HAMADAN (WJC)–Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly escaped an assassination attempt in the western Iranian city of Hamadan. Several people were wounded in the blast, said media reports. The Arab news channel ‘al-Arabiya’ said the Iranian presidency had confirmed that Ahmadinejad “escaped an assassination attempt as his procession was targeted by a bomb.” The conservative Iranian website ‘Khabaronline.ir’ said: “This morning, a hand grenade exploded next to a vehicle carrying reporters accompanying the president in Hamedan. Ahmadinejad’s car was 100 meters away and he was not hurt.”
In his speech, which was broadcast on state television, the hard-line Iranian leader did not mention the attack. He claimed that Iran did not care about the latest US sanctions but warned countries against joining them. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department in Washington had named 21 firms and banned Americans from engaging in business with them. Thirteen of the companies are based in Europe – nine in Germany, two in Belarus, and one each in Luxembourg and Italy.
“You can make resolutions and sanctions against us as much as you want until you get fed up. As far as the Iranian nation is concerned, we do not care at all and will never beg four your goods,” Ahmadinejad told the crowd in Hamadan. The president said all the sanctions in the last four years just made the country more self-sufficient and improved its technological output. He warned all countries against joining the sanctions, saying that they would be excluded from further business with Iran and “be wiped out from Iranian markets.”
Meanwhile, Japan also imposed sanctions against Iran, in line with the recent UN resolution. The government in Tokyo said it planned to announce additional punitive measures later this month.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews help underwrite Jewish day schools in former Soviet Union
JERUSALEM (Press Release) –The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, under the leadership of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, its founder and president, announced a donation of $1.1 million to the Jewish Agency for Israel to support the network of Jewish day schools in the former Soviet Union. This comes in addition to the $400,000 in support to the school network given earlier this year by the Fellowship.
The network, known as Heftziba, consists of 43 schools with 9,000 students in grades 1 through 12 enrolled for the upcoming school year and is operated by Israel’s Ministry of Education in partnership with the Jewish Agency. The schools span the former Soviet Union, with 15 schools in Russia, 18 in Ukraine and Moldova, 5 in Belarus and Baltic states and 5 in Central Asia.
The gift will help sustain the schools, by covering key costs, including hot meals, clothing and medicine for children from disadvantaged families as well as school busing — a critical factor in enrollment due to the great distance some students need to travel.
“Sustaining this school network is part of the Jewish Agency’s mission to build and strengthen Jewish identity,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. “We are deeply grateful to Rabbi Eckstein, and look forward to continuing to work with him and our other partners to further strengthen Jewish education in the former Soviet Union.”
Sharansky noted Eckstein’s leadership in funding programs which assist Jewish children in the former Soviet Union and for coming to the rescue of the Heftziba network last year when the economic crisis almost brought the school system to collapse. Plans are being developed by the Jewish Agency, the Government of Israel and the Fellowship to deal comprehensively with the issues of education and care for Jewish children in the former Soviet Union.
“Thanks to our many Christian and Jewish donors, the IFCJ contributes over $25 million each year to help the Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union,” Rabbi Eckstein said. “While we feel privileged to do so, ultimately the costs of Jewish education and welfare of the children — who represent the future of Jewish peoplehood in the FSU — should be borne by the world Jewish community and we commend Mr. Sharansky and the Jewish Agency for pledging to undertake this effort.”
The Jewish Agency partners with the Government of Israel’s Ministry of Education which operates the Heftziba network, sending 50 teachers from Israel to the schools and contributing $2.8 million annually; individual schools within the network are run by Or Avner, ORT and Shema Yisrael.
Sharansky said he views Heftziba as a signature partnership program of the Fellowship and the Jewish Agency, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Education and the Or Avner, ORT and Shema Yisrael school networks.
The announcement of the new funding follows the recent adoption by the Jewish Agency of a strategic plan that calls for supporting programs like Heftziba which enable young Jews to “connect with their people, heritage and land, and empower them to build a thriving Jewish future and a strong Israel.” For its part, the Fellowship has raised roughly one billion dollars from Christians to help Israel and Jews in need, enabling “hundreds of thousands of Jews to escape poverty and anti-Semitism and return to their biblical homeland, and funded humanitarian assistance that has touched millions of Jews in Israel and around the world.”
Preceding provided by Jewish Agency for Israel
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO–The 17th Annual Jewish Arts Festival, which runs from May 30th to June 21, spans the wide spectrum of the performing arts. Malashock Dance and Hot P’Stromi brought together modern dance and Klezmer at the Lyceum Space Theatre in downtown San Diego. I attended the performance on June 13th.
What better way to celebrate art than to bring together artists of different genres to celebrate the life of another artist? John Malashock – founder and choreographer of Malashock Dance – and Yale Strom – violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, playwright and photographer – combined their significant talents to produce their newest collaboration Chagall.
