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When the conductor is, er, mis-conducted

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

By David Amos

David Amos

SAN DIEGO–I wrote in a recent column about a personal family trip. But, as part of my musical career, I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit interesting places, countries in a state of social transition and major political and economic changes. Some of these places were most pleasant, and provided a reasonable amount of creature comforts. Others made me homesick almost instantly.

But in every instance, it was a revealing, educational experience. I saw places that most tourists will never visit, and had the opportunity to talk to many people whose voices had been suppressed for decades; some, for their entire lives. The stories were fascinating. At times, I witnessed history taking place, as was the case in countries where the Soviets were about to depart, or had recently left.

Just saying the word “Israel”, for my musical visits there, can bring to memory dozens of unusual and memorable encounters.

These travels have been for conducting live concerts and recording sessions, lecturing, attending specific musical happenings, auditioning musicians, visiting music schools, or judging in international music competitions.

These were experiences that were priceless, and in most cases, very positive. This, however, I can not say for the travels to and from my musical destinations. No one is exempt from horror travel stories.

Once in a while, after telling someone of an upcoming trip, I am told (you have heard this line many times yourselves!), “Oh, how glamorous! Can I come along and carry your suitcases?”  Don’t even think about it.

Take, for instance, a trip that took me to Trapani, in Sicily, in 1999 to be part of an international jury for the city’s annual Chamber Music Competition. Trapani is a fishing town in West Sicily, and East of Palermo. The eight days in Trapani were terrific. Nothing but good things. After all, how can you beat hearing lots of chamber music every day, hobnobbing with brilliant and distinguished musical minds, and eating Italian and Sicilian food?

But, let me tell you of my return trip on Sunday, November 28, 1999. Due to short lead times and details given to me a few weeks before, my trajectory to return home included no less than four flights, all in the same day. It later turned out to be five flights. I awakened from the Trapani hotel at 4:00 a.m., after a late night of the closing ceremonies, and was on my way to the Palermo airport by private taxi an hour later. This car ride takes about an hour. On our way there, we ran into a violent thunderstorm. When we reached the Palermo airport, I discovered that there was no power in the building, due to the storm. They were operating with emergency lights, which were illuminating only a little more than eight modest Hannukah candles.

Even though Alitalia had several flights leaving at 7:00 a.m., there was only one window open to register all the passengers, and what seemed like a thousand people, not forming any discernible cues or lines, were pushing to present their tickets and luggage all at the same time, to a single, distraught employee. Chaos personified, and of course, everything in Sicilian, which is not quite Italian.

You can imagine my frustration those forty minutes after my plane was supposed to depart; I was still cueing in line, with no one around for me to plead my case. I ran to the gate to find it totally empty, only to find out that my plane not only had not departed, but had not yet arrived from Rome.

We finally departed from Rome. Upon landing, I had to call on my limited athletic skills to again run to the next gate. No time for breakfast, but I made it.

Landing in Paris’ Orly airport can be real fun. One is led through interminable shuttles, corridors, and security and passport checkpoints, all through connecting terminals, while being pushed and shoved by a million other harassed passengers. I believe that the terminal where I was must have been a quarter of a mile long. While standing by gate # 2, it was indicated that my gate was to be # 33 for my New York flight. But hurry! Your flight has finished boarding, and they are about to close the doors. Again, I desperately ran to gate 33, only to find out that due to gate changes, my plane was parked at gate # 3, where I was a few breathless minutes before. Run again. When boarding, I was advised by an attendant that due to my inexcusable tardiness, there would be no meal for me, since a final count was already taken. I took my seat for the eight hour flight, sweaty, but relieved. Somehow, I did receive a meal.

Upon landing at JFK in New York, I found out that my suitcases did not make the connection, but I was informed of this after waiting for 40 minutes at baggage claim. Fill out a missing luggage report, and board the airport shuttle to the American Airlines terminal for my flight to San Diego. The shuttle took 45 minutes to take me there (after all, this was the Thanksgiving weekend), and as you might have expected it, my connections luck finally ran out, and I totally missed my flight to San Diego.

Hoping not to lose a night and stay in New Your without my suitcases, I insisted in some form of alternate route home. For this, I was put on a “waiting list”, which is only a notch or two above the handling of cattle. I called home to notify my wife of the situation. There was a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth. I was given the last seat available, in the very rear, with practically the engine on my lap.

In Dallas, another marathon walk in a short time, another waiting list, and the tension of uncertainty. I was given a seat for my flight to San Diego, next to a very drunk and troubled woman. After over 24 hours from hotel in Sicily to landing at Lindbergh Field, I arrived late, hungry, exhausted, and happy to be home. My suitcases, after being subjected to a magical mystery tour of their own, arrived three days later. I have given you only the main highlights of that day; there were other incidents and encounters.

Now, we know that this harrowing experience is not typical of every trip; but potentially, any of these mishaps can happen, and many times do. Do you still want to carry my suitcases?

*
Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra in San Diego and has guest conducted numerous professional orchestras around the world.

