Buenos Aires — At first glance, the once-thriving capital of Argentina looks as thriving as ever. The downtown commercial area, near the banks of the Rio de la Plata river, is filled with people. The shelves of the upscale shops are stocked with the latest goods. The city’s distinctive yellow-and-black taxis cruise the streets.
But at second glance …
At a modest exhibition on “Jewish Life and Culture” in the Piedmont region, which the Turin Jewish community hosted during the Olympics in the hall of the State Archives, the first thing a visitor notices is a glass-covered display case with 14 books in a half-dozen European languages.
All are the works of Primo Levi, the city’s native son.
Brad Hirschfield, an Orthodox rabbi, couldn’t make himself recite Mincha, the afternoon prayer service, one afternoon last week.
He had just left Auschwitz.
Rabbi Hirschfield, director of educational programs at CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, was part of a 50-member American delegation that visited Poland for the dedication of a renovated synagogue in Oswiecim, the town where the death camp was located.
Who remembers Alfred Hajos-Guttman? He was the Mark Spitz of his day — 1896.
At the first modern Olympic Games, in Athens, the Hungarian swimmer won two gold medals, in 100-meter and 1,500-meter freestyle.
Jewish athletes won eight more medals at the inaugural Games, starting a sporting tradition that continues until today.
Sofia, Bulgaria — The Jewish women who formed a mutual aid group here three years ago to give self-esteem and a little income to its elderly members during a time of near poverty called their organization Bendichos Manos, Ladino for “blessed hands.”
Zafira Levi’s probably are the most blessed of all.
Sofia, Bulgaria — Lili Vrangova and Richard Kanter invited only their closest friends to their wedding here the other day. But Sofian Jewry showed up. Some 500 members of the city’s Jewish community, about one-sixth of the Jews who live in the capital, came to the synagogue one Sunday morning. Uninvited but welcomed, they crowded into the sanctuary of the 91-year-old building, listened to the ceremony on loudspeakers in the courtyard and danced in the aisles.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria — Albert Alkalai put on his raincoat, the one with the small yellow Jewish star on the lapel, left his family’s house and walked to work a quarter-mile away in the central square at 8 a.m. on March 10, 1943.
The morning was sunny. “A little bit chilly, as in March,” Alkalai remembers.
The plaintiff is British, a historian of World War II who has asserted that Jewish claims of genocide by the Nazis are exaggerated, that the Auschwitz gas chambers were built after the war by the Polish government as a tourist attraction, that Adolf Hitler did not become aware of the full extent of the Final Solution until 1943.
The defendant is American, a scholar and leading authority on Holocaust denial.
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.
Vienna — For Isaac Rabinowitz, the surge in support for far-right candidate Joerg Haider in last week’s national elections is not an international issue.
It’s the policeman who guards his synagogue.
A rotating group of police officers have stood outside Rabinowitz’s shul in the center of the capital since a terrorist incident here in 1983. Most are polite. When one is rude, Rabinowitz says he offers a warning: the Jewish community has political connections.