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‘100 Voices: A Journey Home’ explores Poland’s cantorial past

September 13, 2010 1 comment

By Carol Davis

Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO–On Tuesday, September 21, the movie 100 Voices: A Journey home will air across the country at 488 select theatres, including seven movie complexes in San Diego County. It’s a must see movie for Jews and non-Jews alike, but bring tissues. The documentary traces an historic trip to Poland by no less than 100 cantors who pay tribute to the 1300 cantors who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Cantors from around the world journeyed to Poland to be a part of this celebration.

It reunites Jewish and Polish cultures, ‘Building people and nations together’, for the first time since WWII. Poland; once a thriving country where Jewish culture dominated for centuries and the birthplace of cantorial music was brought to its knees by Hitler wiping out almost any and every image of that life. But from the ashes, this beautiful and moving story unfolds with commentary from several of the cantors.

In scene after scene from Los Angeles to Warsaw to Krakow to Auschwitz their music is the thread that tied two communities, touchingly and beautifully without reservation.   If any of these names sound familiar to you, and they might, you will be enthralled with their oral stories, their voices and their experiences: Cantor Nathan Lam, Cantor Joseph Gole, Cantor Alberto Mizrahi, Moshe Koussevitzky, Jacob Ben-Mendelson, Faith Steinsnyder, Chiam Frankel, Yossle Rosenblatt (his voice was heard in “The Jazz Singer), Simon Shapiro, brothers Ivor Lichterman and Joel Lichterman and Mordechai Hershman are but a few whose voices are featured.

With the exception of the introduction and the cantor’s beginning their journey in 2009 the entire film is shot on location in Poland. It shows communities, clean cities, original clips of what it looked like before and during the occupation and shots of the great Yiddish star of theatre and film Molly Picon (“Yidl Mitn Fidl”) performing in 1936 in Poland.

Clips of the invasion in 1939, the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz-Birkenau where an emotional service takes place in the one remaining synagogue left in tact, The Nozyk Synagogue where the cantors performed the second of their big concert. It is also where the elder Cantor Lichterman presided and chanted and to that very same Bimah where his sons returned and chanted. It was another emotional and heart rending commemoration.

Before the war there were over 400 synagogues in Poland. By the end of the 19th century their use became more diversified than for just worship. The Nozyk Synagogue was built between 1898 and 1902 financed by wealthy Warsaw merchant Zalman Nozyk and designed by Leonardo Marconi. The area in which it was housed was part of the ‘Small Ghetto’ and became part of the history of Ghetto life in the late 30’s. In 1941 the Nazis used the buildings as stables and a depot. It was partially restored and completely rebuilt between 1977 and 1983 and returned to the Warsaw Jewish Commune. It officially opened in 1983.

Lam, Cantor of Steven S. Weiss Temple in Los Angeles and chairman of the project said he wanted to bring together, as their first performance, a 40 member choir of children from Poland along with Jewish young adults from Los Angeles singing “Ani M’Amin” in the Teatr Weilki Polish National Opera House, the very same prayer a 40 voice children’s choir sang in1941, the night of the liquidation of Warsaw Ghetto, it was followed by the Israeli National Anthem, “Hatikva”.

Charles Fox composer (“Killing Me Softly”) whose father was born in Poland was invited along. His father and his mother were lucky enough to have made it out of Poland before the invasion. He is seen revisiting, 90 years later, the small town his father grew up in. It was an emotional visit walking in, what he felt were his fathers footsteps. Fox was asked to write a piece He has taken it upon himself to establish a museum to the 16,000 Jews that lived in his father’s village.

Fox wrote an aria for this special occasion. It is based Polish born Pope John II prayer of forgiveness, “Lament and Prayer”, the words the Pope put into the cracks of the Wall on his visit to Jerusalem: “God of our Fathers, You chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused children of Yours to suffer and we ask Your forgiveness. We wish to commit ourselves to the genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant”.

100 Voices: A Journey Home was produced and directed by Matthew Asner and Danny Gold. Michael Lam and Nathan Lam produced it. Matthew Asner, Danny Gold, Michael Lam and Michael Mayhew wrote it. It is presented by NCM Fathom Productions and Time Management in association with the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Life Television and the Milken Archives of Jewish Music.
I highly recommend you make it to any of the following theatres to see this beautiful film: Mission Valley 20,  La Jolla Village 12, Otay Ranch 12, Plaza Bonita 14,  San Marcos 18,  Mira Mesa 18, or  Horton Plaza You will not be disappointed.