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, January 7, 1955, Part 2

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staffSouthwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Hoffer-Solomon Vows Exchanged

On Sunday, Jan. 2, at 7:00 p.m., Barbara Solomon, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leon M. Solomon of San Diego, was wed to Harold Hoffer, son of Mrs. S. Hoffer of New York City.

Rabbi Morton J. Cohn officiated at the services held in the Beth Israel Temple.

The bride wore an original ballerina-length gown of all-over embroidered, shimmery, white satin. The fitted, princess style bodice was accentuated by a full, billowy skirt and a deep V-back  neckline.  The shoulder length veil was caught to a lace crown. Barbara carried a bouquet of white orchids and Roman hyacinth.

Bridesmaids Isabelle Bank and Sandra Schoenkopf wore pastel gowns and carried nosegay bouquets.  Ushers were Jerry Solomon and Dr. Larry Solomon.

Two hundred and twenty-five guests attended  the buffet dinner dance held after the ceremony at the Mission Valley Country Club.  The music for dancing was provided by Pauline Gleason and Orchestra.  The bride’s mother welcomed the guests in a short formal of dusty rose lace.  The groom’s mother wore a grown of midnight blue silk.

Barbara left for her honeymoon, at Big Bear Lodge and Las Vegas, wearing a slate grey suit with winter white accessories.

Out of town guests were Messrs. And Mesdames Max Goodman, Jack Goodman and Mrs. Sonya Ariel, of Tiajuana; Mr and Mrs. Al Burton, of Burbank, Messrs and Mesdames Joe Rosenberg and Al Cassel of Sherman Oaks; Jerry Solomon, Marcia Knight, Mr. and Mrs. Lon Solomon, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Lewis and Miss Bobbi Marks of Los Angeles; Mr and Mrs. Frank Linneen of Hollywood, and Mr. and Mrs. Segall of Glendale.

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Green-Berkun Wedding Announced
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Berkun of 4568 Marlborough Dr. announce the marriage of their daughter, Anita, to Calvin Green, son of Ernest Green of Escondido on December 19th.

Rabbi Monroe Levens officiated at Tifereth Israel Synagogue.

The bride wore a gown of white Chantilly lace and tulle with lace-edged veil, and carried white roses. She was given in marriage by her father.

Miss Marilyn Berkun, maid of honor, was gowned in peacock blue tulle. Bridesmaids, dressed in coral tulle, were Misses Miriam Gralnick, Bernice Kaufman and Frances Samuels.

George Green was best man for his brother; ushers were Richard Pick, Jerry Krasne and William Kolender.

A reception and buffet supper for 250 guests was held in the Synagogue Hall following the ceremony. After their return from their honeymoon in Las Vegas the young couple will reside in San Diego, where the bridegroom will continue his studies at State College.

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Wedding Told
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Announcement has been made of the marriage, on December 24th, of Bernice Kagen Berner to Dr. Jack Binderman, Jr.

Dr. Binderman, a dentist, will move his residence and officers from Beckley, West Virginia, to San Diego.

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Personals
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Newcomers to San Diego are Mrs. Lillian Baume, and her daughter, Dorie.  Formerly of New York City, they now reside at  3061 Madison Ave., in San Diego.

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The Al Hutler family, with Mrs. Ossie Ehrlich, have just returned from a motor trip East. They visited New Orleans, took interesting side trips and visited relatives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Welcome visitors to San Diego were Morrie and Flo Ackerman and Linda.  Naturally, their grandchild took up most of their time.

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Happy travelers are Mr. and Mrs. Joe Lamon, who have just completed a two months tour of Spain,  Italy, England and France. The Lamons attended a hotel convention in Rome. Before returning to San Diego they visited relatives in New York.

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Betrothal – It was a double-header for the Robert Berkun family. Daughter Marilyn’s engagement to William (Billy) Kolender of San Diego, was announced at the wedding of their daughter, Anita, on December 19th  Billy is at present in the Navy.  No wedding date hhas been set.

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Among the California doctors who attended the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists in Chicago was Dr. Walter Ornstein of San Diego.

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Mr. Zel Camiel has been elected to the National Council of United HIAS Service, in recognition of his untiring service to our New Americans.

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Small World Dept – The Maxwell Kaufmans went to Los Angeles to spend New Years Eve with an old friend and were right “at home” with the lively group they joined. Among the revelers were Diane Fischer’s sister and brother-in-law, the Harman Ostrens, a former classmate and good friend of the Levenson brothers, David Hoffman (like Morey, he’s a one-man show at the piano) and of all things, a childhood sweetheart of Leo Beck (her name is Ida too.)  ‘Tis indeed a small world.

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Judging by a card received from Miami, Florida, Thelma and Sam Weiss are having a wonderful time on their trip.  They will be home on the 8th.

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Mrs. Jean Spatz wishes to thank her many friends for their kindness and consideration during her recent illness.

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New Subscibers – Dr. Jack Binderman Jr., Maury Gross, Jack Schulman.

