling guidelines as a prelude to additional steps designed to penalize and “punish” Israel. The NGO pressure and impact can be seen through publications such as “Trading Away Peace,” produced by 22 major European NGOs in 2012, and “EU Differentiation and Israeli Settlements” from the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) in July 2015. These publications advanced a BDS agenda, and called on the EU and national governments to put pressure on Israel through various forms of economic sanctions, beginning with product labeling.
Not coincidentally, many of the 22 NGOs behind “Trading Away Peace,” as well as the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP – the source for many of the allegations), ECFR, and other pressure groups and lobbies, are funded by the EU and member states. These NGOs focus narrowly on Israel, and do not address other conflict regions or promote economic measures, such as product labeling, in any other cases. (On the double standards and discriminatory nature of EU policies on Israel, see E. Kontorovich, “Economic Dealings with Occupied Territories,” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, Volume 53:3 .)
In order to understand the EU policy making process on this issue and anticipate future measures, it is necessary to examine the role of influential political NGOs and their links to the EU.
Roger Waters, former frontman for the 70’s rock band Pink Floyd and current number one international Israel-hater and aggressive advocate for boycotts of all things Israel, showed up at the New York City conference put together by Israeli newspaper Haaretz in coordination with the far-left New Israel Fund. Waters was treated like a…well, a celebrity.
Why Waters would show up at a conference put on by an Israeli newspaper is only confusing if you think of Haaretz as a newspaper which is anything but also aggressively focused, like Waters, on revealing and repeatedly emphasizing the most egregious accusations aimed against Israel.
Haaretz writer and U.S. editor Chemi Shalev was apparently thrilled to be shown in a picture with Israel-hater Waters. He tweeted a picture of the two of them with the (untrue) caption, “Boycott/shmoycott, no Pink Floyd addict can resist the thrill of meeting Roger Waters at #HaaretzQ.”
Shalev’s tweet was met with nearly a dozen responses, nearly all of them negative, for posing and validating such a dedicated Israel opponent who wages economic warfare against Israel.
Spain has appointed six Israeli academics to the prestigious Royal Spanish Academy – the first time in its history the institution will include experts in the language and culture of Spanish Jewry.
The appointments, initially announced in mid-November, include a total of eight foreign academics joining the Royal Spanish Academy, which was founded in 1713 during the reign of Phillip V and oversees the Spanish language.
“Since 1904, the Academy did not include Jews or researchers of Jewish history and culture of Spain, now they are making a historic correction,” Prof. Moises Orfali, of the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Orfali, who specializes in the history of the Jews in Spain and the Sephardi diaspora and their language and literature, was one of the Israeli academics appointed to the Royal Spanish Academy.
“It is important to note, that the academy – that is its members and board – emphasize that they were never responsible for what was done with regards to academic research these past 300 years, but they do see themselves as responsible for its future,” he said. “As such, they deem it important that a crucial branch, Judeo-Spanish language, be represented in academia.”
Students Supporting Israel: Indiana University Students Fight Antisemitism
On December 1, 2015 Students Supporting Israel at Indiana University successfully passed a resolution in its student government. The resolution was voted on with a majority of twenty two votes against six with six abstaining. The resolution adopted the United States’ State Department definition of antisemitism against the Jewish people. In addition, the resolution criticized the BDS movement.
“The Indiana University Student Association adopts the definition of anti-Semitism as stated above as well as the State Department’s understanding of Anti-Semitism relative to Israel”
“The Indiana University Student Association recognizes that the Jewish people, like all peoples, have a collective right to self-determination, and considers attempts to undermine these rights, including the global BDS Movement against Israel, to be a form of bigotry”
The resolution was the fifth legislation to pass led by Students Supporting Israel leaders across the country since February 2014. On days when the anti-Israel voices keep on raising, when swastikas are being drawn on Jewish fraternity houses, and when students are discriminated against for being Jewish, the resolution came right on time for an impact within the Jewish community and the general community at Indiana University.
Since the Islamic Society (Isoc) at a London University coordinated a campaign of harassment to shut down a talk by an atheist ex-Muslim last week, the Feminist and LGBT societies have respectively declared their “solidarity” with the Islamists, despite the Isoc president making his opposition to gay and women’s rights very clear.
Mariam Namazie is the founder and leader of the British Council of Ex-Muslims who started the successful #ExMuslimBecause hashtag that trended worldwide two weeks ago, subsequently to be attacked by the BBC.
As Breitbart London reported, she gave a talk last Tuesday called “blasphemy and free speech in the age of ISIS” at Goldsmiths University, London, the previous stomping ground of #KillAllWhiteMen ‘Welfare and Diversity’ officer Bahar Mustafa.