For a peek go to: http://www.100voicesmovie.com/trailer.html

See you at the theatre.

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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!  

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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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Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, January 21, 1955, Part 4

August 25, 2010 1 comment

Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff

In the Name of “Security” (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 7

The case of Wolf Ladejinsky has again brought into sharp focus the problems facing a people whose precious liberties are being threatened under the guise of “security.”

Ladejinsky, a qualified agriculturist, was dismissed as a “security risk” with no explanation. His proven anti-Communism was used to prove that he could be a spy!

The letter, released by the Agriculture Dept to bolster their stand, lauded the Department’s action on the ground that “a goodly share of those Russian revolutionaries were found among Russian Jews.”  An investigation revealed that the letter was written by a White Russian émigré who admits he never met nor had he ever heard anything derogatory about Ladejinsky.”

The earlier cases of Abraham Chasanow, reinstated after his dismissal from the Navy, and the twenty-four Ft. Monmount scientists, similarly reinstated, aroused grave suspicions that anti-Semitism and other prejudices were operating at various levels of our government.  In spite of formal statements and disavowals these suspicions were never allayed.  Ladejinsky’s dismissal with the mysterious circumstances surrounding his case, the incredible reasons advance to justify the action and the readiness to make use of anti-Semitic material confirms theses suspicions.

It took the action of Harold E. Stassen, Foreign Operations Administrator, to pull the Agriculture Department out of an embarrassing situation which would have made us the butt of international ridicule.

“Security” is the aim of man whether it be for himself or his country.  Where is “Security” for an individual who can be released after years of public service merely because of an accident of birth?

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Banks and Savings (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 7

Savings Week is currently being noted by banks throughout the country. The growth of banking in an Diego has been phenomenal .  Banks and saving institutions have kept pace with this growth by instituting new services to make it easier to save and bank money.  Driveby Banks, Night Deposits and the opening of a large number of branches in every part of the city and ccounties are some of the latest services instituted by the banks.

Travel clubs, Christmas clubs, Bonds and other plans for saving were designed to give the thrifty saver an incentive and a goal to accumulate funds for a specific purpose. 

January is the month for us to lay plans for the entire year. Savings Week is just a reminder that banks are doing all they can to make it easier for us to save. Benjamin Franklin whose birthday is noted this month, extolled the virtues of gathering a nest egg for the future.  He would approve our present day streamlined banking systems.

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False Faces (Editorial)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 7

The long overdue report on neo-Fascist and Hate Groups by the House Committee on un-American Activities must have been an eye opener to the Congressional investigators. The report plainly shows that these groups invariably turn out to be basically anti-Jewish in character. To quote the forward of the report—“The organized hate group, which masquerades as a defender of our Republican form of government yet conducts hate campaigns against racial and religious minorities in the infamous tradition of the Fascist dictatorships.”

Clearly indicated in the report is the fact that “these Fascist hate groups frequently support the position of the very Communists it allegedly opposes.”  For example, the National Renaissance Party accused the United States Government of seeking to promote a world war to “carry out the economic and political ambitions of a small coterie of international Wall St. bankers.”  Does that sound familiar?  Word for word it comes from the Communist party propaganda.

One of the most virulent of these hate groups has a publication called “Common Sense,” published by Conde J. McGinley, in New Jersey. In contrast to the Fascist National Renaissance Party, the McGinley enterprise appears to be a shrewd and going business.

The report goes on to say that McGinley’s so-called anti-Communist and patriotic publication apparently is not adverse to serving the Communist propaganda cause, and further states that anti-Semitism is the chief stock in trade of “Common Sense” which defines Communism as the “false face of Judaism.”

The Committee Report concludes with the statement that they are continuing their investigation and exposure of Communist conspirators, but that they are convinced that there is also a need for further study, exposure and prosecution of the Fascist hate groups that seek to divide and disrupt the American people.

It is regrettable that any American should contribute to the perpetuation of the hate factories.  If loyal Americans wish to play an active part in protecting their country from subversion, let them remember that there exist agencies well equipped to deal with the traitors from the extreme Left and extreme Right. Beware the 20th Century Janus, who presents two false faces.

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Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 7

By Irving R. Stone, Psychological Consultant

Operation Courtship

History books tell us many interesting things—elections, economic depressions, discoveries, war, little known facts that seem to escape the attention of people, except when some Hollywood motion picture company plays it up and makes the news worthy of a potential Oscar award winner.

