Emotional meeting in Dubai: Holocaust survivor shares her story with Emirati youth

  "Together = יחד" graffit (photo credit:  Emirati Youth)
 "Together = יחד" graffit
(photo credit: Emirati Youth)

For the third consecutive year, International March of the Living held its global initiative, "Let There Be Light," marking 84 years since Kristallnacht – the night during which 1,400 synagogues and Jewish establishments were burned across Germany and Austria in the Nazi-organized pogrom, a foreshadowing to the Holocaust that was to follow. The organization held three major events this year: in Jerusalem, Vienna and Dubai – the latter which hosted the main event, with the United Arab Emirates serving as a symbol of interfaith coexistence and tolerance.

The delegation, led by March of the Living's ambassador in the Gulf, entrepreneur and philanthropist Eitan Neishlos, and the founder of the first Holocaust Memorial Gallery in the Arab world, Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, met with Rabbi to the UAE Rabbi Levi Duchman in an emotional visit to the synagogue he established in Dubai. Rabbi Duchman shared wit the delegation how the Jewish community across the Emirates flourished, openly leading a full Jewish life. Thee coexistence and mutual respect the Jewish community enjoys in the Emirates, a result of the ongoing support from Emirati leadership, dated back to to 2014 when Rabbi Duchman first arrived in the UAE to establish the local Jewish community. 

During the delegation's visit in Dubai, Holocaust survivor Eve Kugler (91), who was only 7 years old when the Gestapo broke into her home, on November 9, 1938, met with Jewish and Muslim youth at the Jewish Educational Campus of Dubai, and shared her emotional story.

 Eitan Neishlos, Rabbi Levi Duchman, Eve Kugler and young students  (credit:  2xceed) Eitan Neishlos, Rabbi Levi Duchman, Eve Kugler and young students (credit: 2xceed)

Although 84 years have passed since that night, Eve still remembers everything: "The soldiers took my grandfather, Rabbi Marcus Kugler, while he was reading the Gemara (Talmud). They also took my father, and after they left, we ran to the window to see what happened and saw my father's shop smashed into pieces and the synagogue that my grandfather helped to build in flames.' 

  (credit:  2xceed) (credit: 2xceed)

The teens were deeply moved by Eve's story, and the important message it carries, that the lessons of the Holocaust are relevant to our days, and only through interfaith cooperation can we stand united against hate crimes. After hearing Eve's story, the teens created a joint wall painting on the wall of the Jewish Educational Campus symbolizing unity and coexistence. 

Rabbi Levi Duchman: "We and our neighbors in the UAE educate our children in mutual respect, so that the next generation continues to follow the path of peace and cooperation." 

The Jewish Educational Campus in Dubai, the first of its kind in the Middle East, has been established by Rabbi Duchman, serving over 200 children from the age of one to high school as well as a framework for adults, offering various educational programs. 

 MOTL leadership, Eitan Neishlos, Eve Kugler' Rabbi Duchman & youth (credit:  2xceed) MOTL leadership, Eitan Neishlos, Eve Kugler' Rabbi Duchman & youth (credit: 2xceed)

Youth from the American school in Dubai joined the commemoration ceremony at the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum. Sriya Bandyopadhyay: “It was incredible to hear Ms. Eve Kugler’s experience and ‘become a witness’ (as she put it) of such a significant event. As a teenager, listening to her experiences when she was just a young girl, really demonstrated how different the world was then. Furthermore, it was inspiring to see not only the global Jewish community uniting to spread the light, but also the international citizenry that is ever so prevalent in the U.A.E. Thank you to Mr. AlMansoori for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity". 

"It is so important for the message of peace, tolerance, and unity to be shared with our youth as they are our future. Our students were honored to be a part of this event and are motivated to share this message with our community and be leaders in positively impacting the world around them.  Empathy and compassion are the most important gifts we can share with our young people and carrying on the legacy of survivors like Eve Kuglar is an obligation we all must be committed to", said Kevin Brawn, Associate High School Principal.  

Dr. Shmuel Rosenman and Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, MOTL Chair and President: "March of the Living is an educational organization that works to keep the memory of the Holocaust have no doubt that the children who heard Eve's story will never forget it. Our motto at March of the Living is as Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel noted, “When you listen to a witness, you become a witness". This meeting forged new witnesses who can continue to carry the voices of the survivors into the next generation".

Eitan Neishlos, Founder and Ambassador of March of the Living Chapter in the Gulf: “We have made history today, in bringing the voices of Holocaust survivors to the United Arab Emirates. Under the umbrella of the Abraham Accords, we are building firm and lasting bridges of understanding and appreciation between our communities. The Holocaust stands as a unique crime against humanity, and an important part of the Jewish story and experience, that holds lessons for all of us about the importance of tolerance – which is a pillar of life here in the UAE.”