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LBJ had to hide his efforts to save refugee Jews

Posted on 29 August 2018 by admin

Earlier this week, Aug. 27, was the birthday of Lyndon B. Johnson, our 36th president of the United States, who served from Nov. 22, 1963, to Jan. 20, 1969.
Those TJP readers old enough to remember the events of those years probably recall LBJ taking the oath soon after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The prolonged Vietnam War and growing numbers of anti-war protestors, despite the false “success” reports being issued, always seemed to dog the president.
On the more positive side, LBJ’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” programs, bolstered by a strong economy, proved to be generally popular during this time of economic prosperity.
Most striking about LBJ was his markedly aggressive, often intimidating personality, especially when he was trying to persuade legislators to vote his way, whenever he favored or opposed something or someone.
What is much less known about LBJ’s past are his activities as a young Texas congressman, secretly participating in the illegal rescue of European Jews from Eastern Europe in 1938 and in 1940, before America’s entry into World War II.
LBJ’s strong Christian upbringing fostered by his family taught him to support and protect the Jews for their eventual return to the Holy Land.
Soon after taking office in 1937, he broke with his party to support a bill, which failed to pass, that would have allowed illegal aliens, mostly Lithuanian and Polish Jews, to become naturalized citizens.
In another case, LBJ was told of a young Jewish musician from Austria who was awaiting deportation to Austria during the Holocaust’s early days.
LBJ sent him to the U.S. Consulate in Havana to get a residency permit, which allowed Erich Leinsdorf to remain in the United States. He eventually become a world-class symphony conductor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
These actions by this junior congressman ran counter to the State Department’s restrictive immigration policies, but his efforts were not known.
By Dec. 30, 1963, however, enough time had passed and circumstances were such that it was much safer to talk about LBJ’s role in saving refugee Jews.
President Johnson was making good on a promise he had made much earlier to attend and speak to the Austin congregation of newly constructed Agudas Achim Synagogue upon its completion.
LBJ’s good friend and political ally, Jim Novy, originally was Shimeon Novodvorsky, a poor Jewish teenage refugee from Poland, who worked hard, eventually making his fortune in the scrap metal business.
Novy became a philanthropist of many Jewish causes and a strong supporter of LBJ throughout his political career.
At the opening of Agudas Achim, while Johnson sat smiling, Novy described the many ways that the president helped save Jews.
Through the use of bribes, false passports and visas from Mexico and other Latin American countries, Johnson saved hundreds of Jews, entering the United States primarily through Galveston, hiding them in the Texas National Youth Administration, a youth work training program of which LBJ was the Texas director.
According to LBJ’s wife, Lady Bird, at the end of the ceremony, among the people pushing forward to meet the president, people pulled at her sleeve to get her attention, saying that if it weren’t for her husband, they wouldn’t be there. He had saved their lives.
Happy birthday, LBJ. Thank you for the good you did.

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Don’t ignore blessings for fear of what ‘could’ be

Posted on 29 August 2018 by admin

This week in Parashat Ki Tavo, we read an entire section of blessings and curses, though mostly curses.
I will admit that I normally read over the curses as quickly as possible because they aren’t at all pleasant. I don’t know why, but this year, one particular curse resonated with me in a way that it hadn’t before. I have felt for a long time that I have led a privileged life, a life filled with blessing. But this year, it was the curse that caught my attention.
Deuteronomy 28:66-67 reads: “The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival. In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ — because of what your heart shall dread and your eyes shall see.”
The times we are currently living through feel precarious and uncertain. I have been appalled by what my eyes have seen. I have lived in dread of what the future might bring us. There is so much anger and hatred in the world today that it fills me with fear. I cannot honestly say, however, that there is more to fear today than in previous centuries. Europe 75-80 years ago was far, far worse. The Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-49 were devastating. The Crusades were not fun times to live through for anyone. Maybe it’s precisely because I have led a privileged life, a life filled with blessing, that today’s uncertainty feels so dreadful.
Toward the end of her life, my great-aunt, Lillian, also lived in dread. It’s not that she had a bad life or that bad things had happened to her. On the contrary, she lived a very good, very comfortable life. But I think it was the dementia she suffered at the end of her life that gave rise to the dread she felt. When I went to visit her, she didn’t remember me specifically, but she remembered my mother and that my mother had sons, so she welcomed my visits.
The conversation always started with the same cycle of questions filled with fear. The best I could do was try to steer the conversation into one of the other two cycles of questions that were less fear-filled. It was during these visits that I learned an important lesson. I couldn’t do anything for my aunt’s day-to-day life — she was lost to her own world. Nor would she remember my visits or how often I came. But I could brighten the moments that I spent with her and lift her fear in those specific moments.
What we dread is what we fear could come to be, “could” being the critical word. “Could” is the critical word because “could” means that what we fear might not come to be. For sure, we live in uncomfortable and uncertain times. It would truly be a curse, however, to ignore the blessings we enjoy right now in these moments to live only in fear of what might, but might never, be.
Rabbi Benjamin Sternman is the spiritual leader of Adat Chaverim in Plano.