I refer to what might be termed “Operation Courtship.”  Those of Napoleon, Lincoln, Miles Standish and Marc Anthony are a few that we can mention.  Not that courtship isn’t a familiar happening, for it is as frequent as birth and taxes. But too often we take such things for granted.

The strange thing is that courtship is so important that even the participants are often unaware that it is happening but when they  are, they are completely different in behavior and thinking. Another  fact is that it starts, in many cases, at a tender age and during the teens may be as intense as in mature adulthood.

Courtship is usually expected to be the time for getting acquainted. Fundamental attitudes and expectations should be extended during this period to make later adjustments easier and often possible.  It is the time to work out many of the later problems which arise in every family –children, budgets, special  needs and living arrangements are but a few.

Irving Stone

As the Psychologist Sees You

Parents frequently become quite alarmed over what seems to be an involvement in the form of a courtship by their adolescent boy or girl. In almost every case, this is part of a normal condition of that age level when crushes seem to abound in every direction, and each month appears to be like New Years –“Ring out the old, ring in the new.” It is far better for the youngster to have one or more of these crushes because it gives them a better opportunity to evaluate the situation when true courtship takes place than to be unaware of the method of handling approaching marriage. Too often, the boy or girl who has not had a share in crushes jumps at the first opportunity for marriage without  evaluating its efficacy.

The only cure for hasty marriages is courtship. It affords planning, evaluation and reevaluation.  It is the intervening step between a crush and a marriage. So, when your child enters a courtship, remember that your youngster is growing up and not just getting older.

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More about Three Hundred Years in America~Jewish Contributions to American History

By Dr. Philip L. Seman, University of Judaism

The last installment of early experiences and records of the synagogue as the Jewish Community Center is an indication that the Jews have for thousands of years recognized the need for centrally located places where the community was given an opportunity to function as social human beings as well as in a civic manner.

However, with the growth of our American communities, the question of the Community Center became a problem. The real problems, so far as the Jew in America is concerned, were not aggravated, however, until 1881, when the Jews of this country were confronted with a large immigration as the result of the pogroms of 1881 in Russia and Poland, and similar atrocities in Rumania in 1902 and 1903.  It was during these years that the number of immigrants arriving in the United States kept increasing in almost impossible proportion to the ability to assimilate them, and meet the many social and economic problems that congestion and large numbers of new comers into a comparative complacent population create.  The immigration, reports show that beginning with the year 1820 to the year 1912 the total number of immigrants that arrived in the United States was 29,000,000 of which approximately 3,000,000 represented Jews. The high water mark was in 1907 when the total immigration was 1,285,000 of which 150,000 represented Jewish immigrants. From the year 1900 to the year 1912, there came to the United States a total of 10,000,000 immigrants of which number approximately 1,500,000 were Jews.  In other words, one-third of this country in 1912 came within a period of 10 or 12 years. These facts alone indicate what an enormous problem American Jewry was confronted with in the matter of adjusting such a huge army of newcomers to an entirely new environment.

It was during these years when the communal workers particularly in New York, but likewise in other large American cities throughout the country, realized the importance of providing facilities for the construction educational, recreational and social life of those who made up in a large measure the congested sections of these cities.  It was during this period that there was developed such agencies as the Educational Alliance in New York; the Young Men’s and Women’s Hebrew Association (now known as the Jewish Community Centers), the Hebrew Technical Institutes and many other similar institutions all over the country where Jews settled in large numbers.  (To Be Continued).

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(Reputation and business)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 7

A good reputation always proves to be a good business capital.
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(Resolutions)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 7

Often a man and his New Year’s resolutions go broke together.
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(Spare time)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 7

The man who makes the best use of his time has the most to spare.

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Famous Group of Jewish Artists Here Sunday March 6th
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

Dora Kaliowna and Schmuel Fisher in their first American appearance and also Pola Kadison, talented pianist, will appear in a program of Jewish songs, sketches and comedy.  The Concert will take place at Beth Jacob Center of Sunday, March 6th at 8 p.m. under the sponsorship of Jewish Labor Committee

Dora Kaliowna was born in Lodz, Poland. After she graudated from the government dramatic school in Warsaw, she remained for the theatre a short while and later devoted her talents to solo appearances.

