KAUNUS, Lithuania (WJC)–Jewish organizations in Lithuania have strongly condemned an apparent neo-Nazi attack in which a pig’s head was left Saturday at the entrance of a synagogue in the city of Kaunas.
“The Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Religious Community of Lithuanian Jews judge this as Nazi provocation aimed at insulting the ethnic and religious feelings of Lithuanian Jews,” the heads of the two organizations, Simonas Alperavicius and Chief Rabbi Chaim Burstein, said in a joint statement.
Simonas Gurevicius, executive director of the Lithuanian Jewish community, told the news agency AFP that the incident should be treated as an attack on all believers, not only Jews. “We hope that Lithuanian society will not be impassive, as this act of a few anti-Semitic vandals does not reflect the attitude of Lithuanian society.”
Kaunas police have launched a formal investigation but there are no suspects so far, according to the ‘Baltic News Service’.
Lithuania was once home to a 220,000-strong Jewish community, and Vilnius was a cultural hub and world center for the study of the Torah, also known as the ‘Jerusalem of the North’. At the end of the 19th century, there were over 100 synagogues in Vilnius. During the Holocaust, 95 percent of Lithuania’s Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
By David Amos
SAN DIEGO–Earlier this month we celebrated our Independence Day. My thoughts brought me to the importance of American music, and the shameful neglect we have allowed music education to be. Part of this was stimulated by an article in the editorial section of the San Diego Union-Tribune by John M. Eger, on July 8.
But first, let me share with you a sensitive, meaningful poem by an anonymous music teacher, circa, well….anytime:
WHY I TEACH MUSIC:
Not because I expect you to major in music.
Not because I expect you to play or sing all your life.
Not so you can relax or have fun.
So you will be human,
So you will recognize beauty,
So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world, So you will have something to cling to, So you will have more love, compassion, more gentleness,
More good….in short, more life!
Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living
Unless you know how to live?
On American and modern music: We have been conditioned to believe that if it is called “modern music”, or if the name of the composer is unknown to us, it is probably ugly and not worth our attention. Yes, there is a natural tendency to dislike the unknown, but in music, sadly, we do not even give it a chance to redeem itself. Even the late Karl Haas (from the enormously popular radio program “Adventures in Good Music”) told me that he sometimes received fan letters which warned him that if he as much as mentions the fact that he was about to play music from the Twentieth Century, the radio would be turned off immediately. This is tragic; it is cultural suicide.
I remember sadly an evening of music played by the San Diego Symphony, maybe fifteen years ago. In the first half was music by Robert Schumann, and after intermission, the conductor programmed the fabulous Concerto for Orchestra by Béla Bartók. The latter is to me one of the greatest compositions ever. Period. You can imagine my disappointment, pain, and frustration to see more than half of the audience trampling its way to Symphony Hall’s exits, just to avoid listening to Bartók in the second half! In retrospect, the program order should have been reversed.
The fact is, that there is a vast amount of modern music, a lot of it composed by Americans, which is accessible, enjoyable, even at a first hearing, and very melodious. In other words, it is what I call “listener friendly”.
After being so involved with the subject of American orchestral music (I gave a lecture on the subject to the music faculty of Hebrew University in Jerusalem), I have had many a talk with musicians, critics, and music lovers. One salient fact stands out: The American public has an inferiority complex about its own music. We tend to believe that if it originated in Europe, it is probably better, and if it is from the U.S., it will be lacking in depth and lasting value. Only history will eventually resolve this, but I have noticed in my various travels and conversations that most natives from other countries support and proudly believe in their own heritage, whether it be historic or contemporary. Audiences and musicians alike enthusiastically program and attend concerts of their own composers in Canada, Poland, Denmark, England, Mexico, and the former Soviet republics. I am sure that it is the same in many other places; but don’t get me started on Israel!
Curiously, when I was invited to guest conduct in Lithuania in 1992, when working out the repertory to be performed at the concerts, I was politely asked to “please not bring any Copland, Gershwin, or Bernstein”. At first, I was surprised and a bit annoyed, already thinking of several hidden implications from that request. But after directly asking the director of the Lithuanian Philharmonic as to “why”, the answer was surprising: “We don’t want you to bring us music from these composers, because we program them too frequently, and they are very popular here. We want you to bring to us some different American music”. So, I brought them Paul Creston, Alan Hovhaness, Norman Dello-Joio, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Ernest Bloch. After the fact, the musicians told me how much they enjoyed playing the music of these composers, and the audiences seemed responsive and enthusiastic, in both Vilnius and Kaunas.