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Jean Goldstein Wed in San Francisco

Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Young love scored again when Jean Edloe Goldstein, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Goldstein, was married to Ernest Malamud, son of Dr. and Mrs. Nathan Malamud of San Francisco.  The young couple were married on December 31st at 4 p.m. in the Borgia Room of the St Francis Hotel; Rabbi Irving Reichart officiated.  Edith Malamud was Maid of Honor.

Thirty-five intimate members of both families gathered in the beautifully decorated room to witness the ceremony, which was followed by a dinner.

The groom, a graduate of University of California, will return to Cornell, where he is a Teacher’s Assistant, and will continue his studies for the Masters Degree. The bride will also attend Cornell.

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Betrothal Announced
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Mr. and Mrs. David Schissel of San Diego announce the engagement of their daughter, Sandra, to Arthur Levinson, son of MRs. Ethel Levinson, and nephew of Mandel Weiss, of San Diego.

Arthur is a graduate of Stanford University and Sandra attended UCLA.  A June wedding is being planned.

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Cradle
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

A son, Harold Paul, was born to M/Sgt. And Mrs. Morton B. Peskin on Thursday, Dec. 30th, at the Naval Hospital in Corona, California.

Proud grandparents are Mr. and Mrs. Sandor Goldberger, on the maternal side, and Mr. and Mrs. Philip Peskin on the paternal side.

M/Sgt Morton Peskin is stationed at March Field and resides at Arlington, Calif.

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Dating will never be a problem to Lisa Emily, newest member of the family of Dr. and Mrs. Carl Hoffman.  In addition to her own three brothers, Robert, James and Laurence, Lisa has eight cousins – all boys. She was born at Mercy Hospital on Dec. 23rd and weighted 6 lbs, 10 oz.

Maternal grandmother is Mrs. Harry H. Goldstein of Arlington, Va.

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A welcome addition to the Max Sturman family is Joan, who arrived on January 34d at the Scripps Memorial Hospital. She weighed 7 lbs at birth. All ready for their new playmate are brothers Andy, 3, and Neil, 1 year.

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Maternal grandparents are Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Fuss, of Brentwood, L.I; paternal grandfather is Benjamin Sturman of New York City.

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Mr. and Mrs. Zane Feldman announce the birth of a daughter, Lisa Rose on December 31st, weight 6 lbs, 12 ozs.  The Feldmans have another child, Bernard, 2 ½ years.

Paternal grandparents are Mr. and MRs. Louis Feldman, maternal grandmother, Mrs. Sophie Law-Zimmer; great-grandparents are Mr. and MRs. Isaac Feldman of Woonsocket, R.I.; great-gbrandmother, Mrs. Bertha Feinberg of San Diego.

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Unveiling
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3
 

The family of Anna Shelley wish to announced that on Sunday, January 23rd, at 2 p.m. at the Home of Peace Cemetery, services will be held at the unveiling of her stone. Rabbi Baruch Stern will officiate.

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Beth Israel To Hold Annual Dinner Meeting
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

The Annual Dinner Meeting of Temple Beth Israel will be held on Thursday, January 30th, at 6:30 p.m. at the Temple Center.  Irving E. Friedman, Chairman urges that members who cannot come to dinner attend the meeting which starts at 8 p.m.  Reservations may be made by calling the Temple Office. (Limited to members only.)

Among the important reports to be given will be that of Rabbi Morton J. Cohn and President Mark Esterson. Dr. Robt. M. Stone, chairman will present the Nominating Committee’s slate for Board of Directors. Nominations are also acceptable from the floor.

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Bay City To Install 33 New Members
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Approximately 33 members will be initiated by the Bay City B’nai B’rith Chapter on Monday, January 10, at Tifereth Israel Center.  Mrs. Harold Garvin, chairman, announced that an original initiation script written by Mrs. Victor Weiss, will be used, augmented by a short membership skit which is being prepared by members of the committee. Special refreshments will be served and an extra special surprise presentation will be made to the initiates. Those assisting Mrs. Garvin are: Mesds. David Cohen, Morris Cahan, Max Felsman, Charles Juster, Wilford Robbins, Abe Hollandersky, Eugene Sacks, Sanford Sacks and David Schloss.

Mrs. Jack Meyers, president, urges all members to attend and extends a cordial invitation to non-members to be guests of the Chapter that evening.

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(Religious Success)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Success in religion, like any other endeavor, has to be worked at seven days a week.

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Classified
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

Women Wanted—Make extra money. Address, mail postcards, spare time every week, BICO, 133 Belmont, Belmont, Mass.

Man Available – For Gardening ..Trucking Services… Pick-Up and Delivery.  Call after 5 p.m. .. BE 9-2780

Art Teacher – B.A. desires work in art, nursery or related fields – Tel. AC-3-7394.