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Conversion only for sake of marriage isn’t accepted

Posted on 29 August 2018 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
In a recent column you wrote a very touching, sensitive and powerful argument to dissuade your questioner from marrying his Catholic girlfriend. A number of us wondered why you did not mention conversion to Judaism as an option?
Suzy & Marc

Dear Suzy and Marc,
Interestingly, quite a few people approached me with the same question, so I guess great minds think alike.
To tell you the truth, the reason I didn’t even mention conversion to that questioner was because from the tone of his question it was quite obvious that he was far from considering returning to Judaism; the whole reason he even reached out was to fulfill a promise to his parents to at least look into why, perhaps, not to marry out of the faith. I will explain briefly the concept of conversion in accordance with traditional Judaism.
There is a common misconception that one can simply convert to Judaism by doing a bit of learning and signing on the dotted line. Conversion isn’t something one “does,” like a course that ends with a degree. It’s about a complete transformation, a “Jewish makeover,” a totally different lifestyle and belief system from the common way of thinking and practicing for the average person.
The Talmud says that we do not accept a convert who is choosing Judaism for the sake of marriage (Tractate Yevamos 24b). This is because one is not considered a valid convert unless the person decides that they want to develop a relationship with Him the Jewish way, because they believe that is the best way for their soul to make that connection, and that the Truth of Judaism really speaks to them. This needs to be independent of the side benefit of attaining a Jewish spouse, a reason that doesn’t justify their acceptance into a conversion process. It needs to be for the sake of Heaven, not for the sake of another gain.
For that reason, the same Talmud tractate says we don’t accept a convert who is doing so for the sake of honor, glory, wealth or similar benefits. The Talmud even says that we don’t accept converts in the days of Messiah, because those converting will be doing so, ipso facto, once the Jews are recognized as the leading nation by all and they want to share in that glory, not doing so to better serve God.
This being said, we often have the spouse or significant other of a Jewish man or woman come before us to convert where we feel it truly is for the right reasons. This is because, commonly, the Jewish half served, often unwittingly, as a catalyst for the Gentile half of the couple to look into Judaism and discover its truth and beauty. Upon getting to know them, we often are struck by the fact that their quest for Judaism is now unrelated to their spouse or significant other, and they presently would pursue their journey into Judaism with, or without, the other. The Jew, for their part, would have continued the relationship even without the Gentile one converting. In such a case we accept them in the program since they have demonstrated their sincerity. This is provided the Jew is also willing to go along with the learning process and grow along with the Gentile partner, because since they are connected, that’s the only way we can assure longevity and staying power to the Gentile’s Jewish decision. (Usually it’s a much bigger challenge for the Jew to agree to go along than for the Gentile, who’s excited about it.)
In the case of the petitioner in the past column, since nothing of the sort was exhibited, conversion wasn’t mentioned as an option; although, if you’re out there and reading this and want to consider this odyssey, feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to discuss it.