The Lyceum Space Theatre is a small venue (seating approximately 270) with a square stage jutting out into the audience on two sides. Thus one is both near enough to feel close to the action, but far enough away to see the design concept as a whole. Seats are in tiers, so for the most part sight lines are good. Because of the proximity over zealous amplification can be avoided – for which this observer is grateful.
Strom brings his varied background plus a group of musicians playing Klezmer (and more) under the name: Hot P’Stromi. The program opened with several selections of Klezmer from parts of Eastern Europe, such as the vicinity where Chagall was born and spent his childhood, to Romania which is just across the river.
Love it or not, and I do love it, it is impossible not to respond to Klezmer. In some ways it is like American jazz – the musicians responding to one another, each in turn picking up the motif – adding, subtracting, clarifying and crafting a specific sound for a specific instrument. Then, coming all together they go rollicking along. But, Klezmer also can be winsome and even sad. The audience reacted to both – some barely able to keep their seats.
John Malashock founded his modern dance company in 1988 and has been a significant presence in San Diego ever since. His background is impressive and runs the gamut from film (dancing in Amadeus), television specials, choreographing for many other companies – both dance and opera -culminating in four Emmy awards. He spoke to the audience briefly – but enjoyably – about the work being performed and his plans for it.
Chagall is still a work in progress and Malashock presented three scenes from what will eventually be a full length amalgam of dance, music and imagery. The first scene was of the village Vitebsk, where Chagall was born in what is now Belarus, but was then Russia and at times Poland. The second scene is his first significant love who introduces him to her friend who becomes the “love of his life.”
Michael Mizerany, associate artistic director and senior dancer (with an impressive resume including two Lester Horton Dance Awards) was “Chagall” and brought to the role an understanding of how to portray a painter/artist through the art of dance/movement.
It is difficult to understand why Chagall would reject his first love, Thea, (Lara Segura) for Bella (Christine Marshall). But love is not mental – it is visceral and there is no accounting for it. It is the one emotion we cannot place at the service of reason; however, I think I would enjoy seeing that explored a bit more. Segura was a lovely Thea. Costumed in a simple short white sheath she danced passionately while still innocent enough to introduce her friend to her lover. Marshall, surely a fine dancer, didn’t quite tell me what Chagall saw in her to capture his heart – but perhaps that was not Malashock’s intent. Or perhaps Chagall didn’t know.
Chagall’s physical love feeds his artistic vision. He takes his brush and paints her in invisible images upon invisible canvasses. Then, he uses his brush to explore her body – never vulgarly – but always seeking to understand her outline. Maybe that is what he really needs.
The pas de deux (this is modern dance so perhaps I should say “dance for two”) is well done – but somehow didn’t convey the depth of passion that must have been there. However, this is still a work in progress not only for the choreographer, but also for the dancers and they haven’t as yet internalized it. It is certainly a good beginning.
Tribes premiered in 1996 and has the feeling and confidence of a complete work, completely conceived – much like a Mozart symphony. It is a dance (again using Strom’s original music) which is described by Malashock as follows: “….each dancer creates his/her own culture. These fantastical “tribes” connect, collide, and ultimately share in a blending of the eternal spirit.”
It is always fascinating to see what Malashock does with the music; forming groups and then breaking them apart. Each twosome or threesome dances to the same music at the same time, but completely differently – bringing to view other aspects of the music. And each is valid and “true.” I find myself saying “yes, that is how the music looks.” He also never falls overly in love with his own invention – it is given, enjoyed and then he moves on, confident in his next vision. The flow is natural, never contrived, and though one knows of the reality of the endless rehearsal which must have taken place, the movement is fresh, natural and seemingly – what a painter would call – a “happy accident.”
The dance flows from shape to shape, pausing for just a moment to allow the eye to capture it, but still keeping the seams between phrases invisible. The entire body is used; hands and heads as important as legs and arms as important as spines and breath. There were a couple of times, when the choreography allowed, I would have enjoyed seeing some eye contact betwixt the dancer and the observer – a living connection; “I am also dancing for you.”
Dance critic Orysiek is based in San Diego. She may be contacted at ORZAK@aol.com
NEW YORK–Father Patrick Desbois is an unusual Catholic priest, who, at the behest of two French clerics (the Yiddish-speaking Holocaust survivor, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, and Cardinal Jean Pierre Ricard), officially took it upon himself to obey the commandment, Zachor, to remember. Born in the 1950’s, he is the grandson of a deportee sent to Rawa-Ruska, near Belzec, in the former Soviet Union–a deportee who witnessed mass shooting murder of the Jews by Nazis’ Einzatsgruppen, the mobile killing troops, and their collaborators.
Years later he returned to that site with his grandson, to teach him why he had to help heal the world. At that moment the wick was lit, and Father Desbois became “the memorial candle” for his family and his calling. With the blessings of the Cardinals and the Pope, in 2002, he embarked on a journey he did not then know could become dangerous.
