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Archive for the ‘Antisemitism’ Category

Righteous Gentile Irena Sendler

Posted by Oyster on March 11, 2014

Every year there are fewer living witnesses to the Holocaust. Memorial organizations such as Yad Vashem are working feverishly to collect as many testimonies as possible to memorialize the names of the victims and honor the Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jewish lives. These activities demand a tremendous amount of time and effort. Sometimes however, information comes in unexpected ways. This was the case regarding the story of Irena Sendler who was honored for her role in saving over 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto in 1963 by Yad Vashem and then forgotten. It was only when a group of non-Jewish schoolgirls from Uniontown Kansas pursued a rumor of Sendler’s activities that the incredible story of her bravery was publicized to the world.

Irena Sendler was a young social worker in Warsaw when the Nazis invaded in 1939. She joined the Zagota underground which specialized in assisting persecuted Jews. She helped find hiding places for these Jews and obtained false papers which allowed them to integrate into the Polish society. When the Nazis created the Warsaw ghetto in 1940 Sendler procured papers that identified her as a nurse who specialized in infectious diseases. She was then allowed to enter and exit the ghetto freely.

At first Sendler smuggled food and medicines into the ghetto but it quickly became apparent that such aid was a drop in the bucket. Together with her Zagota comrades she decided that she could save more lives if she could smuggle people out of the ghetto. As the head of Jewish child welfare division of Zagota Sendler decided to concentrate on smuggling children out of the ghetto. Children, Zagota felt, were easier to smuggle out, easier to move from place to place and easier to hide in Polish orphanages and convents.

Sendler began to pick up street orphans. She sedated them and hid them in luggage, toolboxes. Beneath her tram seat and in carts under garbage and barking dogs in order to smuggle them out of the ghetto. Older children were led under the ghetto walls through underground tunnels and sewers. As time passed Sendler started to approach Jewish parents to ask them to allow her to take their children out of the ghetto. Sendler went door to door within the ghetto in her quest to bring children to freedom. The parents were distraught — many refused Sendler because they believed that their children would have a better chance of survival if they stayed together. Others couldn’t bear being parted from their children.

Sendler herself remembered those interactions as excruciatingly painful “I talked the mothers out of their children” she reminisced. “Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give me the child. Their first question was, ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’ I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today.”

Sendler carefully recorded all of the names of the children that she rescued on slips of tissue paper, along with the locations in which they were hidden. She placed these pieces of papers in glass jars and buried them in her garden. She hoped that, after the war, the children would be reunited with surviving family members or, at the very least, with their Jewish community. Some children were hidden with
sympathetic Polish families while others were placed for safekeeping in institutions.

In October 1943, after the Warsaw ghetto had been destroyed, Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo. She was tortured in the notorious Piawiak prison but she withstood the torture and didn’t reveal any information about the whereabouts of the children, or about her Zagota comrades. The Nazis sentenced Sendler to death but Zagota was able to bribe a German guard and smuggle Sendler out of the prison. Sendler remained in hiding throughout the final months of the war.

Yad Vashem honored Sendler in 1963 but after the awards ceremony she returned to Warsaw and her wartime activities were forgotten. In 1999
a group of Kansas high school students researched Sendler’s actions during the war and developed a project, Life in a Jar, which honored Sendler’s heroism and bravery. The project has evolved into a book, a website and a performance which has been viewed by thousands of people worldwide.

Posted in Antisemitism, Bay-ond the Pale, Oy Bay! | 2 Comments »

Blog of the Living: The rest of Poland

Posted by Oyster on July 29, 2012

Here are the remaining photos from my trip to Poland as part of the March of the Living in 2006. See the following for the first and second days of the trip. My apologies, but I did not have time to put in captions for the photos.

Posted in Antisemitism, Baruch Dayan Emet | 1 Comment »

Yom HaShoah at UC Berkeley Hillel, year 2000

Posted by Oyster on July 29, 2012

[This is a recollection of something that transpired over ten years ago. Why am I writing this now? Just seemed apropos for Tisha B’Av.]