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Calendar
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 3

January
8th – Sat, 6;30 p.m.—Jewish Center Dinner – Don Room, El Cortez
9th –Sun, 6:30 p.m. – Lasker Lodge Installation Dinner Dance – Mission Valley Club
10th—Mon, 8:30 p.m. – Bay City B.B. Women’s Initiation –Tifereth Israel Center.
11th –Tuesday “Sport Night” – Men’s Club – Temple Center
13th-Thurs.—Election of Officers –U.J.F. State Ballroom, S.D. Hotel – 6:30 p.m.
19th—Wed., 12 noon – Se Sola Pools – Hadassah Luncheon
26th– Wed. eve. – “Mr. Hadassah Night—Dinner and Fashion Show – Mission Valley Club
30th-Sun – Pioneer Women Annual Bazaar – Beth Jacob Center

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Irving Friedman To Head Clinic

Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 4

Irving E. Friedman has been reappointed president and advisory board chairman of Guadalupe Clinic for his 11th term, Rev. Thomas Byrnes, moderator, said.

Nicholas Martin was reappointed vice chairman and Mrs. Clara Brisco secretary. New members named to the board were Dr. Guy E. Magio, medical staff president; John McCarthy, Robert J. Stirnkorb, and M.D. Goodrich.

Reappointed to the board were Dr. Joseph B. Mullen, president of the dental staff, and Mrs. Thomas F. Dunn, Chester Pagni, Louis Ricca, Sam W. Hamill, Emmet McCabe and William Rule.

During 1954 there were 16,000 visits of patients for clinic care.

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Birdie Stodel Women
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 4

Birdie Stodel Chapter No. 92 members are deeply grieved by the passing of Mr. William Schusterman, husband of our beloved member, Goldie Schusterman.

The chapter is postponing its regular meeting which was to have been held on Monday, January 10, because of the death. The next meeting will be held Monday, January 24th.

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Deceased
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 4

Elinor B. Kitaen, beloved wife of Joseph Kitaen, died Sat., January 1st at the age of 37 years.  She is survived by her husband and three children, Darreld, Terry and Susan, and a brother, Jack Ellis, of Los Angeles.

Services were conducted by Rabbi Morton J. Cohn at the Lewis Colonial Mortuary and interment was in the Home of Peace Cemetery.

Mrs. Kitean was a member of the Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood, the Yo-Ma-Co Club and Hadassah.

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Harry Cohn, husband of Rebecca Cohn, passed away on Friday, Dec. 31st, at the age of 59 years.  He is survived by sons, Leroy, Lyman and Irvin, and daughter, Mrs. Barbara Schloss.  Services were held at the Lewis Colonial Mortuary and interment was at the Sholem Mausoleum.  Rabbi Morton J. Cohn officiated.

(Hebrew Home for the Aged)

Southwestern Jewish Press, January 7, 1955, Page 4

Application for admission to the Hebrew Home for the Aged may be made through theJewish Social Service Agency, 333 Plaza, BE-2-5172.

*
“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.  

‘Psalms,’ set in Belgium, is unusual Holocaust memoir

August 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Psalms, A Memoir by Hirsch Grunstein; Create Space; 403 pages; no price listed.

By Norman Manson

Norman Manson

SAN DIEGO–This is, in a number of ways, a very unusual memoir of Holocaust survival. It is not a story of survival in death camps, nor of life on the run deep in the fields and woods of eastern Europe.

Rather, it portrays the recollections of a boy’s life under four years of Nazi occupation in Belgium – a life fraught with stress and anxiety, yet almost devoid of physical harm, at least for young Hirsch (or Henri as he was know in those years) Grunstein.

In some ways the most amazing part of this story is Grunstein’s phenomenal memory, his vivid descriptions of his growing-up years, 65 to 70 years ago. And a section that highlights this phenomenon is his recall of reading the entire biblical book of Psalms, which made a sufficient impression on him that he made it his book’s title.

While Belgium’s Jews certainly suffered under Nazi rule – 25,000 of the 60,00 who lived there were deported to Auschwitz and other death camps and few if any returned – the impression left by this book is that they underwent fewer of the horrors than their East European counterparts did and that, with the help of a few compassionate gentiles, a larger percentage were able to survive.

Grunstein suffered only one really excruciating moment in the course of his wartime odyssey, and what seemed to be a portent of utter foreboding quickly turned into a time of renewed hope. And, in the end, the immediate Grunstein family all survived and were reunited.

Originally from Poland, the Grunsteins immigrated to Belgium in 1930, and were quite well established in Antwerp’s flourishing diamond industry by the time the Wehrmacht invaded in May 1940. They first fled to France, but there was no haven there and they soon returned home, oddly enough with the encouragement of the conquering Nazis. At first, all seemed almost normal, but the Nazis gradually tightened their stranglehold, barring Jews from businesses, schools and much of the city.
In 1942, raids on the Jewish neighborhood were followed by deportations, ostensibly for work.

Finally, in September 1942, it was decided to place young Henri (he was 14) and his younger brother Sylvain with a gentile family in a small village between Antwerp and Brussels. Their hosts, Adrienne and Gaston, put Henri in a small upsteairs bedroom. And, for the next year and  a half, Grunstein spent most of his days in hiding, peering out the window or reading from the small book of Psalms that his father had made him take along.

