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Missed a turn in the latest Kafka controversy? Here’s a primer

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Kathi Diamant

Kathi Diamant

SAN DIEGO — Franz Kafka has gotten quite a bit of play lately. His photo has accompanied headlines in any number of newspapers, magazines, and network news websites in the past couple of months, most of which include one or more of the following words: treasure, trial, nightmare, snarled, tangled, vaults, masterpieces, secret, lost—and, lest we forget—Kafkaesque.  

In the past few weeks, CBS News, Time Magazine, Salon, The New York Times,  Washington Post, the Guardian, and Haaretz as well as dozens of other news outlets weighed in on the acrimonious fight over Franz Kafka’s papers in the Brod Collection. One of the most thoughtful was by Rodger Kamenetz in the Huffington Post. Coverage on the trial over the Brod Collection in Tel Aviv extends to The National, published daily in Abu Dhabi.  Franz Kafka is the Arab world’s favorite Jewish writer. Who knew?

Most of the news reports have been correct, more or less. The AP story by Aaron Heller stated, “Aside from previously unknown versions of Kafka’s work, the trove could give more insight on Kafka’s personal life, including his relationship with his lover, Dora Diamant. It may include papers that Kafka gave to Diamant but were stolen by the German Gestapo from her Berlin apartment in 1933, later obtained by Brod after World War II.”  

I am sad to report that the papers stolen by the Gestapo were not recovered by Max Brod after World War II.  Since 1996, the Kafka Project at SDSU has led the international search for these papers, 20 notebooks and 35 letters written by Kafka in the last year of his life, which most Kafka experts agree, represent the real missing treasure, not whatever remains in the Brod Collection.  

As the Director of the Kafka Project and someone who has followed the story of the Brod Collection closely since 2001, I am happy to share the straight scoop, with links to the best sources, as well as a quick cast list to the Kafkaesque drama unfolding in Tel Aviv:  

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka (whose literary leavings in the Brod collection are trapped in litigation) was a Jewish-Czech writer who died at the age of 40 in 1924, largely unpublished and unknown. After his death in 1924, with the posthumous publication of his novels, letters and diaries, Kafka rose to international fame as a literary genius, one of the founding fathers of magical realism and the modern novel. He is considered the most influential, profoundly misunderstood writers of our time. His most famous works are two unfinished novels, The Trial and The Castle and the short story, The Metamorphosis

Kafka’s strange stories have earned their own adjective, Kafkaesque, to describe a world where mindless bureaucracy destroys the mind and body and numbs the soul. 

Max Brod

Max Brod, Franz Kafka’s boyhood friend who became his literary executor, was also, like Kafka, a Jewish Czech lawyer and writer. Brod famously defied Kafka’s requests to burn his unpublished work, and instead gathered as much of it as he could and arranged for its publication. “As far as my memory and my strength permit, nothing of all this shall be lost,” he vowed shortly after Kafka’s death.

Brod fled Prague in 1939 for Tel Aviv, where he died in 1968. He escaped on the last train as the German army rolled into Czechoslovakia, taking with him two suitcases, one  filled with Kafka’s manuscripts, letters and diaries. During the Six Day War, Brod, concerned for the safety of Kafka’s manuscripts, transferred the most valuable to Switzerland for safekeeping in bank vaults. The Brod Collection is believed to be mostly in ten different safety deposits in Geneva and Tel Aviv, as well as in Ester Hoffe’s humid, cat infested apartment on Spinoza Street.

Without Max Brod, we would know nothing of Franz Kafka.  Brod saved Kafka’s writings for humanity, only to leave what he had so carefully collected and saved not to the centers of Kafka scholarship in England and Germany, where his other manuscripts are scrupulously kept, but to his longtime secretary and (most certain) lover, Ester Hoffe, who hoarded them for forty years after Brod’s death, selling off single pages of letters, diaries and whole manuscripts, at random, to the highest bidder. At one point she accepted a very large sum from a German publisher, and then never sent the manuscripts she contractually promised. She never returned the money.

Ester Hoffe, a Holocaust refugee who died two years ago in Tel Aviv at the age of 101, was generally reviled by Kafka scholars and researchers, her name an anathema. Given Brod’s lifelong dedication to establishing and maintaining Kafka’s legacy, his gift of the Kafka papers to his secretary was an unfortunate choice. When she died in 2008, her two daughters, Eva and Ruth, now in their 70s, inherited the collection and decided to sell it to the German Literature Archive in Marbach, Germany, sight unseen, for one million Euros. Headlines rang out around the world: Secret Kafka Treasure to be Revealed!

Kafka aficionados, academics and researchers were thrilled. Priceless, possibly unpublished writings by Kafka would finally be available to shed new light to understanding this most misinterpreted and beloved writer. But then, in classic Kafka fashion, the plot twisted, with no path made easy. The National Library of Israel stepped in, claiming the Brod Collection as state cultural assets, a national treasure, which should not leave the country. The legal wrangling and academic outcry has been ably covered in dozens of articles by Ofer Aderat for Haaretz, which has a financial interest in the case. (Haaretz and many Kafka copyrights are owned by Schocken Books.)

So, for more than two years, the Brod Collection trial has dragged on in a Tel Aviv family courtroom, with drama aplenty, court-ordered openings of secret bank vaults, tales of theft and deception, a nightmare for Hoffe’s daughters, as if straight from Kafka’s own imagination.

When the Brod Collection first made international headlines in the summer of 2008, I was in Poland, on a six-week Kafka Project research project for the 20 notebooks and 35 love letters confiscated from Kafka’s last love, Dora Diamant, by the Gestapo in 1933. Before I embarked on the 2008 Eastern European Research Project, I wrote an article for San Diego Jewish World, “My Quest to Find a Literary Treasure,” explaining what we are searching for, and why it’s so important.

For almost a decade, I have been waiting to see the contents of the Brod Collection. In 2001, in Germany researching the biography of Dora Diamant, I first learned about the Brod Collection, and within it, the existence of 70 letters Dora Diamant wrote to Max Brod between 1924-1952. This was information vital not only for the book I was writing, but also for the Kafka Project. In one letter, written in Berlin in April 1933, Dora described to Brod the theft of Kafka’s writings by the Gestapo. Among the list of 70 letters, a stunning, four-page letter is catalogued, with the date, the return address, and a few lines describing what was taken. But, besides the Swiss lawyer who catalogued the Brod Collection in the early 1980s, no one else has seen that letter or any of Dora Diamant’s letters, telegrams and postcards written over a twenty-five year period.

I am only one of many who are holding a collective breath. The next headline you see on Kafka’s papers in the Brod Collection might announce a happy resolution. But knowing Kafka’s dark sense of humor, I doubt it.