As an aside, I was told by a cellist of the Vilnius orchestra, “We are glad that you brought us the music of Bloch. During the Soviet regime, we were not allowed to perform his music, just because he was Jewish”. He also proudly showed me a printed program for later in the month, where he was performing Bloch’s Schelomo, the Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra.
Getting back to our American heritage, it is best to quote the words and spirit of one of our greatest composers, Charles Ives. He not only preached, but practiced the concept of “Wake up, America! The culture and traditions of Europe are fine, but stand up, support, and enjoy your own wonderful music”.
I fully endorse that. Let us strive to discover and enjoy totally unknown and lesser known treasures of our past and present. Be careful, you may enjoy what you hear.
Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and a guest conductor of professional orchestras around the world
Jewish Home Cooking by Arthur Schwartz,Ten Speed Press, $35
Jewish Holiday Cooking by Jayne Cohen, John Wiley and Sons, $32.50
By Marc Yaffe
BETHESDA, Maryland–The two Jewish cookbooks that are being reviewed here were both runners-up for the 2009 James Beard Awards in their individual categories. Clearly I am guilty of a certain hubris for selecting volumes that have already been declared among the best of the best, but I defend myself on the basis that my reviewing criteria are probably not among those applied by the selectors of the James Beard Foundation.
It is almost 40 years since I read –and saved for future reference– an article in the Arts Section of the Sunday New York Times by the noted music critic and essayist, Nat Hentoff. In his article Mr. Hentoff wrote of his interview of Al Cohn, a noted jazz saxophonist of the day. He quoted Mr. Cohn as saying: “It’s what you listen to when you’re growing up that you always come back to.” Hentoff then added: “. . . Cohn’s Law is essentially valid in that we do not forget what brought us the most pleasure when we were younger and what most won our respect.” It is no great stretch to apply Cohn’s Law to the foods that gave us most pleasure as children, and even today evoke the same pleasurable memories of our youth.
So when I pick up a Jewish cookbook the first thing I do is search out the recipes that my Grandmother, who emigrated from Kovna, a small village near Vilna, made regularly, especially those that graced our Passover table. One of the first recipes I look for in the Index is Brisket. Of course, my Grandmother used Nyafat for frying the onions and braising the brisket, and, to be sure, she salted and soaked the meat. I can’t criticize Mr. Schwartz for employing Canola Oil, but I cannot excuse him for baking his brisket after having braised it, and not adding a small amount of water to kick-start the gravy-making process. About midway through the cooking my Grandmother would add some par-boiled potatoes and cut up carrots. What a joy: Tender, juicy meat with gravy infused potatoes and carrots.
What it all boils down to (pardon the pun) is Mr. Schwartz’s heritage: Galitzianer or Litvak? Clearly, when he refers to the recipes he inherited from his Mother he is a Litvak. And while his Mother is to be excused for not coming from the same stetl as my Grandmother, her recipes, as interpreted by her son, do evoke many mouth-watering recollections. But where is her recipe for Taiglech? To my mind, a very serious omission.
Unlike Mr. Schwartz’s work, Jayne Cohen’s 575-page collection of recipes draws from every corner of the diaspora. If you are ever inclined to introduce new items into your traditional holiday menu, this is the source book for you. While it must be quite evident how much I relish my Grandmother’s pot roast, I confess to a strong curiosity to try Ms. Cohen’s Aromatic Marinated Brisket with Chestnuts. Her Syrian Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato-Apricot Sauce, a dish for Sukkot, is suitable for any occasion. As is her recipe for Iranian Grilled Chicken Thighs.
What Ms. Cohen offers is choices, a multitude of choices. Are you thinking about making latkes? She gives you not one recipe, but eleven. There are ten recipes for matzo brei, and a like quantity for kugel. And so on. For most of her dishes she does have basic recipes, introducing variations subsequently. Ms. Cohen’s work is a rich compendium of holiday fare, which, if you are inventive, can lead you to producing your own variations.
But as abundant is her collection of recipes, she, too, has omitted one for taiglech!
