Grapevine: The Wrong Date?

The Likud is holding its Likudyada in Eilat today. As yet, it is not known whether or not the prime minister, who is also the foreign minister, will participate.

January 26, 2017 20:19
MILI AVITAL with her husband, Charles Randolph (left), and Prof. Adi Stern, president of the Bezalel

Ilan Kaufthal- chairman of friends of Bezalel, Mili Avital, Adi Stern-president of the Bezalel Academy of art and design.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Whoever arranges the prime minister’s calendar must have overlooked the fact that January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as declared by the United Nations.

Admittedly, it’s not the Jewish calendar date on which the murder of a third of the world’s Jewish population is remembered, but Israel is a member of the United Nations, and in countries around the world where International Holocaust Remembrance Day is being respected, they will look askance at Israel if the ruling political party is having a celebration.

The Likud is holding its Likudyada in Eilat today. As yet, it is not known whether or not the prime minister, who is also the foreign minister, will participate. Former MK and diplomat Colette Avital, who heads the roof body of Holocaust survivor organizations and is a survivor herself, said in an interview on Israel Radio that of all countries, Israel is expected to show more sensitivity toward the feelings of Holocaust survivors. Coalition chairman David Bitan told Israel Radio that it was not certain whether Netanyahu would attend.

Whether he does or not, there are bound to be photographs in some media outlets of Likudniks living it up in Eilat, a factor that could detract from Israel’s image in the world despite the fact that in a world that is gradually turning its back on refugees, Israel has decided to grant resident status to 100 Syrian orphans aged 12-14. The orphans will be placed in youth villages, and when they are 18 they will have the choice of leaving or receiving permanent resident status. Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuly, who proposed that such a step be taken, commended Interior Minister Arye Deri for signing the order to make it possible. The order also provides for close relatives who want to join the orphans in Israel.

AMONG THE tragedies of the Second World War, in which losses were in numbers beyond what the mind can grasp, there was also the separation of families without any form of closure. Individual members of families separated from each other in different ways, whether through capture and incarceration by the Nazis, fighting with the partisans or in Allied armies, hiding in forests or the homes of non-Jews, were so far-flung in their separation that they did not always meet up again after the war, and in many cases believed that they were the sole survivors.

Yet for all this, more than 70 years later, families are still being reunited. That’s what happened to Yaffa Kaplowitz of northern Israel and her first cousin, Zahava Roth. Last year, Kaplowitz was watching the broadcast of Israel’s central Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem.

Roth was one of the memorial beacon lighters, and also their spokesperson.

She told her personal story. She was the daughter of Moshe and Channa Brodman of Visnizce, Poland. Her parents and older brother, Benzion, perished during the war.

Kaplowitz was the only daughter of Hirsch Brodman. She had been placed in the care of a non-Jewish family for safekeeping during the war. After the war, an uncle came to get her, and they migrated to the US, where she grew up. Believing she was the sole survivor of the Brodman family, she was in utter shock when listening to Roth’s speech. She wondered if they could be related, and the thought would not leave her. Knowing that Magen David Adom was affiliated with the International Red Cross, Kaplowitz contacted Susan Edel of MDA’s tracing service, who immediately began researching her family history. She also got in touch with Roth to learn more about her. Roth had been left on her own at age seven after escaping the Bochnia Ghetto. Somehow she survived the war, after which she came to Israel, got married and started a family. Like Kaplowitz, Roth also believed that she was the last survivor of her father’s family.

Edel pursued her quest with the Belgian Red Cross, inquiring as to whether it had any information about Hirsch and Ita Brodman.

It did. The couple was born in Poland, moved to Berlin and then fled to Belgium in 1939. In January 1944, the Brodmans were deported to Auschwitz from the detention and deportation camp of Mechelen in Belgium.

They did not survive. Through the Belgian Red Cross, Kaplowitz learned about her grandparents Avner and Lea Brodman, of whom she previously knew nothing.

When Roth was asked if she knew the names of her grandparents, she replied in the affirmative and named Avner and Lea.

Then came the realization that the fathers of Roth and Kaplowitz were brothers, and that the two women were first cousins.

Edel wasted no time in putting the cousins in touch with each other. They spoke on the phone for hours, unable to believe the good fortune that had come their way – to find each other, alive and living in the same country. They met soon afterward and were joined by their children.

The case continues: Just a few weeks ago, Edel received 50 pages of documents about Kaplowitz’s parents from the Kazerne Dossin Archive in Belgium. The documents included official papers, such as a copy of the parents’ marriage certificate, a photograph, and even a letter in Kaplowitz’s father’s handwriting. In his letter, her father mentioned the names and addresses of two cousins living in the US, Adolph and Benjamin Joseph Brodman, who were also mentioned in a letter from the US State Department regarding visa applications they had filled out for Hirsch, Ita and their daughter Jeanne (Yaffa).