This segment is the most fascinating and provocative of the story – one can see why he titled the book “Psalms.” Amazingly, he recalls, in minute, precise detail, the impact the psalms had on him, bring back memories of his childhood in synagogue and school, and inspiring visions of various aspects of Judaism.  The family was Orthodox, quite observant, and Henri tries to retain at least some semblance of Orthodoxy in this totally gentile environment. He even managed to fast on one Yom Kippur. And, when not reading the Psalms, he spends much of his time fanstsizing, gazing out the window and describing the scenes, and his fantasies.

This relatively placid existence came to a sudden, jolting end in the spring of 1944, when he (and others) were apprehended by the SS -his description of his capture is also very detailed and suspense-filled. And, for no more than a day, he appears to be doomed. However, he is rescued by the Belgian Judenrat (Jewish council) and spends the last months of the war in a home for children.

Not to minimize the fate of the 25,000 Belgian Jews sent to Auschwitz and other death camps, but this book seems to indicate that at least a significant number of Belgian gentiles hid and otherwise helped their country’s Jews. Relatively little has been written about the Holocaust in Belgium, and his story spotlights the Belgians’ role during that horrendous era. And Grunstein’s recollections of his wartime experiences are truly amazing in their precise, minute detail after almost 70 years.

For someone whose first language is not English, this memoir is quite well written, and the editing also is first-rate.  For a somewhat unusual take on the Holocaust, this is a book well worth reading.

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Manson is a freelance writer based in San Diego

Open letter to Fareed Zakaria concerning the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

August 14, 2010 3 comments

Isaac Yetiv

Dear Mr Zakaria:

 
As an assiduous viewer of your Sunday TV show  (CNN/GPS), which I have always enjoyed for your judicious commentaries, the choice of your experts, and your well-prepared and deeply-probing questions, I have earned the right to express my disappointment.

The case in point is your position on the  controversial decision to build a mosque on Ground Zero in New York (your program of Sunday 8 Aug. 2010.)  I believe that your support for building the mosque was a knee-jerk reaction to ADL’s strong opposition to it, and that if you dig deeper, you might revise your opinion.  ( Already, in your interview with Anderson Cooper a few days later, you seemed less sanguine; I even detected some regretful tone) . The following analysis will hopefully help:

 
First, unless I missed something, you deliberately talk about “a center:” I didn’t hear you say the word “mosque.”  This is, of course, disingenuous and misleading. A “center” without a “mosque” is a less loaded proposition, and would have aroused less resistance and outrage.
 
Second, you call Imam Raouf a “moderate” or “a Bin Laden nightmare” while conveniently occulting from your discourse his own pronouncements such as ” America was the accessory to the crime of 9/11 ”  or “Bin Laden is made in the U.S.” and that he, Rauf,  would like “a Sharia-compliant America” (where , as you know, an adulteress is stoned and an apostate is HALAL to be killed etc.) He also  could not bring himself to admit that Hamas is a terrorist organization (“I am not a politician,”he said, “and terrorism is a complicated problem.”) There are also rumors I can’t ascertain that he has indirect links with terrorist organizations and that his father was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
Besides, even if all that is not true, there is no guarantee that he will not be “used” as Imam for a short time, and then replaced with a more radical Islamist  (the type of Al-Awlaki who was Imam in a mosque in Virginia frequented by two of the 19 hijackers of 9/11) who  will use the mosque as a hotbed for radical  Islamists, a center of recruitment, and as a MADRASA  to inculcate the Wahabi extremist religious ideology that has produced 9/11 and other violent eruptions elsewhere, notably in the Muslim world and with mainly Muslim victims.

Rauf refused to say where the money (100 millions !!) will come from. A foreign country? a sponsor of terrorism? the terrorists themselves? It is clear that those who will finance the project will dictate its content and its programs. Recent events clearly demonstrate that an “investment” of such magnitude can only come  from a few oil-rich theocracies that have produced nine-eleven and other terrorist calamities. Is that scenario not plausible?  Do you want to take that risk?

 
The fact that Imam Raouf was (or is being ) sent to the Middle-East by the State Department to “explain” to the Muslims that we, Americans, are nice people, and we love them etc…was used by the proponents to prove that he is, as you said, a “moderate.”
This initiative was already tried by the Bush State Department with Karen Hughes, at great cost, and failed lamentably. It only shows once more the naivete and gross ineptitude of the Arabists who dominate the Agency and who still “don’t get it.” Would that the love of the radical Islamists could be acquired with some logical explanation ! Instead, the fear is that Imam Rauf will enjoy a junket at American taxpayer expense which he will use as a fundraiser for his projected mosque from those same oil-rich potentates.
 
