Israeli Professor, a Shoah survivor, among dead at Virginia Tech
Among the things said to have inspired Liviu Librescu to leave his home in
Israel and resettle in southwest Virginia was the area's pastoral
A professor of engineering at Tel Aviv University, Librescu came to Virginia
Polytechnic Institute in 1985 for a one-year sabbatical, but stayed more than
"It was the right place for him," Librescu's son Arie told JTA from his home in
Israel. "It was the right school in terms of what he was working on. He liked
the quiet and the peace of that area."
That peace was broken April 16 when a gunman, a 23-year-old senior from
South Korea, stormed Norris Hall, where Librescu was teaching. Librescu was
killed, along with 32 others, in the worst shooting rampage in American
Born in Romania, Librescu survived the Holocaust and the brutal regime of
Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, arriving in Israel in 1978. He died on
the day that his adopted country, and Jews worldwide, marked Yom Hashoah,
the international day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust.
Students in Librescu's class say he barricaded the classroom door as the
gunman advanced, providing time for students to escape through the
windows. Asael Arad, an Israeli freshman at the Blacksburg campus, said he
had heard from Librescu's wife that the professor died trying to prevent the
gunman from entering his classroom.
"He blocked the door with his body so the killer wouldn't be able to get into
the class," Arad said. "He got shot through the door."
A professor in the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department, Librescu
was educated at the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest and the Institute of
Fluid Mechanics, where he received his doctorate in 1969. He specialized in
research of high-strength, lightweight materials used in airplanes and
A source at the Israeli Embassy in Washington confirmed that Librescu had
been prevented from emigrating by Romania's Communist government. An
appeal from Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Romania's president
paved the way for Librescu and his wife, Marlena, to move to Israel.
As of Tuesday, Librescu was believed to be the only Jew killed in the
massacre. One Jewish student broke his ankle leaping from a second-story
window and was recovering in the hospital Monday evening.
Virginia Tech has a relatively small Jewish population -- 1,400 out of a total
student body of 29,000, according to Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish
Campus Life -- though it's said to be growing.
Campus Hillel director Sue Kurtz held a meeting with Jewish students Monday
night and was planning a second for Tuesday. Kurtz was scheduled to deliver
a reading at a university-wide convocation Tuesday afternoon.
"The only possible response to a horror of this scale," Hillel President Wayne
Firestone said, "is to remember the victims of this tragedy with love, to use
their lives as an example for our own, and to continue to pursue a better
world in their memory."
Librescu is survived by his wife, sons Joe and Aryeh and one grandchild. The
family is planning a burial in Israel later this week.
"He thought and he acted as he thought was right," Arie Librescu said.
"Science and lecturing -- that was really his life. And he protected it with his
Hadassah head tapped as conference leader
June Walker, national president of Hadassah, was tapped to chair the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The
conference's Nominating Committee named Walker to succeed Harold Tanner,
beginning June 1. Tanner said he was "delighted" with the committee's
choice. Walker "has been a longtime leader and is highly conversant in the
issues facing the Conference of Presidents. She has been an outstanding
leader with one of the largest and most important organizations. She is well
known in the U.S., Israel and Jewish communities abroad," Tanner said in a
statement released by the group Monday. The nomination will be voted on by
the conference's 50 member organizations.
Ariel Sharon said to be sentient
Ariel Sharon's condition has improved and he is responsive, a relative was
quoted as saying.
Israel's Channel 10 television on April 13 quoted the former prime minister's
son, Omri, as saying that his bedridden father watches television and can
answer questions such as "Does it hurt?" by moving his eyes and clenching
his hand. Doctors who have been caring for Sharon, 78, since he was felled by
a stroke last year declined comment. Sharon is in a long-term coma ward and
is not expected to make a full recovery.
Candidate: 'Making money part of Jewish tradition'
Making money is part of the Jewish tradition, a U.S. presidential candidate
said in a speech to the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. "I'm in the
private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money," Republican
hopeful and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson said Monday. "You
know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition."
After being made aware that his remarks were problematic, Thompson
returned to the podium and told the several-hundred activists assembled, "I
just want to clarify something because I didn't in any means want to infer or
imply anything about Jews and finances and things.
"What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the
Jewish religion and the Jewish people. You have been outstanding business
people and I compliment you for that and if anybody took what I said wrong, I
apologize. I may have mischaracterized it. You are very successful. I applaud
you for that."
During the speech, Thompson also called himself the governor of the first
state to buy "Jewish bonds" -- presumably meaning Israel Bonds -- and said
his friend who persuaded him to buy the bonds was also a big supporter of
the "Jewish Defense League" -- probably meaning the Anti-Defamation
League, not the militant group. "We are pleased that Governor Thompson made time in his schedule -- like
many other policy makers -- to address the 2007 Consultation of
Conscience," RAC Associate Director Mark Pelavin said in a statement
Musician backs off Nazi praise
A British rock singer apologized for praising the aesthetics of Nazi Germany.
Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music issued an apology this week after Jewish groups
voiced outrage at an interview he gave to a German newspaper in which he
marveled at the "really beautiful" iconography and staging of Nazi events. "I,
like every right-minded individual, find the Nazi regime, and all it stood for,
evil and abhorrent," Ferry, 61, said in the statement.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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