Kidding aside, it must be said that there is an important difference between these two volumes. The first, Mr. Schwartz’s tome, is truly a cookbook. It has a point of view and it tells its own story; about the foods that his family holds dear, and that he is drawn to as we are drawn to the music we heard as children. Ms. Cohen’s work is simply a compendium of recipes. That they are tied together by the thread of their Jewish origins there is little doubt. I do believe, however, that her work would have been considerably more meaningful had she sought to trace the evolution of all those recipes as they made their way into the diaspora.
Yaffe, based in Bethesda, Maryland, travels the world in search of culinary creations to compare with his bubbe’s.
By Franklin Gaylis
SAN DIEGO — Several thousand years of Jewish history has been extremely well documented. What about our personal family’s history over the past few hundred years?
This is the question I asked myself when our children were born in the USA after my wife Jean, and I emigrated in 1982 from South Africa. Suddenly the importance of knowing our family’s history became a priority in my life. A visit to the Kotel in Jerusalem made me think more about our family’s history in the diaspora, over the past 2000 years. That is when the following questions evolved:
Where did the family live prior to their emigration to South Africa? How did they get to South Africa? Who came first and why? What would I tell our children about their family’s past?
I knew so little, however, I quickly learned that most of my family, even the seniors whom I questioned, knew little more than I did.
All that was known were a few names of the shtetls in Lithuania and Latvia where our family had once lived. My grandmother’s sister, Aunti Cilla, attempted in vain when I was a young medical student to tell me the family’s history in Lithuania. The memories of how she had saved her sisters from the eventual annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry suddenly resurfaced in my mind. This amazing woman who lived to 102 years of age saved many members of our family and in doing so paved the path to South Africa. She also selflessly returned to the family’s shtetl Kruk, in Lithuania to save her sisters, including my grandmother. How I wished that someone had listened to her stories and acknowledged her courageous actions during her lifetime. Was it possible there were any family members remaining, I asked? Fortunately, we hadn’t lost any family in the Holocaust, or so we thought.
My quest for information prompted extensive research on the Jews of Lithuania and together with family we planned a trip to the old country. Jean and I together with four cousins (Lorraine, Richard, Uncle Dave and Jill) visited the family shtetls in Lithuania and Latvia hoping to find any relic from our family’s past: a home of one of our great grandparents, a tombstone or anything that could possibly connect us to our past. Lithuanian and Latvian Jews had migrated to these areas 700 years prior and we knew absolutely nothing about our family’s history in these countries, other than the names of a few shtetls.
During our week visiting the shtetls with the help of local and national guides, we were fortunate to find surviving family in Ludza (Latvia), which had been my great grandfather’s home. It was currently inhabited by Mrs Lotzov ( my grandfather was Frank Lotzof). A family tree from the Riga archives detailed seven generations starting in the early 1800s. I learned that I had been named Franklin after my grandfather Frank Lotzof, however, it was clear from the family tree that his name originally was Afroim and this Yiddish name must have been changed to Frank in South Africa ( My Hebrew name is Ephraim). In Ludza we found a desecrated shul, a shtiebl, with an Aron Kodesh, a Bimah, hundreds of rotting machzorim, a shofar, and breast plate from a Torah as well as many other religious artifacts.
In the Ludza forest we saw the memorial to the 833 Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and local accomplices in August 1941. A prominent memorial to six Lotzof cousins, murdered and buried in the Jewish Cemetery answered this question: about whether we had lost family in the Shoah.
In Kruk we learned that one of the five sisters, Sossa, had never left for South Africa and had been killed with her five daughters. I was greatly saddened to learn of these members of our family who have never had the Kaddish prayer recited for them. They had never been remembered. We were fortunate that Aunty Cilla and my grandfather Frank Lotzof returned to bring out many of the family prior to the Second World War. I felt some comfort that we were finally piecing together some of the family’s recent history.
Our parents, the next generation were born in South Africa. They lived good lives, were successful professionals (doctors, lawyers, businessmen….) in contrast with their parents who had acquired little formal education. My grandmother Mina who spoke only German, was chaperoned to South Hampton in England at the age of 16 or 17 years. Then she was sent to South Africa by boat never to see or speak to her parents again. What prompted them to send a young daughter on her own to a distant land never to see her again? I could only imagine how difficult life must have been for Jews in the Baltics. They obviously envisaged a better life for her in South Africa.
