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Entries about holocaust

Holocaust! The Rightous Gentiles!

"Lest We Forget"

This past week was Holocasut Memorial Day in Israel. Paying homage to six million murdered Jewish brethen is particularly painful here in Israel. Many of us lost friends and family. This is a nation where the constant fear of destruction has been an ongoing part of our lives for sixty-four years. Yet, we gratefully remember those non-Jews who helped us during our darkest days and support us in our current struggle to survive.

It is generally believed that six million Jews perished as a result of Nazi genocide. Hundreds of thousands of others would have joined them were it not for the courageous intervention of a few world leaders and thousands of individuals who risked their lives in order to save Jews from the gas chambers. Many of these men and women paid for their heroic efforts with their lives. There were those who stood up and fought for justice.

Those who resisted the Gestapo during the infamous round-ups and hid Jews did so at grave personal peril. Any person caught hiding a Jew was immediately shot on the spot or taken out to be publicly hanged.

Those non-Jews who worked at great risk to their personal safety to save Jews became known as the “Righteous Persons” (or sometimes Righteous Gentiles). There are thousands of stories of great valor which will never be told because the Nazis executed many of these Righteous Persons. Among those whose stories one of the most celebrated is that of Raoul Wallenberg.

Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who made it a special, personal mission to help save the Jews of Hungary. More than 30,000 Jews received special Swedish passports from Wallenberg. He set up "safe houses," distributed food and medical supplies, and virtually single-handedly set up a bureaucracy in Budapest, Hungary's capital, designed to protect Jews. More than 90,000 Budapest Jews were deported to the death camps and murdered, and Wallenberg's efforts may have reduced the number of those murdered by half. As a diplomat, he successfully confronted the Nazis at great risk to his own safety. Following the "liberation" of Budapest by the Soviets, he was arrested by them, thrown in prison, and never heard from again. Reports often surface, unconfirmed, that he is still alive, although the Soviets announced his death two years after his arrest.

I immigrated to Israel five years ago from Colorado. My greatest blessings in Israel have come as the result of interfaith activities in Haifa, my new home. I have participated in Soccer leagues with our Muslim neighbors in Israel. My Synagogue, Or Hadash has hosted an interfaith choir with Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze members from Europe, Israel, and America. We have joined with the Catholic Focolare in monthly study sessions, interfaith youth sports activities and a spiritual retreat at Kibbutz Nes Ammim. Jews, Christians, and Muslims from dozens of countries attended the event.

I want to thank our non-Jewish friends everywhere for your continued support. Please come and see this incredible nation for yourselves!

Posted by eshugerman 03:55 Tagged colorado israel holocaust nazis gentile judaism interfaith raoul wallenberg nes ammim Comments (0)

Israel, A Nation of Remembrance.

Children in War

I immigrated to Israel five years ago from Colorado to Haifa. What an incredible journey!

Understanding the culture of Israel is a great challenge to many new olim or immigrants. Israel is a nation where the Jewish faith and history are very much a part of daily life. It is a nation where the horrors of the Holocaust are not and must not be forgotten. We remember the destruction of the ancient temples in Jerusalem in our hearts and prayers. "Next Year in Jerusalem" is the prayer that mourns our past suffering, but also gives us hope for the present and future. Tisha B’Av, is a day of evel or mourning in Israel. This day mourns the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and all suffering endured by the people of the Book. It is a day of fasting and other acts of observance. Businesses and schools may be open depending on the type of service or affiliation.

My most satisfying experience in Israel was working in a Moadonit or after school program in my Synagogue, Or Hadash. This was my favorite experience at the Moadonit that occurred during Tisha B’Av in the summer of 2009.

Forty kids aged six to ten enjoyed various summer activities including volleyball, soccer, and dodge ball. The director, Jaffa, also gave a one hour presentation describing the building and destruction of both Temples. We also discussed the Holocaust and Israel’s memorial day. More than twenty thousand Israelis have died in open conflicts or by acts of terrorism since the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948. The Holocaust is almost always in the minds and hearts of Israeli Jews. We must never forget the murders of millions whose only sin was being born Jewish or having Jewish ancestors.

We had a short question and answer period after the presentation. I was surprised that none of the kids asked why we talked about these topics during summer fun time or complained. I asked my two English speaking “friends” in the group Naomi (8) and Shachar (7) to explain everyone’s cooperation. Naomi spent two years in Boston and answered in wonderful English; “most Israeli kids understand that remembering the past protects us in the present and future”. Shachar an American olah agreed and showed great pride in her new Israeli citizenship.

The following day, we had a group of visitors from Boston come to visit the Synagogue. The group was composed of roughly one hundred adults and kids from a sister congregation. We enjoyed dinner together and then went on a tour of the Temple’s bomb shelter. The shelter is an area of three hundred square feet that also includes a separate bathroom, shower, and first aid room. During the second war with Lebanon the twenty kids from our day school and fifty local children spent their days alternating between the shelter and our school facility. Each time a siren wailed the kids and staff ran down the three floors from the classroom to safety. Our previous past congregation president Jesse led the tour and explained to us that many Haifa residents left the city during the fighting but many chose to stay.

Jesse, who is a physician and American born, mentioned to me that my friend Naomi and her family chose to stay.

Posted by eshugerman 13:50 Tagged colorado israel war holocaust jerusalem or tisha b’av oleh hadash Comments (0)

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