I ate my last meal before the fast took hold. After sundown, I took off my shoes and socks, and slipped out of Bowles Hall to walk down Gayley Road to the Reutlinger Center. The Berkeley Hillel had organized a 25-hour schedule of activities commemorating the Holocaust, starting with a memorial service. Students gathered and began to kindle tealights near the auditorium.

Josh Miller, then the JCSC fellow, helped lead the service and introduced everyone to a niggun that he learned on a trip to Poland. I recall that he said that when his trip was taught that song, and they began to sing the niggun and dance in a former Jewish neighborhood, an old Polish woman came up to them and said that she had not heard that song since her early childhood. [Please listen to this niggun and propagate its memory:  M4A format]

I went back to my dorm for a short rest, then arose at 3 AM to head to the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft. The sky was red, reflecting the urban light pollution off of the underside of the fog bank hovering over the city. I could see snatches of the Campanile as it faded in and out of the fog. I found a group of four students standing in a tight huddle around a memorial candle, clutching reams of paper. A close inspection showed that the pages held, in dense, fixed-width font the names of thousands of victims of the Holocaust. The students took turns reciting the name of a victim, perhaps with their age and their country. Sadly, sometimes entire families were listed together, and one could envision the tragedy that the terse computer print-out did not explicitly recount. This solemn vigil was kept for 25 hours throughout Yom HaShoah, and I joined in for an hour in the dead of night, barefoot.

Posted in Antisemitism, Baruch Dayan Emet, East Bay, On-Campus | Leave a Comment »

Pell Lecture: When Music Stopped…

Posted by kneidalach on April 12, 2011

When the Music Stopped:

The Spoliation of Europe’s Musical Property,

1933-1945, and 21st Century Concerns  

Carla Shapreau
Adjunct Faculty, U.C. Berkeley, School of Law

Thursday, April 28, 5 pm

Heyns Room, Faculty Club, University of California, Berkeley

Followed by a reception

Carla Shapreau will discuss her research in the Institute of European Studies at U.C. Berkeley regarding the looting and displacement of musical manuscripts, printed music, and musical instruments during the Nazi Era, as well as the challenges that remain for 21st century progress.  Carla Shapreau is a Research Associate in the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a member of the Adjunct Faculty in the School of Law, where she teaches a course on art and cultural property law.  Ms. Shapreau is co-author of Violin Fraud, Deception, Forgery, and Lawsuits in England and America (Oxford University Press 1997), and has lectured and written broadly regarding cultural property issues.  Ms. Shapreau is also a violin maker.

A short piece for piano, violin, and cello composed by Edwin Geist in 1942, “Kosmischer Frühling”  (Cosmic Spring), will be performed by U.C. Berkeley students at the close of the lecture.

Presented by the Jewish Studies Program. Sponsored by The Joseph and Eda Pell Endowed Fund for Holocaust Studies.
Co-presented by The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. Co-sponsored by the Alfred Manovill Holocaust Studies Program.

For More Information, please visit www.magnes.org, or contact magnes@library.berkeley.edu

Posted in Antisemitism, Culture, East Bay, Events, Food, Learning, Music, On-Campus, Oy Bay! | Leave a Comment »

Jewish Dispatches from the Durban Review Conference

Posted by Oyster on April 22, 2009

This dispatch was sent to me by my friend Liora. Liora is part of the American Jewish Committee’s young professional delegation to the Durban Review Conference (DRC), a UN conference being held in Geneva from April 19 – 24 to review progress to cobat raciscm, racial intolerance, xenophobia and related intolerances since the orginal conference held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. Unfortunately, the 2001 conference turned into an Antisemetic and anti-Israel forum, punctuated by an ugly NGO forum dominated by blatant Antisemetism. AJC and other Jewish organizations have sent delegates to Geneva as a voice to the media and conferenece participants that Antisemitism and singling out of Israel at the expenses of serious racial abuses around the world, such as Darfur and Zimbabwe, are unacceptable.

Greetings from Geneva! First I must address yesterday. What a day. I will focus on Ahmadinejad for this posting. Much to the dismay of the Western World and Jews particularly, Ahmedinejad was invited as a main guest speaker on the very first day of the Durban Review Conference. Yes, this is the same national leader who has consistently called the Holocaust a myth and called for Israel to be “Wiped off the map”. The UN could not have found a more appropriate speaker to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the Durban Review Conference and the hijacking of important racism and intolerance issues at the expense of politics.