Schmuel Fisher, who is called the Jewish Charlie Chaplin, lived in Israel since 1930, was educated in the University of Art and Literature at Tel Aviv.  He was in the army and gave 500 of his outstanding performances on the fronts during the historical battles of the Israel liberation.  His source of humor and song is unique.

Pola Kadison, the renowned concert pianist, has appeared in many cities in the United States.  She has been acclaimed by the critics as one of the finest interpretes of Folk and Classic music.

For an evening of nostalgic Jewish humor, drama and songs, call Ben Feinberg at Belmont 2-5525 or Belmont 2-3524.  Mrs. Ira Gordon at Cypress 8-6230 or Morris Penn at Hudson 8-5906.

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Dog Show
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

The Annual All-Breed Dog Show will open on Sunday, Feb. 13, in the Electric Bldg., Balboa Park.  Entries will come from Canada, Hawaii, Mexico, Alaska and South America.  Entry blansk may be obtained at any pet shop or phone HI 4-4714.

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Golf Greats To Appear At Mission Valley

Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

La Jolla, Calif – The best playing conditions in years are anticipated this week when two annual golf classics are staged in the San Diego area.

Clear skies and gentle breezes are predicted for the four-day Convair-San Diego Open Tournament starting January 20 in Mision Valley.

The tournament is sponsored by Convair Division of General Dynamics Corporation on behalf of the San Diego Society for Crippled Children.

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Demos Dance on Valentine’s Day February 12th
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

“Music in the Morgan Manner,” Russ Morgan and his internationally famous band will be featured in the St. Valentine’s Day dance planned by the Democratic County Central Committee which is to be held February 12 at 8:30 p.m. in the Mission Beach Ball Room.

The dance will be open to the public at popular prices and tickets are available by contacting D.G. Hamilton, chairman of ticket sales, Room 412 Orpheum Theatre Bldg.  Ticket reservations may be had by mail or call BE 9-4070.

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Settlement Cook Book Supports Center

Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

Milwaukee, Wis – The Jewish Community Center of Milwaukee, whose first home was made possible by a cook book, dedicated its new $1,750,000 building on January 16th.  It was profits from the now world-famous Settlement Cook Book which paid for the site on which the local Center’s forerunner, the Abraham Lincoln Settlement House, was erected at the turn of the century. In the dining room of the new building there is a picture of Mrs. Simon Kander, the mother of the original settlement house, whose pioneering book of recipes for Jewish immigrants first appeared in 1901.

It has since become a perennial best-seller.  The sale of 1,250,000 copies of the cook book in its 34 editions has netted the Jewish Community Center of Milwaukee $350,000 over the years, including $50,000 for the new building, as well as substantial sums for scholarships, day care and other community needs.

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(Consideration)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

Consideration for the rights of others is the strongest link in the chain of human friendships.

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Blanc Qualifies In Mayor’s Race
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

Sol Blanc, veteran Broadway businessman and former realtor, today filed for qualification papers in the race for mayor of San Diego.

In announcing his candidacy, the Broadway restaurateur and long-time auctioneer pointed to his long record in public life as qualifying him for the top city office.

He said his platform will include such progressive measures providing more downtown parking, critical and hospital care for indigent and service families, inducing industry to move to san Diego, providing more docking facilities for commercial craft and generally working toward “more jobs for the working people, and therefore more business for the businessmen.”

He said he will concentrate on a “good neighbor” policy between San Diego and its neighboring south-of-the-border towns of Tijuana and Ensenada.

He pledged a “two fisted fight, but no mud slinging” in his bid for the mayor’s post and said he already has been assured the backing of several groups in the city.

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(Past and Future)
Southwestern Jewish Press, January 21, 1955, Page 8

You can get rid of your past by building a future out of it.

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“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.

8 American Muslims tour concentration camps, oppose Holocaust denial

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (WJC)–Eight Muslim American leaders, who visited the sites of former Nazi concentration camps and met with Holocaust survivors earlier this month, have signed a statement condemning Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. The trip, intended to teach the participants about the Holocaust, featured visits to the Dachau and Auschwitz camps.

“We stand united as Muslim American faith and community leaders and recognize that we have a shared responsibility to continue to work together with leaders of all faiths and their communities to fight the dehumanization of all peoples based on their religion, race or ethnicity,” the statement read. “With the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred, rhetoric and bigotry, now more than ever, people of faith must stand together for truth.” 