Several years later during a trip back to South Africa with my parents, I was again impressed how little knowledge we had of our family’s past: Anti-Semitism was rife in Heilbron where my mother Rhoda Gaylis (nee Lotzof) was born. Afrikaners who were supporters of the Nazis in the war, created similar fascist groups like the Ossewa Brandwag and Greyshirts. They had every intent in doing the same as the Nazis to the Jews of South Africa when Hitler prevailed in Europe. The fact that none of the family were aware of details of our past was perplexing to me. When interviewing my mother who was a gifted pianist and musician, she recalled an Afrikaner family who were fond of her as she played songs for the Christians in their church. At the age of six they told her, “Rhoda, when Hitler comes we will hide you in that little chest” When she replied with “ What about my mammie and pappie?” they said “Only you Rhoda.”
How fortunate we are as a family that Frank and Cilla and their parents had the foresight to do what they did. Similarly, my parents encouraged my wife and I to emigrate to the USA in our early 20s to provide a safer future for our children. What will be the future of our children? Will there be a fourth continent that we move to in just over 100 years? At present we are fortunate to have almost 70 family members living here in San Diego. We meet regularly once a year for Shabbat at the La Jolla Cove. The valiant efforts of some family members to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our family indicates an ongoing core commitment to Judaic values and principles. The same values and principles continue to maintain the family bonds here in San Diego.
This experience researching our family’s past has given me a greater appreciation for:
- the secular and religious freedoms we have in the USA
- the importance of family
- the need as Jews to be ever vigilant
- the central role Israel plays in our lives.
I believe the freedom and prosperity that we Jews have enjoyed over the past 60 years is directly related to the establishment of the state of Israel.
Gaylis is a physician based in San Diego. He will tell about his travels and genealogical research in a presentation called “From Shtetl to Shtetl” at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 19, in the Astor Judaica Library at the Lawrence Family JCC.
(WJC)–Kirsten Gillibrand, the US senator for New York, has asked the Obama administration to investigate reports of neglect and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Europe. Gillibrand, a Democrat, listed three examples, provided by Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg: Plans in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to expand a sports complex over an ancient Jewish burial place; reportedly unauthorized digging at a cemetery in Krakow, Poland; and ancient catacombs in Rabat, Malta left in disarray, with some remains removed.
“We must preserve these historic cemeteries and ensure they are neither neglected nor forgotten,” Gillibrand said in a statement announcing that she was writing a letter about the matter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose Senate seat she inherited. “Moving or destroying these cemeteries would be an affront to family members of those buried there and would erase Jewish remnants from that time.”
Officials at the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, an independent government agency that deals with Jewish properties in Europe among other issues, said they were aware of the cases and were pursuing them. Building at the Vilnius burial ground has been frozen for the time being after representations on behalf of the commission.
Preceding provided by World JewishCongress.
(WJC)–Leading US lawmakers have called on Eastern European nations to advance Holocaust-era property reclamation processes. The call comes a year after the Prague Conference on Holocaust Era Assets, which declared that “every effort be made to rectify the consequences of wrongful property seizures, such as confiscations, forced sales and sales under duress of property, which were part of the persecution of (victims of the Holocaust), the vast majority of whom died heirless.”
The Helsinki Commission, the congressional branch of a multinational grouping of parliamentary human rights groups, heard testimony Tuesday from Stuart Eizenstat, the special adviser to the U.S. secretary of state on Holocaust issues. “Implementation remains very uneven,” Eizenstat said of the post-communist nations. Western European nations had for the most part resolved such issues by the time the Iron Curtain collapsed.
“Corruption, processing delays, difficulty in obtaining basic documentation and inconsistent information about the application process have marred property restitution in too many countries,” he said. “In some instances, basic legislation is still lacking. No country has been exemplary in this field, and many have been quite the opposite.”
Eizenstat singled out Poland, Romania and Lithuania as nations “where we are awaiting long overdue improvements.” Commission members pressed the faltering nations to accelerate the claims process. “Every major political party in Poland has supported draft legislation on property compensation, and I hope that the prime minister will be able to carry through on his stated commitment to see a general property law adopted,” said commission chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “In Lithuania, the 1995 property law is needlessly restrictive. I hope the government will fulfill its promises to revisit that law and ensure that communal properties, including schools and places of worship, are returned to their proper owners. Making amends for such crimes and atrocities cannot and should not drag out for yet another generation.”