It was odd that in the face of such controversial preparations leading to the DRC, the pending and now finalized withdrawal of key countries such as the US, Germany, Canada, Poland, Australia, Italy, etc, the UN would choose to discredit the conference further through inviting Ahmadinejad to speak.

Needless to say, there was bit of a debate within our delegation about where we belonged during the infamous speech. Clearly, an element of curiosity led us to want to hear Ahmadinejad’s hateful words for ourselves and witness the UN reaction first hand. Nonetheless, we also felt that the last thing we wanted to do was give Ahmadinejad even more of an audience for his tirade and give weight to his ideas by listening live. My fellow delegate, Naomi, and I decided we would instead attend a rally organized outside the Palais de Nations protesting Ahmadinejad’s speech. However, walking around prior to the scheduled 3:14 speech without seeing any rally, we found out that the protest was going to happen afterwords. Outside the Palais de Nations we witnessed a loud caravan of police escorts leading Ahmadinejad to the Palais de Nations. Since the rally was not happening, we decided to go inside the building in hopes of speaking to media and explaining our position on Ahmadinejad’s invitation and the DRC in general.

Inside the Palais de Nations, our timing could not have been better. As we entered, we were quickly ushered along with a delegation of about 15 Iranians, including security, cameramen, and the President of Iran himself. Naomi and I clutched each others hands, not believing that 5 feet in front of us was Ahmadinejad, and we were now ad hoc members of his delegation! We continued walking as if we completely belonged with his group, even though I was sure two noticeably American girls attached to a delegation of formal Iranian men was slightly odd.

We followed the group until we got to the main hall, where we pulled aside an Iranian cameraman and offered to be interviewed. I gave a couple-minute statement about our view that the conference was being hijacked for political reasons instead of focusing on core racism issues. I discussed Israeli’s desire to live in peace alongside the Palestinians as well as our view that Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denials and threats to destroy Israel makes him unfit to be a lead speaker at a conference addressing Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerances. Afterwords, the cameramen told us he was one of Ahmadinejad’s official filmmakers and was doing a documentary on Ahmadinejad’s visit to the DRC which would air on Channel 1 in Iran. I’m not quite sure I believe any of that, and am a little nervous about the usage of the film!

The craziness continued as a couple minutes later it looked like ‘our’ Iranian delegation was walking into the main floor of the Palais de Nations. We quickly took our place in the delegation, walking with Ahmadinejad right past UN security. Naomi and I were thrust onto the main floor of the hall, for which only diplomats and one representative from each NGO were credentialed! We found a spot in the back, trying to look inconspicuous. We didn’t know what to expect!

When Ahmadinejad took the stage, one person jumped out onto the main floor screaming and waving his hands, wearing a clown hat! Security rushed to him and dragged him out, but another clown jumped out and did the same! The circus of the DRC and Ahmadinejad’s presence was finally demonstrated! After this ruckus, Ahmadinejad began speaking. Unfortunately we were unable to access headphones for the translation of the speech and were still bewildered at our presence on the main floor. A few minutes into his speech, delegates and diplomats on the main floor suddenly rose and walked out, booing the Iranian President. I quickly realized that this must be in protest, and Naomi and I joined the others around us who officially walked out in disgust (see video above).

It turns out that 23 countries from the EU walked out, along with Morocco, Jordan, and ironically enough, the Palestinian delegate (presumably because he objects to Hamas and their ties with Iran as well as Iranian politicization of the Palestinian issue).

Naomi and I quickly joined the European Union of Jewish Students who had organized a rally just outside the plenary hall which had its own share of excitement, advocates such as Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz, and UN attempts to silence the demonstrators. More about this to come!

