Jewish Journal

Heroes, peace, fact and fiction

Posted on Jul. 5, 2007 at 8:00 pm

'Righteous Heroes'

Tom Tugend's article, "Righteous Heroes" (June 29), was excellent.

It resonated with my own experiences as a fugitive from a Nazi labor camp, hiding under a Catholic identity first in Warsaw and later in Vienna. I survived because several decent gentiles, often at great risk to their lives, helped me. Typically, their motivation was -- like the farmer in Tugend's article said: "Somebody needed help. So I helped."

A Polish supervisor smuggled into the camp a camera to take my "passport" picture for a false ID card; a German boss told me to escape because "tomorrow will be too late ..."; a local Volksdeutsche family hid me for several days after I had escaped, while the camp was being liquidated.

Many others, at different times and in various forms, contributed to my survival. They were all heroes, yet none of them made the Yad Vashem's Righteous Gentiles list. Why?

The Yad Vashem's list of about 20,000 righteous under-reflects -- by a factor as high as 10, perhaps -- the number of those who helped save Jewish lives. The reasons for this low number vary.

Some rescuers did not survive the war; a few declined to be on that list; some who were rescued died before they could name their rescuers (several thousand Jews already rescued, perished in Warsaw uprising); in some cases, the rescuers names were not known, their names changed or their whereabouts could not be found.

Often, Jews who received false documents or a temporary shelter did not think that such help -- though critical -- was sufficient to qualify for the Yad Vashem list.

Zenon Neumark
"Hiding in the Open" (Vallentine Mitchell)

Re-Engaging Fatah

Gidi Grinstein argues that "we can now re-engage Fatah in the West Bank. The new Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is the most moderate for which one could ask." ("A Pyrrhic Victory for Hamas?" June 22). Really?

[Mahmoud] Abbas and the Fatah movement he co-founded with Yasser Arafat do not actually recognize Israel and thus do not support the idea of a Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel. On the contrary, Fatah's constitution calls to this day for the destruction of Israel (Article 12) and the use of terrorism against Israelis as an integral element in the campaign to achieve that goal (Article 19).

In case anyone had doubts, Abbas confirmed in an Al Arabiya' (Dubai) television interview (Oct. 3, 2006) that, in his view, "It is not required of Hamas or of Fatah to recognize Israel."

Earlier this year, Abbas declared at a mass rally that "our rifles, all our rifles are aimed at the occupation." He has stated of Palestinian suicide bombers that "Allah loves the martyr" and described Palestinian terrorists wanted by Israel as "heroes fighting for freedom."

In the past year, he supported the so-called prisoners plan, which called for more terrorism and abrogates Palestinian obligations under past agreements, and then signed with Hamas the Mecca agreement to form a unity, which likewise called for more terrorism.

Those who call Fatah "moderate" are making the same mistake they made when they called the post-Oslo Arafat a "moderate."

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America

Seeds of Peace

In Rabbi David Wolpe's review of "Peace Be Upon You," we see again the Judaism and Christianity have dark and bloody pasts and the Jews, Christians and Muslims all lived together peacefully in the beneficent realm of Islam tropes uttered by too many since Sept. 11 ("Seeds of Peace Revealed in Early Coexistence," June 29).

For that matter, there was black-white coexistence in the Old South, both before and after the Civil War. Lynchings didn't happen every day, preachers (imams) didn't call for action (jihad) against the darkies (infidels) every week, nor were the Jim Crow laws (sharia) a bar to the nonwhites (non-Muslims) carrying on day-to-day life.

Similarly, there were "seeds of peace" in the everyday relations of Jews and Christians in Poland before the Holocaust or in Russia before the Bolshevik seizure of power. Yes, we have much to learn today from these early models of peaceful coexistence.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Fed Up

The failure of The Federation ("Does New JCC at Milken Mean More Trouble for Others?" June 29), That is what I see with the crucial problem of the Milken JCC debacle.

The Federation, which I served twice within a professional role, is really not a federation but a fundraising arm of Israel and other international organizations. In other communities all over the United States and Canada, the federation is the focus of the whole Jewish community. That is true in every city but Los Angeles. There is no Community Relations Committee, although at one time, the Community Relations Committee was the focus of all relationships with other religious and ethnic groups.