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Cardin’s co-chairman, called on the nations to retreat from applying standard inheritance laws on such exceptional cases. “There is something terribly perverse about applying the normal rules of inheritance to the extraordinary and tragic circumstances created by the Holocaust,” he said. “It is just wrong that a government can prevent a man from retrieving his own uncle’s artwork because a law says that uncle has no direct heirs. When whole families were murdered in the Holocaust, I would think such an exception should be made a part of the law.”
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League
Compiled by Garry Fabian
The Zentai saga rolls on
PERTH 13 April – The Federal Court in Western Australia will next month begin hearing an appeal from Perth man Charles Zentai against his
extradition to Hungary to face war crimes charges.
The court has postponed the start of a judicial review into the case to April 27; it was supposed to begin last month. A review favourable to
Zentai is widely seen as his final opportunity to avoid extradition.
Earlier this month, lawyers representing Zentai and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor met inFederal Court over the defendant’s right to see a full version of the documents used by O’Connor in reaching his decision to green-light the extradition.
Zentai is accused of playing a role in the murder of Peter Balazs, a young Budapest Jew who was beaten to death in November 1944.
Zentai, who was arrested in 2005 on a Hungarian warrant, denies the charges.
Remembering Six Million
MELBOURNE, 12 April – Commemorations for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust remembrance day, were held around Australia on Sunday, April 11 and Monday, April 12.
In Melbourne, survivors from the “Buchenwald boys” lit memorial candles at a memorial at
Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall.
Sydney’s Jewish community hosted a number of functions, including a name reading ceremony at
the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst. More than 300 people, including consul generals from
Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Britain, Croatia and Romania, joined school
children, many of them from non-Jewish schools, at Sunday’s moving commemoration.
Moriah College hosted a Yom Hashoah event, with a keynote speech from Israel Embassy deputy Eli Yerushalmi, while Masada College had scheduled its own commemoration for Monday night.
Yom Hashoah memorials were also held in Perth, where Associate Professor Mark Baker was keynotespeaker, and in Canberra, where diplomats,politicians and representatives of various faiths
came together to remember the Holocaust.
Goodby to politics but not Jewish Community
SYDNEY, 12 April – After years of involvement, Malcolm Turnbull said his resignation as
Wentworth MP will not see him cut ties with the Jewish community.
Speaking the day after announcing he would not contest the next election, the former Liberal
leader called the local Jewish community “the heart and soul” of his electorate.
“I don’t intend to stop my association with the Jewish community just because I am out of
Parliament. I’ve loved my involvement at so many communal events and just having so many friends in the Jewish community.”
Using the new social medium Twitter, Turnbull announced on Tuesday he would not recontest the
inner-eastern Sydney seat come the next election.
The decision was made, he said, following his loss of the Liberal Party leadership to Tony
Abbott by one vote in December last year. The catalyst for that vote was the emissions trading
Bill, which Turnbull continues to strongly support, but which much of the Coalition opposes.
But he never had trouble keeping the Jewish community on his side even those who weren’t
Liberal voters held Turnbull in high esteem because of his commitment to the community.
It was Chanukah parties that Turnbull highlighted as some of the best memories during his time in
office. “I really enjoyed Chanukah celebrations, whether it was the event at Double Bay that Yanky
Berger does, or the Russian ceremony,” he said, adding he once gave a memorised speech in
Russian, which “amused some of the older attendees”.
One organisation that Turnbull has had a strong involvement with for the past three years is
Sydney’s Montefiore Home, where he is the ambassador.
This week, Montefiore vice-president Gary Inberg said he hoped Turnbull’s role as the home’s
“ambassador, supporter and friend” would continue. “Our residents are always delighted to
see Malcolm and we have enjoyed hosting him at the home on numerous occasions. It is a pleasure
and an honour to be associated with him,” Inberg said.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot also paid tribute to the politician.
“We regret, but understand, Mr Turnbull’s decision. He was a most effective advocate for a
variety of matters of concern for the Jewish community,” Goot said.
In terms of a successor, the Liberal Party has opened nominations for a new candidate to contest
the increasingly marginal seat.
A number of Jewish names have been suggested including party bigwigs Richard Shields and
Julian Leeser, as well as former Turnbull staffer Anthony Orkin and current local councillor
Anthony Boskovitz. The vote is expected to be held within a month.