Overall, I felt disgusted by the events at the UN yesterday. I don’t understand why Ahmadinejad was invited, and furthermore, why he received rousing standing ovations from many delegates who did not walk out. I thought the use of clown costumes and red clown noses by protesters was a perfect symbol of the circus this conference has become. After learning more about the multilateral workings of the UN, I sadly do not believe it is the forum to tackle the serious human rights issues our world faces. UN politics unfortunately further isolate real victims of racism and discrimination, and we need to look to alternative methods to make their voices heard.

Posted in Antisemitism, Israel, Politics, San Francisco, Young Adults | 2 Comments »

BART Murder Victim Oscar Grant Exploited by Bay Area Pro-Palestinian Groups

Posted by Oyster on January 28, 2009

It's the jooooooooooooooooooooos, stupid!

It's the jooooooooooooooooooooos, stupid!

Read this here on Blue Truth. Interestingly enough, I came across this article on, of all places, Arkansas IndyMedia. I wasn’t aware that they had any media in Arkansas, let alone financially-independent-yet-ideologically-dependent media. 😉 j/k!

Oh, and btw, that poster isn’t Antisemitic, ‘cuz it shows an Uzi shooting the child in the head, which EVERYBODY knows is an Israeli automatic weapon. Pay no attention to the Jewish Star of David in the upper left corner! How dare you accuse them of Antisemitism! You must have faked the Holocaust just so that you could accuse them of Antisemitism! Stop trying to silence/suppress/oppress them!

For those of you who either A) don’t live in the Bay Area, or B) live in a hole in the Bay Area, Oscar Grant was the man who was shot in the back while bound early on New Year’s Day in a BART station. It gained national attention by the fact that there were so many witnesses to the shooting, and the fact that many of them were able to snap pictures & video of the event as it unfolded.

Posted in Antisemitism, Bay-Gulls, East Bay, Israel | 6 Comments »

Photo, Video Coverage of the Silicon Valley Israel Solidarity Rally

Posted by Oyster on January 12, 2009

Anti-Hamas "Jew-ffiyyah" wearing Israel-lubber. Courtesy CBDYAG Blog.

Anti-Hamas "Jew-ffiyyah" wearing Israel-lubber. Courtesy CBDYAG Blog.

Hats off to ChallahBackGirl over at the Jews Next Dor [sic] / CBDYAG Blog. She covered the Pro-Israel Rally this past Sunday with a smorgasbord of photos and video. Check it out. If anyone else went there, could you leave a comment and let us know your impression of the event?

Posted in Antisemitism, Events, Israel, South Bay | 6 Comments »

SF Holocaust Memorial Defaced with Antisemitic Graffiti, Again

Posted by Oyster on December 31, 2008

The Nazi Swastika circumscribed by a Star of David. A classic Antisemitic equation of Jews and their tormentors.

The Nazi Swastika circumscribed by a Star of David. A classic Antisemitic equation of Jews and their tormentors.

For the second time in two months, the SF Holocaust Memorial was defaced with Antisemitic graffiti. There is a suspect involved in the case. See the original article for the full details.

A key quote from the SF Chron article:

“The fact that there’s this level of intolerance and hatred in a city that’s supposed to be so tolerant is very alarming,” said Cheryl Feiner, president of the board of directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Bay Area chapter. “We can’t ignore this as just a prank because that would condone this behavior as something to be tolerated.”

Coverage also at SFist and San Francisco Sentinel. There’s also a news report video following the first defacement in November.

Hat tip to NBC and Bay City News.

Posted in Antisemitism, San Francisco | 2 Comments »

Jocelyn’s Eulogy to Mumbai

Posted by Oyster on December 16, 2008


Jocelyn at Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai, India. Photograph by Daniel Pepper.

Jocelyn is a friend of mine who has shared her stories of her travels in India on Oy Bay and on her own blog. She had a very personal, heart-breaking story to tell of her relationship with the Holtzbergs, and of her beloved Mumbai. I reprint here, with permission, her eulogy that she delivered at the SF memorial service and elsewhere.

Several people have asked me to post the speech I gave at the San Francisco JCC and Kehilla High School this week for the Chabad Mumbai Memorial/Solidarity Services. Feel free to share. A slightly different version of this will be published in the Cleveland Jewish News this week as well. Thanks to everyone for all the support and care. I hope we can make something positive come out of this senseless and heart wrenching tragedy.