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Roth Patrimony: a guide on how to say goodbye

Posted on 29 August 2018 by admin

It’s no secret that I love Philip Roth. He’s my favorite author of all time, because of his deft use of English (the language I love almost as much as my blood relatives) and his total honesty in what he writes in that language. I thought, over these many years of reading and rereading him, that I’d gotten him figured out. Think again, O deluded self.
I’ve just reread Patrimony, Roth’s account of his father’s descent to death. The title itself poses a question. Matrimony and patrimony are both derived from Latin: the first from the word mater — mother; the second from the word pater — father. But in our translations, look at the difference: Matrimony equals marriage; patrimony equals what’s passed from father to son. What a difference.
I’ve also always thought this was the most personal of all Roth’s many books, and I still think I’m right. But my rereading has helped me realize that all the others are just as personal, the difference being that he has fictionalized them. However, not this, which is 100 percent first-person feeling, right out in the open with the all raw emotions it exudes.
Follow with me, if you are a Roth lover — or even if not: In Goodbye Columbus, his first book, he is the boy having his earliest sexual experiences, making mistakes and suffering from them. In Nemesis, that terrifying tale of polio in the 1950s, he is the young man for whom devotion to duty causes great mental and physical suffering. In American Pastoral, he is the “golden one,” that fair-haired “god-on-earth” to whom all is given — but ultimately has all taken away.
These may not be actual experiences, but they are certainly drawn from Roth’s personal history, played out in his own exemplary fiction. Taken together, and if read as I propose, the total of Roth’s voluminous output equals his own life in its entirety.
I can’t be the only one who thinks this. However, I’ve never seen or heard it articulated just this way before.
Patrimony is a wonder, a deeply personal and no-holds-barred look at a son’s struggle as his father’s life ends — perhaps even more than the father struggles to deal with his own inevitable, forthcoming death. The father’s troubles are basically physical, although physicality calls into play much else; the son’s troubles are basically rooted in memory: How could I have forgotten X? Why didn’t I handle Y differently? Have I ever made clear to my father how highly I really regard him? And if I haven’t — why not? These are questions all of us ask at the bedside of a terminal parent, but not all of us can answer them. Roth struggles to do so, and he succeeds. He is able to identify the patrimony — what passes from his father to him. And it is not always pleasant, not always what he might want, but he recognizes it for what it is.
Many of us have experienced this painful role-reversal, unimaginable in our lives until it happens: We may become the parent to a parent of our own. It is not a welcome or easy stage of existence to deal with, but we have no choice. Roth takes up the challenge and tells us all about it, in all its pain, with all the soul-searching, the self-accusations, the love that is in every thought and every word — even though the latter might not sound exactly that way. This book is a manual for how to say goodbye when that is all there is left to say. And it is the ultimate, very human, picture of esteemed author Philip Roth.
My own parents are long gone. Now, I’m passing my new appreciation to my children, asking them to send it along to my grandchildren — and beyond. If you have current struggles, or have ever struggled with these issues, I recommend this book: Philip Roth’s remarkably honest best. Because someday, you’ll need it.

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This month of preparation is no ordinary month