Third, this is absolutely not a case of freedom of religion or first amendment rights, as it was demagogued by the politicians, including ,most recently, the president,after a few weeks of reflection and hesitation . (A better case of violation of the first amendment can be made with what was recently discovered, namely that our taxpayer money has been spent –by Bush and Obama–to build and refurbish mosques in Egypt, Tanzania, and Iraq,  maybe elsewhere too. So much for the separation of church (!) and state .) But not in this case: America is a free country and we cherish all freedoms. There is no “establishment of religion” or preventing “the exercise therof.” There are more than a hundred mosques in New York only, about 3,000 in the US. (How many churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia? Syria?Jordan?)        
                                                                                                                                                It is a case of what I would call ” zoning for reasons of security, sensitivity to the feelings of the victims of 9/11, common decency,and domestic peace.” The onus of proof is on the proponents of building the  mosque precisely at that point and not a few miles away.
 
Many experts believe that a 15-story-100 million dollar mosque (at odds with the beautiful tenet of Islam which is modesty) ,towering above other religions’ houses of worship in the heart of New York ,or even elsewhere, and funded by the most extremist ideologues of the Wahabi doctrine of Islam, is a high-security risk. They ,of course, rely on past performance. A former CIA operative and expert on terrorism sees it as “a magnet for militants,” a training ground for future agents of mischief, and a center for proselytizing.
 
But security is not the only concern for the opponents. Their cry of outrage is fueled by the arrogant insensitivity to the feelings of the families of the victims of 9/11 (including Muslims) and of the majority of Americans (recent poll shows 69 % opposed against 28 % approving.) This project is also fomenting confrontation and threatening domestic peace.
There seems to be an awakening of the masses, as opposed to the lethargy of the leaders, in other places, too. In Temecula, California. in Wisconsin, in Tennessee, we see the same opposition to building mosques, and in Germany, the authorities have just closed a mosque in Hamburg which was frequented by Mohammed Atta and his acolytes.
Many real moderate Muslims spoke out against the project which they see as an unnecessary provocation. One of them, a prominent woman, president of an Islamic organization, Raheel Raza, explained at length on TV why she opposed the project. Another Muslim woman, originally from Iran, Neda Belurchi, published an article in which she lamented the loss of her dear mother as a passenger in one of the planes destroyed  in nine-eleven. She called the proposed mosque “a symbol of victory for militant Islam.”
 
So why, one might ask, the insistence on building the mosque precisely at ground zero? Why did they reject a compromise solution by the Governor of New York who offered them another area that will not stir the enormous controversy? You, Fareed,  may be more familiar with a  view of Islam, that of South East Asia, which is very different from the Middle-East interpretation and implementation . The latter  is stricter and more fundamentalist and ideologist, especially the Wahabi kind. As you surely know, in the study of conflict resolution, we distinguish between “conflicts of interest,” readily amenable to compromise solutions acceptable to both sides, and “conflicts of ideology” that brook no compromise, especially if the ideology is of the religious kind and involves the “word of God,” or if one side demands the destruction of the other “before it can negotiate” as in the case of Hamas and Hizballah toward Israel.
 
Those who want to build the mosque at ground zero, and their financiers in the Middle-East, want to make a point: that a mammoth shrine of Islam towering above all other minuscule houses of worship of other faiths, in the heart of New York, in the heart of America,
with the mellifluous stentorian voice of the MUEZZIN resonating far away and calling the flock to prayers five times a day, with Allahu Akbar exclamations full of symbolism, is a vivid proof of  victory of fundamentalist and militant Islam (just as Belurchi said.)
This act of triumphalism is in keeping with medieval war and lore . It was the norm for the victors (not only Muslims) to erect their own house of worship on the ruins of their defeated enemies’ shrines. We can see many examples in Spain , or in Turkey such as the Hagia Sofia mosque in Istanbul which was a Byzantine church in Constantinople, or the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem built on the Jewish Temple Mount.

The 9/11 atrocities were seen by the perpetrators and their sponsors (to be sure, a minority, to be distinguished from real moderate Muslims, and certainly from Islam as a respectable religion no less than the others)

as a “victory.” They danced in the streets to celebrate it. For them, what better way to triumph than enshrine the place with the projected mammoth mosque?
Historically, triumphalism uses symbolism to enhance its effect: the selected title to the project, “The Cordoba initiative,” was intended as a reminder of the “Golden Age” in Muslim Spain where different religions lived in peace and harmony (which is true), but in the 11 th century,the Almohades invasion changed all that with its persecutions of Jews and Christians of whom many fled for their life (the most famous were the scholars Maimonides and Averroes.) It was reported , whether true or false, that the organizers of the project planned to inaugurate the mosque …on September 11 of next year “as an act of commemoration for the souls of the victims,” but many see that,if true, as adding insult to injury. A Muslim lady said on TV: “that is sticking it in your face.”
 
One may ask: ” If it is so bad, why have the mayor of New York and some elected officials, all Jews, thrown their hats in the arena  on the side of the promoters? The answer is simple: it is political correctness run amok. The Muslim ladies quoted above called them “bleeding-heart liberal elites.”