It’s been a rough several days. This wasn’t the Thanksgiving weekend I had in mind. I was looking forward to taking a break to relax, slow down, eat well, enjoy time with friends, and pause to feel gratitude and appreciation. Turns out, that’s what Gabi and Rivki gave me every time I went to Chabad for Shabbat.

I spent nearly four and a half months living in Mumbai from January-June, 2007, while volunteering with the American Jewish World Service. I worked with NGOs located in South Mumbai, in the area of last week’s attacks. These sites are not abstract to me, they are real, I was there, and they are personal. Especially Chabad.

On my second day in Bombay, I went to Chabad for Shabbat dinner. It was very hard to find. Even after taking a taxi from the train station, it took me nearly an hour to locate the house off of Colaba Causeway, the main tourist strip, also the site of two other attacks. Upon entering, I was welcomed immediately by Rivki Holtzberg. I was instantly struck at how pale her skin was, as if she never was exposed to sunlight, and how cool she looked, as if she was completely oblivious to the raging heat outside the a.c. I wondered how a woman like her would end up in a place like Bombay. Now I understand that only a woman like her, an eishet chayil, could be there.

I tried speaking Hebrew with Rivki until my vocabulary ran out, and then she easily switched to English. I remember so clearly the sound of her typical Israeli lisp, and how she looked at me with such direct focus while we were talking. I recall being surprised that there was a Lubavitch community in her hometown when she said, “Ani m’Afula.” I held her 2 month old baby, Moishe, and watched him grow and develop a unique personality more with each visit.

My next visit to Chabad was two weeks later, and unfortunately coincided with the onset of Bombay Belly, an intense stomach bug. Rivky lovingly nursed me that night. I was too ill to sit at the table so she had me lay down on a couch in front of the bookshelves packed with sifrei kodesh. Even hours later, I was still too sick to get back home, so she made up the couch for me to spend the night. Rivki was the next best thing to my mom that night; I had no idea she was only one year older than me.

Every Shabbos, Rabbi Gabi asked everyone to go around the table and introduce themselves, and then choose from 1 of 4 options: 1. lead a song, 2. give a drosh or dvar torah, 3. pledge to take on a new mitzvah, or 4. tell an inspiring and heartwarming story. He was always smiling face sitting at the Shabbos table. His pure love for the gift of rest from the Divine was visible.

Over the next months at Chabad I heard esoteric Jewish commentary, incredible stories from friends working with the local Jews, Shabbat songs sung with great passion and joy, and an amazing history from a child of Holocaust survivors about how his parents met. It was a place where I never had to explain myself to someone who didn’t understand a simple tiny thing because of a language or culture barrier. It was a place where I could eat familiar foods instead of hot curries all the time. Rivki’s ability to take Indian ingredients and turn them into traditional Shabbos table dishes was impressive. It was a place where I felt natural, at home, safe, and protected by my own community. My regular visits at Chabad, and especially with Rivki, helped me feel grounded in the everyday madness of Mumbai.

The fact that Gabi and Rivki volunteered to serve in Mumbai speaks volumes about them as people. Pushed by a call to engage with the world and spread warmth and love, they placed themselves incredibly far from their comfort zone. Difficult as it is, we must try not to let the fear imposed by the terrorists dim the light that is Gabi and Rivki’s legacy. My life has been so beautifully touched by the Holtzbergs, and I hope I will merit the ability to continue on in their good work of tikkun olam, in my own way. It was my privilege to know the Holtzbergs, and I’m grateful to honor their memory with you tonight, to give you a glimpse of what they would have offered you in their home in my beloved Mumbai.

Here’s a memorial video that Chabad / JLI put together, and it features a narrator reading an excerpt from Jocelyn’s eulogy:

Memorial candle lit at the Chabad of Northern California gathering at the SF JCC.

Memorial candle lit at the Chabad of Northern California gathering at the SF JCC.