In the meanwhile, Kafka Project isn’t waiting. Plans are afoot to follow up the 2008 Eastern European research, collaborating with the University of Silesia, Jagiellonian University, the National Library of Silesia, and the Polish National Archives in 2012. The Kafka Project is working not only to recover a lost treasure and open a new chapter in literary history, but to repair at least one of the crimes of the Third Reich. If you want to learn more about Kafka, I am presenting a six-week survey, Kafka in Context, for the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at SDSU, starting Monday, September 13. To register, contact osher@mail.sdsu.edu. Here’s a link for more information on the SDSU Kafka Project.

Stay tuned for the next headline!  

 *
Diamant is director of SDSU’s Kafka Project,  a journalist, and author.

Sidebar:

For further reading on this case, here are a few of the best articles covering the Brod Collection’s many twists and turns:

Huffington Post: “Kafka Manuscripts: The Fight Over Kafka”

Time Magazine: “Were Lost Kafka Masterpices Stuffed in a Swiss Bank Vault?

Washington Post: “In Israel, a tangled battle over the papers of Franz Kafka

CBS: “Lost Kafka Papers Resurface, Trapped in Trial” CBS News (AP)

Ha’aretz: story on safety boxes being opened, another on estate executor receiving boxes.

The Guardian: “Lawyers Open Cache of Unpublished Manuscripts”;   “The Kafka Legacy: Who owns Jewish Culture?”

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Music of hope and resistance featured at Melbourne concert

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Joseph Toltz

MELBOURNE,  26 July – A special performance of the music of  the Theresienstadt Ghetto (Terezin) was presented in Melbourne on Sunday, July 25.

Terezin, a small garrison town built in 1780 by Emperor Franz-Josef II, lies peacefully among
meadows and gardens, 38 miles northwest of Prague. To us, its German name is well known:
Theresienstadt, one of the most infamous Nazi ghettos, a place where 148,000 people lived.
Eighty-eight thousand passed through on their way to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death and labour camps, while 33,000 died of disease and malnutrition in the camp. On May 8, 1945, the Soviet army liberated 17,247 people on the verge of starvation.

Terezín was the holding camp for Bohemian and Moravian Jews ­ proud, sophisticated communities who had existed in the Czech lands for more than 800 years, embracing full emancipation under the enlightened rule of President Tomás Masaryk’s First Czechoslovak Republic. Joining the Czech Jews in Terezín were 57,000 ‘privileged’ German and Austrian Jews ­ the elderly, decorated war veterans, prominent Jewish intellectuals, community leaders and famous musicians.

In time, Jews from Holland, Luxembourg and Denmark arrived to add to the mix. The intensity of artistic ability that came to Terezín was harnessed by the inmates, for the inmates,
through the organisation of ‘leisure time activities’ ­ music, theatre, cabaret, sports,
art classes, lectures by academic experts. The cream of Central European intellectual life,
those who could not escape the Nazi talons did not sit idly by in this ghetto ­ they created,
formed and breathed life into the most unique and amazing creations.

On July 25, I directed and performed in a concert presented by the Jewish Museum of
Australia that was inspired by the cultural life of Terezín; it complemented the museum’s current exhibition “Theresienstadt: Drawn from the Inside,” a series of intimate artworks by Paul Schwarz and Leo Lowit bequeathed to the museum in 1980 by Regina Schwarz. What made the concert unique was that it was not just a presentation of the music created in Terezín, but it provided a diverse journey into the musical lives of survivors, discussing the importance of music to maintaining hope, providing distraction and entertainment,
offering an opportunity for spiritual resistance, as well as providing an outlet for processing
what was happening to them at the time.

For the past four years, my doctoral dissertation has involved interviewing survivors of the
Holocaust about musical experiences in ghettos and camps. My journey began 12 years ago, with survivors of Terezín, who discussed the place of Brundibár ­ a children’s opera composed by Hans Krasa, a Czech Jew ­ in their hearts and minds. They referred me to other survivors ­ from soloists from the children’s opera all the way to the two most esteemed pianists in the camp, the 96-year-old Edith Steiner-Kraus (in Jerusalem) and the 104-year-old Alice Herz-Sommer. Two years after our interview, Alice is still playing piano three hours a day, living independently in London. Over the course of four years, 25 Terezín survivors spoke to me of their incredible journeys in music in those years of hardship and trial, and their observations coloured our concert.

SO what was music in Terezín? It was an entire world of creativity, from the Jazz of Coco
Schumann and the Ghetto Swingers, to everyday pub songs and work songs. The first musical revues in 1941 were directed by the choral conductor Rafael Schächter and the Czech cabaret artist, Karel Svenk; in time they were joined by German cabaret artists such as Kurt Gerron (co-star in the 1920s with Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel), Willi Rosen and others who had escaped Berlin to Holland in 1938  ­ sadly, not far enough away from Germany. Our concert featured some of these cabaret and jazz works.

There were four orchestras, including a famous Terezín string orchestra conducted by Karel An erl. An erl survived Auschwitz and other camps, and following liberation, rose to become
conductor of the Czech Philharmonic until his escape to Toronto in 1968. The concert featured a recorded performance by An erl’s orchestra, filmed as part of the 1944 propaganda
film made by the Czech Aktualita company.

Music became an essential part of children’s pedagogy through the opera Brundibár, the musical play Brou ci (the Fireflies) and participation in the children’s choirs. Adults also formed choirs ­ all male, all female and mixed. Such choirs were devoted to Zionist or Socialist songs,
others sang Yiddish lider (many of the residents singing the language of their grandparents for
the first time) or Jewish liturgical works, and the larger choirs undertook the great oratorios
of the repertoire. At our concert, the King David School Chamber Choir presented excerpts of some of this choral repertoire, including a small section of Brundibár.

There were hundreds of chamber music recitals, from baroque and rococo repertoire, all the way to completely new music composed and performed in the ghetto by students of Janá ek and Schönberg, and former members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Concert­ge­bouw (a concert hall in Amsterdam) and other orchestras. The
brightest stars of new Czech composition ­ Gideon Klein, Pavel Haas, Hans Krása and Viktor Ullmann ­ all were featured in our concert, performed by Anne Gilby, Eidit Golder and the A La Corda Quartet.

Music was not enough to help one survive though. If you were lucky enough to be in demand, then you could avoid resettlement (i.e. transport to Auschwitz), but by September 1944 this protection had evaporated and the vast majority of Terezín’s musicians were deported and murdered in the months of September and October.