I dare to go farther: as an avowed foe of political correctness of any kind– I believe it is our collective enemy number one because it obscures the truth, and afflicts us with willful blindness, and the truth, for me, remains the supreme criterion for any judgment– I say with sadness that the Jewish leaders on the Left, in general, suffer from the Jewish disease of what I call “universalitis.” They can’t take their own side in a dispute, the others are always right. They speak in the abstract, on what should be rather than what is.  To parody a popular adage, they don’t see the log in the eye of the others but they see the straw in their eye.

They indulge in self-deluding pieties on liberty, rights, constitution, and they defend those who reject them violently. In the words of Lenin in another context (speaking of the Communists in the West) they are “useful idiots.” To the point that they even brave the 69 % and growing opponents among their constituents. I believe they will not be re-elected.

I also believe the mosque will not be built on ground zero. As for Obama, safely protected by those Jewish politicians, he has an uncanny ability to do things against the majority of the people’s wishes. And he, too, will pay politically.

 
Conclusion: As documented above, I do not see the controversy as “religious,” akin to the “disputations” in Spain and France during the Inquisition. It is not a matter of theology, on which religion is right. I see it as matter of security even more than sensitivity to the sufferers. Can you, or anyone of the defenders, declare with some degree of certitude, that a mosque of this magnitude in America does not present any danger to our security?  If not, it is irresponsible to let it happen. We should use common sense: “when in doubt, abstain !”  Use caution, be prudent.

Maybe we should prohibit all religions, for the sake of fairness, to limit their houses of worship to no more than  2-3 floors. We should “respect and suspect” everyone,and not endanger the security of all because of political correctness. And if it is difficult to decide, I suggest to use “Le Pari” (the Wager) of Blaise Pascal. He wrote :” Let us wager that God exists. If we are right, we gain eternity; if we are wrong, what did we lose, a few pleasures or sacrifices, nothing.”

  
Applied here, it will be: ” If we build such a mosque, we expose ourselves to a potential huge danger but if we don’t, we avoid such catastrophe even if  we will annoy some group by limiting their “rights.” For me, the choice is clear.
I hope you reconsider your position, and you will have the courage to proclaim it. Thank you for your attention.
Prof. Isaac Yetiv
La Jolla, CA

Iran and Syria say they’ll help Lebanon against Israel

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

DAMASCUS (WJC)–Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki  has met with Syrian President Bashar Assad here to discuss “the regional security threats posed by the Zionist regime” [Israel].

Referring to the deadly border skirmish last week, both men declared that they would support Lebanon against Israel’s “aggression”. Mottaki described Israel as “the source of insecurity and threat” in the Middle East . He also met with the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaleed Meshal, in Damascus.

Earlier, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr had lashed out at a decision by the chairman of a US Congressional committee to halt US$ 100 million in military aid for the Lebanese Army in the wake of last week’s clash with Israel, which according to the United Nations occurred on Israeli territory. A Lebanese Army sniper had opened fire on an Israeli officer involved in a brush-clearing operation. IDF troops responded, killing two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist.

On Monday, Howard Berman, the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said he had suspended US aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces on 2 August amid growing concern in Congress that American-supplied weapons could threaten Israel and that Hezbollah may have influence over the army.

“Whoever sets as a condition that the aid should not be used to protect Lebanon’s land, people and borders from the (Israeli) enemy can keep their money,” Murr told a news conference, adding: “Let them keep their money or give it to Israel. We will confront [Israel] with the capabilities we have.” The minister’s comments came after Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said Tehran was ready to help the Lebanese Army. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is slated to visit Beirut next month.

Meanwhile, a London-based Arab newspaper reported that France and the US had dissuaded Israel from opening a larger-scale military operation against Lebanon in response to the border incident. French sources told the paper that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had informed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that Israel intended “to teach the Lebanese Army  a lesson and avenge the death of the senior Israeli officer.” This allegedly led to high-level interventions involving French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Egyptian, Jordanian and other Arab state officials.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Commentary: Inappropriate for U.S. State Department to send Muslim cleric to Arab countries

August 11, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The State Department has confirmed that Feisal Abdul Rauf – who wants to be the imam of a mosque at Ground Zero – is taking a State Department funded trip to the Middle East to foster “greater understanding” about Islam and Muslim communities in the United States.

“He is a distinguished Muslim cleric,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “I think we are in the process of arranging for him to travel as part of this program, and it is to foster a greater understanding about the region around the world among Muslim-majority communities.” Rauf is reportedly going to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
 
What a load of hooey.
 
We know a lot of rabbis, some ministers and a few priests. We would be appalled to have the government of the United States, which by law favors no religion, sending a rabbi to Israel – or the former Soviet Union or France or Argentina, where there are communities of Jews – to talk about how Jews live in the United States. Having a priest travel to the Vatican, Honduras, Ireland or the Philippines to describe the lives of American Catholics would be outrageous. Likewise, ministers to Sweden.
 