Posted on 23 August 2018 by admin

When looking at the current period within the Jewish calendar, a common misperception is that next month is a big deal — “the High Holy Days” — but now we’re still in ordinary times. But as with any major event in life, the preparation period possesses its own distinct flavor, a mix of anxious anticipation and excitement that prods focused effort, a collection of necessary steps to embrace the moment, so you don’t find yourself in an awkward position, standing on the big stage in stunned hypnotic stillness as the bright lights suddenly come on.
In some ways, the preparation period is even more precious and valuable than the main event. What we do in the absence of an externally imposed urgency, when things appear routine, can be the most telling mark of character. It also sets the tone for our performance when it really counts.
Elul — this month of preparation — has a unique character and appeal: There are two general modes of ongoing interaction between us and God, between the soul and its source. The first is likened to an ethereal waterfall — heavenly streams and messages that fall to us and manifest in feelings of inspiration, prompting our action. The other mode begins with human initiative — grinding, digging, climbing the spiritual ladder — before detecting a response.
Within the yearly cycle, this is the time when we activate our strength to connect. Drifting through Jewish communities across the world, is a fresh breeze of heartfelt prayer and teshuva — a struggle to return to personal peak form. Nevertheless, as we strive to progress during the month leading up to the Days of Awe, we receive a hidden push like a supernatural tailwind that elevates our effort through divine compassion, a unique form of “the 13 attributes of mercy.”
The Code of Jewish Law refers to the onset of Elul as an eit ratzon, a time of goodwill. Simply put, some periods are riper than others to achieve desired results. In a marriage, for example, receiving a check-in call from one’s spouse at the office is not the same quality of bonding as entering the home, sitting comfortably together and talking face-to-face with tenderness. So too, there are more intimate stages within our abstract spiritual connection, windows when God comes closer and is more approachable, so to speak, which provides tremendous opportunities.
This favorable period is not random; it has a history. On the first day of Elul, Moses ascended to Mount Sinai a third time, staying there 40 days, until Yom Kippur, which marked the completion of forgiveness. He then descended, holding the second tablets of the covenant. Ever since, Elul has been distinguished as days of goodwill, with the 10th day of Tishrei stamped as “the day of atonement.”
Four classic verses hint at how to tap into the power of Elul. In the first, noted by Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Arizal), the letters spelling the name Elul are the same initial letters of the words “(God) caused it to happen, and I will provide (a place) for you (to which he can flee)” (Exodus 21:13). The literal context of this verse involves establishing “a city of refuge,” a protected area where someone who has accidently killed runs to be healed. The broader hint is that Elul is a refuge in time, the opportunity for personal rehabilitation, and the rectification of any slips over the past year, even inadvertent blunders.
Since Elul is the preparation for Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of creation, the prime service during this month entails the three pillars that uphold the world — Torah, prayer and deeds of loving kindness (Pirkei Avot 1:2). These are also the channels to refine our thoughts, speech and action.
While the general function of Elul as a spiritual refuge in time, a more specific reference is to Torah study — purifying the mind. As the Talmud says, “The words of Torah offer refuge.”
Perhaps the most famous phrase associated with Elul is, “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me,” which refers to tefillah (prayer), the daily purpose of which is to join man and God. Finally, Elul is the same initial letters of the phrase “each person (shall give) to his fellow, and gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:22) — an obvious reference to tzedakah (charitable acts). During Elul, the commentaries conclude, a person should be quick to pursue these pillars and increase them with more intensity.
The core, the internal ignition for us to travel smoothly down these three pathways toward the metaphysical “city of refuge” is teshuva (return). This inner shift is alluded to in another verse whose opening letters spell Elul: “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:6).
Such a cryptic phrase — possessing a natural association with the fleshly process — begs explanation, and there are many. In the view of the Ramban (Nachmanides), the passage forecasts the ultimate transformation, a return to the pristine environment of Gan Eden, where man lived in perfect harmony.
Tradition relates that the primordial sin sent the world out of order. After being exiled from the garden and its beauty, man yearned for the light in which he once lived. Then, in the blackness of night, he fumbled around and found two stones. Rubbing them against each other, he saw a spark fly out — which provided hope that he would eventually return to the brightness in Gan Eden. Though a physical flame is but a poor flicker compared to the heavenly brilliance, it is reminiscent of the great light.
Jewish mystic teachings explain that our task in this world is to put things back in order, beginning with fixing “the miniature world,” ourselves. Sometimes a person feels dried up inside, like a dark dead planet. The soul has forgotten its song. What face, sound or sentence will revive its memory is yet unknown.
But there is fresh hope. Elul is the auspicious time to remove all internal obstacles to growth and joy. Only, unlike the above verse, where “the Lord your God will circumcise your heart,” we begin to make the change ourselves. At the same time, we have extra assistance from this “month of mercy” to return to God and uncover our ideal self.
As the shofar is customarily sounded each morning (as practice), we are reminded that what we do right now, during these days, is most valuable. For soon, we will be tiny figures placed on the grand stage, singing in the synagogue with pleading prayers that pull blessings and renewed life into the entire year. Let’s not miss this opportunity to plant internal seeds — developing the consciousness, an alert mind and healthy emotions — that will easily blossom into a sweet, healthy new year.
Rabbi Dan Lewin is director of the nonprofit Maayan Chai Foundation. For information, visit www.maayanchai.org.