In my discussions with survivors from Terezín here, in the UK, in Israel and the USA, I have
learnt one very important fact: music was an aspect that preserved the humanity for many
living in the appalling, conditions of the ghetto. Even if you weren’t a performer, music
provided an outlet, be it escape, hope, anger, and helped you process and adapt to the
conditions. It played a vital role for some in keeping their humanity alive, and it was the
preservation of that humanity that they carried throughout such terrible times, clinging to it, in order to remain sane.

Our concert was not just some missing link, providing the continuity in Jewish artistry and creativity in middle Europe. Nor was it a dry academic exercise, presenting an odd set of compositions that survived beyond all probability. Instead, it brought back to life the
humanity that existed in Terezín, against all odds. A humanity that we rarely think of when
considering life in the camps and ghettos, but a humanity that must have existed in order for our parents and grandparents, our uncles, aunts and cousins to have survived, to be able to build new lives and contribute so much of their own, rich musical culture to a place 12,000 miles away from the land of their birth.

This concert brought back to life the voices of the composers of Terezín. For the first time
in Australia, the Terezín polka sounded, forgotten by all except those interned in the camp, but notated by the sister of the composer who migrated to Tasmania after the war. The heritage of Czech Jewry lives in our Australian musical experience. Rudolf Pekarek, one-time
conductor of the Prague Radio Orchestra migrated to Australia with his wife after the war and
became the first conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and later the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Coco Schumann moved to Melbourne in 1950, where for four years he played successfully with Leo Rosner and his Gypsy Band. Karel An erl toured the Czech Philharmonic to Australia in the 1970s, to great acclaim. Hundreds of Czech survivors made their home in Australia, ordinary people who brought with them a love and devotion to music and the arts. This concert was dedicated to them and their memory and
also as a legacy to those who died, whose music carries a unique voice for future generations to hear.

*

Joseph Toltz is a professional singer and academic.

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, September 3, 1954, Part 4

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff

A Grievous Loss (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 7

The Jewish Community lost one of its outstanding leaders last week with the passing of George Neumann, at the age of 69.  He and his wife, Julia, had been pioneers and leaders in every worthwhile activity in the Jewish Community since 1918.

Founders of the Hebrew Home for the Aged, they gave not only money, but their time and energy to provide a last refuge for those in need. A life-long devoted member of Temple Beth Israel, he served on the board for many years and was instrumental in the lifting of the mortgage.

Any group or organization which sought to alleviate people’s suffering could enlist the aid of this most worthy Jew.  His generous contributions to the United Jewish Fund and the State of Israel Bonds were only a small part of his effort to do his share for his co-religionists in need.

Among the many virtues “Uncle” George possessed was his sweet modesty. The burdens he undertook were unknown to most people, since he never sought honors or recognition.  He was content to let his deeds speak for him.  His aid to individuals in distress were legion and unknown.  He was benefactor to many and like the true Jew he was, his deeds were never told.

George Neumann’s geniality and quiet good sense will be sorely missed in this community.  He was a true “Elder Statesman.” – Requiescat in pace.

*
A Goal Is Set (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 7

All of us have goals in business and in our personal lives.  If we are really interested, we strive to reach those goals… if the goal is important enough, we deprive ourselves willingly of other things which we feel are not as important as that one big thing. Usually, our goals are individual or concern only our families and friends.

A different type of family, much larger and more diverse in their personal lives and desires has also set a goal.  The goal they have decided upon affects all of us in some way because we are all members of this community family.  We owe it to ourselves to follow through on this project and through our own efforts of the other members of the community.

The citizens of San Diego have set a goal … for $1,350,000 to help those members of the community who need help.  In typical family spirit, other members can be counted upon to help where help is needed.

As a  citizen of this community, you are also a member of this unique family… don’t let the other members down.  Support THE Community Cause, the Second United Success Drive.

*
Something To Think About  (Editorial)

Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 7

The decision by the United Jewish Fund of St. Paul, Minn., to impose “ethically sound community sanctions” against persons holding positions of leadership or responsibility, whose pledges to the Fund are considered inadequate, should be of some interest here.

The board which passed this resolution (by vote of 23 to 2) stated that “such sanctions are based on the principle that an individual’s adequate discharge of major community responsibilities must be precedent to his occupying a position of leadership in our community organizations.”

The idea of giving responsibility to only those who give according to their ability has been discussed in this community from time to time by our leaders. If this should become a trend throughout the nation some decision will no doubt be made in order to insure adequate fund raising.

According to the latest information from our United Jewish Fund, the 1954 Drive will need additional effort if the minimum goal that was set is to be reached.

*
From Where I Sit
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 7

By Mel Goldberg

Herb Seltzer is reported to have sold a car to a young sailor with the parting advice, “Bring it back for a checkup when you’ve got 500 miles on it.”… The sailor left completely enthralled over his shiny new Chevvy … Next morning when Herb arrived at the salesroom, the sailor was standing around … With trepidation, Herb questioned him as to what was the matter … “Oh nothing,” said the Navy man.  “You said to bring the car in when I got 500 miles on it.  I stayed up all night driving 500 miles.” …

We have very flatly spent our last dollar in Baja California.  IT will be a cold, cold day in July when they catch us down there again. .. To begin, some of the plush joints spend a fortune on tricking you to come down there and what happens?  You discover a place that probably cost a quarter of a million dollars to construct, with rest-room facilities that resemble the municipal dump of a central Mississippi town…. We stopped at an alleged fabulous spot, with a score of “shleppers” hanging around the lobby, looking fort a fas t buck … and yet, the management did not see fit to assign one of those domestic to the rest room to perform such simple tasks as placing paper in the (A) empty paper towel rack and )B) the other type of paper dispenser one finds in a tiled sanctuary…

Somehow, this seems a more important duty than having a chap handy with the physical stamina to carry our 13-ounce featherweight overnight bag, the twenty-foot distance from the trunk of the car to the lobby desk… In closing, we have traveled every 1st and 2nd class road in Baja California and we have yet to discover a wash room that can be judged satisfactory….

Jai Alai’s Fronton Palace came fairly close to getting an okeh, but the woman operator we had assigned to investigate the ladies’ room delivered the following report: “Cleanliness was satisfactory, however no paper in any of the booths, and hostess was more concerned with turning on the faucet in sink, than in securing additional paper.”  A pox on you, old Fronton Palace!

Bill Schwartz and Berenice Soule seem to have been carried away over battling about Shakespeare in the last edition of the Jewish Press … May we add a few words? … Being an intellectual slob we state: As to which is the most offending “The Merchant of Venice,” “Othello,” or any of Shakespeare’s material is like asking how do you want to die; by burning or drowning? …

John Ruskin took his son, David, to Del Mar, for a day at  the races.  Ruskin, an engineer, selected a horse, “Lone Deal” via a methodical system.  He told David to bet $5 on the horse for place .  David walked to the window and asked for the number. The man who takes the wagers demanded another $1… David had mistakenly purchased a ticket for “across the board.”  …He was too embarrassed about it to tell his father until the race was over… You see the race was a photo-finish and Lone Dal paid $80.  