Before the event, the Isoc used social media to claim the ex-Muslim speaker violated their “strict” safe space policy.
A mob of male Islamists from the Isoc then showed up at the event. They sat at the front and aggressively heckled, shouting “safe space” and “she’s talking rubbish”, and eventually physically intervened to stop proceedings by switching off the power to a projector displaying her presentation.
The Islamic Society at a London university whose alumni have travelled to join Islamic State has been suspended amid allegations of “bullying and misconduct”. Sources say the society had been breaking rules “left right and centre” for years, but no action was taken for fear of appearing “Islamophobic”.
The revelation, regarding Queen Mary University London, comes just two days after the president of the Islamic Society at nearby Goldsmiths University was suspended after making anti-gay remarks.
Tweets expressing antipathy towards “fag lovers” and “stupid” gay pride marches where brought to light after the LGBT society backed the Islamic Society when members harassed an ‘Islamophobic’ ex-Muslim speaker.
A member of Queen Mary Islamic Society is thought to have raised his voice at a Student Union representative, and the society stands accused of using university facilities inappropriately.
Queen Mary University of London Students’ Union confirmed that they have suspended The Islamic Society, telling student paper The Print:
“The Students’ Union is currently looking into claims that Islamic Society has broken some of the rules associated with running a Students’ Union society.”
She then engaged Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor by suggesting there was a moral equivalence between Israeli self defense and Hamas’ rocket fire, saying, “It’s difficult to hear enemies of peace because when you talk to Palestinians, they say the Israelis are the enemies of peace. Everyone wants peace. Everyone has children. They want peace on their terms, and there’s a lot of intransience on both sides.”
Prosor replied, “It’s very simple. Missiles are falling.”
He was interrupted by Banfield speaking over him, saying, “It’s not very simple.” Prosor replied, “No, it’s not very simple. But missiles are falling on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Just think if missiles would be falling in the middle of Manhattan, London or Paris.”
Banfield then took on Hamas’ position as if it were objective journalism. She proposed, “And if Manhattan, London and Paris were occupied and didn’t have their own autonomy… their own state, their own recognition…, they would feel as though they had to fight too.”
On yet another occasion, in 2014 with Professor Alan Dershowitz, Banfield provided moral justification for Hamas’ policy, when talking about the murders in the Har Nof synagogue in Jerusalem. She explained, “Soldiers come in all forms… and when you have mandatory conscription and service in Israel, effectively the Palestinians will say, ‘it’s war against everyone, because everyone is a soldier.”
When Dershowitz replied “Well, that’s just racism and bigotry. To say that everyone is a soldier,” Banfield interrupted in protest, saying, “But everybody is.” Dershowitz made his point, “Not everybody is… The law of war is very clear. You can’t kill a two year-old child claiming, ‘he’s going to be a soldier.’”
In an interview about his dialogue with Banfield, Dershowitz said, “For her to raise this outrageous argument in the context of the synagogue shooting, it really required me to control my temper.”
Ms. Banfield is not objective when it comes to the Jewish state.
Interestingly, Zuckerberg has made no similar statements in the wake of the stabbing, ramming and other terrorist attacks on Jews in Israel and across the globe, and he most notably has not made Facebook anywhere near a “safe environment” for Jews. On the contrary, Facebook is brimming with anti-Semitic hate speech, anti-Zionist diatribes and incitement to stab and kill Jews, yet the sanctimonious Zuckerberg, who invoked his own Jewish background in the above statement sees no reason to curb any of this hate mongering toward his own people.
Apart from the nauseating political correctness that oozes out of Zuckerberg’s statement, there is something else at play as well. Anyone who has spent more than a couple of hours on Facebook will have noticed that it resembles the most infantile teenage dream come true: The possibility for endless popularity. On Facebook, everyone is a perennial American high school or college student, angling for the most likes with endless selfies. So, if you were Facebook personified, i.e., Zuckerberg, wanting to be the most popular man on the entire planet, who would you go with — 1 billion Muslims or a meager 12 million Jews who are extremely unpopular anyway?
On October 26, 2015, the Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Facebook on behalf of some 20,000 Israelis to stop allowing Palestinian terrorists to use the social network to incite violent attacks against them and Jews. The complaint seeks an injunction against Facebook requiring it to monitor incitement and to respond immediately to complaints about inciting content.
Shurat Hadin writes: “Facebook is much more than a neutral Internet platform or a mere ‘publisher’ of speech because its algorithms connect the terrorists to the inciters. Facebook actively assists the inciters to find people who are interested in acting on their hateful messages by offering friend, group and event suggestions and targeting advertising based on people’s online ‘likes’ and internet browsing history. Additionally, Facebook often refuses to take down the inciting pages, claiming that they do not violate its ‘community standards.’ Calling on people to commit crimes is not constitutionally protected speech and endangers the lives of Jews and Israelis.”