Turnbull weighed in on the speculation of his successor, but in a non-partisan way.
“People often assume, in a somewhat patronising way, that the Jewish community will always vote
for a Jewish candidate. I think there are a lot of people in the Jewish community who would make
great candidates for Parliament, but ultimately it is the quality of the candidate that matters,” he said
Push for closer diplomatic ties
CANBERRA, 13 April – Ronen Plot, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and
Diaspora Affairs, was in Australia this week in what is seen as part of a larger effort to
cultivate a better relationship between the local community and the Jewish State.
The director-general, who also spent time liaising with Jewish community leaders in Hong
Kong and New Zealand as part of his regional sweep, said that his trip had a dual purpose: as
a fact-finding mission to learn more about Diaspora communities and develop a working
relationship with their leadership, while also looking for opportunities for new collaborative
projects in education and other spheres.
Speaking in Hebrew, Plot said that his visit was considered essential in order to carry out the mission of his department.
“You can’t have a situation where you have an office of Diaspora affairs and run it exclusively
from Israel,” Plot said. “It’s extremely important to meet and get to know people in the
Diaspora communities themselves.”
Dr Ron Weiser, past president of the Zionist Federation of Australia and current committee
member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, was one of the many communal officials
who met with Plot during his Pesach visit.
Dr Weiser said that Plot’s visit represents the beginning of a long-term process to change the
relationship between Jerusalem and the Diaspora. He recalled the words of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a speech to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. “[Olmert] said, for the past
60 years, Israel has been the project of the Jewish people. For the next 60 years, the Jewish
people will need to be the joint project of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.”
The current visit is the latest step in that process, Dr Weiser said.Plot dismissed speculation that his trip had any connection to recent allegations that Israel had forged Australian passports.
His visit, he said, was planned well in advance of the scandal and had very clear objectives far
removed from such controversies.
Plot added that, at any rate, there has been no proven link between Israel and the forgeries.
In related news, Plot could not confirm the accuracy of a report in The Jerusalem Post last
Thursday that PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Ari Harow may accept the position of
deputy director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
Passport report in, but no action to date
CANBERRA, 15 April – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has said he will not rush his response to
an Australian Federal Police (AFP) report into the alleged misuse of four Australian passports
in the assassination of Hamas terror chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh .
The AFP investigation, which saw three officers travel to Israel, was completed recently, with
Smith receiving the findings last Friday. The Foreign Minister said he had looked at the
report, but was not ready to make any decisions.
“I haven’t yet had the opportunity of very carefully considering that, but it’s clear from a
preliminary assessment of that report that I need to get further advice and see further work and
have further discussion with other agencies,” he told Channel Nine.
He said he would be discussing the report with Australia’s two premier security agencies the
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service before making any decisions.
“When that work has been done, and I’ve had the chance to fully consider, not just the AFP
report, but also that further work and advice from other agencies, then I’ll make the detail of
the government’s deliberations about this matter public.”
Responding to whether the Australian investigation was taking too long, Smith said he
wanted to be sure of the facts.
“I need further work done by our intelligence agencies and I’m going to get this right rather
than rush it in any way. It’s a very important issue. It has very significant ramifications for
use of passports and our relationships with a number of countries, and I’m not proposing to be
rushed. I want the exhaustive work to be done carefully and properly.”
The investigation was launched in late February after forged passports in the names of
Australian-born Israelis were discovered by Dubai police. Fingers were pointed at Israel’s Mossad
secret service, with Smith calling Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem to Parliament
for an explanation and asking for his cooperation.
Last month, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat after completing its own investigation into
forged passports in the names of British-born Israelis
Rabbis reach out to youth
MELBOURNE, 15 April – Local Orthodox rabbis are this week launching a range of programs in a bid
to relate better to younger Jews and to become more professional.
Tonight (Thursday), the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) will unveil a number of projects
at a gala reception in the presence of Victorian Government ministers, community dignitaries and young people.
Speaking in the lead-up to the event, RCV president Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said the rabbis
are hoping to offer their expertise to the community in different ways.
“The RCV hopes to work in collaboration with other communal organisations and believes the
Victorian rabbinate has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer the Jewish, and indeed, wider community,” the North Eastern Jewish Centre rabbi said.
One way it hopes to do this is through the “Mashpia” or mentoring program, which will link rabbis with young Jews.