After receiving the documents, Edel found Adolph in an online database. She discovered that he used to live in Chicago, but later moved to San Diego, where he passed away.

Adolph and his wife, Bertha, had three children, and Benjamin Joseph had five children.

Soon, Edel found an obituary about the wife of Benjamin’s youngest son, Seymour.

It mentioned the synagogue in which the funeral service had taken place. She contacted the manager of the synagogue, who forwarded Edel’s email to Seymour’s daughter. From two women who thought they each were the last remnants of their fathers’ family, the tree has extended in all directions, and is now inhabited by a tribe.

IN ADVANCE of the prime minister’s trip to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, Sara Netanyahu called Melania Trump on Wednesday night to congratulate her on becoming first lady of the United States. The two said they looked forward to seeing each other soon in Washington, and to working together to strengthen the ties between Israel and the United States. Netanyahu’s photograph appeared on Thursday morning on the front page of Haaretz, a publication that is usually critical of her and her husband.

But this time it was a complimentary photograph, with Netanyahu in the center of a group of Holocaust survivors and their supporters. It was a thank-you advertisement from the Haifa-based Yad Ezer Lehaver (A Helpful Hand for a Friend) for help received from Netanyahu, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, MK Yair Lapid, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal), Interior Minister Deri, businessman Menashe Getz and Pini Weinberg, a noted interior decorator and designer.

Yad Ezer Lehaver organized a Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration on Thursday at the residential facility it provides for Holocaust survivors with the extensive support of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

IN ISRAEL, when talk turns to victims of terror, it is generally presumed that the victims are Jews. But there are Muslims, Christians, Circassians and Druse who have lost loved ones in terrorist attacks or have themselves been wounded. Aware of this, OneFamily, the leading organization caring for the spiritual, social, emotional, physical and financial needs of victims of terror, has organized a special healing retreat at the Hamat Gader recreation park overlooking the Sea of Galilee on January 29 for Arabic-speaking families. The program will be led by Itzhak Belenky.

Aside from having participants get to know each other and realize that they are not alone, the event will include therapeutic workshops that help families deal with issues of self-esteem, aid their adjustment to new socioeconomic pressures, enable them to cope with crises and provide general enrichment.

Among the participants, will be parents of fallen soldiers Said Jahaja and Rujayah Salameh.

Sgt. Said Jahaja served in the Beduin patrol battalion guarding the Philadelphi Route at the southern end of the Gaza Strip. His family was one of the first in Arara whose members served in the IDF. On December 12, 2004, there was a combined terrorist attack, including an infiltration and suicide bombing. Jahaja, 19, was one of five IDF soldiers killed when a tunnel filled with 1.5 tons of explosives was blown up under an IDF post, followed by the infiltration.

Said’s twin brother, Husam, had served in the same unit until he was wounded; Said had insisted on taking his brother’s place.

Another Jahaja brother serves in the Border Police. “Life is from Allah, says Said’s father, Yusuf, who is known for his public support for Muslim Israelis joining the IDF.

St.-Sgt. Rujayah Salameh, 23, who was a resident of the Lower Galilee village of Turan, was killed by a Palestinian sniper near Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, on February 5, 2001. Salameh, who was serving with the auxiliary Desert Patrol Battalion, was shot in the head while safeguarding engineering activities for the IDF along the border fence with Egypt.

“I LOVE art. I live for art. For the family I come from and the family I have now with my husband and kids, art is the center of our life; art is what we support, what we fight for, to keep alive. And Bezalel has always been a big part of our life.”

The speaker was Israeli-American actress Mili Avital, who was born in Jerusalem and now lives in New York. Avital was the moderator at the annual Friends of Bezalel gala dinner, which supports the Bezalel Academy of the Arts in Jerusalem.

The dinner was attended by many of New York’s leading artists, as well as Avital’s husband, film and television producer Charles Randolph, and her parents, Iko and Noni Avital, who also graduated from Bezalel. In attendance, too, were Ilan Kaufthal, chairman of Friends of Bezalel, Israel Consul General in New York Dani Dayan, the president of the Bezalel Academy of the Arts, Prof. Adi Stern, and Israeli artists and designers who are graduates of Bezalel, among them Nir Hod and celebrity shoe designer Kobi Levi.

Noni Avital was a student while in the final stages of pregnancy. She was told that she could not continue her studies with a baby to care for, but Iko was adamant that she stay, and the authorities finally relented. The two later opened a studio in Jaffa. Having grown up with art, Mili Avital was a natural choice as moderator for the dinner.

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