And where were you when Senator McCarthy spoke at the $100-a0plate dinner last week?…

*
Jews in American History~300 Years

Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 7

By Dr. Philip L. Seman, University of Judaism

California has grown tremendously in population and developed as an industrial state particularly within the last quarter of a century. During these last twenty-five years, Southern California has developed culturally as well. This is largely due to the unusual growth in population.  We learn much of the progress in California and mainly in Southern California from Harris Newmark’s book “Sixty Years in Southern California,” containing his reminiscences from 1853, the year he came to Los Angeles, until 1913.  We note an optimistic prophecy concerning the future that Los Angeles is destined to become the world center, prominent in almost every field of human endeavor.

In 1854 the first steps were taken to establish a Jewish cemetery and not long after the first Jewish child was buried there.  It was Joseph Newmark who inspired the purchase of land for the cemetery. Largely, because the name of Newmark is so closely connected with the growth of Los Angeles we may spend a moment with Joseph Newmark, who was an uncle of Harris Newmark.  Born in 1799, he came to America in 1824. He spent a few years in New York and, during his residence there, started the Elm St. Synagogue, one of the earliest in America.  Immediately after reaching Los Angeles, he organized the Los Angeles Hebrew Benevolent Society which probably was the first charitable institution in the city. Although Mr. Newmark had never served as a salaried rabbi, he had been ordained and was permitted to officiate.  Harris Newmark broke ground for the Jewish Orphans’ Home which in 1925 moved to Vista del Mar near Culver City as a cottage plan institution.

Harris Newmark tells us that in 1865 a Los Angeles merchant, David Solomon, called on  him and related that while returning by steamer from the north, Prudent Beaudry had made a boast that he would drive every Jew in Los Angeles out of business. Thu we see that the Jew in Los Angeles nearly ninety years ago was not among the best loved of people.  However, the progress made by such pioneers as Harris Newmark and others is indicative that while such “crack pot” statements made from time to time were not very encouraging, nevertheless hard, determined work will win out in the end as it has, if one reviews the progress made in business as well as in cultural endeavors.

*
United Success Drive Names Chairman

Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 8

Names of five more persons to work on the Second United Success Drive of the San Diego area Community Chest were announced this week by George A. Scott, chairman.

Sol Bloom will be group chairman for the Retail A section. This group includes specialties, department stores, locker clubs, variety stores, clothing stores and furniture stores.

Victor Schulman will assist him as chairman of the furniture section.

Norman Kaufman will head Hotels Section and will be responsible for the recruitment and supervision of campaigners to solicit this area.

Murray Goodrich will be vice chairman of the Individual Pace Setters Division.  In this capacity, he will be in charge of campaigning those persons who are giving $500 or more and who cannot be reached at their place of business.

Edward A. Breitbard, chairman of the Service Group, will be responsible for the campaigning of cleaners, social service, mortuaries, hospitals, advertising and amusements.

“This is our primary job, taking precedence over all other interests, for we know that success in our business and personal affairs depends in large measure on our success in this undertaking,” Scott said.

The drive will begin September 8 with a luncheon at El Cortez Hotel for the Pace Setters and Commerce and Industry Divisions. Guest speaker will be General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, who is national campaign chairman of the United Defense Fund-USO, a Red Feather organization.

*
(Mode of travel)
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 8

No man has ever been known to travel far on a lame excuse.

*
Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 8

Forty hospitalized patients from the Naval Hospital were guests of San Diego Post 185, Jewish War Veterans and Auxiliary at the football game played Sept. 1 at the Balboa Bowl between the College Prep Stars and High School Stars.  This annual charity classic is sponsored by the Breitbard Foundation.

*
New Café Offers Tempting Dishes
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 8

Oskar Goldschmied and Kurt Adam have purchased the Orange Belt Café at 807 Broadway. Recent refugees from Czechoslovakia, they will serve Continental Food, specializing in Hungarian dishes such as Hungarian Goulash, Vienna Schnitzel, Gefilte Fish and other popular dishes.

The Orange Belt Café will open at 8:00 a.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Special lunches are from 67 cents and dinners are a la carte.

*
Hereafter Don’t Count
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 8

Dying penniless is not what worries some people—it is having to live that way.

*
Jewish Community Center
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 8

Rhythmic Exercise Class—During the month of September, Mrs. Esther Moorsteen has graciously offered the use of her patio for the Center Rhythmic Exercise Class.  Women are invited to bring a sandwich and coffee will be served after the class.  Again children are welcome and a baby sitter will be available upon the mother’s request.  Mrs. Moorsteen resides at 4370 Arista Drive.

 Modern Dance Class—All women interested I the beginners modern dance techniques are invited to participate in the group meeting at the Jewish Community Center on Wednesday evenings at 8 p.m. under the leadership of Mrs. Eugene Berger.  This is an opportunity for all working women (including the housewife) to relax and enjoy and evening of rhythmic exercise and creative dancing,. For further information call the Center at Atwater 1-7744.

Center Women’s League – There will be a meeting of the Center Women’s League on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m., September 16th at the Jewish Community Center.  The nominating committee with Mrs. Milton Fredman as chairman and including Mesdames Sam Bennett, Jos. Kwint, Eugene Berger and Ben Ferber will present a slate of officers for the coming year. All women interested I participating in the development of the Jewish Community Center are invited to attend.

Cooperative Nursery School – The Cooperative Nursery School will hold open house at the Center, 3227 El Cajon Blvd., on Sunday, Sept. 12th, from 3 to 5 p.m.  All pre-school children and parents are invited to attend and inspect the facilities.  Refreshments will be served.

“We are busy planning for the fall term of the Cooperative Nursery School for the Jewish Community Center which commences September 15,” announced Mrs. Melvin Karzen, chairman at a parents’ and children’s picnic held recently at Presidio Park.  The purchase of new equipment and the repainting of nursery school tables and chairs head the list of activities for mothers and fathers.

This will be the second year for the Community Center Nursery School.  Anyone interested mnay contact Mrs. Bert Eifer, Juniper 2-4824.

Teen-Agers—There will be a meeting of all Teen-Agers who attend high school and college on Thursday evening, Sept. 9th, at 8:30 p.m. to discuss and plan the fall program at the Center.  Committees will be chosen and the special events being planned and teenagers are requested to help plan those activities that interest them.