In its reporting on a more recent anti-Israel demonstration the BBC failed to document the StWC’s involvement or to inform audiences of the real aims of the event. When StWC members and officials appear – as they not infrequently do – in BBC programming, the BBC regularly fails to comply with its own editorial guideline stipulating that the “viewpoint” of interviewees should be clarified to audiences.
The ‘Stop the War Coalition’ is currently in the news again after its former chairman turned Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attended its recent fundraising event despite being urged by members of his party not to do so.
BBC reporting on that story includes “Jeremy Corbyn defends Stop the War Coalition” (December 7th), “Corbyn attends Stop the War dinner despite criticism” (December 11th) and “Stop the War defends Corbyn over fundraising dinner row” (December 12th).
In those reports the organization is described by the BBC as “the anti-war group” despite there being ample evidence to show that the description is inaccurate. In addition to providing generous amplification of StWC messaging, two of the above reports note one particular aspect of the controversy surrounding Corbyn’s attendance at the event.
As readers may recall, during an edition of BBC One’s ‘This Week’ broadcast on November 19th, studio guest George Galloway was given an unfettered platform for the promotion of inaccurate information concerning Israel.This Week Galloway on HP
“Along with his guests Michael Portillo and Labour’s Liz Kendall, Andrew Neil sat in total silence as veteran anti-Israel activist Galloway opportunistically promoted the blatant lie that Israel employs a ‘shoot to kill’ policy to BBC audiences.
In addition to Neil’s failure to comply with BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy – which state “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately” – by correcting the materially misleading claim from Galloway immediately after it was made, the BBC has further promoted that uncorrected clip for view by audiences who did not see the programme’s original broadcast.”
The response received from the BBC Complaints department by a member of the public who submitted a complaint on that topic includes the following:
Conservative London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith said some critics on Twitter accused him of being at the center of a Jewish conspiracy, and pointed to such rhetoric as heralding a rising trend of antisemitism in Europe, the Jewish Chronicle reported on Tuesday.
“[They say on Twitter] I have this amazing control over the press – which should make my mayoral contest very easy; and that my family have completely infiltrated the royal family,” said Goldsmith.
“Sadly, social media is a reminder of the rising wave of antisemitism which sweeping across Europe. There is no denying or ignoring it. Particularly on social media, criticism of Israel has become a cover for an old hatred,” he said.
His comments reflect concerns of a growing trend of antisemitism in Europe, especially after violent attacks at multiple Jewish sites in France, Belgium and Denmark over the last year, and the spread of the movement to boycott and divest from Israel, which many also see as antisemitic.
Looking for your next airport read? Flying through Jordan? Though it might make you cringe, it’s possible to pick up a copy of Mein Kampf at a popular British bookstore there.
It sounds a bit strange, but large multinational British bookseller WH Smith was spotted recently selling Adolf Hilter’s anti-Semitic manifesto Mein Kampf at its branch at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman.
The book was spotted by Saul Sadker in WH Smith’s Bestseller’s section. Originally from Britain, Sadker relocated to Israel and was recently at the airport during a layover.
Sadker was shocked when he saw the Arabic version of the book on the shelves of such a well-known British company.
Early in World War II, a Japanese tourism official helped rescue Europeans seeking haven from the Nazis. Now, 75 years after seven of those refugees gave Tatsuo Osako photographs of themselves to show their gratitude, a team of Internet detectives has identified four of the people in the black-and-white snapshots.
The months spent by researchers delving into WWII archives and poring over passenger manifests turned up stories of narrow escapes, long journeys by train and ship, and previously unknown details — and helped shed new light on the role of the Japanese in helping Jews and others flee Europe.
“Imagine the journey they had to make. It’s unbelievable,” said Linda Birnbach, whose mother’s photograph is among those identified.
Osako, who died in 2003, was a tourism bureau clerk based in the Japanese port city of Tsuruga who assisted Jewish and other Europeans refugees making the voyage from Russia’s Pacific port of Vladivostok to Japan in the period before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As the ship’s escort and clerk, he distributed money provided by Jewish agencies.
To thank him for his kindness, a man and six women he helped in 1940-41 gave him portraits of themselves.
Plans for Haifa are consistent with the original intent of A&M two years ago, Sharp said. “This agreement is in keeping with what A&M wanted all along in Israel: It is about teaching and research and it is just the beginning of what this relationship is going to be,” he said.