“The purpose of this initiative is to encourage young Jewish adults, particularly in their latter
formative teenage years, to feel comfortable thinking and speaking about matters relating to
spirituality and religion, which some may feel naturally inhibited to do because of societal norms and expectations,” he said.
Those older than school age will also be catered for, with Rabbi Glasman hinting at a program that
will help young adults entering the workforce find a place in their busy lives for religion.
Some of the community’s most prominent businessmen are being engaged to assist.
The other area the RCV is pushing into is professional development. “We want to be
professional, we don’t want rabbis to deal with crises en route,” the president said.
These initiatives are currently being sponsored by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, but
Rabbi Glasman said the community will also be called upon to assist.
“We want communal donors to recognise that investing in the rabbinate is worthwhile.”
Limmud Oz back for another year
MELBOURNE, 15 April – Planning for Limmud Oz, the festival of Jewish learning and culture, is
currently underway, with the conference returning to Melbourne for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.
Held annually this year over three days Limmud Oz gives participants an opportunity to
engage with and learn topics of Jewish interest.
“It will take you another step further in your Jewish journey,” Limmud Oz committee member
Sylvia Urbach said. “It will have some appeal to all people regarding any aspect of Jewish life
and Jewish thought ever considered.”
A host of international presenters are already on board, including executive director of the Israel
Religious Action Centre and Women of the Wall participant Anat Hoffman, Israeli professor of
political studies Efraim Inbar and Dr Aaron Rosen, a research fellow in Jewish history and culture at Oxford University.
Diverse local speakers will also feature on a broad range of topics including Adam Goodvach’s
analysis of Australia’s closest neighbour Indonesia, Victor Majzner talking about art and a
discussion with Lionel Sharpe, one of the community’s foremost genealogists.
“There is a wide array of Jewish topics and speakers from religious to secular in every way,
shape or form,” Urbach said. “What’s important is that it is non-denominational and inclusive, with
subjects and speakers relevant to all Jews.”
Artistic memlories of a bleak place
Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s newest exhibition.
Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s
newest exhibition. Photo: Peter Haskin
MELBOURNE’– Jewish Museum of Australia launched its latest exhibition, titled Theresienstadt:
Drawn From the Inside, last week in the presence of MPs including Victorian Arts Minister Peter Batchelor.
More than 20 years ago, Holocaust survivor Regina Schwarz donated a battered suitcase containing 142 watercolours and drawings created in the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt by her husband Paul and fellow artist Leo Lowit.
The rare collection of artworks was exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Australia in 1990, but has
remained in the museum archives since then.
A year ago curator Mera Brooks started sorting through the collection to select 90 works for the museum’s latest exhibition.
Paul and Regina Schwarz and Leo and Jindriska Lowit arrived in Theresienstadt in December 1941,
among 6000 Jews who arrived at the camp by rail transport from Prague that month. Paul, Leo and Jindriska were killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. Regina survived Auschwitz and settled in
Melbourne after World War II where she died in 1987.
The Theresienstadt: Drawn From the Inside exhibition is at the Jewish Museum of Australia
from April 11 until March 13, 2011.
Nonagenarian still an active athlete
MELBOURNE, 19 April–90 years young and still as active as ever – Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration! When ‘Friend of Maccabi’, Simon Shinberg called the office this week to RSVP to the upcoming Friends of Maccabi Luncheon, he told me that he was very much looking forward to hearing motivational Special Guest Speaker, Brian Rabinowitz, as Brian was Simon’s Spinning
instructor! I had to find out more…..
Simon Shinberg not only takes 45 minute Spinning classes 4 days a week, he also does a couple of
hours of gym 4 times a week too!
Simon has been involved in sport for as long as he can remember. He was a member of the first
AJAX Athletics Club, focussing on sprints, high jump and shotput. He represented Victoria at both
the 1937/38 Carnival in Melbourne and the 1938/39 Carnival in Sydney, where he won the High
Jump. He also played soccer for Hakoah when he was 18 years old.
During the many years of running his successful clothing manufacturing business, Simon went for a
run at 6am every morning, keeping him energised for the remainder of the day.
And Simon has no plans to slow down now, saying that keeping active and his wonderful friends
both from Maccabi & other walks of life is what keeps him going each day. Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration!
Agitating for change at Yeshivah
MELBOURNE, 19 April - Yeshivah Centre members in Melbourne have called for more democracy in the 52-year-old organisation after accusations the facility’s dayan, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner, censored their newsletter.