Volunteer Leaders –With the beginning of the fall program year, the Jewish Community Center has been requested to organize clubs, play groups and classes for various age groups. Such groups can only be organized with adequate leadership and so we are asking for both men and women who are mature, and are interested in children, to volunteer their services.  The minimum time necessary for such participation is five hours per week and any person who has skills such as games, leadership, arts and crafts, dramatics and athletics are especially welcome. A special training course, to discuss the problems of leadership and the necessary skills required, will be developed within the next month. Please call Mr. Posin at the Center office to volunteer your help.

*
“New Faces” Theme Set by Hadassah

Southwestern Jewish Press, September 3, 1954, Page 8

Mrs. Harry Felson, newly elected president, will hold her first official meeting of Hadassah on Wednesday, Sept. 15. At 12 noon at the Temple Center. The theme of the initial meeting will highlight “New Faces of 1955” and all new members are especially asked to attend the luncheon meeting.  In addition to honoring new members, Mrs. Harold Elden will address a special tribute to the old members of the chapter.

Following a very successful Membership Tea, Mrs. Edward Kitaen, membership chairman, will again be in charge of the meeting and assisted by her same capable committee, Mmes. Manuel Haffner, Rodin Horrow, Ray Smith, Ray Lowitz, Howard Hoffman, Archie Bushnell, Elmer Wohl, George Wixen and Fred Leonard.

Mrs. Morton Thaler, program chairman, promises a laugh a minute with a clever presentation called “Take a Number.”  A very informative and entertaining afternoon is definitely assured, so make reservations early with Mr. Howard Hoffman, AT-4-8681.

* *
“Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.  To find stories on specific individuals or organizations, type their names in our search box.

*
 

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australia and New Zealand Jewish News

July 11, 2010 Leave a comment
 

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Visiting Group Greeted warmly

ADELAIDE,  7 July – A group of more than 20 Bnei  Akiva Melbourne members and leaders travelled to  Adelaide last month to show their support for the  small community and help spread some extra Shabbat cheer.

About 20 year 9 boys were accompanied by seven  leaders and a shaliach to the South Australian  capital, where they shared meals on both Friday
night and Saturday, and hosted activities for the locals.

“In Melbourne, we recognise how lucky we are to have a thriving and vibrant community, yet at the  same time we see that others in Australia do not
have the Jewish luxuries that we may take for  granted,” Bnei Akiva spokesperson Daniel Weil  explained  “These visits are important as it is
not often that groups visit the smaller communities.”

Arriving on Friday morning, the group travelled straight from the airport to local Jewish school  Massada where they ran a number of activities,  including Shabbat programs and fun sessions.

A bowling match with local families was also   arranged after Shabbat, followed by a barbecue dinner.

“The feedback we received was very positive,” Weil said.

The inter-community visit was a joint initiative between the Bnei Akiva shaliach and a local Adelaide rabbi, who became close friends while living in Israel.

The trip is part of the Zionist youth movement’s plan to show its support for small Jewish  communities around the country, and according to
Weil,  it was just as meaningful for the Bnei  Akiva group as it was for the Adelaide participants.

“It allows them to show us that, despite their  small size, they are just as passionate about  leading Jewish lives as we are. Even though it is
immensely harder for them to do so, it serves to  show us how lucky we are with everything that we  have in our community,” he said.

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Rabbi goes full circle

MELBOURNE, 6  July – Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant addressed a group of Victorian Muslims at a City Circle event last weekend.

The former president of the Rabbinical Council of  Victoria and current rabbi at Jewish Care  discussed some of the challenges facing the  Jewish community. After the presentation, which  also included some background information on the  Victorian Jewish community, the group had the
opportunity to question Rabbi Kluwgant.

“It was an enlightening experience and I am glad  to have been offered the opportunity to talk to  the group so openly as it gave me the chance to
live the message I have been promoting in  relation to multifaith dialogue and engagement,” he said.

Among the topics asked about were interfaith dialogue and commonalities between different religious leaders.

City Circle aims to highlight an Australian Muslim identity while developing friendship and  cooperation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities

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70th Anniversary for the Dunera Boys

MELBOURNE, 8 July – In ranks depleted by the  passing of seven decades, they will return to the  small NSW town of Hay in September to reminisce
about a perilous wartime voyage from Britain to the far side of the world.
The “Dunera boys” is the moniker bestowed on 2542 men, 2036 of whom were Jewish refugees from Nazi  Germany and Austria, living in Britain and classed as enemy aliens.

Seventy years ago this month, they were placed  aboard the Dunera, bound for Australia. The ship had a maximum capacity of 1600, and conditions were described as “inhumane”.

  These men and boys were refugees from Nazi  Germany who had reached what they believed was  the sanctuary of England just before the outbreak
of war in 1939. When the war broke out in September 1939, they were interned and later  shipped as “enemy aliens” to Australia. But even
more degrading, they were locked up with German  prisoners of war, and other Nazi personnel.

On arrival in Sydney, the bewildered newcomers  were taken to internment camps in the rural towns  of Hay, NSW, Loveday, SA, and Tatura, Victoria.
Subsequently reclassified as “friendly aliens”,  hundreds were recruited into the Australian Defence Force. After the war, around 800 remained in the country.

Peter Felder, son of Dunera boy Henry Felder, is organising this year’s reunion, the first major  gathering since a 50th-anniversary event in 1990.
“So far, we’ve had 12 Dunera boys indicating they will attend,” he said

Former internee Mike Sondheim will be one of the party. “The people of Hay always display their
hospitality and friendship to us as long-lost sons having returned home.”
  From September 3-5, the intenees will return to  the sites of former camp seven and eight for a commemoration.

They plan to re-enact their arrival at the local  railway station  and follow the route they  marched along from the station to the camps.  Unlike in 1940, the Hay Shire Council mayor will formally welcome the visitors.

Among the activities planned, they will visit the  grave of Menasche Bodner, the only Dunera boy  buried in the Jewish section of the Hay General
Cemetery, and will see the Hay Dunera Museum.

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Court ruling on question of religious freedom

MELBOURNE, 6 July – A father has won the right to  stop his children from taking part in Jewish  coming-of-age ceremonies, after a court agreed
with the man that they should be able to make their own religious choices.

The mother wanted her children to participate in  their bar and bat mitzvahs – ceremonies that mark  the beginning of boys and girls taking responsibility for their Jewish faith.

But the father, a Catholic who irregularly  attends church, wanted them to choose their own  religion in a ”voluntary and informed” way when they were old enough.

The dispute played out in the Federal Magistrates  Court in Melbourne where the separated parents,  known as Mr and Mrs Macri, asked the court to  determine the religious future of their children:  a 10-year-old and eight year-old twins.

