The Jewish community needs to consider the possibility that social media is a bad investment.
Special To The Jewish Week
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Last week, in the run-up to Yom HaShoah the Israel Defense Forces' Interactive Media Branch called on their followers to "contribute to Holocaust remembrance" by posting "a photo of yourself together with a Holocaust survivor on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #WeAreHere."
As Yom HaShoah approaches, Jews all over the world wrestle with how best to remember, retrieve and relay. Gyongji Mago, the catalyst for Gabor Kalman’s documentary “There was Once” has much to teach us. A high school teacher fascinated by local history, she came to realize that many of her students had no idea that Jews had ever lived in Kolocsa, a small town in southern Hungary. A Catholic, she too had had limited exposure to Jews.
Stanlee Stahl runs the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which provides financial support to gentiles who rescued Jews.
Amy Sara Clark
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Stanlee Stahl has been executive vice president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous since 1992. Since 1986, the organization has provided $34 million in financial support to more than 2,500 gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Currently JFR supports 654 rescuers in 22 countries, with the vast proportion living in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and Hungary. The foundation also runs a Holocaust education program that has trained more than 400 middle and high school teachers from the U.S. and Eastern Europe since 2000. On the eve of Yom HaShoah, The Jewish Week caught up with Stahl for a wide-ranging discussion on the rescuers she’s met and the impact of the group’s education program. This is an edited transcript.
The grandchildren of survivors ‘seeking their own liturgy’ in marking Shoah trauma in iconoclastic ways.
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In Edinburgh, Scotland, youth worker Jonathan Litewski McKean, whose grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, decides to honor her legacy in a personal way. Next month, on his 26th birthday, he will have her concentration camp number tattooed on his left arm.
As I write that descendants of prominent Nazis have chosen to live in Israel today, and that some of them – with surnames like Goering, Goebbels or Himmler -- are converted to Judaism or in process, I realize that readers will reread this sentence to make sure they didn’t misread.
I join people here in the United States, in Israel, and around the world in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, we honor the memories of the six million Jewish victims and millions of others who perished in the darkness of the Shoah. As we reflect on the beautiful lives lost, and their great potential that would never be fulfilled, we also pay tribute to all those who resisted the Nazis’ heinous acts and all those who survived.
One of the reasons why Cantor Azi Schwartz, our cantor at Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan, is one of the foremost cantors of our day is his refusal to allow Jewish liturgy to become rote or be set in a stifling ritual straightjacket.
April is a month crowded with Jewish observances and remembrances this year, both ancient and modern.
Fresh off of Passover and its inspiring message of freedom and spiritual liberation we face the cruel reality of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on Sunday, April 7, recalling a time not only when 20th-century European Jews were denied their freedom but systematically put to death simply because they were Jewish. We are painfully aware that each year there are fewer survivors within our midst to give personal testimony to the tragedy. All the more reason why we should take part in religious and communal observances that mark the day, often featuring survivors telling their own stories.
Six million is an almost impossible number to think of in terms of victims of the Nazi regime. But one person’s authentic recollections can be a powerful reminder of the human suffering that took place and the physical and psychological scars that remain.
Recent events in Europe provide a troubling echo of the fact that anti-Semitism is still with us. Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, whether they are explained as anti-Israel in nature or motivated by hatred of Jews, are deeply worrying. They need to be addressed not only through statements by government officials but by civic and religious leaders in the local communities as well as through vigilance against future destructive acts and educational programs in the schools.
In Israel, Jews throughout the country will mark April 15 as Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for the thousands killed in the country’s wars these last six decades. Those who have been in Israel on that day understand that it is a far more somber, emotional observance than Memorial Day in the U.S. When the blast signaling a moment of silence across the country sounds, all movement stops, and one realizes that hardly a family in the Jewish state has not suffered a loss in Israel’s struggle for independence and survival.
In typical Israeli fashion, though, mourning and joy rub against each other as Yom HaZikaron gives way to Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, April 16. Perhaps the celebration is so spirited because people realize the depth of sacrifice that led to statehood.
Then, closing out the month of April, comes Lag b’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot. Though a minor, ancient holiday, it is a joyous one. But there is no definitive reason why. Some say it is because the Jews marked a victory on that day in ancient times in the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans; others say it was the only day no students of Rabbi Akiva died during a weeks-long plague. But neither explanation indicates a time for celebration. Still, amidst a calendar fraught with solemn occasions and anniversaries, it’s good to have a day to rejoice. We can always find a reason to be grateful.
As we enter a month rich in Jewish tradition and history, we note that its peaks and valleys reflect the human condition, with times to laugh and times to cry, and a responsibility to find meaning in each.