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Read Rosh Hashanah prayers at your own pace

Posted on 23 August 2018 by admin

Dear Rabbi,
I know we don’t confess to rabbis — but I have a confession. Even if I can read some of the prayers on Rosh Hashanah, I still don’t understand what I’m saying…to tell you the truth I’d rather take a quiet, reflective walk in the park this year on Rosh Hashanah than spend all those hours in synagogue saying a bunch of words that don’t mean a whole lot to me anyway. (I’m not a member anywhere anyway.) Do you have any suggestions?
Marc
Dear Marc,
I’m quite confident that your words echo the sentiments of many. The prayers are meant to be a powerful, relevant and meaningful experience. Sadly, our distance from the original Hebrew, coupled with a lengthy synagogue service, can be intimidating (to say the least) and often a tremendous letdown for individuals seeking a spiritual experience. As a matter of fact, according to many studies, some 80 percent of Jews don’t even enter a synagogue or temple over the course of the High Holidays.
I will offer a few words of advice that can perhaps alleviate your challenges and help get more from the service and the High Holidays.
Firstly, five minutes of prayer said with understanding, feeling and emotion means far more than hours of lip-service. Don’t look at the prayer book as an all-or-nothing proposition. Try looking at each page or each prayer as a self-contained opportunity for reflection and inspiration. If a particular prayer doesn’t speak to you, move on to the next one. Don’t expect to be moved by each and every prayer.
Read the prayers at your own pace, thinking about what you are saying, without being so concerned where the congregation is reading. You don’t need to always be “on the same page” with everyone else. If a particular sentence or paragraph touches you, linger there for a while, chew it over and digest it well, allowing the words to caress you and enter your soul. Apply that prayer to your own life and use it as a connection to God. If you’re really brave, close your eyes and meditate over those words for a while.
Don’t let your lack of proficiency in Hebrew get you down. God understands English. Like a loving parent, He can discern what is in your heart in the language you express yourself.
By sitting in the synagogue (as opposed to the park), you join millions of Jews in synagogues around the world. You are a Jew, and by joining hands with fellow Jews you are making a powerful statement about your commitment to Judaism and your place in Klal Yisrael, the Jewish people.
The theme of Rosh Hashana is our coronation of God as King. The Midrash teaches us that “There’s no king without a nation.” If someone rules over many disconnected individuals, he’s not a king. A kingdom exists when all the subjects bind together as one, with one beating heart, to accept the glorious rule of the king.
This applies to us as well. Only when we join together, as a congregation of Jews to coronate the King on Rosh Hashanah, do we create a Kingdom of God. When you join the congregation by attending synagogue, listening to the call of the shofar and praying with your fellow Jews, you become a subject of the King and a partner in the establishment of His Kingdom. This is true regardless of what pace you pray or what particular prayer you might be saying at any given time, or if you spend some time uttering your own prayer straight from your heart. The main thing is: you’re with your fellow subjects and you’re on the team.
And trust me, the team won’t be the same without you.
With blessings for a joyous and meaningful Rosh Hashanah which will be the foundation of much continued growth throughout the coming year.

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Get into a growth mindset during Elul

Posted on 23 August 2018 by admin

While you’ve certainly heard of the iPhone, few know of the revolutionary process that went into recruiting the talented team that would eventually create this incredibly popular device.
The story starts with the groundbreaking research of Carol S. Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University. Dweck studied the science of how our self-conceptions influence our actions. Her work with children revealed two mindsets in action: a “growth” mindset that generally thinks big and seeks growth, and a “fixed” mindset that places artificial limits and avoids failure. Growth-minded students were found to employ better learning strategies, experience less helplessness, exhibit more positive effort and achieve more in the classroom than their fixed-minded peers. They are similarly less likely to place limits on their lives and more likely to reach for their potential.
Onto the scene arrives Scott Forstall, a senior vice president at Apple, who read Dweck’s book on mindsets and was so inspired by her findings that he decided to identify and recruit a team comprising solely growth-minded individuals for his brand-new, top-secret project. To separate the growth-minded employees at his company from their fixed-minded peers, Forstall delivered a curious pitch to superstars across the company and watched carefully for their responses.
Forstall warned that this top-secret project would provide ample opportunities to “make mistakes and struggle, but eventually we may do something that we will remember the rest of our lives.” Those who immediately jumped at the challenge were accepted as part of the team, while those who did not were left off. Forstall surmised that he had found his group of growth-minded individuals who, far from growing dismayed or discouraged by the tremendous challenges that lay ahead of them, would remain inspired, curious and committed through it all. And it was this team of growth-minded individuals that just so happened to go on to create the iPhone the world has grown to love. (From The One Thing — The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller)
As is evident, the effects that our mindsets have on what we go on to accomplish in life is truly remarkable and, at the same time, incredibly frightening. The good news, as Dweck pointed out, is that mindsets can and do change. And like any other habit, you can set your mind to it until the right mindset becomes routine.
While a Jew should always be growth-minded, it is during the month of Elul, the Hebrew month before the High Holidays, that we are reminded to switch gears if we have reverted to a life model of fixed-mindedness. Beginning in the month of Elul, the resonating sounds of the shofar echo in synagogues throughout the world before our morning prayers, reminding us to wake up from our spiritual slumber and meet the challenges of the moment.
Elul invites us to reconsider the possibilities of our lives — how we might proceed forward toward a life of meaning, commitment and purpose, and how we might return from the wayward paths we have claimed as our own.
Yes, growth in all of its forms invites challenge and therefore the possibility of failure as well. But with a growth-mindset by our side, the high expectations that come with the new year can be met with an equal amount of excitement and determination to make this year the best ever.
Rabbi Yogi Robkin is the outreach director of DATA of Plano. He can be reached at yrobkin@dataofplano.org.

