The photograph was a fundraiser’s dream: a frail child in a gold-and-black dress struggling for balance on a walker. The caption accompanying the photo described her plight: “Ayalah [is] a beautiful five-year-old born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down.”
Emily Seelenfreund was diagnosed at birth with a disease that made her vulnerable to broken bones, and was enrolled in physical therapy at 6 months. By the time she was 5, the Hoboken native was outfitted with a wheelchair that helped her get around and was an active competitor in track and field events for the disabled. By the time she was 11, she began playing wheelchair basketball.
One part of the reporting I did for the story in this week’s Yom HaShoah issue, about medical resistance during the Holocaust, how physicians and nurses and other members of the putative healing professions took a stand against Nazi genocide, sounded familiar.
I grew up hearing a story along these lines – but in this case, how some doctors in Nazi Germany did not stand up.
In the immediate decades after World War II, the systematic murder of 6,000,000 Jews as part of Nazi genocide had not acquired a name of its own. When I learned about the fate of the Jews during the Final Solution, during religious school classes and temple youth groups in the 1960s, “Holocaust” hadn’t entered the public lexicon in this context.
But 60 years ago this spring, the Six Million acquired a face in this country.
This week’s issue of The Jewish Week includes the latest in a series of stories the paper’s staff has written on the aftermath of Sandy since the Superstorm struck New York, and the surrounding Northeast states, three months ago. This week’s focus, in a report I wrote, is southern Brooklyn – the Atlantic coast neighborhoods like Seagate, Coney Island and Brighton Beach, which suffered a disproportionate amount of flood-caused damage.