Mr Macri, 44, did not oppose his children  observing Jewish holidays and events. The  children had undergone some classes in Hebrew,  but the lessons had lapsed at their request. In  accordance with traditional Jewish practice, the  son had undergone circumcision.

Mrs Macri had enrolled the children in a  religious youth group for two hours each Sunday.  But Mr Macri was concerned this had ”an element of political content” and wished for them not to attend.

He also asked for an injunction, stopping Mrs  Macri from committing their children to the Jewish faith through the bar and bat mizvah  ceremonies until they were older. Jewish girls  usually undergo bat mitzvah aged 12, while boys  have their bar mitzvah at aged 13.

Federal magistrate Terry McGuire allowed the mother to take the children to the youth group  but ordered her not to let her children participate in the ceremonies until they made the choice or their father agreed to it.

”Australia is a multicultural and secular  society,” Mr McGuire said. ”These children are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to  directly experience the culture and traditions of the religions practised by each of their parents.”

Mr Macri had not pitted one religion against the  other but had wanted his children to participate  in the culture and traditions of both religions
without committing to either at this stage, he said.

In contrast, Mrs Macri wanted to commit the children to Judaism immediately.

He said there was no evidence that deferring the decision would later stop the children choosing to enter the Jewish religion.

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TV Channel accused of racism

SYDNEY, 9 July – TV Channel Nine and its program – A Current Affair (ACA)- allowed anti-Semitic  comments to be published on its website,
violating racial vilification laws according to NSW Jewish Board of Deputies   CEO Vic Alhadeff.

ACA reported one evening last week on plans for  an eruv in the Sydney suburb of St.Ives. After  the show, it posted a video of the story on its
website, which attracted hundreds of comments. The discussion, which was about whether or not  the local council should approve an application
to erect 27 poles to constitute the eruv in the  suburb, soon descended into an attack on Israel  and the Jewish community.  “The bosh (Germans)
didn’t finish the job” said one post. Another  went further ” Quick hide your babies, the Jews  are going to drain their blood to bake bread!”.

Alhadeff contacted Channel Nine to alert them of  the possible breach of the law and the network  immediately removed the comments. “The quick
response was appreciated,  but the incident draws  attention yet again to the need  for all media to  implement effective filtering systems of what is
posted on their sites” Alhadeff said. “Some of  the remarks clearly violate the race vilification  laws, and it is unacceptable for media to carry
such slurs until such time as the offensiveness is drawn to their attention”.

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission executive  director Deborah Stone said it is not the  community’s job to monitor news sites. She added
that is was particularly concerning that the  report prompted virulent anti-Semitism. John  O’Dea, who represents the local electorate of Davidson, said there needs to be a rational debate over the feasibility of an eruv in the
area. 

“Prejudice or discrimination based on  racial or religious grounds should play no role in the debate” he said. The federal member for the area, Paul Fletcher,  whose electorate would contain part of the eruv,  called anti-Semitic comments disturbing. “There  is no place in this decision-making process for anti-Semitic comments”, Fletcher said.

*

Jewish ANZAC’s to be honoured

CANBERRA, 9 July – A Jewish memorial service will  be held a the graveside of Berrol Mendelsohn, a  World-War I soldier whose remains will be interred in France on July 19. The fallen officer is so far the Jew among 94 Australian soldiers who have been identified using DNA technology, after a mass grave
containing 250 bodies of Anzacs was discovered two years ago at Fromelles in France.

*

New Zealand readies for legal action over shechitah
WELLINGTON,  NZ 9 July –  The New Zealand Jewish  community is making preparations for a legal  challenge to the Government’s outlawing of
shechitah, kashrut experts in Australia expressed fears that the ban may impact closer to home.

The New Zealand community were hoping that a  meeting with Prime  Minister John Key late last  month might lead to reversal of the policy. But
though he told the gathering that he ‘wants to Jewish community to be strong and vibrant in New Zealand”, he has so far failed to respond to their concerns.

“In the absence of any firm response from the  Government, the community is preparing its legal  case to restore the legal practice of shechitah
as an integral part of its right to manifest the  Jewish religion and belief in New Zealand, as  provided for in the New Zealand Bill of Rights  Act 1990”, Community spokesperson David Zwarts said.

The kashrut crisis began when NZ Agriculture Minister David Carter imposed a requirement that  animals be electrically stunned before slaughter, meaning that it is no longer possible to provide halachically acceptable meat.

*

Mikvah watershed in Canberra

CANBERRA, 9 July – After years of community  deliberations, Canberra’s Jewish women will  finally have the use of a local mikvah. Chabad of
ACT, which has been active in the nation’s  capital for a year, will own and run the  facility. It will be ready for use early next year. Rabbi Dan Avital, who has been working to establish Chabad of ACT, said building the
facility had been a stated goal since he and his wide Naomi arrived.
“We are incredibly excited at having started  building the first mikvah in Canberra”, he said.

The mikvah will have two immersion pools – to allow the continuity of operation – and three  bathrooms, and will be attended by Rebbetzin
Avital. Although attached to the Avital’s  residence, it will have a separate access to ensure privacy.

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Holocaust Museum ugrade

MELBOURNE,  12 July – Henryk Kranz’s father taught him to draw by candlelight in a hiding place he  had helped a farmer dig into the hillside during  the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.

His father, Zygmunt, would make aeroplanes, houses and other toys from wood, metal and  matchboxes to amuse him in the dark, cramped
space where they hid until liberated by the Red Army in August 1944.

“He was quite gifted with his hands,” the retired  neurologist, 72, says of his father, who years  later sculpted a series of bronze busts that  reminded him of some of the people he once knew  in his Polish home town of Boryslav, now in western Ukraine.

Almost a decade after Zygmunt Kranz’s death,  seven of these busts have pride of place in a  redeveloped new museum that opens officially this
month at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick.

Henryk Kranz does not believe his father set out  to recreate faces of specific people but “archetypal individuals from his memory of that period”.

Also on display are two artworks from an unpublished children’s book by Henryk’s daughter, Andrea, celebrating the heroism of farmer Jozef
Baran and his wife Eleonora, who risked their  lives to save her father and his parents.

Like her father, Andrea Kranz is a medical practitioner. She works in palliative care with cancer patients.

She has been reading the story about the heroic  Barans to her 4½-year-old daughter, Iliya. Her  grandfather would often retell it. “It was woven
throughout my childhood,” she says.

The new multimedia museum updates the Selwyn Street facility built 25 years ago. Audio-visual displays, photographs, artwork and memorabilia
present the stories of its increasingly frail survivor guides to students and other visitors.