The Pesach edition of the publication included three articles discussing the value of removing
or retaining the controversial “Yechi” sign on the wall of the main shul. But by the end of
Pesach, the two pieces calling for a vote on its presence had been deleted from electronic and paper copies. When asked for confirmation, Rabbi Telsner said he knew “nothing about it”.
However, in a letter to Rabbi Telsner, congregant David Werdiger claims that during a discussion
they had had, the dayan admitted that he had instructed their removal.
Werdiger said he objected to the censorship and would, after 40 years, stop praying at the main
Yeshivah shul. “It is sad and ironic that this has happened in our community, many of whose
founders lived under an oppressive regime in Soviet Russia where there was a standard method
for dealing with dissent,” Werdiger said.
The sign, according to an article by YeshivahGedolah head Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, implies that
the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is the messiah and that he never really passed away.
Despite the sign being up for some years, its presence came to the fore in January when Rabbi
Telsner excised a small group of people – the “Moshiach Men” – from the community.
A number of Yeshivah members called for the sign to be removed, claiming it was divisive and
promoted disharmony. Despite securing more than 100 signatures, Rabbi Telsner and the va’ad
ruchni, or committee, ignored the request.
Articles in the recent newsletter continued the debate about the Yechi sign. In the piece that
was retained, Rabbi Cohen argued in favour of leaving the sign because that is what the late
Yeshivah director, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, wanted.
“There should be enough room for all of us, and no-one should feel that his emunah [faith] is
going to be somehow compromised by davvening [praying] together with another Jew who sees
things very differently,” Rabbi Cohen wrote.
Another congregant and one of the organisers of the petition, Yudi New, argued in the original
newsletter that the shul was alienating members of the Jewish community, against its own
philosophy. He called the sign a “slogan” and said there was no room for slogans in a place of
worship, adding its benefits had not been made clear.
On a more general note, New implored the centre’s leadership to welcome mature debate among
members. “Whatever course the leadership and community charters, we must concede that Yeshivah has become a shell of its former self.”
Another member, Pinchas Henenberg, also had his say before the newsletter was censored. “The
issue is not going to go away by itself – responding ‘no comment’ to the public and
instructing mispallelim [congregants] to ‘listen to your leaders and put aside your own thoughts
and concerns’ simply exacerbates the issue,” he wrote, before calling for a public members vote.
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World
JERUSALEM–Holocaust scholars have criticized a growing tendency in central and eastern Europe to equate the Shoah with Communist oppression, a trend which they consider “the gravest threat to preserving the memory of the Holocaust” as it served to exculpate populations complicit in the extermination of their Jewish minorities, according to a report by the Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’.
Professor Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University called equation attempts “campaigns to marginalize the Holocaust.”
According to a number of leading experts on the Holocaust, the state-sponsored equation of Nazi crimes with Communist brutality in central and eastern Europe is the most serious threat to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. This phenomenon was especially prevalent in Lithuania but also existed in certain circles in Poland, said Laurence Weinbaum of the World Jewish Congress, who specializes in Polish-Jewish relations.
He was quoted by the newspaper as saying: “In the Baltic states, especially Lithuania and Latvia, the campaign to consign the victims of the Holocaust and of Communism to the same basket is a transparent attempt to blur Baltic societies’ wholesale complicity in the murder of their Jewish populations.”
In August, the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania signed a joint declaration supporting a call to make 23 August European day of remembrance for victims of both Stalinism and Nazism. “In Lithuania, equalizing Stalinism and Nazism is a ruse to delete the stain of massive collaboration,” Professor Dovid Katz, a Vilnius-based researcher, told ‘Haaretz’: “Instead of facing the past, the state deletes the Holocaust as a category and buries it in another paradigm.”
Weinbaum noted that “Polish society as a whole cannot be seen as a perpetrator-nation, as can be the Lithuanians.” While some Poles were complicit in the murder and despoliation of Jews, he noted, “others rescued them.” He said that in Poland, some circles, especially Polish Holocaust scholars, “vociferously oppose” a combined commemoration date while others supported it for nationalistic reasons. “To be sure, no one can or should minimize the untold suffering caused by Communist tyranny, of which Jews were also victims, but common commemoration will only serve to disfigure memory and history.”
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress