Timisoara, Romania — Among the nearly 200 Jews who attended the pair of seders in the Jewish community building here last week were members of the local community, a visiting family of Israelis and one man with New York City roots.
Rafael Schwartz lived in Brooklyn and New Jersey for nearly 20 years.
Timisoara, Romania — As a child Luciana Friedman attended the community seders here each year with her parents and grandparents.
As a young adult, she comes with her husband. And she comes as a leader of an emerging part of the city’s small Jewish community.
Grodno, Belarus — Tsilia Brido remembers her early Belarus Passover in her Polotsk hometown, her grandfather leading the seders in Hebrew, women from the neighborhood baking their matzahs in her family’s large wood stove.
“It was before the war,” she says, referring to World War II. Belarus was the first of the former Soviet Union’s republics to be invaded by the German army.
Brido remembers the seders ending after 1941, first under the Nazis, then under the communists.
Warsaw — At the podium was the prime minister of Poland, who began his speech with a quote from the Talmud.
In the crowd were several hundred Polish Jews — parents and grandparents of children enrolled in Warsaw’s only Jewish day school.
In the front rows sat some of the most prominent leaders of American Jewish organizations and a few hand-picked American philanthropists.
The new top leadership team of the embattled World Jewish Congress will head to Eastern Europe soon to re-energize stalled negotiations over Holocaust-era restitution payments, Michael Schneider, the group’s next secretary general, said this week.
The political discussions will represent a return by the WJC, perceived as rudderless in recent years, to the activity that cemented its reputation as a representative of Jewish interests.
At least 17 German banks and industrial firms have agreed to contribute to a fund from which payments will be made to an estimated 100,000 Jews who served as slave laborers during the Holocaust, the German government announced this week. Needy survivors may also be entitled to payments from the fund.
The government hopes the fund will begin making payments to survivors by Sept. 1, the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland and the start of World War II, according to Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.
None of the 45 people in the kosher Chinese restaurant on Flatbush Avenue had ever been to Zembrov, a town in northeast Poland, and some even had trouble spelling it. But all had relatives who came from there, and they gathered two weeks ago to keep their memories alive.
For some Holocaust survivors and their supporters, a Senate subcommittee hearing this week was their last chance to collect on the Nazi-era life insurance policies of their parents.
The survivors asked that Congress adopt legislation that would require insurance companies doing business in the United States to publish the names of all policyholders from the pre-war era. If the companies then refused to settle claims on reasonable terms, survivors and their heirs could sue them during the next 10 years.
Jewish groups are taking a wait-and-see attitude about Monday's announcement that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to set up a fund for American companies wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Holocaust-era slave and forced laborers, including tens of thousands living in the U.S.
Yehudit Moch of Park Slope walked into St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village last week sporting a T-shirt embroidered with a large Star of David.
"You'd better close your jacket," said the receptionist, who was half-Jewish. "It's not safe to be wearing that on the streets of New York."