“This is a big concern many survivors express, this fear that in the future no one will be left to talk about their murdered families,” curator Jayne Josem says, noting that technology will ensure their stories continue to be heard.

Zygmunt Kranz was a mining engineer in the petroleum industry at the start of the war. He  was sent to a labour camp near Boryslaw, as it is
known in Poland, and put to work digging out old pipelines.

The farmer had befriended him after offering his team shelter for a day on which the Germans were rounding up Jews. He took a liking to Zygmunt and
offered to hide his family. The two men dug about  a metre high and wide and 1.3 metres long behind the rear wall of the farm shed. They installed a
pipe so they could breathe and, later, planks to keep back the crumbling earth.

Zygmunt Kranz, who took his family across the  Czech border to Germany and Norway, worked as an \engineer at CSIRO and Unilever after settling here in 1950.

He wrote in a letter in 1993 nominating the Barans as Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem that Jozef Baran was “broadly straight and just”.

He brought his wife Frances and three-year-old Henryk to the “bunker” in October 1941, visited  them when he could and escaped the camp to join them in January 1943.

The Barans would leave buckets with food in the  shed. The Kranz family would emerge for a few hours at night.

Henryk, ill at one stage, was cared for in the  farmhouse and remembers gazing fearfully up the hill at a boy walking a bicycle. The boy stopped and stared before continuing.

Through a crack in the door he saw sunlit fields with bright yellow flowers. And once he heard sounds of people searching the shed. “They were trying to find some hidden trapdoor; we were very quiet trying not to make a sound at all.”

He was six when they were finally able to come out of hiding. “I was just speaking in whispers,” he says.

*
Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Book Review: ‘Kiss Every Step’

June 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Kiss Every Step by Doris Martin with Ralph S. Martin, Booksurge Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4392-5606-0, ©2009, $14.95, 222 pages

By Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Fred Reiss

WINCHESTER, California — The year is 1939. Hitler tells the Reichstag that if war erupts, the Jews will be exterminated. Eichmann is placed in charge of the Prague branch of the Jewish Emigration Office. The Soviet Union’s Molotov and Germany’s Ribbentrop sign a mutual non-aggression pact. Germany invades Poland on September 1. Three days later, the innocent life of little twelve-year old Dora Szpringer (now Doris Martin) is shattered. She can no longer roam the streets freely jumping rope, tossing a ball, or playing hop scotch with her best friend Rutka. The playful romps through the old castle grounds, which overlook the city, are over. The joyous visits to Gipsman’s fruit and ice cream shop have ended. On September 4, the Wehrmacht entered Dora’s hometown of Bendzin, Poland. Within a week, they burn the synagogue and many Jewish homes, with the people locked inside them.

In Kiss Every Step, Doris Martin, together with her husband Ralph, tells the remarkable and disturbing war-time encounters of the Szpringers, a family that miraculously survived the Holocaust intact, as they struggle to outwit Hitler’s army and the by-and-large anti-Semitic Polish population. Some of the chapters are autobiographical, while others are first-person accounts of events told by Doris’ siblings, Isaak, Moishe, Josef, and Laya. Each of them provides a narrative that authenticates the worst of human brutality, allowing us to vicariously experience the wiliness, cunning, and just plain luck that the Szpringer family members used to stay alive in the Polish, Russian, and German countryside.

Over three million Jews lived in Poland at the start of World War II. These unique lives mostly end in death. Thus, we are fortunate that Doris Martin has written about the disturbing episodes of her childhood and teenage years, which allow us to understand everyday life of the Jews under Nazi occupation and to some small degree, understand the terror that enveloped their very existence.

Hitler set out to make the world free of Jews. Kiss Every Step is a compelling account of the success of one family, the Szpringers, in defeating this nefarious plan.

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Dr. Fred Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil Calendars; Public Education in Camden, NJ: From Inception to Integration.; Ancient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah.

Holocaust anthology provides insight for readers, therapy for writers

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

 Marking Humanity: Stories, Poems & Essays by Holocaust Survivors, Toronto, SoulInscriptionsPress.com, 2010, 312 pages, ISBN 978-0-9864770-0-3.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO –Canadian journalist Shlomit Kriger has brought together the reflections, stories and poems of nearly 50 Holocaust Survivors in an anthology that covers many aspects—and emotions—of the Shoah.  Marking Humanity could serve as an excellent secondary textbook in either a college class or in an advanced high school history class.

I suspect the reason that I received this volume for review is that an excerpt from a book written by Garry Fabian, Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World, is included in this work.  Fabian had been one of approximately 150 children to survive Theresienstadt at the end of World War II, with an estimated 150,000 juveniles having been through that so-called “model” ghetto before being transferred to the death camps.  He went on to become chairman of the very active B’nai B’rith in the Australian state of Victoria.

Fabian makes a point about memoirs that “outlines become blurred, facts recede into the distance and it is difficult to recall events with any degree of accuracy.”  Nevertheless, he says, it’s important to set down an account as accurately as possible so that future generations can “know about the events that took place during a time of global upheaval, on a scale never before witnessed in human history.”

One should recall Fabian’s caveat when reading the various memoirs. An event may have occurred in a plaza that a writer remembers as having been at a train station.  Another event that someone might have associated with Passover really might have occurred around Shavuot.  When movie producer/ director Steven Spielberg agreed to finance the filming of thousands of interviews of Holocaust survivors, these kinds of little inaccuracies were anticipated.  The thought was that from many interviews with Survivors, events down to the level of towns and neighborhoods, can be cross referenced and a consensus developed.

More so than to the familiar accounts of Nazi Germany’s mechanized program to destroy our people, I found myself drawn to those works in the book that spoke to the adjustments that Survivors made to life after their liberation.

“The Brownshirts Are Coming” by Fred M.B. Amram is an electrifying nightmare story melding the experiences of living in a post-war, roach-filled tenement with the experiences of being hustled by Nazi soldiers from his home and onto trucks.  

“The Table” by Louise Lawrence-Israels recounts the pleasure the author felt obtaining the dining room table around which her parents had so often hosted Shabbat dinners before the Holocaust.   Being able to serve her own Shabbat dinners at the same table—to have a family dining together again in a Jewish context—was a source of great comfort to her. 

“The Invitation” by Pete Philipps is a hopeful story of a Jewish family and a German family bridging their memories and forming a friendship. 

“A Headstone in the Air” by Manya Friedman tells the writer’s feelings when seeing in Georgia a headstone under which had been transported a third of the ashes of the remains of Jews of Alem, Hanover.   Her own family had gone up in smoke in a crematorium.  Unlike the families of those people whose ashes were now in Georgia, their only cemetery was in the air.

