Blogs
04/17/2015 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

In the mid-1980’s, just a few years after I began my rabbinate at the Forest Hills Jewish Center, I traveled to Poland with a UJA-Federation Rabbinic Cabinet mission. It was shortly after my two older children were born, and from the moment that I entered the gate of Auschwitz and saw a display of clothing stripped from infants and toddlers who had been brought there for extermination, I was forever changed. Before that visit, the harsh reality of the Holocaust had been an abstract set of numbers and grainy images. When I returned, I had gained what I now understand to be an intuition of an infinitesimal fraction of the horror of what had transpired. I was shaken to the core.

04/15/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person
Hugh Pollack

We came to Poland expecting to find death. And death we found in the death camp of Majdanek. It was situated with prewar homes and parks all around it, as if it were just any business in full view of the town’s population, which could never claim innocence.

04/14/2015 | | Staff Writer | Lens
Ishbel Szatrawska

For some elderly Polish Jews, a bike ride from Auschwitz to Krakow that began last year ended last month in Israel.

The 30 Polish seniors, most of them Holocaust survivors, visited the Jewish state in March as guests of a trip financed by a 2014 “Ride for the Living” under the auspices of Krakow’s seven-year-old JCC (jcckrakow.org). Nearly 20 riders, some of them from abroad, took part in the 55-mile trek through the Polish countryside last spring, from the infamous death camp to the American-style JCC, which has become a symbol of new Jewish life in the country.

The leaders envisioned the ride as a consciousness raiser, about Poland’s ongoing Jewish revival, and as a fund-raiser, to pay for the aging Polish Jews’ weeklong trip to Israel this year. Many of the participants in the trip, members of the JCC’s Senior Club, set foot in Israel for the first time; for others, it was a last chance.

The now-annual bike ride takes place under the patronage of Michael Schudrich, Poland’s Long Island-born chief rabbi. It was inspired by Robert Desmond, a JCC member who had ridden his bicycle 1,350 miles from London to Auschwitz, stopping at World War liberation sites along the way. He decided that future bike rides should end in a place of life, not death.

Last year’s bikers joined Krakow’s small Jewish community for Shabbat, then took part in the annual 7@NiteFestival, a cultural celebration organized by the Joint Distribution Committee.

04/14/2015 | | Editor And Publisher | The JW Q&A
Isaac Zablocki: Quality of a film, not its political message, is the main criterion.

Isaac Zablocki, 38, plays a key role in determining which Israeli films, and others dealing with the Mideast conflict, are shown in New York. As a result his choices are the subject of praise and criticism, often based more on a viewer’s politics than sense of aesthetics. Born in New York and raised in Israel before settling here, he is director of film programs at the JCC in Manhattan; director and co-founder of the ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival, which had a successful run last month; founder and director of the Israel Film Center; and executive director of The Other Israel Film Festival, which seeks to bridge the Arab-Israeli cultural divide through film. Zablocki was interviewed at the JCC. This is an edited transcript.

04/14/2015 | | Travel Writer | Travel
Maya Lin’s black-granite Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. Wikimedia Commons

The rain came down steadily, at times in torrents, other times in a chilly drizzle under leaden skies. But the legions of marchers on their way from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., to commemorate the recent 50th anniversary of that legendary civil rights march were undaunted by a little precipitation.

04/09/2015 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik

Although the transition from the High Holidays to Sukkot certainly brings with it more than a little cognitive dissonance, going from the solemnity of Yom Kippur to the joy of Sukkot, it pales in comparison with the cycle of Passover, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and then Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). These communal observances fall but a few days from each other, and take us from the exhilaration of redemption to the utter despair of the Holocaust and then back again to the redemptive joy of the establishment of the modern State of Israel.

04/07/2015 | | Staff Writer | Lens
Getty Images

After sundown on the last day of Passover, holiday dishes go into storage, exchanged for ones fit for year-round use. In some communities, chametz-starved Jews head to the local pizzeria.

04/07/2015 | | Special To The Jewish Week | First Person
Gideon Taylor

On a trip back home to Ireland where I grew up, I was thinking less about the modern bustling country of today and more about some letters of 77 years ago that recently turned up in my childhood family home.

04/07/2015 | | Travel Writer | Travel
A sidewalk on Magazine Street in the Garden District. Photos by Hilary Larson/JW

It was drizzling as I strolled down Magazine Street in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District. In this city without a major art museum, the architecture and storefront displays are art in and of themselves, and the window in front of me was no exception — a dazzlingly colorful, sparkly arrangement of chic umbrellas.

04/06/2015 | | Managing Editor | The JW Q&A
Jeff Gurock: “What if” scenario.

The genre of alternative or counter history — where historians pose tantalizing ‘what if’ questions — is an increasingly fertile one. The Pulitzer-winning author MacKinlay Kantor’s “If the South Had Won the Civil War” (MacMillan) and Jeff Greenfield’s “If Kennedy Lived” (Penguin Group) are two prime examples. Now, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, comes Yeshiva University professor Jeffrey Gurock’s “The Holocaust Averted” (Rutgers), which imagines an American Jewish community without the Shoah. The Jewish Week spoke with Gurock via email.