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The Summer of Kindness lives on by practicing

Posted on 23 August 2018 by admin

Dear Families,
Camp at the Aaron Family JCC is over for summer 2018, and as with all Jewish camps each summer, this was a summer for Jewish friends and Jewish memories.
At the J, not all of our campers and staff are Jewish but, as we say, “J camps are Jewish camps for children, not camps for Jewish children.” We create a Jewish experience that welcomes all, and together we live our Jewish journey whatever that may be. In speaking with one of my camp families, I was told that during the year, they are Catholic, but they love being Jewish for the summer.
This summer, our theme was “Summer of Kindness.” Kindness, or chesed in Hebrew, is a key Jewish value that is universal and can be understood and practiced by all. The word “practice” is important as we are always striving to find ways to be kind each day. Keep practicing, and it will become habit. Hillel taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. The rest is commentary. Now go and study” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a). Hillel actually was giving us the minimum standard — simply do not do what is hateful. The next step must be to go further and do kind acts to all you encounter.
We practiced and learned in many ways this summer that you can be challenged to do as well. First, we created a “Kindness Bingo Bandana” for staff to carry and do with their campers. We do have some available if anyone is interested — contact me at lseymour@jccdallas.org. Another activity was looking for kind quotes to live by. My favorite is, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
We put up posters, decorated T-shirts, wrote messages to soldiers, said thank you to our police officers and our maintenance workers and smiled at everyone. We practiced empathy through games and situations and, most important, we reminded ourselves to be grateful every day. The J also sponsored three organizations with donations from making blankets to donating shoes to food donations. Our kids learned by doing, and our hope is that they continue giving and doing kind acts throughout their lives.
The theme of chesed includes so many other Jewish values — respect/kavod, mercy/rachamim, acts of loving-kindness/gemilut chasadim, gratitude/hoda’ah and, of course, the giving of tzedakah, which is not charity or giving from the heart; rather, it is giving because it is the right thing to do to help others in need. Kindness is a basic value that gives our lives meaning.
What can you do today?
Laura Seymour is director of camping services for the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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A small town with a big pop-top memorial