“Belonging” by Susan Warsinger told of the time because of her advanced pregnancy she decided to take the elevator, instead of going up the stairs, at the Executive Office Building in Washington.  To her surprise—and that of his guards—inside was  President Harry Truman, who greeted her in friendly fashion and wished her good luck with her baby.  After coming through the Holocaust when she and her fellow Jews were treated as non-humans, having the President himself treat her so nicely convinced her she had found a home in America.

“Memories for Our Hearts: Farewell Thoughts on the Occasion of Joe Brenig’s Death” by Gunther B. Katz is the kind of story of faith that our columnist colleague, Rabbi Baruch Lederman of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego, so enjoys retelling in his column:   Two survivors met and started talking. One told the other he had been saved by a French organization that placed children in the homes of Christians.  The last time he saw his father, he recalled, was when his father was putting him on a bus.  The father momentarily held his son back, held his hands over his head, and gave him a blessing.  This so affected the guard that he momentarily left his post to weep against a wall.   “That was you!” said the other man excitedly.   He explained that when the guard turned away, he himself had sneaked onto the bus—and to life!

These stories, and the others,  all have intrinsic value. In addition, Kriger who combines her journalistic enterprises with social work, instructs that they also have a therapeutic value for the writers.  Even as she has brought together homeless people in a writing project portraying their inner and outer worlds, so too has Kriger by means of this volume provided our Survivors with an opportunity  to “achieve some level of release and healing through the creative process.”

I congratulate editor Kriger, my colleague Garry Fabian, and all the others who participated in this worthwhile project.  I’m pleased to relay the promise that some proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Holocaust museums

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Krav Maga popularity rising in Los Angeles Dojo

June 7, 2010 4 comments
 

Roy Elghanayan

Joey Seymour

By Joey Seymour

LOS ANGELES  — Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s is being overrun by a Nazi invasion. The 15,000 Jewish inhabitants of Bratislava are being harassed daily by brutal acts of anti-Semitism and will soon find themselves being sent to concentration camps. One resident, Imi Lichtenfeld who had been proficient in boxing and wrestling, develops a new way of defending himself against the Germans. He calls his fighting style, Krav Maga. In Hebrew, Krav means “combat” and Maga stands for “contact” or “touching.” Lichtenfeld begins to teach this method to others in Bratislava. However, it is not until 1948 when Israel becomes a state, that Krav Maga is studied on a wide scale.

Israel is young in 1948 and begins to establish her military. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are created to protect the state and Imi Lichtenfeld is named Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the Israel Defense Forces School of Combat Fitness. Recruits begin to learn the survival tactic which focuses on four main objectives:

  1. Counter attacking as soon as possible.
  2. Targeting attacks to the opponents most vulnerable points.
  3. Neutralizing the opponent as quickly as possible.
  4. Maintaining awareness of surroundings while engaged in combat with the goal of developing an escape route, keeping an eye out for further attackers and objects that could be used to defend or help attack.

Lichtenfeld served in the IDF for fifteen years all the while refining and retooling the art of Krav Maga with the intention of making it the best system for self defense in the world. Today, the IDF continues to utilize Krav Maga, while always looking to improve it. The technique is also being utilized in America by the FBI, various police squads (including the NYPD), SWAT, United States Special Operations, as well as being taught to the general public by highly skilled instructors such as Roy Elghanayan, founder of Krav Maga Los Angeles.

Imi Lichtenfeld died at the age of 88 in Netanya, Israel on January 9, 1998. Of his legacy, Elghanayan said, “He made life easy in many ways. He showed us the way to a safe life by founding Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a way of life and we need to be tested when it comes to survival.” 

Roy served as a member of IDF and is the only two-time Israel Krav Maga National Champion. “I first started Krav Maga back in 1993 In Israel. The style of my dojo in Israel was not only Krav Maga, but also Israeli Ju-Jitsu. Israeli Ju-Jitsu is a combination of updated Krav Maga and modern Ju-Jitsu. It is great for multiple attackers,” mentions Elghanayan.

He was named both Israeli and United States Chief Instructor of Authentic Krav Maga. Elghanayan has earned the highest possible ranking in Krav Maga, Black Belt DAN 3. “It took me 10 years to become a 1st degree Black Belt and also an instructor. Today I am a 3rd degree black belt,” stated Roy.  

There are seven levels one can attain:

Level 1: Boot Camp Training (White Belt)

Level 2: Basic Training Part One (Yellow Belt)

Level 3: Basic Training Part Two (Orange Belt)

Level 4: Intermediate Training (Green Belt)

Level 5: Advance Training Part One (Blue Belt)

Level 6: Advance Training Part Two (Brown Belt)

Level 7: Black belt Training (Black Belt) 

Roy began teaching in Los Angeles three years ago and says, “My ultimate goal in teaching Krav Maga is helping people believe in themselves by teaching them the real authentic Krav Maga. If I can make a change in one student’s life, that change will be the beginning of a new way of life.” 

Not only is Krav Maga gaining popularity among fans of martial arts, but it is widely regarded as a great fitness exercise and thus, many people are discovering Imi Lichtenfeld’s style of defense as a remarkable tool for getting in shape. On a recent episode of The Simpsons, the family travels to Israel and Bart is taught a tough, but humorous lesson in Krav Maga by a local girl working on her military service. Bart calls out for his assailant to “quit going for my groin.” As she continues to kick, she states, “No groin, no Krav Maga.”    

Roy Elghanayan is finding great success in his dojo. His classes are almost always full of eager students wanting to learn from the master. Ages range from young children to older adults. Roy even believes that Krav Maga is a useful tool for athletes to either utilize while on the playing field or during preparation, “First, it would help the athlete become more alert and aware of the surroundings. Secondly, with Krav Maga athletes can prepare themselves to be aggressive and defensive both mentally and physically.” One such athlete that is planning on utilizing Krav Maga on the football field is San Diego Charger, Antonio Garay.

When asked if he plans to teach in San Diego, Roy says, “San Diego would be a great place to do a seminar, I have yet to visit but I am always willing to introduce people to Krav Maga everywhere.”

 Krav Maga may not have the storied history of Asian martial arts, but it is a defensive art form that was born from necessity for Jewish survival and continues to embrace its importance through usage by many facets both in Israel and aboard. For more information on Roy Elghanayan and his dojo, visit http://kravmagasantamonica.wordpress.com/  

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Joey Seymour is a  sports historian and Author of “San Diego’s Finest Athletes: Five Exceptional Lives.” His book is now available through Sunbelt Publications at www.sunbeltbooks.com.

Contact Joey Seymour at joeyseymour1@aol.com