Posted in Antisemitism, Baruch Dayan Emet, Communities, San Francisco | 4 Comments »

The Unfolding Story of the Death of Dan Kliman, z”l

Posted by Oyster on December 5, 2008

dan_klimanThe news keeps trickling in about Dan Kliman’s mysterious death. On one one hand, nothing about the circumstances of his death are beyond the plausible. The elevator was broken. He was taking classes in the building. But the mundane generalities of this tragic event end there. He was arguably the Bay Area’s preeminent pro-Israel activist, often going toe-to-toe on the streets of San Francisco with rabid Anti-Israel protesters who had no compunctions with slipping into unabashed Antisemitism. The classes that he was taking at the building where he died was Arabic language. He dated one of the instructors. He was a gay, vegetarian, Orthodox Jew who was a bicycling activist. No one seemed to notice him missing, even though it was Thanksgiving weekend and he was supposed to be on an ORGANIZED trip to Israel. [UPDATE 12/09/2008] A friend of Dan’s wrote to inform me that indeed people noticed him being incommunicado even a few days before his death.

I can only give you my gut feeling on this one, my kind readers, since I have no special insider knowledge. All that I can do is tell you my personal feeling on this one, and that something stinks here. There’s just way too many unknowns and unusual circumstances here. This is no Israel-loving haven, and he had no short list of people who wouldn’t mind him dropping dead. I’m really glad that the SFPD decided that this warrants them opening up a multi-group Task Force to conduct a thorough investigation (see link below). Dan’s senseless death cries out for the truth, and sunlight is the best remedy.

Aside from my meaningless drivel, I can aggregate what is known.

Here are some blog-posts:

  • Zombie, the Bay Area’s ardent Zionist shutter-bug, gives a personal testament to his friend Dan.
  • AtTheBackOfTheHill remembers his friend Dan, and takes their anti-Israel antagonists to task for fostering an environment of hate.
  • SF Voice for Israel has suffered the loss of Dan and another key activist in the recent past. Both are commemorated on their website. Also, they have released a statement regarding Dan’s death, that was posted courtesy of AtTheBackOfTheHill.
  • CFSWarrior recalls a very disturbing event that happened to Dan outside of the Israeli Consulate in SF shortly before his death.
  • heeb’n’vegan recalls this quote from Dan: “People do indeed define down Judaism and often use the ‘buffet method’ for their mitzvot. … On Yom Kippur, my Rabbi talked of how it is nearly impossibly for anyone, even a great tzadik (righteous person), to fulfill all the commandments; therefore, we should think in terms of bettering ourselves rather than achieving perfection.”
  • The Bicycle Blog commemorates Dan’s passing, and has a photo of Dan’s bike still outside the building where he died on the day that his body was discovered.
  • Critical Mass St. Louis mourns the death of their founder.
  • One of Dan’s many e-friends leaves him an e-testament over at Zionism-Israel.com .

Here are some articles:

  • Hands down, the best coverage has been from the SF Weekly, that gives it the local attention that this story deserves, and Joe Eshkenazi, formerly a reporter for the J Weekly, is intimately aware of Kliman’s background in the Jewish community. Here, Joe gets the police on the record saying that they “have evidence” that Kliman walked into the elevator shaft.
  • Then, Inspector Krimsky claims that his “words have been twisted around“, and that they have hard physical evidence putting Kliman inside the elevator car shortly before his death. They say that they will be able to release more information regarding the physical evidence after December 15th. That date seems to coincide with the most likely end-date of his family ending the Shiva.
  • Latest from SFW is that in order to make sure there’s no mistake, a Task Force is being formed to check all possible hate crime and homicide leads surrounding the case.
  • KCBS buys the police’s story
  • KPIX story gives more of an emphasis to Dan’s “pro-Israeli” activism.
  • The J’s late-breaking (with an emphasis on late) article. Also syndicated to the JTA, that was one of the first outlets to break the news. [UPDATE 12/09/2008] Also syndicated at The Cutting Edge.
  • Debbie Schlussel claims that his death was at the hands of Muslim extremists. Then, she gets the smack down from the East Bay Express, that calls her an Ann Coulter wannabe.

I’ll try to post more information as it becomes available.

Posted in Antisemitism, Baruch Dayan Emet, Communities, East Bay, Israel, San Francisco | 4 Comments »