What business is it of the American government to send a Muslim to Muslim-majority countries to talk about Islam? How offensive is it to think that the American government is using American tax dollars to fly a non-government person around the world to promote the activities and lifestyle of a particular religion? Better to send a non-Muslim American government official to talk about American religious freedom, cultural diversity and the virtues of the secular, democratic state. 
 
To the speculation that Rauf will engage in fund raising for the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, Mr. Crowley said, “That would not be something he could do as part of our program,” he said. 
 
We’re so relieved. And we’re so sure he will do only as the American government desires.
 
But Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 family member told The New York Post, “‘We know he has a fund-raising association with Saudi Arabia,’ … noting that the Saudis have contributed money to underwrite programs by the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a not-for-profit that Abdul Rauf runs with his wife and that is one of the sponsors of the Ground Zero mosque. ‘He’s going to the well, and how can they say they do or don’t know what he’s doing?'”
 
To be entirely clear, JINSA believes Ground Zero is a battlefield cemetery – the site of a battle for the liberal democratic state. We oppose the building of a Muslim sectarian monument there because regardless of what its supporters say, it will be widely understood in the Muslim world as a battlefield monument in the name of Islam. 
 
Does the State Department really think Rauf (who said in English that the United States bears responsibility for 9-11) will tell the Saudis, Bahrainis and Qataris that he is building a monument to cultural understanding, interfaith relations and peace in New York because America is a good, safe and decent place for Muslims as long as they understand the secular, democratic nature of the United States? And that he doesn’t want their money because Americans will fund the mosque?
 
And how will the State Department know?

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

The British are bashing! The British are bashing!

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

By Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA –This is a tale of two David Camerons. Each of them is known as the prime minister of Britain and leader of the Conservative Party.

There is the David Cameron who proclaims himself a “Conservative Friend of Israel” on the Web site of Conservative Friends of Israel, which promotes support for Israel and conservative ideas in Britain.

Then there is the other David Cameron who bashed Israel and European leaders during his visit to Turkey on Tuesday, July 27, and met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This David Cameron uttered these words about Israel:

“The situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp…The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. I have told prime minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change.”

The Guardian, a London daily newspaper, suggests that Cameron’s hissy fit amounted to an overheated intensification of past criticisms of Israel. Cameron told the House of Commons on June 28: “Everybody knows that we are not going to sort out the problem of the Middle East peace process while there is, effectively, a giant open prison in Gaza.”

No mention of Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit’s four-year imprisonment in Gaza. Or Hamas’ rocket attacks, weapons smuggling and its pledge to destroy Israel. Or that Hamas murders, tortures and terrorizes its own people. Or that the flotilla committed an act of war by attempting to breach the blockade. Or that Turkish terrorists on the Mavi Marmora attacked Israeli commandos.

The Guardian also reported that he accused France and Germany of double standards for refusing Turkey membership in the European Union while expecting Turkey to guard Europe’s borders as a NATO member.

Of that situation, it turns out that Turkey operates a blockade of its own – against Cyprus.

Cameron forgets to mention that the EU has barred Turkey from membership partly because it denies ships from Cyprus entry to Turkish ports. Cyprus is an EU member and the northern part of the island is occupied by Turkey.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in the wake of a power struggle with Greece; Cyprus is populated mainly by ethnic Greeks and Turks, respectively 80 percent and 20 percent.

Most of us would have noticed if past British prime ministers attacked Israel so viciously. In fact, with their English accents and refined manner, who can imagine a British prime minister behaving in such an abrasive manner? Cameron’s words were so blunt he could not even sound ironic or sarcastic.

Cameron’s style – if you can call it a style – was pure bullying. To  He is intellectually dishonest and contradicts himself in a number of areas. Worse, his rant is downright dangerous.

Past prime ministers like Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, whose ideologies were far apart from one another, conducted themselves with a measure of class and decorum. Of course, their jobs were more stable. Cameron sounds like a desperate politician who expects to be in trouble in the next election. He must understand by now that his fellow Brits did not return the Conservative Party to power out of love for it.

The Conservatives exploited a set of circumstances to oust the Labor Party from controlling Parliament a few months ago. Fresh from their defeat, Labor leaders are carefully examining what went wrong. Cameron knows that continuation of Conservative power is by no means ensured in the next election.

One would think that the leader of the Conservative Party would be more supportive of Israel, or at least more careful with his words.

The Wall Street Journal relates this explanation from Wolfango Piccoli, analyst at Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy: “Support for Turkey is nothing new, but the economy is the bottom line. One of the aims of the Cameron administration is to raise the level of exports – and Turkey is part of that.”

At Israel’s expense, no less.

Perhaps the Liberal Democrats, his coalition partner, influenced him. Or he is mining votes among British Muslims. Maybe he hopes that liberal Britons will consider voting Conservative.

After this performance, how can Cameron make any claim to credibility? He is prime minister of one of the world’s greatest powers. Does he believe that his hypocrisy will go unnoticed?

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Bruce S Ticker is a Philadelphia freelance journalist