Large natural gas deposits have been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean and Sharp said part of the appeal for the research center in the northern city of Haifa was tapping into the “oil and gas segment in Israel.” Work at the center will include monitoring ocean flow and is expected to help mitigate risks associated with offshore exploration.
“We’re starting with a $6 million project there but I don’t have any doubt that it’ll grow exponentially over the years,” said Sharp, explaining that research in Israel often leads to startups and new commercial ventures.
“They don’t call it ‘startup nation’ for nothing,” he said.
A non-profit organization headed by Jewish designer Diane von Furstenberg is appealing to celebrities for donations to help restore Venice’s ancient Jewish ghetto, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
The Venetian Heritage Council hopes to fund extensive repairs to the Ghetto’s five synagogues, which date back to the 16th century, and its Jewish museum, the Museo Ebrico. The organization has already raised $2.2 million but still needs another $6.6 million.
Donations have already been made by prominent American Jews, most of whom wish to remain anonymous, according to The Telegraph. Barbra Streisand has also taken an interest in the project as has Jewish fashion designer Donna Karan. The group also hopes that director Steven Spielberg will contribute to the restoration project.
“The Ghetto of Venice sits at a nexus of world history for Venice, Europe and Jewish culture as a whole,” said Joseph Sitt, the chairman of the Venetian Heritage Council. “It needs to be saved, its history told.”
They came dancing into the Brodsky Choral Synagogue, a giant Romanesque building in downtown Kiev, tallit-covered Torah scrolls in their arms. Some 80 years after the communist rulers of what was then a Soviet republic confiscated the holy books in a crackdown on religious freedom, senior administration officials and lawmakers brought them back.
Thursday’s delegation included Boris Lozhkin, the director-general of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine; Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko; Oleg Lyashko, leader of the Radical Party; and 70 parliamentarians.
“I am proud to return these Torah scrolls to the Jewish community. They belong to you,” Petrenko told attendees, including community leaders and Israeli Ambassador Eliav Belotserkovsky.
Thursday’s ceremony comes only weeks before President Petro Poroshenko is expected to arrive in Jerusalem for a state visit, and marks the end of a multiyear legal saga that pitted the capital’s Jewish community against their government.
Jewish supporters paid tribute to a major Brazilian soccer club for supporting Brazil’s fight against the Nazis during World War II.
Idish-Flu, a group of Jewish supporters of the Fluminense Football Club, led the celebration on Sunday at the club headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, during which they lit the candles of a seven-foot tall menorah painted in the team’s colors of red, green and white, and presented the club’s president with an inscribed silver plate.
In 1942, Fluminense raised funds from its members to buy a single-engine airplane to be donated to the Brazilian Air Force. In addition, the club promoted a nursing course and offered its modern shooting range for the Brazilian military to practice before heading to the battlefield in Italy.
“We wish to send our good vibes to our beloved club in recognition of its help in the fight against the Nazis. It is timely to do so now during Hanukka, a time when we recall divine miracles. After all, Fluminense is also our religion,” said Michel Ghelman, an Idish-Flu member.
“I am very glad to see that the Jewish community, to which so many of our supporters belong, has decided to value the fact that Fluminense supported Brazil when it chose to fight on the Allies’ side against the Axis. This is part of our glorious past that must be remembered and honored,” said the club’s president, Peter Siemsen.
The searing Holocaust film “Son of Saul” is one of five foreign-language movies nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
The Hungarian movie is also an early favorite in the foreign-language Oscar race, which includes entries from 81 countries.
In “Son of Saul,” the character of Saul Auslander is a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau who is forced to cremate the bodies of fellow prisoners gassed by the SS. In one corpse, Saul believes he recognizes his dead son.
As the Sonderkommando men plan a rebellion, Saul vows that he will save the child’s corpse from the flames and find a rabbi to say Kaddish at a proper funeral.
Saul is portrayed by the Budapest-born Geza Rohrig, the founder of an underground punk band during Communist rule. Moving to New York, he studied at a Hasidic yeshiva and graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Seventy-five residents of an Australian nursing home celebrated their bat and bar mitzvahs on Sunday, after missing the chance to do so at age 12 and 13, because of the outbreak of World War II, Australia’s The Age reported.
More than 150 family members watched their elderly relatives take part in the special ceremony organized by Jewish Care, which oversees four senior citizen facilities in Melbourne. Rabbis at these facilities recently learned that many residents had never undergone the traditional Jewish entrance into spiritual manhood (and womanhood) as a result of the Holocaust or communism, and decided to do something about it.
Rabbi Nerenberg, from Jewish Care’s Caulfield facility, said the oldest resident to have his bar mitzvah on Sunday was 99.
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