[Jewish] Family Service raises its own money and does its own planning. The Hebrew Free Loan does the same, as does the Jewish Home for the Aging and the Jewish Vocational Service. Cedars-Sinai does not need The Federation. Only the Bureau of Jewish Education is under the aegis of The Federation.

In every community around the country, they are building centers to serve the community and to unite the whole community. Not here.

There is no voice for the Jewish community as it is in every major Jewish community in the U.S. and Canada.

The center problem is symptomatic of the poverty of ideas at 6505 [Wilshire Blvd].

Al Mellman
Los Angeles

Explosion of Art

I read David Suissa's commentary, "Not Your Grandfather's Shtibl" (June 29), with great interest, as the Shtibl Minyan is our longtime and well-liked tenant at The Workmen's Circle.

But I practically jolted out of my seat when I read that our community room is "nondescript."

I'm not sure when he visited us. Maybe it happened to be between exhibitions in A Shenere Velt Gallery ("a more beautiful world" in Yiddish) and our walls were blank. But almost any time he'd come to our space he would find an explosion of wonderful art on the walls, either Jewish-inspired or socially conscious, often in thought-provoking and courageous ways.

The Gallery hosts anywhere from six to nine shows a year, and this Jewish gallery right in the Pico-Robertson hood is one of the great underappreciated assets of the greater Los Angeles Jewish community.

Currently on view until Aug. 17 is "Goats, Pomegranates and sAnAnAs," a boisterous, loving tribute to two biblical and still powerful metaphors in Jewish lore and life by a supremely accomplished Israeli artist currently in residence at the Shalhevet School.

Eric A. Gordon
The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring
Los Angeles

Fact or Fiction

I just completed reading Orit Arfa's engaging article, "Combining Fact and Fiction Muddies Peace Event" (June 15).

It seems to me that the Israeli woman/actress convinced Orit that she (the Israeli woman/actress) was actually a Palestinian woman named Jamilla. That she, Jamilla, had lost her son due to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers not allowing her to enter Israel, gave birth in a car, yet her son died on the way to the hospital.

It would seem that the final three words of Orit's article should have read, "and good acting," instead of calling Jamilla's convincing sketch "bad acting," when Orit herself was fooled by it.

Inappropriate or even slanderous (to the IDF) would be quite appropriate also.

However, to imply that someone's acting, which Orit believed to be sincere, which motivated Orit to offer this woman a tearful apology, is disconcerting, even infuriating, but it most certainly is not bad acting. I trust now that Orit has had some time to reflect on the situation, and on those words she would now agree.

Richard S. Levik
Mar Vista

Boycott of Israel

First it was the journalist, then it was the academics and now it is Britain's labor unions that are clamoring for a cultural and economic boycott of Israel. This contrived assault is obviously being feed by a dark undercurrent of animosity toward the Jewish state and by extension to Jews in general.

According to the Brits, every act of self-defense by the Israelis is viewed as a provocation. Conversely, every provocation by the Palestinians is viewed as an act of self-defense.

To justify this twisted logic, the British have prepared a set of charges, charges that read more like an indictment than an honest inquiry. Just to enumerate a few: construction of the security fence, incursions into Gaza and refusing to negotiate with the Hamas government are a few examples of the counterfeit charges that they have leveled against Israel.

As caustic as these charges may be, there is a far more sinister inference lurking along the edges of these charges. They, the British, have tried and found Israel wanting.

In there view, Israel is a rogue state whose very raison d'etre they are now questioning. So once again, that European sickness is upon us. Only this time it is coming at us in the guise of anti-Zionism.

These developments, particularly as they relate to recent developments in Gaza, are quite instructive. To presume that concessions, even painful concessions, will somehow endear Israel to this uncaring world is to confuse our expectations with the realities of this errant world.

Mitchell Finkel
North Bethesda, MD

In "Her Bag of Tricks Helps Patients Conquer Chemo" (June 29), information relating to the availability of the Hurdle Jumpers bags through oncology offices and cancer treatment centers was accidentally removed. We regret the error.

In "Palestinian Conference Moved From College" (June 1), the acronym ISM was rendered as the Israel Solidarity Movement. ISM is the International Solidarity Movement.

In the letter, "Fears Realized," by Sonya Fox Sultan (June 29), quotations were supposed to surround the word "Palestine" when comparing it to Vietnam in the third paragraph.

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