Posted on 23 August 2018 by admin

I recently wrote about the unusual Holocaust memorial in Pittsburgh — 6 million pop-tops now encased in a massive, walk-through, Star-of David-shaped construction of glass blocks. I’m proud of my home city for this, because pop-tops were first used on the beer cans of its local Iron City brewery, a logical and unique medium of remembrance. Or so I thought. But I’ve learned: not so unique, after all.
Take a mental trip with me to Mahomet, Illinois, a very small town out on the prairie. Only 10 miles from Champaign, site of the University of Illinois, but another world. Now, thanks to a couple of Dallas readers, I’ve learned that this little town also chose pop-tops, and for the same purpose, more than 20 years ago.
It was back in 1997 that Kevin Daugherty, social studies teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High, popped the top off a Coke can and realized its classroom value. He’d been mulling over how to get his students to understand the magnitude of the Holocaust. “It’s not that a pop-top can represent a human being,” he said. “But, collected together, they could give some idea of the numbers who perished.”
Word of the project got out fast, and the school’s 650 students began receiving them from across the country. People who didn’t drink canned beverages sent pop-tops from cans of tuna and pet foods. Mahomet’s population then was less than 4,000 (it has more than doubled in the years since) and was anything but diverse. Daugherty realized that this collection could have a further use: “We have to work at teaching tolerance for others,” he said, “because we have so few ‘others’ here.”
So, after the initial goal of 6 million tops was reached, the collecting went on — to represent, in addition to Jews, the homosexuals, handicapped, disabled and political prisoners all put to death by the Nazis.
Child survivor Edith Mozes Kor, now 84 — who with her sister Miriam had been part of Mengele’s grotesque experiments on twins at Auschwitz — came twice to Mahomet from her Indiana home to speak about the Holocaust. Her first visit was what sparked the collection. At the second, there was a special ceremony: All the pop-tops had been counted as received and stored in bags of 20,000 each — the number of people killed per day as Nazi extermination reached its height.
Daugherty’s students brought those bags to the gym of Mahomet Senior High and dumped their contents into one huge pile in the center. The tops were then sold to a recycler, and the thousands of dollars received were given to Kor for her organization, CANDLES: Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. I learned her story while learning about Mahomet.
Edith Kor’s family was deported from their longtime home in Romania to Auschwitz in 1944, when she and her twin sister were 10 years old. She lost her parents and two other siblings there and, as she told the Mahomet students, this is where she also lost a normal childhood. Almost all of Auschwitz’ 180 child survivors were twins who had lived through the quasi-medical ordeals inflicted on an original 1,500 sets of young Jews.
Kor was first placed in a Polish orphanage, then returned to Romania with an old family friend. In 1950, she traveled to Israel, where she served in the army, and there met and married Michael Kor, a U.S. citizen, and went home with him to Indiana, becoming a citizen herself in 1965. From Kor and CANDLES came the Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute.
Now, I beg you: Do not say, “Enough already about the Holocaust.” There is never enough. We Jews are among those “others” who must get our “others” — the American majority — to know us and our history, in thoroughly non-Jewish places like Mahomet, Illinois, where we do not live ourselves. Only then can good things happen. Only good things can happen then.

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A trip on the Rhine hides the dark past of Germany

Posted on 16 August 2018 by admin

It was all that the travel brochure promised and more. Lounging, gazing and photo- graphing as our sleek river ship cruised past ancient castles, luxurious estates, quaint villages and lush green vineyards of Germany.

Watching the vessel maneuver through the many Rhine River lochs we traveled through was another form of entertainment for some folks. Each day, local tour guides, holding up their numbered signs, led us with our hearing aids through parts of their city, describing its ancient history, historic buildings and churches.

After a couple of days of touring, I realized that the guides rarely mentioned World War II, Hitler, their Jews or the Holocaust.

In each city we visited, the tour guide said little if anything about their Jewish population, other than the fact that most of the Jews came from the Soviet Union after its collapse.

I can understand their reluctance to discuss Hitler, the Holocaust or the war, but not mentioning it in any manner is a denial that it occurred.

The next day, we were to stop to visit Cochem and its 1,000-year-old imperial castle, 15th-century church and monastery.

I asked the guide for the location of the Jewish cemetery and was told that it was in the forest below the castle, “not well marked and difficult to find.”

He offered to show me plaques about Cochem’s Jews on a wall we would be walking by on the way back to our ship.

The plaques reveal the following: Cochem’s first Jews appeared in 1242. In 1287, 17 Jews, including 10 children, were killed in Cochem.

Additional massacres occurred in 1337 and 1349. Jews living in Cochem were expelled in 1418 and again in 1589.

Jews numbered 49 in 1834, 104 in 1894 and 49 in 1932.The synagogue, built in 1861, was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938.

The Jewish residents of Cochem murdered in the Holocaust were from the Dahl, Goetzoff, Haimann, Hein, Hirsch, Mayer and Simon families.

Given the horrible treatment of Jews throughout Cochem’s history culminating in the Holocaust, the placement of two metal plates high on a street wall, where they can hardly be noticed, fails to properly honor their memory.

Shame on the people of Cochem and other German cities failing to honor the memory of their Jewish neighbors.

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