On January 12, 2010, Father Desbois was the guest speaker at a luncheon for members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. More than 40 leaders of the Jewish community were in attendance, among them attorney Alan Solow, chairman of the Conference and chairman of the Jewish Community Center Association; John Ruskay, executive vice president of UJAFedNY; Mindy Stein, president of Emunah of America; Kalman Sultanik, honorary vice president of the World Jewish Congress, and former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman (who founded the Office of Special Investigations at the Justice Department to prosecute Nazi war criminals).
Father Desbois was there to present his case for community action and to ask the established Jewish community to help him preserve more than 900 mass graves that hold the remains of as many as 1.6 million Jews scattered all across Eastern Europe, before it was “too late,”—and to help him find as many more as he could before the sites were destroyed by grave robbers and urbanization.
Doing research and tracking history and maps, Father Desbois walks across the killing fields where the mobile killing forces that followed Hitler’s army through the towns and cities, shtetls and dorfs of Eastern Europe, carried out lethal ethnic cleansing, one bullet at a time. He seeks eye witnesses who watched what happened when the Nazis arrived to do their dirty work, and tries to find and protect the mass graves.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference, says the Catholic priest appreciates, “The kedusha of the Kedoshim, the holiness of the holy ones.” As a son of Holocaust survivors, Hoenlein uses that term to describe Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. (The official definition of a Holocaust survivor includes any Jew who was in Europe or fled, between 1933 and 1945.)
In 2004, Father Desbois and his team created the non-profit organization, Yahad in Unum, so he could fund this quest, which often takes him and his team to remote areas, where the natives are not always friendly and might even want to kill them. It’s one reason he learned to develop a poker face, one that would not reveal his feelings even while listening to the vilest forms of anti-Semitic libels. Said the priest: “If you show on your face what you think, the interview is over. Some of these people are violent and will kill those who try to stop them. And some of the people who speak of the ‘innocent ones’ are afraid of reprisals.”
In one place, he spent Christmas with a Greek Orthodox family whose entertainment for the evening included skit wherein his host’s son and daughter played a Jew who said he came to swindle everyone in town, and his wife, the Rebbitzen, opened her coat to reveal stolen cell phones for sale.
The witnesses who have given testimony have allowed Father Desbois to recreate precisely the way the Einzatsgruppen carried out their tasks. In meticulous, chilling detail, he described the methodology of death by close range shooting in the days before Auschwitz and the other death camps were built.
Everything went according to a system that began when a German location scout would show up to scope out the area for the best place to locate such a grave. When the troops arrived, the mayor and municipal police were recruited to bring the Jews out of their homes and march them to the sites, where they would dig their own graves and be murdered at close range–one bullet, one Jew. Within three weeks, beginning with the sales of clothing left at the gravesites and ending with auctions of Jewish-owned furniture in the local synagogue buildings, the entire Jewish community would disappear. But not without a trace. Artifacts remain at many of the sites, and grave robbers know it and seek them out.
When the Yachad in Unum team comes to a town, they ask the locals if they know anyone who witnessed the mass murder of the Jews. They race against the clock because the witnesses are dying of old age. Sometimes the people come forward, and sometimes they don’t. And sometimes the evidence confirms what the witness saw. In one case a witness described someone playing a harmonica while the shootings took place, and Father Desbois’s team found the remains of a harmonica near the mass grave.
The most horrific reason and need for speed to preserve the sites is because of what is happening to those mass graves today. In remote areas, there are mass graves that have not yet been confirmed and protected, and locals use them as gold mines (80% of the graves in Ukraine have been looted)—digging up the remains to search for gold teeth and jewelry.
Artifacts found by the Yachad in Unum team—shell casings, bullets, necklaces, bracelets—are sent off to various Holocaust museums to refute Holocaust deniers and to educate the public. They have developed a traveling artifact exhibit, “The Holocaust of Bullets,” that is sent to schools and study centers across the globe. The team has developed special relationships with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and with the Sorbonne in Paris to make these materials available to all, and to use those resources in their research as well.
Yachad in Unum’s goal now is to get funding to expand the search for mass graves into Russia, Belarus and Poland; to maintain an archive in Paris for other museums, scholars, students, survivor families and researchers to access; and to continue to make the traveling exhibition available.
Most importantly, they want to recruit people who can help them convince area governments to seal the graves with concrete and mark them as sacred grounds so that they cannot be defiled any longer.
But this work doesn’t come cheap. Each investigative trip, which includes all the research done by the 11-member team costs approximately $55,000 and it is expected that the cost to complete the entire project and seal the graves would cost $5 million.
At the conclusion of his talk, Hoenlein presented Father Desbois with an award of thanks on behalf of all of the major Jewish organizations in the United States.