Marshall Breger, a Jewish former member of the Reagan and Bush administrations, launched the trip to educate those who may not have had the opportunity to learn the history of the Holocaust. Breger said this would help combat Holocaust denial among Muslims.

The leaders on the trip were five imams – Muzammil Siddiqi of California; Muhamad Maged of Virginia; Suhaib Webb of California, Abdullah Antepli of North Carolina, and Syed Naqvi of Washington DC – along with Sayyid Syeed of Washington, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi of Connecticut, and Laila Muhammad of Illinois. US government officials, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and an official from the Organization of the Islamic Conference also participated in the trip.

According to the ‘Forward’ weekly newspaper, several of the leaders had a history of anti-Semitic comments. Laila Muhammad is the daughter of American Muslim leader W.D. Muhammad and granddaughter of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the controversial Nation of Islam. The trip was co-sponsored by a German think tank and the New Jersey-based group Interreligious Understanding.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

‘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

Holocaust survivor from Tcyzyn has renewed hope of finding his brother

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (Press Release)— George Salton is a Holocaust survivor who was born in the small town of Tyczyn, Poland. He was about to enter the 6th grade in September 1939 when the Nazis occupied Poland. His name was Lucjan Salzman(n). His family was forced into the Rzeszow Ghetto, and his parents, Anna and Herman Salzmann, deported to, and gassed at the Belzec Extermination Camp. George and his older brother Manek remained in the ghetto and worked as forced labor in a factory camp in Rzeszow. After George was imprisoned at the camp, Manek escaped from the ghetto. Over the next few months he somehow managed to pass several notes to George in the factory.

The last note stated that dangerous activities would make it impossible for Manek to contact him again and that they should meet after the war by contacting relatives who had managed to emigrate to New York before the war.

American soldiers of the 82nd Airborne liberated George on May 2, 1945 after 3 years in 10 concentration camps. He spent another 2 years in German Displaced Person Camps and eventually immigrated to New York. He never heard from Manek. Rumor was that Manek was killed in the forests with other young partisans fighting the Nazis.

Last week during an Internet search of newly digitized post war records, his daughter Anna Salton Eisen came across a list of Tyczyn Jewish Survivors. Manek Salzmann was on the list. On Monday, she contacted a researcher at the US Memorial Holocaust Museum who found a second document stating Manek Salzmann of Tyczyn Poland, son of Herman, was alive in Poland as of December 17, 1946.

George Salton has filed formal papers with the “The Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center” of the American Red Cross who will coordinate a search for documents or information across the globe. The US Memorial Holocaust Museum continues to search their records as Anna and George begin to contact agencies, archives and Holocaust related organizations to help track Manek’s path after December 1946. Emails regarding the “Search for Manek” are being copied and forwarded around the world. George is 83 years old and has new hope that his brother or any family he might have had may still be found. 

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Preceding provided by Anna Salton Eisen, who may be contacted via eisenfam@aol.com

Charges may be brought against alleged Treblinka guard

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

MUNICH (WJC)–A 93-year-old man living in southern Germany could be charged with participating in the murder of Jewish prisoners in the Nazi slave labor camp Treblinka I during World War II.

According to the news magazine ‘Der Spiegel’, prosecutors in Munich are to decide soon whether to bring charges against a man identified as Alex N. for his alleged activities as an SS guard of the camp.  Born in Ukraine and having lived in the Bavarian city of Landshut since the end of the war, N. was granted German citizenship in 1991.

Investigators at the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg provided information leading to the current investigation. The slave labor camp was located near the death camp Treblinka II, in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Alex N., who reportedly trained at the same Nazi SS facility as Ivan (John) Demjanjuk, offered testimony at the Demjanjuk trial in Munich last February. Demjanjuk is charged with helping to murder 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor death camp. Alex N. reportedly has bragged over the years about having shot Jews.

A few weeks ago, Germany filed charges against another witness in the Demjanjuk trial, Samuel Kunz, 90. He was charged with helping to murder 430,000 Jews in the Belzec death camp in occupied Poland. Two men under investigation died recently, never having stood trial: former SS officer Erich Steidtmann, 95, of Hanover, and Adolf Storms, 90.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

A third case reportedly is now under investigation in Bavaria. Klaas Carel F., 88, was convicted in the Netherlands of murdering 22 civilians. He fled from a Dutch prison in 1952, and has been living in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt. Prosecutors are looking into whether they can sentence him based on the Dutch conviction.